Easy Vegan Choc Chip Cookies!

Since giving up dairy earlier this year, I have been missing some of my favourite baked sweet treats. I wanted to give dairy and egg-free baking a go but really had no idea where to begin, so started with a trusty Google search and took it from there. Chocolate chip cookies are a classic and I figured it would be pretty easy to do them vegan. I tried lots of different recipes to varied amounts of success, but this one from Domineke on Instructables became my fave and I just made a few of my own tweaks. After many batches of cookies and some serious taste testing, I’ve finally come up with my best cookies yet – and it would be selfish not to share! This recipe will make about 12-15 cookies, depending on how big you like them.

Before you start – You want your oven preheated to 180 degrees. I prepare my cookie tray first so that it’s all ready to go when the dough is done. You’ll see in my photos that I use baking paper on my tray, this isn’t required, but I live with meat-eaters and I got no idea what’s been made on that tray. Safety first.

IngredientsIMG_0324

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate/vegan choc chips (I use Sun Valley)
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk (can be any non-dairy milk, I just like the added flavour)

Equipment:IMG_0326

  • large bowl
  • medium sized bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • silicon spatula (or whisk, or any other preferred mixing device)
  • cookie tray

 

Step One – Dry Ingredients

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Your flour, baking powder and salt all go together in your large bowl. Mix ’em together, leaving a well in middle, and set aside.

 

 

Step Two – Wet Ingredients (and sugar)

IMG_0328

In your medium bowl, mix in your sugar, oil, vanilla essence and almond milk.

 

 

Step Three – Combine Ingredients

IMG_0329

IMG_0330Pour wet ingredients into the well in the middle of your dry mix. Fold together with your spatula until everything is just nice and blended in. Add your chocolate chips and fold them through.

**Taste test the dough. Not essential to the recipe, it just tastes real good.**

Step Four – Get ‘Em in the Oven!

IMG_0331Spoon your dough onto your tray in tablespoon sized scoops. I flatten mine with a fork before putting them in to bake, is this a thing other people do? I used to watch my mum do it when I was little and I always do it to my cookies! Bake for around 12 minutes, but this may be different depending on your oven.

 

You will know they are ready to come out when the tops start to lightly brown. As mentioned in the original recipe, these WILL seem a bit too soft when you first take them out. They toughen up a lot as they cool down.


IMG_0333

Fresh from the oven ❤

These cookies have proven to be a hit with everyone, not just vegans! I’ve made a few batches for friends and workmates and they’ve been very well received. I especially love not telling people that they’re dairy-free, at least until after they’ve tried one, because you really can’t tell the difference. Next time you have an occasion that requires home-baking be sure to give these a try, and let us know what you think of them!

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The finished product!

– Blick

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Faster, Stronger, Larder

Hey garden pals. I don’t know about you, but these frosts and a growing schedule of out-of-garden things has meant that I haven’t done much in the last month. I have, however, checked out some gardens around Christchurch and want to remind you that frost cloth is such a good idea. Really, truly. Do also ensure your plants are getting a glimpse of whatever sunshine is going. Cheap imitations of frost cloth will often shelter the plants but inhibit their development (or stop them from producing at all) if they are sitting without that light for too long. Just keep an eye on them. Mark their growth in your garden diaries and keep the ground moist. Building on the success of the last post I wrote and the ongoing online support, I have taken a bit of a back seat this time and have compiled even more helpful recipes for those overwhelming influx of produce moments. Facebook is such a good generator for gardening tips! Thought I needed one more go at this before we move back into the dirty business. So here goes! Some recipes my Facebook friends and I have found useful and delicious when dealing with too much of a good thing. Enjoy!

Naomi‘s Input: Annabel Langbein’s Preserved Lemons

She’s practically my hero so it just makes sense that Annabel has a killer preserved lemon recipe up her sleeve.

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 heaped tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Grapeseed or similar neutral oil

Scrub the lemons well and slice them lengthwise into sixths. Freeze the lemon slices on a tray until rigid. Sterilise a medium jar and its metal lid. Take the lemons out of the freezer and pack them into the clean jar. Add the salt and lemon juice and the bay leaf. Cover with oil.

The pickled lemons will be ready in about a week but will improve over several months. Once you open the jar, you’ll need to keep it in the fridge. To use the lemons, scoop out and discard the lemon flesh, then thinly slice the rinds.

Carole’s Input: Piccalilli

Carole generously gave me a piccalilli recipe from her preserving book, but just to simplify it for any piccalilli beginners out there, I have grabbed a River Cottage rendition which I appreciate and makes 3 x 340g jars worth.

1kg washed, peeled vegetables – select 5 or 6 from the following: cauliflower or romanesco cauliflower; green beans; cucumbers; courgettes; green or yellow tomatoes; tomatilloes; carrots; small silver-skinned onions or shallots; peppers; nasturtium seed pods

  • 50g fine salt
  • 30g cornflour
  • 10g ground turmeric
  • 10g English mustard powder
  • 15g yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 600ml cider vinegar
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 50g honey

Cut the vegetables into small, even bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse the veg with ice-cold water and drain thoroughly.

Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander to a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar. Put the rest of the vinegar into a saucepan with the sugar and honey and bring to the boil.

Pour a little of the hot vinegar over the blended spice paste, stir well and return to the pan. Bring gently to the boil. Boil for 3–4 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours into the thickening sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully fold the well-drained vegetables into the hot, spicy sauce. Pack the pickle into warm, sterilised jars and seal immediately with vinegar-proof lids. Leave (if you can) for 4–6 weeks before opening. Use within a year.

E Cus’s Input: Feijoa Chutney

I don’t really like feijoas much but I have plenty of people in my life who do, and I know that when that tree starts dropping them you are knee deep pretty quick. Plus you can’t eat them all raw all the time because, well, you know why. Even I love feijoa chutney on a cracker with a slice of cheese on top. This recipe I got from a friend, but I think it’s origins are in an Annabel Langbein realm again. She’s such a goddess. I don’t apologise.

