Sunday Roast – Sausage Sangers Evans Style

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Yeah, I know, it’s Tuesday. But we’ve had a hectic few days. We travelled to Rockhampton on Saturday, shopped and packed up a storm on Sunday and yesterday travelled to Calliope which, for about 120km journey seemed to take forever. We must have driven through (or sat at for a while) at least 10 sets of roadworks. But posting a Sunday Roast on a Tuesday is probably, like, a really apt metaphor for my life or something, so here it is.

The sausage sandwich. The snag sanger. Bangers on bread. Whatever you want to call it, it’s Aussie as. The only problem is, your usual humble snag contains about a million ingredients that Cai is allergic to.

Over the years, we’ve done some kilometres in search of a Cai friendly snag. We met a butcher at Maryborough who had a grandson with food allergies, and as a result he started making Failsafe snags. A health food shop in Hervey Bay used to order some in, along with nitrate free ham and bacon, once a fortnight for us from Brisbane. The first time he ever ate a sausage sanger aged 4, Cai proudly proclaimed that he was “just like all the other kids”, which was a pretty tear inducing moment I have to say.

We found a fantastic butcher in Brisbane last year who made Cai friendly snags and I’m pretty sure we were single-handedly paying his mortgage for a while there, until we realised that red meat was triggering Cai’s eosinophilic oesophagitis. So they went off the menu again.

I had mentioned that if we found somewhere on our travels that sold preservative and additive free snags that perhaps we would be able to give them a go, and ever since then Mackenzie has been like a dog with a bone. Every place we pull into, she asks, “are we getting sausages here?” I had thought I’d found a place in Townsville, they advertised them on their website but then didn’t actually have any. (Turned out they also sold crocodile meat so Cai wasn’t keen on us shopping there anyway.)

I put a call out in a Facebook group for possible sources as we moved down the coast, and found a Yeppoon retailer that had a market stall in Rockhampton on a Sunday. It was the first stall we saw as we walked in, and BOOM! Lamb snags in the cold cabinet.

They did have buckwheat flour in them which Cai would ordinarily avoid, but as a one off we decided to take our chances. He declared it would be worth a bit of reflux for his first sausages in almost a year.

Add some gluten free flatbread (easy as, 2 cups GF self-raising flour and enough water to make a pancakey batter and fry in a pan), and some pan fried onions and mushrooms, and it was certainly a Sunday Lamb Roast we’ll remember for a while. Definitely worth turning down a date with Tom Cruise. I didn’t manage any photos because it was scoffed too fast and also, well, not really that attractive, but the kids didn’t care. Because they were (almost) just like all the other kids.

Ever gone on a ridiculous food seeking quest? Or is that just me?

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Budget Travelling – Frugal Food Update

When it comes to budget travelling, I think we might be as budget as they come. “How much does it cost?” is probably the question that we and other travelling families are asked most often. And obviously the answers vary pretty widely. But it doesn’t have to cost a bomb. We left home with $7000 and the income from renting out our home. I’m going to start exploring our budget in a bit more depth for you shortly, but for now, here’s an update on our not going to the shops every five minutes experiment. It’s going gangbusters. We’re on Day 10 today, and here’s what’s left:

3 GF Pasta
5L Rice Milk
500mL Olive Oil
1 pack wholegrain Sakata crackers
1 big and 3 small tuna
3 tins mixed beans
6 tins tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
5 tins assorted veg (corn, beetroot)
4 meat meals (2 bacon, 1 steak, 1 mince)
2 cups GF flour
Motherload rice
Assorted jams, honey, coffee, tea, popcorn kernels etc
2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, shallots, half a sweet potato.

That is a Masterchef mystery box waiting to happen, is it not? Realistically I think we could probably make it 14 days if we had more fruit and veg to pad things out, but as it is I think we’ll make it to 12 and then shop. Which is still much better than every 4 or 5 days.

I spent $340 last shop, which works out to $28.34 a day for a family of 5 and a dog. I’d estimate I’ve cut between $10 and $12 a day off our last few week’s food bills, which is enough to give us a bit of breathing room as we come into the parts of the coast where free camping isn’t as accessible. I’m pretty happy with that for a first effort, although there’s definitely a few things I’ll do differently this time.

I didn’t meal plan or make a shopping list.

