Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet Brian!

My father is a hard man to find gifts for these days.
When I was growing up it was easy. He only ever had one passion. Fishing. So every birthday, Christmas and Father's Day he got decorative flies, sinkers and lures, books about fishing, mugs with marine decoration, and so on.
When I started working and could afford more expensive things, it was warm woollen jerseys, jackets, fish-finder and compass and other gadgets for his little runabout boat.
Inevitably he aged and no longer goes out in the boat although he can't bear to part with it and it is permanently parked at the side of his house.
He's lost weight as he's aged, just one of those naturally lean men who pare down to thinness, and now he feels the cold in winter.
So in recent years I've stuck with warm clothing since he hates shopping and would otherwise continue wearing the same tired clothing until it literally fell apart on him.

But this year he turns eighty. Eighty! And I wanted something different, something that felt personal.

I racked my brains. My friends racked their brains on my account. He has no interests. All he likes to do is sit outside under the covered patio in his back garden and study the plants and shrubs and trees and the birds that visit.

Then, a few days ago, I found.....Brian! 

Meet Brian.

 Yes, Brian is a camellia, and Brian also happens to be my father's name. It may be pink, but I don't think that will phase my father at all since he was always the only male in an all female household - multitudes of pets over the years included.
It's not a perfectly formed little plant, but unfortunately it was the only one I could find. It is very healthy, despite a hole in one of the leaves (the perpetrator seems to have absconded though), so I bought it, and an attractive glazewear pot, and will pot it up for him for his birthday. I'd tie a blue ribbon around it as a nod to his masculinity, but, since he's a no-frills kind of man, I suspect that might be a little too much. Perhaps I will underplant it with deep blue trailing alyssum or pansies instead.

I think (hope) he will like it, and add it to the little vista he sits and ponders each day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poor Man's Slow Cooker Chili

I love my slow cooker. I try to use it whenever possible, and I was a bit worried when I first converted to vegetarianism that I wouldn't get the opportunity to use it very often. So I was delighted when I saw this recipe posted on A Year Of Slow Cooking (sorry, still don't know how to make links to other blogs -  can anyone point me to a tutorial on this?).

Out came the slow cooker and away I went. Very simple.


1 can Black Beans - drained
1 Can Garbanzo Beans - drained
1 Can Kidney Beans - drained
1 Can Corn - drained
1 jar pasta sauce (I used a can of natural tomato and basil)
1 cup tomatoes
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Cinnamon Stick

Basically gently combine all the ingredients. Cover. Cook on Low 7-8 hrs, or High 4ish hours.

That's it. How easy is that!? This really was a cheap meal, especially as I ended up with the meal I ate that night, plus seven portions which went into the freezer.

I can't help but think that it could be even cheaper, if dried beans went in, rather than cans, and more environmentally friendly (even though the cans will be recycled). I'm still familiarising myself with the do's and don'ts of dried ingredients, but I'm sure they would work in a slow cooker and in a meal along the lines of this recipe.

Oh hello, Tasha. I wasn't trying to photograph you, but you jumped up and got in the way.

This is what I was trying to phtograph - the calla lilies outside the window, with lemon tree and (dimly) Mexican Orange Blossom against the garage. It was dusk when I remembered I wanted to photograph them. I might try again tomorrow in better light.   If I remember.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My First Vegetarian Month or So

This is more of a personal musing really on how I'm feeling so far.

Well. I wouldn't say more energy at this point. But lighter - in mood and in body.

My meals satisfy me more and for longer than my meat meals did. I realised last night that I'm not snacking anymore. The only reason I noticed this is because I found a packet of potato chips I bought weeks and weeks ago and ate them - just because they were there. Not because I was hungry. Had I not found them, I wouldn't have snacked at all.

And, having consumed this bag of potato chips, I spent the next hour or so feeling bloated and a little nauseous. Is my body already getting used to not having unhealthy stuff fed to it, and rebelling when I suddenly do it again? This was the point where I sat pondering my lack of snacking and the cause.

And in the last month I've lost 5 kg in weight. I can't see it when I look in the mirror, but I definitely FEEL lighter.

My skin is certainly better, and my hair less greasy. And I've never been more ..... you know...... regular!

One thing I had been worryied about was that a vegetarian diet would make me gassy. That hasn't happened, thank goodness.

