The Pandemic Pantry – Recipes Part 1

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Last night we had a meal which I regard as a great standby as it is created entirely from what what we generally have on hand – pandemic or not.

TUNA MORNAY

The ingredients assembled.

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There are no real quantities as such but the amount I made will serve 4-5 adults.

Make up milk using milk powder.  Fresh milk is fine but if you are trying to make do, reconstituted powdered milk works well in cooking.  I used about 650ml for this recipe.

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Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add enough flour to make a fairly dry roux.  I use gluten free flour but regular wheat flour is perfect if you do not have any allergies or intolerances.

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Gradually add the milk and stir until smooth and thickened.  When using gluten free flour I use a stick blender to aid in the process.

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Add the juice of half a lemon, seasoning and a handful of grated cheese.  You can add about half a teaspoon of prepared mustard if you have it.

Add a large can of tuna (drained and flaked) and 3/4 cup frozen peas and 3/4 cup corn kernels.  I used frozen, homegrown corn but canned corn works equally as well.

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Here is some brown rice which I had cooked last week and frozen so it was simply reheated.  I do this in a glass dish in the microwave and add about 1/2 cup of water.

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Dinner is served.  This dish does not get points for visual appeal but it will feed empty tummies.

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Something which we should consider at any time but it is particularly important when popping to the shops is not really an option – food waste.  Therefore, at times like this we should be making a real effort to use everything we are fortunate enough to have.

This is the principle behind the meal I have planned for tonight.  It does not have a name but for the purpose of indexing it, I will call it:

EGGPLANT NOODLES WITH PESTO

1 large eggplant – julienned using V-slicer
Curly kale – finely shredded
1 tub of basil pesto dip
1/3 tub ricotta

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I chose and prepared all of the ingredients this morning.  The pesto had been purchased for another purpose and not used and the ricotta left over from the Eggplant Lasagne Rolls that I made a couple of days ago.  I will do a separate post about that recipe.

The method I will use is:

Lightly saute eggplant and set aside a keep warm.  Saute kale until wilted then add ricotta and pesto.  Stir through eggplant noodles and serve.

I think this sounds good and hope it lives up to expectation.

 

 

 

The Pandemic Pantry

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…………and refrigerator and freezer.

There are several reasons why we may need to be able to create meals from what we have on hand rather than rushing off to the shops for a particular ingredient. During the current pandemic there is a chance that any of us may be quarantined or supply lines disrupted.

Therefore, it is beneficial to maintain a selection of shelf-stable goods that can form the basis of basic meals.  A refrigerator allows us to keep perishable foods but during times like this it may not be possible to restock perishable items on a regular basis.  Finally, a freezer can be useful for storage of a variety of foods, including processing gluts of fruit and vegetables.  These may be sourced from your own garden or when you have taken advantage of seasonal bargains.

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Tonight we had a large shared serving of nachos.  Corn chips and canned tomatoes from the pantry teamed with a jar of refried beans from the freezer and some grated cheddar cheese and we had a filling meal.  I make the refried beans from dried kidney beans.  The recipe is here.  They are really versatile and can be used in a number of ways.

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We do not usually have dessert every night so this was a bit of a treat.  We currently have an abundance of eggs from our chickens as well as a steady supply of lemons and the oven would be turned on for the nachos…………..so, I made a Lemon Delicious pudding.  It is a relatively simple combination of butter, sugar, flour and milk along with the eggs and lemon.  Recipe is here

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What is in your pantry?

 

 

 

 

Buying with Purpose, Not Panic

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There has been a lot written in recent days about people panic buying everything from toilet paper to rice, pasta and Panadol.

We have plenty of foodstuffs and have continued to top-up more perishable items like cheese and butter.  Today I did my small version of panic-buying.  This was prompted when I broke a sewing machine needle yesterday.  I went to the drawer to get out another and found that it was the last of my regular machine needles.  I still had some heavy-duty ones which are designed for jeans and heavy fabrics like denim.

Here is the result of what is likely to be one of our last forays into the shops apart from a basic weekly (or less) grocery shop.

