To the chicken, the rhino and brown huntsman spider

At the start of spring last year on a regular drive to collect my children of an afternoon, there was a little hen pecking in the grass on the road shoulder. She was an Isa Brown. The same time each afternoon, when the golden sun was sinking below the mountains and the afternoon had taken on an orange hue, she would be there. I drove past this lone hen for several weeks. My children would look out for her. She was a sweet girl who I witnessed defending herself against large crows, scratching the ground for treats, pecking at grass seeds, and running along her driveway chasing flying insects. It was all very entertaining and we all looked forward to seeing her antics.

Then one day, her characteristic feathers were there in the grass, but she had passed, obviously knocked by a passing car.

There is the rhino. What a beautiful animal, a herbivorous mammal that cares for their young, plays and communicates in little squeaks throughout the African night. Babies stay with their mothers for an extended period. I won’t discuss the scene I witnessed, but I will say this. The illegal wildlife trade is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes. It is like watching a car accident in slow motion, except there’s no suspense. We know what the outcomes are.

HUbert Reeves Quote

Then there is the brown huntsman spider in my toilet room. This is a very large spider spanning from almost my fingertips to my wrist. She is big and probably looking for somewhere to keep an egg sac. I am the resident spider catcher so I grab the usual container. Um, she’s too large for it. So I go back to the kitchen and collect my largest container for this catch and release program! After about 10 minutes of dancing around each other and my children commenting she’s as big as their arms, she is finally contained.

We get out our local wildlife identification book and identify her. She can live up to two years. She cares for her babies and they stay with her for several weeks until she escorts them out of her territory into the big, wide world. She is set free in our garden.

I want pretty hens pecking on the roadside.

I want to know that rhinos can live in peace, even if I never meet one.

I want my children to know that even if some animals (like large spiders in the house) can give you the heebie jeebies, they have their own story.

I want magic and wonder.

For those simple reasons, I thank the chicken, the rhino and the brown huntsman spider, just because you make our world a better place.

Hope you have a lovely week

xxx

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Too small to make a difference

Do you ever feel that there is so much work to do in this world that you can’t make a difference? What about you just be yourself? You know, the generous, kind, peaceful you. Investing a small amount of your precious time in something you believe in could make all the difference. I love this graphic from Conservation International so much I just had to share!

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Is that a cat on a lead?

Yes. It is. My cat is an indoor animal that goes for walks on a harness and an extendable lead. We live near bush land and our garden supports several permanent and seasonal bird species that bring their juveniles to visit. We also have quite a few reptiles and marsupials that call our garden home. There is a big stainless steel baking tray water trough that the bird community has been loving in the hot weather.

We’ve used a harness and lead since we brought him home from the rescue centre. He is so used to his harness that he climbs high in the trees and climbs down the way he came up, so his lead doesn’t get tangled! He has lots of environmental enrichment and lounging places inside the house, but he loves his walks. He sits at the cupboard where his harness and lead are kept waiting for his walk in the mornings.

He’s very happy and safe. The wildlife in our garden are happy and safe too 🙂

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Fragrant rice salad with soy dressing

It has been very hot where I live of late. I really like having a few salads pre made in the fridge for when it’s too hot to cook. Just assemble and serve!

I found this recipe on the web and I have modified the base ingredients each time I’ve prepared it. Everyone loves this salad. The dressing is so very good. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 cups cooked brown/white/jasmine rice
Salt
2 spring onions finely sliced
1 red capsicum diced
1 cup sliced snow peas
1 kale leaf finely chopped
Handful flat leaf parsley chopped
3/4 cup sultanas/currants/raisins
3/4 cup chopped cashews
Dressing to suit your preference.

Dressing (this makes more than you need for this salad)
In a sealed jar, shake until well combined and sugar dissolved:
1/2 cup rice bran oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
2 level tsp sugar
1 scant tsp minced garlic
1 cm root ginger chopped
Salt and pepper

Method
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Shake dressing ingredients until well combined.
Add dressing to salad.
Serve.

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Apple and pear cake

I adapted this recipe from one that included egg, dairy and a huge amount of sugar. I changed it to suit our needs. I don’t have dairy and the children’s childcare is an egg free centre. This one is moist and delicious. I freeze in portions for lunches. My lunch stash in the freezer is referred to as “the bakery”. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar (lower GI than regular)
1/2 cup quick or rolled oats
2 large apples diced (about 1 cm)
1 large pear diced (about a cm)
125 gm dairy free margarine/rice bran oil
2tbsp white chia seeds soaked in 2 level cups of soy milk in a bowl for 10 minutes
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. Toss fruit in flour, oats and sugar
2. Melt margarine in microwave and add to chia soy milk mixture with vanilla
3. Add liquid mix to dry mix. Stir to combine well.
4. Pour into greased and lined tin
5. Bake 180 degrees 35 – 40 minutes or until top golden and skewer comes out clean.

