Great Gravy Quickly from Scratch

 

Great Gravy Quicky from Scratch

 Making your own gravy from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming.  This is how I make gravy, don’t ask me how to use pan brownings and juices.  I almost always cook a roast in an oven bag, if I don’t for whatever reason, then we don’t have gravy.

It’s easy…this is how.

Mix 2 Tbs of cornflour and about 1/4 tps of Parisian Browning Essence with 1-2 Tbs of water until you have a smooth paste.  This is the key to smooth gravy, make sure you don’t have any lumps of cornflour.  You can use as much or as little Parisian Browning Essence as you like, you wont taste it, it just gives the colour.  I never measure it 😉

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Now you need the juices from any roast that you have cooked in an oven bag.  Carefully remove the meat with tongs, don’t tear or pierce the bag!

Pick up the bag and hold it so the juices are in one corner.  Hold it still for a minute and you will see that the fat settles on the top.

Now using a skewer or small sharp knife, pierce a small hole in the bag.

Let the juices run into the cornflour mix, watching the layer of fat carefully.  Before the fat starts to come out, use the skewer to pick up the bottom of the bag and quickly move it another bowl, scraps bucket or rubbish bin so that the fat can drain into there.  A little bit of fat wont matter but too much will make your gravy feel greasy and taste yuk!

Now stir so that all the cornflour mix is combined with the meat juices and microwave it for about 2 minutes, stirring once or twice.  You could do it in a saucepan on the stove top, you would need to stir it constantly with a whisk.

And hey presto…Gravy!  Easy.  Quick.  Just season to taste and you’re done.

You can add extra water or water from steaming veggies if you need, but the more meat juices the better the flavour will be.

Gravy can be frozen.  I like to freeze any leftovers it in ice cube trays.

Childrens Party Food Ideas

It’s birthday season around here at the moment!  Miss E turned 2 at the end of Feb and we will have a Miss 4 come Monday.  And then it’s my turn soon after that 🙂

So my thoughts have turned to birthday party planning, that makes me sound like I’m organised for it doesn’t it?!  To be honest I have not got past the thinking stage, but hey, good start right?  So this is what I’m thinking for party food, I am a bit of a traditionalist yes.  Reminiscing perhaps.




Traditional

3 ingredient chocolate crackles - no copha so I might actually like them

 

Fairy Bread

 

Honey Joys - I could eat these all day every day and never be tired of them. Must try them with peanuts sprinkled on top.

 

Sausage rolls

 

 




Cool Fruit Ideas

 RAINBOW STICKS: These look really effective, don't they? You could make and eat these in combination with learning the rainbow song, finding out about different colours (for younger children), or learning about the role of colours in food and health (for older children). Get children to assemble these themselves, following the colour order.

Fruit Cup Ideas | Allergy Free Party Food Ideas Recipes Kids Childrens

 

Great idea for the kids snacks! I think Ry and Laken will love this...trying it out this week!

 

The cutest little appetizer -- Banana Peanut Butter Bites! Great healthy snack for children who need to gain weight.

Check out Mumma Plus Three on Pinterest for more party food Ideas.

Boobie Balls

If you are breast feeding and wanting to increase your milk supply then this is the recipe for you 😊. There are many recipes for Boobie Biscuits out there but I wanted the benefits of increased milk supply without having to eat too many biscuits, leading to an increased body, if you get my drift.

These balls do actually work in increasing milk production, I know, I’ve tried them. It’s the brewers yeast that is the key ingredient in aiding milk production, do not substitute this for any other kind of yeast, the flaxseed meal is also important.

100g almond meal

100g dates finely chopped

10g coconut oil

30g oats

10g honey

3tsp brewers yeast

3tsp flaxseed meal

30g milk powder

1Tb boiling water

coconut and or extra almond meal to roll balls in

1.Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor until well combined.

2.Add water slowly while food processor is on.

3.Form into balls and coat in extra coconut, almond meal or leave plain.

