La Tortilleria Tortillas : A shameless (unpaid) plug

As a consumer I try to shop wisely. We don’t have a lot of money in our grocery budget but I also think it’s incredibly important to make ethical decisions and support local businesses. How food is produced matters more to me than how much it costs – and if it’s too expensive I’ll just buy it when it’s heavily discounted and put it in the deep freeze (I’m looking at you organic, grass fed and finished beef and lamb, ¬†organic chicken and sustainably caught fish!), purchase less of it or figure out how to make it myself.

When Mr Incredible was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat though, our grocery bill shot through the roof. So many things I’d done to save a penny here and there were negated with one diagnosis. Sure, we could continue to bake our own bread but a wheat free loaf costs both a lot to make and a lot to buy – especially if you care about taste, texture and ingredients. One of the biggest shocks I got was just how disgusting some of the ingredients that make up mainstream GF food are. I have a habit of reading labels and the amount of times I couldn’t bring myself to buy a GF item are without count… Mr Incredible just missed out ūüė¶

One of the items that’s been difficult for us is wraps. We really like burritos and my mince base usually does us for two meals – burritos one night and Mexican potatoes the next. (It’s here that I should also apologise to my North American readers – we do Mexican a lot less traditionally here most of the time and what I serve up as burritos might be unrecognisable to you!) Regardless, it’s one of those meals were we purchase two different types of wraps. Wheat based and freshly made for us – preservative laden for Mr Incredible who asked me to make an exception on the ingredient rule for this dinner. Which is why, when I came across a demonstration by La Tortillieria in our local grocer the other day I purchased three packs of their incredibly delicious, traditionally made wraps. We’ve gone from these ingredients:

  • Whole Ground Corn treated with lime (54%), Water, Preservative (282, 202), Food Acid (297), Thickener (412, 466), Enzyme (1100)

To these:

  • Corn &¬†Sea Salt

If you’re in Australia and looking for a better option, do yourself a favour and check them out. I do realise they’re probably rather easy to make yourself… but when you can buy them this good I have so much less incentive.

*This blog is unpaid and with no incentive other than hoping enough people buy the product so that it will stay on shelves and I can continue to.

Signs of refreshment: Baking Everyday Oatmeal Bread from Simply in Season

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I think we all have signs that indicate we’re feeling refreshed. For some it might be having the emotional energy to make a phone call, for others it’s winding down enough to sit and read a book, for others still it might be the desire to get out the paint set or get dressed up and go out for dinner. For me I know I’m feeling refreshed when my creativity returns and I bake spontaneously or feel like writing (hello again dear blog and friends of this blog!).

After returning from New Zealand last night, I woke up with a desire to bake some bread. Not just put bread in the machine and then watch it rise in the oven, but really bake. The inspiration for this was my sister-in-law’s incredible loaf that I could have devoured quite selfishly on my own, slathered with butter and munched on with utter delight to my heart’s content. It really was that good. Not just any bread, this was a darker loaf, incredibly moist and filled with goodness. Along with wholewheat flour and oats it contains a healthy serve of molasses, which apparently has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product and¬†contains vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium (according to Healthline.com). ¬†I also really enjoyed making this with Adventure Girl and Dash. They found the punching ¬†of the dough especially fun!

9780836194944The recipe for this comes from the cookbook I’ll be saving up for next Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind. It’s the sort of cookbook that informs as well as provides incredible recipes and focuses on seasonal food that’s locally grown and ethically produced. Right up my ally. It’s a compilation of different recipes which was refreshing as well. The recipe I’ve featured here for instance is not by the author but the author has given credit to whom contributed as I do below. I also liked how the book focused on seasons but successfully makes the north/south hemisphere divide. Living in the southern hemisphere I often get frustrated with the seasons being sorted by months. While I know I can simply compute that June in America or England (etc) equates to our December, sometimes I do get confused. Also, my brother and his wife are exceptional cooks so any cookbook that they use often is high on my list.

I wonder what signs you have that you’re in a relaxed state of mind? I’d love to hear so feel free to comment below!

Everyday Oatmeal Bread by Janet Steiner (from Simply in Season)

Ingredients and Method (combined as within the original recipe)

Recipe makes two large loaves

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (or whole oats, or 12-grain cereal, etc)
Combine and let stand 30 min.

