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Category Archives: Env: Sustainability

Cupboard Cleanup

How much space can be saved when a system is put into place?

I have been going crazy with cluttered cupboards. My problem is that I use too many different types of pulses and herbs. My cupboards are literally bulging at the seams with half empty packets and boxes. It was time to find a better system and I went with Décore as I’ve used them for years.

Before and after decore

The major benefit for me is that I can stop purchasing legume, dried fruits and herbs by the packet in the supermarket. We have a sensational shop nearby that allows you to purchase food stuff in bulk. You just take your container into Pacific Bulk Foods and fill it up directly. Despite the cost saving, purchasing like this in bulk reduces the amount of waste packaging needed. Win-win!

 
 

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Product Review: Muffin Liners

While I was at the Sydney Good Food and Wine Festival, I picked up some Muffin Tin Liners by Bakeliners. The product boasts being the ultimate non stick surface and is reusable. Both of these selling points caught my eye. A reusable non stick muffin liner means less paper and butter usage which I have to love from an ethical stand point and we all know how much I love making muffins!

I made some sourdough choc chip muffins to try them out – purely for the research, I assure you! The liners folded into the muffin tray easily thanks to the regular slits in the liner wall. I slopped the muffin mixture around in the liners to see if it would leak, but it held together just fine. I also purposefully over filled some muffin liners and put some up the sides.

After the muffins were cooked, I pulled them out of the oven. I let some cook totally while I took some out still hot. The result was always the same; the muffin liner just fell away from the muffin soon as it was removed from the muffin tray.

Washing up was a breeze. I just took the dirty muffin liner and swished it about in hot soapy water. Once they were dry, I couldn’t even tell the difference between the used and unused liners.

Verdict

I totally loved these liners. they were simple to use and easy to clean. They store well as they take no space at all in the cupboard. I will be using them for a very long time and am quite happy with the results.

You can buy them online at the Bakeliners website. They have a sale on at the moment where you can get 20% off the price. Use the coupon code: bake20.

 

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Gourmet Garden Cook Off: Lamb Cutlets

It’s here!

Today is the day I cook off in the semi finals of the Gourmet Garden Cook Off. A full report will follow, but I thought Id share with you what I will be cooking.

 

[ Serves: 3  |  TIME: 30 MINUTES  |  COST: $10  ]
[  JoeS RATING:  4.5  / 5  |  MY RATING: 4  / 5 ]

Ingredients

6 organic lamb cutlets – cleanly Frenched
1 cup bread crumbs
2 Free Ranged Eggs
1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Chunky Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Thyme Paste
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Rosemary Paste
zest of 1 lemon
20g butter
splash of oil
salt and pepper

Method

  1. To prepare the meat, ensure that the bones are perfectly Frenched, leaving a raw exposed bone at the end. Use aluminium foil to wrap the exposed bones to keep them clean until serving.
  2. In one bowl, scramble the egg and set aside.
  3. In one bowl, add the bread crumbs, garlic, thyme, and rosemary and lemon zest. Using your finger tips, mix the ingredients to ensure even distribution.
  4. Using the aluminium covered bones for ease of handling, dip the meat into the egg wash, using a spoon if necessary to ensure the meat is evenly covered in egg wash. Drip off excess.
  5. Lay the egg covered meat into the bread crumb mixture and use a spoon to ensure that the bread crumbs evenly coat the meat. Use the back of a spoon to press the meat down into the mixture before shaking off excess.
  6. Repeat the egg wash and bread crumb stages to apply a double coat of crumbs to each cutlet.
  7. Add the butter and a splash of oil to a warmed frying pan and bring to a moderate heat. Place the cutlets into the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Remove the cutlets from the pan and allow to rest on a plate for 4 – 5 minutes before serving. Cover the meat with aluminium foil to keep it warm.
  9. Serve with seasonal vegetables and yoghurt dressing.

Observations

  • I will be serving this meal with seasoned vegetables tossed in garlic butter.
  • Diabetic Note: This meal isn’t too bad. It’s a little naughty with the bread crumbs but the vegetables have no carbs in it so it is balanced over all. Be gentle with the frying, though. Excess oil isnt always good.
  • Ethical Note: I had to decide what to cook for this meal that would take less than 30 minutes to prepare, cook and plate. I have decided to do a family favourite but put my own spin on it with the organic and free ranged choices. Hopefully my message will reach a larger audience.
  • Stay tuned, guys – I promise to post the results of the competition in about eight hours after the competition.
 

