Do you play with recipes? I used to be afraid to, but I’m becoming much more comfortable with changing ingredients, mixing recipes and thankfully ending up with a successful result (at least, most of the time!). I credit Honey and the lovely Jo from Quirky Cooking for giving me the confidence to do this.
This morning I decided to use up a few apples and pears that were looking a bit sad. I couldn’t find a healthy-ish version of an apple tea cake that I liked, so I adapted one from a Thermomix cookbook, exchanging white sugar for coconut sugar and honey, and using spelt flour instead of self raising flour. It was absolute delicious! Especially with a good dollop of organic cream on top (shhhhh!).
Here’s the recipe…please share your thoughts and/or pics if you make it! Karen xx
(This is a Thermomix recipe but could be easily adapted to use with a mixer.)
6 apples or pears (use whatever you have), peeled, sliced and steamed (I just did this in a small saucepan)
1 extra apple or pear for on top of the cake, peeled, sliced but not steamed
200g coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw honey
250g spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 160. Line either one large tin or two smaller tins with baking paper (this is a large amount of batter so makes a large cake or two smaller ones – one for a friend!).
Place coconut sugar into a clean, dry mixing bowl and mill 10 sec/speed 9.
Add butter and melt 40 sec/90degrees/speed 1, then mix 1 min/speed 3.
With blades rotating on speed 3, add eggs one at a time through the hole in mixing bowl lid.
Add vanilla, honey, flour and baking powder and mix 20-30 sec/speed 3.
Pour your batter into your prepared tin(s) and then add the steamed apples and pears, mixing in lightly. Top your cake(s) with the unsteamed apple or pear slices.
Bake for 25 minutes at 160 degrees and then increase the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Serve warm with cream of your choice!
Being a backyard gardener and growing your own food is just so hot right now. Everyone who’s anyone is doing it! But is growing your own food really worth it?
The answer to this really depends on how you define the word ‘worth’. If you define it solely in dollar terms then I’d say from experience that the answer would likely be ‘no’. If you were to do a direct $$ comparison of the cost of growing your own fruit and vegetables, to the cost of buying the cheapest produce you could find at the grocery store, then the grocery store will win this argument hands down.
But are you really comparing like produce for like produce? Probably not. For many reasons.
For me, growing my own food is totally ‘worth it’, because for me it isn’t about cost savings, it’s a lifestyle choice based around what is best for my body and my mind.
Growing my own food has made me a better person. That’s a bold statement I know! But if spending time outside away from my computer, connecting to nature, slowing down, feasting on delicious food and being able to share produce with loved ones isn’t improving me as a person I don’t know what will.
Most of us want to live a cleaner, greener lifestyle, but what does that actually mean?… For me the answer to this question has changed over the last 10 years since my interest in trying to live a more sustainable existence has grown.
I’ve always had a passion for food and cooking and this ‘interest’ has been instrumental to an overall lifestyle change. I think I’ve gone from being a fairly blind consumer to being more informed about the car I drive, the food I eat and the products I use around my home. Once I started to understand the challenges and rewards of growing my own food it opened my eyes to other areas of my life that I could improve on because I started to realise how closely linked our choices are and how they effect the world.
The ’sustainable’ journey has been very gradual and at times almost accidental. My mum has always had a passion for gardening, but I showed no interest until I realised that I could take my obsession with food even further by attempting to grow it myself – suddenly gardening was appealing to me because I could eat the rewards!
My first vegetable garden was small and fairly uneventful, but I was so inspired by the process of nurturing a plant and seeing it fruit that I kept with it and each year I’ve made a bigger space and changed the types of plants I’ve grown and the way I’ve grown them. It isn’t an easy journey because there is so much to learn and just when you think you have it ‘nailed’ you find a plant covered in some sort of bug that destroys all your days and months of hard work.
