Month: January 2013

Yoghurt and Cooking From Scratch

Yesterday I ate some of my first ever homemade yoghurt!

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I’m a big yoghurt fan. I use it in everything, sweet and savoury, sometimes as a side and sometimes as the main event. It does wonders for my gut and I love that my body can handle yoghurt even when I’ve overindulged in other forms of dairy. The thing is the whole milk natural yoghurt I prefer is kind of expensive (around $6 a tub) and I go through a lot of it. Cue my new book purchase Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

It actually hadn’t occurred to me that yoghurt was simply fermented milk and I certainly didn’t know this was something I could make at home. What a pleasant surprise! It is so easy and cheap- all you need is a litre of milk and a tablespoon of starter culture (i.e. live yoghurt). Warm the milk, add your yoghurt, leave overnight somewhere warm and bam- homemade yoghurt!

Until now I thought I was doing pretty well cooking from scratch, I certainly never buy things like bottled pasta sauce for example, but now I realise I can step things up a notch. Cooking from scratch isn’t just about avoiding packaged foods but getting back to raw ingredients. I had viewed yoghurt as an ingredient but really it is a food product made from milk, just like butter and cheese. Cheese will be my next adventure. I plan on making labneh this week with some of my yoghurt.

I love that cooking from scratch allows me to tailor our food to our family’s needs. I love knowing exactly what we’re eating. I love the simplicity of my shopping list and that a smaller list of ingredients to purchase means less companies to research and compare to ensure they meet our family values and budget. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I master a new skill, recipe, or technique. Do you cook from scratch? What do you believe ‘from scratch’ to be and what do you love about it?

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Deodorant

Deodorant is one of those products we use everyday without giving too much though to its cost or affect on our body. With our budget tightening I started cringing every time we were due for a new can of deodorant. Then I started reading about how deodorants and anti-perspirants work and I started cringing for entirely different reasons. These things didn’t sit well with me so I sought change. It was time to make our own.

There are various recipes for homemade deodorant on the internet and I read many of them so I understood how they worked and then tailored the basic ingredients to meet our needs. The ingredients and method are simple: 1/4 cup of cornflour, 1/4 cup bi-carb soda, enough coconut oil to combine and make a smooth paste, plus a few drops of any essential oils you like for fragrance. I chose tea tree oil for it’s antibacterial properties and gender neutral scent (there’s lavender oil in the photo below but I realised my husband probably wouldn’t like smelling like lavender so I left it out at the last minute. Lucky him.).

Ingredients

And there you have it- homemade deodorant! I scooped the paste into the tub leftover when I finished my body butter but any clean airtight container would do. Each morning I simply rub a dollop into my armpits after my shower. The first day I used it I was amazed. I even made my husband sniff my armpits. I made my Mum do the same the next time I saw her. This stuff works. It doesn’t stop you sweating entirely (and to be truthful after learning how anti-perspirants work this isn’t something I want) but it sure does prevent you from developing any unpleasant odour. The bonus- it does it naturally and cheaply. All of these ingredients I have in my house anyway and when you break down the cost I can make enough deodorant for a year for less than the cost of one can of the other stuff. Now that’s a saving.

mix

Green Cities

There’s an assumption or stereotype that cities are grey places- drab skyscrapers, smog, people in monochrome suits shuffling from home to work and back again- but it doesn’t have to be so. In fact in my neck of the woods things are changing and have been changing for some time. I’m not just talking about parks, though there’s plenty of those, it’s the building themselves that are changing. Green rooves are appearing on buildings all across Sydney (there are 49 to date) with one of the most renown, MCentral apartment building on Harris Street in Pyrmont, right down the road. At the other end of Harris Street the Central Park development is underway (see photo below) and it epitomises green. To quote from their website:

“Frasers was one of 13 major property owners and developers to join the City of Sydney’s Better Buildings Partnership, an unprecedented collaboration committed to delivering the City’s target of 70% reduction in carbon emissions in CBD buildings by 2030.

Other eco-friendly innovations include water recycling, solar panels and tri-generation energy plants, plus car sharing programs, pedestrian paths and cycleways to reduce traffic.”

Oh and the buildings are covered in plants, did I mention that? The Central Park development moves past mere green rooves to entirely green buildings. I don’t know what your city looks like but mine is getting greener everyday and I love it.

Central Park construction

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is deliciously healthy and oh so easy to make using lacto-fermentation. You simply slice your cabbage, salt it and if you like, add whey to kick start the process. This was my second attempt at making sauerkraut (I just didn’t feel confident about my first lot so threw it out), this time I followed the method Sarah Wilson details on her blog and had great success. Just look at that colour!

Do you ferment any vegetables? What techniques and vessels have you had the most success with?

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Drying Herbs

Whenever I visit my parents I help them with their pruning. Ok, to be honest I wander around their garden and snip a few bay leaves here and a handful of rosemary there, nothing they would miss but great for our grocery budget. I also trim the herbs we grow in our garden and out on the verge to keep them bushy and productive. Of course I have to do something with all these harvested herbs and a great way to preserve them is by drying.

To dry your herbs they must be free of dirt so give them a good wash then hang up in a warm dry spot. Make sure they are out of direct sunlight to preserve their colour and once dry take them down and store in an airtight container. I hang mine from the kitchen lights, do whatever works for you.

kitchen light

drying herbs

bay leaves

My sister recently pruned her sage plant and dropped by with an armload of the cuttings. When I had finished drying them I compared their weight with that of a typical dry herb canister from the supermarket and estimated I had saved us more than twenty dollars by taking a few minutes to wash and truss up the excess sage with string. Bargain.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Have you ever seen this plant?

YTT

It’s called Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (botanic name: Brunfelsia bonodora). The flowers last three days- the first they are bright purple, the second they fade to a softer mauve, the third to almost white. It’s a wonderful reminder of how quickly time passes and we should take pleasure in the little things, even small fading flowers.

The Japanese traditionally use cherry blossoms as a symbol to remind them life is short, and it’s beautiful. Is there a special plant in your garden that makes you stop and reflect?

Bread & Butter Cucumbers

I just sat down to a lunch of bread & butter cucumbers, cheese, crackers, and a pot of Earl Grey tea. A satisfying simple lunch made even more enjoyable by the knowledge I made the pickles myself.

Bread and butter cucumbers are delicious, easy to make, and incredibly economical if you purchase the cucumbers when they’re in season or even better, grow your own. I picked up one and half kilos at the local markets when they were super cheap. They were a little wonky looking, which accounted for the extra low price, but of course this made no difference as I was going to slice them up.

Rhonda has an excellent recipe on her Down to Earth blog here and it’s the one I used in the photos below. What’s your favourite pickle recipe? How do you utilise a glut of cucumbers?

Cucumbers

slice

salting

waiting

liquid

draining

ACV

spices

adding

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