Not Quite the Deckchairs

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‘Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ is a phrase which is often used to describe a futile action in the face of impending catastrophe. 

Far from being a futile exercise, I have been rearranging furniture recently.  As we continue to gradually reduce our possessions we have less need for storage.  Bookshelves/display units are a perfect example.

A few years ago we had 2 of these shelves filled with books.  One was sold a couple of years ago and the other is going to a new home today.

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When we seriously downsized the number of books we had a couple of years ago, this shelving unit became useful storage for sewing fabrics and projects.

The sewing is now housed in this large IKEA cube unit which was previously a display unit/bookshelf in the lounge room.

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Here is a closer look at the sewing table which is ‘new’ to me.

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This white laminate desk came from my daughter as it does not fit in her new accommodation.  I was very happy to have it to replace the folding trestle table which I have used as a sewing table for many years.  This one is more compact and suits the decor of the room but, most importantly, it is solid and does not shudder when I am using the sewing machine at fast speeds.

Additionally, there were 2 smaller IKEA cube units in the lounge room originally which have since been moved around.  One of them spent some time in the sewing room and the other as a stand for the television before we gave one to our daughter and the other became the bookshelf in the library.

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The other smaller cube unit has recently come back from our daughter as she no longer needs it.  So, back to the lounge room it went.

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The other significant piece of furniture in the lounge room is the television stand.  This was made by my father about 60 years ago from then-salvaged silky oak.  I had it restored and modified slightly a couple of years ago and it now has pride in the lounge room.

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I am pleased that nothing has been wasted and many pieces have been able to be repurposed by thinking laterally whilst reducing our overall possessions.

 

Home Remedy

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Despite being surrounded by people coughing and spluttering their way through the winter months, I had remained steadfastly well until a couple of days ago.

My throat seemed a bit dry initially and by yesterday afternoon it felt quite raspy and I was developing a dry cough.  I had a glass of hot lemon juice and honey before I went to bed but I still managed to wake up this morning with almost no voice.  Some would be cheering at this turn of events!

Other than the dry cough, I feel perfectly well and hope that this continues.  However, I really felt in need of something to soothe my throat and found this recipe.  It is essentially honey and lemon toffee by any other name but it certainly keeps the dry cough at bay.

Here are the cough drops cooling on a baking sheet.

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Once they were completely set I tossed them in a mixture of arrowroot and icing sugar (4 parts arrowroot to 1 part of icing sugar).

Then I stored them in an airtight jar.

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These will live in my desk drawer until I get rid of the annoying cough.  Hopefully, it will not develop into anything worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home-made High Tea

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Yesterday afternoon we had guests coming for afternoon tea.  No tiered cake plates and no photos of what we actually ate but here is the table set and ready.  A damask tablecloth, dainty china and glassware and silver cake forks.

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I wanted to make a dip and my first choice was hummus which I make regularly and I always have a good result despite that fact that I do not really use a recipe.  However, that was not to be as I realised I had no garlic.

A little earlier I had picked a pumpkin from the garden and sliced it up ready to roast. These slices were to be used on pizzas for dinner tonight.  I discovered that I had more than I would need for the pizzas so I decided to make a roasted pumpkin dip.  It couldn’t be that difficult.  The commercially-prepared roast pumpkin and cashew dip is very yummy.

I had no cashews but found a small handful of peanuts and a few pistachios (somewhat stale) and a couple of teaspoons of sesame seeds.  I tossed them all in a tray to roast in the oven for about 10 minutes then ground them in the blender.  The roasted pumpkin was added and blended.  The mixture was too dry for my liking so I added some olive oil and lemon juice bit by bit in equal measure until I achieved the desired consistency.

The next step was the flavour.  A pinch of chilli powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, a good grind of sea salt and black pepper and some onion flakes completed the improvisation.

Here is the finished product, garnished with some coriander from the garden.

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As well as the dip which was served with rice crackers and corn chips, I made a chocolate slice.  The guests brought some local brie and olives which were as delicious as any I have had.

A pleasant afternoon with good company, food and conversation.

Daily Bread

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Bread has long been a staple of our Western diet.  It comes in many and varied guises from the square white slices bagged in plastic bought from the supermarket to artisan sourdough loaves from trendy cafes and delis.

Then there is the seemingly elusive quest for a decent gluten free loaf.

Add the desire to reduce or eliminate plastic packaging and buying a loaf of bread really becomes a minefield.

For over 20 years GMan has made our bread.  This was before I began eating a gluten-free diet and we had 2 children at home.  He made white bread, grain bread and fruit loaf in a breadmaker using bread mixes from Laucke Flour Mills.  We made sandwiches, toast and toasted sandwiches – all with minimal packaging from the bread mix bags.

Things have changed and GMan now makes white bread from scratch in the breadmaker as well as fruit loaf using a premix with added fruit.  Here is a loaf he made tonight.

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The white loaf is the same shape but generally not as high.

However, his real love is sourdough bread which has led GMan on a quest to create a perfect sourdough loaf.  For those who have asked for the recipe, all I can offer is this link which he found and has followed (in general terms).  It appears to be an art and one in which I have not got involved.  After months of varying degrees of success this was the result from a couple of weeks ago.  Gman believes that it is definitely worth the effort.

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I eat very little bread these days as most gluten-free breads are not that great, expensive and heavily packaged in plastic.

Credit to inspired + delicious Facebook page for this bread recipe.

1 cup buckwheat groats
2 cups hot water (almost boiling)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons psyllium husk
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak the buckwheat in hot water with apple cider vinegar overnight.