You can adjust the amount of Brewers yeast in this recipe. The more you use the more your milk supply will be affected. It does have quite a strong taste though, think…Vegimite! In this recipe you can’t taste it and I don’t mind a little more, make one batch and see what you think before tampering 😜

A Week of Thermomix Meals

I use my Thermomix a lot, but I could use it more.  Some days I use it several times, others I don’t use it at all.  I would like to use it a bit more for our main meals.  It is just the learning, researching and planning that goes into using it has been letting me down recently.  Since Josie was born almost 6 months ago I have not been all that interested in experimenting with main meals.  We have eaten a lot from the freezer and Meet and Three Veg type meals that are quick, easy and require very little planning have been coming thick and fast!

I am starting to get my grove back now that we have all found a bit of a routine and have a little more time on our hands at that end of the day.  I am going to include more Thermomix meals in our meal plan for the week, that way the planning bit is all out of the way and I don’t have to think about it too much 😉  Perhaps I should aim to try one new meal each week?!

These are some of my favourite Thermomix meals that I already make regularly.

 

Recipe Community, Chicken and Vegetable Pie

This pie filling is really yum and always a big hit with the kids. It makes heaps! I freeze half the filling, it separates a little on defrosting but it’s nothing a good stir won’t fix.

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http://www.recipecommunity.com.au/main-dishes-meat-recipes/chicken-and-vegetable-pie/17616

 

My Cauliflower and Bacon Soup

http://www.recipecommunity.com.au/soups-recipes/creamy-cauliflower-and-bacon-soup/167465

 

Quirky’s Spicy BBQ Chicken all in one dinner

http://quirkycooking.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/spicy-bbq-chicken-all-in-one-dinner.html

 

The road to loving my Thermomix’s Pepper Garlic Chicken Fried Rice

http://www.trtlmt.com.au/garlic-pepper-chicken-fried-rice/

 

The road to loving my Thermomix’s Cheats Curried Sausages

http://www.trtlmt.com.au/cheats-curried-sausages/

 

From the Every Day Cookbook

Beef Strogonoff p. 123

In this I use Gravy Beef.  I follow the recipe as is and then put the lot in the Slow cooker for about 4-6 hours, the meat just falls apart, it is perfect!  You can easily double this recipe as it freezes really well, just put the mushrooms straight into the slow cooker so that there is enough room in the Tm bowl 🙂

Creamy Tomato and Salami Fettuccine p.105

I love this because it is packed full of veggies!  I usually replace the Salami with ham or bacon or leave it out for a veggie meal.  I have used light evaporated milk in place of the cream which works well.  I am not too fussy about following the specific vegetables in the recipe, I just throw in whatever is in the fridge.  Broccoli stem, carrot, peas (put in towards the end of the cooking time) all work well.  I always end up putting in more veg than the recipe states.  Tinned Tomatoes work as well as fresh 🙂

 

So there are 7 of my favourites for you to try if you haven’t already.  What are your favourites? Please share!

 

 

 

 

The secret to great Rissoles

Ok so according to the meal plan we had rissoles last night…in reality we had rissoles tonight 😉

I don’t make rissole very often even though I really quite like them. I think I’m traumatised by many a crumbled rissole stuck fast to the frypan or BBQ plate followed by hours of scrubbing to regain any resemblance of a non stick surface.

I didn’t have much confidence that tonight’s effort would be much different, especially when I realized we were out of eggs and the chooks didn’t come through with the goods. I was very nicely surprised though!

This is my recipe…from memory. Excuse the chuck it all in style of measurements 😉

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500g mince
1 onion very finely chopped
3 spoons of tomato chutney
1tsp veggie stock concentrate (thermomix recipe)
1 handful coarse bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chia seeds

Mix everything together thoroughly with a fork, (I think this is one of the secrets I’ve stumbled upon) work the mince quite well, when you think it’s all mixed, mix some more until the mix has quite a smooth rather than crumbly texture.

