An Amazing Find

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Sometimes it is easy to wonder whether you have spent your life under a rock. That is how I felt when I discovered this recipe. It is from ‘Frugal Queen in France’.

Red Lentil Wraps

1 cup red lentils
2 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender. Soak for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Blend lentils and water thoroughly to create a smooth batter. DO NOT change the water or rinse.

Brush the pan with a light coating of oil. I redid the oil after every 2 wraps. Pour the batter into the pan and spread with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes on each side.

I made 6 generous size wraps from this quantity.

This is a YouTube video from Frugal Queen in which she takes you through the entire process, step by step.

Here is the finished product. They really do roll up very easily.

I ate one for breakfast with banana, lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. Lunch was another wrap filled with coleslaw, grated cheese and cucumber.

I am looking forward to discovering many more innovative fillings and ways to use these easy-to-make gluten-free wraps.

A New Recipe

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I spent most of yesterday cooking and one of the things I made was a frittata.I was spurred into action when I noticed that we had 26 eggs. They can accumulate quite quickly when the chickens are laying.

There was half a pumpkin in the fridge which I was keen to use up and after checking Google I found this recipe – Pumpkin and Spinach Frittata.

I adapted the recipe to suit the quantities of ingredients I had available and my own requirements. The following ingredients will make 6 generous serves.

3 cups pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic syrup (link to easy recipe)
1 potato, diced
80 gram baby spinach leaves, chopped coarsely
120 gram feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

Place diced pumpkin on baking trays and toss with the combined oil and balsamic syrup. Roast until tender, approximately 30 minutes at 160C.

The pumpkin came from our neighbours and the spinach from our own garden.

Cook the potato until tender. Combine all of the ingredients. Pour into shallow dish and bake for 45 minutes at 190C.

Ready to go in the oven.

This was delicious served with a tossed green salad.

Saving the Summer Harvest

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When growing your own produce you do need to be prepared to spend some time processing the excess. Today was one of those days.

Yesterday I picked 5kg of cherry tomatoes. I washed, de-stalked and sorted them.

I roasted the ripest 3kg of them in the oven at 120C for about an hour.

This is the 2 trays as I put them into the oven.

Once the tomatoes were roasted I transferred them to the high-speed blender and blitzed them thoroughly. Whilst not completely smooth, I had created a rich tomato puree.

I filled ice cube trays with the puree.

Ready to go in the freezer.

Once they are frozen I will transfer the cubes into a bag for easy storage. It will be a simple matter of adding a cube or two when preparing various meals.

Bits and Pieces

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Many of my meals are really not recipes but simply creations which utilise whatever happens to need using up.

Tonight is a perfect example. This is the selection of ‘ingredients’ I decided to include.

At the back of the photo is some leftover mashed potato to which I added a small amount of tuna that I had not used when making tuna mornay. In addition to the 2 main ingredients there is some flaxseed meal which helps to bind the mixture together as well as nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. This mixture became 4 tuna patties.

The sliced vegetables at the front are small quantities of 2 different varieties of zucchini and a button squash. I sauteed these in a little olive oil. The mushrooms were cooked with the garlic cloves (chopped) along with some parsley (not shown) and finished with a spoonful of sour cream.

Served with fresh cherry tomatoes and strips of capsicum.

The cherry tomatoes, garlic and parsley are from our garden while the zucchini and button squash were gifted to us from a friend’s garden.

Rebalancing in Retirement

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I retired from full-time, paid employment in July 2019 so it is now 15 months since I was last in the office. My finishing date was pretty much decided at least 2 years prior to my retirement. I did not really contemplate gradually reducing my hours or other strategies to ease into retirement. This bemused many people who continually quizzed me as to what I was going to do when I retired. I did not really have a clear answer which made them even more convinced that I would return.

The last 15 months has been somewhat of a rollercoaster. 6 weeks after my final day in the office, we headed overseas for a much-anticipated 9 week holiday. It was an amazing adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed. Towards the end of the trip GMan and I independently came to the same conclusion – that we would have a break in 2020 and not go overseas. What a fortuitous decision that proved to be. We had previously considered travelling to Scandinavia this year.