Next day, place buckwheat plus liquid in a blender and blend until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and blend well.  Place mixture in a greased, lined loaf tin and allow to stand for 15 – 30minutes to allow psyllium to soak in properly.  Bake at 200C until browned and it bounces back when you poke it.  This is approximately 30 – 40 minutes.

This is the basic recipe but you can add whatever else you choose.

My first loaf had a handful each of sunflower seeds and pepitas added to the basic mixture.

Here are a couple of slices toasted.  While it is perfectly edible as bread it is really delicious as toast.

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One of the things I do miss about bread is having grilled cheese on toast.  This is not an everyday food but an occasional treat.  I really enjoyed this for lunch the other day.

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Since I regarded my first attempt as a success, I decided to expand my repertoire and modify it to make a spicy fruit loaf.  I added 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of mixed spice, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, some sultanas and dried cranberries and omitted the pepitas.

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I am now happily dreaming of other flavour options.  I think the next attempt may be a savoury one – sun-dried tomato and olive.

While I am not going to be eating bread for every meal, it is great to have a plastic-free, unpackaged, gluten-free bread that is quick and easy to make.

Unpackaged bread has been my major success for Plastic-Free July this year.

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Plastic Free July

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Well, it is a week into to Plastic Free July and I decided that rather trying to to buy any plastic for the whole month, I would simply shop and live as I do on a regular basis and try to capture a true picture of my plastic consumption.

Having our own vegetable garden and fruit trees certainly helps.

Orange juice ready to freeze.

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Grapefruit marmalade.

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Yesterday I took a Weck jar when I went to buy feta cheese at the deli counter of the local IGA.  This was a definite win, but only after reminding the attendant to weigh the jar before filling it.  A reminder that this is not yet the norm and you need to be ever vigilant to ensure that your plastic-free attempts are not hijacked by well-meaning staff.

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Fruit and vegetable shopping is relatively easy to achieve plastic-free, particularly if you choose local, seasonal produce as much as possible.

Here is what I bought today.

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The supermarket is a very different story.  The items I bought today represent the majority of what I buy at the supermarket.  By its very nature, everything is packaged.  The cans are recyclable as is some of the plastic but, as we know, recycling should be the last resort.

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There was also a bottle of vinegar which did not make it into the first photo.

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We make at least some of our food from scratch which helps to eliminate some plastic packaging.  These include bread, pizza bases, tomato sauce and peanut paste.

These pizza bases are partly pre-cooked and ready to be frozen.  The plastic wrap is old cereal packets which have been washed and re-used many times.

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I am far from perfect when it comes to Plastic Free July (or any other time for that matter) but by making and growing some of our own food, having virtually no takeaway and not shopping for recreation we are fairly successful at limiting our single-use plastic consumption.

Are you participating in Plastic Free July?  How is it going?

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Remember, there are no failures – just increased awareness.  And that is a good thing.

 

 

Food – The Eternal Merry-Go-Round

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Now don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy cooking and love planning and preparing meals but it occurred to me this morning how it really is a never-ending cycle.

The citrus trees are producing prolifically at this time of the year so yesterday I juiced grapefruit, oranges and limes as well as preparing some grapefruit ready for marmalade.

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Today I am making marmalade using this recipe from Annabel Langbein.

I am very happy with the result.  Lovely colour and consistency.  This is the excess that did not quite fit in the jar.

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The finished product ready to go in the pantry.  It should be enough for the whole year.

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The other job is to make some more gluten free pizza bases for the freezer.  The recipe I use makes 6 bases.

On the other side of the ledger, I dived into the freezer and retrieved some vegetable curry for lunch.  There are also portions of cooked rice frozen so lunch is ready to go.  Dinner will be equally as easy with cauliflower soup and cheese scones all from the freezer.

As an aside, all of this was prepared with zero waste and no single use plastics.

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Plastic – A Personal Perspective

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I have spent the best part of 3 days this week at a conference, hence the lack of posts.

Here is a photo of some of the things I took with me in an effort to reduce the inevitable waste that an event like this tends to generate.

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A stainless steel water bottle which I was able to refill during the course of the conference.  Cloth serviettes to use instead of disposable ones.  A bamboo straw in case I felt I needed it but it remained unused.  2 small Ball jars of snacks – 1 of sultanas and 1 of walnuts.  This was as much about making sure that I had gluten free snacks which were to my liking as it was about no plastic.  A tub of homemade hummus in a reused plastic container and a packet of rice crackers as well as some home-grown mandarins (not shown) completed my food supplies.  Although the rice crackers are in plastic packaging, the food selection I took was much lower waste than buying snacks at the venue.

I also took a plastic tumbler from our picnic set and was very grateful that I did because the morning/afternoon teas included tea and coffee with ‘real’ cups and saucers but there were disposable plastic cups with the dispensers of chilled water.  That was very disappointing.

On the upside, the straws provided in drinks were paper ones, however, I simply asked for my drinks with my standard, “no ice, no straw” request.

3 of the meals were in disposable ‘packs’ as we had to eat en route to the next item on the program.  I chose to partake as starving was not really an option.  I did not eat any of the single-wrapped mints which were on the tables in the conference room and stuck to my nuts and dried fruit as required.

Other unavoidable plastics included plastic-wrapped notebooks and plastic tag-holders on lanyards for every participant.

All in all, the waste was probably not excessive, however, it was still too much for my liking so I will be providing some feedback to both the organisers and the venue in the hope that they will take sustainable practices into consideration when planning future events.