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Spotlight for 3 packs of sewing machine needles, a new pastry brush and a couple of packets of seeds from Bunnings.  The needles should last me for many years but the prospect of being stuck at home with piles of potential sewing and no needles was too much to bear.  In the past few days the media has been reporting that seeds and seedlings are being cleared out everywhere.  My own experiences this week would make me agree with that assessment.  GMan offered the observation that you can’t eat sweet peas!  However, they are one of my favourite flowers, they make me happy and it is the right time to plant them so they came home with me.

Then it was off to another Bunnings as GMan continued his quest (unsuccessfully) to purchase a new wheelbarrow.  We checked out the garden section and were surprised and delighted to find plenty of vegetable seedlings.  I think there must have been a very recent delivery so I took advantage of this and bought punnets of cauliflower, celery, pak choy and eggplant seedlings as well as a well-established capsicum plant.

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The cauliflower, celery and pak choy seedlings had not been thinned out so I did that when we arrived home and found that I ended up with 29 cauliflower seedlings and 24 each of celery and pak choy seedlings.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive.

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I hope to share and swap some of these seedlings with others in my extended family so that we can all benefit from nutritious, home-grown produce.

An Anniversary and A Virus

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It is now 8 days since my last post and in the intervening time I have passed a significant milestone – the 9th anniversary of this blog.  My very first post was 12th March 2011.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge.  GMan and I have both retired.  We have lost both of our elderly pets.  Our eldest granddaughter who was a 3 year old at daycare is now at high school.  There have been birthdays, holidays, deaths and an assortment of celebrations.  Skills have been acquired, friendships made, issues addressed, gardens planted and recipes made.

However, nothing I have written about is anywhere near as important as the current global pandemic of COVID-19 virus.  Very few countries have been left unscathed.  In fact, Australia has seen a doubling of reported cases in just 2 days – from 150 to 300.

It seems that the best chance we have of ‘flattening the curve’ is social distancing.  In order to do this large gatherings of greater than 500 are banned.  For example, there will not be spectators at football matches.

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Working from home is being encouraged.  Since GMan and I do not have work commitments, we have chosen to limit our social interactions.  This will not only protect us but assist in reducing community transmission.  The more people that restrict their movements the greater the chance that the increase in cases can be slowed.  The primary reason for this strategy is to ensure that our health system can cope with the influx of cases.

If you are going to stay home as much as possible, you need to consider not only your physical needs but also your mental health.  Food and other essential consumable items are important but you need to give consideration as to how you will spend your time.  Naturally, it will depend on your individual circumstances.  We are very lucky to have small acreage so outdoor activity is definitely still an option.  I will be sewing, gardening and cooking.  The focus will be on cooking from scratch and making do with what I have.  Check out this link on the blog.

I am grateful for my relaxing retreat right here at home.

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Whatever is going on and however we deal with it, don’t forget those around you.  Everyone has different needs and priorities.  Just within my smallish extended family, there are people who are elderly, sole traders, single parents, students, homeowners, renters and residents of retirement villages.  Each person is impacted differently.

These are unprecedented times.  This post was written almost 9 years ago.  While this is a very different scenario with the presence of a new virus in our midst, the message remains the same.  Take care of yourself.  Look out for others.  Above all, be kind and considerate.

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Prepared – Not Panicked

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As you can probably guess this post is about the current global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

This post is not meant to replace any government directions regarding travel or quarantine periods.  It is simply my thoughts on the current situation.

Here is the official Australian Government Department of Health website.

It would not hurt any of us to stop and consider how we would manage if there were widespread cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Australia.

Since we do not have work commitments to consider my main focus is simply to ensure that we have enough supplies to ensure that we could take care of ourselves for an extended period if required.  I have not been stocking up on food as we always carry enough to feed us for at least a month but probably much longer than that.  While they may not be gourmet meals we could adequately nourish ourselves.