Upon our return from overseas towards the end of October we had barely 2 months at home before setting off on a road trip to Victoria. We spent Christmas with family and then planned to visit areas in eastern Victoria and south-eastern NSW but the worst bushfires in living memory crushed that plan. We did manage to visit more family in Canberra and experienced the impact of the smoke first-hand. Not a pleasant experience.

Home again in early January and we imagined that 2020 would be a time to settle into a steady routine. Enter COVID19 and the world seemed to be completely upturned. We were very grateful for the space we had – house and large garden, a well-stocked pantry as well as a garden which supplied at least some of our food requirements, not having paid work to try to do from home or children to homeschool. We were unable to see or visit family and friends for several weeks but this was barely a minor inconvenience compared to what some people have had to endure.

In fact, COVID19 gave us the opportunity to focus on projects around our home. A quick scroll through previous blog posts provides a bit insight. Compost bays, a cold frame, more raised garden beds and finishing the pergola are some of the outdoor improvements. Meanwhile, I prepared meals made predominately from our homegrown produce as well as sewing and mending. Furniture restoration completed.

As restrictions were lifted we resumed some of our activities and interests outside the home. Which brings me to the essence of this blog post.

It is easy to become immersed in a particular interest or activity to exclusion of most others. Therefore, my goal is to identify broad categories and try to include a mix of activities/interests. It is probably not feasible to try to do this each day but I think that it is possible within the timeframe of a week.

After some thought, I have come up with a list of general categories which cover most of the things I do. Yours may be a little different.

Administration
Appointments
Community engagement
Craft and creating
Family
Friends
Garden/outdoor maintenance
Garden/outdoor projects
Health and fitness
Homemaking – regular/frequent tasks
Homemaking – seasonal/occasional tasks
Planning
Relaxation
Socialising and entertaining
Travel

Of course, some of these definitely overlap and some activities may even cover 3 categories. The list is in alphabetical order so that no-one can question my priorities. I do not envisage making specific lists but it certainly helps to keep things in perspective.


Finally, to those people who were convinced that I would not have enough to do in retirement – you were definitely wrong. My days are occupied, interesting and most of all, fulfilling.

Family Comes First

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I was looking back at the date of my last post which was a little over a week ago. Since then my focus has been firmly on my family. Even though GMan and I are the only ones living here, we are fortunate to have plenty of contact with family. Sometimes it seems to come all at once as has been the case in the past week.

Last Monday I went to Brisbane. I took my mother to a specialist medical appointment then we treated ourselves to lunch at Fuzzy Duck Cafe. I would recommend it. This was en route to visit my aunt who is in an aged care facility. Visiting has not been possible during COVID19 restrictions so it was good to be able to see her.

I stayed in Brisbane overnight and after another appointment the next day I picked GMan up from a dental appointment and we headed home.

It has been school holidays for the last 2 weeks and our daughter and granddaughters arrived on Wednesday evening. The girls stayed until Saturday afternoon while their mother went to work for the remainder of the week and picked them up again on Saturday.

During their stay we prepared meals, sorted through my fabric stash, went to the gym, shopped for shoes, went to the beach and park and checked out the garden.

Miss O making french dressing and learning the principle of adjusting the seasoning to taste.

Cutting broccoli for the soup.

A successful shopping trip to buy new sandals for Izzy.

More cooking – pizza bases ready for toppings.

The beginning of a dress for Miss O from a piece selected from the stash.

Some of the regular housework goes by the wayside when there are visitors and this time was no exception.

The refrigerator looked somewhat chaotic. There were several leftovers that I could incorporate into meals the following day.

I had invited my sister and brother-in-law for lunch on Sunday but had no specific menu planned for the meal. We did a small amount of grocery shopping late on Saturday afternoon.

Our lunch was predominately a selection of small plates and salads which worked perfectly as we sat outside in the very pleasant spring weather.

Photographing the spread was overlooked until I brought the salads out.

Homemade hummus, guacamole and sourdough bread, rice crackers, vegie sticks and brie for starters then kale salad, rice salad, cucumber and onion salad ad tomato wedges to serve with mini meatballs, vegie kofta balls and spiced cauliflower bites. Fresh fruit salad made the perfect finish to the meal.

