21 September 2012

Time to make ... non-dairy milk

I'm a follower of the Down-To-Earth blog, where this week Rhonda shows us how to make Oat Milk

I'm not sure what is being done during processing to cow's milk these days, but both my youngest children and all my grand-children are dairy intolerant, so this will be worth a try.

The price of other non-dairy alternatives is very steep.  Soya milk (ready-made) is almost R20 a liter.  Dried milk powders like rice-milk and soya-milk are almost R40 per 500g bag which makes 5 liters at R8.   Two cups of oats will cost around R3, so there's a big saving.

If you do try it, let us know how it went? 

18 September 2012

Beans... wonderful beans!

Dried Pinto Beans or Speckled Sugar Beans (as we call them in SA)
I can rave about beans for ages, and have been cooking with them for the past 20 years!  Besides protein, they also provide fibre, which is badly lacking in today's processed foods.  Recently 2 people asked me for easy recipes to start cooking beans with, so before I waste anymore time, here is one of our family favourites.  My variations and tips are below.

250g dried black eye beans (or peas as they're sometimes called)
1 large onion
3 sticks celery
3 carrots
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
50g butter
1 can chopped tomatoes (or 3 fresh ones)
1 tbsp tomato puree (or 1 sachet)
2 - 3 tbsp wine (or dash of wine vinegar)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley

Soak beans overnight in cold water with double the amount of water. 

Drain and rinse beans.  Place in large pot, cover with water and simmer gently for about 40 minutes until tender.  Drain in colander and keep aside.  If you have a pressure cooker, cook for only 15 minutes.

Peel and chop onion, slice celery thinly, scrape & dice carrots.  Remove seeds from pepper and slice thinly, crush garlic.  Melt butter in a medium sized pot, and add all the prepared vegetables.  Fry gently without browning for about 10 minutes.  Then add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree and wine.  Season with salt & pepper and allow to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and/or grated cheese with brown rice and green salad.  Mmmm....delicious!

  1. One of the problems when cooking with dried beans is that we forget to soak them, so they're not ready when we want to use them.  To avoid this I always soak the whole bag of dried beans immediately when I get home from the shops.  If you have the beans soaking in a prominent spot in your kitchen, you're less likely to forget about them. 
  2. Next day I cook the whole lot with 2 bay leaves for flavour (DON'T ADD SALT as it toughens them), and when cooled, divide it up into 2 or 3 small ziplok bags and freeze (labelled of course), so that they're ready to go.
  3. If you're planning to include beans in your diet often, I REALLY recommend buying a pressure cooker!  It cuts the bean cooking time by at least one-third!
  4. I always add a tablespoon of (Ina Paarmans) vegetable stock powder to my vegetarian foods.
  5. I also always add a teaspoon of sugar when using bought tomato paste or canned tomatoes.
  6. I use cayenne pepper instead of black as it's healthier.
  7. I also cook brown rice in bulk so that I can grab a bag from the freezer and defrost in time for supper.
That's it.  I hope you try it because if you do, you'll love the taste of this recipe.  Let me know how yours turned out? 

15 September 2012

A Christmas Diary

I recently read about this great idea on another blog... her grandma used to write in it every Christmas, and update it with all the happenings of the family during the past year. 
She kept it up for many years and it became a favourite family tradition to read about the past each Christmas-time.  Now, as an adult, she keeps the diary going with stories of her own family.

How quickly the children grow up ... and equally, how quickly we forget all those funny, cute, adorable, crazy, silly things they do!  And all the events that take place in one year ... how will we remember them in years to come?  Years ago I used to keep track of my family in our photo album, which allowed a small space to add a caption to each picture.  Sadly, with the event of the digital camera, that tradition died.  My children still love to page through the old albums though, and reminisce with glee.

My dormant creative gene has been stirred from its hibernation...!  I'm already thinking of ways to combine a Thanksgiving Diary with a Scrapbook of selected digital photos. 

I hope this idea has stirred your imagination too!

