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Friday Feast: Pickled Watermelon Rind

It’s almost summer here in Australia, which means it’s time to eat watermelon! I like to use my handy dandy melon baller so I can eat it with a fork. I know, it’s kinda un-Australian to not eat it in great big slices and get it all over your face… but I don’t really like getting sticky. If someone builds me a swimming pool to jump into after eating it, maybe I’ll change my method.

Anyway, I was eating watermelon the other day and after I’d removed all the lovely pink flesh of the melon, I was left with the rind, and I remembered reading about a Southern (as in the South, in the USA) snack – pickled watermelon rind. I don’t mind regular pickles, but I’m not as in love with them as my Polish-American partner, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat the pickled rind of quarter of a watermelon… but I figured I might as well give it a try at least once. Everyone raved about them, so why not?

Well, I gotta tell you, pickled watermelon rind is yummy! It’s crunchy and cool and refreshing – a perfect snack for hot weather, and it’s not super sweet. Most cold foods are sweet. This one is vinegary,  but a little sweet from the sugar. It’s nice for a change. And I really like the crunch!

I chose the absolutely easiest watermelon pickle recipe I could find. Others call for certain herbs, or soaking the rind overnight – stuff like that. Since I wasn’t even sure I would like them, I was going for minimum effort. I think this actually was a great idea. The simplicity of the flavours is part of what I really like about these pickles. Plus they’re quick and easy, and they use up something I’d normally discard. I just changed the vinegar to apple cider vinegar cos that’s what I had in the cupboard.

So now that I’ve raved… here’s the recipe.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

pickled watermelon rind

Ingredients

  • Watermelon rind (from a quarter of a big melon)
  • 1 very scant cup of water
  • 1 very scant up of apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup caster sugar

Method:

  1. Cut the watermelon rind into small chunks, about 1 to 2 inches in size. Make sure you remove the green skin.
  2. Stir the water, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the watermelon rind and stir.
  4. Turn off the stove, but leave the saucepan on the hotplate. Let the rind sit until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Place rind and as much brine as you can fit in a jar(s) and put them in the fridge.
  6. Eat them right away or save them for a bit in the fridge. Remember, these haven’t been properly sterilised and sealed, so they’re not shelf-safe. You should eat them within a few weeks at most and keep them in the fridge.

pickled watermelon rind in a small jar

Note: swish your mouth with water after eating, because it’s not good for your teeth to let acidic foods like vinegar sit on the enamel.

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Friday Feast: Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding

A few weeks ago, I was looking through the cupboard and fridge thinking about what food I needed to use up. I try to avoid wasting food. If you want to know more about why, have a look on the Wasted Food blog, cos Jonathan Bloom lists a bunch of reasons.

Anyway, I found half a stale baguette, some pecans that were on their last legs (or would have been, if pecans had legs), and some apples. The baguette was like a rock – there was no eating that unless it was significantly softened somehow, which prompted me to think of a bread pudding. However, I was never the biggest fan of the kinds of bread puddings I had as a kid. They were made of white sandwich loaf (too soft, which made for a soggy pudding), with milk, eggs, sugar and sultanas. I’m not big on sultanas in sweet food, although I love them in curry. My childhood memory was not what I wanted for a bread pudding. (Sorry Mum and Dad, I know you like it, but it’s not my style.) So I hunted down a new recipe.

My google-fu did not fail me, and I found a recipe for Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding in the Dairy Free Cooking section of About.com. There seems to be some good stuff there, so it’s worth having a look. I tweaked the recipe quite a bit (halving it, then increasing some ingredients, reducing others, swapping nutmeg for cardamom), but I’m really happy with the end result. It’s American tasting (hello cranberries, apples and pecans), but it’s got a special little something something that makes it unlike the typical American fare (probably the ginger and cardamom). The consistency was soft, but not soggy, and the nuts added a lovely bite.

I actually made it with only a quarter of a chopped apple, but I couldn’t taste it at all, so I’ve increased it to a whole apple in the recipe below. I increased the pecans too – I used only a third of a cup, but Yankee Elv insisted it needed more. Otherwise, she loved this pudding though – and so did I!

Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding


Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups stale bread, cut into 1.5cm (about half an inch) cubes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (currants might be a good alternative if you prefer them)
  • 1 apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup  pecans, chopped or crumbled
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (or you could use nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk (I used soy)
  • 1 tab vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave nectar)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (about 350°F).
  2. Lightly oil a medium-sized heatproof dish (such as a pyrex dish) and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, cranberries, apple, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt until well mixed.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the non-dairy milk, vegetable oil and liquid sweetener until well combined.
  5. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes, so all the bread is soaked. The liquid should be almost gone.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until mostly firm and golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with non-dairy custard (which I make the same way as dairy custard, just with soy milk. Please note: there are no eggs in my custard, ever!)

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Happy Birthday Loodle!

This is not really an eco-anything post. This is a post to say happy birthday to my dog. He turned 13 on Saturday.

loodle on bed

This is Loodle.

Loodle wagging tail

He’ had his 13th birthday on Saturday.

old man loodle

He’s such an old man.

loodle and mr teeny-bop

He used to be a hearing dog. He let Yankee Elv know when there was a noise she should be aware of, like a doorbell or the baby crying. (He also made a good pillow for said baby… even as the ‘baby’ got older.) Some people refer to a hearing dog as ‘an alarm clock with a tail’. Mostly, Loodle was the snooze button with doggy breath, right in your face.

working loodle

He liked it (except maybe the snooze button part). He was always happy when he was ‘working’. It was a pretty nice job… lie around, get treats, let everyone adore you, and paw your best friend when you hear a noise she should know about. Who wouldn’t want that job?

loodle at work

He especially liked getting to go wherever Yankee Elv went. His favourite places to go were parks or cafes. His least favourite was shopping. He liked going to Yankee Elv’s work, too.

loodle at the river

During his time off, he liked to go swimming.

loodle beach

Especially at the beach.

loodle beach excited

He really liked the beach. It’s hard for him now. The waves are too strong, and they push him over. He hasn’t gone to the beach in a long while.

Loodle sneezing

Loodle is retired. He’s deaf himself now, and arthritic, and losing his sight. Fortunately he knows some sign language, but we have to sign in exagerated motions so he can see it. Sometimes we just sign to him generally so he knows we are talking to him.

Loodle yawning

He gets very tired. (We have to drive him to the dog park now, because it’s too far for him to walk.)

loodle sleeping

He likes to sleep a lot, especially in the sunshine.

loodle and pou

Sometimes with his best cat friend, Pou.

loodle and me

Sometimes he wants to be a snuggle-bunny with his human family.

loodle with his treat ball

He likes peanut-butter and doggy treats.

Loodle with stale bread

But he is just as happy taking care of my leftovers, like stale bread. (The face of the eco-friendly garbage disposal!)

loodle

Most of all, Loodle likes being the best dog ever. We love him.

Happy birthday, Loodle!

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Spotlight on Zoos: Good or Bad?

Last week, I was looking at some photos my mother-in-law took when she was in Australia several months ago. One of the things she really wanted to do was hold a koala, so we went to Lone Pine Sanctuary (it’s local!) and she and Mr Teeny-bop held koalas and had their photos taken. Lots of other photos were also taken, such as the following one.

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

There were heaps of other animals there too – birds of prey, kangaroos, wombats, cassowaries, dingoes, tasmanian devils, parrots, cockatoos, galahs, lorikeets, bats, wallabies and farm animals (not sure what the farm animals were about, but anyway…), and Yankee Elv’s mom even took photos of the ugly wild scrub turkeys scratching around outside.

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

It was nice to go to a place where it’s not overly tourist-y (like Australia Zoo is these days), but still get to interact with all the animals. It did get me wondering though – are zoos, sanctuaries and other places like that good for the environment? I’m not going to argue about whether or not they’re good for the animals – some will say keeping animals in captivity are never good, others will say places like this provide a service to all the animals hurt on roads or displaced by deforestation. Regardless, I’m not going to debate that. What I’m interested in today is: are these places good for the environment?

