Wednesday, 30 March 2016

9 Ways to Simply Use Chia: an easy 'superfood' to grow at home

Eat chia every day. Soak it. Grind it. Bake it. Drink it. Plant it? Eat the leaves?!  Did you know that chia is easy to grow and that the leaves are edible and nutritious too?


My breakfast today - chia porridge with banana and cinnamon.

Chia grows tall here in the Australian subtropics. It is towering over Maia in our garden right now. It is a drought hardy plant. I do not regularly water this area - it is mostly rain fed.

I’m assuming many of you are already appreciating the amazing versatility of chia - the rediscovered ‘superfood’ staple grown by the Aztecs as early as 3500 BC. 

Chia is renowned as a high value food, particularly for vegetarians - to bring energy, to give strength, for stronger bones and teeth, and to help lose weight.  It is the highest source of  plant based omega 3 and is also rich in protein, calcium, Vitamin C, iron and potassium. 

There is so much written about chia, so I’ll just quickly summarise it’s properties here.

Chia seeds have:
  • 2.5 times more protein than kidney beans (20% protein)
  • 3 times the antioxidant strength of blueberries
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • 6 times more calcium than milk
  • 7 times more vitamin C than oranges
  • 8 times more omega-3 than salmon
  • 10 times more fibre than rice (25% fibre)
  • 15 times more magnesium than broccoli
  • and are gluten free

There are many reasons we are encouraged to eat chia….
  • Eat chia for enhanced strength, energy and endurance 
  • Eat chia to satisfy your hunger and increase metabolism - good for weight loss
  • Eat for stronger bones, cartilage, and teeth
  • Eat chia for good digestion and cleansing the colon
  • Eat chia to prevent dehydration - holds 10x it’s weight in water 
  • Eat chia for heart health
  • Eat chia to settle an upset stomach
  • Eat chia to calm the nerves
  • Eat chia to strengthen your memory
  • Feed chia to chickens for healthier eggs

Here are 9 easy ways to I integrate chia into my daily diet.

1. Chia porridge

My favourite breakfast is chia porridge. It’s so easy and needs no cooking.

Chia porridge in a jar - overnight I soak 1/4 cup of chia in organic soy milk or cococnut milk with a tsp of cinnamon and a couple of stevia drops and give it a good shake. Put it in the fridge and simply open and eat in the morning.

3.  Chia Rice

I cook rice using the absorption method. Just as I take the rice off the stove, I add a few big tablespoons of chia seed into the pot and stir. Let this stand for about 5 mins and the chia swells adding a nicely nutty flavour to the rice, and a whole lot more nutrition. (you can do the same in a rice cooker)

3.  Chia Shortbread

Homemade shortbreads are a favourite in our house. Writing a recipe is challenging because it’s one of those automatic things for me now - just working from texture and taste - and creating something slightly different each time.  

Here goes: 

Ingredients

  • 125gms butter
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup ground nuts and/or seeds (almond, pepitas, sunflower, chia)
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds whole
  • 1/4 coconut sugar
  • 2 large table spoons honey 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried ginger

Method

  1. melt butter and honey 
  2. mix all dry ingredients, add in melted butter
  3. make balls and press down
  4. cook for 12-15 mins at

Ground chia shortbread biscuits and chia bliss balls - made for Maia's pop-up cafe


4. Chia Chocolate Cake


This is one of the chia chocolate cakes we make - a Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar-Free version

Ingredients 
  • 1 cup  ground nuts and/or seeds (eg: almond & chia,  chia and pepita, chia and sunflower)
  • 1 cup soaked chickpeas - soak 1/2 cup dry chickpeas overnight and then rinse
  • 3/4 cup dates - check no stones, simmer in a 1/4 cup water to soften for approx 5-10 mins. 
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 3/4 cup cacao
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
Method 
  1. Blend chickpeas to a smooth paste
  2. Add dates, honey, eggs, oil and blend further
  3. Add rest of ingredients and blend well - add extra liquid if too dry, or more nuts/coconut if too dry (the consistency depends on how much chia used and how moist the dates are)
  4. Bake for approx 30 -40 mins until skewer comes out clean 
(NB: 1 cup =  250ml)
This version of our chia chocolate cake has organic flour instead of the chickpeas.

