Tag: Kitchen Scraps

Why We Refuse to Resolution 

 

Some of you are probably glad 2017 is over, others sad to see it go. We’re a bit of a mix here. Fortunately more happy than sad. Whatever your feelings on 2017,all here at the Scrap House wish you a bright shiny Happy New Year… yes even Scrap Cat (possibly with some sarcasm – he’s a bit like that)

Happy New Year Humans… now either feed me or go away…

My personal & public Twit, Face-lurk and Insta-stalk notifications went nuts this morning with well-wishes for 2018 and declarations of goals for the year.

Save Money. Loose Weight. Get Fit. Travel. Get Rich. Be more Eco. Buy a House. Build a House. Become a Minimalist. Be More Spiritual. Start a Business.  Give up Booze or cigarettes or sugar or whatever else.

It’s great that everyone has “resolved” to do these things and I truly wish them well. Some of these are actually really awesome goals to have. But we all know that by the end of January most (practically all) of these resolutions will have fallen by the wayside.

Instead of resolutions in the Scraps House we set INTENTIONS throughout the year as the need arises/inspiration strikes.

The New Year is as good an opportunity as any to reflect upon our values and priorities.  We set (or at least try to) intentions to align our lives with these values. This isn’t goal setting—it’s not something we attach  expectations or evaluation to; rather, it’s a deliberate vision, a purpose, or attitude we’d be proud to commit to, one that matches our deepest sense of who we are.

They’re different to Resolutions because resolutions are goals and they are finite. They usually have a start and cut off date. EG. By December 31 I will have done/achieved X. That’s a lot of pressure. Intentions on the other hand (for us anyways) are about forming habits, going with the flow and building a lifestyle, yes they’re goals, but there’s no rigid time frames for any of it. Intentions allow you a little more wiggle room. You can re-evaluate as you go and a lot of times this can allow you to surpass whatever your original goal was.

Last year my personal intention was to finish my degree and find a job that was actually related to it. I talked about it a lot not to shout it out to the world, but more to motivate myself. Because I looked at it as an intention and not something set in stone I could tell people how sucky my essay sounded or how hard I was finding it to fit in study around work/kids/life. Yes I felt like chucking in the towel more than a few times, but because I hadn’t made it a resolution (other than assignment deadlines which were bad enough) to finish my degree by a certain date or at a certain level (other than the best I could do), set-backs like a lower than wished for mark on an essay didn’t make me give up or feel like a total failure (not always anyway).

Mr Scraps and I intended to reduce our household waste by whatever we could. This was a continuation of something we started a long time ago, not a new years thing. Its still going (in fact its on this years list as well) but we have no strict number on it. We produce maybe enough to fill a plastic bread bag (if I can find one) full of non-recyclable waste every fortnight,sometimes a little more, sometimes less. We’re still working on reducing the amount of recycling. If we’d resolved to get it down to a certain amount by a certain time (I see so many posts about people wanting to get down to that mason jar amount this year) we definitely would have given up long ago. Instead we’re happily plodding along, doing our best, making mistakes and learning from them.

Our intentions as a family are to simply continue being, to do what we can to reduce our waste and a bunch of other stuff. And we didn’t wait until new years to start any of them and I didn’t necessarily shout them out in public either.

Most things are little, some are larger but the list changes as we go.

Yep,I’d like to buy a boat and sail the world, build a tiny house and become a mountain dwelling self-sufficient hermit too…

But to be realistic….

This year we’re moving house so we intend to use it as an opportunity to reduce our stuff by leaving things in boxes until we actually NEED them. If we don’t have to get them out after 6 months or so we’ll sell or donate them.

Our household and  income is changing. Not just because we’re moving house. The Big kids are leaving home for their jobs, Mr Scraps will no longer be covered by insurance for his disability, the Younger Teen is turning 16, is changing schools and now has a part time job. Our intention is to try and build an emergency fund without sacrificing too much in lifestyle.

We’ve all over-indulged over the Christmas break, too much wine, too much sugar and just too much food in general (seriously will the ham never be finished? I feel like we’re drowning in the stuff). As of this week we’re taking a leaf out of one of my favourite blogger’s books (well posts) and intend to get back to basics with our food.

