Friday, 26 August 2016

My Home-Mixed Trail Mix

Trail mix, made from nutritious nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dark chocolate is a delicious snack. While you can buy prepared and packaged Trail Mixes at the supermarket or health food shop, it's a very simple thing to make your own. 

All you have to do is choose your ingredients and mix them together. In my home-mixed Trail Mix, I put in these yummy ingredients:  coconut chips, whole almonds, dried cranberries, currants, dark chocolate chips, pepitas and sunflower seeds.

Delicious and nutritious Trail Mix ingredients.

Put an equal number of scoops of each ingredient into a jar. Secure the lid and shake until you have a lovely jumble you can dip into when you need a little snack. Yum!

 A handy and healthy snack.

When mixing up your own, you can add whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruit you have on hand. You might like to use cashew nuts instead of almonds. You might prefer sultanas to currants. You might add pieces of dried apricot instead of cranberries. All variations would result in a yummy mix that's good for you!

Trail mix is great to tip into little take-with-you-tubs when you are heading out. Having it in your bag stops those hasty, hungry purchases of packaged snacks like chips and chocolate bars. It's so much better for you too than over-salted, trans-fat laden and super sweet snacks.

So, if you have a spare five minutes this weekend, why not make up your own version of a Home-Mixed Trail Mix. Let me know what you put in yours.


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Garden Visitor 6

Native birds visit our garden every day. There's food for them in the form of bugs and grubs and juicy worms. There are birdbaths for drinks of freshwater and feather-cleansing, splashy swims. There's shelter and "just-right" nesting spots in the many trees and shrubs in and around our garden. The verandah railings, fences and tree tops offer perfect places to perch and observe the world before taking flight. And, of course, the humans provide much entertainment as they go about their work in the garden...and occasionally toss up (or dig up) a free lunch!

 A kookaburra waiting for a free lunch!

Kookaburras are among the birds that visit us daily. They love to sit on our back fence and wait for  tasty morsels to present themselves. When one's infectious laughter begins, it's not long before a whole riot of them are cackling away together; a distinctive avian chorus that echos out and around the hills.

Nicknamed "the laughing jackass", the kookaburra is such an iconic Australian bird whose laughter is always welcome here in our garden. Their joyous noise is a lovely reminder of the power of laughter in one's day!

I hope you'll find something to have a long laugh over today. (Just start with a chuckle before throwing your head back, opening your beak and cackling wholeheartedly for a significant length of this!)


p.s. If you'd like to read more about this unique bird, the Birdlife Australia website has a great profile. There's an audio file, at the bottom of the webpage, that you can click on to hear the Kookaburra's laugh.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Terrific Tuscan Kale

I grow dark and leafy Tuscan Kale, not because it is a trendy "superfood", but because it is an easy-to-grow and productive plant to have in a vegetable garden (and I don't want to pay "superfood" prices for a bunch of it at the shops either ;)

 Tuscan Kale growing in my veggie patch.

This distinctive member of the Brassica family, with crinkled and very dark green (almost black) leaves, is believed to have originated in Tuscany. Hence the Italian translation of its other commonly recognised name, Cavolo Nero, as "black cabbage".

Tiny seedlings of Tuscan Kale grow into tall, sculptural plants. I grow this kale towards the back of my veggie garden as it needs space to be tall and for its long, crinkled leaves, to arch outwards. It provides some shade too, as the weather warms up, for plants growing nearby.

 Tuscan Kale needs room to grow.

The white cabbage butterfly do like to lay their eggs on Tuscan Kale as they do many other Brassicas. I simply check underneath the leaves for caterpillars and remove them if I find them. The magpies that visit our garden love a free caterpillar or two!

Tuscan Kale is very nutritious and delicious. It's easy to pick just a few leaves, as you would a pick-again lettuce, and use them in cooking. I favour the smaller, tender leaves. You just have to make sure you cut out the tough, central vein from each leaf before chopping or shredding.  I like to add Tuscan Kale to salads, omelettes and quiches. I mix chopped kale into fresh ricotta, as I would spinach, to make a filling for puff pastry triangles. Kale chips and green smoothies are pretty trendy too.

 Delicious leaves.

If you don't already grow Tuscan Kale, I hope you will give it a try. It's very easy to grow, very versatile to cook with and very delicious to eat.