Form into rissoles, again work each one thoroughly to ensure it is well stuck together.

Make sure your fry pan or BBQ plate is evenly well heated, once it is, turn it down to medium heat. Warm a glug of olive oil and then place each rissole in gently. Don’t move them now until the first side is cooked and you are ready to turn. Cooking them on medium heat seemed to help them cook together well without burning to the pan (secret number 2) Only turn 2 to 3 times.

Yum, enjoy! I hope these work as well for you as they did for me, Hubby has just informed me they were the best rissoles I’ve ever made, winning!

Sandwich free lunch box ideas with recipes

I thought I had better not ignore the back to school phenomenon completely…so here are some sand which free lunch ideas for the lunch box. Not that there is anything wrong with sandwiches! My girls have them regularly, it is just nice to have a few alternatives up your sleeve.

Some of these ideas are best heated which is not always an option I know. A small thermos container could help 🙂

SOUP
I make all sorts of chuck it all in soups, it is a great way to use up manky veggies in the bottom of the fridge and soup freezes really well! Freeze in small containers or reusable pouches for lunch boxes.

SPINACH PIES
Freezable, tasty hot or cold, they are perfect for lunchboxes.

250g cooked chopped spinach
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
250g Feta
250g Ricotta
1 c grated cheese
4 eggs
1/4 cup SR flour

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a prepared muffin tray, silicone works best for these. Bake at 180*c for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the muffin cases before cooling on a wire rack.

CRUSKITS OR RICE CAKES
Pack these in a separate sealed bag or container to keep them fresh and crunchy and pack toppings separately. Kids will love loading up their toppings and are more likely to eat something they have been involved in making or creating. Great toppings are ham, cheese, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, and for older kids cream cheese, a tin of tuna or a dip to spread.

TUNA PATTIES
This is my recipe and these are a favourite in this house! They freeze well and are delicious with Mayo and kids love the novelty of a dipping sauce.

3cups of cooked mashed potato, sweet potato and or pumpkin (any combination of)
1cup other cooked veggies finely chopped
2-4 small tins of tinned tuna, (depending on how strong you want them)
2eggs
1/2-1cup of bread crumbs (this really depends on how wet your mash is to start with)

Mix everything together and form into patties. You will need to go by feel a bit and add enough breadcrumbs so that the patties will hold together, not too wet or dry.
Bake on a tray lined with baking paper for about 30minutes at 180* or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and freeze flat in a zip lock bag when cool.
I heat them straight for the freezer for about a minute each in the microwave. If you have more time, defrost in the fridge and then warm in the oven. Enjoy!

SCROLLS
Still bread I know but not technically a sandwich 😉
This basic scroll dough recipe works wonderfully every time and makes a big batch. Wraps these individually and place into a ziplock bag to freeze.

440ml water
1Tbs yeast
Pinch of salt
750g bakers flour
70g melted butter or oil

Mix dough, kneed well and then cover and leave in a warm place to double In size. Knock back the dough and roll into a large rectangle. Place your fillings evenly over the surface, fillings are limited only to your imagination! Roll into a log then cut into 3cm pieces and place into a round silicone cake form. Allow to prove again for 15 minutes before baking at 180*c for 45-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

CHEESE AND VEGGIE MUFFINS
These are a great veggie smuggling option!…and freezeable 🙂

2cups SR flour
2cups grated cheese
2cups grated veggies/ ham/ bacon/ chicken etc
1 egg
1/4cup to 3/4cup milk (As much as you need to wet the mixture enough to combine everything together, depending on how wet your veggies are)

Mix and spoon into muffin tins (these can stick incredibly if not lined or greased…be aware! )
Bake at 180*c for 30-40 minutes, cool on a wire rack.

