Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake - a wobbly recipe.

That pink, globby-looking slice of cheesecake in the photo above was made by me.  I know I probably should have cleaned up the base a bit before taking the photo but, if you'd been at my house this morning this is exactly what the serve on your plate would have looked like and I hope you'd have enjoyed it, and not been overly-critical of messy bottoms.

I have um-ed and aah-ed about posting this blog now that I've written it, but it represents a significant investment of my time  and I thought I'd just throw it out into the winds of the world wide web and hope that it didn't attract too much attention for it's wobbliness, and instead was recognised for what it is, a plea for help in the cheesecake department.

After an abundant strawberry season (1.5kg of organic 'seconds' selling for $8) we have had many jars of Strawberry, Balsamic & Black Pepper Jam sitting in the fridge.  Depending on how closely I followed a recipe these were either jam consistency or perfect for ice-cream topping.  Yesterday I became fixated with the idea of making some of the jam into a strawberry cheesecake.  I diligently filled my basket at Woolworths with cream-cheese, cream, gelatin, gluten-free lemon biscuits, etc and came home to google a recipe.

I am very dissappointed to report that the food & recipe bloggers/website owners of the world have let me down!  Every recipe I found was either a normal cheese-cake with strawberries in syrup on top or a pink cheesecake flavoured with jelly crystals.

Having never made a cheesecake before I was very nervous about just trying from scratch but I'm glad I had a go, and thought I better put this post out there in the hope that some-one with more culinary skill than me can improve upon it.

So, here it is.  And it's rough.

I began with:
1 package of gluten-free lemon biscuits (Woolworths Macro brand)
2 blocks of cream-cheese (left out for a while to soften)
1/2 block of organic butter (also left out to soften)
1 heaped tsp Gelatin Crystals
3 tsp of boiling water (just guessing here)
1 cup of cream
1/3 cup of homemade strawberry jam plus 4 tablespoons for swirling
2/3 cup icing sugar

First I loaded the biscuits into my benchtop blender and whizzed them into fine crumbs.  I tipped the crumbs into a bowl with the softened butter (it was 26 degrees Celsius in my kitchen last night so the butter was very soft).  I combined the crumbs and butter until smooth and pressed the mixture into a small spring-form tin that I had lined with baking paper.  Once nice and smooth I left it in the fridge to firm up while I got the cheesecake mix ready.

I mixed the gelatin up in a glass with the boiling water until it had dissolved completely.  Actually my husband finished this step for me because it was taking so long. While my husband whipped the cream for me (supposed to be stiff peaks but didn't quite get there) I used my blender to mix together the cream-cheese, icing sugar and 1/3 cup of jam.  Please don't use your blender if you own any kind of other mixer (stand or hand-held).  The blender was a pain-in-the-neck to use for this. Once the cream-cheese mixture was totally combined I added the gelatin mixture and blended some more.

Now I just tipped the contents of the blender into a large bowl and gently folded in the whipped cream. I took the cheesecake-base from the fridge, made sure it had set (yippee!) and poured the cheesecake mixture in.  I dutifully tapped the sides a few times to remove bubbles. A few dollops of jam on top were easily swirled in with a skewer to make it pretty.

I put the now fully loaded spring-form tin in a large plastic container and left it in the fridge to set over-night.

So that's what I did, and I was so happy and excited to open the fridge this morning and find that it had actually set.  So excited, in fact, that I had cheesecake for breakfast....

The cheesecake is pretty and pink and tastes like strawberry but I'm not entirely happy with the recipe and I hope that some-one will take it and improve upon it. Or just scrap it entirely and tell me how to make the real-deal! I have put the cheesecake in the freezer and it is very yummy frozen, and looks neater because the jam stays where it's put instead of sliding around where ever it wills.  This could probably have been fixed by mixing some gelatin into the jam topping. The jam I used was half-way between ice-cream syrup and toast topping.

The cheese-cake tastes very light which is fine but I was actually after something really dense and creamy.  Maybe the no-bake route wasn't the way to go?

