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Why oh why is junk food so tempting. All those gross chemicals charge through our bodies and do absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, the poor little apple sits in the fruit bowl longing to be consumed. As it gets softer and browner it ponders where it went wrong and why people won’t eat it.

Carrots are sweet but not sugary enough to tempt our tastebuds and cucumbers may be cool but not as yummo as an ice cold Mars Bar, or so we’re told. It’s just not fair. The junk food industry has chemicals and thingies in their snacks that makes us want more and the awful, dangerous cycle continues.

Who remembers hot chips and chicken salt. So very bad for you but so, so delicious. The smell of them wafts through my nose as I run-walk past my local chicken shop. Ooooo delightful. And those darn doughnuts call my name while they bubble away in that oil and roll around in that delicious cinnamon sugar mixture.

The worst thing is that junk food is getting cheaper while the really good stuff is becoming unaffordable. I don’t even consider organic veges. I already pay $12 a kilo for foul tomatoes, imagine what a yummy one is worth. Water is relatively free but tasteless. Milk is cheaper but hurts my tum tum. Then you have to go and buy horrible soy milk or overpriced almond milk to satisfy your daily dairy intake. Geesh.

Apparently muesli bars are extremely bad for your kids, but what are we supposed to give them to take to school? I’ve tried homemade versions but the kids don’t like them. Arrrrgghh. Homemade is the best as you know what is in them and there are less chemicals but who has the time to cook all the time? If you want to buy healthy snacks for your kids they also cost the earth. The cycle is ridiculous and frustrating.

So we’re stuck with cheap, chemical ridden junk food and awesome, natural, good-for-you food that will break the bank. What to do? Well, as you know I’ve started my vege patch but spring is a ways away. I’m getting an air popping popcorn maker but not sure if the kids will like popcorn for school snacks. I’m trying to cook and involve the kids in the process and that’s fun but takes time and patience.

I just want to know why we are stuck with such awful food at such ridiculous prices and the good food is impossible for the average person to buy every week. It’s nuts. And that, my friends, is the way of the world. Sad but true.

Does anyone have recipes for healthy school snacks? Do share.

 

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

250g peeled, seeded and diced butternut pumpkin
220g (1¾ cups) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g (½ cup) caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
200ml (¾ cup) low fat milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil


Preparation method
1.
Preheat oven to 200 C. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper muffin cases.
 
2. In a medium saucepan with enough water to cover, boil pumpkin for 10 minutes, or until tender. 
Remove from heat, drain, and purée in a food processor.
 
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices.
 
4. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the milk, egg and oil. Stir in pumpkin. 
Fold the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.
 
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling cups about 3/4 full.
 
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin 
comes out clean. Remove from muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.
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Branch number 1

Disaster. Wind like the backside of a baked beans factory worker. Torrential rain. Yep our well-endowed garden has been thrashed around, poor dear.

None has fared worse than our newest addition, the traditional vege patch. First, branch number one crashed down, squashing our free chicken wire. Not to worry. None of the stakes were harmed. But it was a bloody big branch. And me in my super duper self-confidence thought that I could move it on my own. I couldn’t even lift the thing. Humbled once again by the gigantic nature of … nature. We stood in awe of this massive branch with perfect timing and positioning but this was nothing.

On and on the wind blew. Harder and harder like it was trying to prove a point. Yeah, we get it, you’re one cool, powerful force. Move on, brother. But move on it didn’t. No. With a mind of its own, those winds rose with a ‘ha-ha’ in its whistle. Determined to wreck my vege patch and break my spirit, the wind continued.

Day past and another branch caaaraacckkked on the ground. Suffer wind, you missed. It landed further down the backyard.

Branch Number 2

I raised my fists in victory but there was one more trick up wind’s sleeve. The mega-branch. This one was serious and equally as stubborn as wind. Yep the big bugger of a branch held on with all its might as wind blew it backwards and forwards. Holding on by the skin of its splinters branch defied it.

Hovering precariously over the vege patch, I knew that branch was on my side. One massive blow and the branch would crush what was left of the patch. We joined forces, me with my raised fists and branch with its splinters and we called a professional. Even he was impressed with branch’s tenacity and size. No match for you wind. We win.

Mega branch

Today, my beloved branch was cut down, gently, with love and much thanks. He save the patch and opened up a corridor of sunshine for my future veges to bask in. I will never forget that branch. That brave tree arm that gave up its right to fall for the sake of a little backyard vege patch and a hopeful lady. I hope he will enjoy the warmth of the fire or the sun (depending on whether he becomes firewood or wood chips). Wherever his is I wish him well.

The best thing was that the vege patch only had a few things planted. The poor lebanese cucumbers got a little bruised, but I shoved the plant back in with a little bit of love and hope and we’ll see if they bear any cucs. The rocket planted by seed was probably spared certain death by the fact it was underground. I just hope my green thumb makes an appearance so we actually get some decent veges out of this whole thing.

