Monday, December 30, 2013

Crazy For Soda Water: Marketing Gone Mad

Almost invariably a visit to the supermarket turns up another ripoff for the shoppers to be gouged by.  Here's the latest one I noticed. Now this first came to my attention when I spied these tiny cans  of soda water. "Crafted soda water" no less. WOW!- What does that mean? If it was even possible... how would you "craft" soda water? So I did some comparisons with other soda waters.

Here's what I found.

Five dollars and thirty seven cents for one litre will get you this salty water with fizz in it. 

If you want individual bottles, well you can get that for just four dollars and eight cents 
for a litre of salty water with fizz in it.

Of course few people drink soda water neat without putting it in glass with something else, so the purpose of all these small bottles is rather lost on me. If you are going to fill up glasses you don't really want to be opening up a bunch of sample-size cans when you can just open a container once. 

This is the store brand but there are other brands at about the same price.  
You can buy a litre of this salty water with some fizz for sixty five cents per litre. 

Now the cheapie on the store website comes with this information just so you know what you are getting for that 65c per litre.   The other brands do not have this information for viewing.  
Guess what is in them... kinda, sorta, exactly the same thing.

Here is a media release from Coca Cola the new owners of Cascade. Yep that's right that iconic Tassie company is now another arm of the Coca Cola behemoth.  The blue is my emphasis and my notes are interspersed.

July 4, 2013, Sydney, Australia – CASCADE non-alcoholic beverage brand has now joined the Coca-Cola portfolio and has been revitalised to drive sales as the range hits shelves from early August.
The range of adult sparkling drinks, sparkling apple juice, fruit syrups and cordials have been refreshed in a sophisticated new packaging design, as well as improved formulations. We are also delighted to announce a new range of CASCADE mixers, which include tonic water, dry ginger ale, soda water, cranberry, lime and soda.

“Under the CASCADE brand we will now be able to offer a complete portfolio of drinks to suit the needs of adult consumers,” said Caroline Bonpain, CASCADE Marketing Manager.

Two paragraphs, and two uses of the word 'adult'- one as in 'adult sparkling drink' - and one in 'adult consumers'.

Perhaps that means the sparkling drink is aged? Old salty water with fizz?  Or just old people they want to sell it to by pretending it has some imaginary status that goes with it when you buy these undersized cans of salty water with fizz.

They go on to say ...

“We are proud to build on the brand heritage of CASCADE which has been refreshing Australian’s for more than 100 years. With strong investment in a major brand refresh this year, CASCADE is set to make a lasting impact,” says Bonpain.

But let's get clear on this heritage of which they claim to be so proud.

There is no brand heritage. That stayed with the people who built the reputation. No sorry, goodwill is worth nothing when you buy a brand, particularly when you change the formula and the value proposition. Brand history to me, stays with those who were there and made it happen. The business owners who did the hard work and innovated and provided the something special that set them apart.  Your expenses for rebranding is not my problem as a consumer, and if you think consumers are so gullible as to swallow that bit of 'sepiawashing' (my term for trading on old history that has no connection to the current product) then we have a real conflict of interest between your company and your customers.

“For some time, we have been looking for opportunities to expand our portfolio of beverages to appeal to a broader base of Australian adult consumers, in a category worth an estimated $1.2 billion, growing +10%* This acquisition is part of our plans for growth in this area,” says Scott Cameron, Group Marketing Manager for New Growth Platforms at Coca-Cola.

Crazy stuff

$5.37 a litre or .65c - just how much do you need that 'status' hit?  And if that isn't bad enough you can get a "deal" on buying two packs of tiny cans that would not fill a glass - for just $12. A bargain! Not.  Marketing has become more like "Mugeting". "Mug the punters", they think. "They are too silly to notice."  $1.2 Billion silly.

This is another example of the beverage industry which has the other ripoff product we are being gouged on in Australia - the bottled water that we pay $2.50+ for 600ml in Australia -- the same water in a bottle as you can buy in a supermarket in Italy for .50 Euro cents for one litre.

Personally I'd rather the cheap salty water with fizz and spend my money on some good spirits to mix with it. Eighty one cents for a bottle of soda water to top up a cordial or slop on a red wine stain seems like a pretty good deal to me.

