Cooking Day

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Today I cooked.  I was inspired by the large pumpkin I was given yesterday as well as the chickpeas I had cooked yesterday.

The first job was to pack up the baked beans I had cooked overnight in the slow-cooker.  I had some for breakfast as well as these 3 jars to go in the freezer and half a jar which are in the refrigerator to be used in the next few days.

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I then cut up the pumpkin.  The 2 trays of sliced pumpkin have been basted with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic syrup.  These will be used on pizzas. Some of the larger pieces will be cut up and added to the chickpea and vegetable curry while the remainder will be become pumpkin soup.  I pre-roast the pumpkin as it is easier than peeling it and I find that it also enhances the flavour.

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Meanwhile I moved onto the curry.  As well as the chickpeas and pumpkin this also had stalks of choy sum and half an eggplant diced.  I ended up with a total of 8 serves (4 meals for GMan and me).

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I had other plans for the choy sum leaves and the other half of the eggplant.  Using this recipe for Eggplant Lasagne Rolls as inspiration, I made a dish of lasagne using the finely shredded choy sum leaves mixed with half a tub of ricotta that I had in the refrigerator layered with the sliced eggplant and a rich, herbed tomato sauce.  This is ready to be baked for dinner tomorrow night.  I will add a mixture of flaxseed meal and parmesan cheese to the top when it is almost cooked.

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One pizza was for our lunch today which we enjoyed.  The other one is ready for the cheese to be added, cooked and eaten another day.

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All of these dishes were made using a combination of ingredients I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator with produce I had been gifted and what was growing in the garden.  One of the most important aspects is to ensure that nothing goes to waste.

Finally, I made some more spreadable butter blend.

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Although the title of this blog post is ‘Cooking Day’, it occurred to me when you have access to fresh produce from the garden (either your own or kind friends) there is always something to do.

More about my other food adventures another day.

Planning Ahead


On Saturday or Sunday morning I generally make a menu plan of our meals for the coming week.  This based on what is in the fridge, freezer, pantry and garden and is used to create a shopping list for any additional requirements.  I try to incorporate a mix of fish, chicken, red meat and vegetarian meals.

The next couple of weeks are very unpredictable due to family issues and will mean that I am not at home some nights but potentially with very short notice.  So I used a different method today and simply made a list of 20 meals for which we have the ingredients.  We will need some additional fruit and vegetables during that time.

1  Pizza
2  Grilled salmon and vegetables
3  Tumeric chicken and rice
4  Pumpkin soup
5  Chilli con carne and rice
6  Nachos
7  Sausages and vegetables
8  Vegetable pie and salad
9  Hamburger patties and salad
10  Celery soup
11  Beef curry and rice
12  Tuna patties and vegetables
13  Shepherd’s pie and vegetables
14  Scrambled eggs with bacon and avocado
15  Chicken stir-fry and rice
16  Pizza
17  Chilli con carne and rice
18  Pumpkin soup
19  Lasagne and salad
20  Chilli chicken and corn chips

The entire plan is gluten-free.  I make my own gluten-free pizza bases and hamburger patties, buy gluten-free sausages from Aldi, buy gluten free corn chips and lasagne sheets and use gluten-free flour as required.008I intend to work roughly from the top of the list and we had home-made pizzas tonight.  This is how I make them.

Do you plan your meals?  How closely do you stick to a plan?

Eating In – Pizzas

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I made a batch of gluten-free pizza bases on the weekend and tonight we are having pizza for dinner.

Here are the partly cooked bases thawed and ready to add the topping.  I find that pre-cooking these for about 8 minutes makes them much easier to handle when assembling the pizzas.

001The dough recipe I use comes from this recipe book.

006If you are looking for good gluten-free recipes I would recommend that you look for it in your local library or you can buy it here.  The updated version has a different cover.

Otherwise just make or buy your favourite bases.

I assembled all of the toppings.

002The ice-cube tray contains frozen basil and you can read about how I prepared it in this previous post.

Once the basil had thawed, I mixed it with a small amount of tomato and spread the mixture on the bases.

003Then the rest of the toppings………

004Pumpkin slices roasted with balsamic vinegar, shredded baby spinach, diced salami, sliced olives, strips of red capsicum and topped off with some grated cheese.  I use low fat cheddar with a bit of strong cheese like partmesan to give a bit of added flavour.

005This is the pizza maker which we use and it takes about 5-6 minutes to cook the pizza to perfection.

008One quarter had disappeared before I had time to grab my camera!

The toppings are never exactly the same.  It just depends on what we have.  This is the first time I have used the basil mixture for the base.  I usually just use a tomato mixture and a sprinkle of mixed herbs.  I have also been known to use mango chutney spread on the base.  The only thing limiting you is your imagination.

The Backyard & Dinner


We have been lucky here so far because while we have had a lot of rain of the past 48 hours we have not lost power.  There has been a bit of wind but nothing of any consequence so I am hoping that continues to be the case.

The rain eased off for about an hour this afternoon so I shot this video of our backyard ‘lake’.  I was standing on the verandah.

The view at the beginning of the video is where the water comes out of the drain which runs under our driveway.  It is not much more than a trickle when I took this but earlier in the day you could have white-water rafted from the top of our driveway to the rainwater tanks if you were feeling adventurous!  While some of this water is what falls on our property, the majority comes from the top of the escarpment which forms the rear part of our property, via a couple of substantial waterfalls, then heads down the roadway until it reaches a low point – the puddle near the western boundary of our place and the neighbour’s property and thence into the lake.

