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Vegan-ish cooking

This fortnight I have been cooking dinners from Jackie Norman and Gareth Scurr’s Easy and Delicious Vegan Recipes for Busy People, although I have been un-veganfying the recipes with cheese and yoghurt and real milk.

OK, I’ve just been cooking vegetarian meals. But I like the terms unveganfying vegan meals or veganish cooking.

I like vegetarian food. I like the lower impact on the environment. If you want to do something for the environment, and you eat meat, cut out a red meat dinner each week. You’ll lower your carbon emissions by quite a bit.

I also like that I am not inflicting suffering on animals.

But the main reason I like vegetarian foods is: I like the flavour. But not vegan. Nothing beats milk and cheese and yoghurt.

I often go for the vegetarian options at lunches. People often comment, “I didn’t know you are vegetarian!” I’m not. Just prefer it.

I do like some meat. Roast lamb. Yum. An occasional piece of salty ham. Prawns. Mmmm. Roast pork. Occasionally. Not a fan of most pieces of chicken. While I often eat butter chicken, I normally only eat the sauce with a piece of naan, leaving the pieces of chicken for Mr S. I do like the skin off a roast chook. Not so much the meat.

Some of my meat-free choices might make little sense. I hate meat on my pizzas. Except for a few prawns. Spag Bol with meat is horrific. Makes me gag. But I can eat savoury mince. I hate tofu. It also makes me gag. Blurgh.

I’ve been following Jackie and Gareth on FB for a while – they sold up and have been living a minimalist life in a van driving around NZ. When they released a vegan cookbook, I thought it might not be released in Australia. Luckily it has been and my library had a copy.

First dish I made was their Ye Olde Family Chilli. Very similar to my own brew but they add tinned lentils and cocoa powder. Once cooked up, it really looked like meat. Not that I needed it to look like meat, but if sons come it might be good to fool them. I jazzed up our bowls, or loaded them up, with corn kernels, yoghurt, grated cheese, sweet chilli sauce and corn chips. My cheese and yoghurt additions are the non-vegan additions.

This was a winner!

Second dish was lasagne. Similar to my recipe, more so because I won’t use non-milk options to make white sauce and have to use real cheese.

I adapted their Man Flu Minestrone. What made it the BEST EVER minestrone was my addition of a piece of Parmesan. A rind with a bit of cheese still in it. OMG. Devine.

Also adapted their cauliflower curry. I tossed in some Nigella seeds and cardamom pods. Went down a treat. This was vegan. I was going to add yoghurt but it was off.

As well as being yummy, cutting the meat makes for cheaper meals. Which is lucky because I spent a bit on chocolate for Easter. 🐣

First time tomato grower

This summer, I had my first attempt at growing cherry tomatoes.

I bought a raised garden bed, some soil and three cherry tomato plants – two Tiny Toms, a miniature plant suitable for growing in pots, and one Tomato Sweet Bite (Solanum Lycopersicum).

The tiny tims were a dud. Bland flavour. Not many tomatoes. Won’t bother with them again. My advice is, even if you want to grow some in pots on a verandah, don’t waste your time with this variety.

The Sweet Bite was a success. Cherry toms after cherry toms. Seemingly unending. No bought cherry toms have as sweet and fullness of flavour.

Early on I had a problem with caterpillars eating the leaves. Turns out they are a common problem. Bud worms. Luckily I got onto them quick smart with an organic treatment that only kills the caterpillars. The caterpillars only got into a few tommies. The advice is to spray every week. I only sprayed twice and that stopped them.

Did you know tomato plants grow from cuttings too? Mr S knocked off two stems which I popped into some soil. They grew roots and are now producing fruit.

As it’s been a very wet summer, sadly the late tommies split. and as it was also very hot – summer here desiccates plants in a matter of days – the leaves all fell off.

I didn’t fertilise as often as suggested by the bottle of fertiliser. Not sure I needed to do more though the later tommies were small. But that may have been due to lack of consistent water as I was away for a couple of weeks.

The raised bed could only cope with one plant. The plant was really too tall and too heavy for the pot. Next year I will plant cherry tomatoes in the ground but I think that I will lose them to possums. (The possums couldn’t get up the raised bed.)

Anyway, that will be next year’s challenge. Grow more cherry tom plants somewhere in my garden.

The tommies are all finished. No earlier photo due to camera issues.

