Monday, 28 November 2011

Pear and White Chocolate Muffins - A Monday : Baking Day Feature

Welcome to my Monday: Baking Day Feature. Every Monday is baking day in my kitchen following a phrase over here in NZ from the old Farmbake Cookies adverts. So I thought it would be a great way to share some of my yummy baking recipes, some being my old faithful recipes and some new, but I hope they are recipes that may inspire you to create Monday: Baking Day in your kitchen :). I love to swap recipes so if you have something scrummy to share then please feel free to create the recipe post on your blog and link it back to here for us all to share. Just remember though if you have a recipe to share from another blog, that's great, but please do the right thing and provide a link back to the original recipe, this is also a great way to share our blogs :). HAPPY BAKING ..... and enjoy!

Pear and White Chocolate Muffins

1 cup Wholemeal Flour
1 cup Plain White Flour  ( or instead of these 2 flours combined, use 2 cups of Plain White Flour)
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1/2 cup White Sugar
2 Eggs
1 cup Milk
2/3rd cup Olive Oil
2 Pears - peeled, cored and chopped finely
A good handful of White Chocolate Buttons or pieces
Raw Sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 180degC and grease muffin tins. This recipe makes roughly 16 muffins.

Sift and combine flours, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
In a seperate bowl whisk the eggs and add the milk and oil.
Fold this through the flour mix until just combined.
Add the chopped Pears and White Chocolate Pieces/Buttons and mix through gently.
Spoon into muffin tins, sprinkle with a little Raw Sugar and bake for around 15minutes or until they are golden and a skewer comes out clean.

NOTES - This recipe works as a base recipe with the Pears substituted with different fruits and/or berries.  I have made it with Apples, Berries, Peaches and Pineapple pieces.  

AWOL and an Introduction to Monday: Baking Day

Hi Everyone! Wow as you no doubt have found I have been absent of late from posting. School, kindy and all the runnings of the house and garden has meant no time for anything else. We decided things were getting to crazy around here, so this past weekend MrW and I packed up the boys and camping gear and braved the slightly yucky weather and took ourselves away from it all for three nights, oh what bliss! I will post some photos soon of our time away :). We found quite a secluded campground called Taapapakanga an hour from home, and one we will definitely keep on our list as a regular place to visit. 
 But it's back to reality for the last few weeks of term and I must say I am really looking forward to slowing right down for 6 weeks or so of summer holidays. 
 As for my blog I am still creating a long list of posts I would like to share, which I hope to slowly work on. For now though I thought I would start my own little themed feature series. It's reminiscent of an old saying over here called Monday: Baking Day (a Farmbake cookies advert from when I was growing up), every Monday in my kitchen there is always baking in the oven (in fact there is some in there right now :) ). 
Every Monday I will feature a Monday: Baking Day post with a recipe of something scrummy my being baked in my kitchen. I hope you like them, and feel free join in and link back to these posts with a baking recipe of your own from your blog. 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My first Knitted Hat

I have been hibernating a bit recently after coming down with another cold :( I had on my mind to make a hat for myself but just hadn't gotten around to starting it. So this weekend  I thought why not? I had a few balls of this purple wool that I have had for about 6 or so years (goodness me lol) and so I set to it. I started it Friday night and just finished it this afternoon. I thought it would look pretty with a flower on it so I went hunting found another knitting pattern and some beads in my stash and got creative :) to make another one now, so I have a few to take away camping with me when we go soon.  
I had lots of fun, this is the first thing apart from my scarves that I have knitted and certainly my first experience with circular and double pointed needles (hmm in fact I don't have double pointed needles so I just used the circulars but took the pipe part off...bit of kiwi ingenuity going on there :) ), so along with my sewing I think I can master this knitting thing :)

This pattern in one I found on Ravelry here

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Getting There

Next week signals a big milestone being reached for us.  Next week we pay the last payment on one of our debts we have been paying off!! Don't get me wrong we still have a lot to go on the others, in fact we have a little list of other debts we are working towards ticking off. We are no where near to being debt free yet, but the last payment next week on this one is a BIG achievement for us.  The best thing about paying this one off, is unlike in the past, we haven't accumulated more debt to follow it, we are just dealing with what we had already :) 

We have been diligently working towards paying this off, (and the others) and living as frugally as we can manage. We've made absolutely certain our budget and spending stays well within our means, and we have been using our pocket money/allowances to get all the little things we have wanted for over the past few months. We also wouldn't be where we are now without our grocery surplus which we can save from making everything we possibly can and growing the few veges we have coming along. Things haven't been easy at all, but we have gotten ourselves there.  What an empowering feeling that is!

