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Archive for the ‘Feed your Family on $50 a week’ Category

In the past few months, circumstance has forced me to re evaluate. Overwhelmed and overcommitted, a quiet rebellion was taking place inside my head. There was so much busy…….. hectic………stress……….and it was just going around and around and I couldn’t seem to get away.  And for what? I simply did not have time to live. I started to remember what life was like…….before……….before the clutter.

I spent this weekend in Kangaroo Valley. This place is sublime. It heals. There is a special energy there and when I am there this energy fills me. Renews me and feeds my soul.

The Shed

Before I went I had a plan, a list. I always have a plan and a list. I was going to cook gourmet meals, improve my photography, style my food shots, I had some lectures I needed to listen to and I had taken down 2 books to get through. What? 2 books in 3 days?

And then I arrived, and I stopped. I could breathe. My lungs filled with clean air and my head cleared. I poured a glass of wine, I lit the fire and I ate some cheese. And nothing mattered. I forgot the plan, the list. My partner arrived later that evening and we drank more wine and ate more cheese and we stopped.

Our laptops stayed closed. Because we stopped. There is something about being away from the noise of life that forces you to stop. To take it in. To appreciate. Nothing needs to be done, there is nowhere to be and I was reminded of these words.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time – Bertrand Russell

There is beauty in simplicity.

 

In a society of abundance and wealth somehow it seems that we have less than we ever did. We are detached from our communities, the elderly live alone, isolated. We commute, we work late. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger televisions and somehow, smaller lives. Is the question then what we can take out of our life, rather than what we can add into it?

Simple, Perfect Pumpkin Soup

And so today I share with you, simple. Nothing more is needed. Sit quietly in the sun and be deeply satisfied.

Simple Perfect Pumpkin Soup

About 2kg Jap Pumpkin

125 g butter

50 ml olive oil

1 teaspoon good salt such as Himalayan Pink Salt

1 litre unhomogenised organic milk

freshly ground black pepper

crusty toasted bread to serve

Cut the pumpkin into small cubes, no more than 1″ or grate with a food processor. Cutting the pumpkin into small pieces will allow it to cook quickly extracting the natural sugars and giving you a beautiful sweet soup.

Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, sprinkle with the salt. Cook the pumpkin, covered, stirring occasionally until it is soft. About 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the milk and bring to the boil.

Blend the pumpkin in a food processor or if you like it chunky you can use a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with beautiful bread.

Enjoy. Appreciate.

 

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Oh, its that time of year. Winter has dragged and the flu is doing the rounds. There is a smidge of jasmine in the garden and spring is nearly here but that has not stopped us from hibernating this week under a blanket of what is hopefully the last of the winter illnesses. In my house that means only one thing. Soup!

I posted a delicious chicken soup a few weeks ago and that is still my healing preference but for a change, I thought I would go for something different. This is also a super spare change special. I would say you could rustle this up for about $10, homemade stock included! Less if you have leftover cheese, bread and a bag of onions about to sprout in the bottom drawer!

French Onion Soup with toasted croutons and cheddar

It always pleases me when I can make something from seemingly nothing! I had made some yummy beef and bone stock the weekend before. I do try and make all my own stocks as they provide so many significant nutrients and taste so much better that the packet stuff.  This stock is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals and it helps the immune system. You can read more about bone broths here on Sarah Wilson’s blog. My recipe is a little different to the one she uses but will work perfectly for this recipe. I will do a post on broths and stocks soon.

Onions $1.29 a kilo

 

Anyway, combined with my homemade stock and onions at a very attractive $1.29 a kilo, French Onion Soup was on the menu. This particular recipe is a seriously rich soup. Perfect for a cold winters night with a big glass of a very buxom red wine. This is also lovely as an entree at a winter dinner party but only a small bowl per guest as it is very rich.

French Onion Soup

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

About 5 large onions thinly sliced ( I used my food processor which made this super quick and easy to put together)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp plain flour

8 cups homemade beef stock (you can use pre prepared but you won’t get the same depth of flavour or nutrients)

2 cups dry red wine

salt and pepper

sourdough bread, cuts into cubes and toasted

2 good handfuls of grated cheddar

crushed thyme to serve

In a large pot, heat butter and oil over a medium heat. Add onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until onions are soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Increase heat and add sugar and salt, sauté, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until onions are softened and a deep, rich brown. About 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, Gradually whisk in the stock, then add the rest of the stock and the wine. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Preheat the grill and lay the sourdough cubes out on a tray. Sprinkle the cheese over them and pop back under the griller until cheese has melted and the cubes are warm. Place a handful on each bowl of soup and serve sprinkled with some crushed thyme.

