Friday, July 27, 2012

Wholefoods update...

I am so pleased to report that over the last few weeks I have been having a lot of successes of getting the little flutter fusspots to eat an increasing amount of whole foods.
The majority of dinners are going down a treat including home made bolognaise, "alien soup" (pumpkin & broccollini), pasta in vege laden sauce etc.

There have definitely been a good share of sticking points too... like they're still not accepting home made bread at.all, and I made a delicious dish the other night with a variety of beans in which actually made Hannah gag bless her. She has never a bean/legume lover unless they are blended and very well disguised and apparently nothing has changed.

The most surprising things they have accepted have been:

**  getting them to eat coleslaw. That is definitely a first for Hannah! It took me about 30 secs to make in Tom with a lemon oil dressing and most astonishingly Hannah loved it and even went back for seconds.
Unreal!

**  slowly getting them to accept home made yoghurt. It tastes so sour that I must admit I'm still sweetening it a bit with sugar & vanilla for them. But even getting them to eat it at all after rejecting it at the start is good progress. I figure I'll just sneakily reduce the sugar slightly each time I make their bowls until they're used to the taste.

**  the fact they loved the organic corn chips...


I must admit that those chips are definitely delicious and are way tastier than the ones full of additives!!  Chips are such a rare treat in this house but it's nice to have a few foods like that in the cupboard for treats when we have family movie night or when I want to treat Hannah to something special in her school lunch etc...

**  my girls raiding my new herb garden...


Today I talked them through what all the herbs were and upon request gave them a taste of each of them. It all came about because I had picked a bit of mint for me to eat and they wanted to have a taste too. Well one thing led to another and before I knew it they happily sampled them all and were asking for more.
Seriously unbelievable!

Are these really the same two girls that would refuse any food with green bits in before they had even tasted it?! They even asked for more lettuce!
I guess growing the food themselves and fully understanding the food cycle really does play a vital role in getting them to be open to different foods.

So much so that I couldn't believe it, but I actually had to tell them they weren't allowed to pick any more without asking me first - hey just weren't stopping eating them otherwise.
- I really wasn't anticipating this new kind of pest threat to my garden LOL
(Needless to say the stevia plant is the going favourite...)

So good progress overall, but I would't exactly say we were ready to claim full whole food status yet or anything close. Not when chocolate churro's (and chippies & nuggets) have been on the menu in the last few days that's for sure ;)


Maybe I could pretend they are 'vegetables' or something? - they kind of look like carrots don't they? Haha yeah nice try...







Thursday, July 26, 2012

More new guests in the kitchen...

On Tuesday afternoon I got the rare chance to pop to the shops for the afternoon without any real agenda. Just to get outside my four walls & see some of the world for a few hours.
So as well as taking some time to get pampered and get my hair done, I also meandered through the shops to see what inspiration I could find for our new whole food diet.

First of all I perused the bookshop for ages. Such bliss to do this at my leisure without any children squawking at me "I'm hungry... I need the toilet... Can we have this one..." etc etc.
I'm afraid that I did not come home empty handed and this new cook book came home with me...


Nobody in my house is actually gluten-free, but there are literally 100s of great whole foods recipes in here and I thought it would be a good resource to expand my use of different flours & legumes etc.

So far it looks like a really great book! The only thing that I don't like about it is that the majority of the baking recipes have xantham gum in. I get why it's there, but I'm not sure I'm happy to introduce that into our diet unnecessarily (since we aren't gluten free) and therefore can't see me using a bunch of the recipes. However, despite that there are loads of other great recipes in there that I can see myself using.
And because we aren't gluten free I figured that for the xantham gum ones (for example the cakes or pastas) I could just use my normal wheat based pastries/batters/breads etc. in those situations.

As well as the new book I also came home with this from Kmart:


That totally broke the bank - it was a whole $12! (lets not get into how they could make it for that price...) I figured this would be a really fun addition to the kitchen and I already know that Hannah will just love it.

And the last new guest to my kitchen is by far the most exciting...


I had a phone call from my Dad (he's the Andrew of the apron - I made that for his Christmas present a few years ago) this morning to ask how we'd feel about having a visitor next week. I knew he was contemplating coming for a visit in October but when he went to check flight prices he worked out that it was only $1 dearer to come next week instead of in October as originally planned.
So he decided to book tickets and arrives this Sunday for two weeks.
Nothing like a short notice surprise visitor to make my day :)

I'm SO excited! He will be here for Abbie's surgery and also her 2nd birthday.
It is a shame my Mum can't make it too, but she is not yet retired like him and they just had a long holiday in Brisbane in May to meet my new niece so she's used her leave.

