Food as Fuel

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Sometimes I think food is over-rated.  Thanks to shows like Masterchef and others in the same vein, we have been conned into thinking that every meal needs to be a creation and cooking is a competition.

Cooking for your family is actually providing fuel for their bodies to perform the necessary tasks – nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than creating a special meal for family and friends.  However, we need to look past the hype of cooking shows and concentrate on what is important – nutritious food to re-fuel.

Tonight I want to show you what I am making for dinner.  It is not overly fancy but I know we will enjoy a wholesome meal made with basic ingredients.

Beef Casserole with Sweet Potato Mash, Broccoli and Balsamic-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I made the casserole a couple of weeks ago in the slow-cooker and divided it into 2 containers.  One container is 2 serves.  This has been defrosting since I took it out of the freezer this morning.  The sweet potato is already cooked and mashed from Sunday evening when I made a double quantity.

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I will serve this with steamed broccoli and the cherry tomatoes.

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I made the casserole using gravy beef (3 pieces), 1 onion (diced), 400g frozen cherry tomatoes (you can use a can of crushed tomatoes) and 1/4 cup homemade Worcestershire sauce.  Place all ingredients in the slow cooker on High for about 6 hours or until the meat is tender and breaks apart easily with a fork.  Add 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour or arrowroot blended in 1/4 cup of water to thicken the mixture.  This can been done in the last hour of cooking or transfer the casserole to a saucepan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  If you are going to freeze the casserole you may prefer to thicken it when you are ready to use it.

The sweet potato is mashed with some butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg for extra flavour.

To roast the cherry tomatoes place about 2 teaspoons of oil and an equal amount of balsamic syrup in a small pan with the tomatoes and place in an oven at 180C for 10 minutes.  If you do not have the oven on, you can do it equally as well under the griller for about 5 – 8 minutes on ‘High’.

The sweet potato and cherry tomatoes are both from our garden.

Here is the meal served and ready to eat.

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What is on your dinner plate tonight?

A Bumper Crop

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It is just as well we like sweet potatoes.  Here is what we dug up on Sunday.  i Have not weighed them but there would have to be at least 20kg.

2016-04-05 01We dug these up from where they had become established in one of the cut down water tanks that we use for the compost.  The sweet potato vines were entwined with the raspberry canes so we decided it was time to pull them out and this was the result.

Sweet potato mash, fries, curry and soup – the options are endless.

I will definitely be trying this one, too.  Thanks, Julia.

 

Taking the Time

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Today we met the housesitters who will be taking care of our home while we are overseas later in the year.  We invited them to come and have a look around, meet the animals and generally get a feel for the place. We spent a few hours showing them around and explaining various aspects of the property.  During that time we had lunch on the verandah as it was a lovely day.

As we discussed various things it struck me how much of our home and garden is simply taken for granted or gets forgotten in the myriad of tasks which make up our day to day routine.  Time really appreciate what we have.

After our visitors had gone GMan and I spent a while out in the garden.  Apart from the mass of sweet potato plants in one of the raised vegetable gardens we also had some which had taken root in an old cut-down water tank which is one of our compost piles.  It was becoming entwined with the raspberry canes so we began to pull them out and realised that there were potatoes growing.  I started digging and this was the harvest.

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The next job was down by the bottom fence.  We planted a new tree which we had bought a couple of weeks ago.  It is a tropical birch and according to the label will be perfect for our climate, deciduous with colourful autumn foliage.  It is difficult to see but look closely.

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A little further along the fence is a callistemon which has come up self-sown.  It was almost choked with wed and entangled in the fence so with a bit of care it will hopefully become established.

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Speaking of autumn foliage, the liquidamber is showing the first signs of colour.  A few golden leaves are peeping through the green.

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This is a broader view of the same general area with the liquidamber tree to the left of the photo.  Being in a high rainfall area, everything grows easily and well but unfortunately, that includes weeds and unwanted trees and shrubs.  Most of the foliage to the right of the liquidamber is not particularly pleasant or useful so we have finally made a decision to have a substantial swathe of it lopped and mulched so that we can replant the area with more suitable plants.  Watch this space for before and after photos.  Hopefully it will happen before we leave on our trip.

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This is a view of some of the trunks and undergrowth of the area we plan to have cleared.

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Behind the 2 water tanks is a clear area where GMan planted some pawpaw seedlings  a few weeks ago.  These had been given to us and they seem to be doing quite well.  They are difficult to see but there are about eight plants through the centre of the photo.

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Finally, here is the front verge which is a selection of native shrubs which we started planting about 9 years ago and have extended a bit more since then.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed some unusual foliage higher than the rest of the shrubs and it turned out to be a tree which we had not planted and already reached a height of about 5 metres.  I am not sure what it was but am certain it was non-native and almost certainly an invasive weed so GMan cut it down last week with minimal damage to the surrounding shrubs.  It is a reminder that we need to keep a closer eye on what is growing here.

