Happy New Year!! I hope you are getting to have some time off – or at very least a slower start to the year. Not me! I am busily working behind the scenes to relaunch this blog in February. This means you won’t see much new here in January. But by mid-February you can expect a whole new site! And I mean BRAND SPANKING NEW! What I am working on is much more navigable, so you won’t have to hunt for recipes! It will look gorgeous and offer you a lot more value! I am so excited to show it to you! You can see sneak peeks of how things are going on Facebook and Instagram BUT make sure you subscribe to be the first to get information about the podcast, courses, ebooks and new site delivered to your inbox!
At this time of year, you tend to get reflective. I’ve been staring at my bookshelf in a vain attempt to get some school holiday cooking mojo back. I have plenty of cookbook (of course) even after culling some to save space, but I’ve been thinking about which ones are the most useful cook books I own.
The book that…got me through
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzog got me through 2016. We have pizza night every Friday. Preparing the master recipe early in the morning and coming home to a perfect no-knead, home-made dough was a sanity (not to mention money and time) saver. Not a new book, but a good one to hang on to!
The book that…inspired me most
Neighbourhood by Hetty McKinnon will be in high rotation for years to come. So many great salads and dressings and ways to make vegetables delicious. It is up there with my all time favourite cook book Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday for usefulness and inspo.
The book that…made me think differently
Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio is not a new book but it is one that I have wanted since seeing their photographs featuring what a families around the world eat in a week bouncing the internet a few years ago. I got my own copy this year. It is as rich and deep as I had hoped and I will read it again over the summer.
What about you? What have been your most useful cook books in 2016?
I love running. I love the space it gives and the release of endorphins at the end. I love being able to push myself towards a time goal. I happily use running apps (mostly Strava) as part of this process because even in its most basic form it rewards me with little bits of encouragement each time I go out:
“Go you! That was the fastest you’ve run 500 metres!” or “Yay – a personal best on that stretch of the run”
The statistics cheer at me each time I go running. I let the app track me because it gives me this information and encouragement in return. I’ve never used a purpose-built activity tracker outside of this because I can’t help feeling it is a little creepy to be constantly monitored. However, a few weeks ago I was given a Garmin Vivofit3 Activity Tracker to try. I was not prepared for the positive impact this little piece of tech has had on how I go about my day.
Initially, I put it on my wrist to observe how I went with it. I don’t normally wear a watch – I kind of stopped wearing one 11 years when my first kid came along – but after a week I feel naked without it. I’m also kind of bemused at the way watches went out of style, cos man they are handy!
But then funniest thing happened. Strapping this little white band to my arm was like pitting me against the machine. Almost immediately this little band tacitly challenged me to move by reflecting in black-and-white (literally) exactly what my patterns of activity had been. Just having it on my arm made me want to get see that number of steps go up.
I found that over the course of the week, this activity tracker coerced me each day to meet the goal that it set. It pushed me out of the car and onto the footpath for those routine trips like school drop off and pickup. It encouraged me onto my bike for longer trips within my community. It made me want to run further as a way to bump up my steps. I even danced a few times just to push the number up! This tracker motivated me to use active transport in a way that nothing else has.
WHAT IS ACTIVE TRANSPORT?
Active transport is a bit of a buzzword when it comes to planning and health. Basically it means walking, cycling, running or any other kind of transport where the individual’s activity propels them from one place to another. Good planning bodies that have the public’s interest at heart like to talk about design that gets people out cars and onto “public and active transport” as a way to keep the population healthy and lower the carbon emissions from light vehicles.
My little Vivofit3 has propelled me out the door four days this week to walk the kids to school. It more or less forced me to run home for each of those trips to save time and burn more calories! It dared me to walk to the library twice and cycle to do some groceries. Not everyone has the opportunity to incorporate such exercise into their day – and better planning that understands the relationship between design and human and environmental health is crucial to develop environments where these opportunities are accessible to all. But this kind of close proximity to our daily activities is part of why we decided to live closer to the city and this activity tracker has reminded me to get out there and enjoy it!
