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April 2011

Foraging for free food: Warrigal Greens

We’re nearing the end of week three of Our {more or less} No Spend Month. We’ve actually found it empowering to spend {more or less} nothing. I imagine it would be extremely disempowering if we were broke and were forced not to spend. But having money and not spending feels good.

I’ve been reminded of all the ways to get food without spending money. Foraging is my absolute favourite.

Warrigal_greens

On our recent kayak trip, I was excited to spot loads of the bush tucker plant Tetragonia tetragonioides, commonly known as Warrigal Greens, Native Spinach, or New Zealand Spinach.

Warrigal_greens_by_creek

See the bright green ground cover plant in the picture above? That's all Warrigal Greens.

Picking_warrigal_greens

Of course I had to jump out and pick some, and for lunch later that day we had Native Spinach Frittata.

Cooking_warrigal_greens

Warrigal_greens_fritatta

This one didn’t look as good as my previous attempt, because our ‘no-spend challenge’ has me being stingy with eggs (eggs, cheese and onions are considered gold in this household at the moment).

Warrigal Greens is probably one of the easiest bush-tucker plants to forage

  • It's easy to find. It’s found scattered throughout Australia and New Zealand and has become naturalised in many parts of the world. You will mostly find it along waterways and near the coast.  
  • It’s easy to recognise and hard to confuse with anything, so you’re unlikely to accidentally eat the wrong thing. Have a look at these images and note the shape of it's leaves and fruit. It's fruit in particular is really distinctive.
  • It’s easy to use. Simply use it as you would spinach, except you need to blanch it first in water to remove oxalates. Young leaves are fine to eat raw.  It can be substituted for spinach in any recipe and I particularly like it in egg dishes because of it’s slightly salty flavour. 

A few considerations when foraging native plants (bush tucker)

  • When foraging for native plants, please don't pick more than you need (in contrast to weeds, you can go ahead and pick as many of them as you like).
  • It's illegal to pick native plants without a permit in many instances, so be aware that you are probably doing something illegal, depending upon where you are foraging. And definately don't forage from a National Park or other Conservation Reserve.
  • Be cautious when foraging in urban areas. Stay away from areas that may be polluted (e.g. industrial areas), as toxins and heavy metals can be taken up by some plants. Also avoid areas that are actively managed (e.g a well maintained park) as the plants may have been sprayed with a herbicide or pesticide. If you are interested in urban foraging, I love Penniless Parenting's Rules of Foraging

Confession time

We've broken Our {more or less} No Spend Month a hand-full of times. Mainly it's been small purchases like a few onions and a beer each when out last friday night. But we also broke it big-time by purchasing some gravel and pavers for a job we've planned for years and finally found a window of time to implement.

Have you foraged anything recently?

There's only a few hours left to enter the natural deodorant giveaway if you havn't already. Entries close midnight tonight (Saturday).


Pretty Puffy Pita Pocket Bread

Pita_pocket_bread

I was recently blown away by how fun and easy Pita Pocket Bread is to make. It's loads of fun to cook, since each flat circle of dough puffs up like a balloon, in 1-2 minutes. 

Pita_bread_pocket

The cooled, deflated balls of bread are then cut to form pockets which can be filled with anything you like. They can even be frozen for later use, although I can't imagine how any could be left to freeze. These delightful, light, little pockets are absolutely delicious. 

Fairy_kneading

Although perhaps the fairy that kneaded the dough had something to do with that.

Watching_baking_pita_bread

Or perhaps it was the three sets of hungry eyes that carefully watched each and every pocket puff.

Filling_pita_pocket_bread

A plate of healthy fillings was devoured before I even thought to take a photo.

Beetroot_dip

At least they left me one to enjoy with some freshly made roasted beetroot dip. 

The recipe

{From my very loved 1992 edition of Alison Holst's Meals Without Meat}

Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast granules2 teaspoons sugar and 1 cup warm water and leave in a warm place to bubble. 

Stir in 1 tablespoon oil (I used rice bran oil) then enough flour to form a dough firm enough to knead (2-3 cups).

Knead until smooth and springy then place in an oiled bowl, and leave to rise to around 1 1/2 times its original size.

While the dough rises, turn the oven onto it's highest temperature. It needs to be super hot. Put the oven tray(s) that the bread will be cooked on in the oven to warm.

When the dough has risen, add 1 teaspoon salt to it. Knead again, then cut into golf ball size pieces. Using just enough flour to prevent sticking, roll each piece out to form a circle the thickness of a 50-cent piece.

Opening the oven for as short a time as possible, slide (using a pizza slide or a piece of baking paper on a chopping board) the rolled bread onto the pre-heated tray. Everything happens quickly, so I only cook a few breads each time. Within a minute the bread should puff up, and within another minute the crust should be set. They should be light in colour. Be careful not to overcook as your pocket will become crisp and crack (like the one i've used above as a dipper). Place cooked bread on a plate and cover with another plate or a tea towel so that they don't dry out.

