A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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Make it From Scratch – Vanilla Ice-Cream

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On my path to more natural-ness there have been a few things which have really taken some getting used to, such as taking cod liver oil each day and the taste of my salt/bicarb toothpaste. But one thing that definitely didn’t take any getting used to was my move to full-fat dairy.   Life is just a little bit better since I have re-introduced my taste buds to full-fat cheese, full-fat yoghurt and started putting a bit of full-fat milk into my coffee each day (un-homoginized of course!).   And today I made my first batch of full-fat homemade ice-cream and let me tell you, it was good.  In fact,  it was extremely good.  It was even an instant hit with both the almost-4-year old and the almost-16-year old.  This one is a winner.

First a bit of background to why I decided to switch from low-fat dairy, the first reason was due to the amount of processing undertaken to get the fat out, as you know, I am looking to avoid processed foods.  I then did some further reading and found that the butterfat in milk, which is the part we take out to make it low-fat, actually contains vitamins which your body needs to help you absorb the calcium, and other minerals that are in the milk.   The butterfat also makes it much easier for your body to digest the milk.  So butterfat is your friend.  Now, I would not normally recommend that you eat your friends, but in the case of butterfat I make an exception.  You should definitely eat butterfat.

There are plenty of other reasons to stay away from reduced fat dairy, a google search with “low-fat dairy vs full-fat dairy” will get plenty of options for reading, but here is a quick article I found interesting from Dr Mercola called “Why you need to avoid low-fat milk and cheese“.

I also want to mention (mainly for my fellow weight obsessors out there),  that when I decided to ditch the low-fat, I did so with some serious trepidation, this being due to my lifelong obsession with my weight, and the belief that full-fat dairy would make me fat.  But I decided to consider my whole-body-health for a bit and deal with the weight consequences later.  However, much to my surprise, I didn’t gain any weight.  I have since done a stack of reading about fat in our diets and have come to the conclusion that natural fats, including the ones found in dairy, are not what is making us fat. In fact, since changing my diet to include a lot more fat and removing refined sugar completely (as well as making a couple of other changes), I have lost weight. But that subject is for another day….  So, for now,  to all my fellow weight obsessees, don’t be scared to make the change 🙂

Now back to my delicious ice-cream.

My involvement in this ice-cream-making process took about 7 minutes in total, and the recipe only has 4 ingredients.  But you will need an ice-cream machine to make this recipe.  Well actually, you don’t need a machine to make the recipe, you just need a machine if you want your involvement to be around 7 minutes.  Without a machine, you will be the machine, which means you will need to stir the ice-cream regularly every half hour or so, over the take 2 – 3 hours it will take for the ice-cream to set.

I had been on the hunt for an ice-cream machine for a while, as I don’t buy these types of appliances new anymore, and I finally hit the jackpot at the Green Shed . This little beauty is totally old-school, but I figure that just means it will probably never die.  It cost me $5, and came in the original box with the original instructions/manual.

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Vanilla Ice-Cream Recipe (refined sugar free of course!)

Adapted from the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, written by Sally Fallon

Ingredients:

3 egg yolks

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups heavy cream or double cream

 What to do:

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and then mix in all the other ingredients.  Then follow the instructions for your ice-cream machine.  For mine, I just pop the mixed ingredients into the machine, place it in the freezer and turn it on.  The machine mixes it until it is too thick to mix anymore, which took around 2 hours.  You then remove the ice-cream from the machine, cover and leave to set for a bit longer.

You can, of course, add all kinds of things to this basic recipe, like fruit, nuts or chocolate.  (But if you go with chocolate, don’t tell Sally Fallon, she doesn’t do chocolate).

Here it is straight out of the freezer 🙂

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I served the kiddies with a splash more maple syrup, and I had mine with a delicious carob sauce, yes, that’s right, I said delicious…..carob……. sauce…..  I actually wonder if I am the only person in the world who likes carob?  Just in case there is anyone else who likes carob, the carob sauce recipe is also from the nourishing traditions cookbook and I would be happy to share it 🙂

Note:  The original recipe from Nourishing Traditions includes arrowroot which I didn’t add, because I didn’t have any.  I read that the arrowroot helps to make the ice-cream smoother, but mine is just fine and smooth without it so I wouldn’t bother putting it in next time.  If you decide you want to include the arrowroot, you need to add 1 tablespoon for this recipe.

