evolution of the cityhippyfarmgirl

Some people launch themselves into an entirely different lifestyle, and some slowly evolve. I think, I’ve been more the evolving kind.

Some things have been a conscious decision to change based on greener ideals and others a mere progression, and an almost surprisingly sneaky shift.

While I would definitely say my roots were always deeply imbedded in a less mainstream society, I can still look back on the last ten years and track how my life and my growing family’s life has changed to a lifestyle less within our consumer conventional one. Each new corner that we have come to, has been met with choices. Choices, that I’m incredibly grateful for them being there. Choices that have allowed us to grow, change and evolve.

As I’ve gotten older my values have changed, my priorities shifted. With a third baby now, while in some ways this is the busiest I have ever been, in other ways things also feel a whole lot more simplified as well. Things could certainly get more simplified and I still really hope that we can do that down the track, but for the moment… I’m happy with how things have evolved.

These days, my life changes are heavily influenced by my children. Those moments when I’m watching my kids run around outside, without restrictions, testing their own boundaries and easing themselves out of their own comfort zones. It’s incredibly fulfilling. Watching them do it with a smile on their face fills me with gratitude for that moment and their ability to do it. That’s their evolution. Watching them, encourages me to strive for more.

While we live in a flat, I can’t easily say run out the back and go exploring kids, we do have to make an effort.

To make that extra effort to visit the park with the jungle trees to explore in. To stay that bit longer playing in the water, slowly gaining the confidence that was hiding from them before. To take the time to read and explain something that could easily be ignored and diverted by switching the tv on. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it feels so worthwhile.

Food has been another change over time. The way I have bought, the things I have cooked, the mentality behind what I’m eating, and even those old taste buds. I now eat raw celery, Mr Chocolate eats jam, Monkey boy eats lettuce and Little Monkey eats meat.

Evolution of a family of taste buds.

Mr Chocolate and I were looking at a yogurt tub a while a go. A 99% fat free fruit yogurt. Once I would have bought it without hesitation and eaten it with a whole bundle of enjoyment. Now, all the tub got was raised eyebrows and mutters of I don’t think so. Yes, it was an Australian company, (that’s a tick) and that’s about all it had going for it. Anything stating it’s ‘low in fat’ immediately sets alarm bells off for me now. It still tastes good so how is that taste in there if there is no fat?

Sugar. A whole bundle of it. Five teaspoons of it in 150g to be exact. Mix that in with a whole bunch of thickeners (maize, tapioca, gelatine) and you’ve got yourself a low fat yogurt. 250mls of lemonade has less sugar than that little tub of yogurt. Now if you are a long time reader of this blog you will know I clearly don’t have issues with using sugar. I love baking sugary things. What I do have a problem with is sneaky sugar. Things that you wouldn’t automatically presume would have a whole bunch of sugar in, like the low fat yogurt. I like my sugar to be upfront, with a little tah-daaah action if you please.

So no, I’m not buying that low fat yogurt tub. While I once would have, now I don’t and I can make my own. Then if I feel it needs a little sugar, all I have to do is put my own amount in (in the form of home made jam.)

To look back on other ways I’ve changed both unconsciously and consciously, there have been a lot. For the most part I think they have all been for the better, and I’m looking forward to the continuing evolution of this city hippy farm girl.

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I’m interested. What greener/slower/less mainstream changes for you have come about- that have been for the better? Do you feel differently to 5 years ago? Was it a dramatic shift in lifestyle values or a slow progression? Where do you see yourself sitting in your society?

Or simply, how have you evolved?

the kitchen fairy

In the black of the night,

the kitchen fairy is up.

Sleep hides from her, skulking like a shadow, somewhere near by, but not close enough.

Tiptoed footsteps to the kitchen, careful to avoid the creaks in the floorboards.

outside is silence, the black of night is at its most silent.

The household sleeps on,

as the kitchen fairy begins to weigh and chop. Silent in her cutting and quartering.

her thoughts scamper from one to another, but even they eventually stop and pause, once the rhythm of cooking has taken over.

A match is struck, pots turned on.

Her breath held, while a pot lid slips from her grasp. She needn’t worry, the household slumbers on.

With the smells of plums and vanilla teasing the sleeping nostrils, she knows only good dreams can come of that.

Outside, the night continues on in black.