Flying (again?). What about the environment?

As part of my new blogging routine, Thursday is green or gardening day.

Pre-COVID, there was this movement in Europe to take no-fly holidays. Easier to do when you live in a population-dense place.

Much harder to do in Australia.

Okay, I could holiday close to Sydney. Plenty of beautiful places. I discovered some last year as we couldn’t fly interstate or overseas.

Prior to COVID, the Sydney-Melbourne flight path was the busiest in the world. Hopefully, with the rise of virtual meetings, all the important business people and politicians won’t have to fly up and down in a day for their very important meetings, once things “return to normal”.

To see my mother, I have to fly. Driving for 9 hours non-stop on my own is out of the question.

The book I read, and loved, in January, Fight for Planet A by Craig Reucassel, said that offsets are the way to go. Like many people, I worried that the airlines wouldn’t use the donation to actually and effectively offset carbon emissions. But Craig says, in Australia, offset programs are closely regulated, so be assured. The money is used to sequester carbon.

So this time I ticked yes, I will fly carbon neutral. It was only a couple of dollars! Be gone guilt about the emissions from the flight.

In the future, it will always be a yes for me.

Here’s some links about it:

  • Choice, a consumer protection agency in Australia
  • Jetstar, the airline I flew with

Environmental hypocrisy

Is it hypocritical to care about the environment and drive a petrol powered car?

I know I am privileged to live in a city with clean, regular and fast public transport options, which given reasonable options, I often use. I rarely drive into the city. The train is just too convenient and fast. However, I always drive to work as it would take a train and a bus and triple the length of my journey. Of course during COVID, I’ve been minimising the use of public transport and haven’t gone into the city much at all.

Mr S and I love road trips, and took several long ones during the summer holidays. There’s no public transport options for those. Though I suppose we could visit one place for a longer period of time.

I drive to the gym when I could catch a train. But the convenience! And the time! I know it’s ironic that rather than “waste” time walking to the station (all of 6 minutes!) and walking from the station at the other end (equally short!), I drive so I have time to work out. I should investigate whether the trains will meet my class times and not involve much waiting. I suppose I’ve just assumed I’d have to wait and the train times wouldn’t align with my classes.

On the upside, Mr S and I walk. A lot. We walk to the local supermarkets with our reusable bags or our nanna trolley. (If we’re doing a big shop, we do drive.) Mr S has even walked with a moving trolley to the local bottle shop to buy cases of beer! I walk to the public library. We walk up to our local restaurants and pub. Mr S walks to work – every single day!!!

I drive a recent model small car. It is very fuel efficient. I’m really happy with it. But is it enough?

The reduction in cars on the road has made such a difference to our air quality in Sydney, without the concerns about carbon emissions. According to the book I have just read, which was also a TV series here in Australia, Fight for Planet A, transport makes up around 19% of our total emissions, with 60% coming from the cars we drive.

What next?

The idiotic conservatives in power have mocked electric cars. God, they even want to build a new coal powered electric plant because private industry doesn’t.

After reading Fight for Planet A, my next car won’t be an electric car.

What?

Yes, that’s right. Because I don’t have solar power, I would be recharging my car using coal powered electricity.

I’m getting a hybrid car. The car creates its own electricity from breaking. As a urban driver, I break a lot! And as a holiday road trip driver, I won’t have to worry about finding recharging stations in the country.

OK, this isn’t going to happen for about three years. I’m happy with my little car and won’t change it over yet. And, of course, things may change in three years.

Here’s my next car:

Tell me what do you drive? And do you use public transport? If not, why not?

The power of oatmeal

I have very reactive skin. I become red and inflamed easily. Insect bites. Seams in clothing, especially bras. Clothing labels – the corners that are turned over become like razor blades on my neck and waist. Hot weather Dry air. Being sweaty.

Anything can set me off.

Mozzies and midgies love me. And their bites positively glow. Strangely, bites that have settled will become itchy again after I am bitten somewhere else. Particularly along my legs. Red and white flashes like aliens communicating to one another – a new one will awaken an old, dormant bite.

Then after whatever it is that has started me itching – a bite, clothing, heat – I start itching everywhere. And my skin feels hot and irritated.

I start breaking out in itchiness and redness all over. Even thinking about it now, I’m itching.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Last December I had one of those itchy days, when, out of no where, I had a thought.