  • 1.5 kg feijoas, peeled and chopped
  • 500g apples, peeled and chopped
  • 500g onions, finely sliced
  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 750g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp mace
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp ground cloves

Place all ingredients in large pan and boil slowly for approximately 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and brown. Bottle while warm.

Ainsley’s Input: Fruit Leather

Fruit leather is one of my favourite treats of all time so I was delighted when Ainsley reminded me that you can make your own fruit leather. I know she has one of those dryer things that helps making drying fruit easy, so I’ve chucked in a simple recipe that anyone can follow – regardless of what you have kicking about your kitchen.

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups of chopped, peeled and cored apple
  • 4 cups of chopped, peeled and cored pears

Preheat the oven to 65 degrees celsius. Cover a baking sheet with a layer of plastic wrap of parchment paper.

In the container of a blender, combine the sugar, lemon juice, apple and pear. Cover and puree until smooth. Spread evenly on the prepared pan. Place the pan on the top rack of the oven.

Bake for 5 to 6 hours, leaving the door to the oven partway open. Fruit is dry when the surface is no longer tacky and you can tear it like leather. Roll up on the plastic wrap and store in an airtight jar.


Yum! Like seriously yum. See you in a month – where I will be getting back into the nitty gritty of your garden while we start to plan for the excitement of spring. Some of these activities in the kitchen could be a nice change for kids who are sitting around home during the school holidays, too. You’ll need to pull them away from Kidsfest and Pokemon Go for a bit in the next two weeks.

Mucho love, E Cus x

 

header image via palmers.co.nz

Food For Thought

So E-Cus, now that I have read your articles, done some of my own work and created the most kick ass veggie patch in my street, what am I meant to do with all the produce?- I know you are wondering this because I got asked it in real life (thanks, Naomi). With a patch filled with seasonal produce you would like to enjoy all year round rather than just the four weeks of a year that you are harvesting, knowing how to make the most of it whilst fitting around your busy schedule is vital! Obviously you could just give them away to friends and family (which is still a very nice idea and greatly appreciated by everyone) but as the person who has put in the blood, sweat and tears you want to be able to experience the fruits (lol pun) of your labour, too. I hit social media and asked which fruit and vegetables do you often end up with too much of and not know what to do with and I was flooded with responses. I’m going to tackle the ones that were brought up and hope that as a lovely little gardeny community, we can continue to share the love via comments below or comments on our Facebook page for other fruits or veggies. Thanks to Debby, Naomi, Jane, Ali, Ainsley, Brandon, Carole, Sarah, Lizzie, Caroline, Sammy, Lily and Kathleen for your input on this one! Hope it helps.

Lemons

Lemons have many uses so before you contemplate storing them the best thing to do is to identify what you are likely to use the lemons for in the future. I love lemon juice in cooking and it is probably my key concern so I will juice my lemons and freeze the juice. If you like Jamie Oliver you will know that he often demands a “squirt” of lemon juice from a fresh lemon, one way to achieve this without having to go and purchase a fresh lemon every time is to freeze the juice into a small ice cube tray. It’s easy to drop a cube of pure lemon juice into a hot pan and you are less likely to squirt yourself in the eye (which I do constantly). You can also zest your lemons and include that in your ice cube tray of lemony deliciousness. You can freeze the lemons whole, they just need to be stored in a freezer bag and this will make the lemon quite mushy once defrosted which will still make it fine for cooking or baking. If you are looking more towards storing them to slip into a cheeky beer or something similar then slice them into your desired wedge size before freezing. The added bonus here is that they can cool down your drink while they add that citrusy tang. The only other option I have used is making mass amounts of lemon curd and storing it in my cupboard. Properly stored lemon curd can last up to 3 months before opening and 1-2 weeks once opened so you could store it in small or large jars depending on your family size or the likelihood of you using it as a spread or in baking. I can’t tell you how good lemon meringue pie and lemon tarts are when you have made the curd with your own fresh lemons.

Pumpkin

Firstly, I am an advocate for home made pumpkin soup. In the event that I ever end up with more pumpkin than I can eat, I make a huge vat of pumpkin soup and fill my freezer with it in serving sizes. A soup like this will easily survive 6 months in your freezer. Future-you will thank past-you for putting the effort into making the soup and freezing it when your schedule gets busy and you are struggling to plan dinners that contain vegetables. If you are just never going to make soup then the best option is to cut the pumpkin up into chunks, remove the seeds and skin and freeze it in a freezer bag. You can do this with raw pumpkin, or you could roast the chunks before freezing. Another option is to cook and puree the pumpkin before freezing it. The only time I have done this personally is when I was freezing the puree into big ice cube trays to give as a present for my friend who had a baby – delicious, healthy, homegrown/made baby food that is on and and ready to go is quite the gift for a new mum.

My pumpkin soup recipe goes as such, this example is using a whole crown pumpkin just to give you the idea of proportions:

  1. Cut a whole pumpkin into chunks making sure all the seeds are removed and roast them in the oven with some olive oil, rosemary, thyme, whatever tickles you.
  2. Cool the pumpkin before peeling the skin off each piece. In a pot sweat off two brown onions with crushed garlic (I use almost a whole head of crushed garlic in mine because I love it but use your judgement) in some olive oil.
  3. Then add a litre of vegetable stock, the pumpkin, a 400ml can of coconut milk and various herbs and spices depending on your taste. I usually put that on a low heat, mash the pumpkin through with a potato masher just on the stove and keep stirring casually stirring up I’m happy with the consistency and then chuck it in my freezer containers.

Don’t forget to taste the soup before you put it in the containers as pumpkin soup can famously be difficult to get flavour into. Also keep the seeds! Google how to regrow pumpkins from pumpkin seed or google how you can make them into a tasty snack. Pumpkin seeds toasted in a pan with a few glugs of soy sauce are delicious.