The ‘lake’ exists because the driveway of the property to the east of us creates what is essentially a dam wall.  In 2011 the volume of water flowing into our property exceeded the available space and overflowed down the road, damaging the surface and creating problems for properties on the low side of the road.  Ah, the joys of living on the side of a mountain!
Enough of the weather and floods.  It is highly likely that we will get more rain over the next couple of days but as long as we do not lose power that will be fine.  I have plenty of sewing to keep me occupied.
At the end of the working week it is time for a quick and easy ‘takeaway’ meal.  Here is one of the pizzas I whipped up with some home-made bases that I partly cook and freeze.  A few things from the fridge and here it is ready for the oven.
2015-02-20 01And 15 minutes later, dinner was ready.
2015-02-20 02Do you have a favourite takeaway meal at home?

Something from the Garden


Back to one of my favourite topics – eating what is in season.

Last night we had salmon for dinner.  While the salmon is not strictly local, it does come from Australian waters.  It is farmed in the clear water of the Huon River estuary in southern Tasmania.  The salmon could hardly be considered a budget meal as it costs about $10 for enough for 2 serves.  We always barbeque the salmon and season it with a little salt and some lime juice to enhance the flavour.

I served it with pumpkin mash, stir-fried pak choy, balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado slices.  I poured some of the balsamic/tomato juice over the salmon as a glaze to finish it off.  All of these ingredients came from our garden so you can’t get much more seasonal or local than that.  It also means that a meal of salmon is quite a reasonable price.  What would you pay in a restaurant for a meal like this? $30 – $35 perhaps?

Not every meal contains as much of our own garden produce but I do try to include it as much as possible.  Tonight we are having pizza which will be spread with mango chutney (made from the neighbour’s mangoes) instead of tomato paste and have balsamic roasted pumpkin as the main topping.

We have had a bumper harvest of pumpkins this year so I am constantly looking for creative ideas to use them.  As well as the ubiquitous pumpkin soup, pumpkin mash and being used on pizza topping I have also made some pumpkin scones recently.

What do you have a glut of?  Do you have any pumpkin suggestions?

Challenges – An Update

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We are now more than halfway through the month of October so I thought it was time I posted an update of my progress with my twin challenges of ‘Frocktober’ and ‘Stoptober’.

Frocktober is going well.  I have worn a dress or skirt and top every time I have left the house, apart from a couple of weeks ago when it was quite cool and I wore jeans for our casual Friday.  I have managed the additional challenge of not wearing an identical outfit twice in the month so far.  Hopefully, I can get to through the next 13 days as well.

Stoptober has been less of a stellar success, possibly because I started it on a whim and did not have any great plans.  Mind you, I think it is a bit of a fruitless exercise if you buy up big the month before in order not to spend during a particular time.  We have continued to buy modest amounts of groceries as well as fruit and vegetables.  I have thought carefully about what I needed and bought only the basics.  Our ‘essential’ spending has included a doctor’s appointment for me as well as a trip to the dentist for The Duke.  He has a follow-up appointment for more treatment next week.  On the weekend we bought some wire to fence the vegetable garden, seedlings and more grain for the chickens.  I see these purchases as an investment because the returns will always outweigh the outlay.

Our one real ‘failure’ was a decision to eat out last Friday.  We went to the local pizza restaurant and I tried the gluten-free bases which were very acceptable.  We have taken our packed lunches to work each day and I managed to dodge a couple of lunches at work which has meant that I have saved the money but also have not had to confront the issue of what to eat while maintaining my grain-free, sugar-free eating plan as much as possible.

The mortgage will look a bit healthier with the additional money saved!

The (Semi) Neglected Garden and A Menu Plan

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Although our fruit trees and vegie gardens are not totally neglected, we do not spend much more than an hour/week on them.  For this meagre investment of time we are fortunate with the harvest we reap.

This afternoon I went downstairs to water the vegetables as it has been particularly dry for the past month with almost no rain.  We have an annual average rainfall of 1800mm (72 inches) and the past 2 years have been well above that average.

I came in with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, chillies, snow peas, pumpkin, sweet potato and cherry tomatoes as well as grapefruit and avocadoes.

The first of the snow peas.  There will be many more if the flowers are any indication.

Every time I think the broccoli is finished some more side shoots appear.

The mushrooms look like they have been on steroids.  These came up in the garden bed where some of the spent mushroom compost was put.

The bell chillies are not too hot so make a good substitute for capsicums which is good since the latter are as much as $8.95/kg.

There are also lemons, oranges, limes and bok choy ready to pick but I did not need any today.

I have been picking bok choy by cutting it off at the base and leaving the remnant in the hope that it would re-shoot.  Only a week or so after cutting them I have discovered new growth on 2 of the bok choy roots so I am very pleased with that.

Since home-grown vegetables have a much shorter shelf life than bought produce I have put my thinking cap on to come up with some meal ideas.  I have yet to sort them into a proper plan but here they are.

Pizza – using pumpkin, chilli, mushrooms and spinach (plus the salami that is in the freezer).

Beef stir-fry with snow peas and broccoli

Broccoli and cauliflower bake

Broccoli with tuna and tomato sauce

Salmon on sweet potato mash with balsamic roast pumpkin and stir-fried bok choy

Vegetable casserole – using sweet potato, pumpkin and broccoli stalks

Mushroom, bacon and spinach quiche – the pastry is in the freezer from the last batch I made.

The eggs that we collect from our chickens, a vegie garden and not too much effort certainly makes a difference to our grocery bills.

Do you grow any produce?

Now it is time to make the pizza for dinner.