I don't know about you, but I really don't like being swindled. Time for the punters like you and me to wake up and start paying attention to who is trying to steal from us ... and who is providing us with value for money.

Support those businesses who have the goods and put up, don't just make it up.

Nearly nine bucks for some tiny cans of salty water with fizz? You'd have to be crazy.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Transformed - Meat Recipes To Vegetarian

What happens when a family member decides to quit eating meat? The challenge goes out to create vegetarian versions of old family favourites. But they have to taste almost the same and definitely need to have the same kind of texture and qualities that made the original worthwhile. The idea floated was this - How to make an Aussie meat pie - that contains no meat. Now there is a challenge that is worth having a go at to complete.

In the past year I have discovered french style lentils.  Visiting France and skirting the area of Le Puy for which this style of lentil is famed makes me like them even more. Unlike most lentils which cook down to mush, these are small and round and hold their shape like tiny caviar balls. Indeed there is a 'caviar'salad you can make with them that is rather nice.

With half a bag of lentils, this is what I made.

So here's my stab at transforming some family recipes to vegetarian versions - and it turns out all of these dishes can stem from the same basic mixture. A meatless meat pie filling! Get this basic mixture down pat and there is no telling how far you can make it work for you with other dishes too. I've used ingredients that I had in the pantry and bought nothing special for these recipes. They contain no soy bean products or fake 'meat'.

Please note, measurements are approximate since I rarely measure anything but those shown in the recipes are a good guesstimate.

Basic lentil mixture - BLM
Basic Lentil Mixture Recipe

1 cup dried French lentils
3 tablespoons barley
2 onions diced finely
1 tablespoon brown or demerara sugar
1 stick of celery diced finely
1 carrot diced finely
1 potato
1 tablespoon American mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or tamarind)
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup or sauce
1 tablespoon barbeque sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
Water as needed
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

Wash lentils and barley, drain and set aside.  In a heavy-based saucepan cook onions gently in 1 tablespoon olive oil on low heat till transparent, then add sugar and stir till they begin to caramalise.

Add diced celery and carrot and continue to stir over low heat for several minutes.

Add the lentils and barley and stir for several minutes, then add half a cup of water cover and allow to cook gently for 10 minutes on low heat with the lid on.  Add more water if required to stop it from burning.

Remove the lid, stir gently and allow to cook for a few more minutes to allow the liquid to evaporate.

Once the water has evaporated, add the ghee or butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil, when butter has melted, add the plain flour and stir.   When the flour and fats have been incorporated, and there is some colour to the base of the pan, add 1 cup of water and stir till thickened and gravy is smooth.  Move the saucepan off the heat to a cold hotplate and leave for several minutes to allow the base to cool and incorporate any browning inside the bottom of the pot to mix with the lentils, so that when you stir it the base will be clean and not sticking.

BLM - closeup - note the thick gravy
NOTE: If you prefer, this stage can be done in a separate saucepan - make a blonde roux if this is easier for you to manage. In this case, when done, just add the roux to the lentil mixture.

Add a small amount of water to the vegetable and lentil mix that has thickened, and grate a potato into the mix, then simmer gently till lentils are slightly soft but not mushy.  Season with salt and pepper and adjust any of the seasonings to taste. The potato and seasonings seem to add something of that umami richness that is often missing from food when the meat is taken out.

This base mixture would work well as a filling for an Aussie meat pie - without the meat and can also be used as a base from which you can make Shepherds Growers pie.

Shepherds Growers Pie

Basic Lentil Mixture
Mashed potato (with hot milk and butter, salt and pepper)
Grated cheese

Just prepare the mashed potato in the quantity you need depending on the size of the pic you want to make.

Grease the pie dish, add the Basic Lentil Mixture. Top with hot mashed potato, and add the grated cheese.  Heat in a moderate oven until cheese is browned.

Optional: Panko Japanese breadcrumbs mixed with the cheese.
Growers Pie

No lambs here, just lentils!

From this base I made these recipes and you may have some family favourites that this will work for you too...