Starting solids

Well the plan was to put it off for as long as possible, it’s just another job to do after all, but it seems Josie, now 5months old, is busting for food. She has been watching every mouthful taken around her for some time now and has had the odd chew on an apple core, which she did not want to give up! She doesn’t sit very well and I was using that as the perfect excuse, but really, she’s busting!

So I thought I’d share with you how I make starting solids easy. There’s nothing special about what I do and it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before but it may be helpful for someone who hasn’t been there before :-).

Rice Cereal?

You could start with Rice Cereal, however this is not as nutritionally necessary as the companies who manufacture it would have you believe. It can be a handy to have in the cupboard to thicken up your fruit or veg purée if they end up being too runny, and it is quick and easy to prepare if you are desperate and baby is starving now! I have used it with my two older girls however this time I just ground some oats down very fine and use this instead. You could mix with breast milk or formula, I can’t be bothered expressing a few mls just for this so I just mix with boiling water, this cooks it almost instantly as the oats are so fine.

Make it easy, prepare the freezer

It really doesn’t take long to do a big cook up and purée a variety of fruits and veg. I always cook and freeze everything separately so that I can mix and match different meals easily. Most popular with the babies are, apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, prunes (in moderation 😉 ) and pear, also banana and avocado although these do not need to be cooked. Less popular, with my bubs anyway, are broccoli, carrot, beans, cauliflower and zuchinni. Mix these less popular veggies with some fruit, pumpkin or sweet potato and you should be right :-). So steam your fruit and veg, purée and then freeze in ice cube trays or small containers. You can also freeze blobs on a tray or large lid. Once frozen transfer to ziplock bags, label and date.  These will keep safely in the freezer for months.

Breakfast, lunch or tea?

So what time of the day is best for babies first meal? Really I would say don’t over think it too much, just do it at a time that is easiest and suits you best. Josie has been having her food just before the rest of us have tea. Being breastfed, I have less and less milk for Josie as the day goes on, so later in the day seems the best time for her to have food and fill up (in hope for a peaceful evening).

Baby Led Weaning

I have not done a lot of research into this, but from what I understand it basically involves offering whole pieces of food rather than purée or mash. I do a combination of purée and whole foods. As I said Josie has enjoyed several chews on apple cores and I would not hesitate to let her suck on and gum most fruits and veggies. There is however, something very special about offering baby a spoonful of perfectly smooth goo, I love it.

What first?

Rice Cereal if you wish, or I have used oats this time, after that any fruit or veg.  Offer just one at a time and don’t offer anything else new for a few days and watch for any reaction. While allergic type reactions to fruit and vegetables are uncommon some may upset babies stomach or cause constipation.  Watermelon made my older two very cranky and uncomfortable when they were little and carrot always bunged them up :-/. You will soon work out if there is anything to avoid!  If baby does get constipated cooked, puréed prunes work wonders, in moderation though!  Also always offer cooled boiled water with food, slightly warm (yuck) seems to go down a bit better.

Most of all, enjoy!  And beware of the mess that is to come 🙂

Jam Making Tutorial

Jam is a lovely handmade gift to give as a Thank You, it is also great to make a big batch when fruits are cheap as it will last ages in the cupboard if bottled correctly. When I say ages, I mean years!  I would say that it should be right for 12 months for sure but I recently found some I the back of the cupboard from !2011! and it was still perfectly fine with no signs of mould or discoloration. Having said that I would always store it in the fridge once opened. For this tutorial I have made Blackberry Jam but the method is pretty much at the same for any Jam. I always check a recipe that has similar fruit to what I am using as some require lemon juice or water to be added. Most recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit. I only ever use 75% sugar to fruit (because this is what my Mum does), this is sweet enough for sure. So for 1kg of fruit I use 750g sugar.

So here goes 🙂

Before you do anything else, put a small plate in the freezer.

First you need to prepare your jars. You can use any glass jars with metal lids that seal well (avoid lids that have any rust or dents). Wash your jars in hot soapy water, rinse and place on a tray.  Also wash, rinse and place on the tray a jug that you will use to pour the jam.  Place the tray in the oven at 100*c to sterilize everything.