Leafy Greens

Spinach and silver beet are famous for growing bumper crops and its almost impossible to keep eating your way through them at the time you are producing, especially if you planted multiple plants. The best way to keep them is to blanche them and freeze them, I offer no advice around this as I have not successfully done it myself and it seems rather tricky. I’ll only speak to what I know. Cook them into things you might use further down the line. Vegetable lasagna springs to mind (you could also incorporate pumpkin into this) and you could keep that in the freezer for three months easily if contained correctly. The 30% of my heart which is devoted to my fake greek heritage implores you to make spanakopita parcels with your silver beet and spinach which make an easy snack or nibble if you are having a party. Spanakopita is a greek pie made traditionally with filo pastry and filled with spinach and feta although I am certain you would get the same results from silver beet. Made into little pasty shaped parcels would be easy to freeze and would just need a reheat in the oven before serving again. Kale, which also fits into the leafy green family, can actually be frozen raw. Just wash the leaves, make sure they are totally dry (otherwise they will clump and freeze together) then pop them into a freezer bag. You can chuck these leaves straight into your smoothies and it will make your smoothie cold! All of your leafy greens can also be cooked down and pureed if you have use for a green puree in your life.

Tomatoes

Similar to lemons, it depends on your purpose with these guys. If you are looking to use them in a sauce or cooked dish then you can put your tomatoes into your freezer in freezer bags. You can freeze them sliced, chopped or pureed as well as whole and you can freeze them raw or cooked. They can be stored with or without their skin and will last eight months in your freezer pretty happily. Otherwise you could make and freeze tomato soup or my favourite thing to do is make a pasta sauce with them and freeze them with spaghetti pasta as an alternative to canned spaghetti. You can freeze the sauce for up to six months and with the spaghetti noodles present, it would depend on what type of noodle and how long you had cooked them for but I think you could safely use your judgement on this one. Defrosted tomatoes can get mushy so unless you are freezing cherry tomatoes, I can’t imagine any salads will eventuate out of this side of your crop so best to make the most of that option when they are fresh. Furthermore, don’t forget what type of tomato you planted in the first place, big beef tomatoes are designed for soups and sauces and that’s the best use for them 100% of the time.

Courgettes/Zucchinis/Marrows

Some of my favourite things to grow but can get very out of control in your garden very quickly. There are so many things you can use them for in cooking so before you do anything I would look ahead at some recipes you want to try soon or could be interested in later on. If you are trying to kill three birds with one stone, then cook them into your veggie lasagne before you freeze that for a rainy day. The biggest tip I have is to slice them up into little happy circles or dice them if you can foresee needing them like that for a future recipe, lay them on trays, pop them in the freezer for a couple of days and then stick them into a freezer bag, The tray freezing technique will hopefully stop them from sticking together too much in the freezer. This technique applies to marrows as well as courgettes, although if you are doing this throughout your harvesting season then you should be experiencing less marrows on the whole. Regardless, use these in your recipes or chuck them in a hot pan with some salt and olive oil and you can add that to any family dinner. Easy peasy.

Well folks, I’m barely scratching the surface of this challenging topic! I love it when you send your gardening dilemmas my way so please keep them coming. Next time I will deal with the way to make the most out of the sometimes overwhelmingly massive drop of fruit your fruit trees can produce (obviously minus lemons which I included here) and continue to tackle the beast that is milking your herb crop for all its worth whilst keeping it going all year round.

Chur, E Cus xx

June Jumbles

Kia ora all!

Hope you are all doing well and staying warm and cosy. It certainly has been raining a lot… Good for the garden but not so good for my mood! There are a few things going on in my world at the moment so it’s going to be a bitsy post I’m afraid – hang in there, chaps!

JUNK FREE JUNE

When I first heard of this initiative I actually got it confused with Plastic Free July (another great idea, which you should all challenge yourselves to try).  It’s a pretty cool thing though, and it’s always nice to support the Cancer Society and all the great work they do.

Each person will define their own junk (heh) slightly differently, but here’s my crack at it:

Junk, rubbish, trash… We know I am not a fan. This month I am going to make more of an effort to reduce the things that often cause me to slip up when it comes to zero waste – Cheese (either don’t purchase or get unwrapped), Grease paper from late night fast food, anything bought online, chocolate (I’ll look into dark choc, bought bulk).

What I think is awesome about JFJ is that (hopefully) is will lessen the amount of trash the average person produces. Unless you make it at home with bulk ingredients, most junk foods will come in packaging that is less than ideal. If people cut out these treats (chips, lollies, fizzy, takeaways, baking, etc) then they can easily cut out a LOT of plastic wrapping from their lives. The flip side is that more and more produce is coming in excess packaging now so you have to be a bit selective (markets and produce stores are usually best). On that note, there’s a petition to get Countdown to stop over packaging their produce and you should sign it 🙂

Sweet treats – I wouldn’t call myself a sweet tooth, but sometimes I wonder if that’s only because I live in denial… I work in an office and every day I find myself snacking on some sort of sweet yummy goodness. We happen to work near a bakery that also sells seconds like broken cookies or slice ends, and often when one of my co-workers goes there for a sandwich they end up with a free 1kg bag of brownie! My willpower really needs a booster because I swear I end up demolishing that kilogram single-handedly. It’s a problem. From now onwards, fruit is my sweet treat (though I might make an exception for 1 slice of the Beetroot Choc Cake I’m going to make for the Green Party AGM this weekend… It’s kinda healthy?).

Fizzy Drinks – another nemesis of mine ☹ While I always choose to drink from cans, which are more versatile for recycling, it’s better to just cut back or cut out completely. This month I’m going to be hitting up hot water, tea, and some coffee to get through the day well hydrated.  When seriously craving that fizz, I’ll use my soda stream to make soda water and infuse it with fruits if I need a hipster kick.

Takeaways/fast food– Occasionally I fall into a takeaway trap when it’s late at night, I have just finished a show, and I find myself driving home and hangry. I am also a fan of fish & chip Friday. NOT THIS MONTH!! To avoid fast food binges I need to get a little more organised and make sure that I am satiated or supplied with jars of nuts or a trusty banana. And I might have to make homemade roast vege chips on Fridays, but they’re delicious so no complaints there.

So those are my BIG 4 this June. It’ll be a struggle at points but it’ll also keep me mindful, healthy, and force me to experiment with food a little more. Tonight I made pizza with a cauliflower base (my bf is ‘low carb’ which sounds torturous) and it was super scrumptious, if not instagramable.

