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.

 

Eggplant Pizza

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I make my own gluten free pizza bases and often have slices of roasted eggplant as one of the toppings.

Last night I took a different path and used the eggplant as the bases.   2 separate events led me to try this option.  In fact, this blog post could easily have been titled, ‘A Tale of 2 Julias’.  In 2014 we were privileged to meet a fellow blogger, Julia Davis-Coombs from Creative Economy in the Kitchen.  Julia lives on the other side of the world so it was a delight to meet her when we were on our travels.  Our shared lunch included mini pizzas made with slices of a very large zucchini as the base.  Although I have not re-created this dish, it is a meal I have not forgotten.  The second Julia was a recent online encounter with Julia B. in a group when I was canvassing ideas for a vegetarian meal and I mentioned that one of the vegetables I had on hand was eggplant.  While I did not use her suggestion that night, it seemed ideal when I came to make dinner last night.

EGGPLANT PIZZA

1 large eggplant
Sea salt
Olive oil
Pizza toppings as desired

Cut the eggplant into slices about 1 – 1.5cm in thickness.  Place on a baking tray, lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 10 minutes at 160C.

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Remove eggplant from the oven and add toppings.  I used homemade tomato pizza sauce and mixed herbs then chopped mushroom and capsicum (bell pepper) and finally, sliced olives and cheddar cheese.

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Return pizzas to the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes.

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Serve immediately.

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This was a light and tasty alternative to a traditional pizza and perfect for lunch.

NOTE:  You do need a knife and fork when eating these.

 

Keeping it Simple

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This afternoon I posted the following question on a Facebook group.

When I was working I used to menu plan for a week at a time but not so much now.

I have no shortage of ingredients but not too much in the way of inspiration. We eat a predominantly vegetarian and also gluten free. I have eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, carrots, mushrooms and celery as well as all the usual pantry staples.

Ideas?

There were heaps of great suggestions, many of which I will save for another day but this particular one caught my eye.

I’d keep it simple. Roast the veges and toss with GF pasta spirals or chick peas, olive oil, seasoning and toasted nuts. If you’re looking for a flavour hit, Moroccan seasoning and fresh coriander is an interesting twist.

We do not eat a great deal of pasta but I do have some for occasional use.  I don’t keep Moroccan seasoning but a quick Google search revealed that it is ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon.  I had all of these apart from the coriander, however, I have an abundance of fresh coriander.  I had cooked chickpeas in the freezer as well as the selection of vegetables I mentioned in my original question.

So, I set to work.

Zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and capsicum of a tray drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes at 160C.

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Chickpeas with Moroccan spices and 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes.

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Once the pasta was cooked I tossed the vegetables and chickpea mixture through the pasta, added a spoonful of olive oil and served it topped with chopped coriander and toasted sunflower seeds.

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This was really delicious and I will definitely be making it again.

Thanks, Mimi.

Midwinter Mango

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It is difficult to believe but I reached a point in February where I felt as though I never wanted to see another mango.  Fortunately, the feeling does not last and we we able to freeze some of the summer abundance.  A few months later and it was time to dive into our frozen supplies.

Mango Chicken Curry

2 chicken breast fillets
1 large onion
1 tablespoon curry powder

OR

1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Fresh coriander, chopped

1 tablespoon oil
1 can coconut cream
2 fresh mangoes

OR

Frozen or canned mango

Cut onion into wedges and chicken fillets into strips.  Heat oil in a large pan, add onion and spices and fry for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken and fry until cooked.  Add coconut cream and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.

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Add sliced mango and coriander, cook until heated through.

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Serve with rice and vegetables as desired.  We had stir-fried bok choy and snow peas.

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Serves 4

An Opportunist

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We were out and about this morning looking for some timber for our next outdoor project.  It was an area we do not usually frequent and I spied a flat-top truck parked by the side of the road.  It was piled with unpackaged fruit and vegetables so I quickly asked GMan to pull over so that I could see what was on offer.

I had bought fruit and vegetables 2 days ago which would probably last us at least 10 days but I was not about to pass up an opportunity.  There were zucchini, tomatoes, capsicums and lemons and everything was $2/kg.  It had been picked yesterday from a farm in an area about 3 hours drive to the north of where we live.  The tomatoes were not sufficiently ripe for me to consider them and we most definitely do not need lemons as we have 2 trees of our own.

