Month: October 2012

Sprouting

Short on space but still want to grow your greens? No matter how small your garden you can grow sprouts. In fact you don’t need a garden at all, the kitchen bench will do just fine! What are the benefits of growing your own sprouts I hear you ask? Well firstly- cost! If you buy a punnet of sprouts at the supermarket you’ll pay around $4-$5 and they will last you about a week. If you buy a packet of seeds to sprout it will cost about the small amount of money but they will last for ages, in some cases all year! Secondly, sprouts are super good for you. They’re little powerhouses of nutrients and energy. The soaking and sprouting process activates the seeds/beans and makes all the goodness available to digest. Thirdly, you don’t need a lot of space nor the right season. You can sprout all year round in the comfort of your kitchen, or anywhere you have the space to sit a jar. In some climates it’s incredibly difficult to garden in winter, consider this your mini indoor garden! Fifthly, you can harvest within a week! There’s not many other crops with such a short turn around.

Oh and did I mention they’re delicious?

What you need:

A clean jar
Cloth such as muslin or a fine net
Rubber band
Seeds to sprout (I use Alfalfa and a mix of Adzuki beans, Mung beans, Lentils, and Fenugreek. You can buy seeds specifically selected for sprouting, which are good for beginners, or you can sprout whatever you have on hand.If you want to sprout something you bought in the grocery store e.g. dried chickpeas, just check it’s from your country as imported products are often irradiated and therefore unable to be sprouted.)

The process:

Place a spoonful of seeds in your clean jar. I used a tablespoon of alfalfa and a tablespoon of the mix. They’re small now but the sprouts more than double in size so make sure your jar is large enough! Soak overnight in warm water.

The next morning drain and rinse through the cloth.  Leave in a sheltered spot in the kitchen. Warm and airy but not in direct sunlight.

Rinse and drain at least twice a day. This should take less than a minute and I just incorporate it into my daily kitchen tasks i.e. I rinse first thing in the morning while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil and in the evening when I’m tidying up after dinner.

Sit back and marvel at the sprouts doing their thing!

When you like the look of them dig in! You can keep the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note: When you’re sprouting larger things you don’t need such a fine mesh cloth. Below are chickpeas and I’m using the same jar but instead of muslin I’m using a piece of netting left over from sewing my kitchen curtains. The white screw-top is actually part of the original lid which broke, leaving just the screw thread and a perfect opening for draining. Making the best of what we’ve got can be so serendipitous!

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Library Love

When you lack disposable income you have to make the most of what the community provides. When I stopped working full-time I suddenly lacked the cash for the books and magazines I so love to read. That’s when I became reaquainted with my local library. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on! A huge range of magazines, newspapers, DVDs and CDs, new books (I had a vague notion all the books would be out of date but there were the brand spanking new titles I had lusted after in the shops!), computers, scanner, photocopier, printer, free wifi, free activities and events such as rhymetime and story time for babies and toddlers, study assistance for older children doing their homework after school, and they even make it easy to identify the books that belong in the romance section!

My local library belongs to the City of Sydney and they make it so easy to get your hands on the item you desire. You can browse the collection online at home, reserve items and if they’re at another location they will bring to your local library and send you a text message when it arrives! Wonderful! Check it out here http://library.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/opac/ or visit your local library and rediscover what it has to offer! Perhaps you already have?

Reuse Greenhouse

Gardening whilst living in the inner city is possible, you just have to get a little bit creative and make the most of your space. I was fortunate enough to receive some loofa seeds from a lovely lady, who I’ve never even met, named Sarah. I’ve wanted to grow my own loofas for a while now, it’s quite a change to grow something functional rather than aesthetic or edible (though you can eat loofas when they’re young) and loofas are just so intriguing! The seeds must be soaked for 24 hours before being planted in seed raising mix and kept in a greenhouse until the seedlings are large enough to transplant. Of course I have neither the room nor the money for a greenhouse so I made my own out of things most people have lying around the house.

