Save your bananas…or just make banana-bran muffins.

28 Oct bananamuffins3

Isn’t food wastage just the pits? No one likes throwing food out – especially with the cost of groceries these days. And if you’re like me, aiming to go to the grocery store no more than once a week, you’re often left trying to use up any extra fruit and veg before it grows fur.

Since moving up the Sunshine Coast – and with the arrival of summer – it’s our bananas that are ripening quicker than I can keep up. Despite ensuring they are still green when they hit the fruit bowl.

It appears that they are anxious to take on that perfect shade of yellow. Yellow and screaming “Eat me now! Don’t waste another moment!” But a person can only eat so many bananas in one day.

Then, without noticing, they casually take on a few innocent brown spots, nudging at you the thought: “Eat those bananas before they rot”.  And you do what you can, slicing one up into your morning cereal.

But the next thing you know, you glance over at the fruit bowl and the bananas appear as if  they’ve just returned from a family holiday to Death Valley, sans the sunscreen. Black on the outside and melting on the inside. Wasted!

But fear not. I recently picked up a few useful tips and we can in fact reduce the fatalities of our potassium-filled friend the banana.

Save your bananas:

- Separate your bananas from the bunch at the stem,  storing them loosely together, opposed to on-top of one another.

- And keep them away from other fruits in your fruit bowl. Both these methods should slow down the ripening process  due to less exposure to ethylene gas – produced by many fruits to induce ripening.

- You can also pop them in the fridge. The skin will go black but the banana will still be good for the taking.

- But if this does not work – you can freeze bananas (peel them first) and use them later on for smoothies, banana bread, banana pancakes, etc. At your convenience.

Having only just acquired these few little secrets – possibly more obvious solutions for some – I’ve been doing a fair bit of baking with bananas. And I thought I would share one of my many recent banana-revivals, the banana-bran muffin. The are relatively healthy (as far muffins go); quite irresistible; and you can freeze them for about a month.

Enjoy!

Chevaune. xx

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Banana, Bran and Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups plain (all-purpose flour)

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup raw sugar

1/3 cup oat bran

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbs honey

1 egg

1 1/4 cups milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 mashed (ripe) bananas

Preheat to 180C

Place dry ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix to combine the honey, egg, milk, oil and vanilla.

Pour the egg mix into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Stir through the banana.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins with cases and bake 25-30 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

(Makes 12 muffins)

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(Credits: Recipe adapted from Donna Hay, Fresh and Light. Images are my own)

A fishing party

24 Oct fishingparty

It was hubbies birthday a little while ago… the big 3. 1. And although he is not particularly big on birthdays – I most definitely am. Last year I threw him a surprise party and it was a biggie. A large crowd of us, hanging on to the remnants of our twenties, but without the stamina to shoulder the headache the next day.

This year it was time to do something a little more low-key. Something a little more mature… act our age. A civil BBQ,  with a couple of friends, a few quiet drinks.  Fewer balloons, streamers and bottles of champagne…

So very civilised…and…well, a bit boring.

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.” The wise words of Dr. Seuss of course.

Yes, I suppose arranging a fishing themed party for my fully grown husband is going a bit backwards… but are we ever too old to indulge in our birthdays the same way an eight year old kid would? Do we really need to become boring and unexcited by those annual events such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Halloween?

No. Certainly not. Any opportunity for a celebration!

And since hubby is like an excited kid when he sets up his fishing rod and heads down to the water, I figured what better theme than fishing?

And even if I did come across a bit “looney”, it was actually well received. Which is why I thought I would share it with you. Encourage you to throw a “kiddies” party for your husband/wife/friend on their next birthday! (Aren’t we all still kids deep down inside anyway?)

So I baked and decorated a “fish-themed” cake.  (Honestly, it looked awful. Epic Pinterest fail. But still tasted good!). I got some snacks and sweeties together. Marinated some Prawn and Chorizo skewers for starters. Surf ‘n turf (calamari and steak) for din. Served with hot chips and greek salad. Deeelish.

For the grand finale, I hired a little boat for the birthday boy and we went cruising the Maroochydore River a few days later with friends and fishing rods.  And although no fish were caught – it was a great opportunity to get rid of all the left-over cake.