The kitchen fairy’s eyes grow weary,

sleep has stepped out of her shadows, beckoning to her once again.

The pots are turned off, her work now is done.

The slowly greying dawn will show lined jars of vivid plum jam, and cooling racks of sourdough bread,

time for the kitchen fairy to rest.

Plum Jam

2.3 kilos of plums

500mls water

2 kilos of sugar

juice of 1 lime

Chocolate Hazelnut Surprise- Frugal Friday

So, desserts don’t usually make it in to my Frugal Friday posts. But drown me in amaretto if this one isn’t frugal.

Mr Chocolate’s parents were coming over for lunch and my thoughts had been else where. The lunch bit was sorted, but it would be nice if there was a little sweetie something to follow it up with. Now what do I have?

some cooking mistake freezer brownie

some old cream

some sad looking strawberries

oh and some chocolate (50%)

Now I hate tossing food out. I can generally give something a new lease of life well after it has looked it’s best. I like the challenge of it, and it let’s me be a little creative in the kitchen. I was a little nervous with this one though, as it wasn’t just the usual culprits eating it.

Hmmm, thinking cap on, and…

Chocolate Hazelnut Surprise

crumble up some freezer brownie

then whip up

300mls of cream that needed using

add a good shake

 of some hazelnut meal through it (approx 50g)

and

1 tsp vanilla into the whipped cream

and then slowly drizzle some

melted dark chocolate (about 100g- I used 50%)

in as well (don’t over whip it)

layer it with your brownie (or an old chocolate/plain cake you may have hanging around)

add a few

chopped up sad looking strawberries on top and then

drizzle a little more chocolate on

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So how did it taste?

Delicious.

Did the inlaws suspect anything less than a well planned dessert.

Hell no.

(This is not a recipe. Not really any way. Just use what you have and play. You will probably end up with a lovely tasty surprise.)

Terra Madre Day

December 10th is Terra Madre Day.

A Slow Food initiative that is recognised the world over, and coming together as an international day for the third time.

What is it about?

Celebrating eating locally

Supporting small scale farmers

Sharing cooking knowledge

Slow food

There is a whole lot of wonderful things planned for this period around the world. Click here for an interactive map to let you know what’s happening in your area. From Brunch on the Grass, in Maleny- Australia to The Joy of Preserving, in Vancouver- Canada to a whole page of wonderful goings on in Italy.

If none of these community events take your fancy, a small thing you can do is question where your food for the day is coming from. Try and buy local within (160 kms or 100 miles), or at least within your own country. Support small scale farmers and businesses. If you are really inspired, give someone a cooking lesson. Cooking knowledge is easily passed on to another when you have a willing teacher.  How to preserve jam or make bread is a wonderful way to start.

Oodles more information

Slow Food Sydney

Slow Food Australia

Slow Food International

Slow Fish

extra reading

100 mile diet- book

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Living the Good Life

fiesta bread cones

There was a birthday fiesta in the air and I had some bread rolls to make and take.

I had been given some cream horn moulds from a friend and along with lots of planned pastry goodies, I also wanted to make some bread rolls. I did a trial run and they seemed to work well. The Monkeys had inhaled them, so I thought they would be good enough to take to the birthday fiesta planned for the weekend.

First up, make some dough. I used the very versatile olive oil bread recipe. When it comes to the shaping stage, divide the dough into even pieces, (approx 1/16 with this amount of dough, with a little left over- I made 17 cone rolls).

Roll them into skinny lengths. Making sure all the bubbles are out. Roll them on an unfloured surface, you want a bit of stick to be able to roll properly.

Once they are rolled them dust them with a little flour, you want them to keep the rolled shape, when proving.

Lightly oil your cone moulds and then roll the dough along the mould. I found it was easier to keep on the bench rather than holding it up and winding it round.

Plain ones are easy or using a little oil and then a light dusting of poppy seeds.

Bake in oven at 240C with steam, for approximately 15 minutes. Oven time is going to vary, I would start watching them like a hawk from the ten minute mark.

Stuff them full of anything that takes your fancy.

We had these with beans, chicken, guacamole and sour cream, (or as The Monkeys and their Monkey Cousins did, stuff a sausage in there so as not to cut in on any essential play time.

Tips * When winding them up, don’t let the dough go over the lip of the cone mould, the bread will bake over and be difficult to get out. When taking the mould out, do it while the bread is still warm.