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Vegetarian larb salad

A country I love is Laos. It a wonderful place in South East Asia, a landlocked haven that until fairly recent years was undeveloped, supporting deep green forests with dappled light, hidden treasures and bamboo gullies, the magnificent Mekong River supporting river dolphins and glorious waterfalls, inland islands dotted with tiny huts, jewelled insects clinging to incredible flowers. The peoples’ culture is sweet, communal and incredibly generous. Spend time in Luang Prabang and you will know what I mean.

Anyhow, larb is served in most restaurants and is regarded as a national dish. It is fresh, spicy, aromatic and delicious served in crisp lettuce leaves. Its usually made with minced meat, generally pork. I don’t eat pork so I made a vegetarian version. We call it “cooked salad” and my children usually have at least two servings at dinner.

Admission: I’m a working mother, so there are two versions to this salad:
1. The “quick my children are walking up the stairs and need to be fed in 10 minutes” version; or
2. The fancy “I can serve this to anyone as a sharing plate on the table” version.

Cook’s note: I make this toddler friendly and then add fresh coriander and chilli seperately afterwards for the adults.

Ingredients

1 packet of Linda McCartney vegetarian mince (frozen)
2 cups of cooked brown rice (more if you like)
4 tbsp rice bran oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen sliced green beans
1/2 cup sliced fresh snow peas
1 tbsp Massells chicken stock powder (vegan friendly)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp maple syrup
1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
good amount of fresh cracked pepper
3 cm white section fresh lemongrass finely diced or 1 tsp minced lemongrass
1/2 cup water
fresh lime wedges, coriander and hot chilli to serve.

Method

1. In a non-stick wok, heat 3 tbsp oil. Add cooked rice on high heat for 2 minutes. Add bag of vegetarian mince. Cook on high for another 2 minutes.
2. Turn down heat to medium and add remaining ingredients.
3. Cook for 5  or so minutes until everything is defrosted and hot throughout.
4. Serve immediately to toddlers with a lime wedge. I put a horizontal slice in the flesh to reduce spatter when squeezing.

For the adults, add lime wedge, coriander and chilli.

To make fancy, use fresh ingredients, not frozen. Cook the rice and vegetarian mince combination on high heat for an additional 2 minutes so it becomes a bit crispy before adding remaining ingredients. Adjust to taste and season if required. Serve in baby cos lettuce cups with tiny lime wedges and a sprig of coriander.

Yum!

Note: Leftovers can be used as a filling for wraps for lunches the next day.

Hope you have a lovely week.

vegan larb salad Vegan larb salad pan

Two birds with one stone rice pudding (dairy free)

This is hands down the easiest way I make rice pudding.

While making dinner I cook a double batch of rice using the absorption method. I prepare rice for the main meal and make a dessert in one saucepan. It only takes an extra 5 minutes.

The bonus is that it is quite healthful so I pack a little serve for lunch boxes.

Add 2 cups of white rice to a large saucepan. Top with 3 cups of boiling water. Stir to separate grains. Cover and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir rice and cover again. Cook for another 5 minutes on very low heat. Turn off and let stand with lid on for 5 minutes. Your rice base is done.

I then portion it into our family’s dinner bowls and keep a little extra in a glass dish for later.

To make the pudding, roughly level out the remaining rice in the saucepan. Don’t pack it down. Top with full fat soy milk 2 – 3 cm above the level of the rice. Add 2 tsp vanilla extract. Add maple syrup to taste, bearing in mind that it won’t taste as sweet when it’s cold. Stir on low heat for a couple of minutes to combine flavours. Transfer to a glass serving dish to thicken.

If it seems too liquid, don’t worry. It will thicken as it cools.

Done. Easy.

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This is very nice with vanilla poached pears, warm or cold.

An upcycled dinner

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I made a new sandwich flavour tonight for the family’s lunches tomorrow. It’s a dish they all enjoyed as part of their main meal.

Creamy red lentil dahl, with all the usual spices and the addition of a can of coconut cream. It was luscious. So I made a sandwich with this lentil Dahl and tomato ketchup.

It might sound like an unusual combination, but I actually think the children will love it.

Other components to the lunch boxes include:
Fruit
Banana and choc chip wholemeal muffin
Tofu and roasted capsicum pie with salad veges
Vegetable muffin with dairy free cream cheese
Fruit cake- dairy and egg free
One cherub gets a mango and coconut smoothie.

I’ve fallen back on the frozen bakery stash tonight. Over the day there’s a smorgasbord of balanced nutrition though. It’s all good 🙂

Easy lunch boxes for littlelies

One of the best tips I have read online about lunch preparation is to make the following day’s lunch while you are preparing today’s lunch. It doesn’t work every day but it certainly helps. When I am packing the insulated lunch bags at night, often most of the lunch is already prepared. Usually I have precook and frozen baked goods ready to pack. It saves time.

Tomorrow’s offering is a result of packing throughout the day whilst preparing meals for my little darlings.

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Mango, coconut and chia smoothies

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Corn crackers with vegan mayonnaise and cheese
Pasta and vegetable box
Tropical fruit box
Vegetable muffin with dairy free cream cheese.

The lunch bags will come home empty 🙂

Hope you have a lovely week xx

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