5. Chia as egg replacement in pancakes

Sunday morning is often pancake day at our place. The kids go up and get the eggs and then help make them, slicing fruit for toppings too. Some days there are no eggs. In this case, we simple soak a handful of chia in a little water for 10 minutes then add this gel-like liquid to the pancake mix. Not only does it help to hold the mix together, it adds extra nutritional value.

6. Sprinkle chia seeds on salad

Pretty much every salad that gets served up for lunch here has a sprinkle of chia and sunflower seeds through it for extra protein.

7. Eat chia leaves in salad or use as spinach alternative

The leaves are also high in protein and nutrients, and are therefore a valuable addition to your salad or stir fry. Simply sprinkle some of your organic chia seeds in a pot and water well. After a day or two, they start to sprout - so quick. As soon as the leaves form, start plucking. Rather than harvesting the whole plant, just pluck a leaf or two from each plant.

Young sprouted chia - use leaves in salad.

8. Add leaves and seeds to smoothies

Chia leaves and seeds are a powerful addtion to a green smoothie. We love adding the seeds to banana smoothies too.

9. Table flowers

The lavender blue flower spikes can be used as a table flower. I love my edible bouquets. I quite like to have a little nibble on my table centrepiece of edible flowers and leaves, or pluck some as a garnish.

Chia flowers forming

Grow Chia

Choose an organic seed - the one you buy in a health food store is fine. Other imported chia will have been irradiated, or is old, and will not germinate.

Chia grows vigorously. It is heat and pest-resistant. I grow the chia I want to use for salad in pots on the verandah, or in little niches in the garden. The chia I want to grow for seed, I plant in the food forest areas in a clump so they can help each other stand up when they get tall and spindly.

Chia is a warm season annual and requires frost-free growing conditions. In subtropical areas sow late summer to autumn. In tropical areas sow during the dry season. Likes good drainage and needs little water once established. It is self-pollinating, self-seeding, and hardy.

Harvest Chia Seeds

The blue flower spikes are 10cm long; they develop into a seedhead with brown, shiny seeds on plants 80+ cm tall. Harvest the ripe seedheads by bagging and hanging upside down to dry. Separate the seeds from the stems and winnow in a light breeze.







Monday, 28 March 2016

7 Ways to Use All of Your Pumpkin Plant

Here are seven ways to make the most of pumpkin's vigorous vines and abundant fruits. There is so much food in our gardens that is overlooked simply because we don't know it's edible.

Pumpkin is a source of abundant food. This is the female flower of the pumpkin. 

Our family loves pumpkin season. Each year, we harvest dozens of beautiful big pumpkin fruits from our permaculture garden. But why wait for that moment when the fruit is ripe -  there is so much more to a pumpkin plant than just the fruit, and more of the fruit itself can be used.

If you have wondrously creeping pumpkin vine why not give these ideas a go:

1. Eat the pumpkin leaves

Immediately you have so so much more food growing in your garden!

Young leaves are a great dark leafy green. Use them in anything you would add silverbeet to. The prickles disappear in heat within in a minute or so.

I also steam lightly and them in use them  as a wonderful gluten free wrap. Lay out a leaf, add some rice or quinoa, vegetables, then wrap it up and then dip in satay sauce or plain tamari. Yummm!

Edible pumpkin leaves - the young ones are nice, even when they are large like this.  I leave the crusty old ones.

2. Eat the pumpkin shoots

The growing tips of pumpkin vines are excellent in a stir fry. I even toss them into soup, quiche, anything really that needs greens. Taking the tips of the vines is a great way to stop the vine taking over your garden.