After my experiments growing food from scraps this past year my intention is to try and grow a few more edible things (probably in pots to start- although the house we’re moving to has a lemon tree already- yay. Expect lots of lemony recipes this year). Despite growing up on a farm I’ve never really done any growing of my own.The garden has always been Mr Scraps department, so I’m starting basically from scratch. I did receive this book for Christmas though, which I’m hoping will prove to be a bit of a useless Aussie gardener’s bible…

My celery I grew from a butt…

All of these intentions align quite nicely with our desire to live more simply and produce less waste.For me personally, intentions are about living low and slow, taking into account your environment, emotions and relationships.

What intentions do you have for 2018?

 

 

 

How Scrap family reduces food waste and saves some $$$

9 ways the Scraps family has reduced food waste and saved some money

Australian’s throw away thousands of $$$ worth of food a each year. That’s THOUSANDS! I don’t know about your family, but ours definitely doesn’t have thousands of disposable dollars laying around to waste on food that we don’t get to eat.

We’re by no means perfect or even experts but we do manage quite well on what I consider a very lower middle-class income. I’ve had lots of questions about it lately via face-lurk,  especially when I post about saving on groceries or put up recipes that feed the fam for next to nix. So today I’m going to share the principles we follow to reduce (mainly food) waste and save a few $$$ especially when the budget’s a bit tighter than usual.

1. Know what’s in the pantry

By knowing what’s in the fridge, freezer and  cupboards—fresh fruit N veg , canned stuff, dry herbs and staples like flour or rice—the less likely we are to return from the shops or to get home and realise we’ve already got one (or more) of something. On weeks when the budget’s really tight shopping the pantry first can be a real lifesaver. We often find enough for at least half a weeks meals are already there. The teens are really good at coming up with creative ideas for whats in the cupboard….they’re not always great ideas, but they are creative….

2. The List Abides

Writing a shopping list based on what’s at home and what we plan to cook during the week means we avoid buying more than whats needed and don’t purchase items we can go without. (Although I  do try to include at least one small “indulgence” each week like a little chocolate or the extra ingredients for a special desert or Lunchbox snack). I actually loathe shopping (of almost every kind) so having a list makes this a much faster and less painful task and thankfully, our greengrocer delivers!

3.  Check the expiry date

We check expiry dates when we’re shopping and try to buy things like milk, cheese, dry and tinned goods, with the longest shelf-life remaining possible. We position older items at the front of the fridge or cupboard, so they get eaten first (actually Mr Scraps  is much more vigilant about this than I am). If fruit and veg start to go a bit soft, we also look at ways to incorporate them into soups, sauces and desserts. If we’re short on time, we freeze them for later (which reminds me …I have a bunch of squishy fruit in the freezer that we can use for smoothies this week).

4. Portion control

No, I don’t mean we put the family on a diet. But we’ve found out the hard way that if there’s only three of us at home on Thursday but my meal plan looks more like something for when there’s five or six  of us, we end up tossing A LOT of uneaten food to the Immortal Chicken. We try to buy and cook only what we need. And if I’m  making extra,that it’s something that can be easily frozen for later. Every now and then I do this on purpose so there’s some individual servings of whatever in the freezer for lunches or those nights when something unexpected crops up and we can’t cook (or I just plain don’t want to).

5. Storing food

Airtight containers,  fridges and freezers all play a part in prolonging the shelf life of certain foods. So, if we’ve got meat in the fridge that we’re not going to eat this week,we  put it in the freezer. Same for fruit and veg. For example green beans are on special at the greengrocer this week so I’ve ordered a box full to be delivered.  After work today I plan to blanch and freeze most of them for later ( unless of course Mr Scraps channels his inner kitchen fairy and has it done already by time I get home).

6. Leftover nights

If we make more food than we can consume, rather than throw it out, we pack it for lunch or save it for dinner the following night. The bonus is I don’t have to cook again the next day. I try to have a Leftover night written into our Meal Plan once a week.

7. Keep a Container

In the car, bottom of the pram or your bag. If Mr Scraps and I or one of the Scrap kids can’t finish  our  restaurant meal, we ask to take it home. If we can stretch one meal into two – we not only  reduce waste and the second meal is essentially free so we save a few $$$$.

8.  Compost or find a chicken…

We don’t actually compost because we have the Immortal Chicken. Chickens are great for recycling things like fruit and veg peels (except onions and citrus) and all manner of scraps. If you don’t have a chicken of your own (or a neighbour who does) compost bins  and worm farms will break down food scraps and at the same time create natural fertiliser for plants. If you’re lucky (like people in our area) your local council has commercial compost facilities, but also check out your local schools or community gardens if you can’t (or don’t want to) compost at home.

