My Green Journey so far…the next bit…

I must have made more progress than I thought as I need to flow over into a new post…my previous post talked about the results of reducing caffeine and dairy from my diet…

Smoothing out the rough edges

DSCF9624I usually drink 2-3 smoothies a day now, almost certainly two, and three perhaps if it has been a long day…I’m learning what makes a good smoothie and how to keep it affordable. Part of affordability is keeping on top of what fruit and veges are in season and steering away from more expensive out of season items. Coconut water is less bland than the plain rainwater that comes out of our taps but @$5/litre kinda pricey so it’ll become an occassional. Rather than using storebought juice (if it is really juice!), I’m going back to making my own from whatever fruit and veges are cheap…it’s only a week or so before the ‘Kune Eclair shop re-opens with its cheapest bags of carrots and parsnips, heralding a mega juicing and freezing effort…

kune ecalir shop

Being clever with meat

I’d already been reducing my meat intake over the last couple of years, a step partially driven by simple economics: it doesn’t take too much in the way of smarts to be able to stretch half a kg of mince from 1-2 meals to 4-5 without feeling that something’s missing…

Lighten up

I used to rely heavily on potato in my old diet, mainly mashed or fried, i.e. chips but now that all feels just way too heavy…Living rurally, I tend to buy a lot in bulk and so this year I have slowly consuming those stocks down to zero and either not replacing them or substituting a healthier alternative.

A lot of the time now, rice is the new spud and the Irish in me is comfortable with that. The chips, potato, fried, chunky that used to be a staple of my diet are now an occasional treat, usually with fish…

DSCF9922

It does mean, however, that I will need to experiment with some new roles for the air fryer beyond healthy(er) means of making chips…

Turn to the dark side

As much as possible I am moving away from processed food and ingredients, getting as close to the raw material as possible…I’m not sure whether “if it’s white, it’s bad” is a solid rule (maybe just not as good), but white food like bread, sugar, flour, salt has generally been uber-processed….is the white just what’s left after all the good stuff is taken out?

For the most part, a healthier alternative is easily sourced and at not much additional cost, if any…

Yes, I do still mainly buy white flour, but offset this by adding bran flakes when I’m baking…summa-summa for baking bread;

Raw sugar instead of white sugar (+ banana is often a good sub-in),

Sea salt instead of common kitchen salt,

Brown or black rice instead of white rice: if you use white rice, rinse it first: all the sediment that comes off after the first rinse may be a good argument in favour of darker rices…

Spice up your life

A little spice goes a long way…spices and herbs make for tasty meals without the need for sugar to taste…it is now so easy to use spices and herbs to spice up what might otherwise be quite mundane…adding a chunk of ginger totally vitalised my juices last winter…and jalapeño in bread adds a whole new dimension of flavour…

DSCF0072

 

 

Butter…? From Apples..? Really..?

For the last couple of weeks, I have been having apple butter on my breakfast toast…

It all started when I collected up a bag of windfall unripe apples…before following what had been my standard previous practice and just dumping them in the compost, I did a quick Google for any recipe that might use unripe apple.I found many references to apple butter, which I had never heard of but which my American taste testers assured me was a ‘good thing’.

FB_IMG_1461142341400

Primary processing…peeling and dicing in front of TV…

It wasn’t hard to make: the greater challenge was finding a recipe that wasn’t laden with sugar; after a lot of research, I settled for this one from Allrecipes although I did replace the brown sugar with a banana and accidentally maxed out the cloves: looking into the box there didn’t appear to be much left so I just upended it into the pan – to find that there had been at least a tablespoon concealed in a  fold in the internal bag…Too late and I’ve always been keen on cloves so there was nothing for it except to see how it came out…

DSCF0015-001

All spiced up in the slow cooker…just apples, spices and a banana…

I left the skins and cores as there seemed to be some agreement that, in unripe apples, there is more goodness trapped there…apart from one lady online who was very concerned about the cyanide content of the pips!!

I left the mix to slow cook overnight and by breakfast it was like this:

DSCF0016-001

Looks icky, smells awesome…

Some of the recipes I had researched had used a food mill to separate the apple from skin, pips etc…another Google session provided education on the what, why and how of a food mill and I was able to score one off Trademe for $40, Tupperware no less!