I read through this and think, it sounds like we have never paid things off before, well this isn't true.  Many a time we have paid off a big credit card bill or hire purchase, to be honest most of the things in our house we only have because we financed it, but in the past either just before we finish paying said debt off or after it's paid we have always been excited at having completed this task, and gone and gotten some other thing we have wanted (and most of them have been wants not needs) .... but we have gotten it on finance - arghh! Oh well this has been a lesson in our lives that we have learnt very well now, and I am grateful for this experience, albeit a very expensive life lesson.  We wouldn't be entirely where we are today living our simple, frugal, make whatever we can ourselves lifestyle if it wasn't for the past 10years of being on the debt running wheel.

We now have a couple of toes off that running wheel and it feels fabulous! We have a hunger for it now, I can see the end in sight.  I constantly run through my head different ways we can save more to put more towards what we have left that we owe, and different strategies we can use to do it.  Much to MrW's amusement at yet another idea coming from me :) Our aim is this time next year we will be debt free....I am so excited!

So if you are in the same situation we are, and paying off debt, or you are saving really hard for something, or you want to be able to live off one income to be at home with your children or by choice, keep going.  The key is to work out what MOTIVATES you, and think about that motivator every day.  My motivator is to be debt free, so we can then save save save.  We want to take the family on our first overseas trip, and then it's knuckling down to build a deposit for our own place.  I am constantly dreaming up what sort of place we will own one day, and this personally keeps me motivated, I love imagining the chook yard, the few sheep in the paddock, the dog wandering around always after snuggles and the huge gardens for us to enjoy and to nourish our family. This picture makes me hold tight to what we have now and makes me work harder at what I do in our home. Everyone is different we all know that, so everyone will have a different motivator, but the key is to find it and hold onto it tight. When you are having a hard moment, lets face it we all have those, and feel yourself falling backwards, grab hold of that motivator, dig your heels in and say NO to going backwards.  There is always another way.

It will take hard work, but it is worth the work! I hold onto a phrase from Rhonda at Down to Earth that a dollar saved is better than a dollar earnt.  It is very rewarding to me that from all the hard, consistent work we put into our house with frugal cleaning, baking, cooking, mending, creating and of course now the vege gardens, I can then go around the supermarket and shop frugally.  MrW goes to work everyday and works very very hard to bring in a wage for our family and my job is to then use the money from this wage and make it work for us.  It is a priority for me to spend well below the budgeted amount particularly in the food bill.  It is important to me that I shop in a way that gives us a grocery surplus at the end of the shop.  This money is money we wouldn't have if I wasn't putting in everything I can to SAVE it.  If you like, it feels like the wage I contribute back to the family budget.  That grocery surplus that I work hard towards having, has saved us on many occasions with unexpected expenses for school/kindy.  It's paid extra amounts towards our debt when we have needed it, and it helped us with our camping trip, and to get things to help out and grow in the garden.  All of these things we wouldn't have been able to do had I not been able to save it from the grocery bill...............A dollar saved is much more rewarding than a dollar earnt to me!

I guess with all this rambling that I have done in this post I am just trying to get across my point of, in the end all the hard work pays off.  Set a goal, budget appropriately , make a clear plan and you will one day you will GET THERE :)

Our first salad made of entirely of food from our garden

Monday, 14 November 2011

Easy Cleaning Solutions

As I cleaned my bathroom and dishwasher today I thought I must do a post on what I use to do this. It's very frugal and cost effective, it's so easy, does not use harmful chemicals, and is completely safe for the environment and little ones, above all it's just SIMPLE.  I like SIMPLE :)

All I use to do all of my cleaning are these...........