Oh and why am I calling him a guest to my kitchen?
Well, my Dad is a great home cook and taught me everything I know. He LOVES the kitchen (clearly I did not inherit that gene) and I'm half wondering if he's coming to visit to see Tom not us ;)
I wonder this because literally as soon as I got my Thermomix Dad was emailing me websites & recipes to look at and had looked up all the specs.
So I can imagine Tom will really be put to test in the next few weeks.

I guess we can watch this space & see what masterpieces we'll come up with :)


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slooooow going...


Last night I got the "luxury" of heading out grocery shopping all by myself.
Wow that so rarely happens in this house!
So I wanted to take the opportunity when it arose, to really take my time and focus on reading the packets of what I was buying. - Without anybody pulling on my arm/leg or tapping their foot!

And wow again...
Was it ever a slooooow job!!
Lucky I did go by myself because my family sure would have been frustrated with my pace!
Although I'm hopeful that once I become familiar with which products to buy that it won't take nearly so long.

I thought I would tell you about what I learned on my journey.
But before I do I should probably explain...
 the food rules I'm trying to now stick to when I buy:

 **  I'm trying to only choose products with 6 or less ingredients.
4 or less is preferable.
And those ingredients should all be ones I recognise.
 (Not ones more applicable to a science experiment)...

**  Trying to buy organic as much as my budget allows.


  **  I'm trying to choose fresh products grown in the state we live in where possible.
(That's one thing that I have to say is very easy in Australia, because they really do encourage the "buy local" mentality here. So it's definitely easier here than in many other places I've lived!)

  **  I'm trying to buy foods which are as unrefined and as close to their "natural" state as possible.
That means avoiding products with added sugar, salt, white flour, white rice etc...



So, what did I learn? 
(apart from that reading every single packet is mind numbingly slow...)

 **  I learnt that despite how much better for me it is, I just could not bring myself to pay sometimes 4 times the price for an organic product. (Like $7.99 for an organic celery verses $1.99 for "normal")
Perhaps I will be able to over time, then again perhaps not.
But for now I've decided to go for a balanced approach of buying organic where our budget allows, and otherwise just buying food with the least additives and most "wholeness".

 **  I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a good selection of organic meat at my local big name supermarket, and at a price not too dissimilar to the "normal" meat. Therefore I was able to stock up on organic beef, chicken & pork without feeling like I was breaking the bank.
I also purchased regular kangaroo steak which we love in this house. It's not marked as organic but I would imagine the likelihood of those being farmed with antibiotics etc.. are pretty slim! (Although it is quite possible my assumption is totally invalid).

 **  That the hardest things on my shopping list to buy without "numbers" in are; table spread, bread & cereals. In fact table spread or bread without numbers just do not seem to exist in the Woolworths hemisphere (at least that I could find!).
In the end for those two items I just went for the lessor of all the evils and chose those with the fewest ingredients & only 1 or so numbers.
- I would have preferred not to have bought them at all, but since those are staple things in our house and especially since my girls are currently refusing to eat home made (or bakery made) bread, then they came home with me for now... Especially since my girls will actually willingly eat wholemeal or multigrain shop bought bread but not even 100% white home made bread. Go figure.
It baffles me but why not, but I will have to consider it a work in progress.


 **  Amazingly I learned that more often than not "homebrand" (our equivalent to a generic no-name brand) were not only the cheapest options but also the ones which were the most "real" and with the least crap added.
That absolutely astonished me! I would have been certain it would be the other way around and the more expensive well known brands would have been less likely to have the added crap.
But apparently not! At least not in all the products I looked at for example cream cheese & bread to name a few.
What a pleasant surprise!

**  And lastly I learned that there are actually some "junk" food options for my treat loving children to be found in the organic whole-foods section, which also weren't all too outrageous in price. For example I purchased some organic dark cooking chocolate (amazingly only $1.99) to make something yummy with as well as some organic cheese-flavoured corn chips ($2.99 for a large packet). Admittedly the latter may have had a few more than 6 ingredients (maybe 8 or so), but on the plus side I knew every one of them, amazingly they were all on my "acceptable" list of foods so they came home with me.
Whether my fussy children actually like these "healthy" alternatives of junk food remains to be seen though LOL...

And that's where we're currently at.
Want to see what AU $140-170ish dollars buys at the supermarket/organic market these days?...
(I can't actually remember exactly how much I spent but it was one of those two numbers LOL)


Most of the expense would have been meat. That is well over a weeks supply of meat for us so our freezer will be well stocked.
If Neil was going to be home I would have had to buy more fresh produce than that, but he flys back to work tomorrow and we still have quite a bit left from last week.

I try and spend around the $150 per week mark excluding nappies, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that my spend hasn't appeared to increase dramatically despite trying to buy organic as much as possible.
Bonus!