I encourage everyone to give veggie gardening a go, even if it’s just growing your own herbs in pots. The Confetti team visited Transition Farm earlier this year and during our interview with CSA farmer Robyn, I remember her telling us that the simplest thing we could do to change our food systems (which seem so ‘broken’), is for consumers to understand where their food comes from. Robyn encourages people to meet their farmer as the more we are ‘connected’ to the source, the more informed our choices will become. Very wise words from a very wise woman. You can read more about Transition Farm in our Confetti Mag article here.
So you probably have an idea by now if you are ready to give this gardening gig a go. If you are keen to embark on the journey, but are a little unsure how to go about it, I’ve included some information on my latest version of a veggie garden and the process it took to build it in the paragraphs below. Happy gardening!
Garden bed design
For the last 4-5 years we have used a raised garden bed constructed of used pieces of corrugated iron from the dump shop with pieces of wire (or sometimes cable ties – my favourite ‘fix it’ item), attaching the corners together. We’ve always had the garden very close to the house so it was a part of our living space and was easy to access – this closeness to the house is based on permaculture principles. This year I decided I wanted to make the garden look prettier and more permanent, so I contacted local permaculture designer, Tonielle, to draw up some plans that we could work from. I wanted the veggie garden to be more ‘thought-out’ and to work with the rest of the garden, our chickens and our bees. I have a stack of gardening books that I re-read each year, but I felt like I need someone else’s help to guild us through a complete change and it really helped to have someone who knew what they were doing.
Detailed plans were drawn up for the entire block so we could work through each part of the garden in the order we wanted to – when we had the time and the $$ available. Tonielle came to our house and we walked around the block together and talked about the things that were important to me and how much time I wanted to spend in the garden. This was a great opportunity to really think about what I wanted from this space we called ‘home’. I decided I wanted to build the beds out of wood, but reclaimed wood so it didn’t look too perfect and meant we were still using recycled materials. I also didn’t wanted to use treated timber, so it meant we needed to go with ‘hard wood’ (so it doesn’t rot) which we sourced from a demolitions yard.
The design is an ‘L’ shape and there are four separate beds totalling 12 square meters of growing space. We used the ‘no dig’ method of layering hay, compost, newspaper and manure several times over. You can read more about the ‘no dig’ method here.
Here’s a bit of a break-down of our costs:
$800 – 8 x 2 inch lengths of hardwood for sides of garden bed – 96 metres in total
$200 – 4 x 3 inch lengths of hardwood for each ‘post/corner’ – 24 metres in total
$110 – bags of concrete from hardware store (to set corner poles) - 10 bags
$44 – Hay bails – 4 bails
$217 – Compost – 2 cubic metres + delivery
$260 – Chicken manure – 2 cubic metres + delivery
$52 – Hire of equipment from hardware store (compactor) – 24 hours
$69 – Pavers (200x200x50mm) – 56 pavers. We already had existing 400×400 charcoal pavers from old garden which were used in the new garden design.
$200 – Plants + seeds – hardware store and markets.
$100 – Irrigation pieces – from hardware store. We already had existing irrigation so it these where just replacing old pieces or creating new lines.
$80 – Weed mat – 20 metre roll
$100 – Roll of plastic – 20 metre roll
Rough total: $2232
The main construction of the beds and laying of the pavers took two men (my partner + brother) and two women (sister in law and myself – 6 months pregnant at the time!) three, seven hour days to construct. The foundation of the ‘L’ shape was created by having a 4×3 inch hardwood post cemented into the ground at each point of the ‘L’ and then the 8×2 inch pieces were cut to lengths and secured to the 4×3’s with screws to make the ’sides’ of the beds. The beds consisted of three 8×2’s in height, so that made the total raised bed height 24 inches (61cm).
Before the beds were filled the old irrigation line was tapped into and each bed was given a ‘main’ line which was left sticking out before we filled the beds. This took around two hours to do stage one of the irrigation. The filling of the beds took two people (one, now 7 months pregnant!) around eight hours to layer with the compost, manure, hay and cardboard. Before the beds were filled we lined the base of each bed with weed matting and the edges of the bed with plastic (to stop weeds coming in and soil escaping).
