The Pandemic Pantry – A Windfall

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On Sunday evening a friend contacted me and asked if I would be interested in buying some organic celery and apples from a small business which had to close and was now unable to use the amount they had on hand.  I took 2 large bunches of organic celery and a couple of dozen small green apples which are also organic.

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I had a plan so it was out with the large stockpot which lives on the floor of my pantry and I was ready to make a large quantity of celery soup which is one of our favourites. The recipe below is for 1 regular bunch of celery so I actually multiplied it x 3 as the bunches of celery were huge.

CELERY SOUP

1 bunch of celery
2 medium potatoes
2 medium onions, diced
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
Salt and pepper
6 cups (1500ml) water

Wash and roughly chop the celery, including the leaves.  Peel and chop the potatoes.  Lightly saute the onions.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to the boil then simmer until soft – at least 1 hour.  Allow to cool a little then blend until smooth.  Add more water if required to achieve desired consistency.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Here it is divided up and ready to freeze.

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This is a cheap and hearty meal when served with crusty bread or cheese scones.

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Then it was time to deal with the apples.  I peeled, cored and stewed them.  They are now packed away in the freezer for future use.

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I set the peels and cores aside for another project but more about that tomorrow.

 

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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Salvaged

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I make simple cotton boxer shorts to team with singlet tops for pyjamas and the elastic had given up in this pair.

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I intended to replace the elastic, however, they had been languishing on the ‘to do’ pile on my sewing table.  Rather than simply replacing the 2 rows of 6mm elastic, I decided to use this elastic which I had salvaged from some of GMan’s worn out underwear.

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The first step was to remove the remnant of the underwear fabric.

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The elastic attached to the upper edge  of the shorts.

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Then turned over and stitched again.

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The boxers are now ready to wear again with no extra cost and no wastage from the worn out underwear.  As a side note, the worn out cotton underwear makes fantastic cleaning cloths and dusters.

 

Rescued Fruit

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Even though I do my best to minimise my waste on a personal level, it can be very difficult to control the waste that occurs in other facets of my life, most notably my workplace.  I work in a corporate office and there are instances where there is catering ordered for business lunches and so on.  I generally try to make sure that any leftovers are not wasted.  Last week there was a small amount left on a fruit platter which I retrieved with no particular plan in mind.  I decided to put it in a container in the freezer with a view to using it for smoothies at a later date.

Yesterday morning I removed this frozen block of mixed fruit which included a couple of types of melon, strawberries, grapes and a few blueberries.

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Into the blender…………

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I added juice of a lime and a banana and blended it until smooth.

About 1/3 of the mixture was added to a small amount of water and became part of my breakfast.

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The remainder went back in the freezer.  I whizzed it briefly in the evening and we had a delicious fruit sorbet for dessert.

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It is a small but important step to save whatever perfectly good food that I can.  Otherwise, I know it will simply be thrown out.

Boomerang Bags – Getting Started

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Some years ago I was introduced to a person whose first comment to me was, “What is your passion?”  I was absolutely floored and had no idea what to say.  I consider myself to be a well-rounded person with a range of interests but as for a particular passion – I think I just stammered something unintelligible.

However, I think I have just discovered something that satisfies my twin passions of sewing and environmental activism combined with a healthy dose of community action.  I did not realise when I first went to a meeting in December about this initiative, how satisfying it would be to be involved in this project.

When I was in Maleny this morning I picked up some pieces of fabric screen-printed with the Maleny Boomerang Bags logo.  This was the last hurdle to making a start on making the bags.

I had previously located and washed several pieces of suitable fabric, sourced the pattern and instructions and even had my sewing machine serviced.  It really needed to be done before I embarked on the numerous sewing projects I have planned for 2018.

Whilst I will use some production line techniques in the future, I made the first bag as a complete process from beginning to end.  This allowed me to understand the sequence and how I could streamline the construction of subsequent bags.

Here is the result.  The logo doubles as a pocket.

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There are 8 bags cut out and straps made so now I will be able to do a few at a time.

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This is barely a dent in the fabric I have earmarked for this project.

I am really excited about the launch of Boomerang Bags – Maleny next Sunday and am looking forward to contributing many more bags.

The Design Phase

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Many of the projects I have shared in the past are the culmination of an extended planning and design phase that begins with a germ of an idea.

