Friday, February 28, 2014

Slow Living Essentials Monthly 9 Link Up - February 2014

Hello! Welcome back for the February installment of the Slow Living Monthly 9 link-up. As with previous months, I'm really looking forward to hopping over to your spaces to see what you've been up to and catch up on your news under these nine categories. 

New to this link up? Feel like joining in but not sure how? It's easy - just leave a link to your blog post at the bottom of this page anytime during the month of March, written using the nine categories as a guide and enjoy the sharing experience that follows, both with visiting other spaces and sharing your space here. For more detailed information on the nine categories and what they mean, please see this post. 

February 2014

February saw the return of routine in our days as school and study resumed. High risk bushfire weather, bizarre cold days and even a smell of Autumn on the last we are approaching my favourite season. Join me as I share my month of February..

In the kitchen there has been consistent action. February saw us enjoying homemade dukkah, which is fantastic to use as a crust on baked fish and chicken. Roast meats have hit the spot for low effort dinners and have been worthy of slicing the following day for lunchboxes and salads. I gave the life changing loaf of bread a go, but think I will cut back on the salt next time, otherwise it was really good! Smoothies for breakfast with my youngest have been a regular feature, and on the off days we are enjoying eggs of the scrambled variety. Salads have been going with just about everything as our rocket flourished and is slowly coming to the end of it's productivity. Tastes of summer I do love...

The brussel sprout - friend or foe? 
Loads of ripe fruit has been frozen (and consumed just as quickly!) in smoothies. I had great plans of having a decent stockpile but it's just not happening as we are getting through it as fast as we can freeze it! I also cranked out my old slow cooker and got to making stock again, something I feel does great things for my body. Hubby also happened to get into some preparing this month with the reappearance of the homebrew equipment and four batches of assorted ales and ciders were brewed and bottled. Yum!


I love it when homebrewing as we now have enough saved glass bottles to make batches and batches of beer without having to resort to buying any. We have been collecting them for sometime, whenever our family gets together or we find ourselves picnicking. On occasion we have even been known to smuggle the odd 'empty' under our jackets as we leave our local pub... completely thrilling, have you tried it? This is always in the name of a rare shaped bottle that we I absolutely must have!!

Feeling great with the addition of lemon verbena tea appearing in my cup regularly, I was really pleased when my friend reported back the health benefits of this refreshing drink: *relieving digestive tract spasms (colon), strengthening the nervous system as well as reducing fevers. Good to know!

Are things evvver going to ripen? Ahhh! Seriously, we have had progress with cukes and zukes, both supplying the initial offerings of the (imminent?) crop. Beans are coming along eveerrr sooo slooowly, as are pumpkins. And the corn? Well this is just in complete slow motion!! Thank goodness for rocket, lettuce, spring onions and the odd cherry tomato because otherwise I really would be feeling down. Bring on the summer harvest, I say!!

Elsewhere, I have planted a bed of brassicas in the hopes of cooler season offerings - broccoli, kale, and cabbage - both white and purple. I can hardly wait! And we do have eggs. Regularly. Which is good, because we are going through them nearly as fast as the frozen fruit I talked about a moment ago!

Minimal developments have taken place under this category this month. I will share a skirt that I've been meaning to photograph though, which I finished about a month ago. It was sewn from a vintage pattern picked up at my local goodwill shop yonks ago. I confess, it was the pocket that seduced me and it is still my favourite part of the skirt, even as it emerged from the pattern into a wearable garment. Imagine the fun a person could have with pockets like these..a whole wardrobe full of skirts with different patterned pockets..yes please! (It was also a little...short around the wrap, hence the extra panelling on the 'flappy wrap bit' Fear not thy legs, you are now covered modestly, even during a generous side breeze!).

{Vogue 8460}

Trying to fit in a little leisure reading time in amongst study, I have been finding my nose in Brene Brown's 'Daring Greatly. Along with a couple of library borrowings of Sandor Katz and Michael Pollan. I am also currently absorbed in Nourishing Traditions which I'm probably the last person on the planet to read but am really enjoying it!

I loved reconnecting with my 'people' this month. Our Friday veggie group started back up again for another year of cake, coffee, chatter and gardening. And it was soo nice to head on back to spinning group this week with my wheel and bag of fibre. I always find out so much when I'm there, some of which has to do with fibery goodness, and some..well, not! But's it's always completely interesting and I would feel a little lost without it.