Now just to do something with it all...



Monday, July 23, 2012

Planting our garden...

Today Hannah & I planted a {little} garden...


It's a small start, of mostly herbs, but it is a start at least.

We have...
Coriander, Italian flat leafed parsley (we already have the other parsley in our front garden), rosemary, mint, fennel, chives, rocket, oregano, stevia, a variety of lettuce & cauliflowers.

We purchased a selection of some organic & some standard herbs in pots to plant. Typically the organic ones were twice the price, however, they were also at least twice the size so I felt a bit justified in the extra expense.

The vegetables especially are all planted a bit too close together for now & will probably need re potting at some point in the future, but that's assuming I can even keep them alive in the first place.
I have such a black thumb, so if we work on a 50% hit rate (which to be honest is optimistic) then we should be right ;)

I'll keep you posted on their survival rate...


Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Digesting' the week...

I'm still here!
It's just been a bit of the week from hell really, so no time for blogging. But surprisingly our "new start natural" has actually been going very well overall, despite the fact that time at home has been limited.

I say overall because at one stage we ended up having takeaways (McDonalds, Red Rooster & hospital cafeteria food) for 3 meals in a row as we trekked back & forth between hospitals, but considering the circumstances it could have been worse.

This week we've been continuing to "play" with our new toy Tom and make things I never ever would have had the notion to make before.
For example...

Butter (& Butter Milk):


Sooooo quick & easy to make with the thermomix, but I have to admit that unless cream was on special then this is not a cost saving. For that reason I can't see me making this regularly.

Almond Milk:


I had high hopes for this helping me find something to replace milk now that I've gone off dairy again... but what can I say, dairy-free milks just don't do it for me. However it is good in things like porridge etc... because it tastes better than if they were made with water.

Yoghurt & Cherry Sauce:


Again yoghurt was super easy to make with the thermomix. Although unlike butter I'll definitely be making this again!
My first batch came out with a bit of a weird texture but it still tasted great and I suspect it was the milk powder I used. I realised after I used it that it had 2 additives in it and I'm picking that they messed with the end result. Next time I won't bother with milk powder to thicken & will see how it works without it.

Copious amounts of baking:



I'm finding that if I commit to spend a solid hour and a half or so in the kitchen then I can usually pump out at least 4 baked items. And the best thing is that the mess is sooooo minimal!
The freezer is now well stocked with healthy whole food snacks for Hannah's school lunches. Score.

Most things have been a roaring success and the girls have liked them. With the exception of the breads that is. I just can not get my girls, particularly Hannah, to eat home made bread to save my life!
Hopefully it's one of those things which the more I expose her to it the closer she'll get to accepting it. But for now it looks like that's the one sticking point in my plan to make our own baked goods.

I've also make a good number of dinners in the thermomix as well.
On Friday night I made bolognaise sauce in the thermomix by first grinding steak & bacon down to make mince. It literally took 3 presses of the turbo button & there I had my mince and it was seriously the most delicious bolognaise ever. Even Neil said so & both girls gobbled it up.
I have to see if I can recreate that one and write down the recipe because it was well worth making again! Especially as it had lots of hidden veges in ;)

And that is where I'm up to.

Probably the most surprising thing this week about our experience with the thermomix has been Neil's response since he got home. He waited patiently for me to show him how it worked for the first 4 days, but there just wasn't the opportunity (that was the period of takeaways and more takeaways since we were up in the city at the hospital). Finally I gave him a brief demo of what all the features did by using it to reheat & blend up some left over soup that a friend had made us.
He was super impressed and very intrigued.
But that's not the impressive part -
The next morning he got up to the girls and gave me a sleep in. When I got up at 8.30am he had used the thermomix to make everybody porridge for breakfast.
All.by.himself!
Then today he used it yet again to make me boiled eggs for breakfast.


So I reckon on that grounds alone it has been well worth the money. Because it if can get my husband into the kitchen then it must be quite some machine ;)


Back soon...



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 2 with Tom & our Homemade Pizza Recipe

Day 2 with Tom has been productive.
In between steam inhalations, trips back to the doctor & pharmacy and cuddles we've been trying out loads of new recipes. Including apple porridge, wholemeal cinnamon scrolls, almond milk and an afternoon smoothie.

But this afternoon Hannah & I made some delicious wholemeal pizza.



Did I mention already it was delicious? No, ok well it was delicious! Just ask Hannah...

At dinner time we were all sitting around the table quietly munching (or gobbling) our pizza, and I do not tell a lie or exaggerate this at all, but all of a sudden Hannah breaks the quiet and pipes up;

"Mummy." *long thoughtful pause* "This pizza should be at the shop."
Me: "Huh Hannah. What do you mean?"
Hannah: "I mean it should be at the shop!" (slight frustration mounting at my incomprehension!)
Me: "You mean that you really like the pizza Hannah?"
Hannah: "Yes, I really like this pizza! We should make it for the shop..."
Me: "Ohhhh, you think we should make and sell this pizza?"
Hannah: "Yep".

