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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Blog!

Hello everyone, this is just a quick update to let you know I'm now blogging over at The Natural Foodie. Please head on over and follow me there.

Thanks for your support!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Raw sprouted chickpea hummus

I'm a sucker for a good dip. I like everything about them, the creamy texture, the versatility and the endless possibility of flavours. As much as I like to experiment, I can't go past the good old classic hummus. The Egyptians were really onto something when they created 'Hummus Kasa'; the earliest documented recipe for something similar to modern hummus (although without garlic, and with additional spices and nuts), dating back to the 13th Century (CE) (info courtesy of Wikipedia).

Not only is hummus a tasty dip, I also like to use it as an alternative where other people might use sour cream, or as a spread for bread in lieu of butter or mayonnaise. Not only does it taste great, but it's a healthy option too.   

Sadly, most hummus found in supermarkets today is far less healthy than the traditional, homemade version; popular across the Middle East. In order to extend shelf life, manufacturers add preservatives and artificial flavours, or chemicals, to replicate and enhance certain tastes. So rather than consume these dips with their imitation, unnatural flavours – I prefer to make mine at home. And why wouldn’t you when it’s so easy?

I’ve added a spin to the traditional recipe to make it in fact, even healthier! My version is raw and uses sprouted chickpeas.

Western society is gradually starting to discover the benefits of raw foods, and the importance of soaking and sprouting legumes for easier digestion and promoting an alkaline state in the human body. Disease cannot survive in an alkaline environment, so it's beneficial for us to consume alkaline foods. When seeds and legumes are sprouted, they are considered living, alkaline and pre-digested foods; the enzymes are activated and these become more available for the human body to absorb.

There’s loads of information on the internet about sprouting, but here’s a quick run down of how I get the best sprouts from my legumes:

  1. Soak the legumes in plenty of water for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. 
  2. Put the sprouts in a cheesecloth sack (I like to use a jam strainer bag and stand). Over the next 24 hours, rinse thoroughly every 3 - 4 hours. The sprouts will start to appear like tails. 
  3. Stop rinsing when they get to about 5mm long and store in a lidded glass jar in the fridge. I find my sprouts continue growing a bit when first refrigerated.

Raw sprouted hummus 
1 cup sprouted chickpeas
Juice from half a lemon
1.5 tablespoons of organic unhulled tahini
1/2 cup lemon infused extra virgin olive oil (or regular extra virgin olive oil)
1 garlic clove, crushed (or 1 teaspoon of organic minced garlic)
Good pinch of Murray River salt flakes

Extra oil and sprinkle of paprika to serve

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and add extra seasoning if needed. Serve with an extra splash of oil and a sprinkle of paprika.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to eat well while camping

My family and some family friends have a 'Labour Day' long weekend tradition that has stretched (for some of us) for more than 20 years. In South Australia, Labour Day previously fell in May but a few years back this was moved to the first weekend in October. So I have just enjoyed a three day mini break at Mambray Creek, in the Southern foothills of the Flinders Ranges.

Having done the camping thing for quite some time now, my family is pretty well accustomed to the planning, shopping, packing, unpacking and organising that goes into a camping trip. My parents have a camper trailer stocked to the brim with  useful accessories like foldable tables, portable sinks, storage containers full of pots, pans, camp ovens, crockery and cutlery and a pretty nifty gas cooktop. Really, all JD and I need to bring is a change of underwear and our swags. Too easy.

In previous years I didn't have such a concern for my health as I do now, so I was always happy with tinned and packaged supplies, and even Army rations when my brother was a soldier. This sort of stuff is generally easier to transport and to prepare over a small gas hot plate or a campfire. But this year, I was committed to taking the healthier route as opposed to what would be 'easy', and thankfully mum is always happy to support my life choices and was all aboard the 'no processed/packaged food' bandwagon.

With a little bit of planning and preparation it can in fact be just as easy to prepare healthy, home made meals for camping. You just need to keep a few things in mind:

1. Get organisedA couple of weeks out from the trip, get together with everyone you'll be catering for, or with, and map out what your meals will be. Keeping in mind what cooking facilities you'll have available, and how much room these provide. It's a good idea to keep meals simple. Once you know what you'll be eating, think about whether these will be cooked from scratch at the campsite, or will they be prepared at home and just heated up over the campfire?

2. Write listsWrite a list of all the groceries, utensils, recyclable storage containers and cooking appliances you'll need. Separate the groceries into the stuff you're going to prepare at home and the stuff you'll prepare while camping. Buy what you need for preparing at home at least a week in advance and save the fresh stuff for the last minute (perhaps the morning of the day before you leave so you have time to pack it all up).

3. Get cooking
Make as much as you can at home in advance and freeze it to keep fresh. It will generally have time to defrost in an esky on the way to the campsite. 

4. Pack smart
If you can pack in the order that things will be used, it will make things easier for you. If not, try to pack foods in portion sizes so you only need to empty out one container to heat up, as required. Pack your fresh groceries in a cooler box or Engel (portable) fridge, storing in a cool place so the produce stays fresher for longer.