 

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Make it From Scratch – Face, Hand and Body Moisturiser Recipe

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I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for  having specific creams for specific purposes.  I have my face cream for my face, my hand cream for my hands, and my body cream for my body.  I had been on the hunt for recipes to replace both my both hand cream and my body moisturiser for quite some time, and I was particularly keen to find a hand cream as it was the middle of winter and my hands pretty much looked like this –

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I had been using coconut oil to try to deal with the hands situation, but found that it didn’t do a very good job.  I have since read that coconut oil is more of a skin “softener” than a moisturiser, it’s actually not that great at moisturizing.

All the recipes I found for handcream had too many ingredients, and were too complicated for my liking (for me, that generally means it has more than 3 ingredients, and takes more than 10 minutes), but I found a very simple body lotion recipe on the asnomagarden blog.  The recipe is for a beeswax lotion and it has the option of using 5 ingredients or 3, I obviously took the 3 ingredient option. I was happy to leave out vitamin E because I didn’t have any, and I was also happy to leave out the essential oils, as the recipe has quite a bit of beeswax in it and I have previously found that the scent of beeswax usually overpowers the scent of the essential oils.  Besides which, I quite like the honey-ish scent that beeswax gives anyway.

So this awesome lotion has only 3 ingredients, and I am yet to mention it takes about 5 minutes to make.  That is my kind of homemade beauty product 🙂

After about a month of using the body lotion on my body, I realised that my witch hands had gone.  So there was no need to continue looking for a hand cream recipe, my body lotion, became my hand and body lotion.  I then ran out of face cream,  and as I also hadn’t been able to find a simple face cream recipe,  I started using my hand and body lotion on my face.  I was pretty happy with the results, so my hand and body lotion has become my face, hand and body lotion.

I’ve since done a bit of reading and, as it happens, this simple coconut-olive-oil concoction has many benefits for your face.  If you are young enough to still get pimples, the coconut oil contains antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal things (yes, technical name, things) which can improve skin conditions like pimples and acne.  For those of us who would do anything for a pimple (because that would mean you had oil in your skin and probably wouldn’t have so many wrinkles), it also contains those crazy free-radical-fighting antioxidants that we have all heard about, and these guys help to prevent premature aging and other bad stuff.   The Olive oil contains vitamins which help to repair damaged skin, and these same clever vitamins also stimulate cells to make skin firmer and smoother, and I am sure we could all do with a bit of that 🙂

One thing I should note about using this on your face, is that you only need the tiniest bit, too much and you will end up with a very oily face, or if you are extra lucky like me, some oil in your eye.  The oil in the eye doesn’t exactly hurt, but it doesn’t exactly not-hurt either.  It is definitely best avoided 🙂

So here is how you can make it.

Face, Hand, and Body Moisturiser Recipe

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Ingredients

1/4 cup beeswax

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup coconut oil

What to do

You just melt the beeswax and coconut oil in a saucepan, over a medium heat, and once melted stir in the olive oil. Pour into your containers.  Once it has started to set, grab a fork and whisk it around a bit, keep doing that every now and then until it is fully set.  This way it gets a that whipped, body butter feel about it.

That is it.

A note on containers, the picture above is the one I keep in my room, it’s in a recycled glass pickle jar 🙂

The one below is one I keep in my gym bag.

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Its in a recycled aluminium stackable container from T2 that I found at a garage sale, which I bought for $1 and it is perfect 🙂

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What kinds of containers do you have your homemade beauty products in?  Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 


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Not-Thyme Tomato (A Vegetable Growing Case Study)

I would like to tell you a story. This year I decided to grow an indoor herb garden through winter, and I also decided to try to grow things from seeds. To say I haven’t had much success with growing things from seeds in the past would be an overstatement, but I have seen other people do it, and there is something very cool about watching seeds sprout and grow, so I figured I would give it another go.

