Monday, November 25, 2013

Our Favourite Foodies: Nelly and her Maleny Dairy Products

Yesterday I wrote about our love of the Kuraby Markets and promised a series on our favourite stall holders. This is the first in that series and there is only one place we could start: the delightful Nelly of the Maleny cheese stall (pictured here with Apples).

Nelly is one of life's sweethearts. She always brightens up my morning and loves seeing the kids when they are with me. her products are delicious. The first ones that I became addicted to were her tomato jam and buffalo quark. I love having them together on cracked pepper water crackers, but they are also great on sandwiches. The quark makes a great alternative to butter and I've even used it on scones with jam instead of whipped cream. Mmmmm...

BTW I'm a big fan of full-fat dairy products when trying to lose weight. A few links from friends on Facebook started me questioning the conventional wisdom that low fat is best when "reducing" and I have concluded from personal experience that a small serving of full fat dairy satisfies my hunger and keeps me energised for longer than a larger serving of low fat dairy. As a result, I eat less overall. The buffalo quark is a great example of this and it's wonderful to be losing weight while still eating such delicious food!

My other favourite product from Nelly is her ginger flavoured yoghurt. I used to buy it in 350mL containers but now I go through a litre a week! It's an unusual flavour to find in a yoghurt but now that I've had it, I can't live without it. My favourite way to eat it is stirred through a bowl of sliced strawberries. The perfect summer sweet treat!

Ironically, Ginger (my 14 year old) prefers the blueberry flavour yoghurt. I bought her a tub a week ago and she scoffed the lot in one sitting! I love seeing my kids so passionate about real food. All of Nellie's yoghurt flavours are wonderful and best of all she has free samples for you to try at her stall (as you can see here). The kids love trying different flavours and choosing which one they want in their lunch boxes for the week.

And then there are the cheeses! Oh... my... word...! This is where things get dangerous for me because I would spend all my money on them if I could...

So if you are at the Kuraby Markets do stop by her stall. It's near the market entrance and her partner, Bill, has a wonderful farm stall just next door too (more on his stall in a future post). 

Pick up something delicious for yourself or someone you love. I promise you won't regret it!

- MotherHen

To Market, To Market...

This whole gardening / slow food / local produce thing started for me the first time I went to the Kuraby Markets last autumn. Well, that's not strictly true; when my kids were little I had a strong sense of food politics and nutrition, but a divorce, a tight budget and transitioning from a full time stay-at-home Mum to a full-time-working-outside the home Mum brought cost and convenience to the top of my food priorities list.

Don't get me wrong, we didn't fall headlong into the SAD (standard American / Australian diet). Our bread was still multigrain, the kids lunch boxes were still full of fruit and veggies and I still cooked our evening meals myself rather than relying on frozen or pre-prepared foods. The difference was that instead of doing some of my shopping at Mrs Flannery's or an organic farmers' market at the crack of dawn, my grocery choices were limited to whatever Aldi, Woolies or Coles Online had in stock. And for a while there, I probably relied a little to heavily on commercial (ie chemically laden) sauces and seasonings.

Then, last autumn, a friend of mine posted a link to the Kuraby Markets page on Facebook. This was followed by what can only have been the hand of god - I woke up at 6:30 the next Saturday. Let me make this clear: NOTHING wakes me at 6:30 on a weekend. Even on a weekday it takes three separate alarms and about 15 hits of the snooze button to get me out of bed. So the fact that I was up so early for no apparent reason was nothing short of miraculous. Not only was I up, I felt like getting out and doing something. And so I found myself saying to my morning-lark husband "Hey d'you want to go check out this market?"

Little did I suspect that this would become a weekly outing. To be honest, it was the financial rewards that first got me. That first Saturday, I bought our whole week's worth of fresh fruit and veg for about half the price I usually paid (and I still get a bad case of sticker shock on the odd occasion when I have to buy produce from the supermarket). And the quality was amazing. Bunches of fresh herbs four times the size you'd get at Woolies for less than half the price! Three red capsicums (Apples' favourite) for $2! Leeks by the bunch! I was in budget heaven.

I returned the next week, and the next, and the next. In fact I have only missed 2 or 3 Saturdays in over six months. The kids love to go there too - I remember one cold dark morning gently stroking ChilliPepper's arm and whispering "Do you want to go to the markets or stay in bed?", to be told, very sleepily, "I wouldn't miss it for the world..." 

