Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home sewn reusable sanitary pads

Two items that I think are absolutely essential to my lifestyle, and save me a crap ton of money are my soy milk maker, and homemade reusable sanitary pads.
That's right! I've been using them since I was 17 and haven't looked back. Unfortunately for most of us, periods are unavoidable. But I decided I can prevent the bazillions of throw away pads I'd use each month (and the bazillions of dollars I'd spend on them) going into landfill and/or the ocean and waterways by using these ones I've made myself at home using a simple pattern and a sewing machine. These things last forever. I've still got and am still using the first one I bought at Woodford Folk Festival in 2006.
I make them from nice soft flannelette material that I've either got from op shops (I got 3 single bed sized sheets for $2) or found lurking in the cupboards. You could also recycle old flannel pyjamas you don't wear anymore, or any sort of other cotton clothing really, or even towels.
This website has the basic pattern I used, I just made mine square. At the bottom of the page are a few other resources for patterns/information too. Just type in 'homemade sanitary pads' into and heaps of results will come up. I like these because they have a pouch like thing that I can put extra layers in on heavy days. I think people may be uncomfortable using these because they may think that the blood would just go right through - and this may be too much information - but I bleed like a banshee and have never had any leaking problems.
Omg! my nails are clean!
If you don't want to bother/can't sew/whatever, there are hundreds of different cloth pads on (support artists!). You can even get g-string shaped ones if that's your style. There are also commercial companies that make them: Moon Pads (almost 100% sure this brand was the one I got at Woodford). 
This is the insert layer, I usually make it from three layers of material and quilt it so it doesn't go out of shape.
Now, cleaning. The part that turns people off. I've tried many different ways of cleaning them. I started by just hand washing (since I lived at home and didn't want anybody else to touch them or think I was weirder than I already was!) which works, but stains will remain. Now I soak them in a bucket of cold water (hot water sets stains apparently) with salt . Vinegar and eucalyptus oil is good (stops any smells and helps remove or prevent staining). You can aslo try baking soda. If you have pets, it is perhaps a good idea to use a bucket with a lid (this is also handy for when visitors arrive unexpectedly). Keep it in your bathroom next to the loo. Apparently, the soaking water/blooood is good for plants (obviously make sure whatever you add is safe too! For instance, I wouldn't pour baking soda on my garden, or vinegar). Just drain the soaking water and throw them in with your normal laundry. We do laundry every second day anyway, but they'd be ok soaking all week if you want.

I can't really praise these enough. I go to work with these (I just have a plastic bag in my bag to put used ones in to wash when I get home - I intend on making a proper pouch for them though). Perk - I don't have to touch the rank sanitary bin that people always seem to get blood all over when disposing of their plastic ones. I run/yoga/pilates while wearing these and they don't go anywhere. They don't get in the way at all.

Not into pads? Give a cup a go. The Keeper is one kind, but I've seen others. I've always hated tampons anyway so I just go with the pads. I might try it one day when I have a million dollars. They are expensive but apparently they last over 5 years. That's a lot of laundry saved. I couldn't find anything on the keeper webpage but you could probably swim with the cup. I don't swim very often anyway/afraid of sharks eating me so I don't really care about being able to swim on my period.

I use these for a few reasons: to save money, to help the environment, and I believe they are healthier for my body. Commercial pads itch me like crazy and cause shafe (I think I'm just allergic to plastic), so these nice material ones fit the bill perfectly. Give them a go :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eat me a rainbow

So I signed up for the Bridge to Brisbane 5km as a jogger! Ha! Started training again today, I managed 5km in 45 minutes, running for one minute then walking for two for most of the way. I'm loosely following the Couch-to-5k training program: here is the metric (for us Aussies!) version. I am condensing it a little bit to be ready by Sep 11 :)

Anyway after my sweaty run/walk, I did some awesome stretches and ate the rest of my brie cheeze on wholegrain rice crackers:
To tide me over while I made lunch:
Rice paper rolls filled with a farmer's market haul! Shredded kale, silverbeet, carrot and beetroot with thinly sliced kohl rabi, celery and tomato, with some chopped raw macadamias. I ate them with hummus. And it was damn tasty. obviously had a mandarin on the side - my supervisor at work has a tree and these are the third twenty billion kilo bag she's given me for free! So yummy. And they last for aggges.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gluten free vegan chocolate cake :)

I was asked to make a chocolatey cake for a baby shower/restaurant dinner that we went to last night. I decided I'd better make it gluten free as the friend of ours who organised may be gluten intolerant (and it's fun to make non-traditional things even more non-traditional!). I ended up make it twice - the dinner was supposed to be on the weekend but said friend got food poisoning so it was postponed. So I took the first cake (pictured above) to dads place for dessert and it was happily gobbled up.