3/4 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 tsp salt
Stir into oatmeal.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp active traditional yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture. [Note: do make this a large bowl as it’s what you’ll be using to form your dough in]
6 cups bread or all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Work in flour to make a medium-soft somewhat sticky dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. Keep covered with damp cloth while rising. Then punch down. Divide into two, and shape into loaves. Embellish tops of loaves with seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp, etc) if desired. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again, about 45 min. Bake in preheated oven at 400 F/200C/180C (fan forced) for 5 minutes and then reduce to 350F/180C/160C ( about 30-35 minutes until they sound hollow when tapped.

Notes:

  • If you’re trying to cut down on carbs this is NOT the recipe for you. The very smell of this bread cooking was enough to make me salivate
  • You can increase the wholewheat flour ratio if you prefer (I used 3 cups wholewheat and 5 cups unbleached white bakers flour)
  • According to other blogs featuring this recipe, it also works well with adding in nuts, seeds and grains or using a grain mix instead of the oatmeal
  • This really is a recipe you can make with kids (at times!). Involving them in the punching of the dough or giving them their own piece to kneed/use like play dough is a fun and contained way of involving them.

 

Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do¬†it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my ¬†research for alternatives, I came across the practice of¬†Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing¬†solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and¬†this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is¬†choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the¬†gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them¬†– I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is¬†The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it¬†enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has¬†gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini]¬†polpettes¬†and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby¬†cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno.¬†Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.

 

How we eat cheap meat that’s ethically produced

I’ve been very impacted by Philip Lymbery’s book Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat¬†and reading it cemented and refined my desire to be careful about what our family consumes when it comes to animal¬†products. On a limited budget though, eating only pasture fed, chemical free and sustainable produce can be difficult – for all types of food, meat, dairy or otherwise. It’s a challenge though that I relish in and finding produce we can afford that fits our mindset is one of the things I like about being a stay-at-home-mum and having more time on my hands to find the bargains. Most of the time when it comes to meat I’ll shop at the gourmet supermarkets and only buy something when it’s marked down due to soon reaching it’s use by date. Often I’ll be able to pick up incredible (mostly organic) products at 1/3 or 1/4 of the price – into the freezer they go! We hardly ever eat steak though and mostly feed on “secondary cuts” or mince largely supplemented by beans, legumes and vegetables. Belted Galloway Beef BoxFor a long time¬†I’ve been on Feather and Bone‘s mailing list, waiting for the time when available finances, freezer space and suitable product collide. A fortnight ago they did and today, on return from our Thank God it’s Friday Adventure, a courier was waiting to deliver our Ashrose Belted Galloway Beef Box. Dry aged for 4 weeks, pasture fed and chemical free, this sustainably raised beef would usually be way out of our budget. The beauty of shopping around though has meant that we can afford 10KG of this meat and feed off it for the next 3 months. What Mr Incredible is excited about is that we get steak!! The box was filled with both “prime” and “secondary” cuts that will make both of us happy, along with knowing where our meat has come from and how it’s been produced. In the future we’d like to buy direct from a¬†farmer for all our meat, and buy more of the whole animal, but until we can afford a deep freezer 10kg is our maximum purchase. Making intentional choices about what we consume can be hard to follow through with. When we manage to fulfil those intentions with actual buying decisions however, and can see consistent success with living a certain way, the satisfaction can be immense. That’s how it is with me at least, and I look forward to brining our steak to BBQs in the near future – just in time for summer! Why we buy pasture / grass fed animal products:

  1. It’s better for you. For both milk and meat, the research indicates that grass fed animals have a higher concentration of Omega 3 content and in meat, lower levels of saturated fats than grain fed cattle. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/7905466 ¬†http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/15023647¬†http://www.pariscreekbeef.com.au/did_you_know02.php
  2. It’s better for the animal. There’s a lot of research on this one (and it’s also covered convincingly in Farmageddon) but it doesn’t take a lot of research to tell you what’s obvious to anyone observing the animals.
  3. It’s better for the environment.¬†As Feather and Bone write: “For these producers, whose holy grail is the achievement of a perfectly balanced, harmonious orchestra of soil, plants and animals in the patch over which they have custodianship, the name of their farm is shorthand for their entire approach to life. Because farming for the long term, without the habitual use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other artificial inputs, requires a level of acute observation, responsiveness and agility that many farmers either aren’t prepared to give or feel would compromise their short term productivity too seriously to be viable.” To read something directly from a farmer go to : http://www.blackwoodvalleybeef.com.au/index.php/our-philosophy
  4. It tastes better.

Research each of these points yourself though – there’s a lot of information on the www and differing views. At the end of the day we all need to make our own choices.