A new kitchen for the humpy and the house

The cupboard above fell to pieces.

One of our old kitchen cupboards fell apart; it was a third hand, patched up old thing, but it served us well for many years. Instead of patching it up again, I decided to go with the option we had identified for the house (when it is finally built); a garage storage system. We can use the storage system in the humpy, then move it to the house when it is finished.

Instead of spending thousands on a chipboard, prefabricated kitchen for the round house (which wouldn’t really fit anyway), we decided to go with stainless steel storage modules. So I went online and found some reasonable options. To be fair, the prices were only reasonable if you factored in the decades of service we expect from this kitchen.

The delivery truck came right out to the humpy; a total unknown experience for courier companies up until this week. Usually we have to take a trailer in to the local town to pick up anything delivered ‘to the door’ by courier companies. He unloaded the flat pack boxes and drove away fast, no doubt vowing to never deliver out of town again.

We got to work putting the cupboards and bench together in between bush fire preparation and animal care, and managed to get everything sorted and put away with only two days work.

My partner un packing the first box
The inevitable pause to read the instructions and puzzle over what language they are written in.
Putting the bench together
The panels and little packets of screws were leaned up against every surface.
The bench and two rolling cupboards with timber tops put together and filled with kitchen stuff. Then the old cupboards were taken out and the contents stacked all over the kitchen while we put the new one together.
Part of the old cupboards were cut down to give us even more stacking space in the new cupboard.
All sorted and put away. I managed to get rid of a few things from the old cupboard, but not as much as I had hoped.
This is the big cupboard with the doors shut.
A new stainless steel bench to fill up with washing up.
Notice the coffee and wine bar; I painted an old book case with the purple and gold paint left over from painting the bin system and stacked our coffee and tea on it. Then I thought I may as well keep the wine there too.
I haven’t had kitchen draws for years, it is nice to be able to put things away in draws like a normal person.
Doesn’t the cutlery look neat…so far.
The biogas stove has a new shelf and it is going so well we sometimes have to think up things to cook with it just to use the gas. We are thinking about getting another gas bladder to collect all the extra gas we are currently losing.

I am really looking forward to cooking in this new kitchen space. It feels clean and fresh. The space seems much bigger in there now too.

Eggs everywhere- it sure is Spring

There are three people living in the humpy at the moment; one can’t eat eggs, one won’t eat eggs, then there is me. We have 8 laying hens, about 6 laying ducks and 2 laying geese; we collect about 8 eggs a day, or about 66 eggs a week. If you compare both sides of this scale you can see that a lot of eggs get wasted, and I hate waste.

I do attempt to use all our eggs, but have failed miserably in the task so far. Some of the methods we use are;

Fried eggs on weekends (for me)- this uses up about 4 eggs a week

Trading them to friends for veges- about a 12 a week

Using them in baking – about 6 a week

Making quiche (not every week)- about 8 a week

Giving them to a friend with an incubator- about 6 a week

All that gives me a total of, at most, 36 eggs used. I did freeze 2 dozen for use when they all stop laying, but that was a temporary reprieve. I don’t want to sell eggs (too many regulations) and most of my friends have chooks and are in the same predicament as I am (but if you live close and want eggs let me know, especially duck eggs).

So, to address some of the extra eggs, I went looking for egg recipes that could be made then frozen. That way we use the eggs and I have another meal that can be heated up for dinner. This is what I found;

Scrambled eggs, beans and sauce in a burrito; love the sound of this one.

Blueberry scones with icing; sounds delicious

Baked French toast sticks; okay we’ve drifted away from the idea of dinners, but they do use eggs.

Egg and vegetable noodle slice; freezable and good for lunch or dinner.

Halloumi, cheese and egg hot pot; sounds good, but I’m not sure it will freeze.

Broccolli and feta strata; whatever that is.

I’m not going to try all these recipes in one day (I do hate to cook), but I think I can manage one each weekend. That should fill the freezer with breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the first frantic weeks of school.

We also take some of the excess eggs out to the edge of the firebreaks for the goannas and possums. In these dry times all our native animals are searching for food and water. The sheep water troughs and the occasional water tray around the outskirts of the humpy provide water for wildlife and the excess eggs provide just a little nutrition for struggling beings.

I know this sends a mixed message; we don’t want goannas in the house yard and the possums can be very destructive too. I do it because I can see a day, not too far in the future, when animals that are common now will be rare and endangered. I do it because I don’t want any being to suffer and if I have the means to ease suffering, it is my duty to do it. I do it because I love to see the variety of animals who show up to take advantage of the free food.

Eggs show up in the strangest places.

