Ms Betterhome


Slow cooker seitan pot roast experiment
May 30, 2012, 1:20 am
Filed under: budgeting, food, learning, vegan eating | Tags: ,

I was thumbing through Robin Robertson’s Vegan on The Cheap, and her Seitan Pot Roast caught my eye. I’ve made seitan by the ‘boiling on the stove’ method before, and I found it a bit fussy. I have also made oven baked and steamed seitan sausages, but they have a very dense texture, and are less chewy than ‘classic’ seitan. The seeming ease of a slow cooker ‘roast’ intriqued me. However…

I am a fan of seitan, but the omnivorous MrB is more ambivalent. Still, we had all the ingredients, so I thought I’d give it a try (there’s a slightly less ‘on the cheap’ variation of the recipe here).

The dish only took 10 minutes to put together. I made a few substitutions – fresh thyme from our garden instead of dried, sweet potato rather than carrots, crushed fresh garlic instead of garlic powder,  flaked chillis instead of pepper, and a tablespoon of barbeque sauce instead of ketchup. I have a smaller slow cooker, so I used a quarter cup less vital wheat gluten flour than recommended, and fewer veggies than the large cooker version.

I also cooked it for the recommended 8 hours, but could have gotten away with 6 or 7, I think – my slow cooker is pretty warm, even on ‘low’.

The veggies were a bit mushy at the end, but I solved that by tipping them into a bowl and mashing them with a little soy milk instead of presenting them whole. I also tipped the cooking juices and beautifully soft and caramelised onion slices into a pan, added a little red wine, reduced them a touch, and served them as a gravy over the seitan slices. Even with the extra steps at the end (including throwing together a salad), the whole process was very easy, and it’s definitely a dish I’ll cook again.

MrB approved (though he will probably never request seitan, he is willing to eat this dish again), and even though we ate all the veggies, there was plenty of leftover seitan for my lunch the following day, and even more for the freezer.

The verdict – this was a tasty, simple, high protein ‘meat and potatoes vegan’ winter dinner with a short prep time.  Robertson estimates the ‘on the cheap’ version is about a dollar a serve, & I think our dinner would have come in under $2 (especially as I used our home grown herbs and lettuce). I declare the experiment a success, and I’ll certainly cook it again.



Independence Days 2012 week 1
February 11, 2012, 9:27 am
Filed under: independence days, learning

I had a killer week at work, so did the bare minimum. But in keeping with this challenge, I’m  counting my wins.

Plant something: no planting this week, but I’m doing some weeding & feeding.

Harvest something: green beans, purple king beans, cherry tomatoes, figs, lettuce, thyme, rosemary, basil

Preserve something: saved the overripe figs by making a fig sauce.

Waste not: froze the rest of the bread to avoid mould in the humidity. Usual composting & recycling.

Want not: no stockpiling or prep this week

Eat the food: used up frozen green vegetables that were getting old in a soup.

Build community food system: nothing really in this category.

Skill up: nothing here either… I eased into this challenge:)



Independence Days 2012
February 3, 2012, 2:51 am
Filed under: independence days, learning

Sharon Astyk is relaunching her Independence Days challenge, in a slightly amended form.

I like this challenge, because it’s all about acknowledging what you HAVE done, not beating yourself up over the things you skipped. The categories are:

Plant something

Harvest something

Preserve something

Waste not (ie using things up, deciding to cook from the pantry and freezer rather taking a run to the shops, composting and/or feeding scraps to animals)

Want not (building up stockpiles of food and other essentials ie soap)

Eat the food (trying new recipes, rotating your stockpile)

Build community food systems

And a new one: Skill up My big one in this category this year will be learning to drive.

I have participated in this challenge a couple of times, and while I tend to manage most items about once a week (except for the daily necessities of eating and composting), I have had trouble with ‘building community food systems’. So my (self-assigned) homework for next week will be working out what these categories mean to me.



Contemplating 2012
December 29, 2011, 6:39 am
Filed under: learning

We’ve gotten through Christmas, and are in the contemplative pre New Year space.

