Peanut butter goodness

I have two posts planned on my love of the peanut – this one will focus on an awesome cookie I made recently, whereas the next one will focus on the fun to be had growing peanuts yourself! Not enough to make peanut butter, though, which is my great love …

A few weeks ago, I decided that a more beneficial way of satisfying my love of all things cookie and sweet (usual, but even more so during pregnancy, I must say, although that’s perhaps because I try and justify it by saying the baby wants it … :-) was to make some yummy cookies myself, to try and combat the high levels of crap found in commercially sold/available in my work kitchen options.

Now, there is sometimes a big debate in Australia about the difference between cookies and biscuits, largely based on the Americanisation of our language etc, and some people use these terms interchangeabley. In my view, biscuits are harder, and made for Anzacs (it is not an Anzac cookie, people, it’s an Anzac biscuit, made to travel long distances and survive!) and/or by Arnott’s in large packs and found frequently at workplaces. Cookies, however, are softer, often a bit sweeter, American in origin, and made by Subway/cafes/lots of bloggers. I feel that a choc chip biscuit can be nice, but a choc chip cookie can be even nicer, as it is softer and chewier, and if I’m buying from a cafe or similar, then it’s a cookie, whereas if it’s served at a work morning tea, it’s likely to be a biscuit. However, sometimes it just depends on how long you cook it for, I have often planned to make cookies and ended up with biscuits!! So it’s not a hard and fast rule, but these are definitely cookies – chewy, soft and oh so yummy!

The recipe below is truly wonderful, so much so that my husband wolfed many of them down and said that I could make these anytime I like (high praise indeed!) They also lasted surprisingly well, probably because it’s colder weather – I made them on Sunday, and they kept in an airtight container until Friday (not many of them, due to our high incidence of eating them!), so I didn’t have to freeze them as I had thought I might, although as I plan to make them again this weekend, I might make a double batch and freeze them just so we have them available longer!!

I really love peanut butter – I love it on toast, I love it with crackers, I love it flavouring things, I think it gives a lovely sweet/salty tang to sweet things that I very much appreciate. I must say, I haven’t yet gotten on the alternate nut butter (almond, sunflower etc) bandwagon – I like almonds, but didn’t really like the almond butter I tried, so I might need to try it again, or just continue to enjoy my love affair with peanut butter! I also love it with chocolate – those Reese’s people know what they’re doing! Therefore, I wanted to bake a cookie that would have both peanut butter flavouring and choc chips, and voila! These are not necessarily the healthiest thing, but in moderation, a very welcome addition to our eating! I made these in my Mix Master, which worked well for a properly mixed cookie dough – just had to try and stop myself from eating too much raw cookie dough, darn raw egg restrictions!

I found this recipe on the lovely vegan blog Oh She Glows, because I really like her recipes, but as I am not vegan, and wanted to use ingredients we had around the house, I have adapted it – here is the link to the original if you’re interested – http://ohsheglows.com/2012/12/05/crispy-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies-vegan-gluten-free/

Peanut Butter chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients
1 egg
1/4 cup butter or margarine (45g)
1/4 cup peanut butter (70g)
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar (135g)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup rolled oats(105g)
1 cup +2 tbsp almond flour or meal (I had almond meal, so used that – you can grind your own almonds if you feel the great urge, I didn’t!)
1/3 cup chocolate chips, dark or milk would work fine

Method
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
2. With an electric mixer or in a stand mixer (ie my lovely Mix Master), beat the buttery spread and peanut butter until combined. Add sugar and beat for 1 minute more. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined.
3. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients (baking soda, baking powder, salt, oats, and almond flour) one by one. If your dough is dry (this could be the case if too much flour is used), you can add a touch of milk to thin it out. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Shape 1-inch balls of dough (smaller than golf balls) and place on the baking sheet. If chocolate chips aren’t sticking to the dough, just press them in with your fingers. There is no need to flatten the balls as the cookies spread out a lot. Place balls 2-3 inches apart.
5. Bake for about 11-13 minutes (I baked for 12 mins) until lightly golden. The underside will also be a rich golden brown shade. The cookies will be very soft coming out of the oven, but they will harden as they cool.
6. Allow to cool for 5-10 mins. on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle cookies with flaked sea salt to bring out the peanut butter flavour even more (which I forgot to do, but might do this time!)
7. Enjoy!! They should last for almost a week in an airtight container, or should freeze very well.