Speaking of experimenting with food and trying new recipes, I wanted to share my latest discovery with you all. I’m very excited about it.

Recently I have been introduced to the miracle of the Organic Vege Box from Spring Fed Organics. For those of you who like to hop down to the Riccarton Bush Market on Saturday mornings, then you’ll know these awesome folks already. What you might not know is that they offer $30 or $50 boxes that are simply BURSTING with delicious, fresh and organic veges.
I ordered myself a $30 box via email, and popped down to the Exchange Chch (another cool spot) on Wilsons Rd to collect between 8-3 on a Tuesday.

Here’s my $30 box:

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.14.48 am

It included carrots (multi coloured), broccoli, Leek, ½ celery, beetroot, radishes, white turnips, potatoes, ½ pumpkin, ½ cabbage, spring onions, mesclun/lettuce leaves, kale, silverbeet (and coloured), spinach, parsley and dill.

Pretty incredible! I have ended up sharing it between at least two of my other flatmates and there’s plenty to go around.

I asked them to keep my potatoes loose (which they forgot on the second week but apologised!), and I think I will try to organise reusable salad bags for my mesclun. It sounds as though they are happy to reuse the banana boxes if I return them the next week, and I have been popping the rubber bands and plastic bags in there to reuse as well. The good news is that the bags are made from “biodegradable cornstarch plastic bags” so that’s better than nothing, though I would suggest asking for your ‘tatoes to be loose, coz why not?

That’s it for me this month, folks! I’ll be in touch next month – hopefully over the moon about our efforts for Junk Free June.

In other exciting news, I am going travelling from mid-July, spending two months in Europe and a month in Namibia! I’m super excited for my first big overseas adventure, and I’m interested to see how I keep up with my zero waste efforts while travelling. I’ll try to keep you all updated ☺

Stay groovy xx

Poppy

Junk Free June!

We talk a lot about junk on this blog. Mostly, we’re discussing possessions and meaningless commodities – “stuff” that we accumulate that we really don’t need. Y’know what else you don’t need though? Junk FOOD! This year, Use Good Stuff is getting behind Junk Free June, a campaign all about giving up junk food while raising money for an important cause. A poor diet is linked to the development of many cancers and other health concerns, so it makes sense that we cut those bad things out in the name of good health! Absolutely all of the money made through Junk Free June donations goes directly to the Cancer Society of New Zealand, so get involved either by making the junk free pledge for yourself, or by donating via someone who is!

JunkFreeJune-02I have no problem admitting that I have a soft spot for treats and snacks, so I’m expecting this to be a bit of a challenge. It’s important to note that “junk” food will be different for everybody, as we all have our different vices. It’s also good to point out that having a healthy diet doesn’t mean never eating anything remotely “naughty”. Balance and moderation is key. That being said, I’ve made a list of the things I am personally going to try to avoid over the next 4 weeks, or at least drastically reduce my intake of:

  • ALCOHOL – Probably my biggest vice, awful for my health and my bank account…
  • ENERGY DRINKS – These I’m not too bad with, but if I’m feeling super tired or drowsy I will sometimes reach for a Red Bull to get me through the day. I would have about 4-6 a month usually.
  • CHIPPIES – I am a potato chip fiend and will eat an entire family bag alone in one sitting, easy. Just try me.
  • OREOS & SKITTLES – I love to treat myself with these as they just happen to be vegan. I can go without for a few weeks!

Things I can do snacking on that are healthy (or okay in moderation):

  • FRUIT
  • NUTS
  • POPCORN (not buttered, obviously)
  • DARK CHOCOLATE (a few squares occasionally is great, a whole block in a day… Not so much)
  • WATER/GREEN TEA/BEVERAGES NOT FULL OF SUGAR

So now it’s all planned out, all that’s left is to do it! While eating healthy and being charitable are things we should all do as much as we possibly can, events such as this one that raise awareness and get people motivated are very valuable. That’s why Poppy and I (along with Poppy’s super cool friend and flatmate Colleen) have teamed up to give it a go! Be sure to let us know on Facebook if you are also taking part and let us know how you do! Read more about Junk Free June on their website and sign yourself up if you’re keen for the challenge. If you would like to donate to the Use Good Stuff campaign you can do so here.

Thanks for the support!

– Blick 🙂


images via nz.junkfreejune.org

Party With Uncle Herb

Hey Garden fans!

Now that Use Good Stuff is a year old, I’ve been strolling down the memory lane that is this blog and reading how far we have come. What a journey it has been for you and for me. Our relationship has had some highs (New lemon trees and jam making in the holiday season) and some lows (Overwhelming weeds and bug attacks). It’s been hard at times, we got through it together. In celebration of green thumbing it (and you tolerating my obscure and overdeveloped jokes) I want to revisit my first ever post and deal with the opposite side of growing. Here’s hoping you are still keeping up a luscious herb garden, in which case you might like a reminder of all the yummy things you can create from your delicious little buddies. So here are some herby recipes I have had the pleasure of eating and I hope it will encourage you to use up some of your current herbs or plant some new ones. Let’s do it.

Mint Sauce

Mint can grow like weeds for some people so it’s important to keep using it up. The best way to use up mint is obviously in mojitos, but if you need a way that the whole family can enjoy your mint crop, then mint sauce is a good way to go. Mint sauce goes particularly well with a lamb roast and some roast potatoes in my opinion, but I encourage a bit of experimenting. My other tip is that if you are getting roast lamb sandwiches, firstly: well haven’t you done well, and secondly: you should absolutely hide some mint sauce in there. Try to put it so the bread isn’t in direct contact as it may make the bread soggy.

3/4 cup of chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup of water (boiling)

1/2 cup of white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Put the mint and sugar in a bowl, add the boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved and it is well combined. Add vinegar and mix again. My mum used to just do it to taste, sometimes I don’t think she would put in much sugar at all. Experiment with it yourself. Too easy!