I enjoyed spending a day with a friend here at home when she brought her sewing machine around and we spent the day working on our latest projects. She, a tunic top of the coolest patterning and me, a beachy breezy top to go over swimwear (I may have missed the last of the warm weather though..).

The library near my mum had a guest speaker recently - a local author who has just released a book titled "The Coconut Cracked Open". We both took ourselves along and enjoyed listening to the benefits that the coconut can provide in our diet and our beauty regime. In the book, Christine Schang talks about the molecular structure of coconut oil, tips for using the array of coconut products now available and also shares some of her favourite recipes - both for eating and for skin/hair care. I was really pleased to go home with a signed copy of the book and am looking forward to trying out some of the recipes!

Our local sustainable living festival also took place which I enjoyed visiting as did our annual CFA flea market - THE community event of the year! It never disappoints! Truly. Supporting our local firefighters is important in any community, but it feels more so when living in a high risk bushfire zone.

{After school snack!}

Ahh, February, month of the lovers. Hubby and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. Conveniently it fell on the weekend when The Boss was in town and we took time out to enjoy this spectacular show. I have to say, I was significantly moved! That guy Bruce can really grab a crowd's attention!! And the band? Completely and utterly amazing!!

Closer to home it was nice to enjoy moments when there weren't the threat of bushfires on our doorstep. Walking through beautiful, local bushland, swimming in the cool waters of our 'res' and taking time to reflect on where I am at and where I am headed. These were what stuck with me most this month.

 So, do tell me, how was your month? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Coconut Cream Pie

I was making dinner last night and had a hankering for a spot of dessert. A creamy, comforting dessert, that didn't need to be overly sweet. Soothingly gooey and squidgy was what I was going for. Stodge at it's best? Absolutely! I had that hankering for some stodge, it was certain.

This pie is the easiest pie you'll ever make. Not unlike a clafoutis come to think of it. The ingredients are whizzed in a blender or food processor and then poured into a dish and baked. If you don't have a blender, I'm sure a trusty old hand whisk will do just fine. It's the kind of pie one could easily play around with. On it's own it's a little plain, which was fine for me last night as I had some strawberry liqueur sauce to sneakily use up but I think it would be great with fruit inside or with fruit served alongside..whatever your preference may be. Pineapple, bananas, mango..all those delicious tastes of summer would work equally well here. Or a drizzle of boozy strawberry sauce on the side does not go unwelcomed, either!

Coconut Cream Pie

(gluten, lactose and sugar free)
Serves 6

4 eggs
125ml melted ghee or light flavoured vegetable oil of choice
1/2 cup wheat free flour (I used rice flour)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup shredded or desiccated coconut
400ml can coconut cream
toasted shredded coconut  for serving
optional - fruit pieces, coconut or other flavoured essence, boozy liqueur

Lay fruit if using into a greased 23cm pie dish. Whisk or blend all other ingredients until smooth. Pour into greased pie dish.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 50-60 minutes, or until pie is set in the middle (it may rise and crack a little, but that's ok, it will drop as it cools).

Allow pie to cool. Sprinkle with toasted shredded coconut and serve with fresh or stewed fruit and/or fruit sauce. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Summer eating..

Hello! Quick question. Do you meal plan? I always have the best intentions of meal planning but never seem to stick with it on a regular basis. It works for a few weeks or maybe even a season but then I always seem to revert back to my five-thirty ways of rummaging through the fridge to find ingredients that I can turn into a!

During the summer holidays it was really nice to be able to think of something to make for dinner and have the time to see it through - no kids' sporting drop offs or pick ups from friends houses to manage around the dinner preparations. There is no doubt that life definitely runs a lot more smoothly for us when I take the time to plan a week or a fortnight of meals. To keep myself motivated I'm keeping a record of what we've been eating lately, which I can jump back to if I find myself in that five-thirty black hole again..

1. Mixed vegetable frittata - so easy, this is my favourite kind of 5:30 slap dash dinner. It goes down well with a serve or two of homemade pickles, which reminds me - I must make more. Who knew cauliflower could be so good in pickle form?