I planted mustard, sage and thyme. (Can I suggest that, if like me, you haven’t had any success with seed planting in the past that you start with mustard. Those little guys have to be the most impressive seed growers around. The seeds sprout very quickly, and then they continue to grow very quickly. However, can I also suggest that you only plant as many mustard seeds as you would like to end up with plants. I decided, due to aforementioned previous non-success, to plant all 750 seeds in the pack. I currently own 750 mustard plants.)

Back to my story…. after about a month, all the seeds had started to grow. I was so excited about these little babies that I showed them off to everyone. I proudly showed them my mustard, sage and thyme.  One day, one of my obviously-far-more-knowledgeable-about-herbs friends came over and looked at my thyme and then looked at me and said, “um, I don’t think that’s thyme”, to which I replied “um, well it has to be thyme, that is what I planted in the pot, see, that is what written on the side”.  She asked where I had gotten my soil from, and I explained that it was actually my compost from my beautiful compost pile that I had successfully cultivated since in Autumn. I picked up the pot and after a closer inspection my friend said, “I’m pretty sure that is a tomato”.  At this point I took a good look at my thyme, and after a moment I had to agree with her.  As it happens I didn’t have any success with the thyme seeds, but my compost had successfully grown a tomato. I have named it “Not-thyme-tomato”. The End.

Here is the lovely not-thyme tomato, she will be going into the garden once after Melbourne cup day which is when we are guaranteed to not get any more frosts her in the Berra.

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The point of telling you this story is not so much for you to laugh at my dodginess (although please do), but more to demonstrate just how awesome nature is. Even with the dodgiest of gardeners in charge, you take some healthy soil, some water, some sun and you will get a plant.   Perhaps another point to take from the story is that you may not want to have any expectation of the gardening outcome (i.e. expectation that you will produce thyme from your thyme seeds) as you may end up with a different result (i.e. tomato)?

Let me give you another example of how awesome nature is. I’m sure that you are aware that you can grow fruit and vegetables from the seeds contained within them, but did you know there are a bunch of vegetables that will re-grow themselves from their scraps? Talk about recycling and sustainability!  Awesome.  According to an article on the “ wake up world website” there are 16 fruits and veggies that fall into this category. The coolest, as far as I am concerned is the pineapple, apparently you can grow a pineapple from the top spiky bit. Yep, awesome.

I will definitely get to all 16, but for now I have give celery and potatoes a go. Let me run you through how simple this is. You just put the end bit (that you would usually throw away) into some water for a couple of days or a week (or however long it takes you to get around to the next stage) and it will start to sprout mini celery leaves. When you are ready, put the little mini celery into a pot or into the ground if you have a garden bed.   That’s it, celery will grow.  Awesome. Photo evidence below.

Stage 1

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Stage 2 (far right in the earths choice container)

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Stage 3

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And today

Celery October 2014

 

With the potatoes, you just need to leave them until they have those little sprouty things coming out them. Then you can cut them up into smaller pieces, just make sure any piece you are planting has one of the sprouty things on them. Then they are ready to plant. Something I also found out recently is that you don’t have to plant potatoes into the ground. You can grow them in pots, in an old tyre, or even in a hessian sack. I decided to turn my son’s old plastic wading pool, which was broken, into a home for potatoes.   I just took to the bottom of it with a pair of scissors, (resembling that scene from psycho), and made some holes in the bottom,  chucked in some soil I bought and planted the potatoes. That took me all of about 10 minutes.  I planted them about 3 weeks ago and they are already sprouting. Awesome.  Photo evidence below.

Prepared potato home

Potato house - making holes

Happy baby potatoes, look closely there are heaps 🙂

Potato house October 2014

One thing to note, and yet another reason to buy organic, is that you may not be able to re-grow potatoes from ones you buy at the supermarket as they are often sprayed with something called Chlorpropham which prevents them from sprouting. Poor sterile potatoes 😦 .

Here is a cute little video I that shows a young girls experiment with growing sweet potatoes from sweet potatoes, and the difference in shop bought vs market bought vs organic.

The benefits of growing your own organic produce are many. You’ll save money. You’ll get awesome nutrition from eating fresh and a naturally produced food. If you can get stuff into the ground and/or build compost, you’ll be helping to save the soil by reducing soil erosion and putting nutrients back into the soil. And lastly, you will reduce your carbon impact and therefore contribute to saving the earth. All that, just from growing a few veggies.  Awesome.

