A Lasting Legacy

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When we consider what constitutes a legacy, recipes handed down through the generations may feature.  However, it is not often that the recipe for a salad eaten in a restaurant would be remembered in these terms.

The salad we ate at Antique Taco in Chicago last year was no ordinary salad.  Fortunately, there is a reasonably detailed description on the menu.

I have made my version of this salad several times and it is an absolute favourite.

The kale we have growing has reached a suitable size so it was an obvious choice for dinner last night.

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ANTIQUE TACO SALAD

Finely chopped kale (remove and discard the thick central stem)
Finely chopped onion
Diced capsicum (bell pepper)
Spiced peanuts
Dried cranberries

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Combine the ingredients and then make the dressing.

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DRESSING

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon lime juice

Mix thoroughly and season with a little salt and pepper.

Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to thoroughly coat the kale.

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This was our dinner – soft corn tortillas filled with refried beans, spicy pan-fried capsicum and onion strips and grated cheese.  Served with kale salad, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes.

I am trying to incorporate something we have grown into each of our meals and last night it was cherry tomatoes and kale.

Food as Fuel

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Sometimes I think food is over-rated.  Thanks to shows like Masterchef and others in the same vein, we have been conned into thinking that every meal needs to be a creation and cooking is a competition.

Cooking for your family is actually providing fuel for their bodies to perform the necessary tasks – nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than creating a special meal for family and friends.  However, we need to look past the hype of cooking shows and concentrate on what is important – nutritious food to re-fuel.

Tonight I want to show you what I am making for dinner.  It is not overly fancy but I know we will enjoy a wholesome meal made with basic ingredients.

Beef Casserole with Sweet Potato Mash, Broccoli and Balsamic-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I made the casserole a couple of weeks ago in the slow-cooker and divided it into 2 containers.  One container is 2 serves.  This has been defrosting since I took it out of the freezer this morning.  The sweet potato is already cooked and mashed from Sunday evening when I made a double quantity.

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I will serve this with steamed broccoli and the cherry tomatoes.

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I made the casserole using gravy beef (3 pieces), 1 onion (diced), 400g frozen cherry tomatoes (you can use a can of crushed tomatoes) and 1/4 cup homemade Worcestershire sauce.  Place all ingredients in the slow cooker on High for about 6 hours or until the meat is tender and breaks apart easily with a fork.  Add 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour or arrowroot blended in 1/4 cup of water to thicken the mixture.  This can been done in the last hour of cooking or transfer the casserole to a saucepan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  If you are going to freeze the casserole you may prefer to thicken it when you are ready to use it.

The sweet potato is mashed with some butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg for extra flavour.

To roast the cherry tomatoes place about 2 teaspoons of oil and an equal amount of balsamic syrup in a small pan with the tomatoes and place in an oven at 180C for 10 minutes.  If you do not have the oven on, you can do it equally as well under the griller for about 5 – 8 minutes on ‘High’.

The sweet potato and cherry tomatoes are both from our garden.

Here is the meal served and ready to eat.

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What is on your dinner plate tonight?

Stocking Up

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I have spent today in the kitchen but most of it was not preparing meals.  It was about making and bottling jam and sauce.

There were 6kg of cherry tomatoes squirreled away in the freezer ready to make sauce and today was the day.

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The recipe for the sauce is here.

Next up was the 10kg bag of onions I bought yesterday.  I set 2kg aside for a friend and then sliced and diced another 7kg and have packed and frozen them.  I decided to turn the last kilogram into onion jam and the taste test indicates that it has been successful.  The recipe I used had carraway seeds in it so I bought some this morning when were shopping.  I have never bought carraway seeds before but if it looks as though I will be making onion jam in the future I will definitely get some more.

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Finally, I made some plum jam which is GMan’s favourite.  It turned out better than the batch I overcooked last year which was closer to toffee than jam!

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The recipe is very simple.

1.5 kg plums
1.25kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water

Place in saucepan, boil until setting point is reached.  The stones can be removed with a slotted spoon during cooking.

Tip:  Count the plums before you start so that you know how many stones you are trying to remove.

I also made another batch of spreadable butter.  Here is the recipe.

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The only problem with cooking all day is that I did not get the ironing done!  However, we do have ironed clothes to wear to work tomorrow.

 

 

Tomato Trial

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I apologise for the break in posts but my computer access has been somewhat curtailed due to some repairs to the main computer.  It is all resolved, thanks to the local computer shop, and we are back in business.

Today I want to share my latest success in preserving our bumper harvest of cherry tomatoes.

After removing the stalks and rinsing the tomatoes, I blitzed them in the blender.

My dehydrator has solid sheets for making fruit leathers so I poured the resulting puree onto the sheets.

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Here is the same tray after drying for about 8 hours.

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I removed the dried tomato and broke it up.

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It was quite leathery and pliable so still had some moisture.  I returned the pieces to the dehydrator and dried them some more.

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Finally, I ground the dried pieces in the blender and this is the result.