Why not try some rolled oats in a lukewarm bath?

Don’t know why the idea came to me. It’s not as if I have read about it recently.

Anyway…

I tried it last month. It worked! Not only did it calm my skin, it made it silky. Like there’s a slight coating on my skin.

I popped just under two cups of quick cook oats in a mesh bag and dropped it in the bath as the water was running. In the bath I also squeezed the mesh bag so extra oat milk ran over my skin.

Divine.

I did it again last night. But with much less oats. About one cup. And in a cool to cold bath as the temperature was over 30°.

Not only does this work for me, it’s environmentally friendly: very little processing involved in producing quick cook oats; very little waste; no packaging as the parts come in cardboard and the net bag is reused; I use most of the water to flush my toilet.

And the oat bath is thrifty. Much cheaper than any cream or bath product from the chemist. The only cream that stops me itching is a cortisone based one and you can’t coat your whole body in that.

My new worm garden

Look what turned up!

My second worm garden.

First step: put it together.

Put some gravel around the drainage hole to stop soil washing out.

Next: add soil in the bowl, around the worm tower home. It doesn’t have to be good soil because the worm wee will add nutrients. I didn’t have enough potting mix so dug a little bit from my garden and used the soil from four pots of plants that died of thirst.

I threw in the paper bag the gravel came in with the worm garden kit into the tower. The worms will eat it.

Here come the worms! I don’t need to buy any. First I grabbed some of the vegetable matter that was in top of the worms in the old tower. Then I just grabbed some out of my existing worm colony. (Done the bottom of the first tower there was some amazing compost – AKA worm castings. I will have to investigate getting it out and using it some time.)

Water the soil and pop the lid on.

Now what shall I plant in here? Any suggestions?

My worm garden

When we first moved into this house, I bought a worm farm.

After a while, well let’s just say, the worms got hungry. “Have you fed the worms?” Oh bugger. No.

After a couple of years, they moved out of their home. Well, that’s what I like to think.

Just over a year ago, I bought a new worm farm. This one incorporates a garden. Both the garden and the worms are doing well.

Why is this worm farm doing well when I neglected to dispose of my kitchen matter in the previous farm?

Convenience: The worm garden is in a convenient place – easy to access.

Look: The worm garden is more attractive so I can leave it in a convenient place in the front yard where I walk past it every day. The old farm was an ugly black box that needed to be raised off the ground so we used milk crates. Ugly. Not something you want front and centre. So I hid it behind a shrub in the back yard where it was out of sight and mind. The new worm farm looks more of a pot with plants growing in it.

It’s a garden! Having plants around it, makes it an interesting object. I point it out to visitors. They’re always interested. The worm farm helps the plants grow. Some plants have done well. The chives are very happy. I haven’t done well with coriander. The chilli plant have given us some chillies.

Moveable: The work farm is light enough to move around, which Mr S does when he mows the lawn. And we move it depending on the plants’ need for sunlight.

We will plan to buy a couple more.

It means less green kitchen waste going into the bin. Given that the tower is small, the worm garden can only take a small handful of waste a day, so two farms should handle our output.

Here’s the supplier: Composta

Currently my basil is dying down. The chives continue to flourish. They have the advantage that the possums don’t like them. There is also a chilli plant and if you look, you can see a chilli resting on the chives.

I will pull out the basil soon and try to grow some mini-rocket.

What a waste!

I bought some ingredients for a vegetable curry last weekend. One week later and I hadn’t cooked it.

While checking out the top shelf of the fridge to see if there were any open jar of curry paste, I came across a block of cheese wrapped in a beeswax wrap. The wrap is good in that it minimises the use of cling wrap but it means no one knows what’s inside.

Shit. Will you look at this!

A whole block of cheese mouldered away! What a waste! May have well as just thrown $10 straight into the bin. And then there’s all the energy needed for production.

Then I found the sweet potato that was to be put in the curry. Half of it was unusable.

Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.

Add in a few more raspberries, we haven’t been doing too good on the minimising waste. On the positive side, I decided to use up a bag of salad leaves in my curry as the recipe called for baby spinach leaves and the bag of salad leaves were mostly baby spinach but not the best for a fresh salad.

What size scoop? 

