Herman AKA Hermy the Thermy

Hermy has been waiting patiently for a proper introduction. It’s well past time I introduced him to you all.

Hermy

Hermy is my Thermomix. The Thermomix is, to put it succinctly, a kitchen crammed into a single, very well built appliance. It can chop, beat, mix, emulsify, mill, knead, blend, cook, stir, steam, weight and melt. Hermy is very important to me in being able to provide my family with nutritious meals that are quick and easy to prepare without needing to buy expensive and preservative laden jars of sauces etc.

Firstly, let me say that I hate cooking. I don’t mind baking but I don’t enjoy food preparation, the cooking and most particularly I hate cleaning up multiple saucepans, boards, utensils and bowls. So, if I’m cooking it is mostly the same meals prepared over and over. Simple meals they are too. Hermy takes most of the hard yakka out of cooking though. He cooks perfect rice in 15 minutes (I can burn rice with flair), and can steam veggies at the same time. He can boil eggs (something else I am hopeless at), cook pasta, grind flour, make casseroles, make soup, chop up a coleslaw, make easy mayonnaise, butter chicken from scratch, tikka masala paste (my husbands favourite), a divine fruit sorbet, creamy mashed potato, freshly ground flour, soups, casseroles, risottos, custards and much much more! What he can do is pretty much limited only by your imagination and ingredients. There are a few things he doesn’t do though. He doesn’t bake bread, although he makes and kneads the dough beautifully, he doesn’t cook steak, won’t freeze ice-cream although he will make it ready to go in the freezer and he doesn’t get hot enough for popcorn. He also cooks to a maximum of around 100 degrees Celsius (hence why no popcorn) so the ingredients aren’t heated too much killing the nutrients in them.

Empty bowl, quartered and peeled onion, chopped in 5 seconds, sauteed in butter for 3 minutes.

He comes complete so there is no need to buy extra attachments or gear to be able to make different things. In fact there are very few extra accessories that can be bought. It comes with an internal cooking basket which you use for cooking rice (among other things), the lid and measuring cup (not with ml or fl oz but some recipes call for MC or 1/2 MC amounts), the steamer tray known as the Varoma and the spatula which has a nifty hook on it for lifting out the basket. There is also the butterfly or whisking attachment. The only other official accessories I know of are the bread mat which I don’t yet have and the Thermoserver, an insulated stainless steel bowl that will keep cooked food hot for ages. I have 2 of these and I use one almost exclusively for making yoghurt. They are well worth the purchase.

Are you wondering yet where you can get one? They aren’t sold in shops, only through demonstrations which are easy to organise – just click here to find out how to book a demo in Australia or let me know if you’re in Western Melbourne or surrounds and I can hook you up to a consultant. For those overseas, just google Thermomix and your country. 🙂 There is no obligation to buy if you have a demo but you will have had the opportunity to see a great machine in action AND taste some of the foods it can make. Yep, a demo is kind of like having a dinner party that someone else comes and cooks for you. At my demo we started off with mixed berry sorbet, followed with garlic and herb dip, then coleslaw, mushroom risotto and fresh bread rolls and finished off with a lovely lemon custard. You can place an order for your Thermomix on the spot and there are payment options available too. The best bit is that your consultant is there for after sales support. In fact my consultant has become a very very dear friend to me.

They aren’t the cheapest appliance out there, I have to be very honest, but the price truly reflects the quality of workmanship. It is a German company – Vorwerk – so the engineering is, as always, of superior quality and many people, myself included, sell appliances that have had their jobs taken over by the Thermomix so you can recoup some of the money. And we save a lot of money on our groceries as we no longer need to buy jars of sauces or ready made meals. It has, I would say, paid for itself in food savings. And I would use Hermy at least twice a day on average, sometimes up to 6 or 7 times. I may make porridge or pikelet batter in him, clean him, make hot chocolates, clean him, make bread dough, clean him, make lunch in him, a milkshake in the afternoon, clean him, then say rice, then chicken tikka marsala for dinner, custard or sorbet for dessert and later on a hot chocolate for me before bed. There’s a potential 9 or even 10 uses in a day. If we bake cakes or biscuits I would also make the batter/dough in him. Of course this isn’t a daily menu but I would say 5 times a day on average at least. 😀

