Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Travel food

One of the biggest challenges in eating real food is when you travel! I cannot eat junk food any more - if I do I just feel sick afterwards. I can occasionally eat a pie but not too often. We usually pack food and snacks like nuts and fruit which is okay for one day, but things take a little more organising if away longer. Our preference is to stay in accommodation that has cooking facilities and we now have a car fridge to keep food cool while travelling. Eating real food takes careful planning anytime, but especially when travelling.

Every week Kim and I go to Biggenden to deliver pigs to the abattoir. This is a 12-13 hour round trip and in this heat we leave at 3am. So the night before I have to organise food for breakfast and lunch and snacks! I usually take Muesli, fruit salad and yoghurt for breakfast and then lunch (which is usually more a brunch) can be anything from leftovers, meat and salad, or eggs and bacon. This morning it was steak, potato, onion and eggs.

Having a camp stove like this makes life a lot easier!

If I'm not prepared, I'm always tempted by quick junk food, and always angry afterwards! The best option for when I'm not prepared is to go to a supermarket and get something. This is a way better idea than eating out of the hot box.

What do you do when travelling? Do you take your own or succumb?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bush to Beach and back again

We've just had a lovely couple of days at the beach for a friends 40th. It was lovely to get away and just relax and do nothing. We only had the one ocean swim - crazy but we were just too tired to make the effort!

There was a bit of seaweed on the beach so I collected that up and tomorrow I'll make a liquid manure with it, but I'll add some cow manure, comfrey, egg shells and whatever else I can think of. Maybe some aloe vera and a few weeds. I'll leave it for a few weeks and then dilute and water the garden with it. The plants will think its delicious! I also picked up a few cuttlefish for the chooks. I should've collected some sea water to put into the liquid manure as it's full of lovely sea minerals.

What was delicious was our dinner tonight! We thought we'd treat the backpackers and so we brought some prawns, oysters and calamari.  The calamari I cut into rings and marinated in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and some chilli and lime salt that is made by a lovely lady from Agnes Waters.   I then tossed it in seasoned flour and deep fried.  I served this with a vegetable rice dish - a cross between a paella and a risotto. And we just had the prawns and oysters alongside.

I picked an eggplant, a yellow zucchini, some capsicum and some chillies from the garden, but also used some veggies from the fridge. I added in some chunky bacon and some cooked it in some homemade fish stock from the freezer.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Change of focus

I started this blog several years ago because I wanted to "educate" people about ecological farming. While this is still going to be a thread throughout my posts, I really want to focus more on a homegrown, sustainable lifestyle. My main passion is food - the growing, preparing and eating it. It has to be healthy and if I can grow it even better.

Every where I look, I see fat people! I don't really mean this in an insulting way, but we as a society have become so used to being over weight that it's normal to be fat! People, it's not normal, the human body is an amazing machine and we can be fat and sick and still function quite okay. My vision is to make people realise that it's not that hard to produce some of your own food, or prepare food from raw product to a healthy balanced meal. If we ate less rubbish and just ate real food, we would become slimmer, we would be healthier and we would live a lot longer. I'm not skinny, but I'm not overweight - I eat real food, real fat and (unfortunately) I don't exercise much. We need exercise for good health, but not necessarily for weight loss. Weight loss starts when you start eating real food, made from scratch. Give up on the packaged carbs and only eat grains if you prepare them yourself. Plan your diet around meat and vegies! Think traditional food, food that our ancestors ate!

I am an extremely busy person. We run a pig farm and cattle property, market our own free range pork (retail and wholesale selling), I feed anywhere from 5 to 8 people three proper meals a day, 7 days a week! If I can find time to grow some vegies, serve up a cooked breakfast, meat and salads and home made bread for lunch and a "restaurant" quality meal every night, anyone can. Okay so you live in an apartment - well you can have a jar of sprouts on the bench (and find a community garden) Most people though have access to some ground - plant some veg alongside the shrubs, or some herbs, fruit trees, a couple of chooks!
If you don't know how to cook, hopefully I'll give you some inspiration to have a go. It's not really rocket science. I do cook some "fancier" type food, but I usually cook basic, tasty meals and as time is often limited, they are quick! I often don't come inside until 6 or later now that it's summer, and we can still be eating by 7-7.30.  This also requires planning - be prepared, and use the oven or slow cooker to make things easier.