I KNOW! I committed both of the cardinal sins of frugal shopping. Last time we shopped, we were going to buy either a freezer or a vacuum sealer, and I had no idea which so didn’t see the point in making a list. I also didn’t stocktake the pantry stores before we went either, so quite frankly I’ll be surprised if I’m kicked out of the talking about food on the internet club. This time, I have redeemed myself by making a fortnightly meal plan which is as scintillating as it sounds, but all jokes aside it is a sensible thing to do. Otherwise you find yourself in the position of trying to work out whether you can put tinned beetroot in a curry (I’m thinking no, right?)

The vacuum sealing worked well, but it does take practise.

My bag cutting minion cut the bags way too big, which is neither frugal or environmentally kind. You do need a bit of a gap between the food and the top of the bag, but we ended up with a bit of plastic waste which made me feel guilty. Also, I did have an air bubble or two which isn’t ideal, and although the food didn’t spoil we ate the same thing a couple of nights in a row to get rid of it before it did.

I didn’t buy enough fruit and veg.

I wasn’t sure how it would all fit in the 60L fridge, so opted for a few emergency cans as backup. Turns out I had plenty of room for fresh. I also struggled to find a good fruit and veg shop in our last location, which didn’t help, but we’re hoping to hit a market this weekend. I’ll buy a heap more this time, and vacuum seal some of that too.

I bought coconut milk instead of coconut cream.

Like a der-fred. Coconut milk is basically just watered down coconut cream, no? So half as many tins and use half coconut cream and half water. (This is why you make lists, people, and don’t just blindly grab stuff of the shelves while you cry.) (May or may not have happened.)

GOAL: 14 days under $400 – is someone playing the Rocky music or is that just me?

What do you spend on groceries? Any top budgeting tips you’d like to share?

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Sunday Roast – Breakfast Dilemmas

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When you don’t have the options of eggs or toast, quick brekkies are hard to come by. If we’re hanging around camp all day, then a leisurely bacon, pancakes, soup or mince and veggies isn’t too much trouble, but on the days we are packing up and moving, Matt has my butt out of bed at sparrow’s, barking orders like he’s Michelle Bridges and I’m a very poor contestant on The Biggest Loser.

Something had to give for moving days. We’ve tried “everything free” cereal, which everyone but me likes (and Mackenzie will only eat dry). We’ve tried porridge which everyone except Mackenzie likes, but gives Harper a sore tummy. I was pretty much ready to just succumb to the idea of wine for breakfast (not for anyone else, just for me) when our friends pointed us in the direction of a delicious smoothie.

So on our OMG real shops excursion earlier this week in Airlie Beach, we picked ourselves up a smoothie maker/blender type hoosiebobbie. Not the George Foreman one, but similar with the bottles that click on and whizz it all up and Bob’s your aunties live in lover. It has a nifty 300W motor which is probably at the upper end of the scale of what we’d like to run through our inverter but in the mornings when we’d use it we’re pretty right for battery power, and if we’re in a park with a camp kitchen we can always use that instead. Of course, Mackenzie (who was drinking Vicky’s green smoothies with freaking KALE in them in Cape York) has declared she doesn’t like smoothies, but as you may be coming to realise Mackenzie doesn’t like much that’s not mashed potato or pancakes. She has, however, eaten three pieces of orange vegetable that wasn’t carrot this week, so I am calling that a win.

Cai’s Favourite Smoothie Recipe
1 Banana (or half if it’s a biggie)
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tsp raw honey or 1 Medjool date
1 cup of your preferred milk (we use rice or coconut)
1 tbsp oats
Ice if you’ve got it and your blender can handle it!
Whizz it up and drink!

What’s your favourite smoothie? Got any tips for a quick brekkie on the run?

Fridges and Freezers and Eskies – Oh My!

We’ve come to the conclusion that our current food storage solutions just aren’t cutting it. Admittedly, when we left home 3 months ago, our food requirements looked a little bit different from what they do now. And admittedly, living in a camper trailer is maybe not the best time to make massive dietary changes, but it’s just the way it’s turned out.

So where our 60L fridge was coping just fine when we were eating a heap more legumes, now that Harper’s tummy and my immune system seem to be saying no to beans, it’s bursting at the seams a bit.

We’ve been finding that we’re only able to carry about 5 days worth of fresh food which is not hugely practical for some of the more remote places we’d like to go, and it’s also expensive as our top up shops turn in to full shops and blow our budget right out of whack.