I am already looking forward to planning next year’s party. With our first baby soon on the way – I will then have two kiddies parties to organise!

Chevaune. xxx

sinkers

rods fishtails fishingparty baitandbobbers

Homemade Strawberry Jam

16 Oct jamjar2

jamcloseuptextA friend recently made a trip up to visit me and get away from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane.  Making the most of it, she very kindly stopped at a local strawberry farm and grabbed me a  great big punnet of freshly picked strawberries. What a gem!

Unfortunately, no matter how much I love fresh strawberries in my morning cereal, I knew there was no way I would get through the lot. Even after making a big batch of strawberry shortcake biscuits, I still had half a kilo of strawberries on my hands.

My Ouma (which is my Dad’s mom) always used to have bottles of homemade jam stashed away on her top shelves. She would keep a bottle of grape jam for me and tomato jam for my sister – our favourites! Living on the other side of the world, it’s been a long time since getting my fix of grape jam (something I will have to try myself soon). However, I felt inspired to try my hands at the strawberry variety. Make my Ouma proud.

It is ridiculous how easy it is to make your own jam. The most difficult part is not eating the whole jar in one go. The fresher the fruit the better. And the smaller the batch you make – the better quality jam you will end up with. And always best shared – mostly so you can gloat about how great your homemade jam is.

For strawberry jam, all you need is:

500g Fresh Strawberries

250g Caster Sugar

250g Granulated White Sugar

Juice of 1 Lemon

jamlemon

Hull the strawberries and cut the bigger ones in half. Pop them in a big, thick-based saucepan and cover with the sugar. Pour over the lemon juice (watch out for those pips!) and then allow to sit for an hour or two.

jamsugar

Next, heat the pan on medium low heat until all the sugar dissolves, before then bringing it to boil. Boil for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, whilst keeping an eye to ensure it doesn’t boil over.

It needs to boil until setting point – which is 105C if you have a thermometer (I don’t) – or when it starts getting “gloopy”. A good test is to dip your spoon in and let the jam fall back into the pot. If it is falling in long tails (opposed to just drops) then it’s probably ready.

You can also put a small bit onto a cold saucer and into the freezer for a minute. If it gets a syrup-like consistency then it should be good to go. Note, however, that store-bought jams are usually made with pectin opposed to sugar, which gives jam a much thicker consistency. Homemade is always a little more runny.

jamjar2Once you think your jam is at setting point, give it a moment and then pour into hot, sterilised jars. Allow to cool (covered with baking paper to keep the flies away) before sealing up with the lid. These quantities should make you approx. 2 large jars of sweet, delicious jam.

Stick them in the fridge and eat it all up within the next month. If you are worried you won’t get through it – then it makes a lovely and thoughtful gift. But it is delicious enough that you might not have enough to last!

Enjoy. x

For Love or Honey

10 Oct

One of my earliest memories of bees also features my older sister. A thirsty gang of black and yellow, huddled around a sweet puddle of coco-cola, surprised by a foot – noticeably large for a girl of such a young age – and then the childish wailing that only ten instantaneous bee-stings can produce.

I don’t really have an early memory of honey. Something that’s always just been around…taken for granted. But I love it. LOVE. A natural, versatile, little treasure. Great for baking; cooking; preserving; goes on yogurt; in tea; soap and candles; a medicinal ointment in its own right.

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Once considered a gift from the Gods, now effortlessly squeezed from a plastic bottle and replaced at the grocery store at any time.

I actually diverted from my usual a while ago and bought a glass jar of organic honey. (Well, as organic as honey can be – given that not all bees can be driven to organic flowers only.) What a surprise to find the difference in sweetness and flavour, compared to the non-organic plastic squeezy bottles I usually buy. I’m not sure about the exact science to produce a sweeter honey – I assume the squeezy bottles are more watered down? But it got me thinking. About honey – and its crucial counterpart – bees.

Did you know that a bee can fly up to 500 miles before it dies, visiting around 100 flowers in a single foraging trip, whilst only producing 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. Not a lot of honey for such a lot of effort. (Regretfully, 12 bees dedicated their whole lives, just to provide me with the honey in my chai tea this morning.)