Well, out of the mouths of babes...
I have to tell you that this is a first for my total fuss pot of a child! Seriously I spent the first 3 and a half years of her life trying to get her to eat anything. Anything at all! And now all of a sudden in the same week she's told me (without being prompted!) that my homemade nuggets are better than McDonald's and that we should sell our pizza in a shop.
Classic!
So this recipe needs to be documented for further use before I forget what I did because I will be using it again ;)

So...

I made this in my thermomix but you can easily adapt it for whatever tools you normally would use at your house.
Also, I better note that the base recipe makes enough for 2 large pizza bases (think domino's pizza large) but the toppings are only enough for 1 pizza because 1 is enough for us and I chose to freeze the other base (you can't half the base recipe that I adapted apparently).
So double the topping ingredients if you choose to make both pizzas, or make 1 base with topping & freeze the other plain for next time like I did.


love the concentration!


Ingredients:

Base:
280grams of water
30grams of instant yeast
20grams of oil
1tsp salt
500grams of wholemeal flour

Sauce:
1 tsp of garlic puree or 1 small clove of crushed garlic
1 1/2 Tbsns of additive free tomato puree
1 1/2 Tbsns of additive free tomato sauce

Topping:
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 a courgette
1 1.5cm cube of parmesan cheese
To finish:
Grated Mozzarella cheese to taste (We probably used about 3/4 of a cup).
And Hannah insisted that we have a tomato sliced in rounds on top also. Sheesh, so bossy! ;)

Instructions to make:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius fan forced.

Dough:
Combine all ingredients in the thermomix put onto knead for 1 1/2 minutes (or mix & knead as you normally would a dough).
Pop into an oiled boil, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size.

While your dough is rising you can assemble your sauce & topping.
I just put all the ingredients for the sauce into a small cup and mixed to combine. Set aside until needed.

Topping:
If your mozzarella is not already grated then pop this into the thermomix bowl and process for 10 seconds on speed 5. Set aside in a small bowl.

Cut tomatoes in half & courgette into a few big chunks. Put into Thermomix bowl with cheese and process on speed 5 for about 10 seconds or until nicely chunky.
Set aside in the thermomix bowl until needed. 


Once your dough has risen separate out into 2 balls. 
Press out the first onto a lightly oiled pizza dish (or standard oven tray) until you get the desired size. I simply just use my hands to flatten it and work it out evenly to the edges.
Cover evenly with your sauce, topping, Mozzarella & sliced tomato in that order.




Pop in your oven and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
While it's cooking you can flatten your other dough into a pizza base & cover in foil or plastic wrap to freeze. Then next time it will be even quicker.

Next time I will try it with milled whole wheat flour or spelt flour for even more nutrition.
Pretty healthy for pizza really though.

If you give it a go I hope you enjoy it as much as we did :)


Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 1 of putting 'Tom' to the test...

(Sorry - this is a really long post!)

I'm not usually one to name my machinery, but it's just so much easier to write 'Tom' than it is Thermomix every 5 seconds. So Tom it is.
(Plus lets face it, it's kind of nice to think about a man doing all the work in my kitchen ;) )

I had to chuckle at the comments yesterday. See I told you there'd be on of 3 reactions and both b & c always tend to be quite extreme in either direction.

I especially love how Carol always says exactly what she thinks! But sorry Carol, no way am I taking this thing back! :) And trust me I've crunched the numbers hard - especially as it cost me 2 adult fares back home to NZ to see my family!
Big big thanks need to go to the Australian Tax Office for 'giving' me the money to buy this swish machine. - We decided to use part of our tax return this year to pay for it, so I must admit, the fact it is not coming out of our everyday "household budget" is making the cost a little easier to stomach!

Anyhow lets get on with the first test.
Now, I was supposed to wait to use it until my Thermomix demonstrator can come on Monday to do my set up session & make something together. But I did tell her there was no chance of me waiting! I mean would you want to wait an entire 5 days?!
In the few days leading up to Toms arrival I had already bookmarked a bunch of recipes to try off of the internet. Also, as per the request of my husband, I had also read the instruction manual cover to cover on the internet the night before.
So I knew what all the buttons did already and I was good to go.

Now as I go through and test things I have decided to put the results under the same headings each time for consistency of measure. {And this is why it's a long post - because I made 5 things in my first afternoon}
With those headings in mind lets look at yesterday's results:

Test 1: Vegetable Stock Concentrate...





