Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ugly photo but perhaps the best cake....

Yesterday I baked.  Not just a little baking but a full on session of batch baking - fruit buns, a quiche (for tea), banana cake (for Ginger's playdate) and an apple and date cake.  Given my lack of energy over the preceeding days of her visit my Mum said she thought I must be nesting!  

All needed a 180C oven, so waiting for it to preheat.
But here we are early next morning (baby boy's due date) and there is still no sign of baby boy; so maybe not.  Mr Provincial just went off to the ANZAC Dawn Service at work.  This is the first year of our marriage I have not accompanied him.  One year we took a newborn Ginger who screamed for a feed most of the service, and last year we put up with her running amok in the pre-dawn darkness.  This year I thought I would let her sleep, and sleep-in myself not feeling pre-disposed with baby boy in his engaged position to standing around for a couple of hours even in the pre-dawn.  However, as Mr Provincial's alarm woke me up fully I am getting some bonus computer time - actually a good thing since I won't get a chance to get on later today.

Zucchini and Corn Quiche in progress.
So, back to baking.  I made a batch of fruit buns for breakfast this morning as we are having Mr Provincial's brother over.  I actually used my hot cross bun recipe, sans cross.  The original recipe is here.  But, I have adapted it so I can make the dough in my breadmaker.

Hot Cross Buns (sans cross) for Breadmaker
makes 12 buns

To breadmaker add the ingredients in the following order:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 50 grams melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
Process on dough setting until ready.  Form into 12 buns.  Allow a second rise.  Bake in a 200c oven for 10 minutes, turn oven down to 180c for an additional 20 minutes.  Serve hot with lashings of butter.

Anyway, more about the ugliest but probably best tasting cake I have ever had.  A couple of years ago my mother-in-law sent me a recipe.  I filed it away with all my other 'get to it one day' recipes.  Last week Ginger emptied provided me with a very good opportunity to go through said file and I rediscovered the recipe.  

It is good.  Seriously good.  The recipe calls for it to be served with cream.  Honestly, I wouldn't bother - it is sufficiently moist.  And, in the spirit of Rhonda's challenge no cream is $4 saved:) Mr Provincial even said cream wasn't necessary; a big call for him as he loves his cream.

All baked.

Apple and Date Cake
Serves 8 to 10
From Super Food Ideas
  • 2 green apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
Place apples, dates and soda in a bowl.  Pour over boiling water.  Allow to stand until cool.

Beat butter and sugar together in another bowl until pale and creamy.  Blend in egg and vanilla.

Fold flour and apple mixture alternately into creamed mixture.  Spread into a greased and lined 23cm spring-form cake tin.  Bake in a moderate (180c) oven for 45 minutes.

To prepare topping: place butter, sugar, coconut and milk in a small saucepan.  Heat, stirring, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Remove cake from oven.  Spread topping evenly over the top of the cake.  Bake for a further 15 minutes or until topping is golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely in tin.  Carefully remove sides of tin.  Transfer to serving plate and serve in wedges with thick cream if liked.  (Note: I baked in a lined square tin and had no problems getting the cake out when cooled). 

As I said, it ain't pretty but it is tasty!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Grocery Challenges

There seem to be rumblings around the blogosphere of late about keeping grocery bills down.  I think the first post to get me started on thinking about our grocery bills was Inner Pickle with her no shopping challenge (they just bowed out after 25 days - very impressive; though when I think about such a challenge I just think 'what about dairy?'), then Sarah posted about her pantry re-do and their 'how low can you go' efforts, and finally Rhonda has put up a 50 per cent less meat challenge and a "Slow and Mindful Grocery Challenge".

We already eat a fairly low meat diet.  My Mum actually commented to me the other day whether I was sure Ginger was getting enough protein; I think she is.  I tend to include a lot of vegetarian meals and then meals where meat is a 'flavour' rather than a key component - like potato and bacon soup or buk kut teh (I add rice and greens to make a 'complete' meal).  Thankfully, for the most part Mr Provincial is willing to go along with this.

Our favourite yoghurt reduced to $2.50 a carton.
Some weeks my meal plans feature meat more heavily than others - and in those there is certainly room for some reduction in meat consumption.  But in a week such as this current week (through to Wednesday evening) my meal plan looks like this:
Wed - Dahl (meat free)
Thurs - Buk kut teh (pork ribs, meat stripped off)
Fri - Potato and bacon soup (a small packet of free range bacon) and pudding
Sat - Vegetarian Texas Hash (as the name suggests vegetarian - kidney beans)
Sun - Sausage Rolls (we used lamb mince and sausages - both marked down)
Mon - Spaghetti Bolognaise (beef mince)
Tues - Vegetarian quiche
Wed - Vegan Pad Thai

I think Mr Provincial would rebel if I had any less meat in any week's plan!

