It’s the first day of the first full week of 2021 and I’m not sure whether to step lightly into this new year, or whether to just jump in feet first. Yesterday I wrote up my list of goals and aspirations for the year, but I’m aware that it’s the thinking, the mindset that accompanies one’s actions, that can work for you or against you as you step out towards meeting your goals and wishes. So, as well as the goals and objectives themselves, I have added to my list a general note: “Don’t overthink it, just do it.” And another one: “It might fail, but that’s the worst that can happen.” And then there’s “Best foot forward” as my father would say. As I write, I realise that I am feeling a little rusty, probably because it has been almost seven weeks since my last blog, and in fact it feels even longer. It was way back in November 2020, after all! Way back to that strange year that for most was a bewildering and scary time, one where we had to dig deep, and be brave and patient and compassionate individuals, and hope sincerely that that would be all the pandemic would ask of us. Many people had it far worse than those of us who are still in a position to sit here, (hopefully) in good health and write our posts and catch up with what our blogging friends have been up to over the past few weeks. At a time like this, you just never know what will be asked of you, or what might be taken from you. So to all my readers here, and to my friend Kate in the UK, who reminded me that the three go together: I sincerely wish you a Happy and Hopeful and Healthy 2021. Difficult days, but here we still all are! Here’s wishing you ALL the best of what the year has to offer, and remember that we are all works in progress, so let’s just all keep on creating♥
It’s possible that you are inadvertently downing more critters than you realise, especially if you buy organic leafy greens or grow your own at home and pick these to eat at your table. Insects have a way of attaching to organically grown produce, and I recently found a tiny, bright green mite, still alive and attached to a curled leaf of a head of lettuce after several days in the fridge. I returned it to a sheltered spot in my garden and wished it a happy life. Even after rinsing- that’s all you need to prepare organically grown greens- I’m aware that I may miss a few, and they may be going down the hatch- MY hatch!- along with a mouthful of salad. This is not much of a concern for me. There are worse things in life! It seems that currently there is a high level of interest in the viability of insect protein as we try and explore more creative ways of feeding the millions who occupy the planet. There is plenty on the web about the nutritious properties of insects and grubs, including other pertinent food awareness issues, such as why we all need to get over ‘ugly food’ and learn to eat weeds and certain foods that we, especially Westerners, typically consider unthinkable.
Near where I live there is a retailer that I used to frequent, where the doors remain closed after months, with no sign of change. While the harsh Lockdown regulations of a few months back have been eased more recently, this particular outlet has stuck to online trading only, and it seems they may keep it that way. From what I see, they are doing well and flourishing in the wave of online shopping that appears to be a big part of the new normal. Buying online is not something that has interested me much in the past: now and then I would order a book or two from overseas, or a DVD (although these days we use Netflix at home rather than DVDs), or something nice from Faithful to Nature in Cape Town. I have always enjoyed purchasing from FTN from time to time, because they sell the kind of products that I like and believe in from an ethical standpoint, and I love the way that they consider the environment and other pertinent issues as part of the normal run of their business. At a time where I sometimes feel that trying to get things done in an efficient and ethical way is like pulling teeth or jumping through hoops, it is pleasure to find a local, home grown company that just gets it right in so many ways. Continue reading
In the early years of microwave ovens, when I still lived at home with my parents, there was the adage of ‘don’t cover your food with cling film in the microwave, it will give you cancer.’ Whether the whole truth or not, a lot of people remain instinctively mistrustful of single use plastics, whether out of concern for personal individual health or environmental health. I for one choose not to use cling film. I have not used it for many years and never have it in the house. I prefer to find other ways of wrapping and storing my food. There is enough evidence to conclude that single use plastics ultimately do our health no favours, and it cannot be argued that it is wreaking havoc upon our natural environment as we speak. They remain however, a cheap and convenient kitchen and pantry aid. It is this convenience that attracts us, and keeps us coming back for more. October is breast cancer awareness month in South Africa. And while thankfully it has not affected me personally, I know plenty of women (it can affect men too), including a sibling, who are breast cancer survivors. Continue reading
I haven’t blogged about my garden in a while, and there is no time like the present as here in the global South we move steadily into Summer with temperatures in Johannesburg heading into the upper 20’s, and the first of our wonderful seasonal thunderstorms making an appearance. For me there is nothing that shouts Summer like those lovely soothing Highveld rains, bringing moisture and nourishment to our thirsty gardens, and that unmistakable fresh earthy tang to the air. One of the tasks that I set myself as we go into our summertime here, is to try not to let anything go to waste, although our home grown compost heaps take care of any surplus anyway. Nevertheless, I like to make full use of all that we grow, so that it ends up on our plates as far as possible, and not on the compost heap. I grow a lot of Asian Greens here in our garden in the winter time. They grow beautifully here, in the relatively protected area under the branches of the almond and the apple trees, safe from the harshest of the cold and the threat of overnight winter frost. But come the first weeks of the warmer weather, typically from late August and beyond, the greens will rapidly go to seed, with little yellow flowers appearing on long stems which suddenly ‘bolt’ almost overnight in the warm, dry weather before the rains come. Continue reading
‘Leftovers’: Their mention is often unwelcome in the home, not least for the unlucky cook who has to tackle those bits and pieces before they finally expire in the fridge. Having said that, I really try to avoid throwing food out, whether leftovers from a meal, or food that was left uneaten in the fridge till no longer edible. In fact it’s not difficult to turn leftovers around so that they become more than second rate, uninspiring make-do’s. And it’s not an unfashionable or outdated thing. Huffpost ran an article a few years back titled “Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers” and then there is this 2016 article from National Geographic titled “5 Cool Ways Food is getting Upcycled“. I currently do most of the cooking at home for myself and my husband, and truly, very little food goes to waste in our house, especially if you consider that we keep a compost heap in our garden which happily takes care of anything too yucky to eat.