I followed this recipe (Mexican chocolate Cake by Gluten-free goddess) almost exactly for the first cake, with a few minor edits: I used 100% buckwheat flour, dark brown sugar, No-egg instead of Ener-G, guar gum instead of xanthan [couldn't find it, guar worked fine], allspice instead of cinnamon, orange sweet potato, molasses and rice syrup instead of honey, coconut oil instead of shortening, apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, and only two tsp of vanilla extract. It also took quite a bit longer to bake than said - I'm pretty sure it's my unreliable oven.

For the icing I made a basic vegan buttercream from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and used coconut oil instead of shortening, which worked but there were a few lumps of solid coconut oil in it once set.
This cake was friggin delicious! Buckwheat flour is very fine so it was really nice and soft, rather than clumpy. Best chocolate cake I've made, and I'm not really a fan of chocolate cake at all. I want to make gluten free brownies out of the batter, which I think would work really well, since it's that sort of dense texture, but a bit cakey. I shall experiment.
When I made it again for the baby celebrations, I decided to do a two level cake, so I baked two! I put a layer of choko jam on first as per Nadine's request (it worked really well!), smothered that in the same icing as I used before (except I didn't make enough so I had to make another batch).
Plonked the other cake on top and then more icing. As you can see I didn't put enough icing in the middle - I'd put it over the edge next time or level out the cake around the outside to make it a bit more presentable.
Since it was all about babies I drew this on top with black writing icing I got from Woolworths - vegan as far as we could tell (labelled gluten free as well). Tastes like poison but none of the ingredients were in our little vegan shoppers guide. Isn't it cute?
The retsuarant staff thought it was for a birthday so they put a candle in it and sang happy birthday! It was mortifying. But that's ok because the cake was fabulous!

With the second cake I didn't have enough buckwheat to make two cakes, so I mixed together 1:1 buckwheat and rice flour like suggested in the recipe. It worked, but 100% buckwheat was a fair bit nicer :) I also didn't have enough sweet potato puree so I put 1/4 cup in each cake and it didn't seem to affect the texture too much.

So hooray! Gluten free vegan chocolate cake success! Everyone at least seemed to enjoy it :)

I wonder what muffins made with buckwheat flour would be like?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It seems a sin to toast freshly baked bread..

As you can see the cheeze doesn't really melt - it softened though. And the toastie tasted amazing.

After a second rising
I've discovered something that makes my bread less dense and rise a little more - blackstrap molasses. I always knew sugar feeds yeast but I was unwilling to put it in my bread, but then I thought, wouldn't molasses do the same thing? And at the same time my bread would get a little bit of added iron and calcium and other good things? Indeed.

Just follow the same recipe as my bread from before, just add 1.5 tablespoons of molasses to the water before you warm it up. (I just went and looked at my recipe, and discovered I haven't even been following it - I use 500g flour now for some reason. )

Seedy bread
Makes 1 loaf

500g wholemeal flour
50g gluten flour
1/2 tsp salt
2.5 tsp instant yeast (you can buy this in a big tube at woolies - keep it in the freezer.)
1.5 tbsp blackstrap molasses
Seeds of choice (I usually use 2 tbsp each of: sesame, flax, poppy and sunflower. I also like adding pumpkin seeds.)
about 1 1/2 cups warm water


Mix together flour, gluten flour, salt, seeds and yeast. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm water and molasses mixture (start with one cup).

Mix the dough, adding more water until a firm elastic dough is achieved.

Turn onto a floured bench. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise for about an hour or until double in size.

Knead again lightly. Press out dough gently to about the length of your loaf tin and roll it up. Place the rolled up dough in the tin with the 'seam' side down. Let rise again until doubled.

Bake at 200 degrees C for 30-40 minutes or until brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

I always grind my flaxseeds before doing anything with them - you can't digest them if they're whole, and therefore would not get all the nice nutrients from them! You know, like omega 3.

Anyway, this is about my sixth loaf of bread I have made at home since the last time I bought any at the shops. It's awesome. I'm getting quicker at just whipping it up when I get home from work if we've run out :) Though I usually do it on Sunday afternoons and make all the neighbours jealous at the smell of baking bread wafting through the air!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No cows were harmed in the making of this cheese toast

I made some cheeses from the Ultimate Uncheese cookbook today :) The above is the brie, which kind of actually tasted like brie - it had the moldy aftertaste somehow. I may have been imagining it.
On the left is the colby cheese - pretty tasty, will be excellent on sandwiches and toasties, or even grated and melted on pizza. Right is the brie, and the one at the bottom is a raw macadamia cheese from Addicted to vegies. It's the best one! So easy to make (all of them are easy to make) but the raw macadamia one had the most flavour. I served them as a cheese platter with carrot sticks, celery sticks and chickpea crackers. I don't think I'll ever spend heinous amounts of money on storebought vegan cheese substitutes again, all three of these tasted better than any I've had, and I know exactly what ingredients are in it. I think I've had about a years worth of vitamin B12 today alone!