Anyway, I do have my strawberry cheesecake after all and it is so lovely to sneak a teaspoon full out of the freezer every now and then on this hot day when the little ones aren't watching...

Monday, 3 October 2011

Slow Food.

If you've spent any time online perusing food blogs then you may have noticed there's a food movement travelling around the world called the Slow Food Movement.  From what I have gathered, it officially began in Europe as (you guessed it) an anti-fast food movement in the mid-1980's. I have seen it mentioned on blogs & websites that also discuss the Local Food Movement, the Organic Food Movement, the Traditional Food Movement, the Ethical Food Movement, the Raw Food Movement, etc.

None of these movements are particularly new. My mum was soaking seeds & grains in the seventies.

What I want to know is, when will the Convenient But Still Ridiculously Healthy Food Movement begin?

I have a pantry and shelves full of jars of organic seeds, grains & beans. Each small gem is a power-house of nutrition just waiting to be unlocked though soaking, fermenting & cooking.

But I don't want it tomorrow.  I want it now.

We don't have bread in our house due to wheat allergies.  Toast is off the menu.  Give me half an hour and I can cook for you a nutrient-packed gluten-free Banana Cake, or a warm bowl of roast vegies with quinoa & steamed asparagas and broccolini. You want a roast? No problem, the free-range chook will be ready in two hours, surrounded by organic vegies and stuffed with brown rice. Give me a day's notice and you can pick the flavour of the ice-cream I will churn up for you using farm-fresh raw milk.

Oh, you're hungry NOW?

Of course, there's always fresh fruit & carrot sticks.

And the truth is, if I am baking, preparing and cooking everyday, then there is always something on hand to feed the hungry hoards.

But what if I am tired? Too tired to cook. Too tired from sleepless nights spent with a baby and drained from days spent breast-feeding him?  How many meals can my family stand of avocado & Vegemite on corn-thins, and warmed up left-overs for dinner? If I am not cooking then the frozen left-overs will eventually run out...

So we mix and match food movements around here. I am grateful that there are passionate foodies all over the world. At any time I can hunt the web for inspiration and recipes to match where we're at in our lives but we'll never stick ourselves to one food-philosophy. And it's not that I haven't tried.

I think Jesus summed it up pretty well when He said, "For there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothing."

Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts. I hope you eat something yummy today that helps your body to grow and heal.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Letter from Rwanda.

The way we see it, Mitch and I have six children. We have three little boys that we have been blessed with and who we bring up ourselves in Australia. We also have three little girls that live overseas and it is our privilege to sponsor them. We are so blessed to regularly send letters to, and receive letters from, our little girls. We worry about them a lot but trust that God and the girls' real parents are doing everything they can to keep the girls safe and well.

The letters from our little girls regularly move me and make me smile, sometimes I cry.  The one we received today from our six year old in Rwanda is such a sweet letter that I just wanted to share it with who ever is reading this blog (yes, mum, that's you!). When this little one writes a letter she dictates it to a project worker who than arranges for it to be translated into English. They send us both originals.

She writes:

"Dear Mr Mitchell M-
Your daughter D- greets you in the name of Jesus Christ. 
She is glad to write you and inform you about her family's news today. The whole family is alive. They are grateful that you love them and have pity for them.

D- informs you that she is in holidays of the first term of school for year 2011 but she don't know yet the results of exams, so she will tell you about that later. What she is sure of is that she did well in her exams.

In the region of Rubavu where she lives with her family, it rains so much. Right now it is dark outside and it gonna rain.

Have you seen an animal called gorilla? She would like you to come in Rwanda and visit gorillas.

She sends wishing you good luck."

Friday, 20 May 2011

Painting with dirt.

Today I have been gardening.

Actually, what I have really been doing is cleaning up the mess our two chickens made of some potted plants. 

There were some losses. Two baby mango trees are no more. They were the kind of hardy plants that spring up in the compost so I was expecting more from them, but even hardy plants succumb eventually to being scratched at, tipped out of their pot and then left on the ground to dry.