But our enjoyment of the markets now goes far beyond the financial. We have found so many treasures. My heirloom yellow pear tomatoes (by far the most vigorous in my garden) were brought him from the markets as tiny baby seedlings. Apples no longer uses her pocket money to buy lollies - instead she spends it at the rock and fossil stall and is building up quite the geological collection. I always bring home a bag of sweet n salty kettle corn for my husband; a little weekly love-gift. And just this week I found the perfect Xmas gift for my beloved Mother-in-law.

Most importantly, the markets, along with my garden, started me really thinking about food again. About where it has come from, how it is farmed, its' impact on the environment and the welfare of the animals involved in its' production. Shopping at the markets gives me the chance to make better choices about the food I bring home, and learning more about the stallholders and figuring out who has the best and most local produce is an adventure in itself!

So Apples and I have decided to start a series of posts featuring our favourite Kuraby Markets foodies. Those selling the delicious, the unusual, the local and the wonderful. I can't promise how regular they will be, but look out for posts titled "Our Favourite Foodies". And if you are in the area, stop by Kuraby markets and see why we love them so much. 

Trust me, if it gets me out of bed early every single Saturday, it MUST be good!

- MotherHen

Eglantine, Yoko and Princess Laya

Hi this is Apples here to tell you about our (drum roll please) Chickens! Their names are Princess Laya, Eglantine and of cuorse Yoko. Your asking what colour eggs they lay? Well Princess Laya lays light brown eggs. Egglentine lays blue or green eggs. Last but not least Yokos eggs are dark brown. 

(Note from MotherHen: Well actually, none of them lay eggs yet, they are really only tweenage hens so eggs are still a few months away!)

Okay, MotherHen is going to type for me now because it's nearly my bedtime so I need to be quick. 

Princess Laya is a Buff Sussex chicken. She is the smallest and cutest of them all right now but when they grow older she will become the biggest chicken. She can't cluck yet, she just makes little chirpy noises and she can't get on the roosting bar yet because she is so small. She is a lovely goldish brown and very pretty.

Eglantine is an Araucana and she is the biggest of them all for now. I often see her flapping around - she's quite the flapper! She's a lovely pearly white colour with grey splodges. She can cluck but she's pretty quiet. She only makes noise if she is frightened.

Yoko is a Barnevelder. She's black with little tiny brown v shapes on some of her feathers. She's almost as small as Princess Laya but she can get onto the perches and she snuggles up with Eglantine. I haven't heard her making any noises yet!

I took these photos myself this morning.

Did you see the joke with their names? EGG-lantine... LAY-a... YOLK-o... Get it?

Keep on growing!

- Apples

Friday, November 22, 2013

How does your garden grow?

I always wanted a veggie garden, but for most of my life my thumbs have been black instead of green. I once managed to keep two tomatoes and some spindly basil alive for a couple of months, but when I moved the tubs to a new home bush rats ate every plant down to a nub on the first night there. The heartbreak was too much - I didn't try again for over a decade!

Even marrying a gifted gardener didn't help - the soil where we live is suitable for nothing but the hardiest native plants. Seriously, it's HORRIBLE. In fact, I'm pretty sure that more than it isn't actually soil at all - just sediment that the developers of this neighbourhood churned up to level the land. 

This all changed a few months ago however, when I saw raised garden beds at Stratco for only $40 each. We decided to get three, which turned into five after I over-estimated how much soil to order... (The soil was the premium blend from Western Landscaping Supplies and I do highly recommend it. Everything we have planted in it has grown beautifully).

In the photos below, the early days pics were taken on 1st September, and the more recent ones on 29th October, so this is less than two months growth, minus pruning and regular harvests.

The first of our five beds I call "Little Italy". It contains four tomato plants, basil, parsley, garlic and some yellow capsicum and heirloom eggplants that I'm struggling to get established. 

Here's Little Italy a few weeks after planting:

And here it is now!

The next bed along is the one Apples and ChilliPepper have had the most to do with. Our first crop was radishes, which didn't grow well at all! They were all leafy tops and hardly any root. We have also had a crop of lovely little candy striped baby beetroot and one crop each of sugar snap peas and snow peas (which have now died off in the summer heat and been removed). But my favourite crop in this bed by far has been the cos lettuces, two in opposite corners. I love being able to cut only the number of leaves I need that day and not worry about the rest going manky in the fridge! Now that the peas are gone, I have transplanted one of my yellow squash plants from a hanging basket where it wasn't doing so great into the middle of the bed where it's starting to thrive! There's also some flowers in one corner which ChilliPepper grew from seed, some tat soi and some white beetroots on the go. 