(adapted from www.crumbblog.com)
- Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bring a large pot of water to boil, and throw some ice cubes into a bowl of cold water.
- Prepare your peppers (green, red or yellow): slice the top off each pepper and remove any seeds or ribs left inside. Make sure that the peppers can stand up straight.
- Cook the peppers in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and transfer them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a baking dish, and set aside.
- Next, add the filling. Take spoonfuls of your leftover Chili (I use about two-thirds cooked chili-non-carne to one-third cooked rice) and scoop into the peppers, making sure not to pack too tightly.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle the tops with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and continue baking for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve right away
‘Mexican Style’ Cottage Pie:
- Boil, steam or bake some potatoes for mash. I like to mix it up here: I often include sweet potatoes and butternut with the potatoes, depending on what I happen to have at home.
- Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Mash your potatoes as you normally would, including milk and butter if desired, till light and fluffy.
- Place your leftover Chili into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mash, and bake for 25-30 minutes till done.
- If desired, sprinkle to the top with a mixture of grated cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven for another 5 minutes or so.
Make a ‘Meal Jar’:
- Fill a glass honey jar about two-thirds with leftover Chili. Top up till almost full (always leave a slight gap) with any cooked grain, such as rice or couscous. This is sufficient for one light meal portion. You can even leave the grains out before freezing, and add that later when you are ready to eat.
- Place in the freezer till ready to use. You can either take it out the night before, or else pop it into your lunch box from the freezer, ready to take to work, and heat up later. Note: place contents in a microwaveable or ovenproof dish before heating.
- This is a great way to eat healthy and affordable while at work (have you seen the price of takeaways these days??… convenient yes, but often way more than I am willing to pay, and definitely not always quality food)
To finish off, read this: https://food52.com/blog/12973-how-we-and-dan-barber-cook-with-trash
…..Then eat it 😉
We all need to feel appreciated and recognized for our efforts from time to time. We need feedback from others to know that our endeavours count for something, especially when we feel that the wheels are turning too slowly and that the things we want to achieve seem out of reach. Our family members, friends and those we consider our peers are often the mirrors which reflect back to us our place in this world, and while we should never let other’s opinions make or break us, there is no doubt that people matter, in the sense that we sometimes simply need to know that what we are trying to do is not going unnoticed. At TheFreeDictionary.com, ‘AFFIRMATION’ is described as ‘a statement intended to provide encouragement, emotional support, or motivation…‘
Our need for recognition and support is echoed in ‘No Man is an Island’, a well known proverbial expression coined by John Donne in the 17th Century. The phrase expresses the idea that human beings do badly when isolated from others and that we have a need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
All this was brought home to me whilst reading through the readers comments one of my recent posts and enjoying and appreciating the the positive feedback I received. One of the comments in particular, from hilaryhunterwriter, stood out for me. It ended with the simple statement: “Keep up the good work” and somehow this short sentence inspired me to just that. Suddenly I felt a unexpected pride at my efforts and in that moment it felt like what I had written was elevated to something more special than before. And perhaps that’s the critical issue: that it sometimes takes someone other than ourselves to recognize what we are doing and the impact that we have, because we often fail to see it at those times when we just can’t see the wood for the trees.
A few weeks ago I visited a close, slightly younger family member who has in a short space of time been through several operations including reconstruction surgery and has been on cancer treatment since. Despite having to deal with devastating emotional shock and invasive treatment, she has continued on her way towards physical and emotional recovery with astonishing energy, positivity and determination while the rest of us look on in awe. I decided to tell her once and for all that I think she has been amazing and that I admire her hugely for the way that she dealt with everything. This resulted in a long and rather tearful hug on both sides, as more words of love and appreciation tumbled out. I left with a feeling of lightness of spirit and somehow relieved that I had spoken from the heart in this way, even at the risk of becoming emotional. I think that this lightness and sense of relief came from knowing that what I had expressed had been ‘sitting’ with me, needing to be said, and that there is no time like the present, especially as Tomorrow is Promised to Nobody. But maybe that’s a subject for another post….