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It takes approximately 556 bees, to visit 2 million flowers, to produce only half a kilo of honey. (That’s the size of the organic jar in my pantry – purchased around a month ago and nearly in need of replenishment.)

The average colony can reach a population of 60 000 bees in season, together producing 13 − 26 kilos of honey a year, half of which the bees would need to keep to sustain themselves through winter. (60 000 bees, working incessantly for a year, to support themselves and my honey-habit alone.)

Exploited by humans since the beginning of time, prehistoric peoples recorded their experiences of tracking honey as early as 10 000 BC. That’s a long time ago! And not an easy task, taking on a wild hive of bees back then. And then further harnessing the wonder of bees, the earliest evidence of actual beekeeping is recorded in Egypt, 2400 BC. A high calorie source of energy with so many uses…why not have your own hive?

An impressive 64 calories per teaspoon if you’re wondering.

Demand for honey dropped in the 16th century when sugar as a commodity increased. Sugar is obviously still used more widely today. But with the population (and consumerism) on the rise, demand and the need for efficient honey production would have increased. And as a result, beekeeping practices, along with production, became – well, dodgy.

Hives are still often stripped of all their honey and the bees are fed sugar to sustain themselves – until they can replenish the stocks. Sweeteners and corn syrup are sometimes used to dilute the honey, so to increase profit margins (thankfully this has become more regulated). These shenanigans not only reduce the quality of the honey we eat, but also take away our appreciation and value of bees and their hard work.

To add insult, with the use of pesticides, loss of habitat and infestation of Varroa mites (a parasitic mite which attacks the bee), natural hive colonies are being killed off and in some species, becoming extinct. And I haven’t even touched on the subject of bees and pollination. It’s not hard to appreciate how much we depend on them for pollination.

Albert Einstein once famously stated that if the bee disappeared from earth, man would have no more than four years to live.

And now, ironically and thanks to the meddling of man, bees have come to depend on us for their existence. Beekeeping, conservation and mite treatments – all keeping the hives alive.  In relation, very few hives occur naturally any more.

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So, you ask, where does this leave me and my Winnie-the-Pooh love of honey. Where does this leave you? Well I wondered the same thing.

Like so many environmental issues we face – it’s hard to feel that we could make a difference to the world population of bees. But – we have to keep reminding ourself that even the smallest difference makes the difference. I sure wouldn’t want to see the natural bee population die out, not for love or honey.

Here are a few things to think about:

- Buy local honey and support the beekeepers (the honey is also going to be purer and yummier!)

- Go Organic (however and whenever possible)

- Plant flowers and plants which are rich in nectar and pollen

- Raise awareness – tell your friends!

- Keep bees (I am adding this to my “one day when we live on the farm” list)

- Adopt a beehive (I found these great websites, but there are plenty more around the world: adoptabeehive.com.au; www.bbka.org.uk/shop/adopt-a-beehive-and-enjoy-armchair-beekeeping)

- Appreciate every drop of honey from now until forever

I think the last point is important…

As is the first point. The best place to find honey is close to its source. Local Beekeepers have the ability to harvest a honey that has come from one specific flower, allowing you to capture the flavours of the area. Ask the supplier – but it should say on the label if this is the case.

So, these are the differences I hope to make anyway. I am thinking that adopting a beehive might make a good Christmas prezzie!

Until next time,

Chevaune. x

(References: Facts and figures all taken from a lovely little book by Stephanie Rosenbaum – Honey: from flower to table. All images are my own.)

Persian Love Cake

27 Sep

Persian-Love-Cake

Until recently, I had never heard of such a thing as the Persian Love Cake. If I didn’t now know what it was, I would probably think it sounds a little seedy. Something you might find in a the back-streets of Turkey, in a brothel; or in a legalised Amsterdam “coffee” shop.

A good friend of mine – who is a  lovely, up-standing and moral citizen – introduced me to it one night at her place for dinner. Not a seedy-type dinner. The Persian Love Cake is in fact what it says it is. A cake. A delicious, sugary, caramelised cake, served with Greek yogurt.

