Monday, April 23, 2018

Recipe: Fire Cider

Some time ago I went to a fermenting workshop and got to try a whole bunch of fermented goodies brewed by the workshop facilitators. One of the things I tried was a Fire Cider, and I remember at the time thinking it was amazingly delicious. I took my booklet of recipes home, and promptly put it aside, making nothing more exciting than my constantly-on-the-brew kombucha.

Recently I was chatting to a fellow school mum and she mentioned that she'd just put on a new batch of fire cider to ferment away. I remembered my workshop, went home to dig out my notes and made a few jars as soon as I collected all the ingredients. I posted about it on my recent In My Kitchen post, and I had a few questions about it so I figured I should post about it all by itself.

Google tells me that fire cider is rooted in folk medicine and is a great remedy for winter colds and ailments. Packed full of good things, it's a great immunity booster, helps with digestion, and is delicious all in it's own right.  It does take about a month to six weeks to ferment fully, so now is a good time to get started if you want a batch. Many people take a tablespoon or two daily throughout Autumn and Winter as a preventative, and more often if actually ill. I also like to personally have it as a tea (added to hot water) or a salad dressing, and dilute it in a little juice for my smalls.

It's very flexible, so please just use the below as a guide and adjust to your tastes.

Fire Cider 
clickable link

Equipment
Jars (sterilised)
Baking or waxed paper

Ingredients
1/2 cup peeled and shredded ginger
1/2 cup garlic
2 large white onions, diced
4 lemons
4 chillies (the hotter the better in my opinion, I like jalapenos), diced
1/4 cup peeled and diced turmeric
peppercorns
sprig of rosemary
1/2 cup peeled and shredded horseradish (optional)
Apple Cider Vinegar

Method
Add everything into your jar. You can dice it, slice it, shred it, arrange them prettily if you like. For the lemons, I peeled two of them and use the zest and juice of those, then slice the others and arrange them (skin and all) in the jars. Pack everything down semi firmly and top off with the apple cider vinegar. You want everything to be under the vinegar so it doesn't go mouldy - either use the heavier roots at the top to hold everything down, or put a weight on the top (the herbs and chillies tend to float so arrange accordingly). Keep in mind that some of the roots will expand during the process, so top it all off well. 

If you're using a metal lid, line it with waxed paper so the vinegar doesn't rust it. That's it, you're done. Pop those jars somewhere out of direct sunlight and leave them alone for a minimum of 4 weeks.
It does look all pretty fermenting away in the jar
When they're ready, give the jars a shake, then strain everything out through some cheesecloth. Store the liquid in the fridge and consume as needed. You can add sweetener to taste, but I don't bother.

Just a note here. I'm all about reducing waste, and this cider is so packed full of goodness I didn't want to throw away all of those veggies and roots after I'd strained them - what a travesty! After some thinking, I decided to blitz them up in the food processor. There was a lot of it, so I portioned it out into my old pods that I used to store baby food in. This one comes with a silicon lid so it reduces the potent smells that might take over the freezer. 
Blended fire cider pulp
Smells so good all blended up - glorious colour thanks to the turmeric
Here are some other suggestions that I have in mind for using the pulp up:
  • It was delicious added into a minestrone soup (although it did add a serious kick so was not at all kid friendly)
  • Shaken up with a bit more vinegar and used as salad dressing
  • Use as a flavouring for stews or lentil loaves
  • Mixed into smoothies
  • A marinade (I'm thinking tofu and eggplant would just soak up the flavour!)
  • A sandwich condiment
I'd love to hear if anyone else makes fire cider, and how you use it (and the leftover pulp!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I did a snack exchange thing...

Recently I took part in a snack exchange through a site I participate in regularly. Basically, you respond to someone's post asking for an exchange partner, agree on a dollar amount of food that you are willing to trade (excluding postage) and then exchange boxes of local food. Sure, it might be cheaper to buy the exchange items off Amazon or whatever, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun or mystery.

My exchange partner was from Texas, told me that her birthday was coming up and she wanted foreign snacks to enjoy. She had no preferences or dietary restrictions, but liked gummy things, chocolates and hadn't tried anything from Australia so was happy for me to choose a selection (she wasn't enthusiastic about Vegemite or I'd have popped a small pack in too). We agreed on a budget of $15USD for snacks, which worked out to be just under $19AUD. I think I got a pretty good representation of Australian snacks!

