Monday, July 23, 2012

Home Made Butter Chemical Free

Last August I bought myself a Thermomix TM31 which is an amazing product if you are wanting to "cook from scratch" and get back to basics.  Their motto is "cooking like grandma using today's technology" (that may not be the exact words but you get the drift).  The product is very expensive and at first before I knew anything about it I thought who on earth would pay that sort of money for one kitchen item.  Well five minutes into the demo when I saw raw sugar turn into fresh icing sugar in a few seconds I was hooked.  It does soups, breads, dices, sautes and so much more.  The product itself looks very fancy and when you see the demonstrator cook something you think how on earth am I going to learn how to use that thing.  It is very simple and there are only 3 things you do (i) Temperature, Time and Speed.  The recipe book highlights those 3 things on the page and makes it really easy to read.  Over the next year I want to make more recipes with it and am working towards that.

Over the weekend I made "butter" from pure cream by whizzing the cream until the cream and the buttermilk separates and then I strained it further by putting it into a clean cloth (like a chux) squeezed the rest of the liquid out and let it sit for a few minutes.  I then added water to the butter and mixed it up and then added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to make it spreadable.  The butter lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge and knowing that there are no chemicals in this verses the margarine we normally use it makes me feel good.  The kids love the butter and I think anything without chemicals in moderation is so much better for you.  I kept a nice looking margarine container and placed the butter in that and popped it in the fridge.

With the leftover buttermilk it only seemed right to match a batch of scones for afternoon tea.  The dough is a sticky wet dough however this makes the scones so light and fluffy and so yummy.  I will definitely get into the habit of making butter vs the chemical laden margarine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Slow Living Focus 2012

A little while ago I came across a blog called Slow Living Essentials and I was inspired by her monthly updates on how she was documenting and focusing on changes towards a slower and more meaningful.  Here's the link to her original post so head over there first to have a quick read.  You'll see all about the reasons why she created a set of goals and in fact it's more like a set of values that she consciously lives by. I love the words she chose and their descriptions.

I'm not expecting to post in a month's time that I have done something in all these categories however it's a starting point for Slow Living and I'm going to be slower at starting.  To me, they all represent values to live by and will ultimately benefit my family as I want to nourish them with healthy home grown and home cooked food.  I'm still picking up a cheap packet of biscuits with preseratives from the supermarket than spending 20 minutes making Anzac biscuits.  This is just a habit, of course time can factor into it depending upon what's going on in our lives. Sometimes the quick way is the easy way however it may not necessarily be the best way for my family.  The quick way is the lazy way and I am guilty of that.

I have started this blog to focus and document these changes and to be more conscious to NOURISH, PREPARE, REDUCE, GREEN, GROW, CREATE, DISCOVER, ENHANCE AND ENJOY.  I'm hoping to make a start on all of these areas which are to the benefit of my family and of course the environment as well.

So while I'm at it, here's a picture of some foccacia bread I made about three weeks ago and using home grown Rosemary picked off the bush.  My veggie garden has been neglected during the past 6 months and now it is all planted out we should be right.  I still got a thrill to pop outside to collect the Rosemary to put on the bread rather than scooting off to the supermarket to pay $3 for a couple of tablespoons and probably throw the rest in the bin.  It's exciting to grow your own food and nothing tastes as good as home grown food.  I look forward to focusing on these set of values and reporting on what we have been up to.

Below are the main areas of interest taken directly from her blog.

SLOW LIVING - Month by Month 2012

Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season. Aim to reduce dependency on store bought items especially those known to contain BPA and other suspect additives. Stocking up on dry goods when prices are low counts too.

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints. Don't have a backyard? Ask a friendly neighbour or relative for a small patch of theirs in return for some home grown produce, they may surprise you!