What we really need is a freezer, but that’s not really an impulse buy when you’re trying to live more frugally! So, while we’ve decided to put a savings plan in to place so that we can get a freezer in before next dry season when we plan to head to Arnhem Land, it doesn’t help us much for right now.

So, for now, we’ve gone with a vacuum sealer. I toyed with the idea of one before we left; I even borrowed one to see what I thought – and never got around to using it. We gave it a burl in the camp kitchen yesterday (although with only a 120W draw we would be ok to use it with our inverter and not drain our battery too much) and I was pretty impressed. It’s definitely created a lot more room in the fridge, and although getting it done was a little time consuming it’s certainly no more so than having to trek through a supermarket.

We’re hoping to get a fortnight out of this shop; if we do we’ll have cut our expenditure by $17 a day which is pretty huge when you think about it.

After all, a dollar saved is another day sitting on a beach somewhere.

PS – We’re nominated in the 2014 Bupa Best Blog Awards – check out our fancy badge!

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Morning Tea with Bill and Betty

As of today, we’re looking after Funny Dunny for a couple of weeks. The Tait’s are moving on and have handed over the huge box of dunny roll and the rego book to us. The official caretaker, Bill, comes down once a week to empty the donation box and check on things, but they like having someone around to keep an eye on things. And for now, that’s us.

Bill’s wife Betty invited us up for morning tea this morning. Things like that are always a bit tough for us with our dietary restrictions, but Betty has grandkids with a heap of food allergies too, so she didn’t bat an eyelid when I walked in with my plate of coconut pikelets and assortment of toppings.

We were a little late getting there because the kids were filthy, and when we were introduced to the mayor I was glad we’d spent the extra five minutes getting rid of a layer of dirt! Bill and Betty’s place is beautiful, with views over the beach and lush gardens. Their entertaining area is sort of half indoors, half outdoors, and I can certainly think of worse places to spend a morning.

Bill has a couple of fantastic BBQ ovens that he has built himself out of old kegs and other bits and pieces. He was a cane farmer for many years and a fitter and turner by trade. And now, he collects bits and pieces and turns them into giant BBQ works of art. He’s even on occasion brought them down to the campground for a big cook up.

Bill and Betty have two little dogs, and Bill brings them down to the campground with him. One is a tiny little black and white thing called Possum, and it seems that Possum is Harper’s spirit animal. Harps was beside herself when she saw Possum out the window today and chased her around all morning. Pretty sure Possum heaved a sigh of relief when Harper went home.

It’s funny to look at the other side of free camps – the administrative side. Bill showed us a tool that he’d found inside the donation box where someone had tried to rip it off. They reckon that since they started keeping a record of rego numbers (which they did after a theft) that people seem more likely to put their $5 in the box. We talked about what sort of improvements could be made to the park, and we might even help out with a bit of maintenance if they can get it approved. We also talked about the fact that council are only likely to hear from the unhappy campers, so we’re making sure we fire off a few positive emails to try to help keep these free camps open.

So we’re here for a little longer, minding the visitor’s book made from handmade paper, cleaning the dunny and maybe even hosting the occasional happy hour. If you’re passing through, stop in for a night or two and say hello.

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Sunday Roast – Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon

It’s been a bit quiet around here this week. I’ve been battling with an unwell baby who seems to be having a reaction to just about everything she eats at the moment with lots of sore tummies and sleepless nights as a result. It’s a road we’re familiar with given Cai’s medical history, but even though we know where to go and what to do this time around, as a parent you can still feel pretty helpless.

So we didn’t do much this week. I did a lot of reading and thinking and planning, but that doesn’t always make for earth shattering reading! I did, however, finally get around to making Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon.

Richard and Bernice have been great friends to us the past couple of weeks. Always good for a fishing tip or a beer around the campfire, they’ve raised and camped with their own kids and understand that sometimes the baby screams or the kids are ratty and there’s nothing you can do about it. Bernice pointed out all the melons growing wild near the campground. One of the other campers had given us a jar of jam made out of these melons last time we were here, and Bernice was experimenting with her own recipes. She was also stewing them, which Cai gave a big thumbs up so I thought I’d give it a go.

I still don’t know what sort of melons they are, but all the locals eat them and no one’s been poisoned yet. I made some tweaks to the recipe Bernice gave me, but seeing as how I don’t know what the melons are called, I’m giving the recipe her name.

