Grow Gather Enjoy: Food connection

Showing posts with label Food connection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food connection. Show all posts

A week in my kitchen: early spring

30 October 2018
A couple of months ago I shared what went on over a week in my kitchen (). I thought I might continue it seasonally to show how things shift and to share a snapshot into our eating here.

Smoked trout and spring veg pasta.

Sunday

This was a big bake up day for me. In an effort to maximise the oven energy use I generally get a little crazy once the oven is turned on!!

Baking/making: everyday sourdough loaf, 2 sourdough fruit loaves, sourdough bagels, two pizzas, croutons, roasted up pumpkin for mid week meal and (adapted to include peanut butter and choc chips - so probably not really muesli balls anymore!).

Lunch: Bagels with bacon, mayonnaise and lettuce (the first harvested from the garden)

Dinner: slow cooked lamb inspired by a

Monday

Picked up fruit, veg and supplies for the week. I actually did my meal planning Sunday as I'd planned to go the markets but that turned into afternoon drinks with friends instead ;)

Lunch: leftover stew.

Dinner: Smoked trout, broad bean, asparagus and chard pasta in a creamy lemon sauce.

Tuesday

Baking/making: vanilla ice-cream to have with my daily iced coffee and some chocolate ice cream pops for the girls.

Lunch: chard & hummus on toast

Dinner: Roast pumpkin, avocado, crouton & lentil salad with a hummus and mayonnaise dressing.

Tuesday night dinner.


Wednesday

Baking/Making: pre-cooked beans for Thursday night dinner. Testing out my SIL's thermal cooker to see if we might get one for our travels. Accidentally made enough beans to feed a small army...or at least a month's worth of bean dinners once a week!!

Lunch: sharing platter with the girls of vegies, crackers, hummus, cheese and other bits.

Dinner: Beef Stroganoff (from the freezer) with pasta.

Thursday

Fed my sourdough starter tonight to mix dough in the morning and bake in the evening.

Lunch: leftovers.

Dinner: Mexican beans with rice, and chilli

Friday

Baking/Making: everyday sourdough with a some rye flour added in, 2 loaves fruit bread, bagels, pizza (see dinner) and . And while the oven was on - a batch of marmalade based muesli balls and classic chocolate slice ( without the icing).

Lunch: Nachos - fully loaded. I like to add a heap of extra things on top of my nachos - this instance was leftover beans, coriander, avocado, salsa and . Also, because I'm a fan of the crunchy chip over the soggy chip I melt my cheese directly onto the chips to form a protective layer and then add the toppings - game changer!

Dinner: Pizza - tomato sauce/prosciutto/cheese and kale/preserved lemon/cheese

Nachos.

Saturday

Lunch: Sausage sizzle at my niece's 3rd birthday party

Dinner: Roast pork belly, hasselback potatoes, asparagus and broccolini, served with spiced rhubarb paste on the side. I forgot to take a pic of the amazing looking pork belly! I had a friend over for dinner so went all out....plus a few glasses of chardonnay.

And that was a busy spring week in our kitchen. A few lighter meals coming in as I was chatting . I'm also currently trying to use up the freezer stockpile and all the other random bits and pieces before we move out of our rental in a few weeks.

What's happening in your kitchen this week?
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A Seasonal Shift in Eating

24 October 2018
Many things impact on the way we eat. The seasons of our life and the seasons of the weather all play a part.

As the days get longer and warmer there is a shift in how we eat around here. Soups and hearty stews feature less. Although I always try and squeeze a few last minute soups onto the menu plan when the nights are still cool because I really love soup.

We start to eat foods that feel physically lighter in our bodies. Not, 'light' in the dieting or fat sense but less of that 'stick to your ribs' kind of feeling. Of course salads become a feature, pasta sauces get lighter and lots of dishes that take less cooking become more appealing.

Broad beans from the garden.

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Camping Food

02 October 2018
Every October long weekend for the past 15 years my family goes camping. We go to the same spot with the same core group of people and often enjoy the same foods, stories and relaxation year after year. It doesn't get boring though, I look forward to it each year.

It's an opportunity to really disconnect. There is patchy to no service, no mod-cons and three days in the Aussie bush. Just a few tents, a caravan and a fire on the banks of the Lachlan river.



One of the things I love about this weekend is the food traditions baked into it (pardon the pun). I think food is such a great connector to time and place. Some of the foods we eat while on this particular camping weekend are not things I normally make or eat at home. Some foods are reserved purely for this weekend alone. This builds anticipation as well as great food traditions.

I thought I'd share a few pics and stories with you about the food from our camping weekend....

