Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Budgeting and Insourcing...How to bake and make do...

I was getting ready to do the grocery shop the other day.
To prepare for a grocery shop, I always do a refrigerator cleanout and pantry stocktake. How else do I know what we really need? 
Do you do this too?
Well once I'd done that, I realised that if I made yoghurt, used up the bits and pieces I had in the fridge, and baked bread, I actually didn't need much at all!
THAT was a good feeling.
Granddaughter and I baked the cupcakes above.
I got a batch of coconut yoghurt going. You can find my recipe here.
I baked my Artisanal Gluten Free Bread, recipe for that one here.

I used a batch of normal dairy home made Greek Yoghurt to make some Labne (also known as Labna, Labneh or Middle Eastern Cheese). This now sells in a tiny tub for $6, so I swear I could make a killing marketing this one to the hipsters! Here are the instructions. I added cracked pepper and extra virgin olive oil and kept this batch as a spread, although it was thick enough to roll into balls. I love this so much, and it's absolutely gorgeous as a dip base, an accompaniment to rissoles or chicken, or as a spread.

I roasted some fresh beetroot that I'd forgotten about...

...and while they were roasting, I cut up a capsicum past it's prime and several carrots, so they'd roast and be used as snacks and salad additions...

Somebody in the household had opened both a can of tuna AND a can of salmon for sandwiches, so I used the combination of the two, to make yummy seafood mornays with crunchy gluten free breadcrumb and cheese topping. Just make a white sauce, add the tuna and salmon, season well and decant into ramekins or a casserole dish and top with a mixture of breadcrumbs and cheese. Absolutely delish!

Two knobs of sausage mince were discovered in the bottom freezer drawer. I'd grabbed these when they were marked down to 20c each. Yes...20c!
From those I made two giant sausage rolls...each will feed the three of us.
And a yummy meatloaf loaded with veges, and topped with the gluten free pastry that was also hiding in the bottom drawer. My sister had grabbed this for me when it was marked down too.
Meatloaf can be a combination of any mince, any leftover cooked or raw veges, a bit of binding substance such as flour or breadcrumbs and a couple of eggs. That's it. You can't go wrong.

So in addition to an organic frozen chicken, some salmon fillets bought a few weeks ago, a couple of chicken breasts and a piece of corned beef, we were looking good for the week.
Having a well stocked range of spices and condiments really helps with a  flavour boost when the meals are plain too...
And I always have multiple tubs of butter, dark chocolate, and slabs of Haloumi on hand as they keep for EVER. So a treat, some baking, and a flash breakfast are always in the mix.
Tidy refrigerator, full of goodies...
...and all I needed to buy was greens, shallots (spring onions), eggs, milk, bread and fruit.

Happy me.
I rewarded myself with a DIY Jamberry manicure. Wraps from my own stash. Free.
With some imagination, a few basic cooking skills and some pantry staples, you too can slash your grocery bill.
You can do it.
What are your favourite grocery busting recipes?

 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Homepun Things...Gluten free Artisanal Bread...

Who knew that baking a gluten free Boule` (as the trendy bakeries like to call them) was no more difficult than baking a cake.
Not me. I thought that was a special occasion thing.
No more.
I baked this beauty all by myself, amazing my family and friends who thought as I did, that trendy bread was a celebratory thing too.
Well, celebrations here, because I'm baking this baby every second day and saving my family $28-$50 a week on buying gluten free bread and rolls.
What is it with that?
I do get it. Machinery has to be free of wheat product, you need more ingredients, blah-blah-blah.
But seriously. How can a SMALL loaf of gluten free bread cost the equivalent of 4-8 loaves of the regular kind. Sheesh.
If you feel like celebrating saving the equivalent of a family holiday once a year, just by baking your own bread, read on...

This is so easy, it's ridiculous.
It's a bit like baking a quickbread or muffins.
Mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients separately, add dry to wet, plop into a lined dish, allow to rise, bake. That's it. Truth. No kneading as such except for shaping. No punching down like for normal bread.
Here's the recipe....
Gluten Free Artisanal Bread
Adapted from a recipe by gfjules

3 cups plain (all purpose) gluten free flour blend
1/4 cup of one of the following: GF Buckwheat, Millet, Sorgum, or Brown Rice Flour
1/4 cup milk powder or Almond Meal for dairy free
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons of one of the following: Honey, Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup, or Golden Syrup
1 1/4 cups of one of the following liquids: Plain yoghurt, full cream milk, sparkling water, ginger ale or gluten free beer
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs at room temperature or 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal or chia seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water, and allowed to sit for 15-20 minutes
2 1/4 teaspoons of rapid rise yeast
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, seed mix or flour to dust
You also need:
2 large mixing bowls
A wooden spoon
A whisk
Measuring cups
Super sharp knife
Something to bake your bread in eg. springform cake tin, dutch oven, pyrex dish. This is more like batter than dough, so you really need something with structure to shape your loaf. A tray won't do for this one.
Baking paper to line your tin or dish, and to cover your bread while it rises
Preheat the oven to 180C or 325-350F. Set the shelf in the middle of the oven.
Mix together the flour and all dry additives EXCEPT the yeast and seeds, in one bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients in the other bowl.