5. Keep leftovers
If you don't eat everything you thought you would, pack it back away in a container and store in the cooler box. You never know when someone may want a snack or to use an ingredient for something else. Think coleslaw for baked potatoes, which could be used as a filling for a sandwich or roll. If you've got the space, take your leftovers home or share them with your fellow campers.

Here's a list of some of the stuff we took camping this October long weekend. I'll be adding recipes over the next couple of weeks for some of the below, so keep an eye out!

Baked potatoes with all the trimmings
Slow cooked 'baked beans'
Pancakes with stewed fruit
Garden salad
Spaghetti or baked bean toasted sandwiches
Carrot and celery sticks
Sprouted hummus
Easy one bowl guacamole
Raw apricot/coconut and fig/cacao bliss balls.

I'd love to know what you like to eat/cook when camping?

Slow cooked baked beans for camping

Baked beans are a perfect camping food. They are filling, versatile, tasty and easy to reheat, whether you only have access to a campfire, or are a little more modern with a gas cook top.

However, when I say “baked beans” I don’t mean the kind that come in a tin. I’d prefer to save myself the preservatives and chemicals that make up the most part of those 'imitation' foods, and cook real baked beans, from scratch. There’s little that needs to be done if you’ve got a slow cooker, just be sure to plan ahead so you can soak your beans and allow them to cook a day or so before you want to eat them. These beans also freeze really well so you can be super organised and make them up to a week or more in advance. This is what I did for our trip to Mambray Creek this year.

Slow cooked baked beans
Makes - a lot!
2 cups dry faba beans, soaked overnight
1 cup dry cannellini beans, soaked overnight
1 small tin organic tomato paste (170grams)
1 large onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
3cm piece of ginger root, finely sliced
1 tablespoon dry basil
1 tablespoon dry parley
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons of organic molasses
4 tomatoes roughly chopped
500ml water

Salt and pepper to taste

Drain the beans and rinse thoroughly. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and boil the beans for 20 minutes, or until they are soft but still tender and holding their shape. Drain and add the beans to a slow cooker or a large crock pot.

In a saucepan sweat the onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add the spices and stir through. Remove from heat and add the onion mix and the remaining ingredients to the beans. Stir until well combined.

Cover with a lid and cook in a slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours, or in a crock pot in a preheated oven at 160 centigrade, for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour (you may need to add more water if the water evaporates too much).

Taste and season with salt and pepper, to your liking.

We served these beans with breakfast, lunch and dinner. On toast with poached eggs, in a sandwich grill/toaster in the fire coals and on baked potatoes!

Monday, September 24, 2012

A gathering in kind and reinventing an old favourite

When you start to do most of your weekly shopping at the local Farmers Market, you get to know the stallholders pretty well. It doesn’t take long before a quick sales exchange becomes a friendly chat, and before you know it you’ve gotten so engrossed in catching up that you realise you’ve been standing at the same stall for half an hour!

This scenario occurs all too easily when so many like-minded people cross paths each week. So it came as no surprise that Cherie from Scullery Made Tea saw it fitting to organise a gathering outside of the Farmers Market setting, where we could continue our chatting without being interrupted by those pesky transactions going on around us.

Cherie and her husband Damien welcomed a group of us to their home this past Saturday, in a “Gathering of Kindness”. An open space where we could talk about all the things we’re reading about, learning about, watching and discussing through our own journeys and self-discovery. A place we could openly discuss the health benefits of kombucha, the healing power of coconut oil, adding in the good things and feeding our souls; not just with food (although food had a strong presence as well), but with powerful, grateful thoughts. And energy; so much good energy. To say it was just a simple lunch between friends would be a gross understatement. I am so grateful to have been welcomed into this world and to have had the opportunity to meet so many beautiful and like-minded people. I can't wait to meet with them all again.

Some of the delicious food making up our kind lunch

View from the verandah - love the lavender

Lunch for Mr Windsor

A curious cow and a happy horse

Powerful books I need to get my hands on
So, in keeping with the kindness theme, I cooked this apricot daal for dinner Sunday night. Inspired by a favourite dish from my childhood (and no doubt many other children's of the 80s) – apricot chicken, the kind way - sans chicken.

Apricot daal
Serves 2 - 4
2 cups dried mung bean daal
1 cup dried apricots
1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
½ white onion, diced
750mls vegetable stock
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks

Soak the daal in filtered water for four hours. Drain and rinse.

Cover the dried apricots with enough water so that all apricots are just immersed. Allow to simmer over low heat on the stove for about 10 minutes, or until completely soft.

Saute the onion in coconut oil until translucent. Drain the apricots and add to the onions. Stir for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stick and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and using a stick blender, blitz the apricots in the stock until smooth (it should resemble a thick soup). Return to the heat, add the potatoes, carrots and dhal and simmer with the lid off for approximately 30 minutes, or until the dhal is tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.

Serve with gratitude, steamed rice and your favourite greens.