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This post submitted to the wonderful holiday version of yeastspotting.

12 eco friendly Christmas gift ideas

We seem to be heading towards the pointy end of the year and with that usually comes a little gift giving. I love making or giving something that I know can either be consumed, passed on, recycled, is environmentally friendly or upcycled in some way. In giving gifts like this though, you usually have to think a little bit before hand. So no shopping on Christmas Eve for me. (Anyway, I would rather be eating my 10th rum ball and reading Christmas bed time stories to The Monkeys.)

So a few rehashed ideas, in a listy form.

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  Preserves for everyone. Jamsmarmalades, sweet chilli sauce and chutneys.  You can make them well ahead of time and easy thing to pop in a little food hamper or given singularly.

Idea: attach an antique teaspoon with some string to the side.

 

 Gnome fairies as a gift or even Christmas decoration. How to make them and where to buy their little wooden bodies here.

A plate of various biscuits for Grandma Esme and Uncle Pollywaffle?

Chocolate Honey Biscuits, Lemon Vanilla StarsAnzac BiscuitsChewy Coconut BiscuitsCustard Biscuits  the list is endless. Make them crisper and they will keep longer.

Idea: A plate of biscotti and some beautiful fairtrade tea.

Buy a plate or dish second hand from your local op-shop/thrift shop/charity shop. Beautiful one off antique ones can bought for usually just a couple of dollars.

An afternoon outing, exploring your local botanical gardens or national park with a picnic? Make an IOU card. Can be used for any ages.

A visit to the local zoo for your nephew Buster? A present doesn’t have to be a ‘thing’ it can be an experience.

maybe a Keep Cup for the coffee fiend from work? No more annoying mounting up disposable coffee cups in the bin.

Where to buy some Soap Nuts for Aunt Green Pants and what on earth they are?

Some bubbles for the triplet girls- Aoli, Bellini, and Chia and how to make your own.

Lots of scraps of fabric? Get quilting. There is probably a beautiful new baby that could use a little quilted change mat. Or maybe some new oven mits for the kind lady down the road who keeps baking fabulous brownies and leaving them on your door step.

Some different ideas for wrapping some of those gifts. Gift wrapping doesn’t have to be the conventional rip it up kind.

…and perhaps a card to go with it?

Chocolate wrapping cards. There’s a damn good reason to go buy some of that fairtrade chocolate you saw on special.

or maybe just a simple gift tag?…

Gift tags can made from old cards, cereal boxes, biscuit boxes or just a beautiful old photo.

Lots of possibilities… now go have fun creating and giving.

there is only one problem with eating organically

There is only one problem with eating organically…

This guy.

This headless, antennae waving slippery slime bag.

There I was channelling my inner kitchen goddess, dinner pretty much sorted. The Monkeys behaving themselves, and ready to eat. A lovely enticing dinner aroma tickling the nostrils of those that happened to be passing by my back kitchen door. All that was needed was a chopped up bunch of spinach, wilt it through the dish a little and voila… dinner was ready.

I washed the bunch with intimate attention. I know where I bought that bunch of spinach from, and I know critters sometimes like to play hide and seek within amongst the green foliage. I was no fool, and hadn’t suspected there was still a hide and seek player amongst us. Happily washed, and chopped, I reached in to dump it all in the slowly bubbling aromatic pot of goodness only to find… him.

The slime bag.

Headless.

Dinner plans were slightly reorganised. Hopes were pinned on the now eight times washed spinach. Hopes that the little slime bag didn’t have any close friends still playing the now, not very funny game. I decided there was no need to share the good news with anyone else at this stage and instead keep it as an entertaining dessert time conversation treat.

Dinner’s ready!

food foraging- mulberry breakfast trifle

The last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple of laden mulberry trees on my daily travels. The first thing to notice is lots of dark almost blue coloured stains squishing under your shoes, then I look up and… oh hello bountiful tree with your weighty branches filled with red tinged berries. What’s that? You want me to pick me you and store you in my handy empty container I just happen to have with me? Don’t mind if I do.

Most mulberry trees around these parts are usually on some one elses property and not within arms reach. Not my arms anyway. However lately I have had easy access to a couple of trees weighted down by all their fruit. Only once I have seen someone else picking the fruit, everyone else seems to walk on by not knowing what it is, or not in the slightest bit interested.