02 September 2012

Slow Living August

Why do we call it slow living?  My life is so busy that time is going by too fast!  I can't believe August is gone, but I'm very happy to say good-bye to winter!  It's been such a long and cold one.  Anyway, here's what we've been up to during August.

After reading 1000 days in Tuscany by  Marlena de Blasi,  I simply had to make Tuscany flatbread with olives, rock salt and rosemary.  What a hit that was, 2 flatbreads were devoured straight out of the oven.  I'll try to include the recipe here once I've figured out how to add it to a separate page! 

Lemon cordial for the coming summer months, is what we've been making.  Sadly, my last bottle of lemon curd went off in the cupboard.  Lesson learnt... lemon curd must be refridgerated or frozen!  With butter being such a terrible price, I doubt I'll make any more this season.  I intend to make more marmalade before the oranges become pricey.

Not much extra done this month besides the usual.

My first batch of homemade soap made with olive oil is still busy curing and feels a little soft to the touch even after 6 weeks.  I guess it has something to do with the cold, damp weather we've had.  (I'm hoping so!)

With the cold weather we've had (did I mention that before? ;-) our community garden has not been producing much besides lettuces, spinach, rocket, coriander.  However, seedlings are starting to appear and we can look forward to the summer harvest once again. 

Started beanie for Matt (son no.3) with a skein of beautiful charcoal, 100% wool from Denmark and hope to finish it within the week (yes I know I missed his birthday deadline, but I was waiting for the wool to arrive ;-)

Busy researching Permaculture methods for the community garden.  We were approached by a local NGO (non profit), who wanted to show us how to do it the permaculture way.  Only problem was, they wanted to take over the entire garden and scrap everything we had going already.  It was a pity to turn the offer down, but we have invested too much to let it all go.  That led me to investigating further how to implement their methods.   Found a great blog that has helped to show the way.  I'll be writing up our progress on the community garden blog.

I think I mentioned previously that hubby and I are on the committee of a Scouts group.  The group is on the verge of collapse due to lack of boys and I have spent much time creating flyers, advertisements and planning social events.  Hubby and I were asked to become members of the board of Soil For Life and have accepted, hoping that we can be a benefit to this wonderful organisation that invests so much into local communities.  Attended a volunteers orientation day at our local SPCA with Sarah (daughter no.2) who wants to volunteer there, and was surprised to find out they have a horse unit as well as a farmyard and a wild life section (for snakes & baboons!).  I was so impressed that I wanted to volunteer too!  No, I didn't but I really want to... maybe someday.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few really enjoyable events during August (besides a few bad ones, see below).  Sarah turned 16, Aunty Annie turned 105 (yes, it's true!), Matt turned 27 and Ruth (daughter no.1) turned 29.   Our dear friends asked us to house-sit for them over a long-weekend, and although their house is only a few kilometers from ours, the change was as good as a holiday.  Unfortunately, we discovered that our own house had been burgled while we were away.  Nothing too serious, they didn't manage to get into the main house, but broke into an out-building where we have yet to find out what they took, besides breaking a window!  Sadly, the koi and goldfish were stolen from our fishpond over the same weekend.   Strange, but true!
We attended a shakespeare play by a small homeschool group and had the good news that David (son no. 4) has been accepted at Oude Molen Academy of Science & Technology next year for grade 9.  This is a BIG step for us, as we have homeschooled up till now, but realised that he needs more than we are able to give him in technical education.

Well, that was some of our month.  How was yours?

26 August 2012

Slow Living

I recently came across Christine's blog over at Slow Living Essentials.  She has challenged herself (and anyone wanting to join her) to be accountable to selected slow living principles and to blog about her progress every month.  I like the idea (and the challenge) so I'm going to try too.  Her categories are: Nourish, Prepare, Reduce, Green, Grow, Create, Discover, Enhance, Enjoy.  Perhaps mine will be slightly different, but it's a good place to start.

Here's my progress for the month of July:

Being Winter, I've been making soup from scratch every week.  Most times the soup has some form of meat in it, but one of our favourite vegetarian soups is Lentil & Vegetable soup.  I made sour-dough rye bread for a few weeks and continue to bake whole-wheat bread every week.