Here is the one photo I remembered to take before they were all gone – as you can see, I only allowed myself to bring one to work as a post-lunch hit of sweetness, it’s all about portion control over here or else I would scarf the lot!!

Peanut butter choc chip cookie

Peanut butter choc chip cookie goodness!

Enjoy!

Yo yo yogurt!!

In my continuing quest to be more organised, be more organic and save money, I spent Sunday afternoon creating food for the week – something very cathartic about having snacks and meals ready to go!

I baked bread (using our lovely bread maker and a soy and linseed packet mix), made meatloaf for dinner for Sun and Mon nights (see photos below – super yummy!):

Meatloaf

Meatloaf!!


A hearty winter dinner!

A hearty winter dinner!


made some chia seed puddings, made some awesome peanut butter and choc chip cookies (will post on those soon!), and then also made yogurt!! I was very proud of my industrious self!

Everything else seems pretty standard in terms of food prep, but making yogurt? How does one do that, I hear you ask?

Making yogurt
Well, I am a believer in synchronicity and signs – one of my friends Carolyn had posted recently on FB about making her own yogurt using the EasiYo system, and I was intrigued. Then, when I was perusing a webpage about money-saving tips (always enjoy thrifty tips!), someone else commented about EasiYo and how cost effective (and easy!) it was!!

I looked it up online, and although you could order the system online for extra shipping costs, you could also purchase them at various supermarkets like Big W or Woolworths, which made more economic sense (even though I love online shopping so much so that the Australia Post guy knows me now!) So, Sunday arvo, after some awesome bargain baby clothes shopping (it’s all so very cute!! And even better when on sale, thankyou Gaia Organic and Baby Bonds!), my lovely husband and I forewent our usual IGA shop and instead visited the larger Woolworths which is further from our house.

We used to shop there weekly when we first moved here, but realised that we usually don’t need such a big shop, involving a bus trip back, as we get most of our fruit & veg from our organic box and smaller shops – also, Woolies on a Sunday late afternoon is a horrible place full of people similarly unhappy about shopping and the impending Monday!! However, we were there early enough on Sunday arvo for it not to be too bad.

This long ramble ends happily, as while I had planned on going to Woolies for the EasiYo purchase, I completely forgot about it once we were there(baby brain!), and thankfully my husband has an amazing memory for random things that I tell him, as he saw it, said ‘didn’t you want one of those?’, and voila, we got it! It’s also super cheap – the whole contraption is less than $20, and sachets of the yogurt stuff is only around $3.50 a pop!

It was very easy to use – you just put some water in the canister, add the sachet of yogurt mix (I chose vanilla to start with), shake around, fill with more water, then put boiling water in the bigger container, put the canister in and put the lid on, and leave overnight! Out of the fridge, to allow the starter to create yogurt, you refrigerate it once yogurt has occurred.

I was sceptical, I must admit – I thought it either wouldn’t work, or would be very weird looking and tasting.

Monday morning, I opened it up, and there was yogurt!!

A bit mottled on the top (whey settling, methinks), but once you got down into it, it was lovely and creamy-looking.

The first spoonful of the goodness!

The first spoonful of the goodness!


A little bit further into the yogurty goodness!

A little bit further into the yogurty goodness!


And the taste? Awesome!! Just like the ones I usually eat, sweet, not too sweet, and quite a light texture!! The wheyey bit on the top also tasted great, nothing wrong there!
Stirred around

Stirred around


On my porridge, just like from the store - get in my belly!!

On my porridge, just like from the store – get in my belly!!

I had checked the pack to make sure I wasn’t getting too much extra sugar, and it ends up being the same as the other yogurt I get in terms of sugar and calories, and a bit better on calcium and fat! And for less than half the price – my 700g of organic goodness normally costs around $7, whereas I made 1kg for $3.50!!