I use my Homemade Laundry Liquid with my scrubbing sponge (I buy these yellow scrubbing sponges once every year or two, they get soaked every now and then in vinegar and water and they only cost about $3.00NZ to buy) for all surfaces needing a clean, like the shower walls, sinks, the bath and I use it on the surrounds of the dishwasher.  
The toothbrush is there for the little places I can't get to with my scrubbing sponge.  
The green Microfibre cloth I use with just plain water to clean mirrors and windows.  
The white vinegar is there to wipe over surfaces if I want to disinfect them or if there is any mold that needs to be treated (you apply neat white vinegar to the mold spots).
The baking soda is there if something needs a little 'jif' action.  Once a month or so I give the shower walls, bath and sink a good scrub with a paste made of baking soda and water, and the rest of the time I only use the laundry liquid cleaner as this is all it really needs to keep on top of it.  
Really quick, easy and CHEAP! I love that I no longer have to shop in the chemical filled cleaning isle - well apart from getting Lux Flakes and Washing Soda once every month or two.
All of these 'cleaners' are grey water safe and septic tank safe, so there is no harm to the environment/water ways sending these down the drain. There is no worry about a product being toxic for little ones and I also get contact dermatitis on my hands and since going back to these natural and green cleaners I don't get irritated hands anymore - bliss!

To clean the toilet all I use is some of the Laundry liquid squirted around the bowl and scrubbed with the brush and I use my homemade 'Spray N Wipe' on the toilet seat.  The Lavender or Tea Tree Essential Oils that I use in the solution are anti-bacterial.

The dishwasher....

First of all, forget all those expensive Dishwasher cleaners, when the dishwasher is empty, fill the powder compartment full with Baking Soda and run through on a long cycle.

You can see a little of the grime built up around the seals and edges, using the Laundry Liquid I use my toothbrush and scrubber and scrub all the grime away. Then rinse it away using a wet cloth.  Empty and wash out the filter and Bob's your Uncle you have a clean dishwasher that used a little elbow grease but cost next to nothing.

I'm passionate about this subject, I can't help it :)   
There is no need for the vast range of commercial cleaning products, sure some have their uses, but on the whole they are expensive and are not kind to the environment and in some cases not even kind to humans or animals! All it takes is a few minutes every now to make up bulk batches of homemade laundry liquid and Spray and Wipe.

In a frugal home or a home looking to be frugal this is a big way you can cut costs, I mean everyone has baking soda and vinegar in the pantry right??

Saturday, 12 November 2011

My Apron

I am proud to say I have finally finished my own apron today complete with a ruffle fringe on the bottom :) I have made a few things now, including some aprons for gifts, but before this, nothing was for myself.  I have just been making up my aprons from one of my own and I totally forgot to look on the net for instructions on how to make the ruffle but eventually I got there under my own creating steam and I think it passes the test :)

I found the grey/black material for $1 at the thrift shop and then went and chose the fat quarter of this patterned material and the straps, so I produced this for a grand total of $9.00 :)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Frugal Homemade Laundry Liquid (and Multipurpose Cleaner)

Recently I feel like every week I am making up more batches of washing powder, there seems to be ALOT of washing going on in our house - alot more than normal that is.  I have come across numerous recipes for homemade Laundry Liquid but I haven't wanted to try them up until now that is.  
The reason for this is I remember my Mum using Budget Laundry Liquid from the supermarket, it smelt funny and left a residue on my clothes that even at a young age I didn't like the feel of, so it kind of put me off wanting to try any because of this...silly I know lol.
But given that I am wanting to try and stretch the dollar as far as I can I thought I had better get over myself and my Laundry Liquid fears and try some out.  I'm not really into using Borax personally so I hunted out this recipe from Hazeltree Farm, and it works brilliantly!  No residue at all and the clothes come out smelling fresh and looking clean, so I'm now converted as this makes up just over 5 litres so will go a lot further than the washing powder does.  
The other bonus is I have used it for cleaning down the bath, basin, shower and laundry tub and they came up shining and beautifully clean so it works as a general cleaner as well.  I have a bottle on my laundry window ledge that I have always kept with watered down dishwashing liquid in for cleaning things in the laundry tub, but instead of using dishwashing liquid now I just use a good couple of globs of this Laundry Liquid watered down, you just have to give it a shake before you use it......very handy for cleaning the boys paint brushes!

This recipe is Septic Tank and Grey Water safe :)

Laundry Liquid 

1/2 cup Lux Flakes or Grated Soap (preferably homemade soap or a natural based soap, but a bar of Sunlight soap will pass the test as well)
1/4 cup Washing Soda Crystals
30 drops of Essential Oil - Optional  (I use Lavender but any would work, especially Tea Tree or Eucalyptus)
Hot tap Water 
8 Litre bucket
5 litre Bottle or old bottles (I use an old dishwasher powder bottle as my dispensing bottle and used old Soda bottles to store the rest in)
Funnel, an old pot and a whisk