I find time to make kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, bread (sourdough and normal yeast bread), I milk cows, make my own cheese (mostly feta) separate to make cream, make icecream, we kill our own meat and I have some fresh greens and herbs in the garden.

I will try and post at least weekly, focusing on what I'm growing or cooking or eating and if I can inspire people to have a go, that's great. Please comment and let me know what you want to learn/know about. If you want a particular recipe for something, please comment and I'll post it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fermented Food

I've written s few times about how I love my fermented foods - I love the process of making them as well as eating them! My garden was quite good over winter and I managed to grow a few cabbages. The only thing better than eating my own home grown cabbages (which I've had no success with in the past), is to make sauerkraut with them!

I use a few sources for my recipes for ferments, but I often mix it up. My inspiration comes from:
From Left to Right: Lemon and Ginger Water Kefir, Kombucha, Kimchi, Saurkraut.

Sauerkraut: I use either white cabbage or red cabbage, depending on what is available at the time. I only use salt when I do a plain cabbage one. I will sometimes add some whey if I'm mixing other vegetables in and if I need a bit more liquid.

Kimchi: I use Sally Fallons recipe for Korean Kimchi, but use whatever vegetables I can find. Usually wombok cabbage, carrot, capsicum, chilli, garlic, ginger and turmeric. I substitute some of the whey with fish sauce - 2 tablespoons whey, and two tablespoons fish sauce.

When I do sauerkraut and kimchi I cut the cabbage and vegies and leave to sit with the salt on for an hour or so. This makes it much easier to then squeeze the liquid out.

I also keep an outside cabbage leaf to place in the jar on top of my kraut and then put a (cleaned) rock on top to weigh it down.

I've been making kombucha for a couple of years now and love it. It's just a lovely midday summer drink (or any season really). I have always done a second ferment, as I really like to get some bubbles into it and like the extra flavour. My favourite flavour would be passionfruit, closely followed by pineapple. I also do apple, ginger or frozen berries. Kombucha brews for about 1 week in summer and 2 weeks in winter. After the initial brewing in the large jar, I strain it into smaller bottles and add the fruit - about 2 tablespoons of fruit or 1of ginger.

Recently I was given some kefir grains - both milk and water kefir. It took me a while to get into it, because I really didn't like the milk kefir - I make yoghurt all the time, so what do I do with this??? And the water kefir was just plain boring! The internet to the rescue.....I now second ferment both. Water kefir is so simple, especially compared to kombucha. I do about a litre at a time as I'm still growing my grains.

For the water kefir: 1/4 cup of sugar (raw is best) to a litre of water and 2 tablespoons of kefir grains. You need to warm up the water first to dissolve the sugar, but then wait for it to cool before adding the grains. Leave for 48 hours and then strain and add the juice of one lemon and about a tablespoon of chopped ginger. You then leave this for another 48 hours. Put this in the fridge and enjoy chilled! This is the only flavour I've tried so far and it's great! A yummy cross between ginger beer and lemon squash. It gets quite bubbly too.

For the milk kefir: I don't particularly like to drink this, but have discovered that if I do a second ferment with frozen mixed berries it makes a nice icecream. I strain off the kefir grains, add some berries and leave for about a day. I then blend 2 cups of this with 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup of cream and then churn in the icecream machine. I also strain the kefir after straining off the grains) through my nut milk bag and use it as kefir cheese. Keep the whey for other fermenting or add it to baking or smoothies. Kefir cheese, mixed with herbs makes a lovely dip, but you could use it in place of any cream cheese.

These ferments I do all the time - I always have these on hand to eat or drink. I also do yoghurt and fetta every week. Other foods I've fermented are:
  • Tomato sauce - I make a passata sauce and then ferment this (I think I got this from Nourished Kitchen)
  • Beetroot - baked in the oven first and then fermented in a brine (Sally Fallon)
  • Cucumbers in brine
  • Baby corn in brine
What do you guys ferment? Any questions or tips? Just leave a comment, as I'd love to know what other people do.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Food, Glorious Food!