I wrote more about the features of this gadget in my review here.
I recently bought a few things from my affiliate partner Biome Eco Stores. I love supporting them because they have such a great range of products that help make daily life more environmentally friendly.
Their website is full of thoughtful information about the sustainability of what they sell. Although they are based in Brisbane, the products have always arrived to me in Sydney within a few days.
My recent buys included a few things that will help avoid single-use plastics: Some stainless steel straws so we don’t have to use disposable ones, some beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap and some reusable produce bags. I also bought some stainless steel cups to go with our family size insulated drink bottle because I am tired of wasting my life scrambling to find all five drink bottles as our family barrels out the door.
I put a few of my purchases on Instagram using the #biomelove hashtag and managed to win myself a $100 voucher. So now I get the pleasure of hunting through the store and working out exactly what to spend my money on. But I don’t really know where to start. I’d love your advice – if you had $100 to spend at Biome Eco Stores, what would you buy?
I’ll tell you straight up that I would love to get a Planetbox lunchbox. I think they are a fantastic product. Given the track record in our family, it feels like a good way to spend this free money! But do I get one for me or for my son who starts school next year?
But then my oldest daughter has been stealing my Keep Cup recently so I could get her one of her own in a funky colour. In fact, I was thinking of buying some of these gorgeous glass Keep Cups as presents for Christmas so maybe I could buy a whole bunch and get my Christmas shopping done with this voucher.
Of course, I could be really practical and buy stuff that I go though a lot of. For instance I need some more deodorant and this Black Chicken Remedies one has been working really well for me.
How would you spend a voucher like this? Check through the Biome website and tell me in the comments what you would buy if you could spend $100 at Biome Eco Stores.
NB: I have an affiliate relationship with these guys – so if you do decide to buy anything through their site I will get a teensy commission which helps me to keep going with the green-aspiration for your kitchen. However, you can also get a chance to win your own $100 voucher from Biome Eco Stores, by posting your purchases on social media using the hashtag #biomelove. Tag @beyondthetrolley too! – I’d love to see them 🙂
This idea originated with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but is a great way to teach kids about a kitchen basic. You can use this super-simple technique to use up cream that is close it going off or just make it for the sheer joy of seeing the process happen in front of your eyes!
Super-simple Home Made Butter
300ml Pouring Cream that is close to use-by date – at room temperature
1 large glass jar (approx. 1 litre capacity) with screw on lid
What to do:
- Pour cream into jar
- Screw on the lid tightly. Now shake the jar up and down and round and round. Shake vigorously. The cream should be bouncing off every surface of the jar.
- Keep shaking.
- Listen to what’s going on in the jar. At first you hear the cream sloshing, then it’s silent. That’s when you know you’ve got whipped cream – you could stop here and serve this with scones!
- Keep shaking – do a little jig while you do!
- When the butter forms the sound will hear a sloshing around and you will feel a big lump being shaken around in the jar. You now have butter and buttermilk. You can use the buttermilk in other cooking.
- Careful lift the lump of butter out of jar and put it in on a square of cheesecloth. Add some salt to the butter. Lift the corners of the cheesecloth and twist them up so you are squeezing out as much buttermilk as you can from the butter.
- Refrigerate until required.
- If you want this butter to keep longer without going sour, rinse all of the buttermilk out of the butterfat with water before squeezing out all the liquid with the cheesecloth.
- You can add garlic and herbs to the butter while it is soft.
This recipe for sautéed five coloured silverbeet is one of the most popular dishes in my Green up my Kitchen Workshops. I am always surprised that people love it so much. Not because I don’t think this is a delicious vegetable, but simply because it is so easy! A little butter and garlic make it more acceptable to dedicated carnivores than traditional spinach. The five-coloured version makes it easy to rebrand as a “rainbow” dish for kids who need that kind of encouragement.