Surely, if miss “can’t tell the difference between thyme and tomato” can do this, anyone can. Get growing people 🙂


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Slow Food in Canberra

Canberra (or The Berra as my friends and I like to call it) is where I live and in case you missed it, has just been ranked the number 1 best place to live in the OECD regional well-being report.  No you cynics, this is not because the report was rating places within the Australian Capital Territory, but because Canberra is actually one of the greatest places to live in the world.   I seriously love this place 🙂

One thing that isn’t measured in the OECD regional well-being report, is the how many slow food restaurants are in each city, but perhaps one day it will…..

I heard the term slow food recently and thought it was some new buzz word to describe healthy fast food,  and have thus been using it in that context.  I have since found out that there is actually a whole  slow food movement which has been around since the 1980’s.  Slow foods philosophy – “Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.”  And since looking into slow food further I was happy to find that there is a local slow food movement in Canberra.   I will be spending a lot more time learning all about the slow food movement, but for the purpose of today’s blog I am going to continue talking about slow food in the way I did before I became aware of this globally awesome movement.  That is, slow food = healthy fast food.

I’m pretty sure we could all agree that, in general, fast food does not equal wholesome nutritious food, and since deciding to change the way I eat, eating out is proving difficult.  Well actually, eating out is still as easy as ever, but finding something I am happy to eat is proving difficult.   So I was pretty excited on the weekend to find a cafe where there was no such difficulty.  I finally found some time to pop into the Paleo Cafe at the Kingston foreshore which is called Paleo Perfection, and I was very excited to find that they use all organic ingredients and, even though there were sweet treats for sale, there was no refined sugar to be found.   Recently I had given up my much-loved cappuccino and was resigned to a boring life of flat whites, however on this fine morning, the chocolate sprinkles were back.  The lady who served me told me she makes the chocolate sprinkles herself, a mixture of cacao and coconut sugar.  (I am currently happy to eat coconut sugar, however the more I read, the more I have a feeling this might change, but we will tackle my thoughts on sugars another time 🙂 ).  Another thing that gave me much pleasure was the realisation that they use organic un-homogenized milk.

Now for those of you who haven’t yet ventured down the path of milk nutrition,  I can tell you that the milk we drink today basically falls into the natural-from-the-start-but-now-basically-artificial category of foods, it is highly processed.  All milk we buy in the shop is pasteurized.  Pasteurisation heats the milk to a high temperature with the intention of killing certain “bad bacteria and enzymes, unfortunately along with the bad bacteria and enzymes we are also killing good bacteria and vitamins.  Ultra High Treated (UHT) milk, the stuff you buy in cartons of the shelf, is heated to the point where it is “sterilized”.  I think that says it all.

Homogenization is the process of making the fat molecules in the milk smaller and then dispersing them evenly through the milk.   The result (amongst other things)- “milk is a hormonal delivery system. When homogenized, milk becomes very powerful and efficient at bypassing normal digestive processes and delivering steroid and protein hormones to the human body (both your hormones and the cow’s natural hormones and the ones they may have been injected with to produce more milk)…….  Proteins that would normally be digested in the stomach are not broken down and instead they are absorbed into the bloodstream……   resulting in some unpleasantness to our bodies.  You can read more about the milk making processes, and its effects on our health in this interesting article about Pasteurization and Homogenization of dairy products.   I also found this article interesting where it shows the cellular structure, through scientific photos, of various types of milk, its called Microphotography of Raw and Processed Milk study.

Currently, you can’t buy unpasteurized milk for drinking Australia, however you can buy “bathing milk” which, as the name suggests you are welcome to bathe in, however I am pretty sure that once you get it home, you can choose to do whatever you like with it 🙂  You can buy un-homogenized milk in Australia, and you can now buy coffee made from it the Canberra Cafe, Paleo Perfection.   One thing to note for other novices like me, if you decide to start buying the un-homoginsed milk there will be lumps in it.  However, fear not, they are creamy, undispersed fatty lumps of goodness, not stinky, icky lumps of offness.  My 15 year old threw out an entire carton of this liquid gold (I am sure the price per litre must be more than gold) when he saw the lumps.  Disappointing on so many levels!