9. Grow your own

Okay, so I’m not so great at this (I’m told I have a “black thumb”) but saving money is one of the biggest reasons people grow food at home. Having a stash of herbs and vegetables means  always having access to fresh ingredients and just the right amount. I have had some success regrowing veg like celery and carrot tops from the scraggy end bits we usually cut off and throw to the Immortal Chicken, but it takes a while and I’m too impatient.

S

My Awesome Zero Waste Work Week 

As I’ve already mentioned, I started a new job at the end of last month. It’s been awesome so far. A huge learning curve because I’ve spent over a decade either self-employed or studying and the whole process is still a little alien yet.

I’m only doing a few days a week, so plenty of time to work on my thesis and get things done at home and I’m getting paid to work with people who love the same thing I do… Archaeology!

But another totally awesome thing about my new job is that nobody in the office thinks my efforts to avoid and reduce waste are weird.

It’s a Zero Waste friendly office!

Those of you who face-lurk or insta-stalk me might have already seen my post on Wednesday night about packing my salad in a jar for Thursday’s lunch at work. I didn’t grab a photo but the one of the Ecologists brought his soup in a jar and the Archaeologist I work with regularly brings her smoothies in a jar.

There’s a kitchen…  So we can bring our lunch and snacks ( less waste and way cheaper than buying lunch each day). They keep a filter jug in the fridge so there’s always fresh water to fill your water bottle and a compost basket under the sink for green waste ( our local council supplies them and the bio-bags as part of their Halve Waste program). 

There’s tea and coffee too so no need to get take-out coffee but if you’re heading out to do fieldwork or travel for client meetings everyone has one of these:

And the bathroom is low waste eco-friendly too… 

There’s “unpaved towels”  for hand-drying and eco-friendly Who Gives a Crap loo roll and tissues. I don’t know who is washing the towels. I keep forgetting to ask, but I’m pretty sure it’s done by  the Zerowaste fairy (like the tooth fairy but he/she cleans stuff instead of giving you monies.

It’s not a completely paperless office but the bulk of our work is done on the computer and scrap paper is reused before going into the recycling bin. Any soft plastics are taken home (this week by myself)  to be dropped into a Redcycle bin (nearest one to us at the moment is at the Chiltern Post Office ( the Teens go there twice a week for sports training so it’s not out of the way).

Imagine if every office did these things…

 

Sunday Scraps – How we prep for the week ahead and what we ate this week

A big part of living low and slow is having routines, rituals and habits. No we don’t run around naked in the woods making sacrifices to the Slow Gods (although that might be fun) but we do have some things that we do on weekends that make life just a little bit simpler for the rest of the week. 

The last two weeks have been school holidays here so I must admit that routine did pretty much go out the window but we’re getting back on track now.

Our Weekend Routines

It’s tempting to sit around and be lazy over the weekend, especially when the weather is really nice (or particularly awful) but we I find that if we perform a few little rituals we can handle just about anything the coming week throws at us.

The Bed Sheet Ritual. 

Change all the bedsheets. We don’t necessarily wash them the same day but at least get them all changed so we start the week fresh. This only takes about 20 minutes if everyone does their own bed.

The Ritual Cleaning of the Sports Uniform

Takes a second or two to dump all the sports uniforms and training gear in the machine and five minutes to hang them up ( inside on a clothes horse if the weather is bad).

The Uniform Ritual

Goes hand in hand with the Cleaning of the Sports Clothes. We check everyone has clean uniforms and work clothes, organise any repairs if necessary and hang them all ready to grab and go each morning. This way you don’t have to hunt for socks or shirts or in my case, spend 30 minutes choosing which of the two work jumpers you own goes best with the blue shirt.

The Lunchbox Ritual

Takes about 10 minutes to check what’s in the fridge, freezer, pantry and fruit bowl. I make sure there’s enough for lunches and make a list which I stick on the fridge so the Teens know what they can snack on and what has to be left available for lunches

The Meal Plan Ritual 

This one also only takes about another ten minutes.  I usually already have a fair idea of what’s for dinner for the week but I do a quick double check that we have all the necessary ingredients on hand and if not I try and adjust the plan rather than run out and buy stuff. I plan mainly on a scrap of paper but I have put together and excel spreadsheet version as well. Here’s a printable version for those of you who would like to give it a try.  Weekly meal planner1

The Prepping of the Food

This one can take a little longer depending on what meals we have planned for the week. I usually spend about half an hour doing things like precutting veg or stacking the required fresh ingredients for a meal together in the fridge. I also like to pull  any meat we’ll be eating for the next few days out of the freezer and put it on plates on the bottom shelf of the fridge to thaw ( this way I don’t have to defrost it last minute in the microwave and the chance of it going bad by thawing on the bench is alleviated). Sometimes I also make up a batch of flatbreads to be used that week or put in the freezer.