While it sometimes works out that a particular period of time is mostly taken up by a single facet such as family events, I am trying to create more balance in the spread of activities in my week. More about that tomorrow.

Use It All

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I have spent the day in the kitchen today. When you grow produce it is important to ensure that it is used and does not go to waste. There is a degree of urgency as we are heading away on holidays in a couple of days. I made broccoli soup, juiced oranges and limes and dealt with a bunch of celery which I picked a couple of days ago.

Some of the celery had been used on a platter with hummus and guacamole but the majority of the bunch was still intact and all of the leaves. We love celery soup and when I make it I use all of the stalks and leaves. However, I have enough celery soup in the freezer at the moment.

I separated the stalks and chopped them ready for snacks and salads, but what to do with the leaves? I decided to experiment. Firstly, I washed them then removed the excess moisture in the salad spinner.

Then it was into the dehydrator.

Because the leaves are quite light it only took about 3 hours to dry them. Then I simply crumbled them into flakes and shook them through the colander to remove the larger stalks.

This is the result.

Did you know that celery is the prime ingredient in vegetable stock powder? I will use them for seasoning in soups, casseroles and a selection of other dishes.

I am pleased to have been able to use all of the bunch of celery without wasting any of it.

Some Salads

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I am currently sifting through some old blog notes and recipes that have not previously seen the light of day.

I will post them here as I think they are worth remembering for the coming months as the weather heats up.

CHICKEN SALAD (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet (steamed and shredded)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (chopped)
2 tablespoons walnuts (chopped)

Combine the ingredients and dress with mayonnaise.  Chill.

Serve with other salad as desired.

CUCUMBER & ONION SALAD

Lebanese cucumber (thinly sliced)
Onion (thinly sliced and separated into rings)
Good quality salt (I use Himalayan pink)

Layer the cucumber and onion rings in a shallow dish, adding a fine sprinkle of salt to each layer.  Chill and allow to stand for about an hour before serving.

I do not have a photo of this very simple, yet tasty, salad.

PEAR SALAD (Serves 2)

1/2 pear, cored and sliced thinly
Small stick of celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
6 walnuts, chopped
Parmesan cheese, shaved
30ml lemon juice           }
5ml balsamic vinegar   } – Dressing
5ml olive oil                     }

Arrange the pear, celery and walnuts on the plate.  Combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Top with shreds of parmesan cheese.

Here it is served with grilled salmon and coleslaw.

It is useful to have a selection of simple, appetising dishes for when the weather is hot and inspiration for meal preparation is often lacking.

Brilliant Broccoli

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It is wonderful to be able to successfully grow at least some of your own food but it is equally important to ensure that it is used and does not go to waste.

This is a 900g head of broccoli I picked recently.  It was as big as a dinner plate.

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I decided to turn it into a main meal with tuna and tomatoes.

Other ingredients.

Break the broccoli into florets and lightly cook.

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Saute the diced onion and capsicum.

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Add Tabasco to taste, flaked tuna and crushed tomatoes.  I blended one can of tomatoes to make the sauce smoother and thicker.  Simmer until reduced and thickened.

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Pour sauce over the broccoli.  Top with a mixture of flaxseed meal, grated cheese and seasoning.

Place under the grill until browned.

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This quantity made 6 generous serves.  I served it with a small portion of rice.

 

Bug-Free Brassicas – Part 2

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Remember this post?

Well, here is the first result of my endeavours.

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One of the things I am passionate about is eating local, seasonal produce wherever possible so this freshly picked broccoli from our own garden was destined to become part of our evening meal.

A simple stir-fry of chicken and broccoli.

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CHICKEN & BROCCOLI STIR-FRY (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet, cut into strips
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1/2 head broccoli, broken into small florets
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
Oil

SAUCE

2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon powdered chilli
2 teaspoons arrowroot

Heat the oil, saute the chicken until cooked then add the onion and broccoli.  Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce.  When the broccoli is lightly cooked add the sauce and stir until it has thickened and coated the chicken and vegetables.  Stir in the sunflower seeds.

Serve with rice.

Delicious and the money spent on netting the raised beds containing the brassicas has definitely been a worthwhile exercise.

I am looking forward to plenty more meals featuring our homegrown broccoli.