Meal preparation isn't too bad. I still have to resort to recipes, but there are a lot out there to choose from. All I had to do to find them was type 'Vegetarian Recipes' into Google. Common sense and a health-focussed job enable me to suss out the nutritionally balanced ones. Most of the preparation is in the chopping, but it doesn't take that long and is quite therapeutic, and weirdly satisfying.

All in all, a pretty good first appraisal of my new lifestyle. I'm in it for the ethics. Sheep, cows, pigs. They all feel distress and pain, just like us. So I can't go back on this commitment.

Just as well I'm enjoying my vegetarian cuisine then really, isn't it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The New Recliner

I wasn't intending to cull my extensive collection of recipe books for a while. But it got pushed forward so to speak.

My mother has two recliner chairs, which are the most divinely comfortable recliners I have ever sat in. Every time I go round there I am straight into one and my feet go up. Well, with nursing and ageing (I'm hung up on the ageing thing at the moment - it's the recliner's fault!) I'm noticing when I get home from work I'm achey and my feet hurt, and all I have is two couches. I've been sitting sideways on the couch with my legs and feet up, but no support behind my upper back. Because I have always associated recliners with old people (shoot me - I know it's pathetic!), and despite EVERYONE laughing at me and telling me I should get a recliner, I have been firmly resisting. And then, yesterday, I just thought "Who am I fooling?" So I went to the shop where my mother bought her orthopaedically-specially-designed-for-arthritic-people recliners (I'm not kidding, they really are specially designed) from, and test-sat one, and it was the perfect size and 'fit' for me, and I said "I will take it if I can have the actual chair I am sitting in and not get one made that might feel different", so they said fine and would deliver tomorrow (which is now today).

So I then had to come home, reassess my small sitting room, and do some re-arranging to accommodate my new recliner (which is green, by the way, and my room is all reds and browns, but I wanted to make sure I got THAT PARTICULAR recliner that I'd tried lol). 

So anyway, that is what happened. I had to re-arrange in a hurry. Things no longer quite fitted where I needed them to. The shelf units where the recipe books were had to be separated to accommodate the printer etc (because the unit the printer etc had been on now didn't fit), and while I'd got all the books in piles everywhere I figured it made sense to sort them while I was at it.

As for the recliner. It is even more divinely comfortable than my mother's, if that is possible. I think it is because she got hers 9 years ago and they have probably improved the design, even though it looks the same on the exterior (apart from the fact mine is green and she sensibly chose a fabric to match her decor and happily waited for hers to be made).

And now I'm exhausted and am going to go and put my feet up. On my green recliner. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ethiopian Lentils With Sweet Potatoes

This turned out really good and was very easy.

I find it easiest to get all the ingredients out and measured and do any chopping etc before I start cooking. The chopping and dicing doesn't take nearly as long as I always expect it to. Then, as I use each ingredient, the container goes straight into the washing up bowl.
I like seeing the empty bench when the pot is bubbling on the stove, and knowing I haven't missed any ingredients out. It works for me, because in general vegetarian dishes (I am finding) have a lot more ingredients than the relatively plain fare I used to make.

I got this recipe from Debbi Does Dinner, and I apologise that I don't know how to make links yet.

Ethiopian Lentils With Sweet Potatoes

1 large Onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 Sweet potatoes, diced
Half Sweet Red Pepper, diced
Half cup dry Lentils
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 and quarter cups water
1 and half tsp Paprika
1 tsp  ground Coriander
Half tsp Allspice
Half tsp cinnamon
Half tsp Fenugreek or Curry
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
Black Pepper

Sautee onion, garlic, ginger and sweet potatoes over medium heat (approx 5-7 mins).

Add red pepper and sautee further 1-2 mins.

Add lentils, tomato paste and water and bring to boil. Add the spices.

Lower the heat and simmer 20 mins until lentils are cooked and water absorbed.

Add soy sauce and pepper.

Serve with tortilla or naan.

(Serves 4-6 depending on size of serve)

This was when it had almost finished the water absorption. Once the soy sauce was added, it went a beautiful creamy brown colour.

I had this with whole grain rolls and green salad as that was what I had on hand.

**Note to self - Halve recipe quantities when only cooking for myself.**

 I have 5 freezer containers left over. While it is nice to have extra meals in the freezer, I don't want bulk lots of one thing ha ha

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Day in the Sunshine

What an absolutely stunning day it has been today. It is almost spring in New Zealand, and we are seeing the beginnings of new life on bare trees. The sun was brilliant, so what better way to spend the day than out and about?