DSCF0017-001

It didn’t come with any instructions and even with the assistance of Youtube, it took me a while to master the ‘milling’ process…once done though, I had a thick slurry of pureed apple which was bottled (probably around 600 mls total) as distributed to my taste testing team – none have died so far so I think we can put the apple pip cyanide theory safely to bed….

DSCF0132.jpg

First slice from a new loaf is always eaten fresh…

The apple and cloves flavour combination is pretty strong and I only apply a thin layer to my toast but I know that at least one of the taste team team cakes it on, thick as…

Simple, spicy, and using apples that would otherwise have been composted…

Variations on a theme of C

A while back Sofia posted a great story on Schubert, who I didn’t know that much about apart from think (wrongly) that he was Charlie Brown’s friend with the piano, as a backdrop to her ‘Four Cs’ recipe…the four Cs being cumin, coriander, chili and curry…and over four nights I experimented with variations on this theme…

What you need

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon coriander seeds (I had hoped to use my own coriander seeds in the recipe but they didn’t look quite ready when I looked at them and now the storms of the last week or so have pretty much done for my corianders til next season)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

salt

black pepper

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Your choice of meat chunks e.g. chicken, lamb, beef, fish…

1 cup of basmati rice

What you do

Wash the rice and put it on to cook in either a rice cooker, or pot on the range.

DSCF8274

Warm the sesame oil in a wok – I tried a frying pan but it was too flat: the wok guides everything into the centre – and add all the spices.

DSCF8272

On my first crack at the four Cs, I forgot the garlic…only remembering when I saw it on the window sill as I was serving up…

DSCF8263Once the spices are blended together and the fragrance is wafting out of the wok, add the meat and mix it in so that the spices are all over it.

Place a lid on the wok and let the mix simmer – you don’t want it to dry out so add a little water if it does – stirring it occasionally. 

In a perfect world, the spices and meat will be cooked just as the rice is ready.

DSCF8290

A ring of rice

Ring the rice on a plate and serve the spices and meat in the middle. there should be enough of the spice mix to serve as a sauce over the top.

So that was variation #1 – forgot to take a pic of the final product…very tasty but I forgot the garlic…

Variation #2

As I had defrosted a three-pack of chicken breast from the freezer for Variation #1, I was pretty much committed to chicken for the next three nights…we all know that refreezing and reheating raw chicken just creates a lethal WMD, don’t we?

With Variation #2, I still had some rice left over from Variation #1, so rather than do the lazy and unadventurous option of simply reheating it in the microwave, I added it to the spices about five minutes after the chicken. I remembered to add the garlic to the spices too!

DSCF8266 DSCF8264Having the spices mixed through the rice as it was cooking/reheating really added to the flavour and I much prefer Variation #2 to Variation #1 with the rice on its own. Having the rice on its own, I think, works a lot better as a bland offset to a strongly-flavoured centrepiece (just hold that thought for a minute…)…

Variation #3

In Variation #3, I got all the spices right, added the chicken chunks, and then added half a cup of the basmati. In other dishes, when I cook the rice with the main dish, I use the old standby of a can of chopped tomatoes to provide the moisture for the basmati to do its rice thing…I was a little over that but had a can of coconut milk approaching its best-by date that I cracked and added to the mix.

DSCF8267 I didn’t realise quite how much I had made until I had plated it up…really, even for me after a hard day’s working, there was enough for two meals…from an economy point-of-view, not bad for one chicken breast and a half cup of rice…DSCF8271

Variation #4

I have had a pack of smoked salmon chunks in the fridge freezer for a while and they stare at me each time I open it to get something…I decided that their time had come and defrosted them on the fourth afternoon of this journey.

DSCF8275

Because of their strong natural flavour, I decided (you can release that thought from Variation #2 now) to cook the rice separately as an offset to that strong flavour. I prepared and started the four Cs spices in the usual manner and added the salmon. 

Placing the lid on the wok and stirring the mix occasionally, I waited for the rice to cook. When it was ready, I ringed it on a plate and served the salmon and spices up into the middle. Certainly this was the best presented of this experiment and certainly has the best combination of flavours…

DSCF8278

So there you have it: four variations on Sofia’s four Cs…cumin, coriander, chili and curry…Of the four, my preference overall goes to Variation #3 with the coconut milk, with the salmon of Variation #4 running a close second…

There was some rice left in the cooker after Variation #4, so I made a quick rice pudding for dessert but forgot to take a picture…twas yummy though…