The way I see it, our chickens really abused the privilege we gave them of free-ranging for a whole weekend while we were away.  Rather than stay annoyed with the girls though (I knew I had to let it go eventually) I took a long hard look at the whole dirty mess and suddenly realised that this small section of the yard could be anything I wanted it to be and I set about improving it.

This was a big deal for me. I have had strong anxiety issues in the past and everything that goes along with that. I have struggled with commitment and have at times felt like my house and all it's mess was out to get me - don't others feel like this though? I have also had the illogical idea that I couldn't start on my gardening until I had the whole house immaculately clean. Which, of course, never happens because I have a small baby and two little boys who like to be, well, little boys.

Fortunately, the house is starting to look like the kind of place I want to live in and the chicken destruction zone created the opportunity for me to dig in the dirt and create a little. Sometimes I feel like my current place in life as wife and mother has eaten up any opportunity to create something that is uniquely mine. I don't mind giving up everything for my boys, I think they deserve it, but I do miss doing art-classes. I miss going for walks alone with my husband and sometimes spending a whole weekend just laying around or discovering new places to eat. Finding new flavours of ice-cream and then eating the whole tub because we don't need to be a good example to small people.

As I was re-potting the baby avocado tree (another lucky compost growth) and planting the mint in an old metal bucket with holes poked in the bottom I felt a lovely confidence boost. I felt like this was MY garden. Uniquely mine to create in.  I didn't need to wait for my husband (with the muscles) to come and lift anything. As I positioned each pot on a long shelf I had made I felt like I was applying paint to a canvas. This is not like putting clothes away that will be taken out and worn again.  It was not like washing dishes that will be eaten off and re-washed a hundred times. Definitely not like cleaning the floor around the toilet for the millionth time because a small boy was busting and didn't quite make it.

I feel refreshed and regenerated.  I'm still smiling just thinking about it. I think I am finding a new joy that I will be able to share with my little ones, but for now it's just for me.

And I still need to train these chooks to stay away from my pots when they're cruising around the yard looking for another dust-bath to add to their collection.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Quick and, er, mostly healthy.

A house-wife's blog wouldn't be complete without a recipe or two to tempt the taste-buds and fill the belly. Here is something yummy and easy.

Some background first.

In the mornings, I really struggle to come up with interesting breakfast food for the monkeys. Usually I try to invent things. Things don't always work out. This morning, however, I scored a goal.

Meet the 'Breakfast Crumble".

It is a variation on the typical fruit, muesli & yoghurt breakfast that is all too common around here. Kind of like a Winter version of it. Or, technically an Autumn version of it. I made this with the organic pears that came in my CSA box this week. The idea came about because we have run out of our home-made muesli and my budget is too sad to buy the wheat-free store-bought muesli at the moment. I thought, surely it is possible to make muesli on the stove-top?

The recipe is below. Not that it's much of a recipe. This is so easy to make. You could use in-season berries or apple instead of the pear and you could even throw some real muesli into the crumble pan instead of the oats. You could add nuts or seeds. You could use honey instead of brown sugar. Macadamia oil instead of butter.

If you try making this or you've already made something similar please leave a comment below to let me know.

Breakfast Crumble

 2 Firm Ripe Pears, peeled, chopped into chunks
2 Tbsp Organic Sultanas Or Raisins
1 Tbsp Water
¾ cup Organic Oats
2 Tbsp Natural Almond Meal
3 Tbsp Organic Shredded Coconut
2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
50g Organic Butter


Put the pear pieces, sultanas and the water into a small sauce-pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pears are slightly stewed and steaming hot.

Meanwhile, melt the butter gently in a small frying-pan. Add the oats, sugar, almond meal and coconut. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture resembles cooked 'crumble' and smells like Anzac biscuits. Yum.

Divide the stewed pears amongst 3 bowls. Top each bowl with a third of the crumble mixture. Serve with a dollop or two of natural greek yoghurt and fresh fruit if desired.

Yield: 3 small servings or 2 adult servings.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

House-Wifely Thoughts

Today is a beautiful day.