There are plenty of people trying to get raw milk sold for consumption in Australia such as the Australian Alliance for Raw Milk, there website has a lot of interesting information about raw milk.

Milk rant over 🙂

Back to Canberra slow food – this weekend I am very much looking forward to the slow food smorgasbord that I am sure to find at this years Living Green Festival.   I think the festival is in its 3rd year, but this is the first year I am able to go and I am pretty excited!  The festival is all about ethical, environmentally friendly and cruelty free products, services, and food.   The two things I am most excited about (no suprise they are both food stalls) are Sushi Superfoods (go check out the pictures on their website, it looks amazing!!) and Addiction Food who are both from Sydney.

I can’t talk about healthy fast food in Canberra without  mentioning the Food Coop Cafe in the City, who have been serving up delicious, organic vegan lunches for quite some time.  They are also super cheap, only $6 or $5 if you are a member.  There are some newer healthy eating establishments places popping up around the place, none of which I have managed to get to yet, there is 80/20 in Braddon, and next door to them has opened Sweet Bones Bakery Cafe.  Are there others?  I would be very keen to know of other “slow food” restaurants/cafes are there in Canberra.  Or any other place where you live so that I might have an excuse to take a holiday?


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Make it from Scratch – Home-Grown-Home-Made-Mint-Tea

Today, for the first time ever, I made some home-grown-home-made-mint-tea (as it shall now be known).  As the name suggests this is mint tea that I made from my mint plant which I got growing over winter in my indoor herb garden.

Here is my indoor herb garden (in the early stages) and that’s the fabulous mint out the front.

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The concept of making your own herbal tea was only recently introduced to me from one of my clever work colleagues who, ever so simply, told me how she makes her own ginger tea.   Now I am sure there are plenty of you out there who have been making your own tea for years, but for me, this is an entirely new concept.  I had never before made the connection….. ginger = ginger tea? mint = mint tea?  Sure, it makes perfect sense now that someone has pointed it out to me.  (I told you this stuff doesn’t come naturally to me).

Now, I’m not a huge fan of ginger on its own so I will leave the ginger tea to the ginger lovers, but I do love mint, and I do love mint tea.  If you, like me,  have never made your own mint tea, you are in for a treat.   I am not lying when I say that home-grown-home-made-mint-tea tastes amazing.  It is way better than shop-bought-teabag-mint-tea.  Why is it that supermarkets don’t have fresh mint and ginger plants in the tea and coffee aisle?  Maybe it is because if everyone made their own tea, all the teabag tree farmers would go out of business……

Tea bag tree

Not only does it taste way better, home-made tea it is much better for you.  Pesticides are widely used in tea manufacturing and, recently, I have read a few articles about the other chemicals which can be found in your standard shop-bought teabag.  If you want to read for yourself, here is an article from Food babe – Do you know what’s really in your tea which I found interesting.   And for those times when you can’t grow your own tea leaves (I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to get a camellia sinensis plant to grow in the not-quite-subtropical-nor-tropical climate of Canberra…..) Choice.com.au did a test on teas available in Australia and here is a list which shows brands which contained pesticide residue and brands which didn’t.

Just in case there is anyone else out there who, like me, is new to the concept and wants to some guidance, here is how I made my mint tea:

Homemade Mint Tea Recipe (I know, it’s not really a recipe, it’s just a 2 minute thing, but here goes):

I chucked a handful of mint leaves into my mortar and pestle (there is absolutely no need to use a mortar and pestle, you can just chuck the leaves into your cup, I just like pretending I am some kind of professional 🙂 )

Mint Mortar and Pestle

I then covered it with a bit of boiling water and then pestled/mashed  the leaves around a bit with the pestle. (Does anyone know the correct verb I should be using to describe using the pestle as I’m fairly certain it isn’t pestled or pestles?).  I then filled the bowl up with boiling water and left it brewing for about 5 minutes, after which I poured it through a tea strainer into my lovely tea-cup, and gave the mint leaves a few last  pestles/mashes  and that is it.  Awesome.

Another great thing about this tea, if you happen to get some of the “tea leaves” into your cup you can totally drink them.  No yucky tea leaf business in this tea, just yummy, minty goodness.

I am keen to try out other homemade teas, any suggestions?