Full canister of yum!

Full canister of yum!


Funky container to make yogurt!

Funky container to make yogurt!

It lasts 2 weeks in the fridge – EasiYo for the win!! And the real test – husband verdict (he was also quite sceptical) was “this is great, we should buy a second container to make plenty for us both to eat during the week!”

It comes in lots of other flavours, as well as natural, greek, and low fat – I have a sweet tooth, so enjoy the vanilla one, but will also experiment with the greek and natural. I also prefer to add my own fruit flavourings to things, and as I currently use this on my porridge, which already has plenty of fruit and flavour, this is a winner!! It is super easy in terms of mixing and leaving

So, there you go, not quite from scratch as I use their sachets (although I read that you can use milk powder and a bit of the leftover yogurt as a starter for a similar effect, will try that in the future too!), but definitely something homemade and cost effective that I would not have expected!!

A lovely pilaf

Frankly, the colder, darker and wetter weather has conspired to reduce my gardening interest and exploits. The beanstalk appears to be actually creating multiple beans at once (huzzah!), and the peas are shooting up cheerily, but apart from herbs that continue to party (thank you basil and mint!), and my need to harvest our peanuts (hopefully this weekend, photos and post to follow!), there is more going on in my kitchen than my garden, and I know that you all can’t wait too long without an update!!

An economic and time-saving tip from me, that you’ve probably noticed already in terms of my recipe suggestions – always make more of a meal than you need, so you can use it again!! I am also trying to make a Sunday soup for lunches during the week, and a Sunday night meal that can be used for a Monday night meal – nothing more relaxing than not having to cook every night, and knowing that you’ve got good healthy food available!! This recipe below even exceeded quantity expectations and powered on for Tuesday’s lunch as well, so even better!!

I also love a good one-pot wonder (more of them will follow as winter continues), as you can do the cleaning up while you wait for it to cook, then you can relax and watch Masterchef and assorted crime shows in peace :-)

I am in no way an expert on pilaf, and this recipe may distress foodies who make it far more authentically, but it’s flavourful, full of veggies, healthy and easy, so all big ticks in my book!! I love the sweetness of the currants with the savouryness of everything else. It originally came from a Taste.com recipe, but I’ve amped up the veggie quotient and enjoy it much more. And also, inexplicably, the original recipe suggests you roast the veggies, then bake the pilaf, then combine, when really, you could probably do both at once, as they cook for a similar time – we haven’t tried that yet, cos we only realise it after having completed the recipe (d’oh!), but I’m sure it would work out well, so let me know if you try it! So, you can probably do Step 2 before Step 1, and then Step 3 combines both.

I use a big casserole dish that can go on the stove and in the oven, so it is a two pan meal, one for roasting veggies, one for everything else!

Beef Pilaf
Serves 6-8ish, depending on how hungry you are!

Pilafy goodness

Pilafy goodness


Ingredients
250g punnet cherry tomatoes
1 eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
400g lean beef mince
1 cup SunRice Basmati Rice, well rinsed
2 1/2 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
1/4 cup currants
3 green onions, thinly sliced
A handful of baby spinach
Natural yogurt, to serve

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini on tray. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil and season with pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until tomatoes collapse.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large, heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat. Add curry powder, cumin, cinnamon and mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in rice.
3. Stir in stock and bring to the boil. Cover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. (Can combine with Step 1).
4. Stir in tomatoes, currants, green onions and baby spinach. Cover and stand for 5 minutes.
5. Spoon into bowls. Serve with natural yogurt dotted on top, and enjoy!

Pilaf!

Pilaf!And yes, these photos are taken at work, I often forget to photograph when we eat for dinner, so you get to see my lovely work lunch space, ie my desk!


Pilaf, with yogurt added prior to eating!

Pilaf, with yogurt added prior to eating!


I also think this would freeze quite well, as it is quite moist, and can lend itself to whatever other veggies you feel like roasting together!

