Monday, 10 October 2011

Fresh Tomato Salsa

I'm loving all the fresh flavours we're getting here in New Zealand as we make our way through Spring. My husband and I eat these burritos a lot over the warmer months - they're so quick to make. The mince mixture is delicious with fresh flour tortillas, and you can just add whatever lovely salad vegetables you have on hand.

I soften onions and garlic in a large frypan, then add good quality beef mince, cumin, chilli (powder, or chopped fresh chilli), dried oregano, paprika, a little tomato paste and a can of kidney beans. While that cooks, I prepare the other burrito fillings, and make this fresh tomato salsa.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

enough to serve 4 with burritos

2 large tomatoes (or you could use cherry tomatoes)

1/2 a red onion

1/2 a red capsicum

a few peppadew peppers, if you like them

good handful of fresh coriander or mint, or a combination of both

1 lime, zest and juice (lemon works too)

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sugar

a splash of hot chilli sauce (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste

Chop the tomatoes, red onion, capsicum and peppadews as coarsely or as finely as you like. Then toss everything together in a bowl and season to taste.

You can also use up other bits and pieces that might be lurking in your fridge - I added a couple of tablespoons of leftover tinned tomatoes, and also added a spoonful of my harissa paste. You might also like to include garlic, or even some finely grated ginger.

The salsa is great in burritos as suggested above, but can also be used in salads, or served alongside fish or chicken. It's also a great healthy dip, and a yummy bruschetta topping. Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Down to the Real Essentials

By Linda from The Witches Kitchen

Tuvalu has just a few days supply of fresh water left. They are rationing water below the UN refugee rate, Australia and New Zealand are flying in rehydration packs on Hercules aircraft, every non-essential use of water is shut down. And still, they are just days away from running out of water.

It really brings it home what's important. Cimate change hasn't caused this. It has just made it much more likely. But probability theory is the kind of maths that made most people avoid maths at school.

Tuvalu's water crisis is the result of super big tides and a drought both happening at the same time. The system failed and then the backup failed. Is it rising sea levels? The problem is that the sea doesn't stay still and let you measure it. It goes up and down twice a day, more or less depending on where the earth is in its orbit around the sun, where the moon is in its orbit around the earth, where the sea currents are flowing, where the pressure gradients in the atmosphere are moving, in a pattern so complex and intricate that it's like a million piece symphony orchestra playing Mozart. And climate change has altered the pattern to make the peaks higher and more frequent. That's the abstract. The concrete is that Tuvalu's underground fresh water is all contaminated with king tide salt water. Can't drink it.

And at the same time, there's been a drought caused by an abnormally long La Nina. La Nina's happen naturally. Cimate change just makes them happen more. This time enough more to run a whole country out of water.

We have lived with tank and dam water for nearly 30 years. There were a couple of times in the mid-90's drought when we ran right out of water. But we could buy it in - get a tanker to deliver a thousand litres of chlorinated town water and pump it into our water tank. My garden collapsed, but we could buy food from the supermarket. We lost quite a few fruit trees, some 15 years old, but the kids could take little tins of fruit to school. We all bathed in the same 15 cm of bathwater, washed our underwear in the bath with us, used the bathwater to soak our clothes, and then ran it out onto the surviving fruit trees. We put bowls of the precious bought water down in the creek bed for the wildlife to drink.

 But what do you do if the water delivery needs a Hercules?

 Permaculture theory is to plan for disaster and build in layers of redundancy. So we've added tanks, tapped a spring, lined dams, built a water trailer with a pump for firefighting. We have a composting toilet and we filter the grey water from the shower to use for the bananas. And we have learned to be very, very frugal with water, to turn off the tap while brushing teeth, to mulch the garden heavily, to wash several loads of clothes in a tub of water, sequencing the washing from the clean whites down to the work socks. (Or at least I've learned - my partner has a deficient washing gene - but we shan't mention that publically shall we!)

And we live on a big island nation, one big enough to truck food around the country and keep an economy functioning in a drought. What do you do if your whole nation is out of water? And more importantly what do the rest of us do?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Slow Food: buy less, spend more, don't waste!

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

My family and I recently went to an event organized by Slow Food, the Italian non-profit organization well-known internationally for its commitment to local food traditions and communities, and its mission to promote food that's good (fresh and seasonal), clean (safe for our health and the evironment), and fair (fairly priced for both the consumers and the small-scale producers).  (You can read more about Slow Food philosophy here.)  It was a Cheese festival, and I wrote about it on FuoriBorgo here and here.

Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of Slow Food, held a press conference, where he discussed many interesting issues about the economics and ethics of food, including:

-    22,000 tons of edible food are thrown away every day in American households, and 4,000 tons in Italy.

-    Consumers spend 20% less on groceries than they did 30 years ago.

-    By buying cheaper food, consumers give their money to industrial food concerns, rather than to small-scale, sustainable producers of quality food.

