A Box of Bananas

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Yesterday we did some shopping at the supermarket and greengrocer.

As always, I scanned the shops for any particular bargains.

There were bananas for $1/kg so I prepared to fill a large bag. The owner asked if I wanted a whole box.

Yes, please!

We have sliced banana on our cereal each morning and it does not matter whether it is fresh or frozen.

So, I peeled some and froze them on trays. Once they are frozen I will bag them up for future use. Banana cake, smoothies and banana ice-cream are other possible uses.

There are still plenty in the box so I will freeze them over coming days.

This is another example of being open and aware to bargains that may come your way.

The box full was $13 which worked out at slightly less than 9c/banana.

Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Too Wet

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I have been working on a few small projects over the past few days but did not have a full story or photos to share.

All of that has come to a grinding halt as we retreat indoors as the predicted wet weather has struck. There was light rain during most of the day yesterday but it really began in earnest about 6pm. In the next 12 hours we recorded 176mm (7 inches) of rain.

This is what our backyard looked like when I awoke this morning. We have had intense and/or prolonged rain in the past which has resulted in a view like this but is has not happened for several years.

These are a series of photos of the lowest section of our back yard. The water is over a metre deep in some parts. The cause is two-fold. The driveway of the property next to us acts like a dam which causes the water to back up. We live on a mountain and the water from the steeper land above us finds its way to this area which would have been a natural watercourse in times past.

While the bottom of the garden floods, there is no risk of any inundation of the main part of the garden or the house due to the slope of the land.

This might look and sound quite dramatic, it is not a major problem as we have chosen to leave these areas of our garden as open grass so it suffers no real ill-effects as the water usually drains relatively quickly through the porous, volcanic soil.

It is not actually raining at present, however, the forecast is for continuing heavy rain for the next 48 hours.

We will not be venturing out as we have everything we need here and there is bound to be some localised flooding as well as potential landslips and and fallen trees.

Are you sufficiently prepared to manage if you need to stay at home for a number of days or longer? Please share your tips and ideas.

The Last Pick

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We have several citrus trees here and the fruit is generally ripe during our cooler months from May through to August. The earliest one is the grapefruit closely followed by the Washington Navel orange and mandarin. The two Valencia orange trees are much later and seem to have an extended season with fruit lasting quite happily on the tree for a few months.

In the past we have finished picking in mid-November but the season last year lasted even longer. Today I picked the last of the fruit from the older tree beside the driveway. I thought there might be about 30 but there ended up being 93 fruit!!

I have juiced and frozen all of the juice as I do with all of the harvest. This provides us with enough juice for the entire year. It is just as well that I have plenty of freezer space as there is currently 29 litres frozen juice.

The juicer I bought in 2018 is worth its weight in gold. You can read more about it here.

The 2022 crop is already doing well and larger than the size of a golf ball.

There are still a small number of fruit to pick on the other tree but they can wait for a week or so until I have used some of today’s haul.

Stocking the Pantry

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Fresh produce from the garden is wonderful but there are times when you definitely can’t eat it all at harvest time.

This basket of cucumbers was a case in point.

The recipe from a friend has clearly been passed down from an earlier generation.

I tweaked it slightly and will modify it a little more in the future.

Cucumber Pickles

3.2kg cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup salt
Iceblocks
5 cups sugar
5 cups vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried celery leaves

Layer the cucumbers and onions. Sprinkle with salt and cover with iceblocks. Allow to stand for 3 hours then drain and rinse thoroughly twice.

Place cucumber, onion, sugar, vinegar and spices in a large pot and bring to the boil. Do not boil the mixture. Turn the heat off and fill sterilised jars. Make sure that they seal before storing.

NOTE: I increased the turmeric and altered the celery salt from the original recipe to match what I had available. Additionally, in future I would reduce the sugar and vinegar to 4 cups of each as there was more liquid than I needed.

In deference to our industrious ancestors, it only seemed right and proper to use these two mixing bowls that belonged to my grandmother and would be around 100 years old. I use them on a regular basis in my kitchen.

The end result is ready to be stored in the pantry for eating throughout the year.