My thoughts on owning a Thermomix are, plretty clearly, rating it VERY highly. There are some things it doesn’t do and others that can maybe be done better by other instruments, but in our household, Hermy has allowed us to do away with many other appliances and there are others we will never need to get (rice cooker, coffee grinder, milk frother, stick blender, bread maker, digital scales, steamer, mix master and there are others. It’s allowed me to make a lot more room in my pantry and cupboards which is never a bad thing and I love that I know EXACTLY what ingredients are in my veggie stock (so often they are not what they seem) and that I can use the high powered blades to work with ingredients that I would have otherwise been limited with (butternut pumpkin soup with the skin and seeds still on – more nutrients and flavour). I love my Hermy the Thermy and wouldn’t be without him now. He has been a large part of the eco jurney we have taken with eating less processed foods so he deserves a lot of credit and recognition in my book.

Love you Hermy.

A heavenly smell

My house smells divine! I have been baking again. 🙂 This time it’s vegemite and cheese scrolls for lunch, mini peach cobblers for dessert and I’m making chocolate too.

Yes, chocolate!

The vegemite and cheese scrolls are a great quick whip up snack or meal which my children love helping with. Here’s the Thermy recipe. 🙂

Bread dough: I use the basic bread dough recipe from the Every Day Cookbook but I use 200g spelt grain instead of 100g wheat. If you have your own bread recipe you prefer though, most will work as long as they’re not too sweet a dough.

200g spelt grain or wheat grain, mill 1.5 minutes, sp 9.
320g flour
300g warm water
10g dried yeast
1tsp salt or to taste
20g oil (I use olive oil)

Mix altogether sp7 5 secs then knead 1.5 minutes on interval. Leave to rise.

Grate cheese. I don’t have an actual measurement but I would say at least 1-1.5 inches of cheese off a 1kg block. I’m guessing to say 150g or more. Add another 50g if you want cheese on top.

When dough has risen to nearly double it’s size, knead again then turn out onto a floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle, smear liberally with vegemite then sprinkle with cheese. Roll up into a long log and cut into pieces about 4-6cm long. Stand up so the cut edge is facing up on baking paper on a tray. Bake at 180C degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

The remaining scrolls after we’d all had lunch

The Mini Peach Cobblers were a recipe I pinned from Pinterest. I’ll share the link here. All I can say is that they are amazing! The only changes I made were using finely chopped peaches I had preserved earlier in the year and for both the brown sugar and the normal sugar I used rapadura. Oooo the caramelly goodness! I will be making these for our guests on Saturday for sure! Allegra took 1 look and decided they were yuck (as she does frequently sadly) but Jasper tucked straight in. The sweetest thing was listening to Jasper successfully convincing Allegra to “have a little try cos it’s yummy” which she did and as I watch her the last bite disappears. So much for yucky! 😛

The peaches stuck a little in the bottom but hey, they taste AMAZING!

Finally, the chocolate. Mine is still doing it’s thing in Thermy so I don’t have a photo of my handiwork but I highly recommend this recipe. It’s amazing. Best bit for me is that I can have just 1 piece and be happy. Yes, it’s rich but it’s more that it isn’t full of highly refined white sugar empty calories and neither do I find it addictive. If I buy a block of the normal chocolate I can’t ever stop until the block is finished. And I inevitably end up feeling sick and bloated and then the next day I sometimes end up with a headache. I’ve decided not to buy it again as I really don’t enjoy it when all that is factored in. Quirky Cooking “almost raw” chocolate uses ingredients that haven’t been processed to within an inch of their lives (or beyond) and although I wouldn’t exactly call it a healthy snack, it’s definitely far far less unhealthy than it’s supermarket namesake. It contains the anti-oxidants touted to be in dark chocolate as the cacao powder is raw, the cacao butter is also raw and the rapadura, although not raw, still contains its mineral salts and molasses goodness. Not to mention a real vanilla pod (no imitation vanilla) and I can add in raw nuts, dried fruits or whatever else I fancy. This time it will just be plain chocolate though. 🙂

And a photo from my baking the other day, my gem scones.

Gem Scone Iron – This one is cast iron but there are also cast aluminium out there.