Hummus

Hummus on crackers is the stuff dreams are made of and luckily you can make your own hummus with your own garden treats to make it extreme! Chuck this out for your dinner parties with some cheese, some olives and maybe some salami with your crackers and you are onto a winner. You can throw any herbs into your mix, it just depends on what you are into. Here’s my repeat offender. Grab that NutriBullet!

300g can of chickpeas

2 Tbsp olive oil

Juice of a lemon

2 cloves of garlic

1/4-1/2 cup of chopped parsley

1 spring onion chopped

6 basil leaves

Sometimes I chuck a bit of paprika on the top too but that’s your call. Rinse the chickpeas out of the can and drop everything in a NutriBullet or similar and blitz until it’s a good consistency. If you don’t have a NutriBullet thingy then you will just have to improvise. Good luck! When your broad beans come into your garden you can sometimes sub the chickpeas out for them. I love broad beans though, so I understand if you can’t stand the idea.

Pesto

By now we all know that basil pesto is just about one of the most delicious things on the face of the planet, especially on a toasted bagel with some cream cheese, but few people explore making their own pesto with other herbs. Here is a recipe for basil pesto. You may have a garden full of it, but for the people out there like myself that don’t have a basil party happening in their garden patch, then I will chime in with possible other options. Again, if you don’t have a NutriBullet I don’t know how you will swing this.

1/4 cup of pine nuts or walnuts (or almost any nuts actually)

3 cups of basil

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

1 chopped clove of garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

In the NutriBullet and Bob’s your uncle. Other herbs you can use are parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary even fennel and rocket can become a good pesto to chuck through a pasta dish, or to put out with your many other nibbles at a party. The important thing is to test them out and don’t let rampant herbs just become weeds. Use them in a lot of different recipes and figure out the ones you could make again happily.

Happy eating guys! Keep filling that herb bin up with new herbs and new plants of your favourites so you never have to buy that horrible packaged fresh stuff from the supermarket for $3.99. That hurts my heart so much when I have to do that. Thanks for the year chaps! I’ve loved it. Keep up the good work and remember to keep emailing me with any questions you would like me to try to answer for you. Have a great weekend!

Chur, E Cus x


header image via hdwyn.com

Home Is Where The Plant Is

Houseplants are actually incredibly controversial. In my experience, you either love them or hate them, there is no middle ground. Kind of like The Bachelor. I enjoy having plants inside, as long as they are useful to me personally and I don’t have too many. Too many divided around the house can get frustrating, especially if you have trouble remembering to water them all. I think if you hate all houseplants you have probably had a bad experience with watering yours or someone else’s that you might be housesitting for, or you have never experienced a plant that can be useful. Houseplants rock, it’s just finding the one that suits you best. Kind of like The Bachelor. They are also wonderful because if you move around a lot they can just come along with you and make you feel at home. If you have a kitchen that is exposed to natural sunlight with the potential of fresh air then you should absolutely grow some herbs. You should look at my very first post ever for a breakdown of how to achieve this. Every now and then you can use the leftover coffee grinds from your coffee to pop into the soil to help make them thrive and obviously cut off the bits you need for your cooking and baking. How convenient! Here are a few other plants I have found to be useful around the house and need little attention to keep them alive. Bonus! I implore the #houseplanthaters out there to give one a chance and test drive it for a while, especially over this season when your outdoor garden won’t be up to much. You never know guys, you could meet the houseplant love of your life. Unlike The Bachelor. Oh c’mon, we were all thinking it.

potted-aloe-vera-plant-Aloe Vera

We had an aloe vera plant when I was growing up and my mum used it for multiple things, but primarily when we had accidentally burnt ourselves to a crisp sitting in the sun without slip, slop, slapping. Aloe vera can be quite dangerous to consume so just because we have aloe vera juice on the shelves of our supermarkets, doesn’t mean you should chomp down on your plant. They are great for most skin aggravations when you press the juice of the leaves onto the affected area. If you feel like some light educational reading about aloe vera then Google its uses in Chinese medicine, there are too many for me to list here but definitely very interesting stuff. They look cool in my humble opinion and they require very little watering. In winter in particular you don’t need to water them very much at all. They can grow to be quite large so even if you buy a small plant remember to put it in a larger pot to allow it room to grow. It is an easy plant to keep alive so it’s a great one for people who think that indoor plants might not really be their thing. I got some delightfully cheap and small aloe vera plants from the Warehouse a couple of months ago so, before heading to your garden shop, check them out. May as well save yourself some money! Keep this beauty in a place that is nice and warm and when summer returns you can put it outside in the delicious sunlight.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/719VXoM0jML._SX425_.jpg

Venus Flytraps

Obviously these dudes eat flies, making them very useful buddies to have around in those summer months. Again, I had one growing up and was fascinated at how big these plants can get and just how many flies they can catch. A big thing with taking on one of these plants is ensuring that the soil is correct, if you want to move the plant to another pot at any stage try to incorporate as much of the original soil as possible. Put some gravel in the very bottom of the pot to help with drainage, then put that original soil around where the roots are. If you need more, fill in the top with dirt from your garden or a little bit of potting mix. Ideally this plant should go somewhere sunny and warm where you will remember to keep the soil moist, not necessarily too wet but wet enough to keep it happy. Ours lived on the kitchen/dining room windowsill and it was always happy. If the plant starts looking kind of spindly, growing its leaves out super wide, then it is not getting enough sunlight and you need to move it somewhere else. Flytraps can go for months without catching a fly but don’t give up on them! Sometimes their conditions just aren’t quite right for them or they just need to chill out. It doesn’t mean the plant won’t eventually catch something.

peacelilyJapanese Peace Lily

Every time I think of these plants I think of Hot Fuzz, great movie if you haven’t seen it and it will make appreciate the potential for you to love these plants. “Well, there was the bit that you missed where I distracted him with the cuddly monkey, then I said, ‘Play time’s over!’, and I hit him in the head with the peace lily.” Still so funny. There are two main reasons to consider getting one of these bad boys, 1. They look beautiful! When your plant is producing white leaves to compliment its dark green ones they look like lovely white flowers. 2. They can dramatically improve the air quality in your home by up to 60%. They are NASA approved for cleaning your air. You can put them almost anywhere but to make the most out of your plant and to get those lovely white leaves happening they need some natural light. They are great in bathrooms but you can pop them anywhere in your house or liven up your dull office with one. A common cause of death with these guys is over watering so all you lazy plant people reading this, rejoice! You are given permission to forget about it sometimes. Also you obviously get the added bonus of being able to quote Hot Fuzz in context.