I always like seeing both side of an exchange, so here's what I sent:

  • French Fries
  • Chicos
  • Allens Party Mix
  • Twisties - both cheese and chicken variety
  • TimTam - gelato messina choc mint and cherry coconut varieties
  • BBQ shapes
  • Pods - snickers variety (because Americans are all about the horrible Tide Pod challenge at the moment and I thought it would be funny to send actual edible ones)
  • Chicken salt - surprisingly, this is a uniquely Australian seasoning and even more surprisingly is ninja vegan! Who knew
  • Not pictured - half a container of a Favourites selection that I used to fill the gaps - Cadbury mini cherry ripes, moro, boost, dairy milk, crunchie, turkish delight, flake and dream bar

I wrote a note explaining each item, explained the TimTam Slam and why she should try it and told her I'd love to know what was her favourite item once she got through them all (Pods are the winner at the moment but she hasn't tried everything yet).

Here's what I got back in my box. I hadn't provided any dietary restrictions because I figured if I wouldn't eat something, Mr Fork or the smalls would. The only thing I said was that I would prefer not to get any American chocolate (I think it's not very nice) and when asked I said I was happy to have spicy snacks! Every single thing she sent was totally new to me and if I'm honest, I don't even know what half of it is!

Lots of it is spicy and some of it I think are Spanish or Mexican sweets so the ingredients lists aren't in English at all.
   
The bright lollipops on the right are watermelon flavoured and then coated with spicy coating (I think they're amazingly delicious). The colourful chain of lollies underneath are spicy tamarind coated things which are delightfully spicy and sour at the same time.

Interestingly, the twizzlers (root beer and cherry flavoured) are both ninja vegan and SO GOOD! I haven't had a gummy sweet in a long time and these were good (I wasn't sure initially but I quite like the root beer flavour). The Laffy Taffy (watermelon and guava flavour) is also a ninja vegan product and I found it a chewy, fluffy sort of starburst type thing. It was good.

My smalls liked the milky (real milk!) lollypops, and there were also some soft caramels which Mr Fork tells me were amazing (but very milky... he thinks maybe goat milk). Mr Fork also claimed the spicy Fiesta mix and warhead worms as soon as he saw them. 

It was a super fun thing to do - I had fun picking snacks and then the anticipation of trying something surprising and new-to-me was half of the excitement, and then it was like opening a box to get a glimpse of someone else's favourite snack culture.

I'd definitely do it again in the future, and Mr Fork is already putting in requests for exchange locations to keep an eye out for. I certainly have some places in mind I'd like to try snacks from... I've even seen some posts pop up where people are looking for vegan or healthy snack exchange partners too which seems fun.

So I'm interested to know, if you could choose a location to exchange snacks with, where would you pick? And what would you send in an exchange that was representative of your location or your favourites?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Breaditation

Ever since I was gifted my sourdough starter four years ago (thanks Celia!), I have been baking bread. I'll admit it, I've had some shockers during my bread baking journey - and yet every single loaf I've turned out I've been ridiculously proud of. I still can't believe that I thought learning a new hobby with a newborn would be a smart idea. Actually, now that I think about it, I also can't believe that my little Attila the Bun will be four this year... not so little and bun-like anymore!

So years later, I'm still baking regularly. I can say with complete honesty that my loaves aren't perfect - they're rustic and not at all fancy, but they're edible and friends ask me to bring them when we have gatherings so I must be doing something right!

I like making regular sourdough loaves and I'm a big fan of fruit and nut loaves (I recently posted a pineapple and date loaf which I'd love to make again with some hazelnuts included). I can also do a decent focaccia which seems to be a hit.

Lately, I've started making extra discard on purpose, and using it to branch out from just regular *bread*.