Ease and time in preparation:
Well this thing was easy to put together. Cut all the veges into big chunks, bung them all in and whiz for about 20 seconds or so. Easy peasy. No peeling or small chopping required!
Cooking time:
20 minutes on Varoma temperature then a few seconds blending
Taste results:
Well as this is vegetable stock concentrate I didn't expect this would taste nice out of the pot. It is highly salty so not a food by itself. But it's designed to keep in a clean jar in your fridge and use a Tbsp mixed with water every time stock is called for in a recipe. Tasted great in my pumpkin soup (see next item).
Did the kids like/eat it:

N/A.
Ease of clean up: 
Super easy - just blended water for a few minutes to clean then had 1 chopping board & 1 knife to wash.
Price Comparison:
I imagine this is going to save me heaps of money! It probably cost me about $2.00 at the most to make. Most of that would be the rock salt - the veges were cheap from my local market.
I often use good quality natural stock out of a carton if a recipe calls for it and I don't have time/ingredients to make some. Those cartons work out very expensive - currently $2.12 just for one serving of 500ml. That's quite a big savings!
(I could of course have made this at home previously - but nowhere near as efficiently).
Will I make it again:
Certainly. It's quick, easy, affordable and tastes great (I've already used some).
Such a convenient recipe base to have on hand!

Test 2: Pumpkin Soup...


Ease and time in preparation:

Easy peasy. Pumpkin washed & cut into big chunks. I did not even bother to de-seed or take the skin off. Just whizzed them all up for 30 secs to make a fine pulp.
Cooking time:
20 minutes on Varoma temperature then a few seconds further blending
Taste results:
Tasted great! Next time I won't put in as much garlic though. The clove I used was really big (and the recipe didn't actually say to use garlic but we like to).
Did the kids like/eat it:

My kids never have trouble eating pumpkin soup and this was no exception. Abbie got extremely distressed at first and started squealing. It turned out she was frustrated because it was a bit hot and she wanted to eat it now. LOL.
Both kids cleaned their bowls & Abbie asked for and had seconds.
Ease of clean up: 
Super easy - just blended water for a few minutes to clean then had 1 chopping board & 1 knife to wash. A washing up savings over my pot + blender method.
Price Comparison:
I usually make my own from scratch in a pot so this is non applicable.
Will I make it again:
Yep. We love pumpkin soup in this house & I love the fact I could walk away & not have to worry about this burning/boiling over etc. - A buzzer rang to tell me it was done and ready to eat. Too easy.

Test 3: Sunflower & Linseed Bread...


Ease and time in preparation:

Amazingly quick & easy! 10 seconds to mill my seeds into flour then it took one minute & 30 secs to mix/knead and in that time I could put all the ingredients away. I weighed everything straight into the machine so that made the measuring easier. All I really had to do was oil a bowl, put to rise in a warm place. Punch it down twice. Transfer to the baking tin and put it in the oven after a brief second rise. 
I estimate about 3 minutes total manual handling time from start to getting it out of the oven.
Cooking time:
35 minutes in my oven on 180 degrees celcius.
Taste results:
Very light and fluffy! In fact I had trouble slicing without it crumbling it was that light. Next time I will leave it longer to cure. I thought it was delicious.
Did the kids like/eat it:

Abbie hasn't tried it yet. Hannah was so eager to try it that she begged me to slice it. Not so eager when it came to the eating though when it was plain. I guess the linseed was quite strong. But I put some all natural jam on it and she gobbled it up.
Ease of clean up: 
Not as easy as when I saw her clean up at the demo. It was quite a sticky mixture so blending water in the machine wasn't enough and I had to remove the blade to properly clean it. It wasn't that big of a deal though and on the plus side I didn't have floured surfaces everywhere. Just one bowl that I used for rising (I could have used the machine if I didn't want to use it for something else at the time) and the one baking tin.
Price Comparison:
Definitely a big money saver to shop bought natural bread. But I'll work this out properly next time once my whole wheat arrives, I'm milling my own flour and I've worked out the energy consumption.
Will I make it again:
Definitely. It's so easy & tasty. I'm hopeful I can get into making 3 batches at a time (as I have 3 loaf tins) plus a load of dinner rolls which would be the maximum I could fit in my oven at one time. Then I can just bung them in the freezer & take out as required. That should last our family a week or more.
With only an estimated manual handling time of 10-12 minutes total that's pretty amazing for 4 batches of homemade bread!!!



Test 4: A complete dinner; rice with steamed fish & green beans...




