The summer garden

Well Xmas and New Year (seasons greetings to you all) have come and gone since my last blog (how time flies) and the garden is just starting to produce enough to eat. We’re harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (early ones only), purple king beans, radish, green bull chillies, beetroot, assorted greens and herbs of course! The eggplants are just starting to fruit – hopefully we’ll be inundated with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants in a few weeks time. I’m not having much luck with florence fennel, the seed just doesn’t seem to strike well, anyway I’ve just planted another lot (organic local seeds) so let’s hope they take off. The zucchinis are an organic italian variety, they’re so pretty and seem to grow long before filling out – a lovely striped fruit too. I’m hoping the golden beets grow as big as the ones I bought from Magic Meadow (organic farm produce) and can’t wait to be able to pick our own carrots too.

The plums pictured above come from a friend whose plum tree was getting attacked by birds – she  had to pick them before they had fully ripened – I’m in the process of making plum sauce and jam. I tried one of our apricots today, it was nearly ripe and probably fine for cooking, might have to pick some tomorrow. We’ve netted the apricot and mulberry trees (as well as some of the tomatoes) or we would have lost the lot to birds. I don’t mind sharing some produce but the birds indiscriminately peck at everything in sight and don’t eat the ones that drop on the ground! What a waste!

We usually buy about a dozen advanced tomato plants, the rest of the crop being the self sown varieties that pop up all over the garden. This year we only bought two tomato plants (the ones that are producing now) and the rest we’ve grown from seed collected from two sources – a huge Italian variety brought over from the “old country” years ago and an Italian small green striped heirloom tomato. It was fun growing our main tomato crop from seed and we ended up planting about 10 of each variety  plus kept a crop of self sown tomatoes too, so we probably have about 40 tomatoes growing! We weren’t going to plant so many this year!

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A few years back I rescued a small half dead San Pedro cactus from our daughter’s share house (it was strewn in the garden amongst a tangle of weeds) and it certainly rewarded us this year with about thirty blossoms all in different stages of development. On Xmas day 7 blooms opened at once – absolutely amazing!

The weather has been crazy lately – too much wind and scorching heat – I hate seeing the garden being blown about like that – but at least it’s raining tonight!

Until my next blog…cheers Lemmie

Paleo challenge – crackers (dry biscuits)

I’m learning about this new way of living (Paleo) by researching and trying new products and recipes so I thought I would write about my travels down this gastronomic road and share some of the pitfalls and best recipes that I find. I tried to make my own recipes but that was way too difficult so I’m content to play with other cook’s recipes and add a little of myself as I go! These ingredients are just so different, some are an acquired taste and my perception of how food should look, smell and taste is evolving. I’m not going to give you recipes because they are not mine but I will tell you where to source them. I’m loving the energy this lifestyle is creating and so for today’s topic – crackers….

Who doesn’t like the odd dry biscuit or cracker with dips/cheese or whatever, but try to buy some without wheat /sugar or chemicals! I found some delicious organic / wheat free crackers in the health food shops but they are so very expensive so I thought I’d try making them. My first batch of crackers came from a recipe I found on a website – glutenfreecooking.com – the author is Terri Gruss – a gluten free cooking expert. The parmesan crackers used ground almonds and flax meal as the base, it was bound together by egg white. It was a very easy recipe to make and only took 15 minutes to cook. My naturopath Belinda suggested using yeast flakes to replace the parmesan cheese and either way they turned out delicious.

My next recipe attempt came out of Pete Evans cookbook – Family Food – the recipe for seed crackers is on page 204. I made the basic recipe and added some fennel seeds and smoky paprika. This recipe is a lot more complicated than the parmesan crackers above but well worth the effort, first you have to soak the seeds o’night before blending them a bit and baking them in a very low oven for 6 hours. The recipe makes 2 large trays of crackers and they keep really well, we’re still eating the ones I made 2 weeks ago. I like these crackers a lot, they are very much like the expensive ones from the organic shop but at a fraction of the cost, and I actually enjoy making them!

My second batch of seed crackers from “Family Food” was a bit more exotic, this time I added spirulina and dulse flakes for the seaweed style cracker. Apart from the amazing colour of the biscuits I like the idea of adding these super foods to our diet, I used golden flax (dark brown ones in the last batch) and black sesame seeds too, this mixture turned out thicker and wetter than the previous mixure, not sure if it was the golden flaxseeds or the addition of the spirulina and dulse flakes, but it took longer to cook and I even returned the biscuits to the oven after I cut them up (so they would crisp up). That’s cooking though I can follow the same recipe and each time it still turns out a little (or a lot) different, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. I’ve got the next few blogs stirring in my head so watch out for a review of the meat loaf and my adventures into making yoghurt, kimchi, kefir and pastry without flour.