Line your tin or bowl with baking paper. I use a Dutch Oven.
 Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three equal batches. Mix well with the whisk.

Add the yeast, and beat with the wooden spoon for a minute or two. It will be quite dough-like now.

Form the batter into a ball shape, and plop it into your lined bowl, tin or casserole dish you're using to bake it in.

Use your sharp knife, wet, to form a criss-cross shape into the top of your loaf, to encourage it to rise and look pretty. Dust with flour or sprinkle with seeds.

Cover loosely with a sheet of baking paper, and set aside in a warm place to rise. Gluten free dough can be quite slow to rise, so be prepared. GF Jules recommends 30-60 minutes. I put mine in front of the fireplace for 30 minutes, and got a neat, but quite dense loaf. In my experience, if you let GF bread batter rise for too long, you get bubbles, and hence holes, in your loaf. I probably would allow a little longer than 30 minutes, but not more than an hour.

Here's mine, below, after 30 minutes rising time. Note that the criss-cross has opened up a little, and it's looking quite as you might expect from a Boule` loaf.

And after just 30 minutes in my very efficient Falcon (Tropical climate version of an AGA), I had a very satisfactory looking Boule' loaf...

Let me tell you, that by this stage, Daughter and I were absolutely hanging out to try this. The first cut into the loaf sent up a cloud of yeasty, bread-like steam, and slathered with butter and a smidge of Vegemite (Aussie kids love their Vegemite...adults too), it was quickly wolfed down...

Of course, I then couldn't resist conjuring up a traditional European lunch of Boule' slices, home made ricotta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and bowl ripened tomato wedges.

As I mentioned, this is quite a dense loaf. More like a stone ground whole wheat, than a light and fluffy white. But I love that. It's more substantial and rewarding to eat somehow.
The other thing I like, is that once cooled, you can cut this into quite thin slices, unlike commercial gluten free breads which are always reasonably thick to compensate for the fragile structure. This one, by contrast, is wonderfully robust.
If you're toasting this, give it a fair bit longer in the toaster, to allow it to warm through and brown. I like my toast quite light in colour, but even then, I had to turn the dial up, and press the pop up lever twice to get this bread to brown up and be warmed all the way through.
Go on. Try it. You know you want to. You won't regret it.

 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png

Saturday, July 7, 2018 I saved money in June 2018...

Let's start with this wondrous antique wedding gown circa 1887, Cincinatti. Via Pinterest. Daughter, who is all of 18 1/2 years old and fresh in love with her Boy, declared this to be her future wedding gown. No pressure on the Boy, you understand. It might be another Boy. But boy, when daughter shows you this and says that's what she wants, well, you'd better get a start on it!

I'm thinking it's a simple boat neckline on a fitted bodice, with a semi-gathered skirt, and the under-bust waist cincher over the top. I'm not worried about that bit.

It's those beaded dangles! Hundreds, if not thousands of them!

I made an experimental one here, with what I had on hand, and that hasn't resolved the issue of the flower top bit...

I explored the local haberdashery, and found this pretties, which might do well as a substitute...

 Future (distant future perhaps, but one has to start somewhere!) savings in the thousands!
I cut Daughters hair...oh those ringlets! Saving $100.

I fizzed our own tap water with the Soda Stream and bottled it up into my fancied $2 water bottles. This saves us over $60 a week in purchased water or mineral water!

Many, many lasagnas were made. Some for immediate consumption by the family, some for later. These gluten free FODMAP friendly lasagnas would cost a minimum of $40 EACH at a specialty deli (which is the ONLY place you'd find one this size). A single serve frozen one from the supermarket is $10. So these are worth their weight in gold. Savings of at least $160.

I conjured up a pretty decent home made gluten free pizza base too. I'm not a fan of pizza, but the family is, so it became a necessity to avoid spending $40 on a pizza on lazy nights.

Here's my recipe for rustic gluten free pizzas:

1 1/2 cups GF flour combined with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum in a bowl. Then in a separate bowl, 1/2 cup blood warm water with 2 teaspoons dry active yeast whisked in till dissolved, with 1/2 teaspoon each sugar and salt and a tablespoon of olive oil added. Wet added to dry ingredients then kneaded for 2 minutes with extra flour added to the bench as required, just to smooth (kneading for elasticity is not required for gluten free dough). Let it rise in a really warm place. It will take longer than you think. GF can be challenging at times. Tear off chunks and spread them with your fingers, on well greased trays, before topping and baking in a hot oven till bubbly and golden.

