Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Cup of Tea for...Your Furniture!

Yep, you read correct - a cup of tea for your furniture.  Our big cleaning frenzy officially began today as we are hoping to list our house for sale next week.  DH tackled "Parks & Gardens" outside, while I got stuck into the interior.  I cranked up the tunes (played all my Queen and have now moved onto Powderfinger) and got stuck into it.  In line with my new "ultra cheapy" mindset, I set about cleaning the lounge room, and can I just say, it has never smelt better! (And my hands smell great too!)
Instead of your regular store bought, couple of $$ a can furniture polish that is some who knows what concoction of nasty chemicals, I make my own.  All it is is 1 cup strong black tea (be sure to strain it so you don't leave a trail of tea leaves), 1 cup cold water, 3 drops of clove oil and 6 drops of lavender.
It brings the furniture up beautifully, and the addition of clove oil kills any mould spores that may be lurking and prevents them from coming back.  Great if you live in a place that rains alot.  I add the lavender just to soften the smell of the clove a little.  I also wipe down all my window frames and window sills with this mix and the wood panelling on the walls, along with the timber on the stair case.

Whey Scones

I always have whey in the fridge (this is how I make it)as I use it to make my Honey & Oat Loaf which is our everyday bread.  It also makes a fantastic substitute for Buttermilk and is MUCH cheaper!  Scones (I think they are called biscuits in the US) are a quick and easy treat, great to whip up if someone pops over unexpectedly, or even for afternoon tea when the kids get home from school.  Using whey or buttermilk just gives them that extra oomph!  Here's how I go about it:

For a printer friendly version of the recipe (without pictures), click here.

2 Cups Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
40g (2 tablespoons) Cold Butter
250ml Whey (or Buttermilk or Regular Milk)
Extra Flour

Briefly process the flour and baking powder.  (I'm a lazy cook and believe if you have the tools at your disposal, you may as well use them!

Add butter and process in pulses until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Pour into a bowl.

Add milk and combine with a knife in a cutting action.  I prefer to do this part by hand rather than in the processor because you want to work the dough as little as possible to get it nice and flaky.  If you're not as fussy as me, you can do this part in the processor.   Just pulse it until it all comes together.

Turn out onto bench and very gently bring together with your hands.  Press out to about 1 inch thickness.

Cut with a round cutter.  You want to cut it rather than shaping it as it needs the cut edges to rise properly.

Place very close together but not touching on a tray and brush with the extra milk.  They need to be close enough together that they give each other support to rise, (sounds lovely doesn't it!!) but not actually touching as you want the air to be able to circulate between them when you first put them in the oven.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and wrap in a tea towel until cool (if you can leave them that long!)  This is what gives them that special crust.  If you leave them out on a rack to cool, they will get too hard.  (I should be in the CWA! lol!)

We love them slathered in butter and golden syrup or even better still, homemade jam and whipped cream - and served with a cup of tea on the side of course!

Friday, 17 February 2012


I'm guessing that pikelets are as popular in your home as they are in mine.  They take only a minute or two to whip up and are usually gone before they even hit the plate.  I especially love them with whipped cream and homemade raspberry jam!

For a printer friendly version without pictures, click here

2 Eggs
350ml Milk (or whey)
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
20g melted butter

Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and whisk until smooth.  The batter should be the consistency of thickened cream.  If it is still too thick, add more milk.

Whisk in the melted butter.

Pour 2 tablespoons of batter at a time into a greased frying pan.  (I like to grease it with butter - I think they brown better and the taste is much better than with oil).

After 1 or 2 minutes, bubbles should start to form and pop, flip them over and cook for another minute or so on the other side.

Serve and enjoy!

Honey, Oat & Buttermilk Bread

I came across this recipe on one of my favourite food sites Food 52, and had to try it.  It has rapidly become our family favourite to the point where I have stopped buying bread and just make this.  I usually only have to bake it once or twice a week as I double the recipe and as soon as the bread has cooled, I slice it and pop it in the freezer.  That way we can just take out as many pieces as we need, when we need them.  It slices lovely and thin for sandwiches and also freezes really well.  It makes the most luscious french toast, regular toast and AMAZING toasted sandwiches.  Sometimes I throw in some soaked dry fruit and spices and make fruit loaf too.

I know alot of people think that baking your own bread is time consuming, hard work and an all out hassle, but honestly this is so quick and easy, especially if you have a bench top mixer with a bread hook.  There is very little that you actually have to do, as most of the recipe is sitting time when you can be doing something else.  I usually get the mixing part underway in the morning while I am making school lunches and controlling the feeding frenzy that is breakfast and have the bread rising by the time the girls are on the school bus.