The garden is ticking along, despite getting a bit less love in my convalescence. We went to Ikea this morning and bought a chair sofabed (ie singlebed size). We bought a new futon earlier in month, so now we have sleepover accommodation for my niece and nephew, and we’re looking forward to some sleepovers these school holidays.

The chair was the final big purchase on our home furnishing list… Our next goals are to save enough to pay some extra on the mortgage again, and then replace the rotting wooden window frames in the main living area with ‘heritage’ style aluminum. And the next job after that will be replacing the built-in wardrobes in the bedroom.

I’m on leave til the 9th, and have some outings planned, but will mainly stay home and continue to de-clutter my study and bedroom, to get nice, clean productive spaces organised for the new work year. I’ll be busy (again), and have some work-related trips planned, so I will need a good home base so I don’t get frazzled (which, by extension, frazzles the generally easy-going MrB).

He has gifted me his old smartphone (work upgraded his), and I’ve installed the Home Routines app to help me keep on top of morning & evening household chores, and to remind me to pack my swimming bag so I can do my pre-work laps twice a week.

I don’t have any resolutions as such… Just want to maintain the balance I finally managed to establish mid last year, while extending myself just that little bit more at work. And get my learner’s permit and some driving lessons, so I can make 2012 the year of driving!



Anyway project for November
October 27, 2011, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Anyway Project, gardening, home & hearth, learning

This will be my last ‘Anyway’ post for the year… I’m having surgery in early December, & my primary goal will be recovery 🙂 Again, I’ll bold anything we completed inOctober, then revise or add new goal.

Domestic Infrastructure:   I started dealing with the boxes in my study, and spring cleaning…still plugging along with both. The main goal this month was purchase a water-efficient, energy-efficient front loader – done! We also got the pantry cupboard for the backroom AND the new rainwater tank. This month the plan is to purchase the dust & mould free (ie brand new) futon for the fold-out sofa bed,  & an armchair/single folding bed combo for my study, for kid sleepovers.

Household Economy: We did a little more advance Christmas shopping in October, and transferred  $5k onto the principle of the mortgage, as planned. This month’s goal is basically stay on budget – we have rates, home & contents insurance, a vet’s bill and my surgery to pay for before Christmas. I need to come up with a couple more homemade Xmas gift ideas, I think. I’m currently setting aside $50 from each pay, so MrB & I hae a bit of holiday playmoney.

Resource Consumption:    We’re still keeping peak electricity use down to an absolute minimum. The new rainwater tank & front loader should help us cut down our water usage considerably this summer. Mr B is tracking our solar production and gas, electricity & water usuage daily, so we’ll have good records.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence  We planted out our herb hedge, which is growing well, as well as some summer veggies. The tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, rocket & ruby chard are all firing along. This month I’ll start some zucchini, capsicum , beans & eggplant.

Family and Community: We had a lovely lunch at home with members of the urban family, and I took my niece to visit my Dad in the country. This month I’m planning to babysit my niece & nephew, hang out with my goddaughter & her new baby, & generally enjoy a social time.

Outside Work: October’s  goal was complete all my paperwork, & get project number two moving again. Most of this is done. November will involve lots of organisation for the new year – most of it very enjoyable, so I’m looking forward to it.

Time and Happiness: I tried the local beauty college’s student clinic, and will go back this month. I also booked in for some long procrastinated surgery. This month’s goal is to maintain the better balance I have in my life at the moment by continuing regular exercise &  reduced booze consumption, and getting plenty of sleep.



Anyway project for October
September 30, 2011, 3:11 am
Filed under: Anyway Project, gardening, home & hearth, learning

October already! Again, I’ll bold anything we completed in September, then revise or add new goal.

Domestic Infrastructure:   I started dealing with the boxes in my study, and spring cleaning. That goal carries forward though. The washing machine has breathed (spun?) its last, so main goal this month is purchase a water-efficient, energy-efficient front loader. We’re also planning to buy a pantry cupboard for the backroom, a dust & mould free (ie brand new) futon for the fold-out sofa bed, and eventually a new rainwater tank for the backyard & an armchair/single folding bed combo for my study, for kid sleepovers.