Bum Humming Soup

Now in case you were wondering about the title of this post…..take heed….the fructose in raw onions can cause a little bum humming but before you take this off your dinner party menu, the sugars/fructose will be partially broken down and reduce this effect. Some people are more sensitive to this than others 🙂

 

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Why is it that when I ask Poppy what she would like for breakfast, she says ice cream?! I really do try so hard to make healthy food for her but I suppose at the end of the day, its not healthy if they don’t eat it!

I had made what I am going to call my super awesome, super easy discovery of the year!!!

This recipe has been doing the rounds of the vegan food blogs and I had been dying to try it. Seriously one ingredient, one minute and you can have ice cream that looks like this!

One Minute Banana Ice Cream

I had a bunch of bananas this week that were starting to look a little sad. You know that point they get to when you know if you put one in a lunchbox, everything is going to smell like banana?

So I peeled them all (about 6 of them) and popped them in the freezer. The next day I took them out and chopped them into 1 inch pieces. Then, I just threw them in the food processor. At first they looked just all chopped up, and then they looked just kind of mashed. But then something magic happened. Something to do with the fat in the banana causes the banana mix to go this lovely pale yellow colour and develop the smoothest ice cream consistancy.

I was starting to feel like Jamie Oliver in 30 Minute Meals! Throw it in here, press this and a 3 course meal on the table!!!!! Ha, not quite but nearly!!!

Poppy and I ate some of this straight away. Yum! We loved it!

It is very bananarry (yes thats a made up word) so if your kids don’t like it that strong you could throw some yogurt into the mix also, choc chips or cinnamon would be yummy too (have we all heard about the amazing health benefits of cinnamon? see here to read more)

This does freeze well but like most homemade ice creams does go really hard upon freezing so let stand out of the freezer for 10 minutes before scooping. And yes, when Poppy asked for ice cream for breakfast the next morning, I was only too happy to give her this one minute banana ice cream and strawberries. I managed healthy and happy all before 8am. And thats a win win, I say!

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I love cookbooks, I mean, I really love them. I have lots, but its just never enough.  I heard an interview with Nigella Lawson recently and she was saying she has over 4000. Well, I am not sure I could manage to even fit 4000 in my house but its certainly a nice idea!

This book, I bought a few years ago, and whilst is not in my aspirational, drool over category, it certainly has stood the test of time and is in my use regularly, practical and kid friendly category. I have just noticed it has gone into reprint, so others must agree.

This book is written by the daughter and granddaughter of the Grand Dame of Australian cooking Margaret Fulton. In the introduction her daughter Suzanne recalls her youth “We didn’t have alot, but you would never have guessed it from the food that we had at our table”……..and later, when talking about her family today; “We eat simply, the way I always have , and every meal is special. We cook together, set the table, share a bottle of wine and relax as we talk over the days activities, not unlike generations of our family have always done”

The book is a gorgeous insight into the way this family live complete with a pizza recipe contribution by Kates most adorable fiancee. (He does give credit to the woman who taught him this one, Kate’s grandmother; Margaret Fulton, Lucky him to learn from the best!!)

I think particularly when we become parents we start to question what we do, the way we live, and what our children will take out from their childhood. One of the things I have always wanted for Poppy was to have a childhood filled with an appreciation of the most delicious fresh produce, wonderful baking aromas and an understanding of how important food is not just as a sustenance, not just as a fuel but as a healthy, wonderful joy that has the ability to bring people together and nurture the soul.

Some years ago now whilst I was on maternity leave with Poppy and living three hours north of Perth, I loved having the time to pickle crayfish, make tomato chutney from the abundance of tomatoes in season that my neighbours would give me and to make masses of fig jam from the absolute glut of fresh figs that the 90 year old man from down the road would bring me in his white fishing bucket from his tree.

I would borrow books by Maggie Beer from the local library, copying her recipes into my tattered notebook because I couldn’t afford to actually buy the book. I would furiously make preserved lemons and every sort of jam with the local produce available. Most of this produce was excess, donated by a neighbour not wanting it to go to waste and I found that food cooked this way with shared produce connected people. It may have been destined to rot on the ground as it fell from a tree, but this donated fruit would be returned as a jam as a thank you, and in this process created the relationships that form communities.