Perfect porridge

As the weather finally makes its peace with winter (and it is especially cold and rainy here at the moment!), I find myself moving away from my summer/autumn staple of muesli or overnight oats, and onto my favourite snuggly breakfast, porridge!! (Or as North American readers know it, oatmeal). I love the warmth and creaminess of porridge for breakfast – an ad a few years ago for a brand of oats described it like a warm hug, and I agree!!

There are many different ways of making this wonderful breakfast a reality. For me, I find that instant oats are a bit too sweet and not as filling for me to use, although that is how I started my love of porridge as a teenager. So, I make my porridge every morning, and really, it’s not as hard as it sounds, 15-20 minutes from go to whoa, the majority of that time not spent anywhere near the stove! I love stewed fruit on my porridge in the morning, so I make a large batch each weekend of whatever is in season or I’m enjoying (pears, apples, rhubarb, berries, prunes are an unfortunate but required addition of late!) and keep in the fridge.

I have taken lots of photos of the process to aid my explanations :-) I use a wooden spoon to stir, as I don’t like to scratch my nice saucepans!

Perfect porridge

This is mainly to explain how I do it and what I like – you can of course substitute any of the ingredients for your personal preference, experiment, it’s fun!

Ingredients
1/2 cup Rolled oats (not instant oats)
1/2 cup full cream milk
1/2 cup water
1/3-1/2 cup stewed fruit – I put enough to cover the bottom of the bowl, so it’s not a scientific measurement!
Vanilla yogurt – I used to add milk, but am preferring the creamier yogurt addition – again, add whatever you want!

Method
1. Place oats, milk and water in a saucepan. Feel free to add a bit more liquid if you like it a bit more liquid, I often add a few splashes extra of milk. This can of course work with no milk and only water, but I like the creaminess of milk.
2. Put saucepan onto a pretty low setting on the stove – you don’t want it to be simmering or bubbling, just gradually warming up and soaking, so you might need to experiment with your hotplates to work out which one works best at what temperature.

This is Step 1

This is Step 1

3. Wander off and do whatever you need to do – I do steps 1 and 2, then step into the shower and get dressed, and return approx 10-15 mins later depending on how slow I am, which is why you don’t want it bubbling or else it will burn. But it is perfectly safe to leave, it will be fine! The longer you leave it, the more liquid is absorbed, so it will cook quicker, but be less liquidy in the end product, so, again, work out what you prefer, and what you have time for – you don’t need to leave it at all, but it will take longer to cook, and I find that the oats aren’t really soft enough, so it can be kind of chewy if you don’t leave it warming for at least 5-10 mins.

After leaving for your preferred time period, it looks a little soaked, and is starting to steam a little.

After leaving for your preferred time period, it looks a little soaked, and is starting to steam a little.


4. When you’re ready, turn hot plate to high, and keep on high until porridge is bubbling – I like to have the bubbles come from the outside and meet in the middle, this usually takes around 1-2 mins.
Boiling up ...

Boiling up …

Now at optimal boiling point - stir and reduce heat!

Now at optimal boiling point – stir and reduce heat!


5. Stir, then turn back down to low (probably one notch lower than your original setting at step 2). Stir regularly.
6. Porridge may bubble up, just stir it down again.
Porridge while cooking away

Porridge while cooking away


7. Use the time while waiting for your porridge to finish cooking to get everything else ready for breakfast – I warm up my stewed fruit and get my coffee sorted. I also stir the porridge regularly, so I can see how it’s going.
Here is my stewed fruit, I warm it in the microwave for around 35 seconds as I like everyone to be hot when mixed together.

Here is my stewed fruit, I warm it in the microwave for around 35 seconds as I like everyone to be hot when mixed together.


Porridge is almost done - see milk around the side?

Porridge is almost done – see milk around the side?


8. Porridge is done when it’s at the consistency that you like – I like it creamy looking but without any obvious milk still hanging around.
This is how I like it, milk all evaporated!

This is how I like it, milk all evaporated!


9. Serve your porridge with whatever additions you like – I’ve been adding a bit of flax seed, a bit of All Bran, some cinnamon, and yogurt recently, but you can add nuts, cereal, sweet things like honey or brown sugar if you prefer – I find the sweetness of the stewed fruit enough for me nowadays!
The finished product!