2. Chargrilled vegies - good, honest, simple fare that always tastes good.

3. A favourite of summer - the humble bbq. I love that there are so few dishes to clean up afterwards..oh, and hubby does the 'cooking'.

4. Sweet potato and bean salad - this is one I like to play with. I like to add different types of toasted seeds/nuts and experiment with different dressings (balsamic/olive oil, mustard vinaigrette etc). It never disappoints.

5. As it says - banana and chia pancakes. Gluten and dairy free. Recipe here.

6. Blaukraut - German fermented red cabbage. This was my first successful attempt into homemade lacto-fermented vegetables and it's really good! Great to have on the side of a lunch or dinner plate.

7. Ahh, yes, the chip debate. My kids love 'em, heck, even I do, too! They just taste soo good, but are horridly bad for us. I was pleased to discover that sweet potato and parsnips make perfectly acceptable chips that fill that void in my appetite. The kids, well they are still in the convincing stage..

8. Lentil and radish salad - yum! Easy. Must plant more radishes..

9. I had never made scotch eggs until just recently when we went on holiday and I gave it a go in a meatloaf. It was gooood! And a real hit with the kids. I used 5 or 6 hardboiled eggs in the 1kg meatloaf - although next time will add a couple more. Youngish people find great delight in receiving their dinner with the surprise inside! A good one for hot days too, as it can be made ahead and served after it has had a chance to cool down, alongside a salad or two.

10. Sauerkraut - the second attempt. This one is a white cabbage, celery, carrot and apple concoction. I have commenced consumption and am finding it tastier that the blaukraut mentioned earlier..

11. Love a roast lamb. Always have, always will.

12. And it's all the nicer if the roast lamb is made into Greek souvlakis by the 14yo. Yum!! She had wrap bread. I didn't. It was still tasty as ever.

13. Another easy five o'clocker - the Thai green curry. One pot, half an hour and it's done. Plus I get to use some of our kaffir lime leaves from the tree and feel quietly pleased about that. What's not to like here?

14. Smoothies for breakfast. Any combination of fruits suits me just fine. Frozen fruits are best for that extra thickness! The youngest is fun to have along on this morning ride too.

15. Yes, I realise, a gluten free pizza is just completely wrong...but when the rest of the family is dining on crusted, yeasted, melted delights for dinner, what IS a girl to do? Seriously! It actually didn't taste that bad..surprisingly.

16. Ok, this one needs work - a quinoa and vegetable stuffed pumpkin. I don't know the exact origins of the idea but found it was calling at to me to be made..remarkably earlier than 5:30! Gotta love that. Cooked quinoa, sauteed onion, carrot, parsnip, chorizo and zuccini with a bunch of clashing spices and then baked in the pumpkin for a good hour, plus. Yuh...kind of ok, although seriously not a hit with the younger members of the family. More refinements necessary. Advice please?

Do you meal plan? Or are you a 5:30 scrambler like me? Is there any hope for us?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Slow Living Essentials Monthly 9 Link up - January 2014

Hello!! Welcome back for another fun year of the Slow Living Monthly 9 link-ups! I'm really pleased to continue offering this link up and hope you enjoy it as much as I do, whether you are a newbie at this blogging thing, or a seasoned pro!

Feel like joining in for some fun? To participate it's simple, just write a blog post in this style using the nine categories listed below (which you can read more about here) and then pop back here to leave a link to your blog post anytime during February. Thanks so much to everyone who takes the time to link-up, visiting your spaces is always inspiring! And also to those who read and leave a comment - you all make this little space such a warm community. xx

January 2014

{nourish} - A shift in eating patterns which saw me eliminating gluten and dairy (and also greatly reducing sugar) saw some rather large changes in what I, and consequently the family consumes on a weekly basis (I have posted more about this situation here).  Finding substitutes for commonly used foods was a huge focus for me this month and I confess to being a little overwhelmed at times by the choices available, weighing up what will be best for my health, food miles and friendliness to the environment. Completely overwhelming, right? To give you an idea of what's been happening in my kitchen I have been enjoying: smoothies, homemade almond milk, loads of salads, roasted root vegetables, green tea, coconut cream and oil in all sorts of dishes, beautiful fresh eggs from our chooks as well as a re-examination of the meat and fish we are consuming and options to improve on this.
{mango banana & coconut cream smoothie}

{prepare} - I had a go at making sauerkraut this month (or more accurately 'blaukraut' which translates as 'blue cabbage'). Who knew that fresh cabbage and a little salt after a couple of weeks could taste so good and be SO good for you? I'm loving having this in the fridge and have also started a white cabbage, carrot, apple and celery version which I'm hoping tastes just as good. If you are considering giving this a go, search for Sandor Katz on youtube and you'll be off and away in no time.