In our modern life, we have become too busy, life too complex and too many take away meals have been eaten. I know my  soul craves the simplicity of a meal created with shared produce. I truly miss the simple pleasure of collecting eggs from my chickens or the satisfaction of giving scraps to the chooks, knowing that nothing in the house is left to waste.  Now, that I am in the process of changing my life and repurposing my business, I know that my connection and passion for food, slow and real food,  must play a pivotal role. It must be central to grounding my existence.

Books like The Thrifty Kitchen remind us of the power that food has. The power in its simplicity and freshness, of ingredients combined and shared, the unprocessed kind, that brings people together, the power that can bind communities and most importantly creates the memories that are the foundation of families everywhere.

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I have been listening to some lectures by Jack Canfield this week and he tells the story of how he came up with the name “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Jack is a big believer in meditation and had been meditating for three days asking what he believes is the infinite intelligence, source energy or God if you prefer, to help him with a title for his book. He says on the third day he saw a hand come out with the words chicken soup and he thought, “What on earth does that have to do with my book?!”

This voice inside his head said to him, “Well when you were little and you were sick, your Grandmother would always make you chicken soup” He said, “But this is not a book about sick people!” And then he realised;  peoples spirits were sick. The Gulf war had just ended, there had been a recession and people were uncertain. He mulled over “Chicken Soup for the Spirit” and finally rested on what we all now know as “Chicken Soup for the Soul” He says when that title came into his head, he had a shiver up his spine.

My daughter has been quite sick in the past few months and a good friend invited us over for dinner this week and she mentioned that she would make her “Bow Tie Soup” which would make Poppy feel better and it got me thinking. So many cultures around the world have their own version of a chicken soup that is not only nourishing but healing.

Now I was curious, is there any scientific evidence to support this? Or is this an old wives tale?

According to an article in the New York Times, chicken soup may be more effective at treating coughs than over the counter cough medicines. Given the lack of hard science to show that there is any benefit to using cough medicine, this is probably not a hard feat! There was, however a study completed in 2000, by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha who using blood samples from volunteers,  showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. This was interesting for me particularly because currently Poppy’s neutrophil levels are so low she is unable to fight off even the slightest infection.

There is something more to chicken soup and I think Jack Canfield has it in one. We give medicine to our children when they are sick, we give them cuddles, we tuck them up in bed and pick up their snotty tissues but often we are left feeling helpless, like we could somehow do more.

For me, it makes me feel better to cook Poppy nutritious and nurturing food. I am a fan of pureeing lots of veges and slipping them into meatballs, pasta and anything else I can sneak past her observant little tastebuds. For the Jewish, a child’s Bubbe, may make a Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, if you are in Italy, your Nonna would make you a Pastina en Brodo di Pollo, or Pastina in a Chicken Broth. If you are in Asia, a dose of Tom Yum or Tom Ka Gai would knock your illness on its head. It is fascinating that across so many cultures, variations on the same dish have evolved and are given for treatment of the same condition. 

Is this science or is this soul? A warm homemade chicken broth is simple, nutritious and it feeds our soul. Our child feels warmed and cared for. As a parent we feel like we have taken the extra step and nourished our child but the soup has another power. In the act of making, giving and feeding our child, our own soul is nurtured. It helps us to feel like we have done our best. We are helping to make them better away from the powerless feeling we so often have when dealing with doctors and pharmaceuticals. So last night I made up a big batch in the slow cooker and have about 4 litres of it waiting to be frozen and then used in various dishes.

Today it was a simple Chicken Soup with Poached Eggs from one of my favourite books “Cooking with Italian Grandmothers’ by Jessica Theroux , you can buy it here

Chicken Soup with Poached Eggs – adapted from Jesssica Theroux’s Cooking with Italian Grandmothers

First make your stock. I like things to be easy, so I do this in the slow cooker. I do however make the effort to buy a whole organic chicken for making a soup or stock. I think if its going to be for healing, then I want as much goodness as I can, but I know I will get a few good meals from this one.

I remove the breasts and thighs and put these aside for another meal and place the carcass and the wings in the slow cooker. I chop up 2 carrots and two sticks of celery roughly and pop these in too. 1/2 a lemon goes in. Apparently the acid from the lemon pulls the minerals from the chicken bones into the soup.

