Monday, March 25, 2013

Budgeting and Insourcing..Preparing meals ahead & getting your workspace right...

Step 1

Prepare your workspace

As with any other job, being a productive Household Manager, requires tools of the trade. Today I'll give you my suggested list of kitchen tools.
Here are what I consider to be the essential kitchen tools and equipment....

Sharp knives
Apple coring wheel
Chopping boards
Mandolin slicer
Food processor
Electric mixer
Large, medium and small mixing bowls
Large and sandwich size ziplock bags and marker pen
Plastic or glass storage containers
Empty sterilised jars
Pie or flan dishes or other baking dish
Large saucepans with lids x 3

Pots and Pans...

There is a school of thought, probably promoted by people who manufacture pots, pans and frypans, that an expensive version is better than a cheapie. Like many things, I have never found this to be true. You can burn your food just as easily in a $300 frypan as you can in a $10 one . My husband has thoughtfully bought me some lovely frypans over the years as I use them so much. I've had a super duper brand name one that was so heavy I could barely lift it from the bottom of my cupboard, and I've had an oval shaped one that was useless on my round hotplate. I don't use either of them much to his chagrin. The ones I love most are:

My $10 non-stick pan from KMart. It's large enough for omelettes, easy to scoop things out of, and cooks 8 sausages or 3 steaks (of the size suggested by nutritional guidelines..not a T-Rex sized one) at a time. It makes the best pancakes and pikelets and is my pan of choice for bacon and eggs.

My Wok which Husband bought me about seven years ago. It's big, non-stick, substantial but not overly heavy, has a big domed lid and I use it for everything from stir-fry to casseroles to pot roasts.

And if you only want one frypan/roasting pan, you can't beat the old electric frypans. They are roomy, efficient, heat evenly, are non-stick, and you can cook just about anything in one. I don't have one at home, but I do in our holiday cottage and it's the one piece of equipment that I cannot do without when we're there as we have limited cooking facilities. Absolutely brilliant.

As for 'other' pots, I have a small one for boiling eggs or cooking single serves of noodles or pasta, a medium sized one for veges (it has a steamer that sits on top but I rarely use that either), and a super large one for cooking large amounts of spaghetti...which frankly I rarely do these days, so I could probably toss it, but convention dictates that I keep a large saucepan...I might need it one day :)

So if you lack space or have a limited budget, my thoughts would be to keep 3 saucepans with lids in graduated sizes, and an electric frypan. The Wok is a luxury, but once you've had a decent quality one, you won't look back...don't go with the cheapies, get a decent one and it will last you forever. Unlike saucepans and frypans, a good Wok is worth it's weight in gold in my opinion.

Add to that list, the following:

Aprons..they don't have to be frilly ones so don't go all silly on me. There are plenty of simple, professional looking aprons out there. My favourite is a plastic/vinyl one from Harrods. It is easy to wipe clean, easy and comfortable to wear, and doesn't make me look like Samantha from Bewitched.

Anti Fatigue Footwear or Mat...I spend a great deal of time on my feet in the kitchen. Therefore, it's essential for my energy levels to wear either comfy shoes or alternatively to stand on an anti-fatigue mat. Just make sure it's non-slip, and made from kitchen friendly materials. My preferred footwear for working, are Birkenstock Gizeh sandals. They're comfy, look pretty enough for round the house and garden, and last for ages, so don't be frightened of the price tag. You can buy them online direct from Germany with free postage on larger orders, so get a few friends to order some as well and you'll save heaps. They're about half the retail price at

Anti-Bacterial soap in a pump don't want to have raw chicken all over your hands and then find you have to get a tray of cookies out of the oven. Just common sense really.

Baking sheets...again my preference is for the old fashioned non-stick metal ones, but if you want silicone then go for it. Just make sure you have some.

Baking paper..the non stick silicone stuff..absolutely invaluable. you go...I'll be back in a day or two with the next step.

Kitchen organising is on my Tray of Bliss today...what's on yours?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Each day is a little my garden...