Gem Scones – just out of the iron and cooling

Some things you can do to be green

It’s not easy being green, but making a start is not that hard either. There are so many things we can all do that will make a difference in the environmental impact we have on the earth. Starting out to become an eco warrior overnight is a HUGE task and I would probably say it’s nigh on impossible. Well, to sustain such a huge change in habit and lifestyle is no mean feat and it is a venture more likely doomed to failure than geared to success. However the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and here are some first steps to take if you are trying to green up your lifestyle.

Go the greener cleaner: Shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and dishwashing liquids (in fact anything that foams) quite often contain a substance called Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). To my disgust, even some so-called green products contain it. It’s not good stuff at all. It’s not so much the impact this has on the greater environment, but upon our most personal one, our bodies. There are many products out there made without these nasties. Babyscent is where I started my SLS/SLES free shampoo and soap journey. Another option is to go “poo free“. Your hair will, after some time of adjustment, no longer require the oils to be stripped from it.
Also consider replacing your disinfectant sprays and the like with vinegar and bicarb. Here is a post of my friend Linda cleaning her stove the natural way. It is extremely effective at cleaning and if you use white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar then the product is natural. Be careful as some vinegars are diluted acetic acid made using petroleum products. But even using cheap white vinegar leaves a smaller environmental impact than all the toxic nasty products in commercial cleaners. Here is some info on vinegar as researched by another friend, The Eco Mum.

Bag the bag: Plastic (polyethylene) bags leave a huge impact on the environment. Marine animals can ingest them after mistaking them for food, disintegrating bags tar into small pieces which are then distributed everywhere by the wind and landfills are full of them. They are also a waste of our dwindling crude oil supplies and unnecessary. So-called “green bags” are an alternative, although in my opinion they’re not much better than plastic bags as they are made from non-degradeable polypropylene bags and have a large carbon footprint, both in their construction and in their location of construction. Here is a Choice report on them. I have rid our house of the majority of them (passing them on to family to use) and instead we use calico bags. Although cotton is a very water hungry plant which does not endear itself to me for growing in Australia and cotton can be bleached and chemically treated, it is at least a natural resource and can be re-grown. Calico is also not as heavily processed so it will have a lesser impact. To replace other sorts of plastic bags, there are reusable sandwich bags available made from oiled cloth and we use reusable cotton bags I made from fabric scraps and an old bed-sheet for holding fruit and vegetables (replacing “freezer” bags). I can’t always use these but in most cases I can.

Water usage: Cutting down our showers to four minutes and conserving water is another great thing to do for the environment. If you can collect and use your own rainwater in tanks, even if it’s just for your gardens, you will not only cut your water bills but it helps conserve water. We are hoping to put in several tanks which we should be able to run our house off but this is not always possible for everyone. But conserving water with shorter showers, stopping the water whilst brushing teeth, rinsing vegetables in a sink of water rather than under the tap, making sure the washing machine and dishwasher are water efficient models and only running when full are all great ways to cut down on water usage.

Local food: Buying locally grown food and eating “in season” foods are also a great help t the environment. Food imported from half way around the world requires refrigeration to keep it fresh which uses energy and it also comes with travel fuel costs giving it a much larger carbon footprint than a locally harvested product. Food that is in season is also going to be at its nutritional and favour best as well and hasn’t the carbon footprint from cold storage for months. Shopping at farmers markets (have a look here for your local market in Australia)  is also a great way to support local farmers and even make a few friends. I check in all the time with our local farmers market Spud farmer and orange growers and we trade children stories and Thermomix stories too. It makes grocery shopping so much more than just a chore. And if you have the space to grow your own, even just a balcony pot for herbs then the carbon miles are nearly non-existent. And the flavour will be at a premium!