If we’re home I tend to do a little baking (bread or a slice for snacks), but the bulk of our cooking gets done as needed throughout the week to avoid waste.

The Ritual Checking of the Bills & Notes

This one should probably go at the top of the list. Sometimes it takes several requests before school notes are produced or Mr Scraps remembers that the car is booked in for servicing on Thursday (this for us is also an important Ritual as we have only one car and live in the country so it needs to be kept in good condition). There’s nothing worse than a last second scrounge for a few dollars change for a note produced the morning of the school excursion or worse a phone call from the school to say your child is being left behind at school unsupervised while everyone else goes to the museum so either come pay for them or pick them up. This Ritual ensures that a) I have a chance to set aside the correct monies for any upcoming trips/bills and b) that if one of the Teens misses out on a school activity it’s because they didn’t hand over the appropriate papers when asked ( and I don’t have to rush around after them or feel guilty when I say, sorry but you’re going to have to miss out this time).
We have lots of other little things we do as well, like making sure the kitchen is clean before we go to bed Sunday night and the Threenager and I both wash our hair, but the ones above are the ones that really do make the week run smoothly.  None of these take too long. Most weekends it’s under an hour and can be done between other activities. If you have any rituals you perform over the weekend to make your week run smoothly I’d love to hear them.

What We Ate This Week

(the makings for Friday night’s Fridge Bottom Burgers) 

We were away last weekend and got home Monday night  and I had work Tuesday and Thursday plus a tonne of university work to do so we’ve had a couple of Fake-Away meals this week.

Monday: on the road home from Lakes Entrance we had toasted Ham and Cheese rolls for breakfast, stopped at a bakery (most bakeries are awesome if you are trying to avoid plastics or go zero, they use tongs to pick up pies and pop them on a real plate, into paper bag or your own containers) for beef and mushroom pies at lunch, then stooped at Rosedale for what turned out to be an undrinkable coffee (I drink my coffee black and sugarfree so might be a little more picky than the average latte drinker but this coffee was bitter and burned).Dinner was ham and tomato rolls I made before we left the cabin. Snacks were veggie sticks apples and bananas as well as some lemon slice.

Tuesday: I had toast for breakfast and packed myself a sandwich for my work lunch as well as some fruit and yoghurt. The Threenager and Teens ate Weetbix for breakfast. Mr Scraps and the mob at home ate pumpkin soup from the freezer as well as fruit and yoghurt. Dinner was Chorizo & Tomato Pasta Fake-Away.

Wednesday:  The threenager had Weetbix for breakfast. I had toast and Mr Scraps had beans on toastI made pumpkin scone bread for snacks. The Eldest Teen spent the night at a friends house so wasn‘t home for breakfast.  The Younger Teen slept in past breakfastThe Threenager had veggie sticks and yoghurt. We all ate toasted sandwiches for lunch made with cheese and veg from the fridge and dinner was baked chicken and vegetables

Thursday:  Breakfast was toast for me and Weetbix for the threenager (Im pretty sure when I’m at work Mr Scraps and the Teens skip breakfast)For lunch at work I took leftover FakeAway from Tuesday night. Mr Scraps and the mob ate toasted sandwiches, everyone had fruit and  pumpkin scone bread for snacks. Dinner was Leftovers Lasagne from the freezer

Friday:Breakfast was eggs on toast, lunch was pumpkin soup, dinner was  fridge bottom Burgers and homemade potato chips

Saturday:  For breakfast I attempted homemade crumpets. They tasted good but were nothing like the crumpets I remember my Nan making for meThe threenager and I stayed home while Mr Scraps and the Teens went to netball and foot. We had toast for breakfast, veggie sticks for snacks and boiled eggs for lunch. dinner was beef sausages and mashed potato and I made a pear and Apple flan which we ate with yoghurt for desert.

