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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Great Sprout Experiment

Image from here
I bought a packet of sprout seeds a year ago and never grew any. Probably because it required a jar and a bit of muslin and a little research reminder about how to grow them. So they sat in my seed box reprimanding me for my wastefulness and laziness.

And then the other week, with the beginning of spring, I got all inspired and excited about growing them. Along with a renewed interest in getting 30 minutes of exercise a day and eating healthily... oh and keeping the house tidy, never shouting at the monkeys, watching less telly... I kinda make all my new year's resolutions at the start of spring. Doesn't last long.

Anyway, I got myself a jar and popped in a couple of tablespoons of seeds, let them soak overnight and the next day started my twice daily vigil of rinsing and draining. I also tried to inspire the little monkeys to get excited by them.
"Oh sprouts. I'm sure you love sprouts". I told them.
"So healthy".
"And look they will grow right in this jar in a matter of days".
"And then we can have them in sandwiches. And salads."
"So healthy".

The monkeys glanced my way and nodded. And then proceeded to show not the slightest bit of interest in those growing sprouts for the entire week.

By about day five, my sprouts had all sprouted and were filling the jar. So that morning I chirpily thrust the jar under the little monkeys' noses hoping they would oooh and aaah at the wonder of nature. But they grunted. And when I suggested that I put some sprouts in their sandwiches that day for lunch they both politely declined.

So I decided that I should probably start eating those sprouts instead. But the idea of munching on a sprout did not make my mouth water. In fact I could think of nothing I would prefer to eat less than a bunch of sprouts. But sprouts are sooooo healthy I reminded myself. And I had grown them and no-one else was going to eat them so surely I could think of something tasty to do? But when I opened the jar and looked closely, I discovered spores of mould growing all over the place. I think I had too many sprout seeds in too small a jar and there hadn't been enough air circulating.

So with a sneaky feeling of relief, I chucked the lot to the chooks. Who went completely crazy with excitement.

Sprouts make good chook food.


Friday, September 21, 2012

The First Avocado


Well I finally picked that first avocado. Actually I had to enlist Monkey Man to do the picking 'cos I was too short. He picked two and I popped them in a paper bag with a brown banana to go ahead and ripen. I was rather impatient with the ripening and gave them both a bit of a squeeze every day which I'm surprised didn't result in big bruises. After what seemed an age but was actually about 10 days, one of them was ready. And it was delicious. As delicious as the first avocado ever grown on an avocado tree is sure to taste.

But I'll let you in on a little secret. I am the only person in my family who likes avocados. Every other monkey calls avocado "green slime" and refuses to eat it. I know. Weird. Both the little Monkeys will go out of their way to make a big mess and poke out the avocado inside a nori roll. The only way they will eat it is as a guacamole dip and only then if it is part of a selection of toppings to go inside tacos. Which makes no sense to me - what's the difference between guacamole on bread or a biscuit compared to in a taco? Anyway, I would happily eat an entire avocado with a spoon straight from the skin in one sitting. Actually I would probably eat all three in one sitting. When I was a teenager I remember chopping them in half, taking out the stone and topping each half with grated cheese. Then I'd pop them under the grill 'til the cheese went brown and bubbly. Which sounds a bit horrid to me now. Too rich. And warm avocado yuck.

Anyway, problem is, avocados although healthy, are rather fattening. And I have gained a few too many kilos this year. Which I am gradually successfully shedding but only by carefully watching everything I put in my mouth. So I was very restrained with my avocado consumption. I sliced half of it up and popped it on some dry biscuits. And I ate them slowly, savouring every mouthful.Yum.

Now as you may remember, this avocado tree is over 20 years old and has never ever produced a fruit until now. And even though there was only the miniscule crop of three avocados, I am massively excited. But a little anxious too. Look at the tree at the moment.

It is full of flowers. Which is not unusual. Every year there have been flowers - but until now, no fruit. I don't know what went right last year. I'm wondering how much finger crossing I will need to do for a repeat performance or if I should interfere with the pollinating process. I have read that to increase your chances you can get out there with a paintbrush and spread the pollen about. 'Cos avocado trees have A & B flowers which open and close at different times. Or something like that.

So what do you think? Should I interfere or cross my fingers hope for the best?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why I Love my Bokashi


A few years ago, my mum offered to get me a bokashi bin for Christmas. But I declined. Mostly because I didn't know what she was talking about. And I didn't like the sound of a second composting system sitting about in my kitchen which is grotty enough as it is.

We already have two compost bins outside and a worm farm. But I must say they don't work as well as they should.  Our compost takes quite a while to break down and I don't have as much of it as I'd like. I would say there is too much wet matter in there. And we have mice. And we don't help things along by turning it often. I do have one of those twisty metal stick things to jiggle it all about but you need a pretty strong arm to turn the compost. And my arm would prefer to be planting seeds or depositing water or other stuff that doesn't involve decomposing scraps and mice. I know there are more things I'm doing wrong too but I just can't be bothered getting too finicky about the compost bins.