Yep, it’s been a ride and an education. Stay tuned for the next phase of Operation Vege Patch. Who knows, the bandicoots may make it through the tattered chicken wire or we might actually get some movement on the vege front! Don’t miss it.

 

The pit is dug! The trees have moved and ‘Operation Vege Patch’ is off off and away. The position has been chosen and re-chosen and we’re looking like an old fashioned type garden once more.

It all began with the moving of some very slow growing bamboo palms. I think they were happy for a change of scenery if you ask me. They happily popped out of the ground (thanks also to some recent rain) and toddled over to the opposite fence. Snuggling into the damp ground, they shook hands with each other and wished themselves well. First step completed.

But we weren’t going to rest on our laurels. Not us (opposite to green) thumbers! Out came the shovels, the digging contraptions and out with the grass. After the pit was dug ( I watched most of it as my lovely hubby worked tirelessly away) we had a moment. Surveying the spot, we decided not to go with a raised garden but to go old school and grab a chunk of chicken wire, some stakes to keep out the undesirables.

Off to the nursery. You must take yourself to ‘New Leaf Nursery’ in Elanora Heights. Not only is it owned by the landscaping world’s answer to Steve Irwin (go Yacko) but it has chickens, bunnies, roosters, and (back in the day) a peacock. The newest and kid loving funnest part is the little zoo they have put together where the munchkins can go and have happy cuddles with bunnies, guinea pigs and chickens. Too fun!

Meanwhile the adults get to potter around at all the grand plants and such while the kids are locked away with the animals! Awesome. So, Yacko stocked us up with a million bags of chicken /rabbit poo, some free stakes and chicken wire (he’s too good to us!)  and we left with a boot full of lovely stinky stuff as well as seeds and small plants – seedlings I think they’re called.

Then to home where, once again, hubby displayed his manliness and set to cutting spikes on the stakes and hammering the chick wire in place. Ta da! Sunset.

Then we had a million litres of rain fall which made me happy we hadn’t planted anything yet! I could just imagine those seeds screaming ‘Weeeeeeeeee’ as they flowed out of the vege patch and into the neighbour’s mound of clay! Ba bow!

Today the sun is shining but alas and yay I’ve had to stay inside doing some writery type work. The vege patch beckons, however. It sweetly calls my name and I answer, “In a minute, can’t you see I’m working!!”

Stay tuned for the planting, weeding and sowing stages. It’s non-stop fun and excitement here at the suburban farm!

A good spot for a vege patch?

I am not a gardener! I hate ticks, large spiders and dirty fingernails but what I hate more is bad fruit and veges which seems to be running rampant at the moment. Even at the so-called up-market stores, the produce simply sucks!

So, I have gone to extreme lengths (for me) to plan and plot a vegetable/ fruit garden in my large backyard! I have zippo money, so this one is going to be interesting. First I pottered around my house to find something that would keep the dreaded bandicoots from stealing my prized food! Done! Some builder’s planks will do nicely for the time being (though I know, eventually they will rot!).

Next on the list is planning what to plant. We have definite staples in our house so selecting the right produce was not a stretch and here they are:

  • Winter planting: carrots, garlic, rocket, strawberry plants, tomatoes, snow peas, basil, coriander, mint, perhaps ginger and lemongrass as well…
  • Later on: Cucumbers, mushrooms, capsicum, blueberries!
  • Much later on (when that cash is flowing in!) I would love miniature lemon tree, mini apple and pears and (if there’s such a thing) a mini mandarin tree!
Plus I would love to have it as a kind of community garden where my local unit dwelling friends could use it as well!
There’s the dream, now onto reality. The preparation of the soil (I’m told) is crucial to the quality and longevity of the plants. Our soil is filled with clay but we have a great compost heap, so I will work that in with some shop bought soil!
The next probo is finding the right spot for it! Not being an avid gardener this will simply be a very good guess. I sit in my garden and take mental notes of where the sun is and where goes over 12 hours or so. It is a sloped garden so drainage shouldn’t be a problem.
Animals, animals everywhere! Yep, the dreaded possums, birds, snails and aforementioned bandicoots will, no doubt, be eyeing off our very healthy organic food. So I have taken a few hints from my mother-in-law’s garden and will use some super-duper netting with plastic bags tied to them. As for the snails and bugs, I will get my kids to pick them off and crush them under their feet mmmwwhaaahaaahooo… or, yes, use some natural-like chemicals…
I love when I have a project. It keeps my mind off the fact that I should be working. But working the garden surely will reap its own rewards. I picture the kids and I meandering up the garden, picking beans, strawberries and peas, shelling them in our rocking chairs on the front verandah.
Oh, how we’ll laugh and bond and tell stories of the old days when we bought our produce at Coles New World. Yes, we’ll snigger at their efforts to sell us mouldy old lettuces and grainy tomatoes. The kids will recall how they hated their vegetables but now eat them raw off the vines. They will remember the days when they knew nothing of dirt and plants and real apples.
And as the sun sets over another organic day, we’ll feel deeply satisfied in the pits of our stomachs and as a reward it will be off to Maccas!

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