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Goat Stew

Recently I spotted some goat chops at the local health food store. Goat is a hearty flavour rich meat that lends itself beautifully to stewing. It was organic, and at the right price for me to imagine a rich hot dinner full of gorgeous gamey meat. This is my goat stew adventure.

[ Serves: 6  |  TIME: 3+ hours  |  COST: $18  ]
[  Joe’S RATING:  4  / 5  |  MY RATING: 4.5  / 5 ]

Ingredients

500 grams organic goat chops
2 potatoes, diced
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 tin chopped roma tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoons  parsley, shredded
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon basil, shredded
4 – 6 bay leaves
splash oil
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a hot sauté pan, add a little oil and saute the onion. Add the garlic, celery, carrot and herbs. Fry until tender and fragrant.
  2. Add the goat chops and fry until browned. Top stop the vegetables scorching, either remove them from the pan or place them on top of the chops.
  3. Once the chops are semi cooked, deglaze the pan with some wine. Add a tin of tomatoes, potatoes and bay leaves. Add enough stock to ensure everything is covered and braise on a low heat with the lid on for 3 or more hours. Check the pot ever 15 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid covering the ingredients. Stir frequently and top up with stock when needed.
  4. When the meat is tender and the sauce is rich and well infused with flavour, remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken.
  5. Remove the bay leaves before serving it hot on a bed of polenta, pasta or with hot crusty bread.

Observations

  • I adore meats that have been braised in a stew over a long period of time. There is nothing like the fall off the bone type hearty meat of a stew. Adjust your cooking time to suit your taste. If you require a firmer meat, shorten your cooking time, or length it for tougher cuts.
  • You could serve this with hot crusty breads, polenta, rice, pasta or just on its own! It is so versatile.
  • Notice how my vegetables haven’t fallen apart to mush even though this was cooked for almost 4 hours? Well, that is because I cooked it at a low heat. The trick here is longer cooking times over a lower temperature and careful stirring during fluid checks. A gentle, loving and patient hand will produce better results here.
  • Diabetic Note: What is not to love about this dish? It ticks all my diabetic boxes and my blood glucose levels were fine following this meal (and lunch the next day!!)
  • Ethical Note: I am almost certain that this is farmed goat, but some markets source wild goat that was culled as pest management. Where possible, I would choose the latter. It generally has a gamier flavour and is a wonderful choice for the environment. If you use wild bush meats, ensure that you cook it very well to kill off any parasite eggs and routinely worm your family ever six months.
 

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Wilted vegetables grace my plate and not the landfill.

What to do for dinner at the end of the week? Surely there isn’t anything still worth eating this close to shop day? Wrong!

This meal consisted of some wilted Asian greens (refreshed with some steaming), ageing broccoli (that brightened considerably after a quick dip in some hot salty water), zucchini fried in spring onions and garlic served on day old brown rice. And – it was delicious!

Make a commitment to reduce your waste and use all of your fresh produce rather than sending it to land fill. The earth will thank you for it.

 

 

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How to: Sprouts

I have always loved sprouts and miss it terribly when I am denied them. Recently, I discovered that anyone can grow their own healthy nutritious sprouts, and its as easy as 1, 2 3!

This gorgeous salad is made of home-grown lettuce, tomatoes and sprouts. Locally grown olives, goats milk feta compliment a low-carbon footprint meal. The carrots and beets are a mystery, but shouldnt come from too far away. All in all, a satisfying lunch!

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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My humble garden

We live in a moderately sized regional town on the northern New South Wales coast of Australia. Our town boasts being the most easterly point of the mainland (at low tide) but Byron Bay, 30 km to the north is the widely accepted most easterly mainland point. We live in a small two bedroom apartment on the first floor. Our apartment block is situated on one of the busiest highways in Australia. A bypass for our town was opened in December last year, which thankfully has had a noticeable decrease to noise and pollution. Living in a small apartment means we have no real recreational space or garden, but we do have a sensational north facing balcony. All in all, I love where we live.