Looks pizza-ish to me! Savings $160 on bought pizza as this batch yielded 4 pizzas.

I made some new napkins (serviettes to some of us).

I love that this are floral, yet bold...

And such a pretty accent with my blue dinnerware.

I'll talk about the Glampavan makeover in a minute, but lets just say that the offcuts alone of the $3 a metre fabric purchased for curtains, yielded 12 good sized napkins in a happy neutral daisy pattern...

Savings on new purchased napery, of at least $100.

I made up a new batch of Miracle cleaner, and tinted it a pretty peach colour. That stuff saves us $25 a month in cleaning products.

I also made a new batch of our favourite sensitive laundry detergent, saving $50 in laundry products.

I'm experimenting with making citrus cleaner with the Makrut Limes that would otherwise just be binned. These are not good eating. We grow them for the leaves which we use in Thai dishes. They add a fabulous depth of flavour, much like an intense lime zest, but more earthy if that makes any sense. But the fruit are inedible. They taste like soap. We'll see how successful this is as a spray cleaner in a week or two. Potential savings of $20 a month on citrus bathroom cleaner.
I made Petit Fours for a celebration for a friend. Mainly so I could remember how to do them. They're not hard. But they are a start one day, finish the next kinda thing.
Bake a slender sheet cake, any kind. Denser cakes are better though.

Cut it in half....

Sandwich with jam or marmalade. I used orange marmalade and chocolate cake.

Freeze overnight. This just makes them easier to cut and coat.

Cover in marzipan for a nice smooth finish, and cut into fingers, then into squares. Remember these should only be a mouthful or two at most...

Freeze again for an hour or so. The icing hardens more effectively if the cakes are well chilled. Also they won't crumb as much.

Line them up on a cooling rack with a baking paper lined tray underneath.

Make a simple sugar icing, by combining 4 cups of powdered (icing) sugar with 4 tablespoons of liquid (water, citrus juice etc). I used lemon juice which is a great foil for the cloying sweetness of the cake, the marmalade and the sugar in the icing. You can make yours any flavour you like. You need a good pouring consistency, much like pouring cream.
Pour the icing over the cubed cake-lets, letting the drips accumulate on the lined baking tray underneath. You can re-use that icing, but I often find it has crumbs in it so I don't bother.

As you pour the icing, use a spoon dipped in the icing, to swirl squiggles or dots on top of your petit fours.

Decorate them with bought or hand made sugar flowers. I made these ones while watching a football match with husband. They're not perfect, but they're pretty...

Note that I don't worry if my petit fours aren't completely covered too...

Position them prettily in a box with cellophane and they're a perfect Hostess or Thankyou gift...

...also Pearl dust (available from cake decorating suppliers) covers a multitude of sins...look...

Petit fours cost $6.50 each at my local posh bakery. EACH people. I made 24. That's about $150 I've saved!
And look how pretty they were. I ate one for breakfast. Sorry...

Poached chicken. Where do I start. Magical. Bring a pot of water with some aromatics added to a simmer. Throw in a chicken breast. Turn the heat source off, and put a firm fitting lid on the pot. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. The chicken is cooked when it's white all the way through, but perhaps just pinkish white. This ensures it's succulent and moist. See below. Chill the chicken breast in it's cooking liquid, then slice thinly for sandwiches. This is a single half breast here, all sliced and ready to go. Amazing.
Savings on deli meat, up to $30.

Chicken, mayo and lettuce sandwiches...yummm…

Speaking of sandwiches, my favourite filling is actually a protein like egg, chicken or meat, layered with rocket, sliced cheese, mayo and hot chilli sauce. What's yours?

 Daughter and her Boy are off to a music festival soon. It's a coming-of-age thing here. They're camping too, which will be a new experience for them both. We're glampifying a van we used to transport Mr A in his wheelchair when he still lived at home. Alas he is too tall for it now, but it's a handy little runabout.

Daisy curtains, done and dusted. Wait till you see the inside! Next week ;-)

Accomodation costs saved $2000.

Meanwhile, in the thrift shop corner, I discovered this very attractive tassel necklace. Hopelessly tangled, so a bargain at just $3. It's a classy addition to my accessories hanger. Let's call that a $30 saving.

We continue to drink our home fizzed water...even in Winter here. That's an achievement in itself...

And no roses in this garden, but I do follow VIP roses on Instagram, and am treated daily to visions like this....

That's a saving if ever there was one! Bought roses of the type I like are $75 a bunch.

Estimated insourcing savings this month around $2,930-ish dollars, and that doesn't include potential savings on a formal or bridal gown somewhere down the track. Add another $1000 or two just for fun.

That's a successful month.

How was June for you?

 photo signature_zps33fd9dfd.png