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Measure your ingredients. You can measure the fruit straight in to pan but the sugar needs to be separate.

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Put the fruit in the pan on medium-high heat until it is simmering and cook the fruit down until it  is all softened.  I use a spoon to squash the fruit a little so that the jam doesn’t have big lumps of fruit, that’s personal choice 🙂    Remove from the heat and add the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, it will feel gritty until it is dissolved fully.

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Once all the sugar has dissolved return to the heat and bring to the boil.  You want a slow boil, not too rapid.  Stir regularly for as long as your recipe states.  This 500g batch of Blackberry needed 9 minutes.  1kg of mixed berry usually takes around 15 minutes but all fruits are different so find a recipe to use as a guide.

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After the suggested cooking time you need to test the Jam to see if it has set.  This is why you put a plate in the freezer earlier 🙂  Grab the plate, put a small blob of jam on it and put it back in the freezer.  After a couple of minutes take out the plate and use your finger to push the jam gently from one side of the blob towards the centre.  Watch the jam just in front of your finger, you want to see the jam wrinkle instead of just push away smoothly.  If you can see a wrinkle then your jam has set, if not put another blob of jam on the other side of the plate and repeat.  Sometimes it just does not seem to wrinkle at all, I usually give it a few more goes and then give up and bottle anyway, the jam always does seem to set once cooled, just one of those mystery things I guess…

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When your jam has reached its set point you are ready to bottle it.  You need to work quickly now, you want to pour hot jam into hot jars and then seal with hot lids.  Either pour your jam into the jug you have sterilized or dip the jug into the pot if you are making a bigger quantity, remember everything is very hot, wear oven mitts!!  If you dip the jug in hold a plate under it to catch the drips.  Fill the jars to about 1cm from the top and tighten lids quickly.  When all jars are filled check all lids are on tightly and leave to cool.  As they cool the lids will vacume on, you might hear them pop down and you will notice they concave.  That’s it, you have made Jam 🙂

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Any leftover jam can be stored in an unsterilized jar or container in the fridge, it wont last long because you will eat it!!

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So there you go, next time you come across some cheap berries give it a go, there is nothing better than home made jam.

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Making in the kitchen

There are many ways you can save on your grocery bill.  I go through fits and bursts of meal planning, only buying what we need for that week or buying in bulk, all of which can save you money if done with some forward planning.

The thing that saves us most at the supermarket though, is cooking from scratch. This means different things for different people, for me it simply means buying whole ingredients instead of packets. This works for me because I enjoy cooking and I was brought up this way so I have a general idea about how to cook most things, and the confidence to have a go. Don’t get me wrong, you will find packets of things in my pantry and fridge, some things just aren’t the same when they are home made. Take Tomato Sauce for example. I LOVE bought Tomato Sauce and would choose it over home made any day!

Three things that I make religiously that save us big money are Bread, Butter and Yoghurt. This works for me as I am home a lot, I enjoy it and…I’m a tight ass, as you would know from previous posts ;-). So here are my tips in case you feel inspired to have a go.

Bread
For this you need a bread machine, well unless you feel like kneading by hand…not my idea of fun! It does not need to be anything fancy but something with a timer is very useful if you tend to be like me and always realise that you are out of bread at 10pm. A machine with a timer means that you can set it to come on in the wee hours of the morning so you can have toast for breakfast without getting up in the middle of the night to put the bread on, or take it out.

I usually have white, wholemeal and multigrain bread mix so we don’t get sick of the one type. You can mix any combinations of flours and also add extra seeds and grains as you like. It will take you a few goes to get the perfect loaf and every brand of bread mix will require a slightly different recipe but I find that 330ml water, a glug (probably a tablespoon) olive oil, 3cups bread mix and 2tsp yeast is perfect. I use Lauke Bread Mix and I have worked out that a loaf costs around $1.30 🙂

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Butter
I make this in my Thermomix. Before I had it I used my food processor, that worked but wasn’t quite as easy so I didn’t make it very often. I am lucky enough to be able to buy 2L of cream locally for $7. This makes around 1.4kg of butter and around 600ml of buttermilk, this changes with the cream depending on the amount of butterfat in it.