Edible pumpkin shoots

3. Eat the pumpkin flowers

Pumpkin flowers are delicious - one of the many edible flowers in my garden. I like to add the pumkin flower to salads or a stir-fry. You could batter and fry them, but I prefer to keep things as simple as fresh as I can. Typically it's a good idea to harvest the male flowers since the female flower is where the pumpkin develops.

Pumpkin flowers are a delicacy - typically too delicate to find in the stores.  You really need harvest them from your own garden or community garden plot.

Female pumpkin flower - you can tell because it has the baby pumpkin at the base of the flower.

Female pumpkin flower also has this clasp inside.

Eat mostly the male pumpkin flowers - found at the end of a long stalk.

Inside the male pumpkin flower is the single stamen - quite different from the female flower above.

4. Eat the pumpkin seeds

Scoop out the seeds and heat them them on a hot plate until they are crispy  (I use my sandwich press - takes only a couple of minutes). Add a splash of tamari - mmmm!


5. Eat the pumpkin skin

I love pumpkin skin on roast pumpkin, but also toss it into my pumpkin soup (the softer skins). Actually you can just chop the whole pumpkin up for soup - seeds, skin and all.

Pumpkin skin is edible and adds a lovely nutty flavour.

6. Pumpkin vines create shade

In the hot months, I encourage the self-seeding the pumpkin vines to grow up and over our chicken enclosure to provide shade. The pumpkins die back letting the sun in during cooler months.

The pumpkin vines create great shade for the chickens.

7. Make mulch from pumpkin vines

If the tendrils start taking over and you simply cannot eat that many shoots or leaves, then chop them back and use them as mulch. Great too for a chop and drop mulch under fruit trees, or adding to a compost.

Great handfuls of pumpkin vines rot down to a great mulch in the food forest garden. Here I interplanted with cranberry spinach and sweet potato (both grown for their edible leaves).


After all the pumpkin abundance has finished, I like to leave a couple of the fully ripe (possibly overripe) pumpkins in the garden. These provide the source of next year's crop.  The pumpkin fruit is naturally designed to nourish the seeds for new growth - so just let it rot down and it provides the perfect soil environment.  Next season, if your pumpkins come up where you don't want them, transplant them early.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Wrapping cloths (Furoshiki) - a plastic bag alternative from ancient Japan.

Wrapping cloths are another great way to reduce dependence on plastic bags and contribute to a practice of low-impact living.

Furoshiki - Japanese wrapping cloth

Some simple suggestions on how to use the wrapping cloth.

Our Japanese WWOOFer left today with a departing gift of this traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. I love this idea and plan to make many more from my collection of fabrics. There are so many applications. It can be used as gift wrapping, shopping, carrying books, picnics, storing and sorting items, even clothing...

I did a bit of research about tonight about Furoshiki, the traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, and found that it has more than 1,200 years of history. It’s use dates back as early as the Nara Period (710-784) where it was used for keeping Emperors’ valuables. More recently they have been used to wrap clothing in bathhouses.

With the rise of plastic use in the post-war Japan, furoshiki went into decline. Now however, many people renewing the practice. About 10 years ago, the Japanese Minister of the Environment created the “Mottainai Furoshiki” to try to get people using this again. 


I cannot wait to keep experimenting - and finding as many uses as possible. Another great idea for simple, plastic free living.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Planting for Abundance - filling the garden with seeds for the new season

A gorgeous day in the garden with the children and our Japanese WWOOFer. We explored polycultural gardening, companion planting, seed-raising, making homemade seed-raising mix, herb propagation and more.

We planted nicola potatoes and elephant garlic, snowpeas and multi-coloured carrots, strawberries and onions,  and many added more leafy greens - beetroot, lettuces, rainbow chard, rocket and a range of chinese greens.

We are in the midst of a planting blitz - each day we add more and more diversity, fill gaps, create new niches.