As for the worms, they don't require much attention but by golly I could grow old waiting for worm wee or worm compost or whatever you call it. They are slow to do their business. And one year during a heatwave I completely cooked them and had to start all over which wasn't very nice for anyone. Especially the new worms which I just dumped in with the carcuses of their expired ancestors.

Anyway, Monkey Man's sister got a bokashi bin but she never used it. So she gave it to us and I have grown to love it. Especially over winter.  Now I don't use the bokashi bin exclusively. I alternate between it and the regular compost bins. It takes a few weeks for us to fill the bokashi bin and during that time no-one has to make the trek to the outside compost bins with the mice and the dark and drizzle and cold.

For those of you uninitiated, a bokashi bucket is an airtight bin that sits in your kitchen and in which you drop your kitchen scraps. It has a draining system down the bottom and once a night I give it a squish with a specially dedicated potato masher and sprinkle over it a handful of the bokashi activator and let it do its work fermenting. At first I thought it might be a bit of a waste of money buying that bokashi activator stuff - it's a bag of grainy stuff (apparently usually rice bran and molasses that've been innoculated with composting micro organisms). But I have found this stuff doesn't cost much and lasts a long time.

But the number one, super-dooper, best thing about the bokashi is the liquid fertiliser that it produces. There is a draining section down the bottom and every so often I turn on the tap to release some of the liquid into a container and dilute it to fertilize the garden.
bokashi liquid ready to be diluted and watered on the garden
When there's no more room in the bokashi bin, we dig a trench, bury it somewhere in the garden or a dormant veggie patch and start all over again. Because the composting process has already started, it only takes a little while to break down underground and provide nutrients.

Oh yeah, I'm so in love with my bokashi bin. 

NB - this is an ad free blog. I'm not into taking money or gifts for blog review. Those annoying emails go straight in my computer rubbish bin. I'm just writing here about something that works for me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ricotta Gnocchi with Silverbeet & Parsley

OK. So here 'tis. The recipe I promised last post but didn't have the time or eyesight to write up. A guaranteed hit with all - especially if made with fresh ricotta. And it's a good one for the kids to make - it's simple and all that rolling about and mucky hands is fun.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Silverbeet & Parsley
• 500g fresh ricotta
• 1 cup parmesan cheese
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 cup 00 flour
• a bunch of silverbeet, stems removed, finely chopped
• a bunch of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
• olive oil
• parsley & grated parmesan extra to serve

Drain the ricotta in a sieve over a bowl in the fridge. I've been told you're supposed to do this overnight but I never start dinner the night before. Draining for a couple of hours has worked fine for me.
Cook silverbeet in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil until wilted. Allow to cool and then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can.
Place the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt, silverbeet and parsley in a bowl and mix until combined. Add the flour to make a dough. Don't work it too much.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into logs and then chop them into bite sized pieces. (Or if you want to do it Littlest Monkey style just roll them into little balls from the bowl.)
Bring to boil a large saucepan of lightly salted water and gently drop a few of the gnocchi in at a time.  They are ready about a minute after they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat with the rest.
Serve with a tomato sauce and more parmesan and parsley.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Striking and Herding and Making Some Cheese

Yep. I've been fiddling about making changes to the blog. In fact, I've been staring at the screen so long that last night my eyes started wobbling around and everything went a bit blurry. I blame it all on the newly discovered picmonkey which has dragged me from pinterest. Oooh yeah, I'm loving the picmonkey.

Littlest Monkey was enlisted to pose for my modelling shoot yesterday arvo so I could get the header photo right. I think he has a new calling. He was prancing and preening about like a professional.
See. He can do the serious look with a funky sideways hat.

Anyway, hope you like the new look blog.

I must say, I managed to be rather productive yesterday. I successfully herded two monkeys and a borrowed one through the streets of Melbourne on their first teachers' strike. Without losing them or getting them run over by a tram. And I only snapped at Monkey Man three times when I was told to stop stressing. I also managed the more incredible task of keeping three little monkeys in their seats during the speeches and simultaneously quiet and rowdy at the appropriate moments (thanks to chocolate and gadgets and the possibility of appearing on telly if they waved their placards and booed and cheered loudly enough).

Then when we got home I fed them more sugary stuff that we'd forgotten to bring to the rally and let them play on more screens while I made ricotta cheese. Since Gavin from Greening of Gavin came to my place to run a cheese making workshop I have made ricotta a couple of times but haven't yet attempted the mozzarella by myself. Anyway, ricotta is super easy and super satisfying and super yum. You can find a recipe here at Green Living Australia and this is also where I bought a starter cheese making kit.
Ricotta making
 So. After all that striking, herding, modelling and cheese-making I turned the ricotta into dinner - ricotta gnocchi with bits of parsley and rainbow silverbeet from the modelling shoot. I will post a recipe for you all but it will have to be another day because I have had way too much screen time and I am a bit concerned about my googly eyes.





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