The two cheeses from the Ultimate Uncheese cookbook are both set with a fair amount of agar agar powder so it could get expensive, but that depends on where you buy it. I get mine in little packets from an Asian supermarket in the city for $2 each, so it's not going to break the bank for me.

Now, I don't miss real cheese at all. I also do not think substitutes are necessary for a vegan lifestyle or diet to work, but I reckon it's fun to make things like this every once in a while :) Just cuz I can.

A nice start to the weekend

I made the desicion to get up this morning and do some exercise before breakfast rather than late afternoon when I normally do it, and I did! Hooray!

In my first group pilates class we used a stretchy band thing that I loved, so I went to a sports shop and got myself one! With it came a 40 min workout DVD utilising the band so I did that one this morning. It was pretty good, except I felt there weren't enough repetitions! You'd do three or four of each move instead of 8-10, but I can just learn the movements and do them myself as many times as I like (I hate listening to the instructors on DVD's yack anyway!). This isn't a paid product review by the way, it's just what I use at home and like.

Anyway, my band is gaiam brand, I got it at AMart Allsports, but gaiam also has a website. Unfortunately I couldn't find the band on it, but I can find the mat I use! When I bought the band I noticed Amart also had a million different kinds of yoga and pilates mats, so after I finished the half marathon I got myself a little present! This pilates mat by gaiam. It says it's thicker than most gym mats and has extra cushioning, both of which I reckon are untrue! It's as hard as a rock! I have to assume it softens up with more use. Other than that it's fine to use, and even with the lack of apparent cushioning it doesn't hurt. One thing it IS though, is sticky! Which is excellent because I often slide all over the place on our yoga mat we got from Target.

And also what I can't find on the site (I'm probably blind!) is that the mats are also free of the bad stuff in plastics (pthalates? I don't know how to spell it) I chucked out the (plastic! hahaha) wrapper on mine and I can't recall the exact kinds.

After my little bit of exercise I made some apple and cinnamon porridge for breakfast:
1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup soy milk, half a large apple grated and the other half cubed, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. If you want the apple to be more cooked and mushy, precook it a little first. I didn't so I did it all at once.
Sprinkle some extra cinnamon on top (in this case I used allspice because I couldn't bothered opening the cinnamon packet again!) and enjoy. I discovered that if I set my camera to 'shoot waterside scene with rich blue colour' it picks up real colours in my food, instead of the usual greyish tone it all gets. Strange that the 'food' setting doesn't do it!
Yesterday I also recieved some good news from the bank which means I can now go and buy my new (used) car! I am very, very excited =D

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A new kind of breakfast :)

I'm quite a terrible photographer!
Raw buckwheat porridge!

I made half the recipe (in case I didn't like it) as per this blog entry by Oh She Glows. My choice of toppings were unsweetened apple sauce (not raw but who cares), currants and raw sunflower seeds. Peanut butter would have been good! Or you know, pretty colourful fruits like the photo in the original entry ;)

I made this up the night before and heated it up in the morning (I think it's better cold/room temp) before adding the applesauce, seeds and currants.

It didn't solidify in the fridge overnight like I thought it would (because of the chia seeds) which was good because I didn't need to add more milk to it.

And the best part is I already have tomorrow's breakfast ready! That's an extra five minutes in bed for me :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sometimes simple is best

Dipped in lindt 85%
Nothing like a simple dessert and two cuddly kitties at the end of the day :)

They are touching without squabbling!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My take/attempt on a steamed pudding

After reading my post where I mentioned the CWA of Tasmania's 21st birthday cookbook, my dad surprised me by buying me a copy of my own! Plus another one 'The Country Women's Association Cook Book - seventy years in the kitchen' which is the newer (newest? Published in 2009) by the NSW branch. Needless to say I was pretty excited. I could now bone and truss and de feather a fowl if I needed to. (Seriously. Everything is in here.)

So what to make? Steamed pudding sounded good - and there's almost a whole chapter dedicated to them. Some specifically without eggs, and when I actually read through them most of them didn't have eggs anyway, so I chose the Treacle Steamed Pudding to have a go at. I've added/substituted things so I'm going to post my version up here.

Ginger Molasses vegan Steamed Pudding
Serves 4

1 cup wholemeal plain flour (white is ok)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp raw sugar (white ok - any granulated kind)
2 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 cup non dairy milk of choice (I used homemade soy)
1/2 cup currants
First, sift your flour, bicarb, salt and ginger into a mixing bowl. Don't forget to add back in the germ/bran if using wholemeal! Stir in the sugar and rub in the margarine until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the molasses and stir until well combined. Pour in non dairy milk and stir gently, then fold in the currants.
Pour into a pudding basin with lid, or use a bowl and cover it with greaseproof paper tied with string like I did (which is where the trouble began!*)

Find a saucepan that fits your bowl and put it in. Fill with water til about halfway up the covered bowl, put the saucepan lid on and bring to the boil. Steam/boil for two hours.
When ready (I stuck a skewer in and it came out semi-clean) turn out onto a plate and serve with custard or ice cream!