Ease and time in preparation:

Very quick! Maybe 2 minutes? Enough time to chop the ends off the beans & bung everything in.
Cooking time:
20 minutes in the thermomix on Varoma heat setting.
Taste results:
To be quite honest I over cooked this. Which is lack of experience never having used (or seen in use) the varoma basket before. The rice recipe called for 16 minutes and the fish recipe called for 25 so I decided to meet in the middle and tried 20.
But everything was slightly overcooked - I should have gone for 16 minutes. Never mind, I know for next time and that just means cooking time is even more efficient than I'd thought. Sweet!
And I used some of our left over pumpkin soup for a sauce so that made it all more tasty.
Did the kids like/eat it:

Abbie completely gobbled hers like I hadn't fed her in a year. Score!
Hannah not so keen on it from first sight (the beans on the plate I suspect). But when I fed her (which even though she's 4 years old is still a nightly performance) she did actually eat 80% of it before telling me she was full. I didn't have to force her to eat it, she just was lazy to feed herself something that wasn't her favourite.
Both kids eating it means I'd still call this a moderate success. Better still if it didn't get overcooked!
Ease of clean up: 
Hmmm now this meal made a load of dishes because I used just about every part of the thermomix - 2 layers of the steamer basket, the internal basket of the main machine & the main machine itself.
So I would not call this meal a dishes saving. But they were all easy to clean and I chose to separately cook each element separately to try the layer capability of the machine.
Price Comparison:
Not really applicable. I would have cooked this meal at home anyway just partly on my gas hobb and in the microwave.
Will I make it again:
Even though it wasn't the best from a flavour perspective (that was my mistake and is easily remedied) or a dishes or money saver I still think I would. The beauty about this dish was in the time saved during the cooking process. Because everything went in at the same time and I could walk away until the buzzer rang.
In the 20 minutes our dinner was cooking I managed to get 1 load of washing in and put two away (whilst refereeing my children to stop fighting on the trampoline!). And I didn't have to go back to stir or worry about getting distracted if I walked away and anything burning.
That was the biggest benefit to this meal to me!

Test 5: Strawberry Sorbet...





{This was just for fun this one...}

Ease and time in preparation:

Very quick! Washing the strawberries, talking the tops off & chucking all the ingredients in. I'm told that you can leave the tops on if you want but that didn't appeal to me so I spent the extra seconds chopping them off.
Cooking time:
90 seconds of processing time on the maximum speed.
Taste results:
Instead of using sugar as the recipe called for I used Agave Syrup which is a natural sugar substitute. I also halved less the amount suggested and added some natural yogurt for a bit of creaminess.
It was yummo. No extra sugar required in my opinion.
Did the kids like/eat it:

I expected them to like it more than they did to be honest. It was too cold for Abbie and she cried (she's cutting 4 canines so is a bit sensitive in the mouth). Hannah ate half of hers only.
Perhaps ice-cream will be a bigger hit with them because it's more what they're used to.
Ease of clean up: 
Too easy. A quick blend of water & rinse and it was done.
Price Comparison:
Probably lots cheaper because sorbet is very pricey. But not really applicable because it's not something we'd buy. This was just to try making for fun.
Will I make it again:
Definitely. Maybe not until summer though. It would be such a quick afternoon cool snack for the kids instead of an artificially flavoured icey pole.

So there you have it.
One machine,
5 different dishes in
one afternoon
- all with minimal time & mess!

Quite frankly I cannot believe that I cooked so many different things and yet don't feel like I spent all afternoon in the kitchen!
The most time consuming part to it all was deciding what to cook and following recipes for a change (I usually cook from my head). But once I'm used to the processing and cooking times I bet I won't need recipes for this any more either.

More tests coming up although in future I'll limit it to 1-2 per days post. It just didn't seem write not to document everything I made in my first afternoon because the quantity & ease I started using it impressed me.

Back soon




Thursday, July 12, 2012

My New {not-so} Secret Weapon...

Today I received some exciting new mail of the kitchen-gadget type...
(did I really just utter the words exciting & kitchen in the same sentence?! What has come over me??!!)

Please meet Mr Thermomix; lets call him Tom for short...


When I mention to people the word 'Thermomix' I usually get one of three reactions:
a) What on earth is a Thermomix?!
b) Oooooh cool, Thermomix's are so cool!
c) Far out those things are way too expensive for me to ever justify!

To be quite honest with you I'd be inclined to agree with both b & c options!

... I found out about Thermomix's nearly 2 years ago when Abbie was only a few weeks old. A friend from my mothers group demonstrated them to us one day.
From the get go I was impressed at what this thing in front of me did!
... it chopped, blended, kneaded, milled, cooked, steamed and more.

I appreciated the matter of fact way that my friend explained what they did. She was quite down to earth and open about what it did and didn't do for her, and how she found it as a young Mum of soon to be 2 littlies.
It was SO fast and easy and the 6 dishes she demonstrated to us all tasted great.