For the past six years I've been making a special baked treat to come along to camping weekend. These are a nostalgic flashback from our 80s childhood in rural NSW.  I searched high and low for an authentic recipe that tasted just like the ones we bought from the bakery back in the day. I was pretty chuffed when I found the right one. Enter the mushroom....



Now, you likely haven't heard of these little guys. Not many people have. But they, along with vanilla slice, were my go to bakery item treats on the VERY rare occasions it was on offer as a kid. These days if you find a 'mushroom' in a bakery it's likely to be filled with a lot of artificial tasting mock cream. But the 80s version was mock cream made from scratch - which is basically sugar and butter = delicious. The pastry is a cross between shortbread and shortcrust, there is a dollop of strawberry or raspberry jam in the bottom and a little sprinkle of nutmeg on top.

Each year I make a big batch to take out and we enjoy it with a cup of tea made on the billy for morning smoko (Aussie bush/farm talk for morning tea).

The other tradition-laden meal of our trip is the camp oven dinner. My dad has perfected cooking a big hunk of meat and lots of veg in the camp oven over the coals. No fancy sauces, herbs or even seasoning - just simple flavours and a hint of campfire taste.

In the early years we enjoyed the camp oven for just one meal over the weekend, but lately my dad has been spoiling us with it twice in the one weekend. Bonus.



Also on the menu is the morning fry up of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and tin spaghetti on the side. Toast is cooked over the fire and a cup of tea (or 3) from the billy washes it all down. Lunch is usually a BBQ cooked in an old plow disc with some rustic 'chips' served up with a salad or popped between two slices of bread and heartily enjoyed. There is also often a nice afternoon antipasto platter enjoyed with a few glasses of chilled wine and a game of scrabble (or 3) - my sister & I's nod to our appreciation for foods outside of the 'Aussie tucker' repertoire.

It's great now to see the kids really enjoying the different aspects of the weekend too and starting to get involved in the food traditions. This year my 13 year old niece whipped up some damper batter and we cooked it on sticks over the open fire, slathered it with butter and enjoyed it while trying not to burn our mouths. I feel a new tradition emerging....

How about you - any big family food tradtions outside the normal festive season stuff?
Did you get up to much on the long weekend if you had one?
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How to Make Hummus from Scratch

27 September 2018
Hummus is such a versatile dip. It has so many uses and so many opportunities for variations. It's also simple to make from scratch. Hummus is actually the word for chick pea in Arabic, as well as now being the name that it's pureed alter ego goes by.


Versatile & delicious hummus.

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Birthday Cake Nostalgia

18 September 2018
This weekend we celebrated a little birthday in our house. Of course there was cake and when there is a birthday cake required out comes the classic: Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake book.

I have fond memories of pouring over the pages as a kid and picking which birthday cake I would have next time (and usually the next 4-5 times too). I can remember each incarnation that I was served as a celebration...and the ones I've missed out on too!


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Meal Planning

13 September 2018
Meal planning can be a divisive topic. There are those who love them (hands up over here) and those that aren't too sold.

I think the key, for me, is flexibility. If I viewed my meal plan like a 'must do' then it would not work. The way I find it works for me is thinking of it like an optional guideline - there if I need it but no worries if I want to 'go rogue'.

Cookbooks for inspiration if you need them.

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Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding (egg-free)

04 September 2018
It's good to have a few go-to recipes up your sleeve. I like to have a few good desserts to turn to when I have extra mouths to feed or to keep the hungry hordes satisfied if we are having a lighter meal. Bonus points if that recipe can be made ahead, frozen and uses minimal ingredients. Extra bonus for being able to accommodate guests with intolerances and allergies or to simply accommodate a slightly 'barer than normal' ingredient stockpile.



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Values, priorities & excuses

16 August 2018
I've come to believe strongly that values based living is a key element to a content and fulfilling life. This is very evident, for me, in the area of procuring, growing, cooking and enjoying food.

Before I got clear on my values my food decisions were mostly based on price and taste. The price element being a strong carry-over from life as a poor uni student as well as my inborn frugal ways. Clear values helped me to quantify the value of a food or action with a bigger scope than the monetary value assigned to it.

Succulents from the Garden Shed @

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The Farm, Byron Bay

09 August 2018
On our recent trip up the North Coast of NSW and into QLD I scheduled a few stops based around food. On our return trip I booked us into lunch at The Farm, Byron Bay. Good friends, who knew my approach to food, told me about The Farm several years ago so it's been on my radar for a while.



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Queen St Farmer's Markets Brisbane & Epicurious

31 July 2018
When travelling I'm always keen to incorporate some foodie related activities. I love checking out markets, cruising through botanic gardens and eating out at places that showcase regional produce.