In your old pot put the Lux Flakes/ Grated Soap and 3/4 fill the pot with hot tap water.  Over a medium heat stir the mix until the Soap has completely dissolved.
Add the Washing Soda and again stir until completely dissolved.  It may thicken slightly at this point, although mine didn't but it did once it was cold.
Remove from the heat and in the laundry tub tip the soap/washing soda mix into the bucket, add enough hot tap water to the bucket until it is just over half full, stirring well.
Let cool in the bucket stirring occasionally.  Once it's cooler, add your Essential Oil if you choose to use any (I found I also add a little more Essential Oil into the wash as well as it doesn't come out overly scented, but the Laundry Liquid is pleasant enough on its own if your not into scented laundry).
Using your funnel pour the mixture into your bottles and leaving the lid off, let it cool completely.  When cool pop on the lid.

Shake really well before each use as it thickens up when sitting.  Use 1/4 cup of Laundry Liquid per full load (I have one of the little scoops from the commercial powder that I saved which is the perfect size).

Make sure the soap and washing soda is completely dissolved
All good to go

NOTES - I use White Vinegar in the fabric dispenser when I am washing towels or linen, this isn't necessary at all but I used to be a fabric softener user and some habits are hard to break :), but this softens the towels down beautifully. 
Depending on which soap you use, if you feel like there is a residue left on the clothes, use some White Vinegar in the Fabric Dispenser as this will cut through any residue.
If you spill something on your clothes, just rub some of the laundry liquid straight into the stain before washing, or soak in a bucket with some liquid mixed into the water.
If the boys have had an accident in their clothes I just sprinkle a bit of baking soda in with the wash if the clothes are going straight in the wash and they come out smelling fresh.  Or if I need to soak the wet clothes I do it with the laundry liquid soaker with baking soda added to the water. 

Easy Lunch Quiche (or anytime meal)

Yesterday I did a big afternoon in the kitchen preparing for the next few days.  I made a big double batch of Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins for the tin and freezer, a big Chicken Casserole for dinner for a few nights and as dinner was being stretched out for dinners I knew MrW would have no leftovers for his lunches at work.  So I made a yummy big Quiche for him that will give him 4 lunches.  This is a great healthy recipe to have on hand for either dinner, to freeze for lunches or take on a picnic.  I've made them in muffin trays and this worked well for small portion sizes for the kids or as a snack. I'm no Quiche expert but this recipe is so easy and tastes yummy!

This recipe comes from a book my friend has written and published - Motherhood: from my Kitchen, by Ashlee Sturme.  The link to the Motherhood Supermum Facebook page is here.  The book is packed full of great recipes tailored to busy Supermum's (or anyone who loves to cooking and wants some new ideas).

Self-Crusting Quiche

4 Eggs (I use 5 small size 6 eggs)
1 1/2 cups of Milk (I make mine from Milk Powder with no troubles)
1/2 cup Self-Raising Flour
Grated Cheese (1 1/2cups or so) - Optional
Chopped Ham, Bacon or Cooked Chicken if you have any on hand, if not go Vegetarian
1 Onion, finely diced
3 cloves Garlic - optional
As many veges chopped finely that you have on hand - use a variety of Capsicum, Mushrooms, Carrots, Silverbeet, Spinach, Courgettes, Peas, Sweetcorn, Celery and any others you can think of
I also throw in finely diced Oregano, Basil, Italian Parsley, Chives and Thyme to boost the flavour
Salt and Pepper (Garlic Salt works well)
Optional - A glob of Sweet Chilli Sauce

Preheat oven to 180degC.  Grease your dish/muffin trays for baking the mix in.
Beat the eggs together and add the milk mixing in well.
Prepare all your vegetables by chopping/dicing finely. 
Add to the milk and egg the vegetables and the cheese and meat if using and mix through well.
Sift in the Self-Raising Flour and mix through.  Season with Salt and Pepper (add the Sweet Chilli if using).
Pour mix into either a dish or into muffin trays (great childs lunchbox size) and bake for approximately 40mins for a full sized quiche or 25mins for muffin sized quiches, Until the middles bounces back and is cooked.  The mix will puff up in the oven and sink when it's pulled out of the oven (well mine did anyway).  Great enjoyed hot or cold, or let cool a little cut it into desired pieces and freeze.