With a motto like, ‘The Earth is not only for humans’, you’d think Lone Pine would be into all that eco-stuff.  The Lone Pine Sanctuary website does encourage people to do environmentally friendly things like drive safely and be aware of wildlife crossing the roads, plant eucalypts as food trees for koalas and avoiding disturbing vegetation generally (but especially in National Parks). Although all of these are aimed at wildlife conservation, they are also good for the environment generally. There is no statement on the Lone Pine Sanctuary website, however, that indicates they are working towards reducing their environmental impact.

People and animals can live together!

People and animals can live together!

Ultimately, it seems like zoos are under the same environmental pressures as any other big business, such as:

  • Water use
  • Energy consumption
  • Waste disposal and recycling.

Taronga Zoo has a comprehensive page on their site that explains it all quite clearly.

As well as Taronga Zoo, some other places, like Australia Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo, are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and potentially become carbon neutral. Chester Zoo was the first UK zoo to be awarded ISO14001s status. Other zoos are following in their footsteps. Some new campaigns that service both the environment and animals are cropping up too. Answer the Call, for example, is a mobile phone recycling program that helps save gorilla habitat.

Granted, my research has been pretty minimal, but what I’ve read seems to indicate that zoos are no worse than many big businesses, and the larger zoos are taking measures to counteract their environmental impact. Considering most zoos get visitors thinking about conservation, I think the good these zoos do likely outweighs any negative impact.

Your thoughts?

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Spotlight: Crop Diversity and Buckwheat

I’m trying to eat less wheat. Primarily this is for my health, but I’m learning that this is also good for the environment. Currently, wheat is one of the top three plant foods eaten in the world. You can imagine how much is produced. This is leading to decreased crop diversity. As the climate changes, we need this crop diversity so our farming practices can change too. You can read more about all that here.

So the other day Yankee Elv made pancakes (yes again, we like pancakes). She made some buckwheat pancakes for me. (Note: buckwheat comes from an entirely different plant than wheat.) You can just go buy them from the supermarket these days – the pancake mix is marketed towards people with gluten intolerance, but of course anyone can eat it.

Woolworth's buckwheat pancake mix.

Woolworth's buckwheat pancake mix.

I didn’t really like them. They tasted like I was eating a musty plant with the texture of a thick, dense, crumbly pancake. Some people say they taste kind of like mushrooms. I’m also not the biggest fan of mushrooms, which makes life hard as a vegetarian when you’re at a catered event, because apparently that’s all we eat. Right.

Anyway, not my favourite. Loodle likes them though. I ate a plateful, but there were still lots left as no-one else really liked them either, so the dog has been having a pancake-y snack every couple of days. I don’t want to just throw them out, because that’s a bit too wasteful for my sensibilities. Today I ate the last two just to get them out of the fridge (ok, the last two of three… the dog got the last one, technically). They’re ok if you smother – and I really mean smother – them in jam and add some honey and cinnamon yoghurt. I try not to eat too much dairy yoghurt either (in fact, I went years without eating it at all, but these days I occasionally have a tiny spoonful of Yankee Elv’s just for the taste, as long as it doesn’t have gelatine), but these things needed all the help they could get. I mean, it’s good that they’re there for people who shouldn’t eat wheat, and if I’m really craving a lot of pancakes, maybe I’d eat them again to avoid the wheat. However, I think I add so much sugar-y jam that it actually makes the avoidance of high glycemic index carbs redundant, so maybe not.

Of course, now I’ve done some more research on buckwheat and found that the grain isn’t even commonly grown in Australia (heck, none of the 20 top foods eaten worldwide are Australian natives). How are you supposed to eat local in a country like this!? I wonder if the buckwheat used in the pancake mix is Australian grown? I don’t think I’ll bother to email to find out… it’s doubtful we’ll be buying it again. I guess we could just try making much thinner pancakes though. It’s not like I dislike buckwheat in all forms. I eat soba noodles. That reminds me, we have some noodles in the cupboard we have to use up. I’ve never been rich enough to waste food in the past, but now there’s an environmental reason driving that too.

Things on my food to-do list:

  1. Increase diversity in the food we eat (I must post this awesome quinoa recipe I created the other day).
  2. Reduce food waste (read more about why food waste is bad for the environment from No Impact Man and at the Wasted Food blog).
  3. Compost food scraps (we just need to finish the compost bin – we have a lid now. It’s a work in progress).

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