Into the no-dig garden, a handful of compost was poked into each new hole - seeds added - then watered in with comfrey tea.

I can't wait to see them all grow and fill the garden with a new season of abundance.

At one with the garden ...

Creating the potato patch

Making our own seed-raising mix

Getting the nicola seed potatoes and elephant garlic ready for planting

Hugh can't wait for his multi-coloured carrots to be ready to eat! 



Thursday, 24 March 2016

Garden teas - celebrate your garden with healthy homemade herbal teas for all ages.

We love our simple garden tea parties. We pick a selection of flowers, leaves, roots, fruits and shoots straight from the garden around us and create taste sensations. Hugh in particular loves experimenting to create new blends. 

It's a fabulous way to celebrate and enjoy the garden you have created, and to share this joy with your family and friends.

Maia and Hugh love iced rosella tea - very refreshing after working in the garden.
Today we enjoyed rosella, lemon myrtle, lemon, ginger and honey iced tea after a productive morning of planting, adding companions, seed-sorting and seed-raising. 

Young Hugh's blends are so good he's going to start making Hugh's Herbal teas for Maia to serve at her monthly Owl's Den Cafe. These two are a dynamic duo!

Hugh's creation today was so enjoyed by everyone.

Hugh's Rosella, Lemon Myrtle, Lemon and Ginger Tea

Ingredients

  • 5 Rosella Calyces - remove seed pod
  • small chunk of ginger sliced
  • juice of one lemon 
  • a few leaves of lemon myrtle
  • spoonful of honey to taste

Hugh's Method

  1. Harvest rosellas, lemon, and ginger
  2. Chop the base off each rosella calyx and remove seedpods (Hugh was delighted to find a good use for his newly purchased multi-tool)
  3. Place the red parts in a plunger
  4. Juice the lemon and add to the mix
  5. Scrunch the leaves of lemon myrtle
  6. Chop or bruise the ginger
  7. Fill plunger with boiling water
  8. Let sit for 5 minutes
  9. Pour and enjoy, perhaps with a spoonful of honey
  10. Lovely too as an iced tea - simply add ice cubes
Rosella caylces and Hugh's healthy tea blend

There are possibilities of making different blends just about every day. My other favourites are:
  • mint and lemongrass, 
  • lemon myrtle and tulsi
  • turmeric tulsi and honey
  • straight chocolate mint

I have to say though I really am enjoying the current rosella season. To extend this a little, Hugh has dried some rosella calyces. We have been on the search for friends with more rosella too so we can dry even more. We think we have found someone and will exchange this for some of our turmeric surplus. Next year, I have decided I will plant even more Rosellas.



Rosella sabdariffa

A little about Rosella:

Rosella is a hardy and easy plant to grow in the subtropics. It is an annual shrub up to 1.5 metres. I love the splash of colour it brings to the garden, and the amazing flavour sensation from the leaves and calyces. They are extremely hardy, but for a good crop, they do need to be well watered.

All parts of the Rosella  are edible. Rosella (Hibiscus sabdariffa) was originally from West Africa but is now used in many countries. Here in Queensland, it is popular to grow for it's red fleshy calyces (the outer floral envelopes and seed pod protectors) which are often made into jams. I love it most as a simple tea.

Rosella is a colourful, flavourful and healthy drink to share with the children.  It has a high vitamin C content - nine times that of oranges. 

I also enjoy adding a few young leaves into a salad or cooked dish.  In the past few evening, leaves of  Rosella have been added to soup, to cheese and spinach parcels, to pasta sauce, to a curry vegetable dish.  The green leaves are like a lemony spinach . It is understandable why another name for this plant is red sorrell. The leaves are perhaps the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in Burma.

The stems too can be stripped to make a jute-like fibre - when I try to snap off a branch or calyx without using secateurs, I realise how strong this could be!




Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Planting our new season lunches - creating garden niches amongst abundant permaculture perennials



The abundance of subtropical permaculture gardens is so clearly evident at this time of year. I am now trimming back areas to create little niches amongst this diversity to plant new season's crops (our lunches and dinners). Tucked away, they are protected from winter frosts - and wallabies. 

We trim back some of the wonderful edible perennials that form the structure of the garden, and create niches for lettuce, beetroot, broccoli, beans, peas, rocket, coriander, silver beet, mustard greens and so on... The trimmings all get returned to the soil either by chop and drop, or through one of the many compost systems.

Brazilian Spinach
Some plants, like Brazilian Spinach, just seem to flourish most of the year providing a constant supply of leafy greens for everyone - including the chooks and guinea pigs.

Zone 1 in my permaculture garden - can you see red hibiscus spinach, mexican tarragon, society garlic, yacon, turmeric, sweet potato, taro, madagascar bean, chia, red salvia...
The lovely young Japanese WWOOFer staying with us at the moment has been top-dressing the garden niches amongst the perennials. We first forked and fed the soil, and replenished the food supply in the worm tower

She's also been teaching our homeschooled kids Japanese language and culture. She has a very interesting story to tell about her life. She comes from a town not far from Fukishima. She was just 15 when the tsunami hit and was of course heavily impacted by it's aftermath. The chronic food shortages that resulted inspired to study agriculture and explore sustainable food systems.  She is in second year of her degree and leads a youth club that rescues food. They cook it up and sell it in a little cafe in their town.  I love having such interesting guests and WWOOFers visit us here - we learn so much and the children are exposed to such worldly issues in a direct way.

Maia was out in the garden working with Rin from Japan and took this photo and the others of her included here. I am looking forward to these mandarins ripening.

The colour and contrast of the Red (purple) Hibiscus Spinach is such a wonderful addition to the garden, here with Red Salvia. I pluck the lemony flavoured leaves for just about every meal - in salad and in stir-fries, pasta sauces, soups....

Watering from the rain and hand-watering - my main ways of watering the garden.
I have designed my garden so that mostly the rain is enough - I divert water from paths into keyholes, I build soil organic matter, I much thickly, I plant hardy and seasonally appropriate plants. Every now and then during the hot dry times, I get out the hose and move it to where it is needed. I also like to give things a good soak when I prepare the soil for a new garden niche. I had re-forked this area and added compost and mulch. I had been prepared as a no-dig garden with paper last season. The weeks and grasses are so week, I have decided to not add more paper this time around. 

Keyhole Path
I took a picture before we added mulch so you can see how I have reformed the keyhole pathway to give me access to the garden niche. It comes off my main contour pathway which collects rain and distributes it to these little keyholes, and is wide enough for a barrow. These little pathways need only be big enough to squat and step in. Small paths mean more garden area. 


Bamboo teepee Trellis cubby

The teepee trellis cubby near the swings is screened by a yacon, pelargonium, salvia and turmeric hedge while the beans are starting to form over the structure. A great little hangout space - our garden is an edible playground.




Herbs hanging over the walls of the terraces soften the edges. I give them a good trim every now and then, give away many cuttings and spread them around the garden. Soon we will get in with our scissors and secateurs to give haircuts to the oregano, thyme, weeping rosemary, vietnamese mint, menthol mint. That's going to be a wonderful sensory overload!



Monday, 21 March 2016

Tiny towns cultivating great community - healthy places for a simple connected life

Building a great community vibe in tiny rural towns takes so many forms - such as getting to know what services, skills and dreams each other has, and organising simple fun family-friendly events that bring people together in the community spaces.

I live in Crystal Waters, which is an ecovillage community of around 250 people. But Crystal Waters is not an island - it is so enriched by the small cooperative town of Maleny, and the nearby hamlet of Conondale.

This Sunday morning, this tiny town of Conondale hosted a refreshingly non-competitive community TRY-athalon for both kids and parents.  Lots of families came to join in, play in the park and share a BBQ. ( l love that for the vegetarians like me, they'd even thought of offering bunya nut patties!)