I loved it so much that I asked for the recipe,  making my first attempt at baking a Persian Love Cake. It is a little untraditional as far as cakes go, as it is not the usual light, spongy-type. And its traditional status is further questionable, as no one seems to quite know its history; or true origin for that matter.

The one story I found was that a French woman baked it for a Persian Prince whom she had fallen in love with. Not knowing that he was highly allergic to saffron, he dropped dead on the first bite. It doesn’t sound legit, but it’s a good story, so we’ll go with it.

There are many versions of this cake, with this version not actually containing any saffron. (Credits: This is slightly adapted from a published recipe in Gourmet Traveller, and it’s by Gerard Yaxley of Qom, a Middle-Eastern cafe in Peregian Beach, just down the road from us.)

Lovecake

To make it, preheat the oven (180C), combine almond meal, sugars, butter and salt, and rub with your fingertips until it become crumbly. Grease and line a 26cm springform pan with butter and gently press half the mixture into the pan to evenly cover the base.

With the other half of the crumb mixture, add the eggs, yoghurt and nutmeg; and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour this over the base and scatter the edges with pistachios.

Bake for 30 − 40 minutes, but keep an eye as it caramelises around the edges and has the potential to become a bit charred.

It’s that easy. And so delicious when served with a bit of Greek yogurt. It is quite sweet, so make sure you have some loved ones to share it with. Just check there are no nut-allergies – as we don’t want a repeat performance of the Persian Prince.

Enjoy!

Chevaune. x

Living in Marcoola

23 Sep

MarcoolaBeach2

There’s no place like home. That’s what Dorothy from Wizard of Oz said when she was clucking her red sparkly heels together… and she was right. For most of us, home is where the heart is. And at this moment, my heart is very much buried in the sand of Marcoola Beach.

With only a small shrubby pathway between us and this beautiful, quiet beach on the Sunshine Coast – I hope we never leave! Especially with a little beach-babe due in a couple of months. What better place to be introduced to the stay-at-home lifestyle of parenthood?

Although Marcoola is only a small coastal suburb, it’s a tasty slice of a paradise pie that is the Sunshine Coast. So much to explore and a great place to raise a little one. There are markets galore, quaint coffee shops, walks, beaches, rivers, lakes, the wide open ocean, camping, hiking, fishing, strawberry picking…list making of all the things we love to do!

I will do my best to keep you posted on what we get up to. Whilst trying not to gloat too much. I realise how very lucky we are to be here and I wouldn’t want to jinx it!

I hope you are making the most of your backyard too? There is, after all, no place like home.

See you soon.

Chevaune. x

365 Reasons why I have not blogged in a year…

22 Sep

Ralph Waldo Emerson, famous American poet of the mid-19th Century, said “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

I think he would agree that spending any more of my time, purely attempting to make excuses for neglecting my beloved blog for almost a year, would only be further adding to my procrastination. And 365 points would probably be a bit tedious.

In fact, I could probably save us all the time and sum it up in one poignant quote from 18th century entrepreneur and philosopher, William Penn: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” Ain’t that the truth. 

I know I am not the only guilty one here; sometimes procrastinating to such a point that it is no longer procrastinating but rather ignoring its existence altogether. Whatever it might be. Example: “I really should book a dentist appointment”; or “I really should go visit Aunt Betsy and her one hundred cats”; or the inevitable “I really should get back to the gym, my buttocks is starting to look like a chocolate chip muffin.” Should, should, should.

These are the type of things which we procrastinate against but which we know, when eventually done, would bring us great relief and happiness. But instead we continue to delay them and the elephant in the room gets that much bigger to ignore.

Well anyway, I am done procrastinating. The elephant has left the building. For the moment.

And with a few recent lifestyle changes, I am excited to start fresh. I have plans to bring a new slant to my blog.  And I plan to bring it a little more often. I hope you enjoy what’s to come. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s ok too.

Until next time, courtesy of the The Rolling Stones, I will leave you with a catchy tune to hum to: http://youtu.be/XzcWwmwChVE

Chevaune. x

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