You then simply cut to make a pocket when cool. Fill with whatever you fancy.

Fillings to consider: 

Grated carrot, cottage cheese, diced tomato, chopped capsicum, bean sprouts, diced chicken, chickpeas, sultanas, rice, mint, hard-boiled eggs, grated cheese, tabbouleh, natural yoghurt. The options are endless.

Any other suggestions?

Don't forget to enter the natural deodorant giveaway.


How to detox and simplify your personal care {and a natural deodorant giveaway}

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Over the past few years I’ve detoxed and simplified my personal care. I wash my face with honey, moisturise my face with a locally made natural cream, wash and moisturise my body with Almond oil, use a natural deodorant, dye my hair with henna, use diluted liquid castile soap in a foaming pump as a hand wash, and no longer use shampoo or conditioner. Every now and then, if my hair or skin is extra dry, i'll use a moisturising body bar and treat myself to some pantry pampering.

Wondering why? Watch the Story of Cosmetics:

All you have to do is change one product at a time

Initially, when I decided to switch to safer more sustainable options, I was overwhelmed. There were toxic chemicals in so much of what I used. How do I know what to use instead?

I've since decided to take it slowly. Each time something runs out I replace it with a safer more sustainable alternative. Make-up lasts me so long that I'm still using a lipstick that likely contains lead and a foundation that is probably full of nasties.

How to choose safer more sustainable alternatives

1. Firstly, I consider whether there's something in my pantry that I can use. I figure that if it's safe enough to eat, slathering it all over my skin and hair won't hurt either. Hence the washing my face with honey and using bicarb and vinegar to wash my hair. I love pantry pampering, or as Crunchy Betty puts it, 'putting food on my face'.

2. I then consider making something myself with ingredients I know and trust. I've found both New Directions and Aussie Soap Supplies are geat sources for natural ingredients.The web provides an endless source of recipes. Simply google whatever you need. For example, 'natural + face wash + recipe' or 'natural + hair + conditioner + recipe'.

3. If the pantry or hand-making doesn't deliver, I then consider purchasing a commercial 'natural' and safe product. This is where I find it can get confusing. There's the embodied energy of the product, it's packaging and it's transport to consider. The confusion increases when you consider words like 'natural' and 'organic'. Unfortunately, these words don't mean a product is safe or environmentally friendly.

As described by Nicile Brijlsma in Healthy Home Healthy Family, 'natural' is a loose term that is defined as 'derived from a natural substance'. Think about it - asbestos, uranium and all of the heavy metals - all of which can kill you, are naturally found in the earth. The term 'derived from' is equally misleading as it usually indicates that the product is synthetically made. For example, 'Sodium Laureth Sulphate' (derived from coconut) is made by adding sulphuric acid to coconut. 'Organic' is just as bad. The cosmetics industry's definition of 'organic' is the same as the scientific definition which means 'any substance that contains a carbon atom'. Genuine organic products will be certified by a credible organisation.

With all this confusion I often resort to brands I think I can trust. You won't find these brands in your local supermarket, department store or chemist. Instead head to your local organic or health food store or an online store that specialises in natural and safe products.

Don't give up

Some changes took me a while to get used to, like using henna to dye my hair. At first I struggled to apply the grainy dark mud-like mix, and ended up with more on the floor than on my head. Now, after some practice, I manage to keep almost all of it on my head.

IMG_3761

Other changes involved trying or considering a few products before finding something that suited me, like deodorant. At first I switched to a natural crystal deodorant. It was OK in winter, but not so great in summer. I'd considered making a batch of Angry Chicken's deodorant, as i'd heard good things about it, but hadn't gotten around to making a batch before I tried and fell in love with Weleda's wild rose deodorant. The downside is it's imported and hence comes with a comparatively large transport footprint, but it has plenty going for it to compensate. It doesn't contain any of the nasties typically found in deodorant (particularly Aluminium) and instead uses only pure essential oils and plant extracts. It's packaged in a reuseable glass bottle rather than plastic, it works, and it lasts for ages. I'm only onto my second bottle after using it for well over a year. 

Discount and Giveaway from Echolife Australia

I was recently contacted by Ecoholife Australia. In their words, Echolife..."stock a carefully hand-picked range of health products and skin care - we're basically biased towards all natural products that use organic and fair-trade ingredients wherever possible (we think it's the responsible thing to do - and we also like giving as much information as possible about every product we sell, because that's only fair!)."

That sounds fair to me. I've noticed they also offer free shipping for orders within Australia.