For a printer friendly version of the recipe (without pictures and my ramblings) click here

1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dried yeast
45ml warm water
220ml buttermilk (I use whey which is left over from my ricotta, but you could also use regular full fat, low fat or no fat milk.  I prefer whey as it is slightly tangy and gives the bread an almost sourdough like taste.)
1/2 cup oats (rolled or quick)
30g softened butter
45ml Honey
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
3 cups bread flour  (I like Laucke)

Combine the sugar, yeast and water in a small bowl.

Cover with a tea towel and leave until foamy.  The time will depend on the temperature of your room.  If it is a really cold day, I like to put a bowl of boiling water next to it under the tea towel.

In the bowl of your bench top mixer (I looooooove my Kenwood Chef!) combine the remaining ingredients with the yeast mixture.  Mix on low with the dough hook attachment for 10 - 15 minutes.  If you are lucky like me and your machine has a timer, you can just set it and walk away.  Just be sure to make sure that you don't have a "walking" mixer.  If you do, put a piece of non-slip matting covered with a tea towel under your mixer and it should hold it in place.

After 15 minutes, remove the bowl from the mixer stand and cover with a tea towel.  Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size.  Again, this depends on the temperature of your room.  On a hot day, it can take as little as 30 minutes.  In winter, I usually sit it about 1 foot in front of the fireplace.  If you don't have a fire and it is cold, place it in a cold oven next to a bowl of boiling water.

After the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto the bench.  Shape it how you like.  Sometimes I make a round free form loaf, but for school sandwiches, I use a loaf pan.  Cover it with a tea towel and let it rise again until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 180C (or 160C if it is fan forced).  I like to slash the top of the loaf as it helps it to expand and rise in the oven (and it makes it look pretty!).

Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.

Once it has cooled completely, you can slice it up however you like.

Homemade Ricotta and Whey

I'm not a cheese maker but have decided to add it to my skills list this year as I make as much of our food from scratch as possible. I've started off with ricotta as it doesn't require any special equipment or rennet. Our milk comes in 3 litre bottles, so these quantities are for one bottle of milk as I buy it. Here is how I make it.

For a print friendly version of the recipe (without pictures), click here

In a large pot, bring 3 litres of milk to the simmer.

Add 45ml lemon juice and 1.5 teaspoons of salt.
Simmer very gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
While the milk is simmering, line a colander with fine cotton/muslin/cheesecloth.

Remove from the heat and strain until it is the consistency you like. The longer you strain it, the firmer it gets.

Collect the liquid that strains off - this is the whey.

I pour it into glass bottles and keep it in the fridge to use in my bread. It is also fantastic for making scones (I think you guys call them biscuits??) and biscuits (you guys call them cookies). I really like it in the bread because it isn't as sweet as milk and has a slight tang which gives the loaf an almost sourdough taste. I'm in the process of starting up a new blog on my new frugal ways of living, so I will post step by step photos there and post a link here once I get it done.

So, for $3 (which is what I pay for a 3 litre bottle of milk), I get about three 750ml bottles of whey and I'm guessing about 300g ricotta. (I'll weigh it this arvo when I make some more). Considering ricotta is $8kg and buttermilk is almost $4 for a 600ml carton over here (Australia), I reckon it is a bargain and well worth 10 minutes of my time!

For other ideas of what to use they whey for, check out my Honey & Oat Bread, Scones and Pikelets.

What cheeses do you make? What's your favourite recipe to make it?

My new frugal life...

As you can imagine, being a one income family in this day and age is not easy.  I have now decided that I want to do away with our Credit Card - pay it off completely and then cut it up.  I want to reduce our household spending as far as possible while giving my family the best life I can.  If I can't earn money, I am to save it as best I can.  I've recently signed up to do the Total Money Makeover (TMMO) where I have found forums dedicated to living frugally.  Here I aim to share how we do it while maintaining an awesome family way of life.  I'm lucky in that I love to cook, and being an at home Mum, I also have the time to indulge in making lots of things from scratch, so here I am going to share with you lots of our favourite recipes and tips along the way.
The biggest shift has been in how I handle the family's finances.  I am now using the good old "envelope system" to portion out pays as they come in.  I didn't like the plain white ones because they look like they all have bills in them, so my first job as Cindy 2.0 was to make some new ones out of some scrap fabric I had lying around. What do you think?