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I have also read recommendations that people ensure that they have plenty of their prescription medications.  I have checked that I have enough but noticed that my current prescriptions expire in about 6 weeks so I have made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow to get new prescriptions.  If the virus does have a significant impact in Australia over the next couple of months, I do not want to be trying to get new prescriptions at that time.  Doctors will have far more pressing demands for their skills and I do not want to be in a waiting room full of potentially infected patients so it is much better to plan ahead and get it done now.

Preparation is not panicking, it is commonsense to take responsibility for your own well-being.

What We Have

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Every day there are multiple instances where we simply use what we have and think nothing of it.  Tonight I want to share a few examples of how we use what is available and minimise buying new items.

About 10 years ago I scored a small rainwater tank on Freecycle.  It had some rust spots and was no longer suitable for collecting rainwater but I had other plans.  GMan cut it into 3 sections which we have used variously for small, raised garden beds and compost heaps.  You can see them in some of the photos in this early blog post from 2011.

Over the years they have continued to rust and deteriorate a bit more and when GMan moved one recently, he declared that it was at the end of its useful life.  However, on reflection, we decided that if we cut the worst of the rusted edge off it would be a bit shallower and would make a perfect herb garden.

The next trick was to find the best location for it.  Ideally, it would be relatively close to the house for easy picking.  After some discussion, we decided to remove the chilli bush in the corner of the vegetable garden area and place it there.  We have two other very prolific chilli bushes so removing this one was not a problem.  I removed all of the ripe chillies and added them to the bag of chillies in the freezer.

With the bush removed, it was time to position the cut-down tank.

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The next job will be to fill it with soil and select what to plant in it.

Barely 2 months ago we had a Himalayan ash tree beside our driveway lopped.  As you will see from the hyperlink, it is regarded as environmental weed where we live in southeast Queensland.  The main tree and its multiple suckers had covered quite a large area and we immediately planted a selection of native shrubs and small trees in its place.  One of these is a lovely grevillea which has grown very quickly but the 3 main branches were drooping badly.  So, we decided that the best course of action was to create an enclosure with stakes that would help to support it until it develops enough strength of its own.

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The straps connecting the stakes are some old webbing from the seat of an old armchair that GMan recently dismantled.  I stapled them to the stakes using an upholstery staple gun that has been lurking in my craft cupboard for many years.

Here is another garden project that made the most of what we had.

I needed a table for potting and planting seeds so we created this one a couple of months ago and it has proved to be very successful.

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We used an old bed frame and the slats which had previously been removed were replaced with some wire which we attached to the frame using fencing staples.  A couple of timer crossbars allowed the attachment of a pair of metal legs.  These had been salvaged from a table that my father had made many years ago.  The wire top allows for easy watering and drainage while the location on the southern side of the house gets plenty of light and some sun while still being reasonably sheltered.

The final photo is not something we had but something we were given.

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GMan planted these 5 new pineapple tops along the fenceline of the vegie garden.  Thanks, Sandra and Glenn.  We are looking forward to watching them mature and hopefully produce some delicious fruit.  It will entail being patient as pineapples take about 18 months to grow.

 

Ugly Duckling

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A quick Google search will yield numerous results for the term ‘ugly fruit and vegetables’.  I do not know where or how the description originated but it simply refers to that produce which does not meet the consumer’s expectation of perfection.  There is a new wave of consumers who have realised that imperfect shape or non-conforming size do not render produce useless and destined for the waste bin.

While not specifically designated as ‘ugly fruit’ our local fruit and vegetable stall does have less than perfect items available from time to time.  You need to be prepared to chop, puree, freeze or preserve the entire quantity as soon as possible as it generally has a limited shelf life.  You can turn ‘ugly ducklings’ into ‘beautiful swans’.

Although I always write a shopping list for my shopping, including fruit and vegetables, I am always on the lookout for anything extra that I can use.

About a month ago I found a box of ripe yellow peaches that were most definitely seconds.  I decided that I could not go wrong when I noticed they were priced at $5 for the box.  I discovered that there were 6kg of peaches and I only needed to discard 2 peaches and removes spots from a couple of others.  Some were pureed and frozen to go on my cereal in the future and others being dehydrated while more were set aside in the refrigerator to be used fresh during the following days.  My favourite was the 5 jars of peach and chilli chutney made from this recipe.