Transport yourself: Travelling to and from work or wherever our destination may be is a huge contribution of pollution into the environment. And in some cases there are alternatives to lessen our impact. Can you carpool? If 5 people are all driving in their cars to the same (or close by) locations there are 5 individual contributions of pollution into the environment but if all 5 can share 1 car then there is an 80% decrease there immediately. Not to mention the fuel savings. Imagine only spending around 20% of your normal petrol bill. If carpooling is not an option, public transport may be a solution. Sadly, our buses, trams and trains are just not recognised by our government of being as worthy, or in my opinion, worthier of funding and development as roads. A train may cost a lot more power to run but that cost is divided between a LOT more people making each individual transport footprint MUCH lower. If you work relatively close to home and you’re within riding distance, a bike will keep your transport costs to a bare minimum. Once you have your initial set up needs covered (bike, helmet, any necessary riding clothes, etc) then you’re pretty much done apart from upkeep on your bike. Bike parking is free and you will also get a great workout too. And last but certainly not least, good old shank’s pony is a wonderful means of transport for short distances. Walking is another free transport option and apart from carbon dioxide expulsion (you need to be breathing anyway so no difference there) I cannot think of any pollution it causes. It can also be, in some cases, faster than driving. For me to load 3 children and our various bits, bobs and bags into the car along with a pram, drive the 800m to childcare, unload all of the aforementioned and get into childcare, it takes me at least 10 minutes, if not 15-20. However, if I sling Orik into my Ergo harness, the bags onto the shoulders of their owners and grab 2 hands, we can walk to childcare in 15-20 minutes, or if Allegra goes in the pram and Jasper walks, we can get there in 12-15 minutes. The added bonus of walking there and back for the kids is they sleep a lot better when they’re worn out from a full on day. And I get the 3.2kms there and back twice to chalk up to exercise too.

Anyway, there’s just a few ways to start on an eco journey. If you have any other easy ways to change to a greener lifestyle, please share. I’d love to hear any other suggestions.

A glorious winters day in the garden

Today has been a very pleasant one. Seeing the glorious sunshine outside I just HAD to get out and enjoy it. Having a lot of washing to hang out meant I didn’t feel frivolous just soaking up the rays. Washing hung and more still being done. By the way, what is it with small children and washing? I swear they can get themselves dirty just by breathing. Well, today they did a lot more than just breathe, and boy were they dirty! And gloriously happy and probably a little cold too. Whilst they painted things with muddy water and paint brushes, drew with green crayon on the hot water heater, dropped pebbles all over the lawn and then picked them all up again after getting in trouble for it, jumped on the trampoline, swung on the swings, dug up worms, fed the chooks and found a crysalis, I started dismantling the trampoline and fed all my seeds and pot plants with some Seasol. Stoked to see it is 100% organic too. I also planted my sage seedlings in various pots too so my thumbs got a little more greening today as well. Yay.

Anyway, once the “work”was done I just lay on the trampoline on my tummy and did some reading online. It was bliss! And informative too. Thoughts of Peak Oil got me thinking and I got to wondering what life was like before the industrial and agricultural revolution. Before petrol and diesel. Way back in the “olden days”. Well, before modern machinery was steam power. Before steam was horse power. Before horse power was donkey, ass and oxen power and before that was shanks pony. Most people had a veggie garden and chooks and most farmers raised their own pigs too. Land often was worked until there was no nutritional value left as crop rotation wasn’t understood and soil nutrition undiscovered. Unless you planted legumes as well your soil would cease to produce the crop you normally grew. Manure, wood ash, and other substances were used with varying degrees of success to re-energise the soil but the science behind it wasn’t understood.

A farmer using a hand plow

Food transport was probably not much farther than the nearest town so food shortages could be quite localised if there had been a local disaster, and at the end of winter like around now you were most probably on some kind of food rationing. Keeping animals was expensive as far as food went too so only wealthier farmers could afford to raise them. Wool was a big money crop and most people only owned a few sets of clothes their entire lifetime as it was just too expensive to buy or make more. Labour intensive too.

Another thing to think of too is foods we consider to be such staples like pasta, rice, potatoes and such weren’t even around or available. Spuds were only brought back from the America’s in 1600 or so! Staples were a grain mush instead. And here’s a statistic that stunned me. 80% of people were in agriculture in the 1300’s compared to less than 2% in the developed world today! We have moved so far away from our food.

