Friday, July 3, 2020

Motherly Advice...a tumultuous world...

We are living in the strangest of times, aren't we? I've certainly never seen the likes of it and I happily entered my seventh decade earlier this year. Things are topsy-turvy in ways not seen before in my lifetime.

Husband and I have had some very serious discussions over the last two nights.

You see, three nights ago, our Prime Minister announced an increase in Defence spending. In making this announcement, he indicated that 'the world is now a much more dangerous place', and that we may, at some point in the future, be called upon to defend our borders. An alarming thought, right?

Now, my Maternal Grandparents were European, and lived through two World Wars, and the Great Depression. They immigrated here post-War with my Mother who was just 7 years old at the time. Mum spoke of this often, talking about the challenges they faced, and used her skills to raise seven children alone. Certainly I absorbed many of my homemaking skills from Mum and Nanna, as they just 'knew' this stuff. They hadn't chosen to take sewing, or embroidery or knitting or baking or mending up as a hobby. These were necessary day to day life skills.

I have shared through my blog here for many years, that I try to learn a new skill each year. Over the last decade, I have taught myself preserving, sewing, embroidery (which can also be used for mending and patching), soap making, dehydrating foods, using unusual ingredients such as dried legumes or plants indigenous to our area, or areas near us, making our own pasta, growing food, learning about easy to grow vegetables, and saving seeds, and foraging, including using what we see as 'weeds', like dandelion and nettle.

Husband is an able carpenter and builder, and is adept at solving all kinds of fix-it handyman type problems.

Mostly, then, we are okay in that department.

Our discussions mostly revolved around what we would do if we ever had to evacuate our home for an extended period. We live quite close to a military base, which you'd think should be a source of comfort, but it's really not. Maybe that's not the safest place to be? We talked this through pragmatically and calmly, and we now have The Plan. IF things really did go horribly pear-shaped in our part of the world, we know what we would do. We also know what skills we need to refine and hone, and what new skills we need to add to our toolbox. We will discuss this with family, so that they know ahead of time, what The Plan is, and how they need to enact it. We may even ask them to add some new skills to their own toolboxes.

How would you live in a world where suddenly you could only eat what you could catch or grow yourself? Where essentials were scarce or non-existent? Where you had to be self-reliant for medical care of all kinds? Where the only tools at your disposal were the type that don't need electricity or fuels of other kinds to power them? We're not just talking about camping skills. We're talking survival skills.

This thinking may seem over-the-top, but we decided we'd rather have The Plan, and the skills to act upon it, than not. It does no harm to know these things, and gives us the peace of mind and security, to know we could keep ourselves and our loved ones safe for an extended period, should the need arise.

What do you think? Could you go into Survival Mode and cope for a long time? Months? Years?

It's an interesting thought in the abstract, isn't it?

Don't wait until it's no longer an abstract thought, to act.

That's my advice....


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Meals from nothing #5...Week long salads

Salads figure largely in our household menu pretty much year round. A bit of crunch adds greatly to our enjoyment of most meals here. We grew tired of slimy greens some years ago, and came up with this solution instead. I have to give some credit to an online friend, Claire, who gave me the basic idea. Thanks Claire! Still going strong a decade later!
Here's how to NOT have a crisper full of slimy greens and still eat well all week.
Week Long Salad

Basic Mixture Salad No. 1 :

 1 whole cabbage (any type), shredded ...a mandolin slicer is brilliant for this.
 6 peeled and grated carrots.

Store in an airtight container. Remove enough each night for that meal only, and add additional ingredients.
DO NOT add the extra ingredients to the salad base in the storage container.

Day 1: Remove a portion and add halved cherry tomatoes and dress with balsamic vinegar.

Day 2: Remove a portion and add one tin rinsed beans such as cannellini or four bean mix. Fry 2 rashers of diced bacon, and chop some herbs. Toss well with a dressing of one third each balsamic, olive oil and wholegrain mustard.