Firstly, I had some recycling to get rid of. So off to the Refuse Station we went (my mother and me).

Gone are the days when it was known as "The Dump". The smell would permeate the car when we were still a good mile away. The next sign that we were drawing near would be the screaming and diving seagulls. We would turn in from the main road with all the windows closed against the smell (not that it did any good) and take our place among all the other people there. Rubbish was not sorted in any way. It all got "dumped" over a big concrete ledge and from there it was bulldozed into enormous pits which were eventually covered over.

Now it is a very slick operation. There is no smell and no seagulls. Rubbish is separated now as people are more environmentally aware. There is the green waste area where only garden waste is disposed of. This is converted into compost which is then sold in bags.

I had an old microwave and my mother had an old heater, neither of which work any longer. So off to the electrical disposal bins we went. There was an enormous pile of scrap waiting to be sorted through for recycling nearby.

The recycling bins are dealt with very quickly and rarely allowed to overflow.

Yay. Recycling out of the way and now onto nicer things. Like stopping at a small plant nursery along the way home. The refuse station is rural, and so is this little nursery. It was a good excuse to call in. I saw a lot of things I wanted, but nowhere for them at present :-(

The view looking back toward the long driveway entrance to the nursery. The nursery is surrounded on all sides by a kiwifruit orchard.  They did not appear to have started leaf budding yet. In summer when they are in full leaf, it is very beautiful here.

These guys pulled up next to me. They were very friendly and well behaved. They stayed in the car, even though they could have easily jumped out. Don't worry, although the sun is shining brightly, the day was not too warm for them to be left in the car.

Magnolia saplings with furry flower buds, and camellias behind them.

According to my currency converter that is $US14.11 or 9 UK pounds. How do our NZ prices for these plants compare? These were lovely, healthy plants, probably about 3 feet tall.

or $US2.08 and 1.33 UK pound.

This erica was such a pretty colour.

It is late afternoon now and time for me to start preparing dinner. I am going to have Ethiopian Lentils With Sweet Potatoes, a recipe which I saw on DebbiDoesDinner. I am back at work tomorrow, so I will cook extra tonight so that I can take a meal  and not have to buy something. I wonder how long it will be before I can cook a vegetarian meal without having to refer to a recipe? It is a steep learning curve for me, and one which I am doing mainly by myself as I don't know any vegetarians to go to for advice. Any hints and tips you have will be gratefully received.

Let me introduce myself....

Hello World -

or, to be more precise, whoever manages to find me. My name is Lynne and I live Downunder, otherwise known as New Zealand, in a beautiful small coastal city.

I should probably point out at this point that I'm very new to this blogging malarky, and decent photographs are very likely to be down the track a bit (when I've had time to practise more, in other words). I'm also notoriously unphotogenic, hence the best shot of me that I could find was one taken with a camera phone. Well, I guess if nothing else a slightly blurry image hides my wrinkles;-)

Moving right along, these are the guys I live with, now that my daughter is all grown up and moved away.

This is Sophie, 14 years old and the matriarch. Looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but both the other (bigger) cat and the dog give her a wide berth. She has NO sense of humour and never has. This cat didn't even play with toys as a kitten. DO NOT MESS WITH HER.

This is Tasha, almost 8 years old, half-Burmese and very tall. Her highly pedigreed mother escaped for a night of passion with the neighbourhood tom, much to my friend's disgust. She gave away all the kittens, which grew up to be amazing cats. Tasha's more doglike than catlike. An efficient predator, yet a total teddybear with people. When we first moved into this house, she used to bring home rats and mice galore. Now it's just an occasional one. I think she has cleared the neighbourhood for me.

And lastly, this is Otter - so-named because when he puts his ears back he really does look like an otter! He's coming up to 3 years old, and is half the size of the cats. He has a healthy respect for the cats, but he's a menace when we are out walking because he'll send a challenge out to dogs four times his size! Did I say four? Make that ten :-0           And one of these days one of those dogs is going to take him up on his challenge.....

I think that's probably enough for my first post. It's also 2.16 a.m. here and I had no idea it was that late. Early. Whatever.

I hope you'll come back :-)