Here are some sourdough crackers that I made using the King Arthur flour recipe as a base. They turned out great and way better than store bought crackers. I can't believe it took me so long to make them when I've heard so much about home made crackers. I love to go really heavy on the herbs and not be shy with the salt on top. These are a huge hit with everyone I've shared with.
Here's another shot with them next to some simple chia loaves that I baked to take to work. My co-workers have been asking for a loaf for awhile so I was happy to oblige!
Finally, this is my latest creation - sourdough English muffins. I was so ridiculously excited to bake these that I got up at 4am on a weekday, snuck out of bed so the kids didn't realise I'd left (they are very snuggly, clingy and warm so this was hard) and crept into the kitchen to finish off the baking after letting them rise overnight. I didn't use a single particular recipe for these, but an amalgamation of a few that I found online.
I didn't want to use dairy milk so I subbed in almond milk instead and I think they turned out pretty good. Next time I'll cook them a little longer so they brown more, but I didn't hear any complaints when I served them up warm for breakfast. I'm sticking all of the leftovers into the freezer so I don't eat them all, they are that tasty!
So, to all the bloggers who have been so generous with their knowledge and inspirations... literally thank you for giving me my daily bread. Thanks for what I've taken to calling my breaditation moments - when I sneak out of bed early, when the house is all quiet and still and I can knead and shape and bake in the silence. Then, if I've managed to do it quietly enough, I can enjoy a cup of coffee while the house is still asleep and watch the sun rise while the baking bread smell wafts from the oven. It's my favourite part of the day!

Monday, March 5, 2018

What's in my kitchen, March 2018

It feels like the year has only just started, and yet, here we are at the beginning of March. It's Autumn! Where did all the time go? I feel like I can no longer say that my daughter has just started school. The year has no longer just begun. Where does the time go?! Having said that, I'm looking forward to the onset of colder weather. We have been having an unusually long spate of hotter than usual weather, which is playing havoc with my sleep, my garden, my laundry schedule (due to lots more storms than usual), and my moods. Cold weather to me means lots of comfort foods, not waking up in a sweaty heap, and fun snuggly clothes. Anyway, here are a few of the things that have been occupying my kitchen lately.

In my kitchen is...


Scrolls for my preppie's lunch. We've had some trial and error packing her school lunches, but these seem to be a consistent winner, and they're super easy to make. I have Ellie help me make them too, so I think that provides extra incentive for her to eat them since she had a hand in their creation. They're just store bought puff pastry (because I do not have the time or patience to make my own), spread with filling, rolled, sliced and then baked until puffed and golden. She is a particular fan of this version, which is pizza sauce, diced ham and shredded cheese filling. Her second favourite is a simple vegemite and cheese filling.
In my kitchen is...


While on the topic of school lunches, these biscuit bars have also been a hit. I found the recipe in a recent Coles magazine that was a lunch ideas special. Ellie was immediately drawn to the sweets pages (typical!) and as soon as she saw these, insisted that they needed to be made. They are not vegan, as they have egg and milk in them, but they seem to be a hit. I tweaked the base recipe slightly, reduced the recommended sugar, subbed in some healthier options (some wholemeal flour, swapped the brown sugar for coconut sugar etc) and then added some mini m&ms and dark chocolate buttons (her request). I cut them smaller than the magazine suggested, so I got 24 biscuit slices from a single batch. They freeze well and are super easy to pop into lunch boxes too. 
In my kitchen is...

Pierogis! My friend invited us over for a pierogi making session (yes, that's also the bottom of a wine glass in the background, because, wine!). Pierogis are Polish dumplings and, I can say from personal experience, are absolutely delicious. We made a huge batch with two different fillings - cheese potato and truffled mushroom with cabbage. My favourite ones were the mushroom ones, but both versions were amazing. We cooked and ate some fresh after making many trays, and I was sent home with a doggy bag of leftovers and some frozen for later consumption.
Yum!
In my kitchen is...

A fruity loaf of sourdough that I experimented with, not really expecting that it would turn out as well as it did. I cleaned out the pantry and unearthed some dried pineapple and dried dates that needed to be used. I added these to the mix, as well as some mixed spices and it turned out absolutely amazing... not overly sweet, but very fruity and a little reminiscent of hot cross buns due to all the spices I added. If I make it again, I think some nuts, maybe hazelnut, would be an awesome addition.

It's delicious served plainly with Nuttelex - who needs to go out for breakfast?!
In my kitchen is...

Some jars packed full of all kinds of things, hidden away for six weeks or so to turn into fire cider. As well as sourdough and kombucha, I've started fermenting other things as  well. Fire cider is something I saw at a fermenting workshop many months ago, and was recently reminded of again. I thought it would be something nice to have on hand as an immunity booster coming into the colder months, so I finally got all the ingredients and put it together. In my jars are garlic, ginger, onion, chilli, peppercorns, rosemary, tumeric, lemons and galangal, all topped off with apple cider vinegar. I'll update how it works out in a month or so, but if the initial smell is anything to go on, it will be delicious!!
I'm sending this to Sherry, of Sherry's Pickings for linking in to her monthly In My Kitchen link up.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Recipe: Magic apple cinnamon muffins

First off, a disclaimer, these aren't really magic apple muffins. However, if I called them "use up the leftover apple from my school child's lunchbox" muffins, they don't sound as appealing.

