Thursday, September 30, 2010

What a S'morgasbord!

The other day I was sitting at home minding my own business when my stomach said, "I could really use a s'more." I looked over to my fiance and repeated what my stomach had said and he didn't reply. So I said it again. He nodded. Perplexed, I said, "Have you ever had a s'more?" He shook his head.

I panicked. "Do you know what a s'more is?"

He shook his head.

Well now I was just flustered. "You know a s'more!! A marshmallow and chocolate and graham cracker over a fire?"

And that's when he replied, "What's a graham cracker?"

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 2 1/2c wheat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 3 tsps cinnamon and 4 tablespoons cold butter into a mixer and combine until like wet sand.

I was stunned. I didn't know what to do. Eventually, I decided to describe a graham cracker to him. Okay, for those of you who know what a graham cracker is, really think that through. My description resembled something like a sighted person describing purple to the blind, only more cracked out.

"You see it's a cracker that's like a biscuit. Well, not like an Australian biscuit. It's not a cookie. It's like the kind of biscuit you get in America, that's not a cookie. I mean. Wait. It's more like a cracker. Well, not really. It's a sweet cracker. With like, honey in it. And it's not really crisp like a cracker. But it's not soft or crumbly like a cookie. It's.."

In another bowl combine 2 egg whites, 3/4c brow sugar, 4 tablespoons honey and 2 tsps vanilla bean paste . Combine into mixer slowly until sticky dough forms.

"I get what you're saying!" he says to me, smiling. "I want to try a s'more!"

I beamed, "Well then I'll make one! Why don't you get the graham crackers and stuff on the way home tomorrow and I'll make them tomorrow for the fight?"

He agreed.

What he came home with was. Well. It was exactly as I described. Only not. As it turns out, a graham cracker is a very specific thing, but when described can be about two hundred different types of things.

Flour everything. Flour your hands, your bench, the top of the dough and the rolling pin. I'm not kidding, man. This dough is insanely sticky and if you add flour to the dough directly it falls apart. Nice, eh?

My fiance came home with a giant half kilo (pound) bar of compound baking chocolate, raspberry and vanilla flavoured marshmallows and a bag of tea cookies. You know those little cookies that ladies who lunch eat directly after finger sandwiches to dip into their tea? Yeah. Those.

I tried. I really did. I put melted the chocolate and added some cream and sugar and used that. I only used the vanilla marshmallows. I... well, there was nothing I could do about the biscuits cookies crackers.

He loved it.

Roll out dough, slice, place on baking sheet and prick with fork. Brush tops with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15 minutes.

I'm not kidding you people. He ate like 7 of them. He said they were great! I was sick. I was grossed out. I ate perhaps 3 out of some desperate hope they got better over time (hey man, he was really convincing they tasted fantastic) before handing them all over to him. The next day I ate all the tea biscuits and he was upset because I couldn't make him more. Ha. I did it on purpose.

If graham crackers had a Myspace, this would be the angle they photograph themselves.

He was quite upset by this and asked me to make them again repeatedly. It got to the point I could not take him to the supermarket or he'd hold up the packet of tea biscuits and beg me for them like a five year old child. I absolutely refused to make them again. I would absolutely not use my powers of cooking to disgrace the power of the S'more, man.

After weeks of this ordeal, I finally got sick of it. In order to placate him I convinced him I would make my own damn graham crackers so he could have a REAL s'more.

So I did.

Monday, September 27, 2010

That'll give you, uh, bees.

It's spring! Or whatever the Australian Queensland semblance of spring is! Of course that means my apples are blossoming and fruit is fruiting and bees are buzzing. Which of course means honey and wax! For those of you that know me, you might know I make candles. What you probably don't know is the process. It's fucking gross. So I thought I'd share with you.

This is unrefined beeswax. Well, the ones below the top one are. The top one has been refined one whole time and then when I realized the batch was too large for my pot, I had to break it down into smaller batches to refine a further three times. To refine wax in your own home, you simply put it in a pot, turn up the heat, watch until the wax melts (try not to boil) and then turn it off.