5 % discount

Echolife wanted to offer Little Eco Footprints readers a 5% reusable discount, valid on everything in their online store. To claim the discount simply enter 'eco footprints' (without the quote marks) on the shopping cart page or during checkout and 5% will be automatically taken off the total.  Contact Echolife if you have any problems with the discount code working. The code is valid for the whole of 2011 and not limited per person per use - so anyone can use it as much as they want.

The giveaway

I noticed Echolife sell the deodorant I use, so I cheekily asked if they'd be willing to offer my readers a deodorant giveaway. They agreed. So available to win is a bottle of Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant.You can smell just like me ;-)

IMG_2992

To enter, simply decide upon a personal care product you need to detox, head on over to Echolife to see if they stock a kinder alternative, and head back here and leave a comment sharing your findings. Those of you reading this by email will need to head on over to the blog (by clicking on the title) to leave a comment.

One entry per person, please. Sorry, entries only open to those with Australian addresses.

Entries close midnight (Australian EST) Saturday 16th April. The winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator and announced here in this post by Monday 18th. I'll contact the winner directly by email. 

Comments closed.

Thank you for all your entires. The winner was comment number 38, by Savingplaneta.blogspot.com. Congratularions Clare.


Learning to love the time it takes to cook healthy wholesome food

Tonight marks the end of week one of our {more or less} no spend month. I've learnt so much about our consumption habits, but the main lesson so far has been that I need to learn to enjoy the time it takes to cook wholesome healthy food from scratch.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen this week...

Pita_pocket_bread ...baking bread (the mini pita pockets have definitely been the most popular so far. I'll share more about these shortly)...

Making yoghurt ...making yoghurt from scratch...

...sprouting, soaking, baking, boiling, fermenting, rising, blending, kneading, scrubbing, peeling, chopping, and so on.

I'm spending around an hour in the kitchen each morning before heading off to work. Then another hour or two in the evening. And I don't even do the dishes. Thankfully Daddy Eco and I have an arrangement where I cook and he washes-up. But this week really tested that arrangement. I've heard more than a few grumbles about the piles of dirty dishes i'm creating.

All that time spent in the kitchen started to frustrate me. Then I thought about it. Two hours a day to ensure our family eats healthy wholesome food, without breaking the budget, isn't really that much time.

I need to learn to love and enjoy the time I spend preparing and cooking food. And Daddy Eco needs to learn to love the time he spends doing the dishes ;-) 

Wash the dishes dry the dishes

How are we going to do that? I'm not yet sure, but here's a few ideas i'm trying.

Being mindful

I'm going to try and focus on the task at hand. I'm not going to think about what else needs to be done or what I need to do tomorrow.

According to Leo Babauta of Zen habits:

"Anything. Even things you might think are drudgery or boring, such as housework, can be amazing if you are truly present. Try it — wash dishes or sweep or cook, and remain fully present. It takes practice, but it’s incredible."

In the same article on The Mindfulness Guide for the Super Busy, he also suggests,

"Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as drudgery, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house)."

This idea of looking upon the time I spend cooking as a form of meditation is similar to the second idea i'm trying:

Practice Karma Yoga

I first leant about Karma Yoga a few years ago while on a yoga retreat. Each day we were asked to help with the chores of the ashram, but rather than see this time as 'work' it was seen as 'yoga'. A time for mindfulness. A time for focus. A time for service. I actually really enjoyed this time each day.

I don't yet understand enough about the practice to be able to decribe it, but thankfully Katie from Obaitori does a great job of explaining the practice of Karma Yoga.

I understand that it's my attitude that needs to change. I need to see the time I spend cooking as an offering to my family.

Before I finish I have to confess.

I learnt a second lesson this week:

Placing boxes of charity chocolates in the workplace is EVIL!

I broke the challenge twice. The first time was on Thursday afternoon. I was at work and after a frustrating phone call about budgets, numbers and balancing, I headed straight for that evil box of charity chocolates. I bought one. Ate it. I didn't even realise that i'd broken the challenge until driving home that night. It seems my desire for chocolate overrode my brain's ability to function. I confirmed this ability to override the following afternoon, when I did exactly the same thing, but this time I'd registered that I was breaking the challenge, and still bought it. It wasn't even fair-trade?!

So it seems I need to work on my willpower, and also be better prepared for afternoon chocolate cravings. I'm planning to take a few Medjool Dates along to work this week and may even resort to making these Saucepan Fudge Drops. I've checked...I have all the ingredients in my pantry.

Also playing along...

Jen from the Evolving Homemaker has challenged herself to the {more or less} no spend month. It seems her 'chocolate' is take-away coffee. Good luck Jen :-)

How about you? Do you think you spend too much time in the kitchen? Do you enjoy cooking and cleaning? Do you have any tips for me?

Shared at Simple Lives Thursday.