Spaghetti Lentilaise Sauce
Spaghetti Bolognaise Lentilaise 

1 large onion finally diced
2 cloves of garlic - pressed
½  a stick of celery
¼  red pepper diced finely
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can of diced Italian tomatoes
Lentil Base Mixture
3 sprig of fresh oregano
¼ cup red wine

In the olive oil, fry the onion, garlic, celery and red pepper gently till onion is translucent.  Add paprika and stir through, then add the can of tomatoes and a quarter of a can of water (swirl around to clean up any tomato left in the can) and cook for 5 minutes on gentle heat with a cover on the pan. 

Remove cover and stir again, then add 1 large cup of the lentil base mix, stir and cook gently for another 15 minutes. Check that the consistency is right – if too runny, cook with the lid off to reduce the liquid, or add a little more water as this step progresses.

Add wine and oregano and stir cooking for another 5 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
Served with spaghetti
Served with spaghetti 
Serve over your favourite freshly cooked pasta - al dente please, don't overcook the pasta. 

This can be cooked ahead and reheated when the pasta is ready. 
Note: Of course you can also use this sauce to make lasagna.

Top with grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Chilli Sin Carne (Chilli without meat)

1 large onion finally diced
2 cloves of garlic – pressed
1 whole fresh chilli chopped finely
½  a stick of celery
½  red pepper diced finely
1 teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
1 dessertspoon cumin powder
1 dessertspoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup Lentil Base Mixture
1 can kidney beans or black (turtle) beans (or same amount in home cooked dried beans)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can of diced Italian tomatoes
Splash of Tabasco

In the olive oil, fry the onion, garlic, chili, celery and red pepper gently till onion is translucent.  Add spices and stir through, then add the can of tomatoes and a quarter of a can of water (swirl around to clean up any tomato left in the can) and cook for 5 minutes on gentle heat with a cover on the pan. 

Remove cover and stir again, then add 1 large cup of the lentil base mix, and drained, rinsed beans, stir and cook gently for another 15 minutes. Check that the consistency is right – if too runny, cook with the lid off to reduce the liquid, or add a little more water as this step progresses. Taste for seasonings and add a big splash of Tabasco or pepper sauce if more 'heat' is required.

Chile Sin Carne - Chile Without Meat

Finish with a dollop of sour light cream or yoghurt

Served here with jasmine rice and side salad, but you could use this for tacos, with tortillas, enchiladas, burritos or even with eggs for Huevos rancheros

Curried Salmon Lentils

My family has a particular fondness for curries. Indian curries, Malay curries ... but we grew up with my mother's curried chicken (never to be confused with a chicken curry!) and curried salmon - always red salmon and surprisingly tasty.

What a surprise to find the essential flavour is largely retained even without the salmon.  

1 or 2 onions halved and finely sliced
2 Tablespoons butter 
Olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot water
1 Tablespoon curry powder (Clive of India is okay. I would typically use a mix of Clive of India and a small Keens curry powder.  You want a good yellow colour not a dark orange colour, so extra tumeric if necessary can be added) 
1 tablespoon plain flour
zest of one lemon 
juice of one lemon
1 cup of wam milk
chopped chives or spring onions 
1 cup of Basic Lentil Mix
Diced tomato
Curried Salmon Lentils 

  1. 1 cup of frozen peas, toss in at the end and leave uncovered till peas are warmed through, but retain their dark green appearance.
  2. tiny capers can be added 

Now bear in mind there are thousands of Indian lentil recipes - this isn't one of them. So no coconut milk or anything that might steer us from the original brief, but of course you can use that if you wish.

Add the sliced onions to a warm pan with a splash of olive oil and sweat till they are translucent and beginning to turn pale golden.  Do not leave them at this stage - keep watching and stirring lest they burn.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter and when melted, add the curry powder and cook for one minute, then add flour and mix well to incorporate into the butter, then add the hot water. This will give you a thick paste consistency, to which you can now add the milk. This should result in a smooth consistency without lumps! If the colour is not yellow enough mix a little tumeric with water and add to get the colour you prefer. You are looking for a warm golden colour for the finished dish.

Add Basic Lentil Mixture, zest of lemon, and juice of half a lemon, allow to simmer for a few minutes on low heat.  Add diced fresh tomato just before serving. (Add capers if you are using these) and finely chopped chives or spring onions. 

Serve with steamed jasmine rice and a squeeze of lemon.