On our recent trip up the North NSW coast and through to Brisbane I was able to take in markets, some gardens and enjoy some local produce and products. I thought I'd highlight a few on the blog.

Farmer's markets are a pretty common sight in most cities and towns across Australia these days. The quality varies of course and some are more markets, less farmers but I'm always keen to check them out. So, I was very pleased when I found a mid week market in Brissie - the .

Fresh market produce.

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Making food from scratch: an addictive process

29 July 2018

Yoghurt was the first food that took me down the rabbit hole of making things from scratch. I remember stumbling across a recipe for making yoghurt in a thermos and being completely intrigued. I did manage to botch my first yoghurt attempt by heating the milk a little too far but I didn't let that deter me and have been making my own for seven years now. It's definitely saved me a few dollars but also saved a few hundred plastic containers from the waste cycle, built my food prep knowledge base and increased my ability to 'fend for myself' a little more when it comes to feeding my family.

Salsas, jams, chutneys and all sorts of 'made from scratch' goodies.
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Here & Now: July 2018

15 July 2018
This month has been filled with lots of lovely winter enjoyment and the prospect of a couple of weeks in sunnier climes. 


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Mid Winter Happenings

05 July 2018
Each morning we wake to frosty grass and chilly temperatures. My morning walking ritual has not been as frequent and the urge to stay in bed cozy under the doona is strong. We are in the middle of winter.

On the flipside, the sun shines brightly most days and I have a special afternoon sun soaking spot to relax in (kids allowing!!). We took our girls to see snow for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they were enthralled. The visual seasonal contrasts is nice to appreciate. And the weather is just perfect for warming, comforting foods. Also, different seasonal foods leads to experimentation in the kitchen.

Kale and carrot slaw.

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Food and minfulness

24 June 2018
In my day job I talk a lot about eating mindfully, being aware of our physical eating cues, the importance of trust in our bodies and enjoyment of food. What I'm finding more and more is that mindfulness can be applied to all aspects of food and eating.

Mindfulness, to me, is about being present, acting with full awareness and removing judgement. As I continue to fine tune the values based eating approach of my life I find mindfulness an important and useful tool so I thought I'd chat about it today.

A cup of tea always provides a mindful moment ()

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Recycle: Food Waste Part 4

20 May 2018
Some food waste is inevitable. Even if it's just the bits of your food that you can't eat and can't reuse for another purpose. Realistically though, things get lost in the back of the fridge, plans change and our best intentions are just that.

Once you get to this point of the life cycle of your food you can still reduce waste. Personally I think food has only gone to waste if it ends up in the garbage bin. There are plenty of ways that you can use the resource that is inedible food.

Hello ladies.

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Reuse: Food Waste Part 3

17 May 2018
Now that you've got your food home, after planing and shopping with some food waste awareness, it's time to eat it. But what to do if the plans go awry? What extra steps can we take to keep food waste to a minimum?

Confession time: finding useful ways to use up bits of leftover food is a bit of an obsession of mine. I'm always saving random bits of food in the fridge or freezer to reuse at a later date.

The tips below cover using up food that is not going to get used up in time and also using up the bits of food that sometimes get left behind. Please share any other ideas in the comments below - I'm keen to learn a few new strategies myself.


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Food Waste Part 1

10 May 2018
Food waste is full of startling statistics as I shared in a. Sometimes statistics don't tell the whole picture, sometimes they can be overwhelming and leave us feeling a little helpless. There are many parts of the food production cycle that we can't impact on directly. However, there are many things that we can do at a household level.

Reducing food waste is something that we do around these parts pretty regularly. The reality is that there will be some food waste - even if it's just the inedible bits of food. So, we are all about aiming for less waste not necessarily no waste.

Over a series of posts I'd like to dig a little into food waste - where it happens in the household and what we can do about reducing it. I'll also dedicate a post to utilising any food waste that we do have so that it is turned into a resource rather than a waste (shout out to Chris from for highlighting this very important point on my  on food waste).

I thought I'd break this series down into three main areas:
  • Reduce - what steps can we take to create less waste?
  • Reuse - if food needs to be used up or repurposed what can we do with it?
  • Recycle - how can we turn food waste into a resource?
Lettuce and coriander (gratuitous garden pic)

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Making food decisions

06 May 2018
I haven't always been as conscious of my food buying choices as I am now. As a poor uni student my choices were definitely dictated by my budget. As a young professional there was a budget and time balance - I mostly needed things I could make with little time so I could fit it around my lifestyle. As I moved towards a more value driven, simple living lifestyle things shifted again.