I set this on a low heat on the slow cooker overnight. I then strained it through a strainer and cooled and froze what I didn’t need for lunch today.

To make the soup for about 4-6 people…..

6 cups Chicken Broth lightly salted

3 cloves whole garlic peeled

4-6 eggs

2 tablespoons parsley or majoram (I used parsley simply because I have it growing outside)

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Bring the chicken broth to the boil and add the garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Season to taste and remove the whole garlic cloves from the broth. Crack the eggs into small  bowls and while the broth is at a low simmer, add one egg at a time to the pot. (I must admit, I am not the perfect egg poacher and you can see from my picture, my eggs never end up in a perfect ball, its lucky it doesn’t affect the taste 😉 )

Once all the eggs have been added , place the lid on slightly ajar, be sure the flame is low, otherwise the broth could boil over, disrupting the eggs. If you prefer runny yolks (I do, it was delis having all that yolk burst open into the soup), cook for 3 minutes total. (I actually found I needed a little less than this).

To serve, spoon an egg into each bowl and ladle the broth over. Garnish with freshly chopped herbs, salt and black pepper. There are a number of additives to this dish that are delicious, olive oil, grated cheese and a scattering of sizzling bread crumbs are just a few examples.

This soup was delicious. Just perfect to warm up a winters day.

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So, this week was bad, like really bad. I had gone overseas for a conference and whilst I was away my daughter was admitted to hospital with severe pneumonia. A day after I returned she then had a really bad allergic reaction to the antibiotics she was on which was pretty scary all round, then as if anything else couldn’t go wrong. I ballsed up…….well and truly, like I  made the biggest stuff up at work ever! You know when you have that worst nightmare, the thing that you never want to do? Well I did it, its a horror story that I can’t even talk about yet!

So by 6am this morning, I was wide awake and seriously in need of some serious comfort cooking. Since I haven’t restocked the fridge since I got back and Poppy was still asleep, my options were limited. As I surveyed the cupboard, my eyes came to rest on Tipo “00”  flour…….my body breathed a sigh of relief, one of my favourite cuisines……….Italian. Like any good stressed out Italian, I turned to pasta making.

Well maybe not like all good Italians actually………as a side note…….when I discovered that my daughter was in the emergency department last week, I was in a hotel room in San Jose at 2am with my lovely Italian boyfriend whom I was travelling to the conference with. I was frantic, I couldn’t get hold of my mother whom was looking after my daughter and was calling everywhere I could think of. Finally as a last resort I called the local hospital. Truly when the phone answers “Emergency Department, Westmead Hospital” The last thing you want to hear when you ask if your daughter is there is the word “Yes”. My response was of course “Oh my God, she’s in emergency!” not knowing at that stage why or any details. The boyfriend is fumbling around over near the television in the hotel room and looks up at me upon hearing those words and says “Do you know how to use the percolator?”

Oh dear, well I suppose between my stress relief cooking and his emergency percolating we should be able to get through most crisis situations!

So take 400g of Tipo “00” flour, 4 large eggs and pop them into a food processor. I don’t have one of these so I just put into the kitchen aid with the dough hook until it started to come together. Then take it out and give it a bit of a knead till it is a bit smoother.

I then cut it into four pieces and cover the three I am not using with cling film.

Then flatten the piece out and start putting it through the pasta machine starting on the widest setting. You can do this with a rolling pin but you can pick up a pasta machine really cheaply, I think mine was maybe $20 at Victorias basement and it really is worth the investment. You can then make your own silken, luxurious pasta for a few dollars, and served with a few choice ingredients you have a seriously budget dish, that will impress anyone at the finest dinner party.

I fold the pasta over a few times before putting through again on the widest setting until I am happy that it is nice and smooth before then running through until I am happy with the thickness, for my machine I go down to #2 but they are all different.

I think folded the sheets of pasta over and then cut into long strips. I do like my strips quite wide when I am needing a little comfort. Somehow they seem that much more generous and indulgent.

I have put half of the pasta, well dusted with flour into a plastic container in the freezer for later and there is a lovely big mound of it drying on the bench, that I will just pop into some salted boiling water tonight. I am thinking perhaps…..well based on the current limitations of ingredients in my house and some serious shopping limitations with a still sick child…….perhaps a creamy broccoli, parmesan, garlic and pine nut sauce………yum…..its a pity its only 9.23 am…….

 

 

 

 

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