You will need:
toilet rolls
strawberry punnet
scissors
seed raising mix / potting mix
seeds

This is how we do it:
First fold your toilet roll in half vertically

Then fold again

Cut the roll in half

Cut along each fold line, about halfway up, then fold each section down, overlapping the last section with the first, until you have a base like that of a cardboard box

Fill with seed raising mix, place in your punnet and plant away! The plastic punnet acts as a little greenhouse and is small enough to fit in whatever tiny sheltered corner you have available. I line mine up along the side fence.

And the best part- the toilet rolls breakdown in the garden so you don’t even have to remove your seedlings, you just bung the whole tube in the ground! Too easy!

Simply stunning salad

Often the best meals are those that are quick and simple. Using seasonal ingredients keeps the cost down and ensure freshness and flavour. Growing your own is even better. Not everyone has the room for a full sized veggie garden, especially in the city, but everyone can grow something. I’m a member of the local community garden and I also grow herbs and small veggies on the verge outside our home (more on that another time).

This is quick weekday meal comprised of salad greens grown myself or purchased cheaply from Paddy’s Markets. A good handful of each herb really makes it vibrant. Sometimes I add a can of tuna if I feel the need for some protein or if my husband is extra hungry. The salad is prettied up by edible nasturtium flowers, remember we eat with our eyes!

Ingredients:
lettuce
kale
watercress
mint
parsley
coriander
cucumber
spring onions
nasturtium flowers
pepitas (toasted)
pine nuts (toasted)

Dressing:
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper

Lettuce and kale from the community garden

Nasturtium flowers and watercress from the verge

 

Enjoy!

Gratitude

A big part of downshifting is refusing to keep up with the Joneses. It’s making do and being content with what you have. Sounds simple but this can be a real struggle for some people, others find it a relief and quickly adjust to this way of thinking and living. For those who have trouble, or find themselves focusing on what they don’t have rather than what they do, may I suggest a gratitude diary. You’ve probably already heard of them- you keep a little diary and every day list five things for which you are thankful. It’s an easy and effective way to keep you focused on the important things and it soon becomes evident that those important things aren’t the expensive shoes or nights out but rather the perfect cup of tea in the sunshine, the trill of your baby’s laugh, the bike ride along the foreshore, or the feeling of satisfaction after mastering a new skill. I keep my gratitude diary on my phone (yes there’s an app for that!) and enter my five things last thing at night as I lay in bed. This ensures my last thoughts of the day are positive ones and allows me to sleep well.

Wonderful washing

It still amazes me when I find out people dry 100% of their washing in a dryer rather than on a line. Why pay for a machine to do something that mother nature will do for free? A good dose of sunshine has the added benefit of sanitising and removing stains too. As we use cloth nappies I wash a load every second day and I love to see those clean fresh nappies pegged out on the line. Our backyard is typical of one in the inner city (read tiny!) but even the tiniest of spaces can accommodate a retracting clothesline. I tend to hang the washing on one side so the rest of the courtyard is still available for recreation and other activities. On a warm sunny day the nappies are dry before midday and the whole laundry business is completed with very little time or effort. And washing dried in the sun smells wonderful!

Nappy liners and boosters

Nappies

Nappy covers

Christmas preparations

Yes, you read correctly! It may only be October but it’s the perfect time to start thinking about Christmas, or more specifically Christmas Cake. This year I am partaking in the Down To Earth Forums bake-a-long. We’re baking from the Bourke Street Bakery recipe book, which I was lucky enough to purchase the other day with a gift card from my lovely mother-in-law. The recipe require you to soak the dried fruit in a brandy and sugar syrup for approximately a month before baking. In the first week you must stir the mixture daily, then once a week until it is time to bake.

I love the ritual of lifting the lid and slowly turning over the glistening fruit. The little squares of peel appear like citrine jewels and I imagine how much we shall enjoy our Christmas!

 

What are your plans for Christmas? Have you already started preparations?