Household Economy: We’re going to do a little more advance Christmas shopping this month – puzzles for the two one-year olds in our lives.  Last month the goal is to keep building up our next lump sum to the point that we can move another 10k over to the actual mortgage account in October. We did save the money, but due to all the planned purchases I listed above, we’ll just transfer $5k at this stage.

Resource Consumption:    We’re still keeping peak electricity use down to an absolute minimum. The new rainwater tank & front loader should help us cut down our water usage considerably this summer.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence  We bottled the Christmas Pudding Vodka, cleared out the front garden beds, and start some spring planting. This month we’ll plant out our herb hedge, put in new sweet potatoes, and keep starting seeds for summer veggies.

Family and Community: We continued the family visits & a bit of gentle socialising with friends – including a wedding, a christening and the welcome of a new baby to the extended family. This month we’re planning a lunch at home ith members of the urban family, and I’ll be visiting my Dad in the country.

Outside Work: I did my coaching homework, and successfully completed my course. I was hoping to get 2 final project reports signed off, and get a new contract signed, and I’ll be running some training for another organisation. All but one is done (one of my project partners is dragging the chain). So this months goal is complete all my paperwork, & get project number two moving again!

Time and Happiness: I did finally get to the Factory Outlet Store to get a new juicer, but was slack with the Spring Fitness challenge. I started swimming twice a week, though, which has been great for my back, and kept up the monthly massage & monthly pedi & wax, too. I’ve found a local beauty college, and will try their student clinic this month. I am also booking in for some long procrastinated surgery, that I hope will give me much easier periods, & more happiness/energy as a result.



Anyway project for September
August 30, 2011, 11:13 am
Filed under: Anyway Project, gardening, home & hearth, learning | Tags:

And it’s time to review August, & set goals for September. Again, I’ll bold anything we completed in August, then revise or add new goal.

Domestic Infrastructure:   I did a pretty good job of getting the bedroom tidied up (if not exactly organised). And the dining room & back room are gorgeous.This moth it’s time to declutter the boxes in the study, & do a good Spring clean.

Household Economy: Our offset account is back in credit, and the next goal is to get saving. And we’re doing ok there. We also started Christmas shopping & gift prep to minimise the trauma in December. This month the goal is to keep building up our next lump sum to the point that we can move another 10k over to the actual mortgage account in October. 

Resource Consumption:    We  were planning to go to a friend’s farm for firewood. Instead, MrB spotted some local fencers with a huge trailer full of old hardwood fences. We unloaded the whole trailerload into our garage, & there’s no storage space left. We’re still being careful re using minimal electricity in ‘peak’ hours ie 2pm-8pm weekdays. We’re also using the microwave or toaster oven to heat things like pies & taco shells.  We ‘re looking at getting another rainwater tank for the back garden, but aren’t convinced yet that we want to spend the extra money. So right now, the main goal is just keep up the good work.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence I now have a Permaculture Design Certificate. We also started some rosemary & lavender cuttings  & tomato seedlings in the mini-greenhouse , and I bottled the limoncello  for Xmas gifts, and did some weeding, feeding & planting in the front garden. This month I’ll bottle the Christmas Pudding Vodka, clear out the front garden beds, and start some spring planting.

Family and Community: We hosted lunch for my sis & her family, had a big weekend of socialising with MrB’s family, and sourced & planted a free baby banana tree for a friend. This month we’ll have more family visits & a bit of gentle socialising with friends – no grand plans.

Outside Work: I started my coaching through work, and started my short coaching course. This month I need to do my homework (for my coach, and my homework with my mentee). I’m hoping to get 2 final project reports signed off, and get a new contract signed, and I’ll be running some training for another organisation. It should be busy, but very rewarding.

Time and Happiness:   I continued to walk the pup a lot, make time for massages & general girlie maintenance. I’ve been getting adequate protein for breakfast, and making sure I stay off sweets as much as possible during the day. I didn’t get to the Factory Outlet Store to get a new juicer, so that’s a goal for this month. I’m also doing the Spring Fitness challenge through the Black Dog Institute – a 30 minute workout everyday for 30 days, with a mood diary entry to map the way exercise effects my mood. It should be good for my health, & my mind.