Nude Foods in Zonnebloem, Cape Town is a bulk wholefoods store, offering a plastic-free shopping experience. They sell high quality wholefoods, fresh organic produce, home and body products, minus any wasteful packaging . In their own words: “Our bulk wholefoods, health foods, and earth-friendly products are all non-GMO, plastic-free and sold by weight. Our goal is to make plastic-free shopping easy and accessible to the everyday shopper, whilst supporting local suppliers and other waste reducing initiatives”. The process is simple: scoop out from their bulk bins into your reusable container, weigh, and pay. As well as the self-service bin section, they have pantry items, household products and choose-your-own organic veg. In the war on waste that is gaining traction here and elsewhere in the world, shopping experiences like this one comes not a moment too soon.
There they were: lovely glass-packaged, tasty looking tidbits, all glossy and tempting in their see-through casing, just waiting to be opened up with that nice Pop which you hear when you first unscrew the metal top. I was unpleasantly surprised and slightly shocked to find a cheap looking piece of whitish plastic, all leggy and holey, looking a bit futuristic and not remotely related to food.
The jar of pickles was a gift from a thoughtful family member and I was very pleased to receive it. The very same company makes a delicious red pepper chutney which I buy often. I like the brand: made locally in South Africa, using nice simple packaging, and always in glass. Their products are available on many supermarket shelves, but they are not really one of the mainstream brands, retaining a bit of a ‘niche market’ feel. So I like to support them. The last thing I expected was to find this plastic gizmo thingy when I first unpopped the lid. It took me a few moments to realise what it was: a little mini-sieve that fits in the neck of the jar so that the brine or oil can be poured out, leaving the whole pickles behind. I fished the ungainly little thing out thinking, “well at least it may be recyclable”. But that’s not the point. I object because:
- It adds nothing to my life: I have plenty of reusable metal sieves and strainers at home if I need help in separating solids from liquids. I appreciate that others might find this quite a handy little tool, but I do not. Especially not in plastic.
- I should have been given the option as to whether to purchase this item or not. If the manufacturer had thought to include in their labeling, “For your convenience this item includes a plastic mini-sieve”, I could have made an informed decision. (OK, this situation was different in that it was a gift, which makes things a bit more tricky)
- I am doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic that I bring home from the supermarket, and I do not appreciate unwelcome packaging surprises which now become my problem to dispose of.
- But most of all, I am generally just tired of irresponsible food packaging. Surely the manufacturers could have done better in this case!!? …Could they not at least rather use a more sustainable source of material than plastic? What about a nice, once-off little metal sieve as a promotional item to offset and enhance their product? This could have gone a long way towards showcasing themselves as an environmentally and health conscious brand who are setting themselves apart from the plastic brigade. And especially for an extraneous, non-essential item like this one which a lot of people will end up throwing in the trash, intentionally or otherwise: rather create something more hard wearing and attractive, not just another cheap, forgettable piece of plastic.
It feels like high time for food companies to dig deep and really consider the environmental impact of what they are using to package and label their products. And at the end of the day to think about the impression that their choice of packaging may be creating of themselves as a brand. Hopefully in the near future we will see more legislation in place to rule out this kind of irresponsible food packaging. In the meantime, I’m off to enjoy a light lunch: cup of tea, tuna salad, and pickles 🙂
Natural yoghurt is a probiotic rich food invaluable in assisting normal gut health. It also offers skincare benefits when used topically and can be used straight out of the jar as a facial wash or treatment. And yoghurt is not just for breakfast: It is delicious in cooking, baking, marinades, salad dressings and can even be used as a healthy replacement for oils and butters.
I have been making my own yoghurt on and off for years, and have recently done so with a new enthusiasm since the call to action to reduce plastic and make use of reusables instead of single use plastic containers which are the common packaging for supermarket yoghurt. And as it’s homemade by me, I know exactly what’s in there and can be assured of its wonderful healthy benefits and delicious taste. I try to make eco-wise choices when purchasing the milk that will eventually become my homemade yoghurt. Fresh milk from the Farmers Market is first prize, but this is not always possible. I often buy my milk in large 3 Litre (.793 gallon) containers from PicknPay or Woolworths, which translates into less plastic in the long run. I then dispense the milk into smaller glass bottles which I freeze until needed. (See my post here for more about freezing in glass).
My Homemade Yoghurt Recipe is adapted from this book on South African cookery which was my cooking bible when I first lived on my own in my early twenties:
Ingredients and Instructions: Heat 250 ml full cream milk to boiling, and remove from the heat when the froth starts to rise. Pour 1 tablespoon of the hot milk into the flask and stir for a few seconds to reduce the heat slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of shop bought or homemade yoghurt to the flask and stir in with the milk. This is now your yoghurt starter. Allow the remaining milk to cool to the correct temperature in one of two ways:
- A food thermometer to test to 45°C, OR..
- The ‘fingertip test’ as follows: by inserting the little finger for a count of 10, by which time the heat from the milk will ‘sting’ the finger. In my experience it takes at least 6 minutes for the milk to cool, depending on the surrounding temperature.
Now you are ready to add the milk to the yoghurt starter. First remove the skin that might have formed over the milk, pour the milk into the flask and stir it just a few times to blend with the starter. Screw the lid onto the thermos and leave the yoghurt to ‘brew’ for 7-9 hours, or till set. Once set, scoop your yoghurt into a glass jar and refrigerate.