The finished product!


10. Enjoy!!
And then I mix it all together to eat it - yummy!!

And then I mix it all together to eat it – yummy!!

So there you have it, my perfect porridge recipe! I also put the pan to soak after serving, just to ensure that it’s easy to wash at the end of the day (because I don’t do dishes in the morning!)

What do you like for winter breakfasts?

Peas and corn

Garden update
My gardening posts have been less of late, I know, and I apologise.

I blame a number of unrelated things:
- the finish of daylight savings (means it’s dark when I get home, so I don’t potter in the garden after work);
- some crappier weather on the weekends, which have made it harder to actually get into the garden and sort things out;
- when the weather has been nicer, we’ve been too busy for me to get to the garden before dark;
- general slackness ( I can blame the growing bub, but really, I’ve been feeling a lot better, it’s just me at this stage!) :-)

However, on the weekend, I finally got into the garden, weeded a few things (sorry daffodils, you’ve been surviving very well!), bid a final farewell to the corn (so big that I ended up putting it into our green waste for pick-up rather than into the compost!), and even actually planted something new – peas!! I had some success with peas last year, as in we got a few pods out before mildew set in, so I aim to have much more success this year, they’ll be against the wall, so once the shoots start up, then I’ll build some little teepees leading up to the string on the wall, and hopefully they’ll go for gold!!

Sadly, the red cabbage that I planted about a month ago has not actually grown :-( I think a combo of some wet weeks and weekends and colder weather confused it – I will try again, I am not daunted!!

Yummy recipe
As this is a bit of a random garden post, I thought I’d throw in a quick yummy weeknight recipe for you that we had last night – Mexican-style lasagne! (That’s what I’m calling it, anyway, the original recipe sounded more authentic, calling it ‘chilaquiles casserole’, but I think my description is better!! We love Tex-Mex things like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and it’s nice to have something vegetarian at least once a week!

I love using Pinterest to store recipes and other things that I might want to look at later, it’s like a virtual noticeboard! But I’m not really sure where I found this super-yummy recipe, potentially on a veggie site that I only visited the once – this is why I pin recipes for later, however, so that I can still enjoy them even when I’ve lost the original source!

We made some modifications based on ingredients we could get more easily, and also adapted from American measurements of ounces per can to the nearest Australian equivalent. In terms of condiments, I find it hard to eat Mexican without guacamole and some form of sour cream, but I have found that replacing the sour cream with plain or Greek yogurt works just as well!!

To make guacomole, peel and mash 1-2 avocadoes with some crushed garlic and lemon juice – the amount depends on how acidic you like it, so add a little and then more til it’s to your taste!

Mexican-style lasagne
Serves approx 6 (depends on how hungry your dining companion is – Jon had two servings last night, which reduced leftovers!)

Ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin black beans, drained, rinsed
1 x 400g tin corn (you can also use fresh or frozen), drained
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
8-12 tortillas, cut into quarters (corn or wheat, we couldn’t get corn, so went with wheat, and found that we didn’t need more than around 8, but you could add more to bulk it up)
2 x bottles mild taco sauce (recipe initially called for enchilada sauce, which wasn’t readily available – also feel free to add a spicier sauce for those who like the heat – we’re wusses!)
1 1/4 cups shredded tasty cheese

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200C, and grease/line a large baking pan or casserole dish.
2. Heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3 minutes.
3. Layer half the tortilla pieces in the pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the taco sauce and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes more.
5.Serve with guacamole and sour cream/plain yogurt if desired.

Here is a rather blurry photo – I didn’t realise it was blurry til after I’d already eaten the evidence – oh well!! I think this would also freeze really well, but perhaps best made in individual ramekins if so, as it was a bit messy getting out the pan, which didn’t change the awesome taste!

Mexican lasagne

Mexican-style lasagne – ole!

The various wonders of quinoa

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, what are these alleged wonders? And how do you say that silly word in the title?