Making bean brownies

In my quest to use more of our Madagascar beans I found a recipe for black bean muffins. I thought I would try them with half black beans and half Madagascar bean. In this recipe I used half a cup of Madagascar beans soaked then boiled for 20 minutes and one can of black beans. This added a bit of volume to the recipe, but didn’t change the texture at all.

Dried beans need a lot of cooking to get rid of the gas-making qualities and to minimise the ‘beaniness’ of the flavour. I really wish I had a wood stove so I could have legumes simmering away at the back of the stove without using gas.

Madagascar beans looking pretty in their jar.

Black Bean Muffins recipe (the original from the link)

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs*
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or sub honey)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brewed coffee, optional to enhance chocolate flavor
  • 1/2 cup high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder (or use cacao powder)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking liners and spray the inside of each liner with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place black beans and 1 egg in food processor and process until beans are well blended. Add two other eggs, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla and coffee; process again until smooth. Next add in cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; process once more until smooth. Next fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.
  3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips evenly among the tops of each muffin batter. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffins comes out clean. Place on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Keep muffins for a day at room temperature, then transfer to fridge and place in an airtight container.

I decided to cook the brownies in a slice tray, because I didn’t have any muffin papers and I never follow instructions to the letter anyway.

All the ingredients except the Madagascar beans; they are boiling on the stove.

Of course I used more eggs than the recipe demands (my daughter is away, so I can use up eggs to my heart’s content).

This is what the beans look like blended with an egg

Don’t be alarmed (like I was) if you get to the pouring point and you have what appears to be a bean and chocolate shake. The liquid nature of the mix made me panic a bit, but it firmed up nicely once in the oven.

All ready to pour
Yum

Well, this one is a hit. It tastes good, is full of fibre and protein, it uses some of my home grown food plants, it tips it’s hat at being healthy (sort of) and did I say it tastes good?

While I was searching, I also found these recipes to try…

Chickpea brownie mix

Bean fudge

Making vegan cheese- the holy grail

For a while now, I have been looking for a way to make cheese for my daughter. I am of course, looking for something that has a cheese texture and melts like (for want of a better word) real cheese. She is looking for a cheese with no animal proteins in it and a taste that is as satisfying as cheese.

So here begins the search (also results, funny stories and adventures).

This recipe looks do-able;

Basic firm cheese – 1 cup non-lite plant milk – soy, cashew… – I’m using 1 cup water & 1/3 cup soaked cashews for cashew milk

– 1 cup cooked sweet potato – 1/2 tsp paprika

– 1/2 tsp cumin

– 1 tsp salt

– 1 tbsp soy sauce

– 2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves

– 1/2 lemon juice

– 2 tbsp nutritional yeast

– 1 cup water – 2 1/2 tbsp agar agar

Store in fridge for 4-5 days

Basically; I followed the recipe to the letter for this one. It turned into something that looks vaguely cheese-like and has the texture of compressed paste (which is what it is really). The taste is not cheese like at all, I don’t see myself making this into sandwiches. I think it will taste good added to a potato curry before serving though.

On to the next recipe…

Making soy pulp muffins

After my soy milk making adventure, I have been making my own plant milks every chance I get. I love learning new skills, especially when the result is so much more than the effort expended. One of the waste products of making soy milk is soy pulp.

Soy pulp (left over from making soy milk) is apparently called okara; it can be used in all sorts of recipes. The Japanese even use it as the base for many meals. I have a cup or so of the stuff in the fridge ready to be made into something.

I hate to waste stuff, so any left over I can turn into something else is a bonus. Also okara is really high in iron and fibre, two things I need more of in my diet at the moment.

I found this recipe and decided to give it a go. The recipe below is copied directly from the blog Runaway Rice.

Ingredients

StandardMetric

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (191 C). Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the okara, beaten eggs, soy milk, canola oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, in thirds, and combine until incorporated. Do not over-mix the batter.
  5. Add the fresh blueberries and gently mix together.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, transfer the batter into the lined muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle the muffin tops with the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean.
  9. Increase the oven temperature to 400 F (205 C) and bake for 3-5 minutes or until the muffin tops are golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack.
  11. Enjoy the muffins warm or at room temperature with butter or your favorite spread.
  12. Store the muffins in an air-tight container and enjoy within 3-4 days. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for up to 2 months.

Of course my version was coloured by what I had available and how often I was distracted from the actual recipe by a stray bright idea (as usual).

So far, so good. I followed the recipe until I got to eggs, then I added 3 instead of 2 because we have heaps of them at the moment. After that it was all down hill.
I found some passion fruit gifted to us by a neighbor. In they went. I also found a few cups of rolled oats left in a packet in the pantry. In it went too.
The first batch has the basic muffin mix with okara and passion fruit and oats. The second batch has blueberries, oats and cinnamon.