I like to think of that old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon when I'm making these... watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat... nothing my my sleeve. Except in this case, I have half apples that my daughter has brought home (her school sends home all uneaten lunch so we can track what gets consumed) with various reasons so far:
  • She was too busy playing to finish it
  • Biting the apple made her teeth hurt
  • She remembered she didn't like apples anymore
  • No one else was eating an apple
I smile, grit my teeth (because of course when helping me plan her lunches before grocery shopping, she told me apples were what she really wanted so we bought them) and resolve to use them up somehow because I hate waste.

I figured muffins would be a good addition to lunch boxes, and who would honestly turn down a muffin right? So, previous days half eaten apples now get grated up, mixed with pantry staples and turned into delicious lunch box friendly snacks that freeze perfectly, and seem to be a lunch box hit. Winning!

I've made these both with and without sugar, and honestly, I like them better with a tiny amount of coconut sugar added. The spices make it extra flavoursome, so I think we're onto something here - at least I haven't had any muffins coming home!

Magic apple cinnamon muffins
(makes approximately 18 mini muffins)
printable link

Ingredients
  • approximately 2 apples, skins on, grated coarsely
  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour (wholemeal or plain)
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut (shredded would also work well)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 cup milk (I like almond, but any would suit)
  • splash of almond essence (or vanilla)
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C degrees. 
  2. Add everything into a mixing bowl and combine.
  3. Spoon mix into a mini muffin tray.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cooked.
  5. Let them cool slightly before popping them out of the tray and allowing them to cool.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
  • You could mix up the spices, and add some ground nutmeg and/or ginger. I've also used some pumpkin pie spice, just because I have some on hand.
  • I know vanilla essence is more traditional, but the almond essence is yummy.
  • I like using wholemeal flour because I like to squeeze in more fibre when I can. I think it would also work with plain and maybe a couple spoonfuls of wheatgerm or bran flakes instead though.
  • For a richer muffin, you could add in a tablespoon or two of coconut oil, but I honestly don't find it necessary.
  • These muffins freeze really well - I just wait for them to cool and then freeze them in a container, separated with baking paper (or reusable equivalent) so I can grab one and pop it in a lunchbox as is. I try not to use any glad wrap or plastic when making school lunches.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018: Reducing single use plastic

I am unashamedly frugal, sometimes to the embarrassment of Mr Fork. I take great pride in being eco conscious and reducing the impact that I personally have on the environment. Now that I have children, it's important to me that they learn to be respectful of our planet as well. Two years ago, I put up a list of ten things I do to help the environment (and you know, also save money). This year, I'm going to step it up a bit and try even harder to reduce my household waste and single use plastic items.

There are so many things that are simple to do, and don't even have to cost much, if anything at all. Here are some more of the things I already do, and some ideas that I'm working toward as well.

Say no to consumables. Who needs plastic straws, paper napkins or utensils when there are awesome glass or metal straws, fabric serviettes, and cute reusable utensils out there? I've had my glass straw for years, and I love it. I've been reading a lot about beeswax wraps and I really want to find a good source of local beeswax so I can start making my own (and you know, maybe use up some of my fabric stash while I'm at it!).

Avoid plastic shopping bags. Similar to the above, but it needs saying again. Our two major supermarkets have plans to phase out plastic bags this year, which I think is a great idea. It's easy to put cloth bags in the car boot, and I always have a small fold up bag in my handbag for incidental purchases. I've also embraced bringing along mesh bags for my produce shopping so I can avoid those thin plastic ones they offer. If I have a choice between pre-packed produce, or picking my own and using my own bags, it's a no brainer.
I got these ones as a Christmas present, and they come with their own handy little bag to stash them in when not in use. They're so simple to make though that I'm going to whip up a few more with some of the mesh material I have in my stash.
When I get my produce home, I can also prolong it's life by storing it in my fabric Swag bags (which are awesome by the way!)
I'm also lucky enough to have some bulk health food stores near me. These stores let you scoop and weigh your own produce (like nuts, flours, salts, beans etc) from bulk bins and either use the brown paper bags in store (which are compostable) or bring your own container to hold them. 