When it comes to making food choices there is no easy 'how to' or one size fits all. I believe (but you don't have to) that firstly it's important to be clear on your values. What are the things that you think are important when it comes to food and the bigger picture. For me I'm aiming to balance the following overarching factors:

  • Nourishing meals for my family and friends (and me of course)
  • Reducing environmental impact
  • Supporting local and alternative food systems

Also in this mix is the fact that we are a single income family in a high cost of living city. So, while budget isn't the driver it has been in the past it definitely still plays a part.

Local food system - my Adelaide food garden.

So what does this look like when it comes to making food choices? I generally use a series of questions to help me make choices that fit within my values. I say generally because I'm not perfect (shocking, no?). I make the best choices with the resources and information available to me at any one time. And sometimes I knowingly make a compromise choice because of, you know, life.

I do want to emphasise that this is what works for me, we are all different and therefore how we make choices will reflect that. I offer this up out of interest and maybe a way to spark a conversation and I'm in no way implying that this is the way things should be done.

Ok, now that little disclaimer is out of the way. Here are the questions.

Can I grow or make this myself?

This is a big one for me. I find that a lot of the conflict I feel around making food choices to balance values is greatly reduced when I grow or make it myself. It also ticks all of my value boxes - it's nourishing, reduces environmental impact and supports an alternative food system - mine! So, I try to grow and make as much as I can. Of course this varies due to resources, particularly time. When I've been in the trenches of new motherhood or recently when we moved interstate I definitely cut myself some slack in this area. If I can't grow or make it then I consider....

Neighbourhood foraged peaches from the summer.

Can I source it from someone who is making or growing it locally?

This may be as simple as a friend or neighbour's garden or even a local food swap. When I lived in Adelaide I attended a great monthly produce swap. It was so lovely to connect with people growing their own and a great way to swap my glut for someone else's. More recently I've been the recipient of some excess produce at my community garden plot - hopefully I'll be able to return the favour when I manage to get some things growing. Local farmers or growers market can be a good option too - although I know in some areas these can be a little on the style over substance side of things. Since moving to Canberra I've embraced the farmer's market again and am lucky that there are some great down to earth growers there to connect with. If there is nothing locally....

Is there an option grown or made in Australia?

I think it's really important to support our Australian food systems. If the proverbial really hits the fan when it comes to the environment and food supply then it feels reasonable to infer that a strong local food system will be useful. Despite the fact that food miles may only be a tiny piece of the picture when it comes to sustainability it just seems logical to me to source my food from Australia where I can.

Loquat sauce - BBQ sauce substitute made with foraged loquats.

Is there an alternative I can use?

If I get all the way here then I like to consider if there is an alternative. Could I substitute something else? Sometimes no - coconut cream/milk is an example that comes to mind as well as many spices. But a lot of the times I can. Fruit and veg are easy to substitute - I just use what's in season. I can swap fancy grains with cous cous, cracked wheat, or barley. Sometimes, I just go without that thing.

And sometimes, I buy what I need. If I've gone through this process then I'm happy that I'm making a conscious choice either way. For me, I think that a lot of it comes down to not being a mindless consumer. In particular not complaining about the big supermarket duopoly and the state of our food system on one hand while making choices on autopilot with the other. As I said above, I'm not perfect and I don't claim to be. I just try and make choices with my eyes wide open.

How about you - is this an area you are working on?
Do you use any kind of decision making system/lists/questions around your food choices?


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Eating with the environment in mind

08 April 2018
I went to a workshop last week titled Mindful Eating. The focus was on being mindful about how what we eat impacts the environment. The key statistic highlighted was that food is responsible for around one third of our global carbon footprint. Of course this kind of statistic can be calculated in lots of different ways - but it's clearly a big impact.

As I've moved towards more values based eating my food choices have become more deliberate. I wasn't alone on the night in being one of the already converted in the audience - but it was a good reminder in keeping these issues front of mind.

Gratuitous flower shot - I didn't have any specifically related pics.

It's no surprise that animal based protein foods had the biggest carbon footprint and plant based protein the least. The most interesting tidbit for me was that the researcher highlighted that even if you shipped your plant protein (eg.lentils) from across the world they'd still have a lower footprint than animal proteins. I think I would still try to choose local for a whole lot of other reasons but it was interesting to learn that food miles may not be as big a factor from a carbon footprint point of view than I had thought.

The workshop was not trying to get anyone to choose any one style of eating but rather present the information and provide some resources to help people make food choices that are mindful of the environment. The key factors that seemed to have the biggest impact on carbon footprint was farming practices and processing. This talk focused on protein foods but I also think 'extra' foods, which are extremely processed, must play a pretty big role. Also, these foods aren't necessary for our daily nutrition so they'd be an easy target to reduce. And dare I say perhaps more palatable for the average Australian who is reluctant to consider a life without meat!