Then she told us the price...

Well... there went all my notion of getting one.
Not being a passionate cook myself there was no way I as going to pay that much for a kitchen appliance (even if I could afford it, which I definitely couldn't).
So I filed the idea away.
I must admit that I still could see the merits and still wanted one though. 


Cue 2 years down the track...
Over the last 2 months I have proven to myself that it is consistently important to me to prepare whole-food meals from scratch for my family and try to work toward an additive free & low processed diet.
But while it is important to me to do this, I'm not quite sure I could sustain the amount of effort that it would require of me with my time.

More time in the kitchen for me means that available business & sewing time is almost none.
And I can see that would mean I'd quickly fall into some bad habits in order to make time for those.

So after much research, discussion & consideration I have decided that this nifty new tool is worth the investment. If I can learn to use it for everything I plan to then I've worked out I should be able to pay it back by savings on grocery budget & power consumption in approx a year.
But we shall soon see...

It arrived today and I put it to its paces straight away.
I've already discovered things I love about it and things I'm not so keen on.


Today we already cooked 5 things in it.
Here's a sneak preview of one of the dishes...

please excuse the state of my oven door!
Ok so technically I didn't bake this bread in the thermomix, but it still has to be the easiest bread I've ever made and it tastes delicious!
I'll give you the full run down on this, along with my other dishes tomorrow.

Then I have a bunch of other trials to do including but not limited to butter, yoghurt, cheese, risotto, a curry, and jam.
During all those trials I'll give you a full honest review of what went well & what didn't and whether I'd ever do it again.
So watch this space...



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Home made Chicken Nuggets...

One of the very first things on my "hit list" to journey natural was Chicken Nuggets...
They are regretfully my children's favourite food and quite frankly the ingredients list of most kinds usually scares me off.
So I decided to make my own kind.
I googled a bunch of recipes to get me started but then in typical Kat style made up my own method.

They were a HUGE hit!!
The kids have eaten them twice now, a few weeks apart. Then when we had them the night before last Hannah even told me that she liked them better than "Chippies, Nuggets & Sauce" (which means McDonald's). I just about spat my food out in shock when she came out and said that - that's high praise indeed from her!
Yay me!

They were also a lot easier than I anticipated to make. In fact I pumped them out one afternoon in about 15 minutes just before I had to do the school run. And that included clean up time.
Which begs the question - why hadn't I made them before!

Anyway here's what I did to make my easy Nuggets...

Sorry about the photo of raw meat! It was almost school run time
 so didn't have time to take many photos!

Ingredients:
2 slices of wholemeal bread (or 3 if you have a big piece of chicken - I almost ran out)
1 Tbsp finely grated parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste
1-2 beaten eggs (I used 2 but I think next time I will start with 1 and add more if required)
approx 1/2 cup of flour
1 chicken breast (I estimate it was about 300grams worth)
Olive (or other) oil spray
3 breakfast/cereal sized bowls

Makes about 25

Step 1: Making the coating...
Medium toast the bread. Once cooled roughly break into smaller pieces and whizz it in a processor to make bread crumbs. (I used my mini hand held food processor - you can use whatever you have on hand that will do the job)
Add your salt & pepper & parmesan to taste and mix well.
Put into one of your bowls.

Put the flour into one of your other bowls and your beaten egg(s) into the other.

Step 2: Prepare the chicken
Cut your chicken up into nugget sized pieces. Try and make them as evenly sized as possible for even cooking.

Step 3: Dunking them...
Take a piece (or few) of chicken and roll them in the flour to coat
Dunk them in the egg
Roll them in the breadcrumb mixture until they are completely covered.
Place them on an oven tray (or plates if you don't have an oven tray which will fit in your freezer & you would like to freeze them like me for later use...)
Repeat until you've used up all your chicken.

Step 4: Oil & freeze...
Lightly mist (I use a pump oil sprayer) your nuggets with oil. Turn over & do the other side.
Pop tray into the freezer for an hour or until just frozen (I did this step so that they wouldn't all freeze together) then transfer to a storage container.

{The oil part is optional. If you are wanting to reduce fat then I guess you could skip this part. But since chicken breast has a tendency to dry out, you'll just need to be aware of that when you cook them if you don't do the oil.}

To cook:
I grilled mine under a medium-hot grill for 9-10 minutes each side from fresh or 13 minutes each side from frozen.
They came out beautifully moist despite my anticipation that using straight chicken breast might make them a dry compared to the store bought ones.

So there you have it, not hard at all. Now that I know what a hit they are I think I'll do a bunch more next time so that I have them on hand for lazy nights.

And I've also followed the same recipe for fish but in the coating I added fresh parsley & grated lemon rind to the whiz part. Yum :)

Enjoy



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The start of the new start...