Once the beds were filled the ‘main’ irrigation line to each bed was connected to a 25mm pipe that ran in the shape of the ‘L’ and then small lines were taken off this with different spraying/dripping options depending on what was being planted in each bed (the planting map came from the plan that was created by Tonielle, but I’ve also worked off my own plan from previous years). Stage two of the irrigation took around six hours for one person to complete.
Once the beds were layered, irrigation was setup and the beds were given a good soaking of water, and then left to sit for a week. The planting of the beds took one person around eight hours to complete working from the plans we had drawn up. I’ve worked off my own planting plan before based on information I’d read about companion planting in books and online.
Throughout the growing season there’s always maintenance and further planning that goes on. Some plants require pruning and staking as they grow (like tomatoes) and I also like to ‘succession’ plant so that I don’t have everything fruit at the one time. There can often be issues with the irrigation system and there may need to be further adjustments if you notice some plants are looking a bit dry or others have mildew on them.
Our crop this year was quite a successful one and we even tried growing a few things that we hadn’t tried before. We ate stacks and stacks of silverbeat/chard, lots of tomatoes early on (lost the late part of the crop to bugs), lots of corn, a small amount of peppers, fennel, carrots, spring onions, eggplant and a whole array of herbs. I’m really excited to start the growing season again next year (2015)! Honey xx
Changing the way that you and your family eat and live can be incredibly daunting and massively challenging. When I think back to the food I was raised on, it certainly wasn’t ‘bad’ food. We rarely had take-out, my mother cooked almost all our meals at home, and lollies were only for special occasions. But I was raised at a time when supermarket convenience foods targeted at busy working mothers were in abundance. So instead of dicing fresh tomatoes for the spaghetti bolognaise, my mum used canned tomato soup. We ate boxed cereal almost every morning. And we had packet muesli bars and juice boxes in our school lunches.
My late teens and early twenties were spent well entrenched in the ‘low-fat era’ and then of course there were several years of travelling the world, living and working in London and all of the drinking, smoking and junk-food eating that came with it. Fast forward several years and I discover that I have all sorts of health issues. Good old adrenal fatigue and leaky gut are probably the main ones …that I am aware of. And now I have two small children and I want to make sure that I do absolutely everything in my power to ensure that they have a much healthier upbringing than I did.
And so a few years ago I started researching. And reading …a lot. And my eyes were opened. Sometimes I wish I could close them again. But there ain’t no going back. Once you’ve swallowed that white pill there is no backing out of the rabbit hole (and yes, I know that’s combining two different stories, but that’s how big this is).
I’ve made some huge changes to the way that my family eats and lives. And I am much more aware of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ diet these days. But I still have a long way to go. And so, so much to learn. Which is kind of what Confetti is all about really. Discovering. Learning. Sharing.
I meet so many people who are on the same journey. They are frustrated, confused, overwhelmed. It’s a tough process, and many of us seem to go through very similar stages. Which is what made me jot down this little ‘Evolution of a Conscious Lifer’ satire late one night. It’s all just for laughs of course, is only meant to be taken lightly, and is not at all based on my own personal experiences (cough).
I’d love to know what you think. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Are you in or have you been through any of these phases? And can anyone tell me what Phase 4 looks like?
Stage 1: The Discovery Phase:
You find yourself in a constant state of horror. You have just discovered that the Government/Supermarkets/Regulators cannot in fact be trusted AT ALL. Where previously you thought that if it was on a supermarket shelf then it must be safe, you’ve now realised that this is absolutely not the case.
Your Facebook feed is quickly filled with posts from newly found wholefood, Paleo, raw diet, no sugar, health and wellbeing pages and you click on articles with titles like “How Sugar is Killing Us All”, “Why Wheat is Ruining Your Life” and “16 Things That Are Destroying Your Gut Bacteria”.