With all these lovely new friends please remember E-Cus’s rules of thumb: Plants need drainage, especially these ones so make sure you are giving them an appropriate bottom (lol), and when working with potting mix, avoid touching it with your bare hands and don’t work with it inside. Pull it outside and sort out the potting mix before bringing it inside. You can also use a mask if you want to be extra careful. Whilst you leap into this, please don’t forget the plants you may have in your outdoor garden as the cold weather draws closer. Cover your new lemon trees to protect them from frost with frost cloth or a home made equivalent, gather up those last strawberries and freeze them for jam making later on and any plants you have recently planted like those leafy greens might need a little bit of glass or a clear sheet of plastic over the top to keep them developing. Don’t forget to water in the morning/afternoon too. Good luck garden fans! You are embracing a new era here but it’s one that could go on to bring much joy. Kind of like The Bachelor! On that note, I’ve been mocking that show this whole time but I do hope my real life mate Jordan finds someone just as cool as he is to hang out with. Have a great ANZAC weekend everybody! See you at the dawn service.

Chur, E-Cus.


header image via http://www.fineartamerica.com – Alexey Stiop

Get Off The Grass

Gotcha! I had you going for a minute there right? This article is (of course) about weeds that grow in your lawn or garden, and how they may be used in many super helpful ways. That’s right folks, weeds aren’t all bad after all, they are just misunderstood. Kind of like how Doctor Octopus just wanted to be loved, or how Magneto just wanted to be loved, or how Lex Luthor just wanted to be President of the United States. A wise woman once said ‘’weeds’’ is commonly used as a loose term for unwanted plants. That wise woman may or may not have been me. After my friend Michi asked me about what weeds could be used for, and their health benefits, I decided to do a bit of research. Quite frankly, I had little-to-no idea. On that note, this one goes out to you, Michi!

Dock

dockDock is that random weed that can grow in the middle of your lawn or the corner of your garden, that has large big leaves and yellowy stalks. It almost looks like spinach on steroids. Dock looks edible because it is, but it’s not for everyone… Or the faint hearted. The leaves of this plant are best eaten while they are young as they are quite sour and get more sour with age. The leaves are high in oxalic acid so it best not to eat too many of them, most of the recipes I saw were about using a small amount in a salad. If you have a history of oxalate kidney stones then Dock is a no-go for you. You can put a bit of dock in your quiche, your frittata – I also saw a super cool recipe for stuffed dock that looked like those stuffed vine leaves you can buy in the deli at New World. Dock has many supposed medicinal purposes. Apparently, dock is good reducing swelling due to irritation, particularly stinging nettle and cold sores. Pretty exciting. Most importantly, there are many different types of dock and many of them have “gentle” laxative effects. So before you brew yourself a big old pot of dock tea (which you can do FYI) it would be a good idea to double check which type of dock you are sporting. Unless you are constipated. In which case dock ’n’ roll (lolzies).

Clover

cloverThese little flowers can grow throughout your lawn or occasionally grow tall in your garden patch if you have let it go. They are white or red (which means purple, really) and are a flower made up of many small heads. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about, they are pretty common. These little beauties are all good to eat with their lovely flowers being the best bit to use. You can use them in salads, soups or in tea. You can brew their leaves for tea, too. For such a little flower they are actually pretty awesome according to my research. Using them in tea is good for coughs and colds, they apparently are good at purifying your blood. If you are pregnant or you are nursing a baby, firstly: you go girl. Secondly: hold off on indulging in clover. Clover is rich in isoflavones which act like estrogens and can make things unbalanced for you. For the rest of the ladies, clover is choice for PMS, hot flushes and even breast health. It lowers cholesterol, improves circulation of blood, reduces possibility of blood clots and is filled with vitamin C, potassium and calcium amongst other things. Give clover a Google, it looks like a freakin’ treat!

Dandelions

DandelionFlower2I’m sure I don’t have to describe what a dandelion looks like to you so I’m not going to. These dudes are all over your lawn and are otherwise bright yellow flowers, or they are going to seed with those big dome heads. I’ve dissed dandelions in the past, but in fairness to myself they really can strangle your strawberry plants and leave you missing out on your crop. I still think they suck for doing that. They do, however, seem to be legit in other ways. You can eat dandelions at any stage of their growth, including when they are going to seed and it will be fine. Different ages vary the level of bitterness. As long as you know the history of your dandelion plant in regards to making sure it isn’t exposed to toxins or pesticides then you can eat all of this plant, right down to the roots (if you can get them out of the ground, because those suckers burrow deep). You can cook dandelion or eat it raw, the leaves can replace lettuce in salads, especially young leaves which are sweeter and they are full of all the good stuff. Calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, quite honestly I couldn’t believe the stuff this plant could do for your health. Most famously, dandelion leaves are a good source of fibre which can help with weight loss and can help stabilise blood sugar, making them good for diabetics. Who knew, huh? You can also make dandelion wine! Cute!

Pansies

Pansy_FlowerMany people probably wouldn’t consider pansies a weed because they are by far the prettiest of the plants mentioned, but they qualify. Pansies recently went through a food revival and have made their way into salads, as a garnish and on top of cakes and cupcakes. Martha Stewart even has a recipe for candied pansies which I have tried and can confirm is totally cool. I’m not sure if pansies literally covered in sugar makes them very healthy, but the original plant has some worthwhile stuff for us. You can make a tea of them or make ointments from them, too. Pansies have antioxidant and anti-microbial properties which means they can help with skin ailments or itching, they can help with respiratory problems. They have been used to cure bladder infections and can help to reduce blood pressure. The list actually goes on! If you are looking at maybe using pansies to help with one of the above things, do your research. There seems to be many different ways in which it can be used and different things you can do to the plant, so for arguments sake I would encourage you to extend your research beyond my babbling.