Peppermint that will soon be dried for tea.

So what do we do around here? A lot of things really - cooking from scratch, growing what we can and all those standard simple living practices. Specifically around protein foods:


  • Include minimum two meat free meals per week
  • Base meals around vegetables rather than protein - I generally plan my meals based on what vegetables I have to use and I make these the star rather than the side.
  • Smaller meat serves - many meals have token animal based protein eg. bacon in a pasta sauce or roast pork in fried rice. This keeps the content down but keeps other members of the family happy that we are actually eating meat.
  • Include legumes and lentils more regularly - either as stand alone protein option or as a way to 'water down' the meat.
  • Eat meals from a variety of cuisines - many other countries do not have the same focus on meat that we do in Australia so this helps to shift the ratio in a meal while trying something new and tasty.


Do you do anything different at your place?
I'd love to trade tips among us in the comments - sometimes what we do every day is something new for someone else.

P.S The event was run by . They have lots of resources and info on their website. If you are in the Canberra area they regularly run interesting events ().




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Seasonal eating

29 March 2018
Eating seasonally has been a big part of connecting to where my food comes from and ultimately my food values.

With our current food supply system you can pretty much get any food you want at anytime of the year in most parts of the developed world. The only seasonal changes in what lines the supermarket shelves seems to be when they are trying to thrust holiday foods in our faces three months out from the actual event (I'm looking at you hot cross buns).

Tomatoes fresh off the vine - you can't beat that taste.


There are so many choices we can make around what we eat - organic, local, free range, fair trade to name just a few. Seasonality is just one factor when it comes to food, but for me it was an easy place to start. I've focused on seasonal eating of fruit and vegetables but there was a time when most of our food supply was affected by the seasons.

I must admit I didn't really think much about food and seasons before growing my own. Sure, I knew certain fruits grew in summer and tasted better then. I also knew that fruit and veg would be cheaper when in season but it didn't stop me from necessarily buying out of season. I'd buy zucchini and capsicum all year long for dishes and munch on apples right through until spring. The reason I didn't buy something had more to do with price (which of course carried some element of seasonality) or it not being on the meal plan that week.

Basil thrives in the summer sunshine (frost, not so much)

Seasonality was an easy marker to use as I started to connect more with food and make more conscious choices. Buying in season increased the chances that what I was buying was coming from somewhere near me (no guarantee but a good first step on my journey).  Farmers markets were a great place to build my knowledge of what was in season and what actually grows in my area. I didn't always buy everything I needed from the farmers market but it helped to increase my awareness.

Growing my own took that awareness to a whole new level. Plants just wont grow when they aren't meant to (and sometimes they wont grow for a whole lot of other reasons too!). Looking at planting and harvesting guides was a great way to get a feel for what grew when. Even if you aren't into gardening these guides can give you a good awareness of what's in season. If it's not the right time of  year for something to be growing in the garden, and you see it for sale locally, chances are it's come from a long way away or been grown using more resources.


Strawberries are definitely a seasonal delight

Once I had a little knowledge under my belt it was easy to make choices around only eating what was in season. And once I started eating seasonally there was no going back for two key reasons: taste and anticipation.

Regardless of food ethos or values I think most people would consider taste and enjoyment of what they eat as being pretty important. And really there is no comparison between something grown in or out of season. Have you had strawberries or tomatoes in winter? How about grapes or pumpkin in springtime? They're generally flavourless and sometimes even have an unappealing texture. Now, think of a piece of stone fruit enjoyed straight from the tree in summertime or a crisp autumn apple. I'm sure you can conjure memories from your own experiences of eating food at the height of its season. It really was a no-brainer for me once I got started.

Anticipation was an unexpected benefit. When you eat seasonally some foods are off the menu for certain periods of time. The anticipation of foods coming into season and the anticipation of the enjoyment of these foods was heightened. In turn the actual enjoyment of the foods was also heightened because I'd been looking forward to them (Science nerd alert: there is even on the positive emotional impact of anticipation).

These days eating seasonally is second nature for our family. My oldest daughter even associates certain seasons and months with certain foods which warms the heart of this food connection focussed mamma.

If you haven't already, I'd encourage you to think about how seasonal eating could fit into your food choices if only for the amazing difference in taste and enjoyment that you'll get to experience.

Do you have a favourite seasonal food memory?
Do you eat seasonally? If so, what are the main benefits for you? If not, are you game to give it a go?

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