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Food for health (the Paleo way)

It’s been ages since my last blog for two reasons – 1. my iPad won’t upload photos into my site (but I’ve found another way to load photos) and 2. because I’ve been going through a “moment” regarding my relationship with food. You can tell from my ramblings that I absolutely love anything to do with food (cooking, growing, sourcing & experimenting), it’s a very important part of who I am and so I wondered do I cook to live or live to cook? Am I doing the best I can to look after my health? Is my love of food turning into an addiction or obsession and impacting detrimentally upon my health (rising blood glucose and cholesterol levels & irritable bowel symptoms). I was slowly putting on weight, found it impossible to lose weight and was struggling with unexplained muscle pain. My sister-in-law put me onto a book – Wheat Belly by cardiologist Dr William Davis – this book blew my mind and so I experimented eating this way for a while; it was going well until I had an IBS attack that lasted for days, so I tried the FODMAP diet for allergies and then a combination of the wheat free and FODMAP but I was getting very confused and losing my way, so off I went to a naturopath for some advice. I hadn’t been to a naturopath for years and was delighted with Belinda’s caring approach. She really listened to me, asked me lots of questions and then suggested I follow the Paleo way of eating for a month (while still leaving out foods that obviously upset my stomach). So…more research… what is Paleo? – I read Primal Body Primal Mind – quite a heavy book to read – written by Nora Gedgauras and  began following Chef Pete Evans (Paleo Guru) while learning to adapt to life with no sugar, low carbohydrate, no diary (apart from yoghurt) and no legumes. I needed to source organic / chemical free produce, grass feed meat, wild seafood and nutrient dense foods like seeds, nuts and fermented foods like kimchi. I needed help with recipes and ideas, Belinda (my naturopath) put me onto some great websites (like Nom Nom Paleo) and foodstuffs like cashew nut cheese (YUM), yeast flakes, Spirulina and others I found myself – cocoa nibs and activated nuts from Totally Nuts (have to be the BEST nuts ever!).

We won’t have any trouble sourcing organic vegetables and fruit when our garden starts pumping but at the moment we’ve only got greens (spinach, silverbeet, assorted salad leaves, herbs and broad beans). I’d heard about a farm in Lovely Banks called Magic Meadows that sells organic produce 2 days a week at a reasonable price and for the last month we’ve been making the journey to purchase organic and spray free vegetables and fruit, the quality of the produce is really very good, especially the strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and beetroot. I bought some organic meat and chicken (from the organic shop in Geelong), it’s quite expensive, I wish we had access to the fabulous markets and produce they have in Melbourne. The farmer’s markets usually have organic meat suppliers and I purchased some Sage Organic beef sausages and lamb shanks at the Bellarine Farmers Market last Saturday (held monthly in Ocean Grove).

Main meals aren’t that difficult cooking the Paleo way but try to make desserts or bread substitutes, cakes and biscuits without flour, sugar or butter – very challenging indeed. My experimenting has paid off to a certain extent, I have yet to find a wheat free bread that really works but some of the sweet treats are absolutely delicious – date & nut balls, nut slice, strawberry bliss balls.

I am really enjoying learning more about health, food and nutrition and experimenting with new products. I’ve changed too, I no longer feel ravenous, don’t crave sweet things, no more snacking, I feel full and satisfied and the muscle pain I’ve had for years has gone! I am excited about cooking and enjoying my food even more than before!

I purchased Pete Evans Paleo inspired cookbook – Family Food – and am slowly making my way through the recipes while reading Femented by Jill Ciciarelli and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I am looking forward to learning about and making fermented goods – like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and vinegar and would love to have a go at making my own soap too (my friend Nellie gave me some of her home-made soap made with olive oil and caustic soda only, it was so lovely!) Anyway enough rambling for today……

Below are photos of Paleo style main meals we’ve been enjoying of late…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello

Lemmie

Lemmie

Hello to all my friends, family and blog followers, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Xmas and a spectacular new year. I’m very keen to get this blog up and running and I’ve lots of ideas, just wish I had the skills to go with the enthusiasm. My interest in food, cooking and growing things has been a central part of my life since childhood; I must have inherited a food/gardening gene from some ancestor. I get a real buzz out of growing things and cooking; when the kids were little it was all about nutrition and feeding a family on a budget, but now I have the ability to be more creative and cooking is usually a pleasurable experience. Maggie Beer is my idol, I love the way she incorporates local and seasonal produce and treats her ingredients with such respect, I want to be like Maggie Beer, and so my journey begins…..