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So, there you go. A little bit of stuff I learnt. I know there is a lot of “go ask Uncle Google” in here but I’m just skimming the surface and I don’t want you to take my words for gospel and get the serious runs. You know what I mean. On a brighter note, next time someone makes you feel stink for not doing your weeding, you can inform them that actually you are growing them on purpose. Yas! Win.

Speaking of yas winning, you may have noticed that Leo got an Oscar and Sly didn’t, which is exactly what I was hoping for and mentioned two posts ago. If someone feels I deserve a beer or a dandelion wine for that call, you know where to find me.

E Cus x


images via wikipedia.org, header image via wewalkandroll.com

 

SHOW ME THE MONEY – An Insider’s Guide to Garden Savings

When I started gardening, I thought it would be a great way to save money. I thought for sure that by growing my own vegetables and fruit I was certainly cutting out the middle man and that that would be reflected in my bank balance immediately. Don’t get me wrong, growing your own is going to save you money eventually but the set up costs and the overwhelming desire to have the best garden on your street can make you hand over your credit card with your fingers in your ears yelling “lalalalala” at the garden shop. I couldn’t tell you the amount of money I have spent on my garden over the years. Luckily before I returned to a student lifestyle AKA the 2 minute noodle diet, I acquired a few tips on things you can repurpose from around the house and use in your garden saving you that precious moolah. Plus, repurposing saves chucking more stuff in landfill which is mega important. Being thrifty is so in vogue right now.

Old Photo Frames

Whether they are big or small, any photo frame you have lying around your house is perfect for raising seeds and plants in their early stages in the cooler months. If you have a small photo frame that once housed a precious pic from your disposable camera days that is the perfect size for six tray of seeds or four eco pots that you are raising seed in. Some larger frames are big enough to stretch across a planter box in your garden which is great for plants that can’t be transplanted. Even if the glass in the frame has a crack or has been broken, tape it up with some packaging tape or something similar and you are good to go. We are using these frames to create a sort of mini glasshouse for your plants in its early stages. Make sure when you are using this technique over existing plants that you are still exposing the plants to the open air in some way as we don’t want the plants to overheat. Miniature glass/hot houses can cost $80+ and I bought a solid wooden frame with a hideous picture in from the Ecostore for $15 which is perfect. All I did was take off the back, take out the picture and tape the glass into the frame. It’s as easy as that! An added bonus of this project was that I felt as though I had done the world a favour by disposing of the truly horrible picture that had been in the frame originally. If you need a deal sweetener, that’s it.

Sticky things

No, not sticky things. Stick-y things. Like, things that are stick-like. Yeah, now you get me. Fragile plants often need a helping hand to strengthen them up and some plants need sectioning off from others. Gardening shops sell bamboo sticks which I must say are truly awesome as they come in a good range of sizes and are strong but lightweight. If you just don’t want to spend the money or you are improvising then look to things that are stick-like. Stationery is a great place to start. Broken pens, pencils and rulers can be used as little stakes for plants that need a helping hand and pens are usually a good size for the smaller plants that are being grown from seed in your garden. Some toothbrushes are good for this. Objects with longer handles that have broken off are also useful here. We used to break plastic fly swats at my house all the time and that length of handle is great for a garden stake and, because it’s made of plastic, it will withstand the weather conditions. Think outside the box, plenty of things are sticky!

Ribbon, String and Wire

We have all done that thing where we have kept the ribbon from around presents thinking we will reuse it and how often do we do that? Only sometimes. Use the rest of your ribbon or string you have acquired in conjunction with your sticky thing to section off beans and peas in your garden. If your plant has developed runners of any kind, (runners are very long, spindly growths from your plant that travel a long distance and deliberately wrap themselves around whatever they can find) then it is important you give them something to latch onto that won’t affect the development of nearby plants. Box off your beans or equivalent with your sticks and wrap your ribbon and string around your sticks in a web-like way. Your plants should naturally attach and wrap themselves around the string or ribbon but if they are branching beyond your web fortress, you can gently negotiate them around a particular strand. This technique also works with any bits of wire you may have kicking around. I’ve mentioned it before but old bike rims are great for peas to wrap around if you dig them into the ground next to the plant. Snapped clotheslines could be used here, too. I’m sure you’ll think of some other gems for this one.

Pantyhose

This is 100% the best tip I have been given about repurposing in the garden as it is the best thing for your plants and solves the age old problem of what to do with your pantyhose once you have put a massive run in it or it has lost its stretch. Actually, my mum gave me this tip. Cheers, Denise. The best way to tie your growing and developing plants to assist them in getting stronger is by tying them with cut up old pantyhose. Unlike string ties, pantyhose stretches and pulls as your plant develops but remains pretty soft against the plant, giving it plenty of opportunity to grow strong before you cut the ties. Cut up your pantyhose into strips and tie loosely around the plant to your stake. You want the knot itself to be tight but you want to give the plant plenty of breathing room from the pantyhose, especially if you know they are going to grow to have a wide girth. Once your plant no longer needs the stake, just cut the ties. No harm, no foul.

Holed Objects

Before you fork out hundreds of dollars for planter boxes and pots, please have a look at the contents of your garage with an open mind. Many objects are surprisingly good to plant in. Anything that is made of plastic, rubber or wood can be a great planter as they are easy to drill holes in the bottom of for drainage and work well outdoors. I’ve seen people plant in old car tyres, old gumboots, broken plastic buckets, wooden beer crates, pallets, lampshades, old jewellery boxes, old drawers, all sorts! Always check which plants might cope with more unusual homes but having cool, repurposed planters is a great way to add character to your garden as well as save some huge money. You don’t need those flashy half wine barrel planters for your garden to have swag. If you do any cool planting of this sort then please take a pic and chuck it up on our Facebook page or email them to me! This sort of stuff is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Happy saving mates! Hope these tips were enlightening or inspiring for you as you go about your garden endeavours.