This is also an easy vegetable to grow. If you have five coloured silverbeet (also called Rainbow Chard) in the garden, you always have a healthy ‘fast-food’ option at hand. This recipe is great by itself, but with the addition of poached or soft boiled eggs it is sublime.
Sautéed Five Coloured Silverbeet with Feta
1 large bunch of Five Colour Silverbeet
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon butter
A glug of Olive Oil
1 nutmeg seed
Crumbled feta to serve
- Cut off Silverbeet stems and chop finely
- Chop leaves (horizontally) into ribbons about 5 cm thick
- Peel onion, cut in half, then cut into slivers
- Chop garlic clove finely
- In the frying pan, melt half the butter with a glug of olive oil over a medium heat.
- Gently cook onion until fragrant and soft.
- Add garlic and cook for a little longer.
- Add silverbeet leaves and push around in pan until wilted.
- When soft add remaining butter and grate a little nutmeg over the top.
- Serve with feta crumbled over the top.
Make this Recipe go Further
- Omit the second addition of butter, and serve poached eggs over the top for a healthy breakfast.
- Or beat together 6 eggs and pour over the top. Bake until cooked through and you have a frittata. Again omit the second round of butter.
Pepperonata is an Italian dish made with capsicums. I use a Moroccan spice mix and black beans (a staple in Latin American cooking) for a hearty, “international” dish. The Ras el Hanout spice gives the dish great flavour – but if you can’t find it, use 1 Teaspoon of smoked paprika and one of ground cumin instead. This dish looks so beautiful when all the capsicums are different colours – but it is fine to use only one colour. It is a great way to use up capsicums that have lost their crispness. You can also swap in cannellini or kidney beans if you can’t find black beans.
“Pepperonata” with Black Beans and Ras el Hanout
4 large capsicums in all different colours
2 onions OR 2 leeks
2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon of Ras-el-hanout
800g tinned tomatoes or passata
2 tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
Parsley to serve
- Slice capsicums into strips as thin as you can make them
- Peel onion, cut in half, then cut into silvers OR thinly slice leeks
- Chop garlic
- In the frying pan, heat a few glugs of olive oil over a medium heat.
- Gently cook onion until fragrant and soft.
- Add garlic and Spice cook until fragrant.
- Add capsicums and cook until soft
- Add tomato, stir-through and cook for around ten minutes. (Add a splash or two of water if the mixture is too dry and keeps burning on the bottom
- Add black beans and keep cooking until heated through.
- Serve with parsley leaves sprinkled over top
- This is a good way to use up capsicums that have gone a bit soft and no longer seem appealing. It eeks every last bit of value, taste and nutrition out of them.
- Use dried black beans to reduce packaging and make the meal cheaper.
- Subscribe to Beyond the Trolley for a free e-booklet of 52 Tips Tricks and Swaps for a healthier, more sustainable kitchen
Let me just say that I don’t know whether or not this is an authentic African recipe. The friend who passed on this African Chickpea Dip recipe to me definitely wasn’t African, but she did love simple, quick and healthy food. This recipe is a quick and easy alternative to hummus that you can easily bash out (literally) if you want something special on bread or crackers. It is always a hit at workshops.
‘African’ Chickpea Dip
1 small clove of garlic
Chilli flakes – optional
1 lemon or lime
1 can chickpeas
Cumin to taste
- Crush garlic in mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and chilli flakes (if using).
- Chop coriander and set aside.
- Juice and zest lemon or lime.
- Add juice, zest, chickpeas and cumin to mortar and pestle and mash lightly.
- Add chopped coriander and a few glugs of oil to hold it together.
Perfect to share with friends! Enjoy 🙂
This salad is very simple. Use the stems from the herbs as well as the leaves – just chop everything finely. Strawberries are used instead of tomatoes to add colour and sweetness.