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From a couple of kilos of cherry tomatoes I have 1 jar of powdered tomato concentrate.  This can be blended with water to make tomato paste which I can use on pizzas or added directly to casseroles or soups.  I am sure there will be a hundred and one uses for it and the great part is that I have a single jar which stores easily in the door of the refrigerator.

Trailing Tomatoes

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I have written before about the cherry tomatoes which grow in various parts of our garden.

We seem to have literally hundreds which keep coming up in the garden in front of the verandah.  I pull the majority of them out so that they do not smother the hibiscus which we are trying to get established.  However, a few plants have got themselves very well established, including this one which has grown about 2 metres up the wire fencing to the verandah and then continued to spill over the floor directly outside our front door.

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I finally got around to tying it up the other day so at least we can walk along the verandah unimpeded.

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I am looking forward to being able to pick tomatoes from right outside the door!

Holiday Hangover

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It is now 10 weeks since we arrived back from our overseas holiday and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to get properly back into the swing of blogging.  With less than 4 weeks until Christmas, I suspect that it is going to be next year before I get things really back on track.

Apart from trying to get things done at home, I am finding that I am particularly busy at work.  I constantly feel as though I am trying to catch my tail as there has been quite a backlog from while I was away.  I have almost got that under control and now am trying to fit in a couple of additional projects which I will be working on next year.

Yesterday we attended our Christmas drinks celebration with all of our neighbours.  The road we live in is about 3km in length with only about 26 houses scattered along its length.  Some of the residents are permanent and others homes are weekenders so we see some of our neighbours very infrequently.  The annual get-together is a fun evening and everyone brings theirs drinks and a plate of food to share.  I took a bowl of Pumpkin & Feta Balls and some homemade tomato sauce for dipping.  The recipe I used is here.  I adapted it slightly as I used standard feta, chilli powder (1 teaspoon) and 1 teaspoon of powdered coriander.  I rolled them into small balls rather than as fritters.

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Today I picked 2 large bowls of cherry tomatoes.  These grown wild in our garden – sometimes in rather inconvenient places.  Here are some of them.  I remove the stalks, discard any with blemishes, rinse them and then freeze them whole in recycled bread bags.  I now have about 6 kgs in the freezer.

2014-11-30 02I am  off to Sydney this week for 3 days for work but more about that next time.

Foodie Friday – Keeping it Local

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I am sure it is still Friday somewhere – my apologies for the lateness of this post – it is Saturday morning here.

How do we feed ourselves?  Food prices keep increasing, labelling laws are ambiguous, processed foods contain unfamiliar additives and food allergies appear to be on the rise.  Add to this, a desire to eat organically-grown food which I believe is better for my health and the health of the planet and it starts to feel a bit overwhelming.  While we are at it, the wasteful packaging needs to be minimised as well as transport costs, both monetary and environmental.  Don’t forget ‘food security’ – the latest catch-cry.  This is the ability for us, as a nation, to feed ourselves in the event of natural disasters or major changes to the world order.

Have you thrown up your hands in despair?  Fear not.  You can begin to solve all of these issues with a single action – grow some of your own food.

The Duke and I have a somewhat neglected but productive garden which sometimes surprises us with its bounty.  We both work full-time and have minimal time to spend on tending a garden.  We try to grow some annual vegetables but the real secret is in growing trees and perennials.  We have an avocado, peach, fig and several citrus trees.  There are blueberry bushes as well as self sown cherry tomatoes and pumpkins.  The clump of parsley has been in one spot for so long that it has a stalk that looks like the trunk of a tree.

It may seem obvious but it is also important to eat (or preserve) what you grow.  Do not let the harvest go to waste.

Keep your eyes open for food producing plants in your neighbourhood that are not being harvested.  Don’t be afraid to ask if you may have some.  There are many reasons that people do not harvest – lack of time, knowledge or health are but a few.

The last few weeks we have had access to the following (either fresh or frozen) from our own property or nearby – corn, blueberries, avocadoes, mangoes, figs, lemons, beans, pumpkins, and pineapples.  At times I have felt overwhelmed by the excess on the kitchen bench but I have endeavoured to make sure it was used or stored for later use.

Last weekend I kept track of what we ate.

SATURDAY

Breakfast – buckwheat blueberry pancakes

Lunch – platter of cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, dried figs and mango chutney

Dinner – Salmon with mango salsa and vegetables – everything came from the garden except the salmon and onion which I used in the salsa.

Dinner
SUNDAY

Breakfast – mango and pineapple smoothie

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Lunch – Pumpkin soup

Dinner – grilled chicken with cherry tomatoes and mango/avocado salad

We certainly will never be completely self-sufficient but being able to produce at least some of the food that we eat goes a long way to addressing the myriad of issues that I identified in the first paragraph.  Eating local food also gives you an appreciation for what is in season in your area.  I really look forward to the new crop of things such as figs which have a short season.  We eat them constantly while in season then it is but a distant memory until next year.

You do not need a huge amount of space and even though you could not grow some of the thing that we do in your climate, the reverse is also true.  What do you grow?