Cheers, E Cus x

Steal My Sunshine

Yo, it’s your old mate E Cus coming in with the first garden post of 2016. Feels good to be back. Let’s be honest though, this year has not started well. First we lose beloved David, then we lose magnificent Alan, then Sylvester Stallone- Ok he didn’t die but he did get nominated for an Oscar for a supporting role in Creed. AN OSCAR. FOR HIS SEVENTH ROCKY FILM. I mean, I know it’s not on the same level as the death of two of the greatest artists of our generation, but still it’s a bit of a slap in the face. AN OSCAR. Anyway, move on E Cus. I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you, too. Bad news: Your summer garden is almost done. Good news: You still have just enough time to make the most of your current crops and establish some new ones before that sun starts to set. Pump that late 90’s banger by Len and let’s get hoe-ing before the sun gets go-ing.

Watering

If you made the most of your garden time before Christmas, your garden could be reaching near to full capacity. If you are from Christchurch and have barely had a summer at all, you may be happy to know that I expect you will have some super hot days in before our season is totally gone. This means no more grace period on the watering front. To get the last of your one-crop plants over the line, you need to up the anti in this respect now to see you through to the end. I’m all about sprinklers, but over watering makes me anxious so you need to be careful. Whether you are sprinkler-ing or can-ing it, my advice is water your plants after the sun has gone down and that heat of the day has broken. If you are on sprinkler duty, give your plants up to an hour of water before turning that off, depending on how hot it has been that day. If you are watering potted plants as per usual make sure you are filling the top until you see water coming out of the bottom. If you were super creative and planted your edibles in hanging baskets this year they need a lot of water. I have found in this instance it is best to soak the whole basket and plant in a tub for an hour and let it drain out once or twice a week. Around this time of the season is a good opportunity to have one last go at fertilising your plant, especially tomatoes, so tip a bit of liquid fertiliser in your watering can or your soaker tub before you water. When you can, try to avoid wetting the fruit as it can encourage nasty behaviour like blemishes and rotting. Obviously you can’t avoid anything with a sprinkler, including getting yourself wet every second night. Set an alarm on your phone homies. Water now, every night until your plant is totally done.

Weed

Yep, I know. I don’t want to do it either, but we have to. Chronic weeds can strangle your plants and stop them reaching their full potential with their crop. Before you determine that your plant is just never going to crop, weed heavily around the base and surrounding areas of the plant exposing it to light and air. Even weeds that might not seem too bad can have a crippling affect on your plant and how much you get off it. If your strawberry patch was a bit dull this year you may find your plants have had too much affection from some nearby dandelions and they have wound themselves deeply around your plants. You won’t get to the root of all the weeds now, especially as we need to keep the roots of our plants happy and not disrupt them too much, but the more space the plant has the more support you are giving it to the end of its cycle.

Believe

I have had countless people asking me about their tomatoes this season. Your tomatoes are probably still green. This is particularly true of Christchurch gardeners again as the sun has been having a holiday from us. Just keep believing. If you have green tomatoes, they will ripen, just hold on. Your problem will be more what to do with all of your tomatoes when they all ripen simultaneously right at the end of the season. Remember which type is good for what and plan ahead. Big Beef- make sauce, Sweet 100s- salad those suckers, Money Maker- chuck them in your sammies. Even if your plants look like they could be dead, if they have the tomatoes on them, they will almost certainly still ripen. Water them and trust them.

Move On

Some of your plants are totally done and you need to move on with your life, girlfriend. Peas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, broad beans, corn, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, heaps mate. If they are definitely done it’s time to haul them out. Unless you are going to harvest their seed which I will talk about in a minute. Remove the remains of the plant, fork through that dirt, chuck in some versatile fertiliser if you feel so inclined and get ready to go again. With this method we are not giving the soil much of an opportunity to regain itself after its previous relationship, your soil is kind of getting into a rebound relationship, so we must rotate the crop. Each thing you plant has different requirements which take different things out of the soil so when we put two exact same things in the exact same spot we aren’t giving our soil much of a chance. Change it up and move things around a bit. Around about now I am looking at planting root vegetables and the occasional hardy bean in my garden as we should have just enough summer lovin left to get us through the germination period of the seed. You can also plant full plants now if you would like, just be careful what you are buying as many garden shops will be selling out of season/root bound plants for cheap.

Offspring

The idea of letting your plant go to seed and then collecting it sounds so awesome but it’s a crap-tonne of work. It will often take your plant ages to do the thing where it grows really tall and then shoots out these funny looking bits and then when you are really close the summer will be over and a big gust of wind will blow over all of your hard work and you feel like an egg. Can you tell I’m speaking from previous experience? If you still feel up for it and you think you are better than me then here’s roughly how it goes. Only collect seeds from a plant that has been healthy and treated you right. If it’s a pod, pick the remaining pods on a dry/dying/dead plant and keep them in a cool dry place in a paper bag, or wrapped in paper towels. Once the seed is totally dry, remove the debris of pod (which may have totally split open by now) and store in paper envelopes. Any seeds that look dodgy don’t make the envelope, and check for bugs. For brassicas, the same applies only you need to wait for the plant to go to seed in your garden, the longer you wait the better. Then cut off the seed section and apply the previous rules. For berries & fruit, usually you are sacrificing the crop here to do this as the seed is most fertile before the fruit has ripened. Use your judgement though. Previous rules again. Google your plant and breed before thinking about saving seed and make sure you have a super organised storage system so you know what’s what next season.

Show People Around

If you have worked hard in your garden in 2015, have a party and show it off. There is nothing more impressive than a beautiful garden full of crops that can be plucked and consumed and with birds and bugs partying on down too. Be proud of your hard work while the weather is good because the road into the cooler months can be treacherous. Be humble but willing to discuss your gardens successes as it will encourage others. Have a BBQ full of your brag-worthy noms! I’m proud of you garden babes and I hope you are too.

All the best for the start of the year pals, I’m off to be a student (again) so you can expect a lot of $$ saving posts from me in the coming months. If you have something you want to know more about please email me here, and let’s all cross our fingers that humanity has advanced enough to not allow Sly to take home the Oscar and let Leo take one instead. I mean surely. Surely.

Much love,

E Cus x