Day 3: Add grated cheese and finely sliced shallots. No dressing.

Day 4: Add zest and flesh of two oranges. No dressing.

Day 5: Add 1 cup cooked macaroni, Italian herbs and Italian dressing.

Day 6: Toss with cooked 2 minute noodles and dress with sesame oil and Sushi vinegar.
Day 7: Throw the rest into a soup or stir-fry to finish off the week.

 Salad no. 2...

Purchase 2 different 'trendy' which I mean not iceberg. So Romaine, Butter, Frilled, Radicchio, and so on.

Cut off the bottoms to separate the leaves. Wash well.

Stack the leaves on top of one another and slice into three sections lengthwise, then into halves or thirds crosswise.

This is important....invest in a salad spinner.

Put leaves into the salad spinner and spin thoroughly. You'll be amazed at how much moisture is collected and it's moisture that makes the lettuce yucky after a couple of days.

Tip into a large salad bowl.

Put a clean paper towel over the lettuce and cover with cling wrap.

Change the paper towel every couple of days to keep it dry.

Voila...perfect salad greens for the whole week....add ingredients as listed above or add your own variations!

No more dead salads in your crisper!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Meals from nothing #4...Beans and Pulses...Dahl with rice and yogurt

When making a meal from nothing, it really helps to have some pantry staples on hand. I'd never be without the following:

Pulses including dried lentils, split peas and a variety of beans
Fresh herbs in the garden
Citrus trees

Both citrus and herbs, also grow beautifully in pots in a sunny spot on a balcony, so 'most' of us, can manage a few things.

With just these ingredients and some judicious preparation and planning, I think I could feed my family for weeks.

Some menu items might be refried beans, vegetarian chilli, hommus, soups, lentil lasagne or bolognaise, vegetarian tacos, moussaka with beans or lentils instead of the mince, vegetarian pies or sausage rolls, lentil burgers, red bean kievs, falafel and one of our favourites, the Dahl I prepared for lunch today.

There was some steamed rice in the fridge but not much else this morning, as it's my prepping day for the week.

A rummage in the cupboard yielded some red lentils. A quick go around in the microwave with some vege stock and other simple ingredients, and I had yummy red lentil dhal with steamed rice ready in a flash. An old and truly mouth watering favourite.

A visit to the herb garden gives me some coriander (cilantro) for garnish, and the Easiyo container holds the greek yoghurt with which to top it. If you wanted to make this vegan, you'd just replace the yoghurt with a coconut or soy yoghurt, or an earthy hommus.

Absolutely delicious, and $17.95 for the same thing, at a trendy local cafe.
Microwave Dahl

1 cup red lentils
1 tin diced tomatoes
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon each cumin, ground coriander and ground or minced ginger
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
Bottled or fresh lime juice
Fresh coriander
Natural yoghurt, about 2 tablespoons per person
Steamed rice (Jasmine rice is particularly lovely for this dish)
Chappatis, Roti, Tortillas (home made are nice) or Lebanese bread, warmed in the microwave or in foil in the oven.

Steam the rice, using my no fail cooking method.

Put the lentils, tomatoes, herbs, chilli, and stock into a large microwave safe dish. Microwave in 5 minutes bursts on 'high', stirring after each burst, until smooth and tender. This takes about 15 minutes in my microwave.

Stir in about a tablespoon of the lime juice.

Meanwhile, chop some of the coriander, and stir it through the yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper if you wish.

Put steamed rice into individual bowls.
Top with a large scoop of dahl, a spoonful of the yoghurt, and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.
Centre on a dinner plate with the warmed bread to one side.
Serve immediately.

This is aromatic, tangy, spicy and fresh all at the same time, and tempting for any carnivore, due to it's satisfaction rating with all those flavoursome herbs and spices.
Try it and let me know whether it's worthy of being the new favourite at your house!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Meals from nothing #3...delicious toppings, treats and garnishes....