You may have caught my weekly photo challenge earlier this week. It was a photo of my garden. I’ve had to adapt to the lack of space and on mothers day last year, I started my humble little garden. It consists of used second-hand polystyrene boxes commonly used for transporting broccoli. We punched holes in the bottom of the boxes to ensure that there was good drainage. In the bottom of each box, I placed a few sheets of newspaper to stop the soil falling out. We purchased some cheap’ish potting mix from a department store and the rest is history!

Aided by the Gardenate Garden Calender which tells me what to plant at what times of the year, our veggie garden has become a reality. Last year we harvested bok choy, all manner of herbs, leeks, tomatoes, salad greens, and more. I have just planted our winter crops which I water daily. The baby leeks in my banner photo are actually from my garden! I have just planted our winter crop and soon we will be feasting on leeks, tomatoes, herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano), pak choy, pumpkins, salad greens, broad (fava) beans and capsicums. As a promise of things to come, my heirloom tomatoes produced four beautiful tomatoes ahead of schedule, one of which we picked today!

Stay tuned to this space… I hope to post some photos over time of how my organic crop matures!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Env: Food Related, Env: Sustainability

 

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Byron Bay Farmers Markets

Today Joe and I had the good fortune to venture to Byron Bay Organic Farmers Markets. Usually, we visit our local farmers markets, but we had heard that the ones at Byron was something special, and as it’s a neighbouring town, it’s not too far out of our way. And let me tell you, I am so glad we did make the trip! Yes, it was a little expensive compared to our regular markets, but wow! So much goodness in one place is well worth it. This is our grocery bag. You be the judge and see if you could call the price of our haul.

We got:

  • 500 grams free ranged pork loin chops from Sunforest Farms
  • 500 grams free ranged pork collar steak from Sunforest Farms
  • 280 grams goats cheese – lemon merthyl flavoured from Nimbin Valley Dairy
  • pepper pecorino from Bangalow Cheeses
  • 300 grams tempeh with fava beans and wakame from Byron Bay Tempeh
  • 500 grams brown rice from Nimbin Valley Rice
  • 3 large squash
  • 5 baby corn
  • 300 grams cherry tomatoes
  • 500 grams shiitake mushrooms
  • 250 grams Dutch cream mushrooms
  • 4 passionfruit
  • 2 punnets of blueberries
  • 1 dragon fruit
  • 1 star fruit
  • 5 bananas
  • 5 bunches Bok choy
  • 1 kilo Kipper potatoes
  • 3 large zucchini
  • punnet lettuce seedlings (not pictured)
  • punnet broad bean seedlings (not pictured)
  • punnet bok choy seedlings (not pictured)

Pinny is a local favourite with her produce, jams and preserves. She does can be found at both Ballina (Sunday am) and Byron Bay (Thursday am) Farmers Markets.

How much do you think this would have cost us? Go on, have a guess!  (Please put your guess in the comments section – I am actually interested in what you guessed!) This little bag of goodies cost $80. When assessing the value of these goods, there are a few things to bare in mind:

  • All of these products are fresh. They haven’t been bought in bulk, shipped to a distribution centre, spent a few months in cold storage and then put into retail outlets for the consumers. They were hand-picked within the last day or so.
  • All of these items are locally made. Purchasing these items supported the local economy, and supports local enterprise.
  • All of these items are organic. The carbon footprint of these products will be dramatically lower when compared to commercially produced alternatives. Additionally, organic farming practices are much more sustainable when compared to the alternative.

For most people (us included) this is not a weekly shop. We just couldn’t afford it on a weekly basis, but once a month, for one shop, it is definitely a more sustainable (and economically possible) option. For our family, the price / ethical trade-off is an acceptable justification. Remember what I said recently about you having an incredible weapon each time you shop? The choice is ultimately yours, and  a commitment to just one more ethical shop a month or switching to one organic brand per month is a huge step. So what are you waiting for? Find your local farmers markets, and check it out. You never know… you just might be surprised!