I hadn’t really done much with this ancient grain prior to a couple of years ago, but have firmly jumped on this superfood bandwagon and enjoy it in both sweet and savoury form!

From my various research on the subject, quinoa is chock full of protein, fibre, iron and lots of other good things, so as a grain, it packs a lot of punch! However, I know it can seem a little daunting when first encountered, so here are my tips.

Firstly, improve your street cred by pronouncing it correctly – it’s ‘keen-wah’, kinda like Joaquin Phoenix is pronounced’wah-keen’, but backwards, if that helps :-)

Secondly, season it correctly – I think I turned my lovely husband off it initially by serving it in a rather bland salad with limited flavouring, and as it has a rather nutty taste and texture, that can be a bit off-putting when you’re getting used to it. However, the good news is that once it is combined with a good flavourful dressing or sauce, and other yummy ingredients, it is a lovely addition to any meal!

Two ways with quinoa

Savoury
Use it as the base in a salad – this is one of the easiest ways to use quinoa, as you can use it in the same way you might use rice or couscous or another grain that you’ve used before with success!! The key to adding quinoa in a savoury dish, I believe, is to ensure that there is a nice dressing to your salad, as it will absorb it well and taste lovely.

1. To cook quinoa, it’s one part quinoa to 2 parts water, and it will quadruple once cooked, so 1/2 cup quinoa to 1 cup water = 2 cups cooked quinoa.
2. Rinse the quinoa if you remember before cooking (I often forget!), it helps remove some grit and starch.
3. Put required amount of quinoa and water in a pot, bring to the boil – you can use hot or cold water, whichever you prefer.
4. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes – basically, you can tell when quinoa is cooked because the little white tails come out of the grains, and the water should have pretty much been absorbed.
5. Drain (if needed) and add to your dish!

Recent successful quinoa adventures for us have included adding to a base salad of roast pumpkin, baby spinach, avocado, and kale, with a yummy homemade balsamic vinaigrette, involving oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and lemon juice – mix to taste and coat! This salad was served with a maple baked salmon, which was delicious!!

The other night, at Jon’s suggestion (showing that one negative quinoa experience shouldn’t turn you off for life!) we made a lovely dukkah crusted chicken breast, with a quinoa salad involving carrots (pan-roasted), orange juice, mint, parsley, and shallot – really yummy!! See pic below :-)

Quinoa salad

The lovely quinoa salad – we used mixed red, black and white quinoa, for the added colour element!

Sweet
If you’re not sure if you’ll like quinoa as a salad base, and want to ease your way into it, one of my favourite snacks now involves quinoa in a sweet slicey form! I got this recipe from the lovely Anne of Fannetastic Foods (http://www.fannetasticfood.com/recipes/cranberry-quinoa-peanut-butter-power-bars/)
and I really enjoy it!! It has all the elements I like in a snack bar – oats, peanut butter, dried fruit that isn’t apricot, and quinoa to boot! I make it pretty much the way she suggests, although I cook it a bit longer, so here’s my slightly modified recipe:

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled a bit (cook it as per my directions above for savoury)
2 cups raw oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (or nut butter of choice – note, if you use crunchy peanut butter, it’s much harder to mix and has an uneven spread of buttery goodness, so use smooth!)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup brown rice syrup – I used this, and when I ran out partway through a batch, I substituted honey mixed with water, it seemed to work out ok too.
1/4 cup ground flaxseed – for the extra fibrey goodness!
1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:
1. Preheat your oven to 170c.
2. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl together and stir until everything is well mixed. You’ll need to use some muscle to get it all to mix!
3. Put everything into a flat baking dish, or, if you make a double batch like I did and realise you don’t have two deep enough baking dishes after you’ve already mixed everything, then you can also put into muffin tins with patty pan cases, they work just as well!
4. Pop it in the oven and bake about 12-15 minutes. I bake until it looks fairly solid and has browned a bit on the top, so usually closer to 15 than 12, but experiment with what consistency you like.
5. Cut into bar-sized snacks (one baking dish can yield 14 serves), wrap in Glad Wrap and store in fridge for the week. Extras can be frozen and last for months (see below), and are a great handy snack! It isn’t a crunchy bar, more of a soft bar, but so delicious!!