Just a note on the cheese - It's very yummy with the cheese but also tastes great without any, which I found out last night as I had no cheese on hand :)

4 Portions ready for the freezer for MrW's Lunches :)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Birthday Treats for a Friend

Joining in with Rhonda at Down to Earth with the Friday On My Mind post (albeit one day late :) )

During this past week was a close friends birthday.  I have been slowly making my way through an apron as a gift for her and managed to get it finished yesterday.  M is a very busy Mum with 3 children, 2 at school and 1 preschooler.  A while ago now they purchased a few acres and a beautiful big house, but this lends itself to M working really hard on the farm, building up gardens and doing a bit of fixing up around the house, not leaving much time for just taking it slowly.  She loves to bake and cook up a storm so I thought that a new apron would be perfect! I made a reversible one with her favourite colour, a nice little treat for a hard working Mummy.
I also baked her a cake so she could blow out her own candles :)  
She had Master 4 yesterday for a play date so when I went to pick him up I arrived bearing gifts, she was just delighted, and felt suitably spoilt!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful friend xxx

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Shepherds Pie

 This is a great recipe that is yummy, filling and you can make it stretch a long way.  I remember having cottage pie as my parents called it when I was growing up, so it's nice to cook a food for my children that I had when I was young.
I made a double mix of this when my two friends were unwell and made enough to feed all three families (6 adults and 8 children) with leftovers :)  The addition of lentils makes it even heartier, go further and they blend in with the mince so they aren't even noticeable in the mix. 


Oil (as much as you need)
Large Onion - chopped finely
3-5 Cloves of Garlic - chopped finely
Capsicum - deseeded and chopped (I use a 1/4 of a capsicum if I'm running low)
300-350gms Minced Beef
1 can of Brown Lentils
Good handful of sliced Mushrooms
3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
3 teaspoons Soya Sauce
1 cup Beef Stock
Any other chopped veges you have on hand - carrot, courgette etc
Sprinkling of Raw Sugar (or brown or white)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Enough mashed Potato to cover the top of the mince mix with a good layer
Optional - Grated Cheese, a sprinkling of Breadcrumbs or Crushed Cornflakes and a little Black Pepper

In a pan heat oil and sauté Onion and Garlic until soft.  
Add Mince and brown off, next stir through all the remaining vegetables.
Soften for a few minutes, stir through Lentils, Tomato Paste, Soya Sauce, sprinkling of Sugar and the Beef Stock.
Season with some salt and pepper and simmer for 20mins or so.  Taste and re-season as necessary.
Grease (I use a spray oil) a casserole dish or any other oven safe dishes that will hold the pie, and pour the mince mix into the dish.  Spoon and spread over the mashed potato and if using sprinkle over the grated Cheese, Breadcrumbs/crushed Cornflakes and Black Pepper.
Bake in a 180degC oven for roughly 20mins or until the top of the pie is golden.

I normally serve this either with steamed vegetables or a salad depending on the season. 

I find a loaf tin is enough to feed the four of us with a little left for MrW's lunch
 Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Busy Busy

It's been a busy few days in the garden and kindy and school activities, sometimes its hard to keep up!  On Sunday I ended up tearing out the huge weeds and rusted old meshing on the back fence line - talk about a mission! looks good now though :)

I forgot to take a before photo but this photo was taken about 4 weeks ago. You can see in the top corner the weeds coming through, the whole fence line was like this and more had grown before I started cleaning it up. Only problem was there is a fence line to the farm running parallel to ours, with enough space to stand in between, so I was able to get in there, but the fence was live and I kept getting whacked when I bumped it!
All cleaned up.  I put the fruiting strawberries into the second blue clamshell and they are now protected with some netting.  Now I just have a big pile of garden waste to get rid of soon!

Grow my prettys' :)
The first Raddish :) it was so yummy in the salad that we had for tea

Both MrW and I were so tired on Sunday from the days efforts so I took leftovers, veges and some fish and made a Made Up Fish Pie and salad :)  Turned out yummy considering I had no idea what it would taste like lol. I originally started out making Salmon Cakes, however I couldn't be bothered making breadcrumbs, so I made pastry instead and made a pie...go figure ;) I'll post the recipe for how I made it soon, I think they Made Up Fish Pie will appear again on our menu :)

And then on Sunday night I made this swimming bag for Master 5's swimming lessons.  He was really happy with it and I must say I was pretty proud of it to. I've lined it with a double layer of Nylon material so it should hopefully be waterproof enough so it doesn't get his school bag all wet.  I'm making another one this week for Master 4 so I'm hoping to be able to make up a tutorial on how to make one.

Righto time to take Master 4 to kindy :) Hope your all having a great day, I'll hopefully get some recipes up soon :)
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