And yet, our grocery bills are horrendously high.  They have really blown out this year without Aldi to fall back on.  The last couple of weeks our bills at Woolworths alone have been well above $120.  Mr Provincial also does a market shop for fruit and vegetable which averages about $60.  What can I say, the man loves his tropical fruit!  This is well above our spending for the last couple of years.  We are fighting the fact that everything in Darwin is, well, expensive.  Shipping costs and limited choices make it so.  But, I feel we could do better.  

Bagged up in 8 tablespoon amounts for freezing.  Yield is 14 two litre yoghurt starters - 54c (starter).   Plus $2 (milk) is $2.54  for 2 litres of yoghurt.
I do not get particularly concerned if any one week's spend is high.  I tend to find you get bargains in one particular category in any one week and sourcing those should save you money in the long run.  The week after Easter (with its four day long weekend) I picked up a tonne (not literally) of free range chicken breasts at one-third their original price, and heart smart mince at half price.  That blew out my budget that week but both are meats we do use regularly in cooking and I have the freezer space to put them away.  This past week I picked up a good buy (half price) on the yoghurt I like to use as my starter.  Again, worth spending the extra this week provided we make the saving later.  It is the saving later that I think often doesn't happen:)  The money we save just gets frittered away elsewhere.

So, I am thinking of taking up Rhonda's grocery challenge.  I will be giving the spending limit for a weekly shop due consideration in the next couple of days.  The limitation to my participation of course is baby boy's imminent arrival.  Like a good army son should be he is due this wednesday, Anzac Day!  So, bearing in mind that the next couple of shopping trips may be taken by either my mother or husband (in both cases probably without a menu plan) I am totally psyched up for Rhonda's challenge!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Nappy Chronicles

We bought a bunch of newborn cloth nappies at the end of last week.  Snappies (based here in Darwin) came highly recommended to me from some mums at our steiner group and while they are very reasonably priced normally ($10, as opposed to the $30 a nappy we paid for Baby Beehinds), they have been having a sale.

With Ginger we used traditional terry toweling nappies until she was about 5 months old and big enough to fit into our supposedly one-size-fits-all Baby Beehinds.  The photo below shows why I will not be subjecting another newborn to this.  Additionally, modern cloth nappies are so much less work.  Lifting buckets of soaking nappies because your husband goes out field two weeks post c/section is not a good idea if you want to heal rapidly.  Just a heads up.  Lastly, we have rarely had a modern cloth leak.  Not so, with the traditional nappies.  

Perhaps it was our folding technique - though it was one suggested for newborns upwards but poor Ginger was swamped by her nappies.

These new cloth nappies are the sweetest and tiniest things you ever saw.  I tried one on my old baby doll (now adopted by Ginger) and it fit perfectly on its smallest setting.  Excuse the photo though, I had to do it before Ginger got up at the risk of her absconding with the nappies for her dolls.

Also excuse the doll's look - she was my childhood baby doll and is a little worse for wear.

Lots of bright baby heralding bunting on the line.  Tomorrow I am 39 weeks and my Mum arrives to look after Ginger so baby boy I give you carte blanche to arrive anytime you want to:) 

Ginger got a couple of gender neutral cuties as well - I love the owl print.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homemade Takeaway

Upfront apologies to any vegetarians out there.  You may not wish to read any further.  Mr Provincial and I were musing the other week about how we miss having the occasional takeaway.  It is not really since we left Sydney (three moves ago) that we have had takeaway on a semi-regular basis.  There, we were lucky to live near a really good pizza shop (mmm, greek lamb pizza), a mexican restaurant, indian takeaway and nice fish and chips shop.  Nowhere else have we found a pizza shop with a 'gourmet' pizza worth its $15-20 pricetag; we make our own now.

Anyway, in another pregnancy fog moment the other week I bought the wrong kind of mince (a half price markdown where I got carried away, and brought home four packets).  Generally, I buy the leanest of the minces - Heartsmart at Woolworths - but this time I bought premium which seems to be quite a bit fattier.  I used two packets up in bolognaise (four containers stowed in the freezer for post baby) and homemade taco mix.  But, I was a little distressed at seeing the fat rise to the surface once they were in the freezer, so I concluded the other packets should be used in something where the excess fat would cook off.  Homemade burgers seemed the order of the day, because we could cook them on the BBQ and the fat would drain.