Each day is a little life....Schopenhauer
The continuing wet in our part of the world has meant a welcome and unusual round of blooms in little corners of our garden.
This one is a tropical ginger.
Flecked with dewy raindrops, it greeted me as I wandered out to hang my washing this morning.
A welcome surprise.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My little my garden...

'Each day is a little life' ...Schopenhauer
Today I snapped this by-golly-lolly-pink gerbera in my front yard.
I have several in clay pots and I adore them.
They're not the gaudy, showy things that florists now call 'gerberas'. Although they too, are pretty.
These are the old style, with soft as down whiskers, slender petals and and olde worlde perfection all of their own.
These were inherited from a dear lady, who moved from a house a few doors up. She knew the place was to be bulldozed to make way for a new estate, and she knew I'd admired her heirloom style gerberas for many seasons. Such a sweetie. I think she wanted them to live on, as would I.
Do you have any special inherited plants in your garden that tell a story?
I have many, and look forward to sharing their many tales with you.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ma Petite little perfect thing

Captured just this minute, on a glorious Autumn day here.
This butterfly alighted on my gardenia shrub, before fluttering right toward the camera lens, and dancing between me, the shrub, the frangipani tree in the background and back again, about a dozen times.
She's still there...
One perfect thing.
What's on your Tray of Bliss today?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Delectable Orange Cake...

There is nothing like a home baked cake, straight from the oven, redolent of fruits or spices or loveliness of other kinds, to make the heart swell and feel rich.

I used to adore helping my Nanna cream the butter and sugar, adding the eggs, relishing the different textures in the batter, before sifting in the flour to make what I knew was going to be a mouth watering afternoon tea.

This moist and fragrant Orange Cake is my Nannas recipe...enjoy!

250gm butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
Grated rind of 2 oranges
4 eggs
2 cups Self Raising Flour (gluten free is fine)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a ring tin or two loaf tins generously and dust with flour. Line with baking paper if you prefer.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the orange rind and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.Sift in the flour and combine lightly. Add the coconut and the orange juice and stir, then tip into your prepared tin.

Bake for 30-45 minutes depending upon the tin you're using, testing with a skewer for done-ness. When the cake/s spring back when lightly touched, and a skewer inserted into the very middle, comes out clean, they're done.

Stand the cakes for a few minutes before turning out of the tin.

Dust liberally with icing (confectioners) sugar and serve with a steaming cuppa.


Autumnal Scents....Cinnamon Apple Roly Poly

It's a glorious Autumn day here today. So after a stroll through one of the lovely parks nearby with my doggie, I think I'll bake.

Autumn to me, says steamed pudding, melt in the mouth slices, cinnamon laden teacake, gingerbread that's soft and squishy and smells like my Nannas house, and pears and apples added to pastry for roly poly and crumbles.

Here's my Nanna's recipe for Cinnamon Apple Roly Poly. My house always smells like Autumn when I cook with cinnamon, and this one scents the entire house for the rest of the day :)

Cinnamon Apple Roly Poly:

1 cup Self Raising Flour (GF is fine too)
A pinch of salt
2 level tablespoons margarine or butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup caster sugar (normal sugar will do) mixed with 1-2 teapoons cinnamon depending on how much you like cinnamon
2 apples, grated

Also for syrup:

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon margarine or butter

Casserole dish for baking

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Make the pastry by sifting the flour and a pinch of salt, and rubbing the margarine through with your clean fingertips. This only takes a minute or two. Add most of the water and work into a dough, using what's left of the water if you need it. Form into a ball, and roll out thinly. If this is all too much trouble, I've successfully used Wraps or Tortillas or Crepes to make a Roly Poly.

Sprinkle the pastry with the cinnamon sugar blend, and spread the grated apple evenly over the surface. Roll it up like a sushi roll, and arrange it in a circle in a well greased casserole dish.
Make the syrup by combining the water, sugar and butter in a small saucepan and bringing it to the boil, and pour this over the roll in your dish. This makes the most delectable sticky, toffee like edges on the roly poly :)

Slash some slits in the surface of the roly poly and sprinkle with a bit of extra sugar or some flaked almonds for crunch. Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.

Serve hot with custard, cream or icecream.

Very yummy :)