Conondale, surrounded by forests at the top of the beautiful Mary Valley, makes the most use of its outdoor 20 m swimming pool (with a thriving squad team), and little park.  The only other things in Conondale are 2 old tennis courts (with an incredible coach), a little primary school with about 85 kids, and a friendly general store. It's a great little community. Mostly know each others names and look out for each other's kids, and create fun things to do together.

Maia and Hugh getting ready for the TRY-athalon to start.
Hugh, the barefoot runner coming in to the finish - delighted to have completed the course.

Doing a triathalon has been on my personal bucket list since I hit my mid 40s, but getting out to train with 3 young kids is not easy. I love riding my bike, but I was at high school the last time I seriously ran and unless I have flippers in the pool, I just don't seem to go anywhere.

So today, I feel great sense of personal accomplishment completing the course.  I got to achieve my goal in a wonderfully low-key and encouraging way - they kindly let me use flippers (yippee) and the run was only 1.5kms (even on 3 hours sleep and no training, that's doable!!).

The mums and dads getting ready to start the TRY-athalon - I'm on the left.

Its just so much fun doing it with friends who were all there just to give it a go.  I was also so delighted by the lack of compression gear, fancy lycra, brand name clothing and equipment that is so intimidating.



I had my trusty old steely that was my 21st birthday gift and still, for me, the most gorgeous bike to ride. Others had dusted off the cobwebs from their mountain bikes stored under the house - having not been used for years.

Hugh even got a couple of new customers for his Bike Shed initiative after the event - we came home with this bike in the trailer to fix today. He got straight onto it, checked it out with his Dad, cleaned it, learnt about a new brake system and worked out what parts needed replacing. Hugh fixes bikes for locals, he collects donated bikes and restores them, and he is creating a small fleet to hire to visitors to Crystal Waters.


Thanks so much, especially to the leaders and volunteer of the local community-run sports club for organising today's event.

Conondale is a tiny town with limited facilities, but the community brings theses spaces alive by organising things together that people love to do, or dream to do.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Earth Mother Eco Teacher - new article article about Morag Gamble

A lovely article about my permaculture lifestyle, homeschooling approach and sustainability education programs was just printed in the latest issue of Salt Magazine.

Click to read the article: Sunshine Coast Features | Earth mother eco teacher

Thanks Jayne Fynes-Clinton for your descriptive words and to Claire Plush for this beautifully happy family portrait outside our handmade house.



Friday, 18 March 2016

Youth leadership and enterprise - cultivating positive leaders for the future with social and environmental responsibility.

My 9 year old daughter ran her second pop-up cafe today - the Owls Den Cafe. It was a sell-out event with guests from around the world. I am so proud of her and she's absolutely delighted. Thanks to those who came to support her.

I'm so proud too with my 8 year son's initiative. Hugh, who loves bicycles, set up his bike display to promote his eco-social enterprise - Hugh's Bike Shed.  

Both of them initiated these enterprises after I attended a workshop with Joel Salatin and he said that both his kids had on-farm enterprises by the time they were 9 years old.  I asked them if they had anything they wanted to do.  Within 30 minutes, they had each designed their concept ideas and have been implementing and refining the ideas ever since. 

In the carport of our ecovillage home at Crystal Waters, Maia set up her Owls Den Cafe again today. This is her second monthly pop-up cafe - a homeschool project that offers a treasure trove of experiential and contextual learning - budgeting, graphic design, healthy foods, sustainability planning, project management, letter-writing, community service to name just a few.

Maia's community came support her initiative and to taste the yummy food - so did friends from around the region, and several international visitors. This time she chose her wearable art shirt.

For a little cafe in a tucked-away place, Maia attracted an amazingly international crowd. There were people from Japan, Turkey, the U.S.A., England, Thailand, The Philippines... and friends travelled down the mountain from Maleny to support her initiative too.  