*Onto the trouble! I stupidly forgot to keep an eye on the boiling water level in the saucepan and of course it boiled dry. I decided to boil the kettle and re fill it. Yeah don't do that - I heard a CRACK and thought oh no it's smashed! My bowl is about as big as the saucepan so I couldn't see - I just ran a spoon around the outside of the bowl and encountered no cracks (apparently) so I left it.
When it was ready I took off the paper and saw this lovely great big hole! Luckily it was a nice clean break and there was no glass in my pudding. I did burn it though. Observe:
I wouldn't call it a 'failure' as such, since it was still edible, but it's a warning for next time!

Is a glass bowl on a gas stove a bad idea? Would it even make a difference if the stove was electric? Do pudding basins even exist anymore? What about silicon? Any suggestions? Hahaha.

All the bowl smashing and burning aside, it's pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Lilly pilly flavoured alcohol? Bring it on!

We bought this while holidaying in Tamborine - on our wine tour we also got to visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery (where the rules were only 5 tastings, and all but one [vodka - veeerrryy nice]  must be shared with another!).

We tried various things including: wattle toffee liqueur (uh-mazing), Lemon myrtle vodka (gonna try this one at home!) some sort of rum (or rum flavoured liqueur - I can't find it on the website), plain vodka and our choice was the Lilly Pilly gin (pictured above, and also not on the site!).

I bought a bottle of the wattle toffee for my dad, the gin for us, and fortunately for my bank account ran out of money so we had to stop there (had already bought 500000000 bottles of wine!)

While at the tasting we only had the gin by itself, so the other day I noticed we had soda water in the fridge (to make homemade mouthwash with) and half a lime (yes that yellow thing is a lime - I'm awful at photography it seems) so I decided to mix some up for myself. Nadine is participating in Dry July so she missed out this time :)

Anyway it was pretty delicious :) you could probably make a similar drink at home by making up a regular gin and tonic or soda, and crushing some lilly pilly berries in it as flavouring. For my lemon myrtle vodka I'm just going to stick some leaves into a bottle of plain vodka and hope for the best. I've done similar with a vanilla bean, and since it's now almost black I think it's ready!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A little bit of a foodie update...

So I was craving dessert this week. I even bought ice cream.
I made an apple and pear tart/pie. I cooked up two medium apple and one medium pear (it was a different pear - got it from the farmer's market. Can't remember what it was called but it looked like an apple but pear shaped. It's skin was thick but cooked well) with some cinnamon, and put in my tart pan with a basic wholemeal pastry base. As you can see I went all out and made a proper lattice top! Pretty sure I did it the hard way. Is there an easy way?
It went perfectly with vanilla So Good ice cream and a bit of lindt 85% dark chocolate. I ate most of the rest cold for morning tea at work during the rest of the week.
Nadine hasn't been working much so she's been queen of the kitchen lately! This is a spinach and potato curry from appetite for reduction. Delicious. It is so fun to eat quinoa!

Nadine has cooked a delicious looking dinner for me tonight! We are celebrating our third anniversary with Dvd's, a yummy dinner, and tomorrow we will spend the day bush walking shopping. Guh!

Monday, July 4, 2011

We finished!

From left: Nadine, Nadine's mum, Nadine's aunt and me!
Well, we didn't 'officially' finish, as in our time wasn't recorded but Nadine did it in 3 hours 7 minutes and 29 seconds, and I finished in 3 hours 7 minutes and 9 seconds. We can just see the time in our official photo they took as we stood on the finish line haha. Nadine's aunt officially finished in 2 hours 55 minutes. I want to be able to jog 21km when I'm 60.
The night before our carb-tastic meal was spaghetti and meatballs (this is an old photo) and they were delicious. Everyone had seconds. At 4am we got up and ate some toast with peanut butter, and after we finished we got breakfast out at a cafe - we both had baked beans, spinach, mushroom, tomato and avocado on gluten free toast (The only veg option was also gluten free and we just got them to take off the cheese ha).
I have never been in so much pain in my life! I can't walk. Why did we choose to do this again haha? Oh yeah, for the satisfaction! We're quite chuffed, considering the utter lack of training we did. My feet hurt, my upper thighs hurt, everything. I obviously didn't stretch enough afterward - oh well, lesson learned. Getting up stairs and in and out of my car is a mission though! When's the next half marathon?

Speaking of cars, I officially started looking for a new one today. Ugh.