A good example is this post from 2013.  As I mentioned in the post, it was several years from my initial and somewhat vague idea until the shelving became a reality.

I have a new plan, which, as the title of this post suggests, is currently being designed.  I am optimistic that the germination of this idea will not be quite so drawn out.

We have a frame from an old day bed to which GMan attached some small mesh.  It was going to be a large sieve for soil but it is really not necessary where we live.  Instead, we have used it to store pumpkins under the house.  It is perfect because the mesh is an inch or two above the floor and allows the air to circulate.

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However, the downside is the amount of floor space which it takes up.  So, the other day I suggested to GMan that we could suspend it from the ceiling using a pulley system.  Now we just need to work out the details.  Thanks to Google and Pinterest we have got some ideas.  Something like this, perhaps?

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Once we have worked out what hardware and rope/cord we need, I think it should be relatively simple to assemble.

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This is the area that we have identified from which we could suspend the rack.  It would provide even more air circulation and not take up valuable floor space so seems like a winner.

Watch this space for the results and hopefully it will be a matter of months, not years before it becomes a reality.

 

Taking it to the Streets

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Blog posts have been pretty thin on the ground over the past couple of months.  There has been plenty going on here which would generally be perfect material for posts, however, I have written about most of it before, and in some instances, several times.

I know that there is no reason not to revisit a topic but I have been grappling with a broader issue and want to discuss that here today.  I am looking for other people’s views and would really appreciate your input.

It is good to be doing what you can within your own home and personal decisions with regard to reducing your carbon footprint but should we be doing more?  To really make a difference it is vital that we work to influence change on a bigger scale.  This can be overwhelming and make you wonder whether it is even worth trying but we need to remember that change does not happen overnight nor is it likely to be easy.

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In the past few weeks we have been busy.  We attended a local screening of ‘Before the Flood’ and associated audience discussion. This is a 2016 documentary on climate change features Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like anything on this topic it left me torn between optimism that we can all make a difference and despair that any action will really be a matter of ‘too little, too late’.  However, my final decision is a renewed enthusiasm to really make a difference as soon as possible.

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On a more local note, I went to an information evening about recycling in the Sunshine Coast Council area which was presented by Barung Landcare with a speaker, Sandie Johnston from Envirocom, an environmental consultancy who provide education and training for Sunshine Coast Council.  Waste minimisation and recycling have been at the forefront of my actions for over 25 years and this was an eye-opening presentation.  Some things have changed with regard to recycling so it is great to have up-to-date information that I know is accurate for our local council area.  I am looking forward to sharing this information in the hope that it can be disseminated more broadly which should lead to a greater compliance with recycling ‘rules’.

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I also attended one of the five consultation evenings regarding the ongoing management of the Maroochy River estuary as preservation of our natural environment is critical and the issue of coastal management is paramount if we are to protect low-lying areas such as Cotton Tree from inundation.  Whilst the issue of replacing the geotextile bag groynes with rocks may only have come to the notice of some people recently, there has been a small but dedicated band of people working to preserve the natural river mouth for at least 40 years.  This is a perfect example of long-term activism.  If you live in the Sunshine Coast Council area or visit the Maroochy River estuary (Cotton Tree) please consider completing the council survey here.

Just like charity, activism begins at home, or at least in your local area so here are a few ideas that have caught my interest.

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I have begun looking into the idea of Boomerang Bags with a view to getting this idea up and running in Maleny.

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A couple of months ago I joined Spare Harvest, an online platform dedicated to sharing garden produce and resources.

I have been active in a couple of different Zero Waste/War on Waste Facebook groups and am pleased to have discovered a local Sunshine Coast group.  These really seem to have gained momentum since the ‘War on Waste’ television program here in Australia.  I am hoping to be able to connect with more local people to see what difference we can make as a group.

I will continue to write about the small things I do each and every day to live more sustainably  but I am looking forward to trying to extend this to more people in the community and I hope to share more of that with you, too.

 

War on Waste

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As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems that the recent ABC series has brought the issues of waste, landfill, over-consumption and single-use items into focus for many people who had previously not really given a great deal of thought to these matters.

It is even more exciting to see some of the actions that are occurring as a direct result of this increased awareness.  One example is Frankies at Forde in the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin.  The photo below is from their Facebook page.  It would be great to encourage other cafes and coffee shops to do the same.

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Have you observed any other changes as a result of this program?