Flavour verdict

I was frankly surprised at how like the original recipe these turned out to be. They were all quite different one from the other and didn't just taste like the same thing in each recipe. They compared well in flavour and importantly, in texture and I would make them again. Since I don't like minced meat I would probably prefer this version to one using real mince. 

This would be a simple thing to make a pot of this at the start of the week if you are time poor and can only think it would be quite an economical way to go too. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fab Drinks For The Festive Season

With all the celebrations over the holiday season, remember to offer lots of non-alcoholic interesting drinks along with the hard stuff.

Beer Margaritas 

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade - #nonalcoholic

Cinnamon Spiced Iced Tea #nonalcoholic

Lemon Sorbetto is made with lemon sorbet

Virgin Sangria #nonalcoholic

Champagne Limoncello Cocktails

White Peach Sangria 

Southern USA - Sweet Iced Tea #nonalcoholic

Fab Food For The Festive Season

Christmas season is hot weather in Australia.  If you're looking for some side dishes that are lighter and full of flavour you might like these to try with your more traditional meats and poultry.  Remember, many people are choosing vegetarian food or just cutting down and watching their weight. 

No matter what the food, look for interesting and unexpected ways to present your food to give it maximum eye appeal as well as taste. 

Clean Mango & Black Bean Salad
Vegan • Gluten-free

Cucumber and Napa cabbage (wongbok) coleslaw with peanuts, cilantro (coriander leaf) and lime

Almond Artichoke Summer Salad

Bloody Mary Salad - Looks like Christmas on a plate!


Summer Vegetable Slaw


Penne, baby mozzarella and fresh tomato salad


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Overview Effect And New Perceptions Of The World

Anyone who grew up reading space operas will understand that seeing the world from the point of view of being in space and looking back toward the earth changes one's perspective. That these people have lived this and have the experience and pictures is phenomenal and means that anyone can now share in this knowing. 

There is nothing to give you clarity over what's important in life then to get a global perspective on a situation. 

That's the key to a better life in so many ways. 

Now if only one could comprehend the 6 people who chose to vote this down on the site, compared to the rest of the 56,000+    I don't get that at all. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Story Of The Fisherman And Working For More

I first heard this story about a Mexican fisherman. There is even another version about a hot dog vendor and his son that he sends to college. Whatever the country of origin, the story is a good one and points to the real issue that we can easily overlook. What purpose does this activity serve? 
A friend, in their early 50s, recently mentioned they would have to - not want to, but have to - keep working till they were 70. Now this person has a very nice lifestyle, lovely home, one child who is now grown and out working and a partner who works hard in their own business.  And I wondered ... How can we remember to notice and know when we have accumulated "Enough"?
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What's The Matter With Kids Today?

Comic Book Readers, by Ruth Orkin, New York City c.1947
“Generation Y stands at the forefront of the next chapter 
in mankind’s evolution: experiencing everything while going nowhere” 
- Bob Lutz

"What's wrong with the young people today? Always staring at their iphones..."
So goes the chatter most days no matter where we are. 

Those kids are just -
Too much something
Not enough something
Too often or 
Not often enough.

"If only they could be like us."

It seems we have short memories of what it was like to be of 'the younger generation'.  It turns out that just like sex, we didn't invent problems between young people and the older generations. That Generation Gap is much older than the 1970s.

And yet I've seen it stated that this is the first time we have had four generations conceivably in the same workforce.  Perhaps things are not so dire as we like to think. 

In this article in The Economist we get some insight into how these generations are perceived in the workplace. 

"One reason for optimism is that some of the things that supposedly make Generation Y different have been exaggerated, says Rich Floersch, head of HR at McDonald’s. In fact, they are “irked by the myths of having a sense of entitlement, having poor communication skills and being job-hoppers.” If they find a company that offers challenging work, a sense of purpose and development they will stay, he adds."

That's good news. 

"Google is often portrayed as the embodiment of millennial-friendly work practices. But Laszlo Bock, a human-resources chief at the internet firm, points out that it has workers as old as 83. And he argues that the only thing different about Generation Y is that it is actually asking for the things that everybody else wants."

Maybe we are not so different after all. 

Older days...

"The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress."

~ Allegedly, by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless
beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and
respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and
impatient of restraint."

~ Hesiod, Eighth Century B.C

And this... also in dispute as to origin...

