Archive | May, 2012

Hot water, under pressure!

14 May

When we moved into this house we realised that the hot water system was 19 years old. That was more than a year ago now, so the (electric, storage) unit has now clicked over 20 years of age – an amazing lifetime for a hot water system.

A couple of weeks ago we ran out of hot water. It was in the evening, so the kids had a coolish bath and it was no real problem. I’ve noticed since then that we’ve been running low pretty regularly, and now today I ran out during my morning shower. That’s getting pretty ridiculous considering we have a 400(ish) litre tank and it is supposed to heat overnight.

So I’m facing the very real possibility that the system has died completely, and I won’t have any hot water in the morning. Not the type of problem you need when you’re 9 months pregnant, and the family is due to stay with you.

So I spent part of the day today calling around for quotes and asking friends for advice. I think I’ve concluded that some sort of gas system is preferable to the ancient electric storage unit that we have currently, but what type?

An instantaneous gas system sounds appealing from a child-safety perspective, but a gas-boosted solar system is much better for the environment.

The problem is, the solar options cost an absolute fortune. For a gas system of the appropriate size I’m looking at $1,500, but for a gas-boosted solar setup the cheapest quote I heard today was $4,500, and I’m not sure it even suits our needs entirely. The gas-boosted solar system with the instantaneous gas booster (my preference because you can control water temperature by outlet for child safety) would set us back almost $7,000.

I’m sure that the solar systems would be great from an environmental perspective, but the hot water component of my electricity bill is only about $75 per quarter. The absolute maximum I could save is $300 per year – so I’m unlikely to recoup the extra upfront cost over the entire lifetime of the system.

At some points in time I might have been tempted to close my eyes and just pay the extra cost, knowing that over 10 years it would be close to break-even and I would be doing the environmentally-responsible thing. But I’m going on maternity leave this week and I don’t have a lazy $7,000 lying around.

Am I being irresponsible? Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me?

What’s eating my avocado?

8 May

Been a bit slack with the posting lately. Bit over 2 weeks to go till my due date and I’ve been busy willing my waters to break using purely the powers of my mind.

My Monday harvest fell to the wayside because I forgot a family dinner and had to rush off for the evening, which was probably a good thing considering I hadn’t picked much more than a single tomato, some celery and herbs.

Today I’m posting only with a question – what the heck is eating my avocado leaves? Whatever it is is both persistent and good at camouflage – I’ve never seen any sign of anything on there, yet it is systematically skeletonising the tree. It’s not a fast process – new leaves seem to be safe up to a point, then they succumb as well. I’m banking on at least one avocado this year, so I need to ket this blighter under control, and pronto!

Actually I lie – I once found this guy on there, but it was only once, and I haven’t seen him since despite continued munching and the pest controller spraying in the vicinity.

I’m getting desperate – any suggestions?

Bogan stuff I love – Vegetables disguised with cheese

6 May

I grow and eat a lot of vegetables, so I’m certainly not afraid of them.

I do however occasionally revel in the great bogan tendency to serve them dripping in fat- preferably some form of dairy product. You know the type – potato bake, cauliflower and cheese (they need a good boganised name, too – au gratin is way too posh). On reflection, it seems that most good examples are the white vegetables – a good bogan doesn’t like to remind himself that he is eating vegetables, after all.

But I like to take it a step further and disguise my green vegetables with excessive quantities of dairy products too. Boston Market does a mean creamed spinach that I secretly adore, and I have developed an unhealthy fascination for Jalapeno Poppers – how could jalapeno chillies not be improved by stuffing them with 3 types of cheese, crumbing and deep-frying? Tell me I’m wrong!

This brings me to a treasured family recipe – the ultimate in vegetable subterfuge. A recipe so ingrained in my psyche that I no longer recognise it for the many levels of wrong that it is. I crave this stuff regularly, and beg my mother to make it when we visit. She even makes it as part of Christmas lunch, it is that awesome in my mind.

Don’t doubt, just go with me…

Beans and Sour Cream

450g sliced Green Beans (always frozen, but I used fresh in the pictures)

1 medium Brown Onion, diced

1 300g tub Sour Cream

Salt and Pepper

200g Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

200g Corn Flake Crumbs

40g Butter

Place the beans and the onion in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until the onion is no longer crunchy and starts to go translucent. Drain thoroughly for at least several minutes.

While beans are draining, melt the butter and add the cornflake crumbs, mixing thoroughly to encorporate the butter through the crumbs.

In a bowl, mix the sour cream through the bean and onion mixture, adding a generous amount of salt and pepper. Pour into a small casserole dish or loaf pan.

Spread the shredded mozzarella cheese over the sour cream, bean and onion mixture, then top with the cornflake crumbs, smoothing the surface.

Either put in the oven at 180 degrees for long enough for the cheese to melt and the crumbing to go crispy, or microwave for approximately 3 minutes. My mum always microwaves it.

The result is a side dish with a crunchy, buttery top, an oosey, cheesy layer underneath and a creamy, beaney layer below. Bogan bliss.

This photo isn’t convincing anyone, is it?

Well there goes any shred of foodie credibility that I probably didn’t have anyway. So what are your shameful food loves? Anything you love when you really shouldn’t, just because you grew up eating it?

Did I mention I love Campbell’s Cream of [INSERT ANY VEGETABLE HERE] soup?

I swear I don’t use it in casseroles!