Ballina Farmers Markets (pictured) operate on a Sunday morning, from dawn to 10am.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Env: Food Related, Env: Sustainability

 

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Sourdough Blueberry Muffins

For weeks now, I have been battling with trying to get a sourdough starter established. After two trials (and failures) I’ve finally got a stable, happy sourdough. The starter method I used can be found on the Sourdough Home – a comprehensive site dedicated to bath water sourdough. Anyway, for my first trial baking, I decided to try something that looked appealing. The original recipe can be found on the Sourdough home’s muffin page and full credit goes to Mike for it. I also hope he wont mind me meddling with his original recipe…

[  Makes: 8 – 10  |  TIME: 40 MIN  |  COST: <$5  ]
[  Joes Rating  3 / 5  |  MY RATING:  2 / 5 ]

Ingredients

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup sourdough starter
½ cup blueberries
¼ cup almond slivers
¼ cup sugar or sugar substitute
¼ cup oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
¼ teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C (425°F)
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix all the wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the moist ingredients, slowly stirring in the blueberries and nuts.
  5. Spray muffin tray with oil. Fill the muffins to the top.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

Observations

  • I have to say right up front that I am not a baker. I generally leave the baking up to my daughter Brittany. Having said that, I can’t say that this was hugely successful. The taste and texture were all a little… bread like. Notwithstanding, it is my first attempt at sourdough anything so in a sense, it’s a huge success! =)
  • This was a very thick dough like mixture rather than a smooth batter. In hindsight, perhaps 50% wholemeal and 50% white flour could have been used, and perhaps a dash of milk.
  • I cant wait to try to make other sourdough baked goods… look out for breads, muffins, bagels and pancakes coming your way soon!
  • Diabetic Note: All this flour means carbohydrates. According to the website, each muffin is about 26 grams of carbs. Adjust accordingly.
  • Ethical Note: I’ve been doing quite a bit of research recently into flour.  Did you know that most white flour use steam to remove the husk, killing a lot of the nutrients along the way? As a result, manufacturers have to include additives to lift the nutrient values back to an acceptable level. Before it reaches you, the flour is also bleached to make that bright white colour that so many of us seem attracted to. Now ask yourself, how can this be sustainable, ethical or practical? Where possible, use organic wholemeal flours. Your intestines will thank you for it.
A sourdough starter fermenting.

A sourdough starter fermenting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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So this Easter…

I just wanted to spend a few minutes to relay to you about our Easter purchases and hopefully influence any last-minute purchases today or for coming years.

Instead of buying Joes grandmother and mother the usual box of Cadbury Roses, we opted to purchase them a jar of Chocolate coated Macadamia’s from the Byron Bay Chocolate Company. The nuts are locally grown and the end product is also locally manufactured. Many towns have small hand-made chocolate businesses utilising locally sourced produce. Instead of supporting large commercial chocolate companies, opt to support small local business instead.

For quite some time now, Darrell Lea Chocolates have promoted their Save the Bilby agenda. According to the website, bilbies are a desert dwelling marsupial with large ears, light grey and tan fur and a very distinctive black and white tail. Of the six bandicoot species that once lived in the arid / semi arid areas of Australia, bilbies are the only species remaining. It has national conservation status and is currently listed as vulnerable. Purchasing this particular bilby shaped easter egg helps conservation efforts for one of Australias unique and threatened species. A gorgeous video of bilbies has just been published by the Guardian Newspaper UK.  If you must make purchases from larger chains, opt for one that has some sort of positive impact, such as the chocolate bilby.

As my regular readers are no doubt aware by now, I am fairly anti commercialism, because of its effects on the environment. The impact of Easter eggs for the environment is fairly huge. Most chocolates contain palm oil &/or sugar, and as such, lend to the clearing of wilderness for extensive palm plantations. Check your labels, and try to avoid contributing to this ecological disaster by avoiding products that are utilising palm products. Nestle, for example, are right in the middle of the palm sugar controversy. Consumer digression is advised. Remember: You wield a mighty weapon each time you visit the supermarket.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs (Photo credit: StSaling)

Another alterative is to skip the consumer based exploitations all together! Just this morning I stumbled across this wonderful post by Breanna Peterson Photography. Ry, the boy in question is allergic to eggs. His clever mum ordered in some ceramic eggs which they then died. He looks to have had an awesome time decorating the eggs. Hand blown eggs and egg decorating tips has been around for eons, and such traditions are being lost. I remember using autumn leaves, natural dyes, stocks and other fun stuff to make some awesome designs of hard-boiled eggs which we then took to school in our lunch boxes.  Why not do something special with your kids, and do some all natural dye eggs with leaf prints or flower prints. You just never know… you might also enjoy yourself!

 

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