Most of the capsicums were green but I selected a couple which were semi-coloured as well as several zucchini.

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This haul cost me $4.70.

While this was somewhat of an impulse buy, it was not without some consideration as to how I would use the produce.  The capsicums are quite large so I am going to cut one in half lengthwise and stuff them for dinner tonight and serve with a side of coleslaw.

I have cooked some quinoa to use as the basis for the stuffing.

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The remaining capsicum will probably be used in a roasted vegetable salad along with some of the zucchini as well as eggplant and mushrooms that I bought on Thursday.

I intend to make another zucchini quiche which will use up a couple more of the zucchini.

It is great to be able to directly support farmers as well as snapping up a bargain.

Most importantly, nothing will go to waste.

 

 

New Creation

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Our dinner last night was a previously untested creation.  GMan hailed it as a real success.  While there are recipes for Eggplant and Mushroom Stroganoff online, mine is a variation on the beef version I used to make a number of years ago.

Eggplant and Mushroom Stroganoff

1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 red capsicum, diced
1 medium eggplant, cubed
12 mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
2 teaspoons beef stock powder
60ml Worcestershire sauce
125g ricotta cheese
500ml water
2 teaspoons arrowroot

Spread the cubed eggplant on a roasting pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast at 160C for about 15 minutes or until tender.

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Saute  onion and garlic in a frying pan.  Add capsicum, mushrooms and eggplant.  Add pepper, smoky paprika, beef stock powder, Worcestershire sauce and water.  Simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Add ricotta cheese stirring gently to combine.  Thicken with arrowroot blended with a little water.  Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Serve over pasta of your choice.

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NOTES:

I added some finely shredded bok choy which I lightly sauteed before stirring into the stroganoff immediately before serving.

The ricotta cheese was used because it was what I had on hand.  You could substitute cream or evaporated milk to create the creamy sauce.

I used gluten free penne pasta.  Rice would be a suitable alternative to pasta.

This made 2 generous servings.

 

Lemon Curd – My Way

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It is early winter where we live and that means we have citrus fruit in abundance.  The fruit on the Meyer lemon were ripe and we picked them all as this particular variety does not seem to hold well on the tree.

We gave away heaps as well as freezing some juice and using it generously in drinks and recipes.  GMan asked if I would make some lemon curd, also known as lemon butter.

Apart from wanting to use up some of the lemons, I was keen to find a reasonably ‘healthy’ version of this sweet treat.  So, I turned to the ever-useful Google.

This is an indication of the usual lemon butter offerings.

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 125g butter

After a bit more research I found a recipe which seemed to align with my goals.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 4 tablespoons lemon zest

I was keen to try it but moderately sceptical as the proportions are vastly different.

The full recipe is here.  My slightly amended version is below.

First I collected the utensils I needed.  You can read more about my kitchen utensils here.

Low Fat Lemon Curd

Ingredients

2 large lemons, juiced
Lemon zest from 2 large lemons
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs

Grate the zest from the lemons and set aside.

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Juice the lemons.

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Place the strained juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low and stir until sugar has dissolved.

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Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl.

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Remove lemon syrup from heat and pour slowly into beaten eggs while stirring the mixture with a whisk. Continue to whisk by hand for one minute.

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Return mixture to saucepan; add lemon zest, and heat on low until it thickens―about two minutes.

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Allow to cool then refrigerate.
NOTE:
My concerns were realised as the mixture did not thicken as much as I would have liked.  So, I resorted to my back-up plan.
2 teaspoons arrowroot blended with a little water.
Gently reheat the lemon curd until it reaches boiling point the stir. Add the arrowroot mixture slowly and continue stirring constantly.  Cook for one minute.  Cool and refrigerate .
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This version of lemon curd does not have the smooth richness that additional eggs and butter creates but I am very happy with the result.  It is definitely worth trying if you are looking for a healthier version of the traditional lemon curd recipe.

Easily Pleased

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Those of you who know me well or have been following this blog for an extended period of time will be aware that shopping is not a great love of mine.  For the most part, I have pretty well everything I need.  However, my plastic spatula which I have owned for at least 20 years met an untimely end courtesy of the blades of the blender.  I realised that I definitely needed one so checked online and found that Big W had Pyrex brand large and small silicone spatulas on special so when we were out and about on Tuesday I attempted to get one of each size.  The small ones were sold out so I will look again another day as GMan is keen for a small one to use when making sourdough.