And seeing as how you’ll probably struggle to find these nameless melons, swap it out for the stewing fruit of your preference (apples etc)
Also, there’s no really strict measurements as it will depend on how much fruit you’re using and your own tastes re the spices.

You’ll need
Your fruit – skins and seeds removed, cut into small cubes
Sugar – I used rapadura
Whole cloves 6 or 7
Raisins – organic sulphur free – 2 tablespoons
Cinnamon stick
Star anise
Rind and Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange – I only had oranges so used the juice and half the pulp of 1
Fresh ginger finely chopped

Then you
Sprinkle your fruit with sugar, cover and leave overnight. Mrs Tait also soaks her raisins in brandy or port, but I left that bit out and they still softened up beautifully.

The next day, cook the fruit in own juices, adding your lemon and orange rind and juice and your spices.

Cooking method and time
Because we have small and expensive gas bottles for cooking, I try to use as little gas as possible. I did try bringing this to the boil and then finishing it off in the thermal cooker, but it does seem to need the more direct heat. Mrs Tait did one batch in her pressure cooker that came out quite well. In the end, I put my saucepan (no lid) inside the camp oven and hung that from the tripod over our fire which stewed it right down beautifully. It’s not the world’s fastest process, but luckily I don’t have anywhere else to be.

Cai was eating this just straight out of the jar, but you could add to breakfasts, yoghurt, custard, rice pudding etc depending on your diet.

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I didn’t add the final photo – it’s not all that glamorous really, but when it’s all brown and soft it’s all good!

Camp Cooking – More than Beans

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Thinking about food, preparing food and eating food take up a large percentage of my day. I know, life’s tough. But we’re faced with a few more food issues than your average travelling family, so it’s pretty important that we’re prepared like there’s an apocalypse imminent.

Cai has a couple of chronic health issues that necessitate modifications to a “normal” diet. First of all, he has anaphylaxis to cashews and shellfish. In order to best protect him from a serious episode, we also avoid items that “May contain traces of” these foods.

He also has a disease called Eosinophilic Oesophagitis which is almost harder to explain than it is to say. Basically, he has an infiltration of a type of white blood cell, called an eosinophil, in his oesophagus, and they’re not supposed to be there. When he eats (or in the case of eggs, smells) his trigger foods, he suffers from severe reflux and vomits up to 20 times a day, which can be very damaging to his oesophagus. Cai’s EoE is triggered by wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts and soy.

He has also had severe reactions/asthma induced by the sulphite family of preservatives and MSG and other flavour enhancers. We generally avoid all preservatives, flavour enhancers and artificial colours to be on the safe side.

Cliffs Notes Version – that’s no
Nuts
Shellfish
Wheat
Eggs
Dairy products
Soy products
Preservatives
Additives
Flavour Enhancers

And on the whole, we all eat the same way. The girls have a few variations and I’m in the middle of an experiment with food and my own autoimmune issues but for the most part we all eat the same way. We figure our fridge is the only fridge in Australia that he can safely help himself in, and “giving up” whatever foods pales in comparison to having a sick little boy all the time.

The question we get asked most frequently is “well, what DO you eat?” And look, in all honesty we do have a core list of meals that are on pretty high rotation, but I think that was the case before the restrictions anyway, and I think it’s the case for most families. In some of the places we travel to, we can’t find rice pasta, or a wide range of wheat free products. And while I’d love to eat a wholly organic diet, it’s just not affordable or even available in remote parts of Australia.

We don’t have fancy equipment to help with our meal preparation. 2 of my saucepans came out of an $80 box we bought 7.5 years ago when we first moved to Queensland and none of them have handles. I was going to bring a stick blender, but Matt just wanted to bring the blendy bit and attach it to a drill to use it so I decided I’d rather do without. We’re rocking it old school, just with an allergy friendly twist.

As part of our adventure, we’re hoping to raise awareness for kids like Cai who suffer from Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs) and the charity who supports us, ausEE. One of the ways we can do this is by sharing some of our tried and true favourite recipes, which (I hope) will show you that there’s more to allergy friendly eating than pears and rice. And there’s a lot more to camp cooking than baked beans.

If you’d like to know more about EGIDs please visit ausEE Inc

What’s your favourite camping meal? Are you travelling with special needs? Let me know!