Lets start at the very beginning...
A very good place to start...
When you read you begin with ABC...
When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Me...


Haha betcha have the song in your head now ;)
Me too...


Anyway I figured yesterday that a good place to start with my "new start" was to go through my cupboards & fridge, clean them out, organise them, and work out a shopping list.
Then go shopping actually in person for a change and buy what I needed this week.


{I've been doing my groceries almost exclusively online now for 2 years. It's SO convenient but it does make it very hard in choosing foods without additives, because the ingredients information isn't available online. Also you don't get to choose your own fruit & vegetables.
This week I wanted to check out our local green & organic market this week to see what I was missing...}


So first I cleaned out...
I even moved around a lot of the food so that the food groupings now make a little bit more sense.
I should have taken before pictures, but here it is looking all tidy & shiny (for about a day no doubt)...




I'm pretty pleased with how little "packet" food there is already. We have a way to go yet in eliminating all the additives & stuff in our cupboards, but it's progress...

Some new ingredients also popped into my trolley this week at the organic market. Ingredients that my cupboards have never seen before. Here are a few of them...


The almonds are destined to be made into a flour substitute & a milk substitute to try, the sunflower & linseeds are destined to be made into bread, the rapadura sugar is something I want to try as a sugar substitute and the cacao butter - well I'm not 100% sure what that's destined for yet. But I'm sure I'll have fun coming up with something for that.
Also not pictured is coconut oil which I apparently need to make my own almond milk.

I'll keep you posted on how that all goes. I have a new gizmo arriving sometime this week to help me out with all of this (thank goodness or I'm starting to think I'd never get to sew again) which is hopefully going to save me a lot of time & work. I'm hoping it will have arrived by Thursday so watch this space!

Tomorrow I have my first recipe to share here. Easy peasy homemade nuggets. They were yummy & went down a treat with the kids.
See you tomorrow :)






Sunday, July 8, 2012

A New Start...

I've always had an interest in natural environmental studies!... Most of the friends I've made in my adulthood probably don't know this about me, but the first degree I ever studied towards my majors were Geography, Environmental Studies & Developmental Studies.
And I was really good at it too...
Not that I finished;
- We had to transfer cities for Mr Flutter's work & I decided not to continue via correspondence....
But that's not the point ;)

Then life happened.
Years passed...
I became a mother...
And I started to experience that "mother fog" known as incomprehensible exhaustion that I'm sure all mothers out there have experienced!
At that point life {for me} became more about choosing things for convenience rather than necessarily "best" for our health or environment (not that the two are always mutually exclusive. Just stating my thinking)...


I also experienced at times what can only be described as a very tight grocery budget, which all of a sudden had to incorporate all things baby as well as just food!
Choices became almost exclusively about what was cheapest over what was necessarily the healthiest.

All this time though I've continued to have "natural" in the back of my brain...
It's been an unshakeable niggle...
But laziness & convenience have still been winning out.

Until now!


Over the last couple of months I have watched my kids get one sickness after another until really their "sick days" are far outnumbering their "well days".
I've lost count of how many prescriptions of antibiotics we've needed this year.
Which is not cool. Not cool at all!

By society's standards we live pretty "normally".
But I know I could certainly be doing even better for us. And the environment.
I want to make a new start!

So what does this 'new start' mean for me?

   **  It means firstly slowing down & taking notice more.... 
instead of just shopping is a hurry and giving it no further thought.

   **  Researching more about food, nutrition & what I'm feeding my family.

   **  Dare I say it (because I'm well known over at my other diary for not having a love of the kitchen!!) cooking more from scratch.

   **  Trying to eliminate as many packaged foods from my pantry as I can & focussing on a more natural, fresh, whole foods diet.

   **  Going an even further step & trying to eliminate as many other chemicals from my house as possible. For example laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, cleaners and cosmetics (eeek that one scares me!!).

   **  Trying (hahaha my hopes are not high for this one - I have a notoriously bad black thumb!) to grow at least some fresh produce. Even if that just means herbs for now.

   **  Buying organic where possible.

So why this new diary?

Well... basically - why not?!
I've been thinking about starting this blog for a few weeks now. But to be honest I first wanted to make sure that I was really committed to this - I didn't want to start something that I'd let fizzle in a month or twos time.
But I am committed. It's not necessarily all want for me, I also feel strongly that it's become a need.

- Much of my quiet over on my main online diary over the last month or so has been because I've been trying a new slower pace, and I've been putting more effort into the things above.

It's been a start of lots of small steps. But I just know that lots of small steps can eventually lead to great places.
So I'm hoping this new diary will help track my progress {and keep me accountable} as I get there.

I hope you will join me {and help encourage me to persist} on the journey