You’re overwhelmed with a feeling of guilt that you have been practically poisoning your children with the food you have been feeding them. Your friends start avoiding you as you won’t shut up about it all. Some stop talking to you altogether. You’re convinced there is a conspiracy by the Government and ‘Big Business’ to poison us all so that we have to rely on medications that they sell to us so they can get richer.
You’ve had at least one episode in which you walked into the grocery store and had no idea what to buy because all you saw was a giant death trap full of processed foods, pesticides, hormones, refined sugar and GMOs. You may have sat in your car in the parking lot and cried about it a bit.
And it’s not just the food. You freak out when you realise that you had a root canal 5 years ago and have three fillings which articles tell you have probably filled your body with mercury, which is probably killing you. It seems that pretty much everything is killing you. You’re convinced you have cancer ….somewhere. Your leg was sore last week so it’s probably bone cancer.
Stage 2: The Extreme Phase
You start following a strict diet of gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, organic only food. You go out and buy a Thermomix so as to be able to make everything from scratch. Next thing you know you’re churning butter, activating nuts, brewing kombucha, boiling bone broth and making your own organic almond milk.
Your family is not particularly enjoying this new phase of your cooking and turn their nose up at most of the things you make. You find a Hungry Jacks packet in your husbands work van and completely wig out about it, telling him that if he wants to kill himself then that’s just fine by you.
You start avoiding eating out as you fret about everything that is being cooked at your previously favourite haunts. What sort of oil did they use to make these chips? Is this nitrate free bacon? I bet these strawberries aren’t organic and are covered in pesticides and chemicals. They probably didn’t even soak them in a mixture of water and vinegar, the barbarics!
You start to obsess about growing all of your own food and fantasise about moving to a small farm in the country where you live off the grid, grow everything you eat and raise chickens and a few cows, maybe a pig or two. You start making your own body scrub from spent organic coffee grains, throw out all of the make-up you’ve been using for years and replace it with natural alternatives, and start using only organic coconut oil as a moisturiser.
Stage 3: The Relaxed Phase
After discovering that your stress levels are now dangerously high (and being told by your Doctor that she wants to monitor your blood pressure), you realise you need to relax or perish. Or your husband might leave you. Or you’ll go bankrupt. You start to take a more gentle approach and compromise in some areas.
Instead of insisting on organic everything, you occasionally buy spray free or locally grown fruit and vegetables from the farmers markets, and at times grass fed beef from the local butcher. You use spelt flour in some baking instead of only gluten free options. You buy your kombucha from the lovely lady at the markets who seems much more chilled out than you.
You realise you cannot possibly do it all… at least not all at once, and so you allow yourself to make small changes often. You continue to read and educate yourself on living a healthful life, but you get rid of the alarmist pages from your Facebook feed and choose carefully the information that you read. You start to enjoy this new way of life, you’re feeling better for it, and best of all, your family is happily eating most of what you make for them (winning!).
Stage 4: The Happy, Confident Phase
Yup, not there yet. To be continued….
Honey had told us she didn’t want a baby shower – the words “I don’t like those games” met with a funny up face when I mentioned “baby shower” made me laugh, but I understood.
Well, I understood as much as I could without having had a baby/baby shower myself. I’ve been to my fair share of baby showers with nappy changing, burping and eating like a baby! It’s festive and gets the laughs but it’s not really my style – so I knew where Honey was coming from.
The kind of baby celebrations I like best aren’t with games or about presents, they’re about sharing fears and excitements, having good conversations and sitting and slowly enjoying food. In fact… give me a wedding/engagement/birthday like that I’d be one happy gal!
But I couldn’t bare the thought that Honey was about to welcome her first baby into the world, and didn’t want to celebrate. Any excuse for a party I say!
So I wasn’t letting her get away with it… I was already thinking about what great, thoughtful gift I could give her and her partner Stew when their baby was born.
Then I thought – wouldn’t a celebration be a great gift? I mean, we do share a business where our motto is ‘celebrating life’s moments’. So here’s my chance to really plan a celebration ….Confetti style!