Subtitled: Saving for a whole year off – income cut, not lifestyle cut tip number 6

You may have noticed that every Tuesday I have been posting my money saving tips. Our ways to save without impacting on our lifestyle are generally the lazy way out or the easy guide to saving. Little things that don’t take much effort. Things that can become routine and thus don’t involve much thought. They also tend to be environmentally beneficial, which is generally why I put them into place.

So onto my next tip.

I’m not really the world’s best housekeeper. I like a clean and tidy house, I just don’t have time nor inclination to clean much. 

Friends and family say I should get a cleaner. Been there, done that. One did an awesome job. But she got pregnant, damn her. (Only joking!) The others did really bodgy jobs. I resented paying for something not done properly. 

I’m just too tight-arsed now to pay for a cleaner. Even if I could be bothered finding one I was happy with, I’d rather spend my money on travel and our mortgage and clothes and our year off. 

I still sort of keep clean house, well not really, but I am quite fastidious with my clothes. So here’s one of my money saving tips around cleaning clothes. 

Again, this is not a new tip for this year on 80% of our income. Still, it’s one that allows us to save money where it doesn’t make an impact on our life but allows us to spend on things we like. And while it might be pennies, take care of the pennies and … blah blah blah you know the rest.

Tip number 6: Use less detergent than they say on the package to wash your clothes.  

You don’t need a full scoop to clean your clothes. I buy the top quality clothes detergent, mostly when it is on special. I don’t use pre-stain removers, except sometimes on white clothes. I don’t use a full scoop of detergent. Ever. Half a scoop is enough. Three-quarters if the clothes are really dirty.

Having an outstanding brand of washing machine (Miele), the best detergent and drying clothes in the sun means, in the main, stains and marks disappear. (Except for wool but that’s not going to change as you can’t bleach knitted clothes anyway.)

OK, we’re not mechanics or working in environments where are clothes getting really filthy. But then neither do most people. 

Really, you don’t need much of any product to clean anything – sinks, cupboards, door frames, floors. The water and rubbing gets rid of most dirt. Any detergent really does the same job. So buy fewer products all round and use less of it. Most liquid cleaning products are mainly water anyway. And scent. 

If you don’t believe me, here’s what Choice, the Australian Consumer Advocacy group says:

How much laundry detergent should I use?

Depending on which laundry detergent you choose, you may be able to use half (yes, half!) the recommended dose and still get a great wash, saving yourself money and giving the environment a bit of a break. In the past we’ve tested top performing laundry detergents and they performed just as well on all stains at half the recommended dose, while others performed well at half the dose on several types of stains. While we can’t test every dose variation, treat the dosing scoop or cap more like a polite suggestion and experiment with your detergent – you may find you can use a lot less than you think and still get a wash you are happy with.

I can’t stand it when clothes stink (and I use that word with full intent) stink, I say, of detergent scent. Doesn’t smell fresh to me. Smells overly perfumed with cheap artificial scent. If you can smell the detergent after the clothes have dried, you’re using too much. Use less. Dry in fresh air.

And this applies to all products for cleaning all things. Use less than the “recommended” amount on the packaging.

Save money. Save the environment. Chances are you will also get fewer headaches. 

Clean your shower with shampoo

Do you have some shampoo you just don’t really like? Maybe it’s a bit too harsh on your hair; maybe you just don’t like the scent. 

Well here’s a hint. 

Wash your shower screen, bathroom basin and bath with your shampoo. 

You will be amazed at how clean and shiny shampoo makes the bathroom. Better than any bathroom cleaner. 

I buy a nice, cheap, cruelty-free, Australian-made one just to clean my bathroom. 

No harsh chemicals to wreck your clothes or burn your skin. No headaches from overpowering chemicals. No lingering, chemical smell. And you can clean your shower while in the shower. Standing on shampoo doesn’t hurt your feet. 

Gentle enough to be used on human skin. What bathroom cleaner can claim that?

I have all these little hotel freebies and samples to use up but I don’t like the scent and they are a bit harsh for my bleached hair. Silly me! Why haven’t I used these instead of the one I buy especially?

So I am killing two birds – using up my stash and cleaning my bathroom. 

A bit doubtful about the cleaning power? Think you have to use bleach? Or disinfectants? Give shampoo a go and be impressed. As to needing to use bleach or disinfectants, read this, where it says it is more important to clean a surface than use disinfectant. And that’s from the Australian governments National Health and Medical Research Council.