Citrus fruits are all in season now, so Sarah  (daughter no.2) has been helping me make lemon cordial, marmalade and lemon curd.  We stocked up on all the dry pulses at Fargo Trading, i.e. beans, lentils a few weeks ago, and we are still eating from that (we eat vegetarian 4x a week).  The Bean Book by Rose Eliot is still my No.1 vegetarian cookbook for over 20 years!  Every recipe in that book has been a winner in our house.

Plastic bottles are my focus at the moment.  I 'wash & squash' them and collect them in a large drum which is emptied and taken to be recycled.  We have recycling collectors come around on Garbage Day, who rummage through the garbage bins before the truck arrives.  I gave a large sack of said 'squashed bottles' to one, who was very pleased with my contribution, as it saved him a lot of rummaging :-)

Still using home-made laundry liquid and tried finding an alternative to bleach to whiten the whites.  A cup of lemon juice in the machine works well if you can then hang your washing in the sun to dry.  Since my washing lines are under a roof that didn't work.  A peroxide solution didn't work for me either.  Back to the drawing board on this one.

Our Community Garden has continued to produce throughout the winter months, but everything is terribly slow.  Leeks planted in April, are still not ready to pull.  Peas are only just starting to produce.  We are still regularly eating lettuce, spring onions, rocket, spinach and radishes.   In the last week of July we had a few warm Spring-like days, and I sowed one of the seed beds with summer crops.  Since then we've had chilling winter rains and thunderstorms and I'm hoping I wasn't too optimistic.

I love to crochet (as it's so quick and you can see results fast!) and was thrilled to have finally finished Ruth's (daughter no.1) scarf and beret and even managed to post it to her in time for her birthday this month.  (Thrilled because I started the scarf  LAST winter, and then Spring arrived ... and the garden needed me :-)

A friend lent me a pair of circular needles (large and fat ones) and without a pattern, I attempted to knit a round beanie, or should I call it a beanie-in-the-round?  I'm sure there's a more elegant name for this type of knitting, but it's the first time I've ever tried it.  The beanie turned out well.  Now I want to try socks...

The Community Garden has been our on-going project for 3 years.  We spend a few hours every day either working in the food garden or supervising the maintenance of the whole project.  Currently hubby and I are training 2 local people to manage the garden.

Joshua (grandson no.1) turned 13 and we celebrated the day by playing indoor golf at the Waterfront, followed by a walk in the wonderful Green Point park.

Wow, that wasn't so difficult afterall.  Actually quite fun!  I hope you'll join me?

13 August 2012

Winter... a season for colds and flu!

What's the first thing you do when you feel a cold coming on?  Please share your secrets with us?  I usually head for vitamin C and whatever immune booster I can lay my hands on.

Prevention is better than cure, and is usually cheaper too!  So what can we do to prevent a cold from attacking in the first place?

When my children were small, I gave them a daily dose of Cod Liver Oil & Malt from Autumn until Springtime.  It seemed to provide a good protection against chest complaints.  You can get Cod Liver Oil in capsule form.  I would also take a viral immune booster daily.  Nowadays, there's you can get effective throat sprays for the type of cold that attacks there first.

Minimize DAIRY intake.  This culprit is the cause of too much mucus.  Switch to soya or rice milk.

EAT YOUR SALADS!  I know, when it's cold you don't feel like eating cold foods, but if you make it a family habit to start the meal with a small plate/bowl of raw salad before you serve the main dish, they'll eat it, believe me!

Drink enough water.  Again, most of us don't.  Think about it like this.  Just as your car needs oil to lubricate all it's parts and keep them in smooth running order, so your body needs water to do the same inside you!  By adding the juice of half a lemon, orange or grapefruit, you're getting the best combination of vitamin C and water.  As mentioned before, if you can't handle cold water in your mouth, add a little hot water to temper it.

Exercise!  Whether it's walking, biking, gym, pilates or whatever you prefer, don't stop doing it during winter-time! 