We live in a time of colossal over-production and waste.  In fact, according to a study prepared by the FAO in 2011 ("Global Food Losses and Waste"), roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.  According to Carlo Petrini, the results of this runaway waste coupled with the widespread industrialization of the food supply, are far-reaching and severe:  the soil is being impoverished and depleted, water is becoming scarce, bio-diversity is being lost, and small farmers are having a harder and harder time making a living.

Petrini calls for a new paradigm.  He says we need to stop wasting food, buy less food overall, and spend proportionately more on the food we do buy - on high-quality food that's safe, healthy and priced to give the farmer a fair income.

This press conference was a real eye-opener for me in many ways, and a call to action.  I found the level of food waste deeply disturbing.  Yet what Carlo Petrini said about spending more, made perfect sense.  We need better, fairer food in our homes, and less of it.  And we need to stop wasting food.  All these steps go together - I'll be writing more about this.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Short Notice | Traveling Simply and Frugally

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

This post is not the original post I had planned to write this week. But I have found myself confronted with the 'cost of travel' on short notice and it isn't fitting in too well with my simple living ideals! Ideally, traveling anywhere is planned and calculated and if you live simply you might want to consider the many options to make your trip as frugal as possible, without compromising enjoyment. The topic of traveling simply could be rather lengthy too, but I will just share with you what I have experienced this week as I plan to travel to Tasmania to visit my sick uncle and his family.

Firstly I have had to make a quick decision about making this trip. I cannot wait for several weeks to book a flight. Time is not on my Uncle's side. I cannot wait to see if prices will be 'cheaper' for flights. I have just had to book flight times that work best around my family that I will be leaving behind at home, accepting the cost of flying in such rushed circumstances. This has been difficult.

I believe that boat travel is better for the environment. This is an option when traveling to Tasmania. Again though time is not on our side. It would seem that when you have to rush...things aren't so simple and you end up spending more money or doing things that aren't so good for the environment. I think this can be seen in regular day to day life too! Slowing down saves money, I am certain of this.

As I breastfeed my youngest son, Ben, and I don't express milk he will be traveling with me. I am fortunate that we use cloth nappies and I can take a dozen nappies with a couple of wet bags to store the soiled ones in. They will last the couple of days without needing washing and the bags are good at locking in smells.

I feel very strongly about feeding Ben 'real food' cooked from scratch, so I am freezing up his lunch and dinners and taking them with me. A fridge is available in our hotel room so I can store his food safely. The short trip also works in my favour, in that the food won't spoil over such a short period of time spent traveling. The hotel has a communal kitchen so I can make Ben anything extra and warm his food when necessary.

The fact that the hotel has a communal kitchen also means that we can cook our dinner and make lunches if we buy supplies (or take them) which will again reduce the costs involved in 'eating out'. We have chosen a simple hotel, close enough to walk to the hospital where my uncle is ill, so we won't need to rely on taxi travel to and from.

Yesterday I made a cover for the stroller we will use and I am taking my Ergo baby carrier as well. I made the stroller cover from a vintage thrifted sheet that was in good condition.

The design inspiration and the cord used to tie one end with, came from a camping chair cover. This cover will protect the stroller when it is in the aircraft and is a little stronger than the garbage bags that I've seen some travelers use. I think bags like this would make useful protective covers for prams and strollers stored regularly in your car boot too.

I created a box shaped end and doubled the fabric and stitching to make it a little stronger.

I don't need to buy anything special for this trip, which is good as I have pledged to buy nothing 'new' for the month of October ...I don't think this includes travel and accommodation!

Do you find that when anything needs to be done quickly that you end up spending more? Do you have any frugal traveling tips you'd like to share here?

Amanda x

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Considering Staples in the Garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Harvest time is still in full swing in our garden, and while we are busy, it is still a good time to assess the garden and think of next years garden. Consider growing staples. Staples in the garden are usually easy to grow, and easy to store for long periods. Many take no processing, just harvesting and proper storage. And many don't require any energy to store, just proper attention to the particular vegetable and its storage requirements which may vary. Cool, dry, room temperature, and high humidity are the factors you need to consider when choosing a staple crop to grow and store.

Crops that I consider staples in my garden are potatoes, winter squash, dry beans and storage onions in addition to root crops like carrots, beets, rutabagas, and parsnips. Your list of staples may be different due to climate and growing conditions. Sweet potatoes are a marginal, fussy crop in my area and Irish potatoes are not. The path of least resistance is the most energy conscious footprint for the garden. Grow what suits your area.

The downside to growing staples is that to be a staple, that implies that you need a large amount to last into winter and maybe spring until the garden gets going again. Large amounts of vegetables require space to grow. Growing staples just may become a community building exercise. Garden too small? Ask a neighbor to allow you to expand your garden, or collaborate with a friend and instead of growing all your crops in one place, trade off. Grow up too, the sky is the limit, many plants take well to trellising, and can be trained on various types of trellis materials.

I'm just tossing ideas out there for more pantry building gardens. Soon the garden will be put to bed and seed catalogs will start appearing in our mailboxes. Winter is a good time to rest, rejuvenate and plan for next year. Bring the new seed catalogs on!