So, homemade patties were made.  I just blitzed a couple of old bread crusts in the food processer with an onion.  Tipped that and an egg into my mince, mixed together and formed patties.

Yes, we have a lot of cooked patties in the freezer now!
Bread rolls were prepped in the breadmaker and finished in the oven.

Mr Provincial's homegrown and personally preserved beetroot was opened.  I still can't believe he took it upon himself to preserve them the night before we packed the house in Toowoomba!  It is very Australian to have beetroot on your burger.

I was planning to make oven fries but Mr Provincial requested smashed potatoes.  If you haven't tried The Pioneer Woman's recipe yet - you should.  Mr Provincial, who doesn't particularly like potatoes, loves this and has been requesting them about once a week.

Served with tomato, cheese, relish and lettuce we call this the miniature Provincial burger:) 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nappy Mending

The last two weeks I have been finishing off my pre-baby-arrival tasks.  One of those was to re-elasticate about three-quarters of our one-size-fits-all nappies which were definitely not going to fit a young baby at all.  In fact the elastic had given way so badly that they didn't really fit Ginger very well either.

I have actually had this on my to-do list for a long time as about Ginger's first birthday many nappies started to give way, but as with most tasks which I am not sure how I will go about doing, I put it off indefinitely.  Anyway, a new baby is a good motivator to finally tackle those jobs.

It actually turned out to be pretty easy.  However, so that you avoid an entire evening of frustration and countless wasted hours of unpicking - I give you my top tip up front.  You want good strong elastic and good strong thread.  I was trying to use up elastic from my stash, most of which was handed down from my Nanna.  So, some elastic was obviously older than others.  All the nappies done with one batch had to be unpicked and redone - consquently, I am adament that you make sure you have good elastic.  I also ended up using quilting thread which is just that much stronger, normal (admittedly cheap) thread kept breaking when I pulled the elastic taut.

Anyway, I took a few pictures along the way so thought I would share my method.

First, I used a quick unpick to score a small entry and exit point at each end of the existing elastic casing.  There is no need to remove the perished elastic, just insert your fresh piece.  I secured mine at one end with a safety pin.  I pulled taut and then sewed with a wide zig-zag stitch, back stitching at start and end for security.  Repeat for the other side.  I then trimmed the elastic even with the entry and exit points and covered the snipped area with a tangential small zig-zag stitch.

A whole basket of re-elasticated nappies!

Ah, that makes an expectant mother happy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Makings

We had a lovely four days off here.  I didn't do the Easter Shop until Maunday Thursday this time - with Ginger I shopped early and then spent Easter in hospital with all the fixings going to waste in the fridge at home:)  I have learnt my lesson.

Good Friday we had church and homemade hot cross buns.  I used my favourite recipe, and adapted it for the breadmaker so the dough could be made while we were at church.

 Sunday we had Ginger's egg hunt (the mean Easter Bunny left her only a smattering of chocolate eggs, but did make up for it with some homemade bunny beanbags and a book).  The beanbags were actually the hit of the day - I got the idea here.  Actually, Ginger didn't know what to do with the eggs when she did find them.  She made use of them in her little kitchen until we had Mr Provincial's brother over for lunch and he unwrapped one for her. Then, Mummy made a very smart move to hide two-thirds of her haul away in the fridge for later!  

Lunch was roast chook and simnel cake.  I have to contact my Mum's friend for her simnel cake recipe as this one turned out really dry.  Good news though that Ginger apparently likes marzipan.  I had to zealously defend the 11 apostles (Judas of course not appearing) from being eaten while I put the cake together.

All in all, a lovely weekend. Hope you had an enjoyable one too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Post Birthday Recovery

We are in post birthday recovery mode here today.  Ginger turned two this weekend and despite us keeping things low key - well as low key as you can when I insist on putting up bunting, decorations and helium balloons:) - I am having a day of rest.  

Hope to post more tomorrow, but then again have a midwifery appointment smack in the middle of Ginger's naptime so unlikely I will get her down for a nap and, ergo, probably no computer time for moi.

Cake was the sticky date pudding from Annabel Langbein's The Free Range Cook. Mr Provincial baked.  Isn't Ginger lucky to have a Daddy who likes to be in the kitchen:)