Picking mulberries is a bit of a labour of love. The juice stains your fingers and each berry has to be picked individually. Once home, you still have to pick off the little green stems before cooking with, (and I always seem to be in a white top when ever I happen to come across them). It can take a while to get a decent amount, but it’s definitely worth it.

I’m not particularly good at identifying wild food foraging options in my local area. Mulberries are easy. Loquats quite often pop up, and the tiniest mini mandarins are also near by. (Which were the tartiest fruit I have ever tasted- very funny while watching The Monkeys taste test them… evil mama, I know.)

Apart from that, my knowledge for urban foraging could use a little upgrade. In the mean time though, at least I have breakfast sorted.

Is anyone else enjoying some local free foraged food?

Mulberry Breakfast Trifle

whole oats

apple juice

natural yogurt

whole almonds

mulberries

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Soak whole oats in some hot apple juice.

Blitz whole almonds (skins too) until you get a consistency you like (I like it chunky) or use almond meal. Mix in with the soaked oats.

Cook up mulberries in a little apple juice, then cool.

Then alternate with the layers of oats, mulberries and yogurt.

* If you like it sweeter, you can add flavoured yogurt, or a little jam to the mulberries (or sugar). No mulberries? Use any other kind of berry.

Chewy coconut biscuits

“Mama these are the best biscuits in the whole world!”

Big contented sigh from me. I smile at Monkey Boy.

“Thanks little fella… you my dear, may have another”.

I’m easily satisfied with minimal effort on the kitchen front and happy taste sensations going on when you bite into a biscuit. Monkey Boy is easily happy when something just tastes good. No more words necessary.

Except when you forget the sugar, and you’ve just made a double batch of The Monkeys new favourite biscuits. Little Monkey took a bite and confidently handed the biscuit back. Monkey Boy said they tasted a bit old, and not really like last time. A visiting foodie friend wrinkled her nose up and handed the remaining biscuit to a quietly pouting baker. Baking ego quietly deflating.

What to do with rather a lot of sugarless coconut biscuits?

Yes, I could have eaten them, it didn’t bother me there was no sugar in them. But probably not the wisest idea, having 50 biscuits just for me.

What do? How to sugar them up?…Spoon jam in between them? Dunk them in chocolate? What about covering them in lime icing?

Hmmm, lime icing eh?…that should do the trick.

Much better. Eaten once again with gusto.

“Mama, these are the best biscuits in the world!”

Baking ego restored.

Chewy Coconut Biscuits

125g softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup raw sugar

1/4 cup milk

Mix together and spoon into some cling wrap. Roll in to a log shape roll. Pop in to the fridge for a while, until the mixture firms up and roll again to get a smoother log shape. Cut into biscuit rounds with a serrated knife. Bake at 180 for about 15-20 minutes. Longer of you like them crunchy.

Red Lantern

Can you guess where I had lunch?

My belly is full, my mind content and my taste buds happily reliving each dish…

Red Lantern.

Now I don’t do restaurant reviews, so this is a plead. Please go there, the food is truly wonderful.

I was really happy with going to Aria last year, but I have to say Red Lantern, you have taken my heart. A restaurant that has two feet firmly planted in the ethical, sustainable, organic eating arena while staying within their Vietnamese origins.

A cosy table for two tucked away in the corner. Let me have one eye on the other customers, seeing what they were ordering. While keeping the other eye on Mr Chocolate making sure he didn’t take any more of the melt in your mouth chilli salted squid than he should be.

It was also really lovely to see Luke Nguyen taking plates out to tables and explaining dishes to customers. Taking the time out to explain one particular dish to me and then coming back to show what he had meant about the cooking process, with said dish in hand.

Food was beautifully presented, tasted wonderful and I’ll be thinking about those dishes for a good while to come.

 Muc Rang Muoi- chilli salted squid

 Banh Tom- rice cakes with tiger prawns, caramelized pork and pork floss

 Goat Curry

 Dessert tasting plate- Coconut Creme Caramel with Strawberries, Sesame dumpling with Black Sesame Icecream, Black Sticky Rice with Caramelized Pumpkin and Coconut Cream.

Table for two next week?….Yes please.

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Red Lantern

545 Crown Street

Surry Hills, Sydney

(o2) 96984355