Sunday: Lunch was homemade potato chips and the last of the Leftovers Lasagne. For dinner tonight I’m making vegetable curry and rice which should have enough leftover for a few lunches during the week.

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & Not Little Bear Biscuits

Another big week here in the Scrap House.

I was asked to take part in the 2017 Act For Peace Ration Challenge. Basically, in return for donations you live on the same rations given to refugees. It’s not much and pretty hard to make palatable, but you can survive on it for a week. Long term I think you might have some pretty serious health issues unless you could find a way to supplement your meagre supplies with a few vegetables or a little meat. Especially if you have children. I’ll be blogging about it in more detail next week. Donations/ sponsorship runs until the end of June, so there’s still time to join in for anyone who’s interested. You can  donate here to my personal challenge page.

I got my Archaeology Degree in the mail on Thursday. I’m still planning on going to the graduation ceremony in October, but thought I’d get it sent out anyway, just in case I’m too awesomely busy doing archaeology to attend. I can now officially call myself an Archaeologist, granted an inexperienced one… but I have it in ink on a bit of paper now, so it must be true.

I also had a meeting about my first proper (paying) archaeology job. They offered me a contract. There’s probably still some details to work out but it’s really exciting to find that after slogging my butt off and driving the BHG, the Teens and myself mad for the last two and a half years that bit of paper meant something to someone besides just me.

The BHG and I saw Wonder Woman at the pictures this week. I LOVE going to the movies. You leave life at the door when you walk in and for an hour and a half you’re somewhere/ someone else, plus there’s popcorn (or if you’re lucky enough to have Gold Class tickets – wine). I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan (Whovians can love Wonder Woman too! Now wouldn’t that be a cross-over).

The Teens did the usual of teen stuff, but as Monday was a public holiday and Friday was report writing day at their High School, it was a short week for them. The eldest Teen spent two days working in a shearing shed and came home with what to him was a wad of cash (remind me to discuss that with Grandad Scraps sometime – I’m pretty sure that all those school holidays I spent as roust-a bout in the shearing shed means he owes me about seventy billion dollars plus interest).

The Threenager and I did lots of cooking (including perfecting the Not Little Bears recipe I’ve included below) and sorting this week. It’s now definitely winter here and the increase in chill factor now dictates that its time for some serious winter woollies. Many of her clothes from last year still fit quite well, but we’ll be looking for a new jacket in the coming weeks as we discovered the sleeves on hers are almost up to her elbows and she could probably do with another cardigan and vest. A good excuse to get the needles out and sit in front of the fire and watch the next season The Walking Dead and maybe (probably) Black Sails too.

The BHG and I are also in the process of sorting through the two shed loads of stuff we’ve been carting from place to place for the last 12 years. I blame him and his “collectables” a lot, but secretly, I have to admit most of it is my junk from when I was running my own bricks and mortar business. Some of it comes from the houses of deceased relatives, but the majority is just the result of our (my) own  sentimentality. We’ve finally realised that if we’re ever going to go truly nomad sometime this century, we’re going to have to get tough on our “stuff”. I’ve sent a lot off to charity shops, but we’ll probably be doing a lot of eBay listing and free-cycling over the next few months. I really like the idea of minimalism, but getting there (mindfully, without just throwing everything we’ve accumulated in a skip and sending it to landfill) feels like an incredibly arduous task.

Speaking of going nomad, those who saw my Instagram posts about our pop-top “Miss Cara Van” will be pleased to know she is coming along nicely. It’s taken a while, but now most of the structural stuff is done and she’ ready for a new floor.  Then we can get onto the fun stuff (kitting her out and decorating).

Now to the promised recipe. I’ve had a few friends try this out with all the variations listed and they’ve been pretty successful. They’re quick, fairly simple (the Threenager easily helped with the mixing, rolling and cutting) and they’re lower in sugar than the store brought version and can be popped in a little container or waxed baggie in a lunch box, so no plastic packaging in school lunches.

 

Not Little Bear Biscuits

Makes 60 Little Gingerbread Man or bear shapes approx. 5cm tall.

½ Cup Softened Butter

¼ Cup Rice Malt Syrup

1 Cup Plain Flour

½ Cup Self-Rising Flour

1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Extra flour for rolling

Mix together butter and rice malt syrup until creamy consistency.

Add vanilla essence and flours, stirring until it forms a soft dough.

Refrigerate in covered bowl at least 30 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface until approximately ½ cm thick.