Our Japanese WWOOFer (Willing Worker on Organic Farms) has been a great help to Maia setting up, and enjoyed some of the chocolate cake while Monty delighted in a babycino. Over lunch, Rin offered Maia and Hugh a Japanese lesson. Each day she is teaching them new phrases and words.  WWOOFers are so fabulous.

Hugh was again at hand. He did some mowing of the grassy area, helped to set up, made a toy tub for the little kids, and was a loyal customer (I think he bought one of everything!). But he was there for his own enterprise too...

Hugh's Bike Shed

Bike-mad Hugh  had some bikes out to remind people of his community service project - Hugh's Bike Shed.  He fixes bikes - squeaky brakes, clunky gears, flat tyres... affordably and quickly.  He also accepts donations of bikes that he can repair and either give away or hire to visitors. Today he received another bike donation and a request to hire two bikes for a week. He's so happy too! Hugh and I will write more about his bike project soon.

Maia and Hugh were absolutely delighted when one of the cafe customers brought them some sunglasses as a gift.

The Social and Environmental focus of Maia's cafe

Maia's cafe had both social and environmental purposes. Amongst the many were:
  • to create a midweek meeting space for the locals
  • to cultivate community connections and conversations between all ages
  • to create a safe and interesting play space for the village children
  • to raise awareness about and give people a taste of deliciously healthy foods.
  • to create a waste-free cafe and demonstrate this
  • to raise awareness about endangered animals
  • to fundraise to support the protection of a different endangered species each time the cafe opens.
Maia just also loves cooking and serving people (and being her own boss by the looks of it).  I was her humble employee for the day - paid in coffee, cake, hugs and a delightful note of thanks. What more could I ask?

She received such positive feedback from everyone who came to her cafe, for the food and the vibe. It certainly was a lovely space to spend the afternoon catching up with friends and neighbours and watching the children play.

Some of the first customers to Maia's Owl's Den Cafe today.

Some of the environmental initiatives of The Owl's Den Cafe:

  • table cloths - fair trade cotton and a selection of fabrics from second-hand stores
  • bamboo picnic plates - these we have had for 16 years (I am super impressed at their longevity)
  • drinks offered only in mugs and cups - no disposable cups
  • cupcakes made in reusable forms
  • solar powered coffee machine
  • rain water used for drinks
  • plastic-waste free cafe
  • (mostly) organic ingredients
  • foodscraps given to chooks (not many leftovers though!)
  • coffee grinds fed to worms
  • take-aways offered in brown paper bags (and some took them away in their hat!)
  • supports conservation of endangered species

Maia is using a proportion of the money she made today to sponsor a Snowy Owl - an endangered species threatened by habitat loss and poaching. Tonight when the sun went down, she was excited to hear an owl outside her bedroom.  She's always had a natural affinity with owls.   This is the information poster she created and sent out with the invitations, and had on display today.


Maia's Owl's Den Cafe menu:

Most of the ingredients were organic, sourced at our local food cooperative. Instead of sugar we used stevia drops, and a little honey or a dash of coconut sugar. The icing on all but one cake was also sugar free.

Drinks:

  • citrus iced water - organic orange and lime juice (from our garden)
  • organic fair trade espresso coffee (she's a fabulous barista already!)
  • lemon myrtle tea -  (from our garden)
  • organic fair trade tea

Food:

  • orange poppy seed cake
  • chocolate cake - gluten free
  • carrot muffins 
  • bliss balls - gluten free, dairy free
  • chia shortbreads
I'll ask Maia to write up the recipes and post them soon - they were amazing!

Sugar free frosting:

For some time now we have been trying to find good toppings for our sugar free cakes.  We were fed up of destroying them with sugary icing.  So we've done some experimenting and come up with some super-delicious toppings (and a few disasters I should say).  Our favourite topping was the fresh pure cream, raw cacao and stevia frosting for the chocolate cake. The cream cheese and stevia frosting on the carrot cake was amazing too.