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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Which Kitchen Papers are Biodegradable and an Alternative to Baking Paper.

If you have followed my blog a little you will know that I am working towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. It is a slow process, there are so many areas to tackle. 
The best environmental choice in kitchen papers is, of course, not to use any of them, but if, like me, you are still working on the process, some are better than others. I definitely try to go the no paper way, and to be honest, I give in to household demand by having these in the house...hey, I'm working on them though.
Kitchen papers and foil - which to use?

Waxed Paper - this can't be used in a conventional oven, but can be used for covering bowls in the microwave. It can be used as lunchwrap, or for wrapping cheese, or pastry as you leave it in the fridge to chill. It can then be thrown into the compost as it is biodegradable.

Greaseproof Paper - this too is biodegradable and can be used as for waxed paper as above. It isn't any use in baking unless you grease it as it will stick to your food, so really, not much point.

Baking Paper - this is siliconized paper, sometimes known as freezer paper I think, and it is not biodegradable. I have been using this until recently with baking bread as I was having trouble with the loaves sticking in my ageing non-stick pans. But now, thanks to the internet, I have found a solution! See my recipe for Miracle Pan Release below. 

Tin Foil - this can be recycled in many places if it is clean. Or it can be reused in lots of ways, for example to scrunch up and clean your barbecue grill, or to clean your silver by lining the sink with it, adding a dessertspoon of baking soda and some boiling water and immersing the silver in it.
If you are using it to cover a roast, better to use a roasting pan with a lid.

So some alternatives...Fabric sandwich wrappers and bags, using containers with lids, reusable metal lunch boxes, putting a plate over bowls in the microwave and fridge.
And then there is....


I found this recipe on but I have changed it up a little - here is my version.

1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of coconut oil (original uses vegetable shortening, ie Chrisco)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil (I used canola. The original recipe uses 1/2 cup, but I have reduced this as the coconut oil has a lower melt point)

Combine all in a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until the mixture slightly increases in volume and looks smooth and creamy. Place in a covered container and store it in the pantry. Use it within 3-4 months or store it in the fridge for a longer life.
Use the Miracle Pan Release by painting on your bakeware prior to baking, using a pastry brush.

I was so excited to see how well this worked!

my poor worn bread pan

Painting on the Miracle Pan Release

The bread just slipped out of the pan - no sticking!
AN UPDATE on Dishwasher Powder
You may have read my post for home made dishwasher powder some time ago. After using this for over a year I went back to store bought powder a little while ago. I have discovered that I can buy dishwasher powder by filling my own container, and I'm afraid it really does a much better job. There it's said. Maybe I will return to homemade one day, using them turn about to keep the dishes all looking good. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Making Haloumi is Easy!

It turns out that cheese is one of the products that I can't buy without a plastic wrapper, unless it is prohibitively priced artisanal cheese. 

I have been planning to give cheese making a go, so when our lovely Australian friend Bindi was here recently, we decided we would just do it.
The recipe we used is called Home-Made Haloumi from the Simple Pleasures Cookbook by +Annabel Langbein.

Annabel Langbein's recipes are interesting and home-cook friendly  

The recipe is not as complicated as it first looks, and if it's made regularly would be a doddle.
You will need a 30cmx20cm cheese mould and a thermometer. I didn't have a cheese mould - which is a vessel with holes in the bottom, so used a steamer with a bowl and weight on top to press the cheese. It worked perfectly well, but just wasn't so beautifully shaped. Some people use a punctured ice cream container.

This recipe uses 8 litres of milk, but to trial it we made 1/3 of the recipe, and it worked great.

Home-Made Haloumi

Haloumi is best fried or grilled

First you need to sterilize your equipment, using a chlorine tablet (as you would use for nappies). We just used boiling water. So that is a 12 litre pot, a 20 litre pot, a large whisk, a cheese mould, muslin, a rack.

8 litres of unhomogenised full-cream milk
2 tsp rennet
4 tsp boiled and cooled tap water or bottled water
a little salt for sprinkling, plus 1/4 cup extra for brine

Put milk in the smaller pot and put this pot inside the larger one. Pour water into the large pot up to the same level as the milk in the smaller pot. Heat over a medium heat until the milk reaches 29 degrees celcius (and let me warn you this does not take long), then turn off the heat - it will reach the desired temperature of 32 degrees celcius with the residual heat.

Stir rennet into the 4 tsp boiled and cooled water. Whisk into heated milk.
Leave to stand for 45 minutes - it will hold at this temperature and you should not need to heat it. It will separate into curds (solids) and whey (liquid).

Cut the curds into 1cm cubes in a crisscross fashion then at 45 degree angles in two directions through the middle.
Return to the heat (still in the water bath), stirring gently until the temperature reaches 36 degrees celcius. The curds and whey will further separate. Remove from the heat and stand it for 5 minutes. 

Drain through muslin, reserving the whey. Line the mould with muslin and place over a draining rack. Transfer curds to the mould. Fold in the muslin, put a lid on the mould and weigh it down with a container of water or similar for at least 1 hour.