Cut into small shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. (I used a little mini gingerbread man cutter  because that’s what I had in the  kitchen drawer).

Place on lined biscuit trays and bake at 180 C for approximately 5-6 mins or until lightly golden.

Leave on trays a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin.

These will keep at least a week

 (or more, but they’ve never lasted long enough in our house for me to test properly).

Note: You can substitute margarine for butter, honey or maple syrup for rice malt syrup.

To make chocolate biscuits simply replace 1& 1/2 tablespoons of the plain flour with cocoa.

Gluten free or Vegan Version: Gluten Free flour works as well but the consistency is more like shortbread and the dough is very delicate. It is best rolled out gently in small batches. To make them vegan friendly you could use olive oil spread (we tried some of the Nuttelex brand and it worked just fine).

 

 

Scrap Stock – Homemade Vegetable Stock from your Vegetable Scraps

Homemade Vegetable Stock is seriously simple, super easy, only takes a little prep and is about as zero waste as you can get. Unlike store brought varieties you control the ingredients, so NO ADDED NASTIES (you know, those ingredients on the packaging that are either unpronounceable or just numbers) and if you use vegetable scraps it’s also FREE!

Just save those little bits of vegetables that you’d usually throw in the compost, like the end of the brown onion you chopped to make pasta sauce, the stalk you cut off your broccoli, your carrot or potato peelings (but only if they’ve been really well washed – you don’t want gritty dirt stock). Basically almost anything you would usually throw away. I keep a bag in the freezer and as I cook just add all these bits to it until I have what amounts to about 3/4 of a 20 Litre  pot full, but you don’t have to wait that long, use an amount to fit whatever pot size suits you.

From there vegetable stock is as simple as throwing vegetables into a pot, covering them with water, bringing it to the boil and letting it simmer away for a while (30 minutes will do it but about an hour is better). I like to chop and saute off some of my veg in a little olive oil before I add the water just to kick start the flavour process.

When your stock is done simply strain it and keep in the fridge or freezer. I like to make it up in big batches and freeze in lots 1 litre/ 4 cups (those big yoghurt tubs or washed out milk cartons are good for this, anything where the mouth of the container is as wide as or wider than its base). When I make soup or casseroles I simply take some out of the freezer, run the bottom of the container under water until the contents start to free up a little and slide it straight into my cooking pot or slow cooker.

I use the ends of onions, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, those bits of green onion that are too wilted for salad, the tough outer leaves of leeks, celery leaves and the white end bits of the stalks, carrot tops and peels.. the possibilities are almost endless. I do find that the best stock includes onion, carrot and celery.

If you’d prefer a vegetable broth (clear- ish soup) all you do is add seasoning while simmering, usually its a little salt and pepper but you could try anything, chili, curry, garlic or ginger can be nice.

The flavour of your stock (or broth) will depend greatly on what vegetables you choose to include. I’ve made a list below of a few that good and some that are not so good for stock and broth. Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed or something you’ve tried that tastes great, a method that worked really well (or even something that completely ruined your stock).

 

 

What Vegetable Scraps are  Good (and not-so-good) for Making Stock or Broth

 

Acorn and most other kinds of Squash – The peels are great for stock, but the flesh is too starchy and should be left out.

Asparagus- Good in very small quantities.

Basil- Good in very small quantities.

Bay leaves- 1 or 2 leaves per quart of liquid is a good amount.

Beet Greens- Good in small quantities.  You may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.

Beets- Beets can be added, but they will turn the stock a very dark color, which may not work well for some purposes, such as pumpkin soup. Don’t use the skins, they give your stock a funky flavour.

Bok Choy- Foods in the Brassica family, such as Bok Choy, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Broccoli- Foods in the Brassica family, such as broccoli, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Cabbage- Foods in the Brassica family, such as cabbage, are too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Capsicum (Bell or sweet peppers) – Okay in small quantities. I don’t use them much as the Imortal Chicken loves the seeds so they always go in the chook bucket.

Carrots- Excellent !

Carrot tops (leafy part)-  Use only in very small quantities. Too many make stock bitter.

Celery stalks – Excellent!

Celery leaves- While the outer leaves can make the stock bitter, a small amount of the inner leaves can be used with good results.

Chard – Good in very small quantities.

Chives- Good in small quantities.