Use reusable bottles and cups. It's important to stay hydrated, but not at the cost of all the litter it generates. A friend of mine recently moved to the beach and has been telling me horrifying statistics about the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean and on the beach. There are so many bottle options out there - foldable ones for the space conscious, insulated ones to keep your water cold (or hot!), glass, and ones with super cute covers like my beloved BBBYO ones! (the 'bits' below are barley from when I brewed up barley water to soothe a chest infection)
I'm also a huge fan of reusable coffee cups - I have one at home and one at work for ultra convenience. Many of the coffee shops near where I work even offer a small discount for bringing your own cup. I've heard statistics that it can take more than 500 years for a plastic coffee cup to break down, which is horrifying.
I've noticed a huge shift in awareness when shopping, and many shoppers now bring their own reusable bags as a matter of course (could be that some shops have started charging for terrible quality plastic bags as well). Where I used to get odd looks for bringing my own coffee cup to a cafe, now I'd say from my own observations that there are more BYO cups than not. This is definitely a movement I'm happy to get behind and so pleased to see individuals and businesses taking up.

Do you bring your own bags and cups when out and about? What are your tips for reducing plastic consumption?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Recipe: Mushroom and lentil loaf

For nearly 10 years now, I have brought a version of this loaf along to our family Christmas lunch. I'm very lucky that my family makes many of the festive sides vegan-friendly, but if I want something substantial to eat, I need to bring it along. For awhile, one of my cousins was vegetarian, so I became the default supplier of the main part of the meal for the 'picky eaters'. I don't mind, and over the years, people have started to ask for portions of the loaf too - no more serving myself a slice then putting it away to save room on the table, no sirree!
I posted a couple of my practice meals online in the lead up to Christmas, and had quite a few questions so I thought I better finally type up the recipe. It started from a long ago recipe I found online, but I have since tweaked what I do so much, it wouldn't be recognisable in any way to the original.

It's delicious, scales well, is very flexible and forgiving, and best of all, can be made ahead and then just popped in the oven on the day. Winning! I often make multiple at the same time because if I'm going to do one, I might as well make a few, and who doesn't like to share food right?
The original recipe called for a specific ratio of cooked brown rice and cooked French lentils. I have since simplified that for myself by mixing equal amounts of the uncooked and rinsed grain/pulse in the rice cooker and then using the amount I need once cooked. I think it tastes equally good this way and makes my life easier too.

Mushroom and lentil loaf
printable link

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (any will do, I tend to use button as they're so readily available)
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, finely diced
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 2 3/4 cup cooked brown rice/lentil mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (Coles brand is vegan for Australia)
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • fresh parsley, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (mine was made from the stale crusts of my sourdough loaves)  
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Line a small loaf tin with baking paper and set aside. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, molasses, liquid smoke, and about 1/3 of the minced garlic. Set aside.
  3. In a fry pan over medium heat, add some olive oil and 1/2 cup onions. Sauté 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, and sauté celery, carrot, the remainder of the garlic, salt and pepper over low heat. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  4. In a food processor, pulse rice and lentils until they combine nicely but are not complete mush (about 10 times), then transfer to a large bowl. Again in the food processor, pulse cooked vegetables, Worcestershire sauce, remaining soy sauce, mustard, parsley, cornflour, and 1/3 of the tomato mix about 10 times, then add vegetable mixture to rice and lentils. Fold in reserved sautéed onions and mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and the 1/2 cup raw chopped onion. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
  5. Assembly time! Press half the mixture into the loaf pan and spread with half of the tomato topping. Add the rest of the mixture into the pan and press it down (wet hands help) and coat with the remainder of the tomato topping. Cover with foil. At this point you can stop, and put it in the fridge to be cooked later. If you do this, let it come to room temperature first. 
  6. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered until the top is browned. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20 minutes before serving. 
Notes/Variations
  • This is one of my favourite dishes and always makes me think of Christmas. Served hot from the oven and cold as leftovers for lunch, both ways are delicious. When I can't face eating it anymore, I freeze individual slices ready to pull out for making sandwiches or quick meals when needed.
  • It's very forgiving - you can add more carrot and celery or change the ratio of rice/lentils if you prefer. Sometimes I've been lazy and just mashed with a fork instead of getting out the food processor and that works well too.
  • It's great if you happen to have gravy (everything is amazing with gravy!) but it doesn't really need it.
  • You could leave out the Worcestershire sauce if you wanted, and maybe add a bit more soy sauce instead.

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