Remove cheese from the mould and cut into 8 pieces. Bring the whey to 85 - 90 degrees celcius then add the cheese in batches of 4 pieces, cooking 15 minutes without stirring. When ready it will spring back like a sponge. Lift out and place on the rack over a draining tray.
Sprinkle both sides with a little salt and fold each piece in half.

Make brine with 4 cups of water, 2 cups of reserved whey and 1/4 cup salt. Store haloumi in brine in the fridge for up to a month. It can be eaten the same day but improves after 24 hours. If it goes slimy, rinse it off and replace the brine with fresh brine.

What I like about this, apart from the superb haloumi, is that the whey (or buttermilk) isn't wasted. It can be added to smoothies or baking.
Next cheese I'm going to try making is 30 minute mozzarella.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Rattan Blind Makeover with Tapa Cloth

For a long time I have been meaning to do something about our bedroom blind. Now that we have family staying a while it was a little more urgent, given that the current rattan one didn't allow full privacy at night.

Rattan blind before - lets in too much light, and no privacy

The window is quite a big one, so a new blind would have needed to be custom made. A year or so ago we bought a huge tapa cloth on Trademe, which I have been using for various projects from lampshades to giftwrap and Christmas decorations for my Pacifica themed Christmas. I had the brilliant idea of lining the rattan blind with tapa cloth - and here is the result. 

Rattan blind with tapa cloth lining

I just took the blind down, cut a piece of tapa to fit the blind, slipped it in behind the cords then hand sewed it to the top of the blind, and at various other points to fit it snug.
I love how it looks and it works a treat now - plus it will keep the room warmer in winter. 
This idea could be adapted to all sorts of other materials - drop cloths, sheets or just curtain material.
Tapa is bark cloth, handmade in the Pacific Islands.

Friday, 10 April 2015

A Foodie Post

Do you end up with an assortment of food in your fridge that you hate to waste? Food waste is such a waste of money and the world's resources. I came across the site recently which I think is pretty cool. You check off what food you have, and can even nominate a special dietary requirement, and it immediately comes up with a whole bunch of recipes using what you have. Here's the

A while back we had visitors who brought with them the most delicious broccoli salad I have ever tasted. They were kind enough to share the recipe, so here it is...although I think I have "improved" it a little healthwise, and I will put both versions in.

Raw Broccoli Salad

I just realized these look like huge pieces of broccoli, but it is just a single serve bowl.

Into your salad bowl mix...
1 head of broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces
10 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy (I used 5 slices)
1/4 cup (1 medium) red onion, finely sliced or diced
1/2 cup of raisins or craisins
1/2 - 1 cup of sunflower seeds

Mix together and add...
1 cup of mayonnaise (I used 3/4 cup)
3 Tbsp of white vinegar
2 Tbsp of sugar (I used 1 Tbsp of Xylitol, plant based sweetener)

I have made this a few times now and everyone loves it!

We have family living with us for a while as they resettle themselves from Australia. Amy keeps posting things on Facebook about how soft the grass is here, and how lovely she finds the rain. There's nothing like going home is there. It makes me realize what we sometimes take for granted. 


Feijoas - yum!

These are what we are enjoying right now. Our expats often crave them. They are sometimes known as a pineapple guava in other countries I think. They have a grainy texture and a tangy flavour. They can be used in cakes, preserved, used in chutneys and in so many other ways. We just dig into them with a teaspoon, and some even just eat them skin and all. We only have two smallish trees producing, and I know that's not going to be enough for 6 people!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Passion for Passionfruit

Recently we had a bumper crop of passionfruit. This was our third attempt at growing a vine - the first two just collapsed after looking so healthy. I suspected that the deaths had something to do with having given them fertilizer, which I will not do again - the current vine is huge and has not been fed anything.

I was nostalgic for the passionfruit recipes of my youth, but they weren't in my mother's recipe book! I started looking everywhere for recipes for Passionfruit Cordial and Passionfruit Honey, but none were right and I have had to change them up. They turned out as I remember them to have been, and were a hit with the family. So here are my versions...

Passionfruit Honey (Butter)

10 passionfruit
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter

Scoop the pulp out of the passionfruit. If you don't like the seeds, then strain it, but my version has the seeds left in.
Add the beaten eggs, sugar and butter and cook in a double boiler saucepan until it is thick like honey, then bottle into sterilized jars.
Keep your passionfruit honey in the fridge.
It makes about 2 cups.
Passionfruit honey is great on toast or for flavouring up plain yoghurt - yum!

For any new cooks who are not familiar with a double boiler - I use a large saucepan of boiling water on the stove, with a smaller saucepan inside with the passionfruit butter in it. This is to prevent it sticking and burning.  

Passionfruit Cordial

Boil together 1 cup of water and one cup of sugar, pour this over 1 cup of passionfruit pulp, add 1 tsp of citric acid and let it sit until it cools. 
When cool, strain through a sieve and bottle in a washed bottle that has been immersed in boiling water.
Add a small amount to a glass and top up with water to taste.
It's tangy and delicious!