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

~ Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L.
Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment, p. 277

"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is
always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is
wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the
old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks
it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid."

~ G. K. Chesterton

Then those rebels in the 1950s

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Things You Can Do With Bread Clips

The discussion went like this "I know someone who has a whole bowl full of those plastic bread tags..." I had to confess, I have a very small ziplock bag with them in too. Just in case.  In my case the tiny bag is enough to let me know I don't need to keep any more than will fit in this tiny space. 


"The bag clip was created by a California inventor named Floyd Paxton, who whittled the first prototype from a piece of plastic while flying home from a business trip in 1952. Paxton soon founded Kwik Lok, based in Yakima, Wash., and still the dominant clip manufacturer today, with plants on four continents. The clips were originally applied by hand to bags of apples, but Kwik Lok began making automated machinery to apply the clips to bakery products in the early 1960s."

Now in the US bread clips are in a fight for dominance with twist ties! You can read about that here 

So what DO you do with these everyday items that seem to breed in the kitchen drawer?
 Here are some things that people are using them for in the pursuit of making their lives better...

For the arty types

self-referential bread clips

Beth Taylor used three quarters of the bread tags in her 16,000-strong collection
to create a series of sculptures of the solar system. 

"I had a lovely experience last year, a woman from Washington State contacted me and commissioned me to create an artwork for Jerre Paxton," she says.

"Jerre's father invented bread tags and he now runs the company."

Plastic tags are still made by his company Kwik Lok at factories around the world, including Melbourne.  Read more: about bread clips

Bread clip mosaic
Bread clip art even has a Facebook Page 

For the practical and thrifty types

To improve a charging station

Keep track of which cord is which

Always find the end of the tape!

store thread
Serious knitters may like using a bread clip as a stitch placeholder

Keep rubber bands or hair bands tidy

label keys
Keep small cords tidy

Keeping it classy here

More art - Get arty and make you own monsters! 

not just bread clips - you can save twist ties too! 

Then there is this... (Not recommended!)
Physicians create a taxonomy of bread-bag fasteners that have been lodged in people's colons

"It appears that there have been a surprising amount of cases in which these clips end up lodged where the sun doesn't shine (and medical pen lights do). These little clips do a lot of damage and can cause "small bowel perforation, obstruction, dysphagia, gastrointestinal bleeding and colonic impaction." Furthermore, they're hard to diagnose as they're translucent to X-rays and other noninvasive methods of search. Doctors only discover these little clips when they open a person up."  Read more ... here

Now if that's not enough tips for you head on over to my Pinterest board for more Household Tips

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cycads In The Garden. Slow Growing But Bountiful

Cycads are plants that were around in the time of dinosaurs. They are slow growing but once they are established, they can be propagated from "pups". These are some that I have potted up for the season. With perhaps as many left to dig up and pot I am wondering what I will do with all these beauties once they get some more size on.

A garden is a great addition to making a better life. An embarrassment of riches - and all it cost is time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Contemplating A Better Life

Banner for A better life article by @lindyasimus

A better life. What does that mean? Different things for each of us. 

"To always be intending to make a new and better life 
but never to find the time to set about it is as to 
put off eating and drinking and sleeping from one day to the next 
until you're dead."

 ~ Og Mandino

It's easy to think 'better life' must be more money more expensive cars and luxury stuff. 

More growth in the economy. Indeed it could be something quite different. 

A better life could be:

  • more time for ourselves, 
  • more healthy lifestyle, 
  • more opportunity to follow our special interests, 
  • less stress, 
  • less arguing,
  • more sustainable way of living.
  • more affection from our partner
  • less confrontation at work
  • more successful results in our business
  • making progress in our career
  • being able to travel
  • clearing the clutter out of the spare room
  • happy children with a nice place to live
  • a vegetable garden
  • redecorating your house
  • learning to be good with money
  • eliminating toxic debt
  • being more generous
  • mending fences with estranged family
  • more positive outlook on life
  • smile more
  • relax more
  • exercise enough for your body's needs
  • eat well for your body and enjoy it
  • learn more 
  • understand more
  • worry less
  • be better organised
  • be less controlling
  • be more confident
  • let go of the past
  • have more fun 
  • dream a great future
  • learning to love yourself and others in a healthy way
What are three things you would like to be better in your life?