Our lemon verbena is also growing like mad at the moment and I am enjoying cutting off long stems and allowing the leaves to dry in the sun to then use for tea - so refreshing! I have also been collecting the leftover almond meal from making almond milk and drying this either in the dehydrator or the sun, depending on the weather for use in other dishes and also as a substitute for breadcrumbs. 


{reduce} January always seems to be our clean up month, where we tidy up around the yard and de-clutter the home. Several bags of kids clothes were either passed on to friends or taken to the op-shop. To complete the cycle, I found a couple of really nice items that fit me perfectly are are exactly my style for just a few dollars - don't you just love it when you make such a find!
Making some cool summer clothing items for myself keeps me out of the mass produced, poor quality clothing shops and I am so much happier for it.

Elsewhere, I have been using some old net curtains in the veggie patch for protecting berries and fruit - which also has an extra bonus of filtering the harsh sun.

{green} - I recently stumbled across the healing benefits of drinking calendula in a tea as well as for topical applications. It really accomplished the job that I was hoping it would and I was glad to have a little supply of homegrown calendula on hand to use.

Each month I know I harp on and on about my skin but I was pleased to find that sea water also does remarkable things for mine and coconut oil works like magic on dry or sun-kissed skin.
While we were away at the beach, my daughter although she 'slip, slop, slapped' still ended up with a little sunburn on her legs and this was soothed by letting her soak in a bath with bicarb (baking) soda dissolved in it. About 3/4 of a cup in the tepid bath worked wonders..

{grow} - In the garden we patiently wait for the summer crops to grown and ripen. We have planted: tomatoes, corn, cucumber, beans, basil, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, rocket, zucchini, pattypan squash, potatoes and one solitary pumpkin vine..I really don't know what happened there!

We have been enjoying eating blueberries (at last!), apricots, potatoes, lettuce, rocket, garlic, lemon verbena, and assorted herbs. The raspberry season this year was unbelievably light on with only just enough for pickings while watering. I can only hope next year will be an improvement! I have shnapps to make!!

Before heading down to the beach I did a big mulch over the entire garden with pea straw which has helped enormously with retaining moisture. The hugelkultur bed is cranking along and having dripper hoses and timers throughout the garden makes life so much easier in these hot summer months..

{create} - I was completely pleased with myself for finishing a pair of 'beach pants' before we went away. Now I have to say I'm not generally a leopard print kinda gal but this fabric was calling at me to make them into some light and cool pants! And they're really comfy too. And protect against the harsh, summer sun.

A dress was also made and in the odd moments when I'm feeling up for it cotton dishcloth knitting has been happening - I really want to have a years supply in the drawer. I have been using the waffle weave pattern that is freely available online and also in Rhonda's book.

{discover} I have been doing a bit of web surfing on paleo eating this month and while I agree with a lot of the principles I still think legumes and a small amount of grains have a place in my diet. Instagram helps enormously with this too as I can see real food that people are making in their homes and come up with ideas for my own situation. Lactofermentation has also been a wonderful new discovery and I am looking forward to learning more about this intriguing way of preserving. Lifting off a jar lid from my sauerkraut to see it bubbling away had me extremely excited!

{enhance} While we were away I supported the local farmers market near where we were staying and was pleased to bring home some veggie seedlings that I could grow as well as be a souvenir of our time away. Closer to home, just the other day I teamed up with a few like-minded women to do a little 'neighbourhood beautification'. Say no more.

{enjoy}  This whole month has been such a lovely time for me. It was nice to have a break from study and take time to enjoy home life and the outdoors. I loved spending quality time with my mum. More plans to head back to the beach are on the cards as we feel so refreshed afterwards. I am watching my middle daughter commence high school and all the new and exciting things that lie ahead for her. My eldest daughter just turned 14 and I am watching her growing into a young woman before my very eyes. I am ready to start a new year, feeling invigorated and inspired to pursue my goals.

How was your month?

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