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As always, the garden is a work in progress and we have lots of plans.  I hope you have enjoyed checking out a little of our place.

 

Breakfast

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I am working from home today and I had time to try out my new blender for the first time.  I decided to make a green smoothie for breakfast.

Here are the ingredients all prepared and ready.

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There is kale, celery and an orange from the garden, pineapple which I had already chopped so it is probably a bit smaller than necessary, 2 cubes of frozen passionfruit pulp.  This was from our vine a few months ago.  The small bottle contains powdered ginger.  The root ginger came from my sister’s garden and I dehydrated and ground it.  I added a teaspoonful to my smoothie.

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Loaded into the blender and ready to go.  I added about 300ml of water.

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The end result.  I had a large glass of this for breakfast and have enough for tomorrow as well.

This was an easy and successful introduction to my new, high-speed blender and I am looking forward to using it to create many more healthy options to add to our diet.

Get Growing

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If you live in a location with a reasonably warm climate, there is one thing to grow that I cannot recommend highly enough.  Sweet potato.  It is a nutritious, versatile vegetable that will grow with the minimum of fuss.  There is a heap of information here.

I have had them growing for a couple of years and there are almost always some available to harvest.  This is my latest haul.

2015-02-27 01Sweet potato can be boiled, baked, steamed and mashed.  You can make chips or soup.  I grate it coarsely and stir-fry it and serve instead of rice or pasta with chicken stir-fry or bolognaise sauce.  You can even use it to make chocolate brownies.

I Can Grow Carrots

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This probably seems pathetic to many gardeners but I have finally managed to grow some carrots.  It is a crop which has eluded me for the best part of 30 years of growing at least some food crops.

Some of my earliest memories are of the carrots growing in my grandfather’s vegetable garden.  Carrots were one of the vegetables that my parent’s grew also.

So why is it so difficult to grow carrots?  The seed is very fine and can easily dry out, blow away or be taken by birds.  Whatever the reason, I have been unable to even get them to germinate previously.  Then there is the issue of the soil.  It needs to be a bit on the sandy side, well-drained and definitely no rocks or you can end up with some strangely shaped carrots.  Mind you, I was so desperate to at least have carrots growing that I could not have cared less about them being misshapen.

When I sowed carrot seeds a couple of months ago I covered them with a few layers of damp newspaper until they had germinated and this seemed to do the trick.

Carrots and beans

These are the carrots I picked today.  They are really just a few that I pulled to thin them out.  They are still smaller than the beans that are also from the garden and I can almost hear my grandfather telling me that the soil is too rich in nutrients as they have all gone to the tops.  I know, I know……..but at least I have carrots.  I am so proud of myself.  The beans and carrots were eaten for dinner.

We have been busy putting the strainer wires up for the fencing on the chicken run today.  Tomorrow we hope to attach at least some of the chicken wire and also assemble the coop which we bought.  It is currently still in the 2 flat pack boxes in the garage.

I am looking forward to the day when the fencing is all done and the remainder of the raised garden beds are built and then hopefully I will be able to concentrate on improving the results of my vegetable gardening efforts.

What a Weekend!

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Our weekends are usually full of activity at home because we are at work all week.  This one was no exception and I have to admit that it is great to get to Sunday evening and feel a real sense of achievement.

Of course there are all of the basics to be done so I had 2 loads of washing done and hung out on Friday evening.  The weather has been fine and dry for the past few days so the washing almost dried overnight.  This meant that I could do the ironing on Saturday morning.

Our first job was to split and stack some more firewood.

Woodpile

We will probably not use the fire much more this winter so there is now plenty of wood split and ready for next year.

Pile reduced

There was a huge pile of logs that needed splitting and they are almost all gone now.  Just lots of smaller pieces to be sorted and stacked into boxes.  It was great to get this done as we will be keeping the woodshed but dismantling the adjacent chicken house before long.  That is because we a building a new run for the chickens.

The new chicken run has been a considerable time in the planning and preparation but now you can actually see some progress.  We have dug the holes and set the 4 corner posts in concrete.  There are another 4 intermediate ones done, too.

Posts for the chicken run

There are still 6 more holes and posts to do so we are hoping that the fine weather continues so that we can do them next weekend.

The garden is looking really good at the moment as you can see.

Lemon tree

The lemon tree is groaning with the crop.

Vegie garden

Vegetables are growing well.  We need to have bok choy with a few meals this week before it completely overwhelms everything else.

AzaleaThe azalea is looking particularly pretty.

In between the outdoor work, I managed to do the shopping at the local Co-op, fruit and vegetable stall and Aldi as well as host some guests through AirBnB last night.

Here is a final shot looking down from the verandah of the area which will be the chicken run.  There will need to be some re-arranging of some of the plants that fall within the area, although I think the mango tree will probably stay.  This was taken late in the afternoon but you can see the peach tree on the left of the photo which is already starting to blossom.  In another couple of weeks it will be in full flower.

Garden

All in all, it has been a fun and productive weekend.  How was yours?