1/2 cup cracked wheat/burghul wheat or wholemeal cous cous
1/2 cup boiling water
1 bunch mint
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch chives
1 punnet strawberries (or use a punnet of cherry tomatoes if they are cheaper)
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive oil
What to do:
- Put wheat in a food prep bowl, and add the boiling water. Cover with reusable lid and leave for 20 mins while preparing the rest of the dish.
- Finely chop all herbs. You might want to remove the leaves of the mint before chopping them but all other stems just need to be chopped finely.
- Hull and dice the strawberries
- Add oil, lemon juice and whole garlic clove to jar. Shake to combine.
- Put herbs, strawberries, wheat and dressing into serving bowl and stir to combine.
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That’s what it all comes down to, right? We just want to get cheapest food in the easiest way. Doesn’t matter how or where the food is produced. Doesn’t matter how much waste or packaging is involved. Doesn’t matter who is screwed over. As long as it is easy for shoppers to throw cheap things into their trolleys and buy, buy, buy there is no problem. Right?
No. Just no.
This way of shopping and eating is killing us through diabetes, obesity and probably a few kinds of cancer. It is harming the only planet we have through epic amounts of food waste (even though there are plenty of hungry people that need feeding), CO2 emissions and mountains of plastic trash. It is also profoundly unfair for growers and eaters alike.
The good news is that even though this is a big problem there are small steps we can takes in our own homes that help fix it. In fact, you don’t even need to leave the kitchen!
The trick is to change your habits into ones that create positive change and foster a sustainable system. The craziest thing is that these new, sustainable habits will save you money. That’s right – you’ll end up paying less and you’ll be creating a better food futures every time you shop.
Learn to Cook
Despite what some popular TV shows might say, learning to cook isn’t about impressing people. It’s not about becoming a chef or hosting the fanciest dinner parties. Home cooking is about being able to transform ingredients into meals. Learning to cook means learning the basic skills to see the potential in raw ingredients. It means learning simple combinations and techniques that can be applied in many ways to many different items that make many different nourishing meals. This knowledge is powerful, because it gives you the control over what you eat. It gives you choice. It’s a power that big supermarkets and corporations don’t want you to have because they want you to be dependant on the fat-, salt-, sugar-filled products they sell. Get to the point where some braising some vegetables is more appealing and takes less mental effort than a frozen pizza and you are on the right track.
Learn to love vegetables
LOVE them. Not just tolerate them. LOVE them. It takes effort if you palate is accustomed to processed food. It can also take effort if you are dedicated to eating meat as the main part of every meal. We all need to eat less meat, but for most carnivores I know that’s only going to work if the vegetable are delicious and appealing alternatives. So practice eating them often.
Get out of the supermarket
Supermarkets are have their appeal to some, but they simply aren’t the cheapest way to get real food. Buy Dry goods from a co op or bulk retailer. Buy fresh produce from a coop or farmers market. Use an online retailer like Aussie Farmers Direct or OOOOBY. Go to pick your own farms. Use local small businesses. There are plenty of other strategies that allow you to take back control and provide you with better, fresher, cheaper food.
Grow something yourself
Doesn’t matter what it is, just grow something. Herbs in pots are a good place to start. It’s not that hard to get going, but you can join a community garden to learn the basics. Growing food can save you money. It can help you avoid food waste and excess packaging. It also gives you empathy for the people who grow your food as part of their livelihood.
Write to local council and your federal and state member about food issues. Tell them that you want real solutions to help address problems like food waste or supermarket dominance of every aspect of food in Australia. Tell them you want healthy and sustainable options available every where for everyone. When you see something plainly wrong in a supermarket or food retailer (like chocolate bars in the Fruit and Vegetable section, or banana bread sold as an alternative to bananas) take a photo and share with the message that this is not good enough. Band together with others and you will make a difference for the future.
Please send me my free ebooklet with 52 Tips Tricks and swaps for a more healthy and sustainable kitchen.