Stockpot Workout

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I have a large stainless steel stockpot that lives in the back corner of the pantry on the floor. It usually gets dragged out a few times a year.

Yesterday was one of those days as I decided to make a large batch of pumpkin and celery soup. This may sound like an odd combination but I find the sharpness of homegrown celery that has been growing for several months provides a nice balance to the sweetness of our pumpkins.

I ended up with 18 serves of soup – 2 for dinner and the rest to go in the freezer.

Today I continued with my bulk food preparation by making jam with the 3kg of Davidson plums which I had picked over the past few weeks and stored in the freezer. I ended up with 3.95kg of jam. Davidson plums are a relatively rare Australian native fruit which grows on a rainforest tree in a fairly narrow distribution in northern NSW and south-east Queensland. Therefore, the jam commands a premium price. I compared 3 different brands online and found that the average price per kilo is about $81 which makes my haul worth over $320!!

I also boiled up the seeds and then strained them to make cordial. A splash in a glass of soda water makes a refreshing drink.

Finally, I raided the freezer again for some cherry tomatoes and made a batch of tomato sauce (ketchup). While nowhere near as valuable as the jam, the sauce is a whole other level beyond the commercially produced tomato sauce. The recipe is here.

While the oven was on to sterilise the jars I decided that I might as well make a batch of cheese scones. Recipe is here.

I think it is time to put the stockpot away for a couple more months.

A Bouquet of Basil

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GMan was weeding the vegie garden today and discovered that the basil had grown too large and had collapsed under its own weight.

So, I was the lucky recipient of a large bunch of basil.

I removed all of the leaves, washed and spun them dry. Then it was time to make basil pesto.

I did not use pine nuts but instead I used a combination of almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pepitas. There is no recipe as such but I used garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. In addition to the standard ingredients I also added some nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

This was the yield. It is not the most exciting photo so I added the jar of home-grown flowers which I was gifted yesterday.

There is no photo but we had pesto with our homemade gnocchi, tomato sauce and olives. YUM!

Spring has Sprung

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Here in the southern hemisphere it is springtime.

The romantic ideal of spring promotes images of renewal, growth and new beginnings, however, the reality can be somewhat different.

We have very few deciduous trees in our climate so we enjoy being able to witness the changing seasons through the liquidamber tree in our garden. Here it is looking magnificent and covered in new leaf.

Spring serves to remind us all that we never know what is around the corner.

In the past 6 weeks we have had wild thunderstorms, ferocious winds and a couple of heatwave days all interspersed with some glorious and moderate weather. The extremes and sometimes violent weather events are becoming more frequent as the climate changes.

A couple of days ago we heard creaking and cracking. Upon investigation we discovered that a couple of the lower limbs had come off the liquidamber tree. I suspect this was as a result of the wind we had experienced in recent weeks.

Time to clean up the debris.

Being prepared is not just something for the Boy Scouts. We should all be prepared for whatever might happen. Whether it is driven by the weather, linked to the pandemic or of global origin out of our control, there are plenty of things that could immediately and suddenly disrupt our comfortable lifestyle.

As the seasons change we need to prepare ourselves for the shocks that natural and other events may have.

Storms and bushfires are our main threats in the coming months. If you are in the northern hemisphere and approaching winter, what are your risks? Blizzards? Storms? Flooding?

I am interested in what your seasonal risks are and how you prepare yourself and your family.

Take care and stay safe, wherever you are.

A Lucky Find

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This morning we went out to do a couple of errands including picking up a few items from a nearby fruit and vegetable stall. Occasionally, there are boxes of cheap produce so it is worth keeping an eye out for a bargain.

Today I stumbled upon an amazing bargain. A box of passionfruit for FREE!! A quick look revealed that almost all of them had soft or rotten patches on them but I thought it might be worth seeing what I could salvage. I asked about whether I could have the whole box and my enquiry was greeted wholeheartedly. Here they are when we arrived home.

It was clear that I would need to process them straight away to prevent any further deterioration.

I simply cut them and salvaged the pulp from those that were OK. A small number were completely unusable.

The final haul was 2.5 litres of passionfruit pulp which is now in the freezer.

The trick is to be able to deal with bargains like this as soon as possible.

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.