Prompted also by Mary (Honey’s mother-in-law) asking if we were planning anything, the next night I felt like such a secret squirrel messaging her partner Stew.
“I was thinking of planning a surprise baby shower for you and Honey. And I know what Honey will say as she doesn’t like the idea of baby shower’s ….but this one will be special and involve lots of food! What do you think!?”
“Sounds good!!!” he said.
…and with that we were mission baby shower!
I knew I had a crew of awesome people to back me, so I messaged some of Honey’s good friends and family for help, and sent out a Facebook invitation to friends and family. Before I knew it we had a collection of style, food, help and fun to warrant a Confetti photoshoot!
Now for location… well… we knew Honey and Stew were going to name their baby girl Ocean, so it was inevitable we were going to have the party down at a perfect setting under a beautiful tree at our local beach.
All was going to plan, until poor Honey and Stew were up the night before with pre labour pains (Ocean arrived 2 days later!) so they were a little delayed but that didn’t stop the party!
The food was ready and waiting and guests had begun to tuck in. It included some of Honey’s favourites… antipasto platters with a collection of cold meats, cheeses, dips (which the mum to be could enjoy) fresh Bruschetta, yummy sandwiches, the most awesome meringues, donuts, slices, quiches and more! Plus a mint and berry punch to wash it all down. It was a beach feast to be admired.
While the kids played in the trees and adults caught up and laughed, the water was calm and the sun was shining – I stepped back and thought – this is so special, Honey will love it!
Karen styled the scene simply with some driftwood staked into the sand to form a private little area for our gathering, and a collection of beachy blankets, cushions and throws to relax and chat on.
Megan was snapping away her camera capturing everyone enjoying the moment.
Ash also made Honey and Stew’s favourite cake – a traditional cream sponge!
Go team!! It was perfect.
When Honey and Stew arrived, they caught us by surprise! Coming from a different direction, Honey was brimming with smiles and curiosity. When she finally realised what was happening I think she was so grateful to see all her loved ones together to catch up before the big arrival and enjoy some lovely food. There were lots of happy tears, laughter and excitement…
Reflections from Honey – I am always one for a party, I love any excuse… but for some reason I’ve always avoided any of the traditional ‘milestone’ parties (expect my birthday) because I’m really put off by all the ‘things’ you are supposed to do at baby showers, weddings, etc. Having Teegan arrange a secret baby shower wasn’t something I was expecting nor was it something I thought I wanted… but once I walked onto the beach and saw all the people I loved smiling back at me in a beautiful setting I felt very grateful.
Since having Ocean I’ve realised even more how important it is to capture these precious moments and milestones. I’ve always loved looking back at photos of events, but now having a new little person in my life I value these ‘moments’ ten times more. I look back at these photos from my ‘non’ baby shower with grateful eyes. I am so lucky to have beautiful friends and family who understand me and celebrate this. A massive THANK YOU to Teegan for adding another wonderful celebration to my memory bank.
This recipe is super quick and easy to mix up and it’s also extremely versatile. Don’t have enough banana? No problem, try a mix of banana and pear, or some cooked apple, or even frozen berries. You can also easily double the recipe to make extra loaves to share with friends or neighbours
100 brown sugar (or you can replace with coconut sugar)
2 large ripe bananas
150g sour cream (not mls!) (or replace with a natural or greek yogurt)
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Oats for on top
1. Place softened chopped butter, sugar, eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract in your food processor or blender and mix until well combined.
2. Add the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and mix until combined.
3. Pour into prepared loaf tins or muffin cups, sprinkle with oats on top and bake in a 180 degree oven for about 30 minutes for loaves or 20 minutes for muffins or when a skewer comes out clean.
1. Place softened chopped butter, sugar, eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract into your mixing bowl and mix 15 sec/speed 4.
2. Add the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and mix 30 sec/speed 4.
3. Pour into prepared loaf tins or muffin cups, sprinkle with oats on top and bake in a 180 degree oven for about 30 minutes for loaves or 20 minutes for muffins or when a skewer comes out clean.