Today I've had one of those days that I love. It wasn't intentional, but I ended up spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen!!! No markets this weekend, so that meant that I actually have time to do a few things.......

  • I milked my cows and separated - so have lots of cream, which is the first time in ages!
  • Incidently, yesterday I made yoghurt - 4.5 litres and started some feta
  • Today I bottled the feta in oil and herbs
  • I made two loaves of bread, one my usual multi grain and a sourdough loaf for lunch
  • This morning I went out to the garden for a look and after spending some time weeding, discovered that I have quite a few tomatoes on, eggplant are flowering, wombok and sugar loaf cabbages and cauliflower ready to pick. Lettuce, Rocket and bok choy are all but finished. Capsicums are still green and my seedling lettuce are looking healthy! The Warrigal Greens that self seeded are going crazy, and I missed some asparagus after the rain the other day!!
  • Picked a wombok and then later turned it into Kimchi - well, time will turn it into kimchi, I just gave it a help along - stay turned for a post about this when it's finished. I have to show a photo of my wombok because it is such a perfect specimen and I've NEVER been able to grow cabbages.

  • Finally found time to restart both my kefirs - I've been a bit slack, but it appears to be very forgiving! I will marinate some chicken tomorrow in milk kefir and some curry spices and then bake in the oven (as part of a curry dinner party night I'm planning!) I'm trying a second ferment of my water kefir - lime and ginger.
  • Bottled my kombucha - our backpackers have decided that they like this, so I'm going to have to keep it moving a bit faster. This lot I've bottled with apple, ginger and berries (not all together, individual flavours!)
  • Made some palm sugar syrup (1 cup of palm sugar, 1/3 cup of water - bring to the boil to melt and bottle with a vanilla bean) This is my more local version of maple syrup. Yes I know we don't have palm sugar made in Australia, but it's a lot closer than Canada!
  • Home made raw icecream!!! Yum!
  • And then dinner tonight was fabulous! Pork shanks baked in master stock, served with stir-fried vegies and noodles. Quite a few of my own garden veg, so that makes me even happier. (recipe will be on the recipe tab)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Late Winter in Queensland

Well, I think winter is over! We've had about a week or two of cold weather - that's up on last years few days! It's crazy really, because it can get very cold here, but lately it's just been getting warmer. Or am I learning to cope with the cold weather better? All I know is that I wish it would stay like it is now! Unfortunately, within the next month or so, summer will be back Queensland has 3 seasons of summer and a very short winter season!

I finally got my garden going at the beginning of winter, so it's lucky that it hasn't been so cold. I've got tomatoes flowering, eggplants and capsicums are growing well and my cabbages look fantastic! They are just starting to heart up, and so far not too many bugs! I was very late getting them in, but it's so hard here because we go from summer to winter almost within a week. Winter is my best growing time! It's about the only time of year I can grow lettuces, so we've been eating them out of the garden for ages, as well as spinach, silverbeet, bok choy and some other Asian greens that I can't remember the name of - they are the ones in the photo that just bolted almost as soon as planting them. No bugs during winter on them, although the kale has been decimated.

The chickens are laying finally! We've had backpackers here for months saying that they just can't understand why we have so many chickens when we get so few eggs! We've gone from about 2-3 a day to 15-17. It's great! So tonight I've been baking. Made icecream using 6 egg yolks, the whites went into a double batch of Macadamia Bread (almond bread), and 4 went into a lemon and ginger syrup cake.