And if all your efforts fail?  Then hit the bed and get as much sleep and rest as you can.  Yes you can take a few days off from work until you recover!  Your health is more important!

29 July 2012

Winter ... a time for hot drinks

What's your favourite hot drink?  I love tea, but just plain hot water with a slice of lemon is so refreshing too!  I find it difficult to drink my usual 2L of water a day during winter, but it's just as important to keep hydrated during winter as it is during summer.  I've found that adding a little hot water to my big glass of water seems to help it go down easier too.

Here are some suggestions for you to try:

Molasses tea: 1 tsp blackstrap molasses in a mug of hot water before bed makes me sleep better

Winter lemon tea: juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp honey a few mint leaves in a mug of hot water.

Lemon Balm tea:  add 6 fresh leaves to mug of boiling water, stand for 5 mins, strain and add honey to taste.

Colds/Flu tea: grate a piece of ginger (skin on) and add it to a flask of boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes and strain.  Add juice of 1 lemon, 1 or 2 tablespoons honey (or more to taste), pinch of cayenne pepper and a few drops of Echinacea (if you have).  Keep hot in flask next to bed and sip throughout the day.

Maybe you'd care to share your favourites here?

22 July 2012

Hesitating to write

I keep hesitating to blog because my camera packed up while we were away in April, but I can't use that excuse for ever can I?  So much has happened, let me try to record them here.

Brothers-in-law, Pieter and Jacob both passed away after illness
Husband's brother Joseph passed away last week
Nephew Gerald got married in Denmark and we were able to be there, by God's grace!
Uncle Joe turned 90
Organised family camp for 25 in Bainskloof (what a wet and cold weekend!)

Held many meetings to discuss organisation development of Woodwind Circle project and bi-monthly meetings with Committee of project
Scouts committee meetings every other month

Arranged job-shadowing for daughter Sarah to get work experience
Toured Bo-Kaap, ancient part of city with homeschool group
Mushroom hunting in forest
Date with daughter at Casa Labia overlooking the sea (beautiful 18th century Venetian museum, ate in a ballroom!)
Date with son David at Tribeca, new clothes, one happy teenager.

At home...
Made another batch of laundry liquid and found Borax in larger quantities available at Fargo Trading (wonderful shop for pulses, spices, etc!)
Being winter here, we made Marmalade and Lemon Cordial as well as my favourite Lemon Curd!
One batch of Citrus Cleaner made and next batch brewing on windowsill now (soak orange/lemon/naartjie peels in cheap white vinegar for 2 weeks, strain into spray bottle and use to clean counters/mirrors/windows ... lovely citrus smell)
Experimented making Lavender Hair rinse using dried lavender flowers soaked in white grape vinegar for 2 weeks. Vinegar turned a pretty pink colour.  Haven't used it yet.
Made first batch of plain soap using olive & coconut oils.  Busy curing for 6 weeks, so will be ready in September.
We had the solar geyser installed at last... meaning we are now relying entirely on the sun for hot water!  With all the rainy days recently, we've had to resort to cowboy washing using gas to heat a kettle of water at a time!

It's been a busy season for us all... and yours?  I'd love to read about it in the Comments section.

Until next time,

03 January 2012

A time for ... new year's resolutions?

I know, you've given up on those!  Why? Because they don't work, you say.  Instead of making new rules for yourself, why not formulate your own mission statement and watch your goals flow out from there?

One evening before Thanksgiving, Ruth and I worked on our mission statements, using the free download from Inspired to Action.  It's a workbook that you can print out and keep as your record.  We decided it would be fun to check it again next year this time.

Looking at my goals for 2012, I notice that many of them begin with the words "complete...", meaning that I have a lot of unfinished business left over from 2011 :-)  Instead of beating myself up for not finishing them, I'm being kind and giving myself another chance to work on completing them this year.  Even if I only add another 5000 words to the book I'm writing, it will be better than not having done anything, right?

Give it a try and let me know how it went by commenting below.