Category Archives: Eating

Homemade Spread for Your Bread

Do you fancy a little spread on your bread?  I do.  But I didn’t always.  For a long time I took the healthy option and went without.  Even on toast.  Even with vegemite.  Then my first child started eating toast…and sandwiches…and it all went out the window.  I began applying a yellow slather of butter or marge to any serving of bread or biscuit, even if it was to be spread with another kind of spread that really could hold its own because it’s so full of oil anyway.  (I’m talking peanut butter and friends).  Now I can’t go without it myself.

Here’s the dilemma though.  I love the taste of butter (I actually mean real butter…you know, the kind that was once cream) but it is quite naughty.  Not fantastic for the arteries.  And it needs a little work before it can be applied to bread in a cooperative way.

Then there’s margarine.  Now margarine has had its share of bad press because of its high content of trans fats (these are unhealthy fats disguising themselves as the good guys) from hydrogenated vegetable oils.  According to the Heart Foundation, the levels of trans fats in margarines in Australia are actually low (a result of the Heart Foundation pressuring manufacturers years ago).  It’s a different story though in many other countries, especially the United States.  But, for Australians it seems the healthy option (other than opting out) is margarine.  Here’s an excellent summary of butter versus margarine by Australian nutritionist, Catherine Saxelby.

Back to the dilemma.  I could cope with choosing margarine over butter if it was only about the taste.  I could tolerate margarine.  But I can’t tolerate it.  Unfortunately, it seems most margarine-type products in Australia (including spreadable butters and olive oil spreads) contain palm oil.  (Check out this useful guide about which products are palm oil free…or not).

So for me, it’s either abstain – which I’m sure my body would thank me for – or choose healthier and orangutan-friendly options.  Here are some ideas on what to use instead of butter and marge:

1.  Avocado – superior nutritional value and comes pre-wrapped in it’s own biodegradable packaging.  And if you haven’t tried avocado and vegemite you’ve been missing out!

2.  Nut butters – peanut, cashew, almond and hazelnut.  I’m sure there are others, too.  Just make sure you buy 100% nut spread to be sure the sly Mr P.O. hasn’t made his way in to the jar you’re consuming (or go to the link above for the guide).

3.  Tahini – a.k.a. sesame seed spread.

4.  Hummus.

5.  Extra virgin olive oil.  I’ve read about people freezing olive oil too, to turn it into a bit of a spread.

6.  Make your own olive oil and butter spread.  This is sooo simple.  And if you make it you know exactly what went into it.  Yes it contains butter.  But the butter is diluted considerably with the olive oil (to around 50% if you follow the quantities below).

Home-Made Olive Oil and Butter Spread

Combine 250g softened butter with  1 cup olive oil, and a little salt if you like,  in a food processor.  Or mix it up with a wooden spoon, whisk or hand beaters.  Just mix it up enough so that the butter and oil are blended together to a lovely, smooth consistency that looks like runny margarine.  

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That’s it.  Nothing more.  

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Pour the mixture into a clean container and pop it in the fridge.  

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It  will firm up after an hour or so.  

If you like a firmer consistency and don’t mind the higher butter:oil ratio (the more butter, the naughtier) you can reduce the amount of oil to about 1/2 cup.  Anything less and it will be starting to resemble butter and be equally hard to spread.

Use a lighter oil if you’re not keen on a strong olive oil taste but if you’re an olive oil fan then go for extra virgin as it’s healthier.  You could also experiment with different plant oils.  I haven’t.  But I reckon macadamia or grape seed oil would be worth a try.  And of course, use certified organic ingredients if you can.

I’m planning to return to my days of spreadless bread.  Some time soon.  Really.  I will.  But in the meantime I’ll stick to the healthier and pro-orangutan choices.  What do you think?  Would you give one of the spread alternatives a go?  Or do you already use them? Or go without?

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Dried Fruit

I purchased a second-hand food dehydrator on ebay a couple of years ago, after I’d had a glut of tomatoes and had tried my hand at drying them in the oven.  The tomato dehydrating in the oven was not the best idea as it was the middle of summer (which is when we tend to have gluts of tomatoes) and I was required to leave the oven slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape, plus I could only do a small number at a time, having only two racks in the oven.  The oven also uses a fair bit of power…though we were on solar at least.  I did try the drying outdoors in the sun method…but our climate was way too humid for that…so there wasn’t much drying going on.

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Since buying the food dehydrator I actually haven’t tried tomatoes in it!  Well, I haven’t had a glut of them again, for a number of reasons…but I’m looking forward to it happening again soon…maybe next season…just so I can pop them in the dehydrator. I have, however, tried some other fruits – mostly kiwifruit (scrumptious), banana (much healthier than those banana ‘chips’, which frequently contain palm oil), and orange and orange peel (a handy way to preserve orange peel for all kinds of uses – in cooking or around the home).  Kiwifruit has been a favourite amongst our household…in fact today I discovered my daughter had consumed half a jar full (that’s quite a lot of kiwifruit) while I was distracted on the phone!

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Apart from being a way of storing home-grown produce, I love the fact that we can have preserved food in the cupboard without having bought it in some kind of plastic packaging.  Even if you’re not growing your own produce, you can still  make dried fruit inexpensively and minus the plastic.  Once dehydrated, I store the fruit in a clean dry jar in the pantry or fridge.

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Of course food dehydrating is not limited to fruit.  You can also do vegetables, herbs (for cooking or tea) and spices (make your own garlic, ginger or turmeric powder if you’re growing them in the garden), flowers, meat and more!

P.S. I hope you don’t mind all the kiwifruit pic’s!  I just love how they look when they’re sliced. 🙂

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