We also have chickens every where! One of the problems with having so many chickens is that they tend to reproduce very easily! Which is great - we have about 6 roosters caught which we'll process one afternoon very soon. There's probably another 6 that I can't catch! I'm not really sure where they are roosting - I think it's in one of the pig paddocks.
My milkers are also reproducing! This cow was one I bought out of a dairy quite a while ago. She's not a young cow and this is the first time that she has been able to keep her own calf! It's lovely to see that the bonding is completely natural and something they just know! In a dairy the calves are taken off their mothers within the first few days. Any bull dairy breed calves they don't won't are usually put down and they only keep the heifers or beef breed calves. It's a tough world on a lot of farms!
 But life on our farm is pretty good - well, except for one bad day! These baby goats are our latest ones. We are building a very nice little herd now. These are quite adorable - I love watching the goat kids play - they play chasy like human kids! One will chase the other and then they swap around!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sourdough Bread

Recently I was fortunate to go to a sourdough workshop. A lovely local (Rockhampton,Qld) women is running sourdough workshops. I had a fabulous afternoon! I can't think of much better fun than spending an afternoon in a kitchen, talking about and eating food. It started at 1pm with a lunch of various sourdough breads and finished at 5 with a take home package of flours, starter and a bread dough to finish off at home. In the meantime we went through the entire process of making a loaf of bread.

How can you do that in 4 hours you ask? Well you start at the end and do all the bits of the process but not in the correct order. Sigrun was very well organised and had one mix ready to finish off and rise (onion bread and a fruit and nut bread), she had pizza dough ready and a ciabatta dough to make rolls.  We had the yummiest pizzas for afternoon tea and the ciabatta rolls were delicious! We mixed our own loaf using her bubbly starter and did the initial kneading. We learnt how to stretch the dough ready for the final rise. All the while listening and learning about the whole process.

I've been wanting to make sourdough for a long time and have had so many failures and started so many starters that stopped working and basically if it could go wrong it would! Let's hope this time I can keep it going and have lots of successes! Sigrun makes it sound easy and his happy to give follow up support.

If you are interested in doing one and you live near Rockhampton, get in touch with Sigrun direct.
This was the result of our afternoon (minus what we ate).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Local Vs Organic

We started our real food journey a couple of years ago, unfortunately not when our children were young. We didn't eat a lot of junk, but we did eat a bit and because we were always so busy, the kids did get a lot of packet food in their lunch boxes. But we gradually changed and now I buy very little packet food.

We were living in Rockhampton when we first started buying organic food - about 10 years ago. We have always eaten our own meat - beef and pork mostly and when I could, I had a garden. My garden was pretty lousy until we moved back to our farm at Baralaba and it has gone from being quite good at times to currently being almost non existent. This is going to have to change very soon!

I chose organic food as it is the only way to ensure that there are no chemicals. However since I've been going to the markets on a regular basis, I've started buying all my fruit and vegetables from local growers, not all of which are organic. So what's better - organic or local? I would prefer organic for the reason stated, but it's so good to be able to support local farmers who, just like us are trying to make a living. At the markets, you can talk to the actual person who grew your food - you can ask about their chemical use, their methods of farming and just find out what they generally think of health and food. Then you can make an informed decision. Just because something is organic, does not necessarily make it healthy! I've had some pretty tasteless organic food. My rule of thumb is taste and keeping quality. The sweeter something tastes and the longer it keeps, the healthier the item is. The other advantage of buying local is that it is usually picked the few days before you buy it! This probably helps with keeping quality.

I buy most of my vegetables at Yeppoon and Rockhampton markets every second week. The food lasts for the two weeks with very few losses. To me this is fresh, which equals healthy! So what can I get locally? I buy macadamia oil and nuts, all my fruit and some green vegetables. Potatoes, onions and carrots are occasionally available, but mostly I get these through the various organic outlets I use. I really love buying local produce and last week we went to the 1770 markets and I bought the most beautiful olive oil (20 litres of it to share with my sister, so I won't run out for a while!). You can get meat at Rocky and Yeppoon markets too - either our pork, or Lilly Pilly Organics stock local beef and chicken. Therefore, it is possible to buy most of what you need to eat locally if you live in Yeppoon or Rockhampton. I'm sure most larger centres have a weekly or monthly market which would sell local produce. The more we support them the bigger they will get and the more produce they will have.

So what do you think? Is local better than organic when you are thinking to buy food?

This is 20 litres decanted into old wine bottles! Recycling and local!