It should look like this as it starts to cool. This is a 3rd refinement. It went through four total. After it gets to thgis stage it hardens and cools for about half a day (since the wax seals the top as it hardens, it keeps the pot quite warm for awhile). The bottom of the wax is covered in scungy stuff. Old beetles, dead bees, wax moth poo... everything. As a matter of fact, here's my sink after I've finished cleaning the wax:
How I can turn something like this into a candle is amazing. I'll update later on how that process works, but hey, now you can scrape bee guts and refine wax in your own time!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Duck Duck Duck

Back in farming news, I'm really excited spring is here. It's warmed up enough that strawberries are in season. I only have a tiny bush so there's only one strawberry a day but there it is, a nice ripe fresh red one each afternoon, warm from the sunshine. My tomtatoes have hundreds of flowers and quite a few small green fruit. My capsicum have started to fruit and change colour on some branches. My oranges, mandarins and blueberries are flowering. And best of all, my ducks are laying eggs!

It's so warm I'm getting my usual 7 eggs a day with the chickens, most of which I'm finally selling to pay for the food I give them (and still keep eggs on my table) and now, duck eggs! They're not fertilized because the boy duck doesn't know what mating is yet, but he's eager to be a daddy. He eagerly urges her to build a nest and protects her as she settles in on the chicken's egg, leaving her own unfertilized egg in the middle of the yard for me to find. They really don't get it.

Mangoes will be in season again soon. Lychees will be in season soon. My tomatoes will be bursting. I've grown asparagus from seed. I've got three lettuces coming up. My potatoes are an entire new tyre tall. My chicks are getting fat and mature and may lay eggs later this year. It's warm and beautiful and it rains just enough at night to make me dance at not having to water my lawn. I'm lazy! Yaaaay!

I'm trying to learn to be more frugal so I soaked beans to make veggie chilli last night and had leftover beans when I was done. I am mashing them with breadcrumbs and herbs and am turning them into bean patties for 'ham'burgers. Hopefully the boy won't notice.

Today a friend came over and I had no bread so I thought I'd make tortillas to make veggie wraps for her. They turned out perfectly. Seat of my pants, baby.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Price of Food

I've been thinking lately about the price of food. How expensive homemade food can be if you don't have access to either land or money. The former of which costs a lot of money, as well. Slowly the world has started to adapt to more local means of eatins farm to city (CSA boxes and the like) but mostly, if you want a good fresh meal, it's going to cost you.

This is where little things, like windowsills and rent-a-gardens come in. For a minimal amount, you can rent little plots to grow your own food within the city. Finding a place on your way to work or other regular ventures (the gym, if you're stronger willed than me) is beneficial to finding the time to go and tend to it, as it may need watered daily in high heats.

I have about 200 mandarins I got two days ago. I juiced over half of them, and am leaving the rest to work on later. All these mandarins came from one tree. I thought about how much this juice costs. Should I have purchased the mandarins in the store, it would have been exceptionally cheaper to just buy pre-packaged juice, even the good kind. Getting it direct off the farm was just getting someone else's glut that would've rotted anyway; however it would've also cost me land to produce myself. Both things are pricey. So something like the most basic, fresh squeezed orange juice, is actually quite an expensive thing to produce. Not everyone can make it for themselves.

Of course if you can start getting to know your local farms, you can start getting a little bit of free excess as well. Usually for the price of some labour or something you have to offer (maybe your backyard has a mango tree) you can get the overstock of another's. It's just going to rot anyway, so the farmer is quite happy to get some stuff done in return for the over-abundance he'll have when entire trees ripen at once. Get to know the farmers at your local markets so you can start asking them when certain things will be in season, then you can start preserving them.

Eating in season feels so good. When your body adjusts to it, it feels 'right'. It feels like your skin is clearer, your mood is higher, your eyes are shinier.. I don't know. It could be because, automatically, eating in season tends to mean a person also eats healthier. (You're not really eating in-season packet chips, are you?) It just feels great to me.

Of course eating things you got in season in another season is awesome, too. Especially if you got yours direct from farm, you'll have preserved it at it's peak so it will taste much better than anything you could've bought, which was probably gassed, had a bunch of funny things added to it, and came from unripe berries and some other fillers that aren't on the label. Plus, with homemade product, you can always make 'twists', such as kiwi and papaya jam, which you could never get in the shops.

So, obviously I feel it's important to think about where your food comes from and how you can save money buying in a more direct manner. Food can be expensive but it doesn't have to be, if you know what you're doing and where you're going and if you're willing to put in a couple hours labour for it. It's totally worth it. If you had spent the money, you'd have never gotten that much plus the hard work makes you feel extremely content and productive for relatively easy work.

I have no point.