Cilantro Leaves (aka Coriander to us Aussies) –  Too strong for broth/stock. I can’t stand them, tastes like soap but if you really want to use it, use a very small amount. A very little goes a long way. The seeds are a little different and in small quantities can be quite nice.

Collard Greens-  Another one in the Brassica family.Too strong for stock/broth and can impart a bitter taste.

Corn- Corn doesn’t really add any flavour and will make the stock/broth cloudy.

Cucumber- Good in small quantities.

Dill – Good in very small quantities.

Eggplant – Good in small quantities.

Garlic- Excellent! But I love garlic so may be slightly biased.

Green beans- Good in small quantities.

Greens- Avoid bitter greens and members of the brassica family (kale, cabbage, Bok Choy).  Other greens can be used in small quantities.

Jerusalem artichokes- Good in small quantities.

Kohlrabi- Another Foods in the Brassica family.Avoid using it.

Leeks- Excellent!

Lettuce-  small quantities only. Most lettuce varieties don’t add much flavor to the stock/broth so is just a waste of real estate in your pot.

Marjoram- Good in very small quantities.

Mushrooms- I love them! Not technically a vegetable but Mushrooms add rich flavor to vegetable stock. Some studies suggest they can contribute to kidney stones and other health issues so maybe avoid them if you have any issues.

Napa Cabbage – Another from the  Brassica family so like cabbage can impart a bitter taste.

Okra – We don’t get it much here unless I happen to be at one of the city markets but Okra can add body to broth.  Use in small quantities to avoid overwhelming flavor.

Onions – I would class them as THE essential ingeredient so excellent for making stock/broth. If you don’t have any though, leek does almost as good a job.

Onion skins-  Onion skins add a lovely colourJust don’t add to many of them unless you want your stock to be really dark.

Oregano-  Like all the leafy herbs Good in small quantities.

Parsley –  Same as Oregano.

Parsnips- Good in small quantities.

Peas – Also good in small quantities.

Peaa Pods- Same as Peas

Peppers, Hot Peppers, Chillis- Not recommended for stock but a tiny little bit can be good in broth.

 

Potato peels-  Can be used in small quantities. Potato skins add an earthy, but slightly bitter taste. Too many can make the stock cloudy.  Be sure the peels are very clean, otherwise you’ll end up with stock that tastes like dirt.

Pumpkin-  Pumpkin is a little too starchy for good stock or broth.

Radish – I don’t really recommended them.

Romaine Lettuce –  Can be okay in small quantities.

Rosemary – Some people like the taste but some find it  a bit bitter, so you may want to use it with caution.

Rutabagas –  Another in the Brassica family..

Scallions- Excellent.

Shallots – Also Excellent.

Spinach-  Good in small quantities Add toward the end of cooking because it breaks down quickly and can make your stock murky looking.

 

Sweet Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes don’t add much flavor to stock or broth and some are too starchy for good stock or broth.

Thyme-  Very good in small quantities.

Tomatoes-  Excellent for making stock/broth. Don’t include too many tomato seeds as this can give a bitter flavour.

Turnips – Turnips are too strong for stock or broth. They tend to overpower any other flavours.

Turnip greens-  Ok in small quantities. Like other greens you may want to add greens toward end of cooking as they break down quickly.

 

Zucchini – Also good in small quantities.

Apple Scrap Vinegar

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) from your Apple Scraps.

Don’t throw out your apple cores. I know some people eat the whole apple, core and all, but most of us don’t. Our youngest daughter eats at least one apple per day, that’s seven apple cores a week either going to the immortal chicken (I’ll tell you that story another day) or to compost each week. We also use a lot of ACV. I use it as a hair rinse, in cooking, as a salad dressing and in household cleaning products among other things and if you’ve been to your local wholefood store, health shop or even just your local supermarket lately, you’ll know that stuff can be expensive.Especially if you like to buy the certified organic brands.

Originally I went looking for a place that retailed ACV in bulk and at least a little cheaper than I could buy it in glass bottles from my local supermarket. Imagine my delight when I found you could make your own and all you needed was already right there in my kitchen.

What you need:

Apple cores (about half a dozen and skins if you have them)

Sugar

Chlorine Free water (if your tap water is chlorinated leave it sit out in the open air for a while for the chlorine to evaporate or if you can get it use rainwater).

A wide mouth glass jar that will hold about 1.5  litres of liquid ( you can use larger or smaller just adjust your quantities).

A piece of cotton cloth (a bit of old sheet, a hanky or napkin will do)

An elastic band or piece of string.