Once I have made butter I mix in a good pinch of salt and 2 glugs of Rice Bran Oil (which has no flavor). This makes nice spreadable butter (when kept in the cupboard). Homemade butter will go rancid much faster than store bought so I freeze into either 250g blocks for baking or small containers for everyday use. I also freeze the buttermilk in 100/200ml containers or ice cubes so it can be used easily in baking.

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Yoghurt
I have tried making yoghurt using just milk and a starter culture and sometimes it works but I just couldn’t get it to work every time (some people can) so I use EasiYo. It is not quite as cheap as using milk and culture but still much better than buying ready made. I stock up when the sachets are in special, they are often $3 each or less and this makes 1L of yoghurt. I always buy the natural mix and we add jam or lemon butter when we eat it or I mix in 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1tsp of vanilla paste at the beginning.

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I am by no means an expert at any of this but if you have a go and something doesn’t work for you let me know, I am happy to trouble shoot with you 🙂

 

The world inside my freezer

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE my freezer. I would honestly be very lost without it. I have most definitely inherited this love from my Mum and Grandma, although not quite to the extend of my dear Grandma who freezes every last scrap of vegetable steaming water in old margarine tubs to be used later in soup. She does make delicious soup!

You know the way that small children can be completely happy and content one minute and then absolutely starving the next, well this is why I love my freezer. It is also handy for the times when I manage to get totally carried away with something and then realize that I am the one who is absolutely starving or that it’s only 15 minutes until tea time.  Also for when guests pop in at meal times and I was planning to have Weetbix or toast 😉 Also for lunch boxes…and the list goes on.

For all this to work you really do need some kind of system for organising your freezer. Searching through the back of your freezer for something that you were sure was there last month, is really not fun, it’s just far too darn cold in there. You need to have a general idea of where to look. Mine works like this.

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My husband just saw me taking a photo of the freezer and he thinks I need to get a life, lol 😉

anyway…
Top shelf – leftovers frozen in small portions for the girls

Middle shelf – bread, rolls, sorbet, ice cream, anything else that is bulky

Bottom shelf – meals in portions enough for 1-2 adults
Casseroles, curries, pasta sauces (with or without pasta), fried rice, cooked meat and veggie pie fillings, lasagne, roast meat in gravy (this freezes very well which surprised me and I think now it’s a favorite) and the list goes on!

Top Drawer – all sorts of random stuff generally in zip lock bags (I think this drawer could warrant a whole post for itself!)

2nd drawer – raw meat, bacon frozen in bags of 4/6 rashers.

3rd drawer – dairy and fruit, odd combination yes. I like to have grated cheddar and Parmesan, whipped cream and cream cheese, these all freeze very well and can save precious time and effort, or a trip to the shops, while cooking. I make butter and freeze it in 250g blocks and freeze the buttermilk in either ice cubes or 100/200ml lots.

4th drawer – sweets and savouries for lunch boxes. These live in zip lock bags, I love those things! Muffins, cakes cut into pieces, sliced Banana Bread, pickets, scones will all defrost in a couple of hours in a lunch box and make for easy packing in the morning. And not only for kids lunches, making your lunch is one of the easiest ways to save LOTS of money. I make my husbands lunch almost everyday purely and simply because I’m a tight ass and can’t bear the thought of him buying lunch everyday lol!

I think I sense a few upcoming posts about freezer cooking, if you don’t cook for the freezer already I can highly recommend it! It has saved us many dinners of Weetbix in the last few months since number three has come along 🙂

Have I inspired you to clean out your freezer?  Or cook double tonight to add to your frozen collection?