It all got me thinking, bringing together a whole lot of aspects and thoughts from A Crude Awakening, The Power of Community and Food Inc. We need to get ourselves back to the land and back to at least having our own veggie gardens and a fruit tree or 2 as most people had back in those “olden days”. If you have the room, keep a few chooks too for eggs. If you own your home and get on well with your neighbours you could even work out who grows what and then divide your crop evenly between you all. When we move I will be moving a lot closer to my dear friend Corrie-Lyn whom I am hoping to be able to play crop swapsies with. We already swap jars of preserves and information and we both bought our canners together. She is one of my greatest inspirations! I am hoping to find other like minded people in Ballan too and I won’t be too far from Gavin either, whom I one day very much hope to meet. He is another huge inspiration and it was his blog that got me started watching the films that have changed my life. And another friend Penny who also has veggies, fruit trees and chooks will be nearly a neighbour too. Both Penny and Corrie-Lyn are Thermomix owners too.

So, I consider that an incredibly profitable day in the garden. Vitamin D, great play time for the children, fresh air, chores done AND some education too.

A little bit more about me

I am a home body. Or in less polite terms, a hermit. I am most comfortable in my home environment and in my own company and with my children. I do go out and I do have friends I see on almost a weekly basis (a regular catch up with 3 other ladies that clears the cobwebs from the brain with conversation, brutal honesty, laughter, good food and too much coffee) but generally speaking I stay home. Having 3 children under 4 gives me a great reason to stay home too. It really is a lot of work to prepare for an outing and even more work to go on one and if my head isn’t in a great place, going out with 3 kids is a bad idea.Being a home body though has many positives (in my eyes at least). I like to bake and potter around in the kitchen. I bake bread every 2 or so days. I have a Thermomix which makes it a lot easier but even before I purchased my Thermy I was making my own bread. It tastes so much better for starters, and I like knowing exactly what goes in my bread. We use organic flour and organic spelt and I usually grind up some spelt grain into fresh flour (Thermy does anyway) as flour loses most of its goodness in a short time after being ground. The extra bonus of making your own bread? My house smells like a bakery every other day and there really are few other smells that are so wonderful.

I also bake my own cookies, cakes and snacks for the kids. I like to know that we aren’t eating too many preservatives and that there really is nothing nasty in what I’ve made. We try to restrict our kids intake of artificial colours, preservatives and flavours and keep our processed sugars to a minimum too as DS1 doesn’t react kindly to too much sugar. We actually don’t even have sugar in the house. We use organic rapadura which is sugar cane juice that hasn’t been bleached or processed or spun into crystalline structure. It’s therefore still full of the molasses which is normally removed and hence still contains all the mineral salts and other goodness. It IS still a sweetener though so we do still restrict the children’s intake but it isn’t addictive like sugar thankfully as it tastes all caramelly good too!

I also love to preserve, although things are quiet on that front at the moment as all my equipment is packed (we’re planning a tree-change move this year) So far I have bottled peaches, apple, pasta sauce, tomatoes and nectarines using the Fowlers Vacola water bath bottling technique and equipment (I have a stove top unit) and I make jams and sauces too. I’ve currently got lemon marmalade, mango chutney, tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce and possibly some strawberry jam left over too. I’ve also recently bought a canner with my dear friend Corrie-Lyn and we are planning to can and preserve everything in sight! I can’t wait. Knowing that we can grow it, pick it, prepare it, preserve it and then eat it and that it is free of pesticides, chemicals and BPA (home canning is done in glass jars) and that it doesn’t support a big multinational company or send m profits overseas (or anywhere for that matter) is really exciting. AND it is cheaper than buying even the home brand products once you have your basic equipment. There is only a little expenditure each year for seals.

Another hobby that has become so much more for me now is sewing. Apart from being relaxing, therapeutic (jamming needles into something HAS to be therapeutic right) and a lot of fun, I get the end product of clothes that actually fit me or my children, colour coordinated furnishings without the giant price tag and cheap and original gifts for friends. I’m currently knee deep in rice and brightly coloured fabric and having a ball. Allegra loves to help by “doing pins” whilst Jasper and Orik are generally occupied with Bob the Builder whilst we sew. I think Allegra is going to either become a mini 50’s housewife wannabe like her Mummy or rebel completely. I’m not sure what to wish for. As long as my kids stays an eco warrior I can deal with whichever way she chooses
Anyway, there’s a little bit about me.