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

ENHANCE: community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or food swap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group. Car pooling where possible and biking/walking instead of driving. Even start up a blog if you haven't already - online communities count too! Or maybe just help out someone trying to cross the street! The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Veggies have been planted

Both garden bed and various pots have been planted out with veggies and herbs thanks to a couple of hours in the backyard with Nanny and the kids.  I can't wait to see these grow and for us to have home grown food again.  I've put the names of the veggies on the photo so I know what's been planted where and you can see what's in our garden ready to grow.  Here is a list of what's been planted June 2012:-

Butterhead Lettuce
Spring Onions
Snow Peas
Bok Choy
Chinese Broccoli
Flat Leaf Parsley
Garlic Chives
Chives (seed mat - see photo)
Basil (seed mat - see photo)
Dwarf Mandarin Tree
Dwarf Lemon Tree

Welcome to our Simple and Meaningful Life

Welcome to a new blog I've started which I intend to use to document the simpler things in life that are meaningful to us.  A few years ago I came across a blog called "Down to Earth" via the Burke's Backyard Magazine.  I was on holidays in Melbourne with family and I was reading all their gardening magazines, Burke's Backyard Magazines and enjoying fresh food from Nanny & Pops veggie garden.
I read about chickens and thought it would be great to have fresh eggs every day although I didn't know the first things about chickens and to be honest, I felt a bit intimidated by them.  How to you pick them up, chase them around the yard etc.  I knew I would love to grow fresh veggies but didn't feel confident about what to plant, when to plant etc.  I've gardened before in previous houses but didn't really grow food to eat.  It sounded so wonderful to eat the food that you grow.  Apart from the health benefits of growing food without chemicals, the food tastes so much better so straight from the garden to the table.  What could be better than than for your family.

I would read Rhonda's "Down to Earth" blog daily and as she lived on the Sunshine Coast it was relative to our climate.  She wrote about home grown food, baking bread, green cleaners and so much more.  I have been reading her blog for a few years now and she has a "Weekend Reading" post on Fridays with links to other interesting and inspiring blogs about simplifying your life and going "back to basics".  In today's society there is so much modern technology and gadgets that we all rely on like mobile phones, the Internet, ipad, computers etc.  Where would we be without the Internet where you can type anything in and find information out in a nano second.  You can link up with other like minded people and read blogs about anything that you are interested in.  If you need a recipe you don't actually need a cookbook, you can just "google" it and have a variety of recipes to choose from.  That being said, I have dozens of cookbooks as most women do, and flicking through a good cookbook is still something I enjoy doing.

All that aside, and given that I'm not a greenie or vegetarian, these days people are catching onto the idea of "simple living".  I like that simple living means different things to different people and you should live your life to what you would like "simple" to mean.  For me, I want to grow healthy food, eat fresh organic eggs, cooking from scratch, green cleaners, enjoying home made pasta and so much more.  I don't want to buy packet mix cakes when I can make a better one from ingredients in the pantry.  I do indulge in buying "Betty Crockers" Reduced Fat Brownie's packet mix only when they are on special usually half price.  This mix is delicious and can be sliced and frozen for a little afternoon treat.  I'm sure I could come up with the same thing from scratch and it's just lazy buying it in a box and added water, oil or eggs.   I just need to take five more minutes weighing and measuring and I'll have a cheaper, better product.

My simple living started with the veggie garden back in 2010 at Easter time when we set up two wooden veggie boxes which I bought from Bunnings (1.2m x 1.2m) and we planted our first lot of veggies.  It was exciting to start planting the veggies and the kids were very keen to start growing food as well.  We had huge success with these two little plots and I photographed our home grown produce and put together a little photo book of our growing success.  More on that in a later post.

In the September we bought our two chickens called "Fluffy" (Sienna's chicken) and "Coco" (James chicken) and started to get fresh eggs every day.  Coco and Fluffy were our first family pets and very useful as well.  Coco was a bit stand-off-ish in the beginning and didn't like to be handled but that soon changed and have been great pets.  Coco has a little plastic orange ring around her leg and Fluffy has a pink one so we could tell them apart.  They are both Isa Brown chickens which we purchased from Ingrid at "City Chicks".

June 2011 we moved house including the veggie gardens and chickens.  Whilst the veggie gardens were set up at our new house and I did plant out a few things life was busy and I didn't attend to the garden like I had wanted to.  Last week with the help of Nanny we planted out our two veggie boxes and a few other tubs all ready to go.  I feel great about it and I have missed the availability of fresh food that I used to pop out to the garden and collect.  Buying lettuce, tomatoes and herbs seems so wrong when they are so easy to grow.  Most recipes require a couple of tablespoons of herbs and to buy fresh or dried herbs you are looking at around $3 a bunch or bottle.  It is so much nicer cutting rosemary off the bush to put on home made focaccia.

This blog is going to be our memory keeping for focusing on some simple yet wonderful things in our lives. So welcome to our continued journey. Kathy, James and Sienna