Quinoa bars

Quinoa bars, already frozen ready for a snack!


Quinoa bars in muffin cases

Quinoa bars in muffin style – still just as yummy, a bit crumblier to eat!

So, some quinoa suggestions for you to try – and please let me know your winning ways with quinoa in the comments!

To all the vegetables I’ve loved and lost …

Apologies in advance, this is a rather sad and pitiful post, detailing some of my least successful vegetable adventures of late. I think it’s important to tell the good and the bad equally, as I’m still an amateur (which is someone who does something for the love of it!) gardener, and am continuing to learn (well, hopefully!) from my mistakes, and by telling the interwebs these stories, hopefully you can learn some things the easier way (ie by reading about it) rather than the harder way that I have been doing!

Zucchini, I barely knew thee
So, I’ve documented in a previous post my aphid issues with my zucchini plants. I have an update – the poor little plants didn’t survive the multiple attempts on their lives by the aphids/ants/powdery mildew. While the aphids did reduce significantly, as did the ants, the damage appeared to be too great for the plants to actually continue their life, despite new pots and lots of encouraging looks from me!!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That's the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I'm sure!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That’s the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I’m sure!


Lessons learnt
Spot aphids early and often, and act early – I think a bit of the old soap and water spray combo might have been effective in removing the aphids in their initial stages and preventing their return, which in turn would have removed the ant attraction, and hopefully the plants could recover. I will try this later in the year when zucchini planting season comes around again.

My backyard is not a cornfield
I was excited by the idea of corn, but in hindsight, didn’t really do any research as to the most appropriate variety for backyard growing, nor the most appropriate amount of space/plants required for successful pollination. My corn plants looked impressive at all times, growing tall and proud, but unfortunately, despite all this lush foliage, they produced only about 3 of the smallest corn cobs you’re ever likely to see!! Very cute, but rather useless, and possibly not worth the effort, for me, in a pot in the backyard. Part of the issue I have discovered is that you need quite a few plants to ensure effective pollination, and I don’t think there were enough, and I don’t think I have the space/interest for the amount required. I don’t think I’ll try them again for a while, certainly not this variety, as there is a long time between planting and harvesting for such a small return – I like quick returns, people!!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!


Lessons learnt
Pick a backyard-suitable variety, invest in an acreage somewhere.
Big promise, small delivery

Big promise, small delivery

Broccoli, where art thou?
When I planted my capsicum plants in early January (which are still trying to decide whether they will survive the aphid infestation that I finally have succeeded in removing with soapy water and create capsicums), I also planted some broccoli. My Veggie Patch app is helpfully telling me to harvest said broccoli, however, the seeds never actually sprouted!! I am saddened by this, and not sure whether I should have soaked them overnight to assist in germination, or whether the seeds were a dud, or whether they didn’t like that particular pot/soil combination, or what has happened, except a distinct lack of broccoli!

Lessons learnt
Sometimes things don’t work out for inexplicable reasons, not necessarily your fault – it’s important to keep the faith and continue on despite these setbacks! See, growing vegetables can teach you important life lessons!

Future plans and some hope in the garden
I had some issues with peas and broadbeans last year, both succumbing rather early on to various forms of mildew (I think large amounts of rain at some of the early stages didn’t help!). However, I refuse to be daunted by these issues, and will plant them again on the weekend, and let you know how they go!

My bean plant is busily creating the cutest little beans – unfortunately, one by one, so not enough for a meal or even a decent-sized snack, but hey, progress is progress!!

A bean!

A bean!

My tomato plants are ignoring the onset of autumn and continuing to create little tomatoes – go you good things!

My peanut plant is dying – this is actually a good sign, when the whole thing dies, it means the peanuts are ready to harvest under the surface! Nice to know that a plant dying is not my garden incompetence, but nature’s wacky way of doing things!

So, in summary, while there have been some key setbacks in my garden of late, there is always hope, with each new season comes a new crop, and I will continue to strive and learn and share with you all!!