Technically it is Autumn and winter is fast approaching, but today it feels more like Spring. There is no wind except a soft, warm breeze. The morning began with a chill in the air which gently dispersed as the sun rose higher in the sky. This is my favourite kind of morning. It prepares me for action like the usual waking-in-a-pool-of-sweat Queensland morning never can.

Having taken on the cloth-nappy life-style one of my first chores of the day is to drain the nappy bucket and tip the contents into the washer for a double rinse-cycle. I can't explain what it is, but there is something strangely satisfying about this task. Maybe it is the fact that I have an electrical appliance that does most of the work for me? I know I have it easy compared to previous generations of women.

While I am busy in my laundry I sometimes think about the women who must have slogged it out there before me. Most of them would have done all their washing by hand. The concrete slab that my washer and dryer sit on is a new addition to the 100 year old house we live in.  The laundry basin is original. It's three huge tubs are molded out of worn concrete.  This is an excellent laundry tub for washing cloth-nappies in, by the way. Each tub has a dedicated tap. One tub even has a built-in washboard, should I ever get the urge to do it the hard way.  Opposite the triple-tub is the brick surround of an old fire-place. Above the fire-place is a platform with a large round hole in it for the 'copper' - the huge bowl that my modern washer has replaced. The 'copper' is long-gone. Maybe cashed-in by a previous home-maker to pay for her shiny new washing-machine.

I'm relieved that I have a sympathetic landlady who also loves old things and only performed minimal improvements on this beautiful house.

The house is built in the typical 'queenslander' style. It is raised from the ground enough to have storage and laundry underneath, but not high enough to be legal head-height. This creates a laundry ceiling height more suited to midgets. Thankfully, I am part-midget, having never grown more then three and a bit feet in my whole life since being born at the ridiculous length of two feet long.

I have wanted to live in a house like this all my life. Although there are things that bug me, literally - like mosquitoes flying in through the unscreened windows, I am grateful for the chance to live in this house - even if only for a little while. This house was a gift from God. He went above and beyond answering my small prayers.

It is a pleasure to have a job to do and then be given the tools to do it. This morning I am grateful for my mummy job, grateful for sunshine, grateful for my old-lady house, grateful for modern washing machines, grateful for a loving husband, grateful for my lovely monkeys and grateful for, and to, my God.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

TrueFood Guide for Kids

Do your kids already eat their vegies? Do you get up early on the weekend just to roam the local food market looking for that one magic vegetable that has all the goodness of broccoli but tastes like chocolate? Do you count how many peas your little angel has left on their plate and then mentally calculate how much EXTRA vegetable you're going to have to cram into their reluctant mouths at the next meal?

In case you weren't doing enough already, now you need to be on the look-out for sneaky genetically modified food entering your kitchen. But wait, some helpful person has compiled a downloadable PDF that with some very handy information for a GMO-wary parent.

I just found this little number tucked away on the web and I thought I'd share it with you.

Here's the link:

Personally, I think the best way for my family to avoid genetically modified food is to eat organic meat & dairy products and avoid processed food, i.e. anything that comes in a packet with a list of ingredients.  This isn't always possible though and, if you are worried about genetically modified food, hopefully the little booklet will help. The website is also worth looking at. I found it comforting to know that in Australia no genetically-modified fresh fruit and vegetables are sold for human consumption, yet.

I am increasingly confused with the information around the place about healthy food, extra-healthy food, super-food, not-very-healthy food, extra-super-healthy food, etc.  I have just found out that not all branded 'organic' eggs in the super-market are free-range. Who'd have thought? It pays to read the fine print. I'd rather eat non-organic free-range eggs then non-free-range organic eggs. And never 'vegetarian' eggs. Chooks need protein. Unfortunately vegetarian chickens are fed soy protein to make up for the lack in their diets. My chooks would be offended if they were offered soy instead of a healthy, fat slug. They are quite selective in what they'll put in their beaks and they know exactly what to eat to produce lovely eggs with bright orange yolks. We provide them with a selection of (non-GMO) organic grains that are mixed up with fish-meal, and they forage for the rest.

I really wish feeding children was that easy and I know it'll be a constant learning process for me.  I only hope I get it right before they're too old for it to matter!

Lord, please help me.