Recent eats and garden update

Hello my lovelies,

I will get around to posting about my peanuts, once I get around to eating them – when you only produce a handful of them, you want to savour them appropriately! I’ve also realised that I don’t necessarily need to wait for something big to update you on, I can also do some more random updates on the bits and pieces going on in my life – let me know if you’re happy to read those as well, or what you would prefer!

However, despite my extreme laziness in the garden of late, there are developments to share with you! I have found that one of my tomato plants is currently defying the laws of nature and gravity, which I always like to commend! I’m of the ‘perhaps if I leave that almost dead looking plant for a few weeks/months something interesting might happen’ school of gardening, as you never know when a plant might suddenly spring back to life – my herbs frequently do this! So at the end of the tomato season a few months ago, I did pull out some obviously dead plants, but left this one because there were still a few green shoots. Recently, I noticed that while the bottom of the plant appears dead, the top of the plant hasn’t noticed, and is blithely growing flowers for new tomatoes, even though it’s on a very odd angle! This is why I love nature!! We’ll see how these tomatoes go …

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!


A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

Also, my pea plants are going well, growing up tall and hopefully will have pea pods to show you soon, but here is the plant in the meantime:

Pea plants in progress

Pea plants in progress

I also overcame my laziness (I blame a combo of questionable weather, general busyness and the fact that my increasing baby bump makes it harder to lean over!) in my winter planting yesterday. My compost has actually been going wonderfully well – full of worms, which I take to be a good sign of decomposition and general compost health!! So, yesterday I planted some more tomatoes, some broad beans, some English spinach, and some red cabbage – I still don’t know why the red cabbage didn’t grow at all a few months ago, so if that happens again, I’d say it’s the seeds, but we’ll see how these new crops go!

In food news, I have been enjoying my EasiYo yogurt so very much for breakfasts! In my usual porridge, on muesli in the warmer weather we had last week, as an afternoon snack, and on the weekend, I made myself a lovely plate of French toast, served with homemade yogurt, defrosted berries and maple syrup – it looks like a cafe meal, if I do say so myself!!

Cafe-ready French toast!

Cafe-ready French toast!

And last week I made an experimental salad that turned out wonderfully well – I poached some chicken thighs in some society garlic, peppercorns and parley, cooked some quinoa in chicken stock, roasted some pumpkin, and then all combined these with some rocket, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and homemade beetroot relish (which is awesome, by the way – canned or fresh beetroot, diced, with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, bring to the boil then simmer until it’s nice and relishy looking and tastes tart but not too strong – it keeps in the fridge for ages and I add it to everything!) All the flavours went so well together, it was super yummy – apologies for slightly blurry photo, I will endeavour to stop taking photos like a guerilla and actually take time to take them properly!! And the good thing about poaching the chicken was that it created plenty of stock for me to freeze for future soups and stews!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

So, that’s what’s been happening in my growing, cooking and freezing world of late!

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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!