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Yesterday we needed to replenish our supplies after our holidays and I spied another box for $5 at the fruit and vegetable stall.  This time it was pineapples.  12 small pineapples for $5 was a bargain not to be passed up.  Once again, despite not looking great from the outside, there was only a small portion that I needed to discard.

I did not make anything particularly fancy but I have plenty of pineapple frozen and ready to use.  Some is pureed for use on my cereal and the remainder is small slices packed into containers.  It is quite easy to remove as much or as little as is required for a particular recipe.

This is the haul (after I had eaten a couple of pieces).

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Do you look for seconds or bargains when buying fruit and vegetables?  What have you found and how did you process it?

 

Local and Leftovers

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There has been quite a bit happening here as we prepare to leave for our holiday in less than 2 weeks.

However, some things remain consistent and preparing meals is one of them.  They are not overly fancy but here is a quick snapshot of some of our recent food.

This was my Sunday brunch.  Omelette with stir-fried cabbage and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  Apart from the seasonings (salt, pepper and smoky paprika), everything was sourced within 20 metres of my kitchen.  No chemicals, no packaging and no transport costs.  This is not feasible for every meal or even every day but it is quite exciting when it happens.

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Then there are leftovers.  On Saturday evening we had Mexican quinoa followed by satay chicken and vegetable stir-fry the next night.  So last night was leftovers – a multi-cultural taste sensation!  They are not flavours I would generally combine but it was a wholesome and satisfying meal.

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Note that there was cabbage in the stir-fry.  When you have several home-grown cabbage it goes into pretty well everything.  There is no photo but we also recently had baked potatoes with salad and a generous serving of coleslaw.

As a change from cabbage, today I picked these 2 beautiful heads of broccoli.  I steamed the florets of broccoli then made a tuna and tomato (with a touch of chilli) sauce to pour over them and finished with cheese and flaxseed meal topping.  A few minutes under the grill and I served it with some rice.

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There will probably be a few creative meals in the next week or so as we try to use up what is on hand as well as in the garden.

Collective Action

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Much of what I write about here falls under the broad categories of cooking, gardening and sewing and of course, the all-encompassing category of self-reliance.

The little things that I do every day contribute to my overall philosophy which is summed up in the byline of the blog – ‘A Simple, Sustainable Life’.

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It is important that we should never underestimate the value of the little things that we can all do each and every day.  However, sometimes we need to look beyond our own backyards and get involved on a larger scale.

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8 days ago on 30th November several major Australian cities and regional centres saw significant numbers of school students, young people and adult supporters marching for their future – a future generated by renewable energy, not coal.  I marched in support of these intelligent and articulate youngsters.

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I am somewhere towards the rear of this photo which was taken today.  There were many, more more out of view of the camera.

Thousands of people marched again today and will continue to do so until our state and Federal governments take serious action on climate change.  The most pressing issue is to have the proposed Carmichael mine by Adani in the Gallilee Basin stopped.

There will be more events in the coming weeks.

All of the research shows that a clear majority of Australians support this action so please consider being involved.  Stand up and be counted and let the politicians hear our collective voice.

Meanwhile, I have made another batch of strawberry jam.  That is 8kg of strawberries made into jam.

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More Purple

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The lavender flowers are not the only purple in my life.  Today I was ironing one of GMan’s shirts which happens to be purple.

This shirt is one of his favourites and the cuffs had worn out some time ago so I cut the sleeves off to turn it into a short sleeve shirt which continues to be worn, albeit, not as frequently as when it was a long-sleeved business shirt.

I was ironing it today and I caught the tip of the iron against the edge of the back yoke seam whereupon the stitching gave way across about 2/3 of the back.  After my initial shock, I examined it closely and realised that the cotton thread had simply worn out.

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The fabric is faded and I know it will not last forever but I have restitched it and there is quite a bit more wear in it yet.

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It makes good environmental and economic sense to repair items and retain them for as long as possible so I am very pleased to have been able to extend the life of this shirt.