The Makings

Put your apple cores into your wide mouth jar.

Mix water and sugar at ratio of 1 teaspoon sugar for every 1 cup of water. Make enough to fill the jar. I like to use warm water and mix until the sugar is dissolved, but its probably not a necessity.

Pour the water sugar mix into the jar all the way to the top.Make sure all your apple bits are submerged (or they’ll go mouldy).

Cover the mouth of the jar with your piece of cotton and secure with an elastic band or string.

Stick it in the back of your cupboard for about 3 weeks to ferment. You’ll know its ready when it begins to smell acidic and well, like vinegar. You can use it as is or leave it another week or two and it’ll have a stronger flavour.

Strain into a bottle, put the lid on and set aside for a few days to settle. You might want to open the lid every day or so for the next week to “burp” the bottle, just in case it hasn’t quite done fermenting. A vinegar explosion in your cupboard might not be pretty.

Notes:

You can give it a stir every few days if you like, but I usually forget.

You’ll know its ready when it smells really acidic,if it really smells like rotten apples, chuck it and start again.

Surprisingly, you’ll probably have to put your nose fairly close to the cloth “lid” to smell it. The first time I made a batch I was worried it’d stink out the cupboard because you need to leave the jar open (the little microbes in the water and apples need to react with oxygen- thats why you don’t use chlorinated water, it kills all the little microbes that make the vinegar), covering it with the cloth stops dirt, bugs or rodents getting in the jar.

If you get a white gungy looking thing floating about in the jar before you strain it, hang onto it. It’s called the “mother” and will help speed up the process if you add it to the next batch you make. You can either pop it in with your strained ACV or put it in a separate little jar of its own. I usually start the new batch fermenting as soon as I strain of the ACV, so just transfer it into that one.

Keep your apple cores in the fridge or freezer until you have enough. I keep an old bread bag in the freezer that I throw the cores into as soon as I’ve cut up the apple.

Banana Bread For Fresh or Frozen Bananas – Recipe

We love bananas but they can get rather expensive here when all seven of us are home and consuming them, so I tend to buy them in bulk when they’re “on special”. I freeze a few when the peels are still yellow and we eat them right up until they get a bit spotty (they’re much sweeter that way), but occasionally one or two will make it to that little bit past their “Best By” date, even by our standards. Fortunately this Banana Bread recipe works best with REALLY REALLY RIPE BANANAS. If you don’t have time to make it straight away, just pop your over-ripe bananas straight into the freezer with the skin on. No need to plastic wrap them or put them in a container.

When you want to use them simply leave them on the bench to thaw until the skin peels off (usually about an hour depending on the weather), throw the skins in the compost or straight on the garden and use for baking as you would fresh bananas.

This is a great recipe to make with younger children as it doesn’t require a mixer. It gets bonus points because if you use thawed frozen or over-ripe bananas they’re easy for little people to mash all by themselves.

I’ve included a few ideas for variations on the original recipe that I’ve tested on the  guinea pigs (aka: the family) in the ingredients list as well.

 

Utensils:

2 Bowls

1 Greased Loaf Tin ( approximately 8 & 1/2 x 4 inches  or an average bread pan – I grease mine with Olive Oil but you could use Butter or even Baking Paper if you wanted).

Wooden Spoon

Skewer or long Toothpick

Cooling Rack

Ingredients:

1 & 3/4 cups Plain Wholemeal Flour

1 cup Very Ripe Mashed Banana (about 2 medium sized bananas – the riper the better)

1 Egg (lightly beaten).

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

1/4 cup Light Olive Oil

1/2 cup Rice Malt Syrup

3/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Essence

1/2 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans (these are optional).

Variations

Replace Mashed Banana with Mashed Pumpkin or Mashed Sweet Potato. Replace chopped nuts with dark Choc Chips or Cacao Nibs. Replace Rice Malt Syrup with Honey or Maple Syrup. Substitute any other lightly flavoured oil for Light Olive Oil.

The Makings:

Turn your oven on and set it to 350F.

Combine the dry ingredients, including nuts if you are using them.

Combine the wet ingredients separately before stirring into your dry ingredients.

Stir with a wooden spoon until combined into a thick batter.

Pour into prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. To test if its baked insert along toothpick or skewer, its done when the skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

This Banana Bread cuts easier and more cleanly if you let it cool completely before cutting, but who can wait right.