I froze half the batch for work lunches and breakfasts and the rest went into a container in the fridge for nibbles. I am really happy with the outcome and I am really happy to have used 6 eggs today.

Maybe I can try making okara into ‘chicken’ nuggets next?

Making nut milks- soy milk

I thought it was time to give DIY soy milk a go; it is cheaper to make than to buy and my partner has swapped over to soy now because dairy milks are giving him heart burn. My eldest daughter has been using non-dairy milks for a long time (she has an allergy to animal proteins) and I seem to go between the two extremes. While I don’t enjoy the flavour of meat at all, I do LOVE milks, cheeses and yogurts (and I miss milking my cow) but I also like the plant based alternatives just as much.

I found some interesting options for making the milk; the first is a straight forward method that involves boiling, blending, filtering and heating the soy beans. The second is a brief video showing how to pulp the soy beans without a blender. I thought I might cheat and use the blender for this one, but it is comforting to know that I can make it without the fancy tools.

My first attempt at this milk went like this;

First, I soaked a cup of soy beans in water overnight. The next morning they were swollen up and ready to blend.

The ratio of soy to water is anywhere between 1:4 to 1:9, I chose to use the middle ground of 1:6. This means that I will end up with close to 1.5 litres of milk from 1 cup of raw beans. To begin this process, I added 3 cups of water to my soaked and drained beans and blended them for an epoch (well…2 minutes or so).

Then I strained them through a nut milk bag (basically a jelly bag if you are into making jams and such).

The pulp left in the bag can be used to make all sorts of things (including soy flour).

Next I poured the juice into a thick bottomed saucepan and added 3 more cups of water. This lot was then heated to the boil while stirring periodically (while I cleaned the kitchen of soy juice flecks). I kept it at a low boil for about 15 minutes, skimming off the froth as I went (and making new soy juice flecks in the kitchen). During this time I got distracted and let the pot boil over a little bit. Soy milk is a real pain to clean off the stove top.

As I stirred, I skimmed off the froth.

After it all cooled off a bit I poured the milk into a container and put it in the fridge. I can use this milk for cereals, drinking (with vanilla added), add to coffee (for my partner) and for cooking.

As it cools the milk forms a skin. I poured it through a makeshift sieve funnel.
The makeshift sieve funnel
My first 1.5 litres of soy milk.
We had a nice chai latte to celebrate. It was good.

Now for the cleaning up…again.

Maybe I can try making tofu at home too in the future.

Making vege burgers from Madagascar beans

Madagascar bean, growing like a weed.

The Madagascar bean plants have continued to grow and now it is Spring again, they have decided to bear a huge crop of beans (even though it is so very dry). I thought I would share a recipe for using the dried beans in vege burgers as a way of using my stash of last years crop in preparation for harvesting a new batch.

The new harvest begins.

I didn’t use a particular recipe to make my burgers, just added things I had on hand, but I did manage to find a similar recipe here.

There is a mix of Madagascar beans and bush beans in this batch.

First; soak a cup of dried beans in hot water for a few hours (or overnight).

Then boil the beans for about two hours (or until they can be squashed to mush with a fork).

Blend the beans together with; 1 cup of grated carrot/raw beetroot, 1 onion, 1 cup red lentils (these can be boiled with the beans if they are dried), 1/2 cup boiled sweet potato, 1 chia egg (1 tspn chia seed in 1 tblespn hot water), garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper.

Carrots, onion, garlic, capsicum (and a sneaky chilli)
Sweet potato and a chia egg or two.

Put the whole mess in a bowl and mix in bread crumbs or oat bran until you can form patties that stick together.

Shallow fry the patties and serve with vegetables or as a burger. Yum.

Yum

They can also be frozen before cooking to have a quick, easy meal ready to cook.

Meal prepping for the freezer- or I hate to cook

I hate cooking; I hate that you can spend hours making a meal that is eaten in half that time. I hate that I can prepare a dish and pop it in the oven then forget it’s there and burn it (or is that just me?). I hate that it creates all that washing up and you know there will be even more in just a few hours.

I do love to eat though, and so does the rest of my family. So to address these diametrically apposed attitudes I decided to try meal prepping. My hope is that it will reduce the time spent preparing individual meals before and after work, keep me from forgetting I am cooking by keeping me in the kitchen while the oven is on and reduce the washing up by having one large batch rather than a lot of small ones. I also get to play with the new freezer.

I have been working on replacing our freezer bags with those silicon, re-usable zip lock bags that keep popping up on trendy environment sites. I found a brand that is sold in Australia, can be used in the freezer and (very importantly for the washing up situation) can go from the freezer to the oven or stove top. My thinking is that I can cook a meal, divide it into family meal sized bags then reheat it in the bag. That way I only have to wash the silicon bag thing rather than a baking tray or saucepans. They are not cheap though; so I have been saving up a little chunk of money from the grocery budget each fortnight and buying two or three at a time.