Here is our mixed bed in the early days:

And here it is now!

The next bed over is my "squished squash" bed, so called because it is full of curcurbits - zucchini, spaghetti squash, yellow squash in hanging baskets over the arch and cucumbers. The spag squash and cucumbers are growing vertically very well, but I must admit, I overcrowded this bed (hence the "squish") and after a month or so of great zucchini harvests, had to cut back about 80% of the zucch leaves (and a few of the spag squash) due to rampant powdery mildew. I'm now trying to control the remaining PM with bicarbonate soda sprays but it's not making a big difference just yet - I might have to footle with the recipe a bit (not keen to use chemical fungicide if I can avoid it!) in this bed there's also some very spindly bean seedlings that never took off - too much shade from the huge zucchini plant I think!

Here's squished squash a few weeks after planting:

And here it is now! (Before I cut back all those lovely big leaves...) There's a few extra cos in a container in front too - not nearly as big as the ones on the raised bed!

The next bed along I call "Two Sisters" after the Native American "Three Sisters" method of planting corn, squash and beans together. My bed only has corn and beans. The beans are there not just for their own sake, but also to bind nitrogen for the corn. I am succession planting this bed (from seed) and have recently planted the third quadrant but no shoots just yet. The first quadrant already has tassels and silks, so I'm crossing my fingers that eight stalks is enough to ensure decent pollination

Here is Two Sisters shortly after planting the first quadrant... Nothin' to see here folks!

And here it is now! The pots in front have (L to R) a chilli plant, dill and parsley.

The fifth raised bed I call "Little Thailand". It too has tomatoes, but these ones are yellow pear and purple varieties. Echoing the little Italy bed, there is then a row of herbs - chives, lemon basil, coriander and garlic chives. Then a row of red capsicum plants. The chives in this bed are doing great (almost too great - they are developing dreadlocks!), and the coriander was doing okay until it bolted, but the lemon basil has failed to grow past seedling size - too much shade from the other plants I think.

Here's Little Thailand in the early days: 

And now:

I also have quite a lot off herbs in pots. In the early days I was using cheap potting mix, so some of them had a good start, then started to struggle. This is most notable in the mint,as you'll see below. The one in the cheap potting mix is really struggling to recover from being cut, whereas the one in the good stuff is growing almost out of control! Here's some pics of the container garden: 

This first one, left to right, are a some spindly things that have been knocking about forever, two tubs of my husband's roses, mint (in good potting mix), ChilliPeppers's flowers, lavender (which I have a lot of trouble keeping alive), a "geisha girl" (in the large blue pot behind), more of Chilli's floowers in front, and you can see a bit of the oregano and coriander at the far right. 

Picking up where we left off you can see in the front row oregano, chives, mint (struggling in cheap potting mix) and sage (also not doing great in cheap mix). In the row behind is the coriander (bolting), rosemary in the tall terracotta, and a pot of thyme next to that which is so overgrown you can't even see the pot! (I guess thyme likes cheap potting mix!) In the blue glazed pots behind those are a lemon and lime tree that I really must move to a sunnier spot, some chocolate mint (also struggling in cheap soil), a tomato seedling (one of the few I managed to coax from seed much too late) and a tiny eggplant seedling that the cat has knocked over... again. 

So that's our produce garden. There's just one more important plant to mention - Apples' sunflower. This happy little blossom sits out on our front step to greet anyone who visits:

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Keep on growing...

- MotherHen

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Luscious Leaves

Apples has been relishing the wonderful range of edible leaves produced by our garden this week. It started when she helped me harvest this huge bowl of lettuce and herbs that we used to make rice paper rolls for dinner last weekend. If you look closely you might be able to see cos lettuce, chives, garlic chives, mint and basil. So delicious!!!

Apples helped me prepare them for the table too - picking the leaves from the stems, washing them and drying them. During this she discovered "the most perfect basil leaf ever!"  I have to agree, it did look pretty beautiful. 

Apples enjoyed the leaves so much that I reminded her that she can go out and pick some leaves to eat any time she wants. She makes her own lunch every day so the next morning I was thrilled to see her making her usual vegemite sandwich much more special with some lettuce (cut carefully into strips to "fit the bread") and herbs - parsley, mint and a few shreds of leftover chopped basil. I'm sure her sanger that day was much more interesting and delicious than usual!

It's wonderful to see my little girl taking so much joy from what we grow, and learning about health and happiness in the process!

- MotherHen