In the meantime, here is the new addition to my collection of kitchen utensils.

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Coincidentally, I had planned to clean out the utensil jars and drawer.  Each time I do this there is usually something which I decide is no longer required but I have culled my collection of utensils to a point that everything is worthy of its place in the kitchen.

Like all decluttering/streamlining projects, there is no ‘one size fits all’ as we all have different needs in the kitchen.

I have 2 utensil jars.  These hold the majority of frequently used utensils.

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Here they are laid out on the bench.

The hand beater lives in the side of the regular cutlery drawer.

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The contents of the utensil drawer.  These are generally too small or too sharp to stand in a utensil jar.  Some, such as the vegetable peeler and measuring spoons are used every day while most would be used at least once a month and a few less frequently.

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I have an expanding bamboo divider which helps to keep them in some sort of order.  Once I had wiped the drawer and the divider, I replaced all of the items.

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There is one item missing from these photos.  The pie slice which GMan is revarnishing the wooden handle.

I have not shown the sharp knives which I keep separately in a knife block.

I have multiples of a few things – measuring spoons, tongs, wooden spoons and pastry brushes but these are all used.

What are your essential kitchen utensils?  Have you reviewed or reduced what you have recently?

What We Grow

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One of the by-products of growing your own food is a need for increased creativity when it comes to meals.  What we eat is at least somewhat dependent on what is available in the garden.

Bok choy, a type of chinese cabbage, is a quick-growing vegetable.  Commercial crops are harvested while they are relatively young and generally sold in bunches of three.  We ate some of our current crop while they were small, however, the few remaining plants are now quite mature and strongly flavoured.

New ways to use up the mature bok choy leaves and stems.

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Freshly picked leaves shredded and sauteed with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and mushrooms for breakfast.

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Tonight I made a vegetarian lasagne with layers of lightly roasted eggplant slices, bok choy mixed with ricotta and finally, crushed tomatoes.

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It was topped with a mixture of parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese and flaxseed meal.

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Served with beans and carrots.

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VEGETARIAN LASAGNE

1 large eggplant, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
Handful of large bok choy leaves and stems, sliced and shredded
180g ricotta cheese
Can of crushed tomatoes
Olive oil
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
Salt and pepper

TOPPING

1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

Place slices of eggplant on roasting tray.  Brush with a little olive oil and bake at 160C for about 10 minutes – until soft.

Saute diced onion and bok choy stems until soft, add shredded leaves and stir until wilted.  Add vegetable mixture to ricotta and combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add mixed herbs to crushed tomatoes.  Place a layer of eggplant slices in dish followed by the ricotta mixture then tomatoes.  Repeat until all ingredients are used.  Combine ingredients for topping and sprinkle over the lasagne.  Bake until heated through and browned on top.

This is not a definitive recipe but simply what I made today.  The quantities quoted would serve 3 adults.

A Trio of Firsts

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Today is Monday, the first day of the working week.  It is also the first day of June and, here in Australia, the official first day of winter.

It is almost like a new year.  While most people restrict their attempts at resolutions to a new calendar year on the first of January, there are plenty of other opportunities to turn over a new leaf if you choose to look for them.  However, the midst of an ongoing global pandemic may not be the best time to consider starting afresh.  Or, perhaps it is.

I am thinking of ruling a line under the past few months and moving forward.

For almost 3 weeks I have added a blog post every day.  I have never made daily posts for an extended period previously and I have been writing this blog for over 9 years now.  It has been an experiment on several levels.  Could I maintain this level of engagement consistently now that I am retired?  Does self-isolation (mostly) make it easier to write blog posts every day?  Do I want to lock myself into writing every day?  Will I always have appropriate new content every day?  Are readers looking for new content every day?  Could I intersperse blog posts every 2-3 days with Instagram posts on a specific Organised Castle Instagram account?

Dear readers, I am really keen to hear your thoughts on the frequency, length, content and photos of my blog posts.  Also, do you go back and look at older material or click on the related links I sometimes provide?  I look forward to your honest thoughts and opinions.

Meanwhile, I am about to prepare the vegetables for dinner.  We are having one of our favourite cool weather meals – roast vegetables and gravy which I will serve with some green beans from the garden.

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While the oven is on, I will also make a Lemon Delicious and some more Cheese Scones to store in the freezer.  These are great for serving with a bowl of piping hot soup.