A Different Dinner

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Due to Covid 19 our area has been locked down for 8 days. Those restrictions ease from this afternoon so we are very grateful. I know that this nothing compared to what many people have endured and continue to do so. I understand that grocery shopping is one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home but whether we are locked down or not, I try to minimise my exposure by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Yesterday I stocked up on some grocery items and also replenished our very meagre selection of fruit and vegetables. Now the trick is to make sure that everything is used wisely and none of the perishable goods go to waste. I bought 2 bunches of broccolini and decided that 1 of them would be used in our dinner.

After canvassing several options, I decided on a Broccolini and Caramelised Onion Tart. I found a few recipes online but none that exactly matched my idea so I pulled a few different elements together and this is what I came up with. It makes use of what I had available so you can make your own adjustments or substitutions.

Broccolini and Carmelised Onion Tart

Pastry – I was looking for something that was gluten free and tried this recipe for the pastry base. I had never thought of rubbing coconut oil rather than butter into flour when making pastry. I thought it turned out reasonably well but GMan is not a fan and feels than you can taste the coconut. You can make or buy whatever pastry suits you.

This is the pastry when I placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Filling

2 onions
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
2 teaspoons treacle
2 tablespoons red wine
1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt
Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Slice the onions, place in a pan over low heat and cook gently, stirring regularly. Add mixed herbs and treacle. Continue to cook until golden brown and soft. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

Rinse broccolini and spread on baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and slivers of garlic. Roast for about 15 minutes at 150C. Set aside until required.

Ready to go in the oven.

Line a dish or tray with your chosen pastry. Lightly spread with mustard and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place half of the onions in the dish then the broccolini followed by the remainder of the onions.

Add some dollops of sour cream and a little grated cheese.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

I served slices of the tart with freshly-made coleslaw and cherry tomatoes.

Lockdown – Imposition or Opportunity

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I have previously written about the importance of mindset. This can apply to many situations.

That drawer in the kitchen that many people refer to as the ‘junk drawer’? By calling it, even silently to myself, as the ‘useful drawer’ has helped me to ensure that it holds only useful items. It is not a place for junk and this aids in keeping it tidy and uncluttered.

I don’t ‘get rid of stuff’ either. To get rid of something implies that it is rubbish and merely describing it as ‘stuff’ does not ascribe any inherent value to the item. That is fine if it is a piece of ripped paper but if you are struggling with great-grandma’s tea set it is much more difficult. Try saying to yourself that you are letting go of a beautiful item so that it can bring joy to someone else. You will immediately feel more positive and confident about it going to a new home.

Where I live we are currently being instructed to stay at home for all but necessary outings due to community transmission of cases of Covid-19. I recognise that this is difficult for many people and we all need to be aware of our mental health and that of those around us.

Once again, a little bit of positive self-talk and mindset can go a long way. I hear many people talking about being stuck at home and locked down. I prefer to appreciate the time I have been given with very few demands on my time. It can be an opportunity to begin, continue or even finish some of those multitude of projects which do not always make the cut in our normally full and demanding days.

Although our lockdown began at 6pm yesterday, my restrictions actually started first thing on Monday morning after I had a Covid test as I had woken with a very sore throat. Fortunately, the result was negative but I do have a heavy head cold and really do not feel like doing much.

I am embracing the time and have chosen to sort and cull some of the thousands of digital photos I have on my device as well as making some more Boomerang bags and updating the budget.

Of course, I am using my skills and imagination to create meals making the most of the ingredients we have without any waste. Even though grocery shopping is an acceptable reason for leaving our home, I figure the more I stay home, the more I reduce my risk of coming in contact with Covid-19. Many people have become programmed to simply go shopping every few days. I try to maintain an acceptable level of supplies to sustain us for an extended period of time regardless of the reason.

How do you make the most of the situation in which you find yourself?

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.

Shopping and Sad

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We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Shopping Expedition

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When we went to Brisbane on Friday I made the most of the opportunity and bought a few things that had been on my ‘to buy’ list for a while.

My lipstick – yes, I only own 1 lipstick – was almost depleted.

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I bought a lip brush so that I can utilise all of the remaining lipstick.

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A new lipstick which will last for several years.  The previous one lasted over 3 years so I expect this will last at least as long, especially as I am no longer going to work every day and sometimes do not wear any make-up.

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It is perhaps a little more pink than I have worn previously but I am sure I will get used to it.  Samples to try out are no longer provided so the best I could do was to look at the small colour chart on the display stand.

I also bought a pair of stockings as I had managed to ruin my last remaining pair around the time I finished work – over 12 months ago.  As you can see from the last sentence, I rarely require stockings but they are not something that I can easily buy locally so it is in my best interests to have a pair on hand if needed.

Ready for Refill

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It is August already and I barely mentioned Plastic Free July in the past month.  While this is a great initiative to encourage people to rethink their reliance on single-use plastics, I try to make every month as free from plastic as possible.

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Today I loaded up my basket with these plastic bottles to return to Felix from Kin Kin Naturals.  These bottles will be reused.  He has a stall at the Kin Kin markets which is about 80km from our place.  We usually go about once a year to stock up on products we use – laundry liquid, laundry pre-soak, dishwashing liquid and dishwasher powder.

It is great to support a local, family-owned business and by buying direct we can save money and plastic.

Pantry Organisation

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As I promised in my post from yesterday, here is my pantry.  It is reasonably well-organised but has not been tidied especially for these photos.

My grocery shopping can be divided into 2 basic categories.  The first is bulk bin purchases of dry goods such as nuts, flours, seeds, legumes which are shown in the first photo.  I buy most of these from Simply Good.  I am able to take my own containers to fill and thus avoid any packaging.  This is important to me and particularly relevant as we approach the end of Plastic Free July.

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I regard supermarket shopping as the last resort – I buy those items which I cannot grow, swap, buy from the producer directly, greengrocer, butcher or otherwise plastic free.  These include dairy products and a small number of canned or packaged foods.  These are mostly shown in the next photo.

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By having an organised refrigerator and pantry, I am able to easily scan the shelves and create a shopping list when required.

 

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.

 

 

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?

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.