My first recipe comes from a blog called ‘2 share my joy’, which sounds like particularly boring porn, but isn’t. I chose the Vegan meatballs recipe. My reasoning is that these meatball things (made from beans) can be used in a huge variety of recipes and they freeze really well. My plan is to make the balls and freeze them in a sauce (or different sauces in different bags) then reheat the entire bag in a hot water bath.

The mix. I just followed the recipe in the link to make something that looks like mush.
They roll into balls really easily and if you have wet hands the mush doesn’t stick. I baked them in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
They don’t brown well, but they smell really good.
I cheated with the sauce; I used a vegan friendly Dolmio sauce and some extra tomato paste.
The amounts in the recipe, plus 1 jar of sauce and tomato paste, made three meals for two and an extra meal for three. Probably we will need to add steamed veges or pasta to the meal to bulk it out, but the hard work is done.
My daughter has hers with just pasta, I add cheese to mine (because I can).

The dish tastes pretty good. The balls have a nice spicy flavour and they are very filling. I think these little bean balls are going to be a versatile addition to the freezer meals. It remains to be seen whether meal prepping saves a lot of washing up, I hope it does because I don’t like washing up either.

We got a freezer!!!

The only thing I have missed living with solar power has been a freezer. Well… we bit the bullet and bought a freezer that will run off our solar.

It is a Haier 143 litre chest freezer that came up as a special at our local Harvey Norman shop. This was an unexpected purchase because we didn’t realise that solar friendly freezers existed. We bought it home and plonked it next to the newish fridge, plugged it in and away it went.

It uses 220 Watts per year which makes it a very economical freezer.

I plan to fill it up with prepared meals for those work nights we just don’t want to cook (all of them). I also hope to be able to freeze garden produce (when we have it) and buy frozen food when it is on special. I am actually quite excited about having this option for preserving food and I am off to watch meal prep videos now.

Home Biogas system – a BIG step forward (part one)

We have been trying very hard to move away from using gas to sustain our daily life. We have historically used gas for running the fridge and for cooking and heating water on the gas stove. Recently we have upgraded our gas fridge to an electric fridge (solar powered) and now we are adding a biogas unit to the mix. This means that we will no longer have to buy gas bottles (yay!!), this is the final step away from using bottled gas.

Bottled gas or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) is produced during oil refining and given the temporary nature of our supply of oil on this planet, we need to be looking at ways to move away from our reliance on it (not to mention the huge environmental cost of using it). LPG contains propane in Australia, in other countries LPG can be a mix of propane and butane.

Biogas captures methane and carbon dioxide (methane mostly) as a result of decomposition of organic matter. That is why the discovery of methane on Mars was such an exciting thing; where there are dead things there were once live things (usually, although not always and probably not in this case). I became interested in biogas many years ago (after watching an episode of The Good Life) and decided to work towards setting it up in our humpy. The idea that we could use our waste (of all descriptions) to generate some of our energy needs was very exciting.

The idea has been sitting on a dusty shelf at the back of my mind for years. Other, more attainable, goals have been on the work table of my mind. Six months ago (approximately) I stumbled upon a post advertising a biogas system designed for home use and the idea suddenly moved to the front of my mind again.

We eventually decided to go with a Home Biogas unit from Quality Solar and Plumbing

They are the only company selling these units in Australia and they are relatively close to us (only about three hours drive way). We saved up (in tiny increments) and finally, with a windfall of back pay, we ordered the unit. We also managed to add a toilet unit to the order. As soon as this unit is set up we can start to generate our own cooking gas (although the Year three student who lives in my head can’t help making jokes about cooking with farts).

As soon as the order was placed we realised we needed a site for the future toilet/gas generation unit. Then we need a shed or some kind of building to house the toilet and a pad for the gas unit to sit on.

A gratuitous ocean shot from our long journey to Mullumbimby to pick up our biogas system.

The first part of our biogas adventure was picking it up and touring a working unit while we were there. The very helpful Brian at Quality Solar and Plumbing gave us a tour of the biogas unit he has set up at his house.

This is the working unit. It was really exciting to see one working.
You put the food scraps or animal manure into the black pipe at this end…
and gas and fertiliser come out this end. How amazing is that?
This is the stove unit that comes with the kit. There is no smell at all to the gas and this burner obviously gets a lot of use.

We have our unit home. It is sitting in it’s two little boxes, waiting for us to make it a home and set up the toilet. I can’t wait to get it going.

The two boxes in the car constitute the entire kit. I was amazed at the small size of the whole thing and how light it was to haul around. It will be much heavier once the bottom of the digester is full of water.

The kit is supposed to include everything we need to put it all together. We will see…