A plain meal is always 'less plain' when it's served beautifully, smells aromatic, and teases the tastebuds with something piquant or different.
I've served many a penny pinching meal to family and guests alike using this strategy.
Some of my favourites are toasted sesame seeds, maple syrup walnuts, onion confit, and a good relish.
I use the sesame seeds and maple syrup walnuts in salads, stir fries, and on roasted or steamed vegetables.
The to start...with scrambled eggs or omelettes, with savoury crepes, on rolls, on sandwiches, in burger patties, in sausage rolls and savoury pies, on a cheese platter or antipasto platter, with roast meat, with sausages and steaks, with chicken, with pulled get the idea.
Tomato relish and Corn relish are the weapons of choice when it comes to elevating a good old fashioned ham sandwich, but they're also trotted out for embellishing the Celebratory ham leg, mixed with sour cream or natural yoghurt to make a dip, with Indian style curries, and on a Ploughmans platter.
Here are the recipes:
Onion Confit

 You need 4 decent sized washed and sterilized jars for this amount.

1 kg onions (different onions give a different result. Try red, eschallots, pickling onions or brown ones)
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup sugar
 1 cup vinegar (different vinegars will also give a slightly different result in colour and flavour, so try balsamic, white, apple cider, sherry or even red or white wine or sparkling wine)
3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, treacle, or golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Peel and slice the onions thinly.

Heat a large frypan over a medium heat and slow cook the onion until it's limp, about 5 minutes.

Add the other ingredients and mix well.

Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring regularly to prevent sticking for one hour.

Cover the pan and continue to cook over a very low heat for a minimum of 45 minutes but up to several hours depending upon the depth of flavour and the consistency you're after, stirring regularly. I have simmered mine virtually all day on a very very low heat, and after 10-12 hours, they are divine.

The confit is ready when there is no liquid, and the onion has been reduced to a chunky paste.

Spoon into sterilised jars and refrigerate. Keeps for several months.
Corn Relish
This makes 2 large jars worth.
1 tin corn kernels, drained
1 red capsicum, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon each turmeric and ground ginger
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornflour
Add the corn, capsicum, onion, vinegar, sugar and spices to a small saucepan. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover your vegetables as this will be the sauce that binds your relish. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes to soften the vegetables. Mix the water and cornflour and add to the relish mixture, and stir till thickened. Check the consistency and add more water or more cornflour slurry to thin or thicken to your liking.
Spoon into sterilised jars and refrigerate. Keeps for several months.
Tomato Relish
Makes 8 large jars worth
2 large onions, chopped
2½ kg (about 6lbs) ripe tomatoes, diced (you can also use an equivalent amount of tinned or home canned tomatoes)
1/2 cup sultanas
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3 teaspoons ground allspice
3 teaspoons Garam Masala
3 teaspoons salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups Sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (extra)

 Place diced tomatoes and onions in a large saucepan.  Add all other ingredients, except for cornflour and extra vinegar. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring occasionally, for 1-1½ hours or until starting to thicken.

 Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until very thick. Stir often to stop mixture sticking to base of pan.
Combine cornflour with extra apple cider vinegar. Add to tomato mixture and simmer, stirring for 2 minutes .Turn off heat and let stand for 10 minutes, then spoon into clean warm jars and seal. Turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes, then invert and leave to cool. When you turn them right way up, the little vacuum button should automatically pop 'in' giving a vacuum seal.
Refrigerate and use within 6 months.
Maple Syrup Walnuts
Put any quantity of shelled walnut halves into a shallow pan. Pour over a few glugs of Maple Syrup. Place over a medium heat, and stir constantly until the syrup has coated the walnuts and there is no liquid visible. Keep in an airtight jar. This makes a brilliant gift too.
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Pour a quantity of Sesame Seeds into a shallow pan, and set over a low heat. Stir constantly until they are golden and toasted. This takes no more than a minute. Store in an airtight container.
What do you think? Is this a strategy that appeals to you? What are your favourite ways of dressing up the ordinary meals in your families week?