Happy New Year, time to get organised again!

Happy New Year to all of my followers. I have taken a little time out these holidays, and not looked at anything work or thesis related for just over a week. Now I am getting back into the swing of things and preparing for a year of full time work, PhD confirmation in March and then data collection. There are a number of considerations when planning for this year to run smoothly. These include making realistic timelines and goals. With this ‘realistic’ idea in mind, I will be changing my blogging to be fortnightly for this blog, and monthly for my other blog (One Mad Tatter). I have also gotten back into meal planning in a serious way, and have set up my calendar until the end of March with nutritious weekday dinners that either WH or I can prepare quickly. I have added a Sunday cooking list to the calendar too, so that some bulk cooking and preparation can be done for the week ahead. Today I am making some yoghurt, flat bread to freeze and a big batch of bolognaise sauce to freeze too.

Thinking about getting more organised with my writing and thesis, I was trawling through some draft posts I have on wordpress and found this link to Michael Hyatt’s post on organising Evernote for maximum efficiency. How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency | Michael Hyatt. Having over 1,000 notes now, I think it is a good time of year to sort and tag my notes to increase my ease of searching in the future. Another feature of Evernote is that you can sort the notes that contain checkboxes, which is great as I am a fan of check boxes, and use them to indicate my ‘to-do’ tasks.

 

Knowing that any plan is only going to work if it is actioned, I’d better get into the cooking 🙂

Fiona T.

 

 

Happy Easter and a Recipe.

Happy Easter! I am glad we have some holidays at the moment, it has given me a time to catch my breath and get organised again, with a view for a smoother term 2. In today’s blog I wanted to share a recipe I have adapted and my first photo tutorial to show the steps to make it.

I originally got this recipe from the Coles online blog. It was made with honey and dried fruit. Here is the link to the original recipe, it is nut free and egg free, and could easily be adjusted to be gluten free too. I find the ‘muesli’ slice idea a great one, and often have a slice of this in a container in my bag  in case I am caught out somewhere without a snack.

The reality when baking it was a little different. While it was easy to throw together, it was very crumbly when cut (we used a spoon to eat the first batch!) so I decided to adjust the recipe a bit. Over the last few months I have made this recipe almost every 2 weeks, adjusting it a little each time. I have changed this recipe so much, I now think I can call it my own.

This term I am also trialling a different way of organising my baking. As there are really 2 steps to mixing this recipe (1. Mix dry ingredients, 2. Add wet ingredients) I decided to make one batch, and premix the dry ingredients for another 2 batches (doesn’t take that much longer…I guess about 6 minutes). These extra batches are stored in airtight containers (or large snap lock bags) in the pantry, and when I need to make the next batch I can just add the wet ingredients and bake.

A production line of dry mixes:

Dry mixes: one ready to make and two to store in the pantry: 

 

Fi’s Honey & Nut Slice (Fi’s Honey and Nut Slice link to PDF version for easy printing)

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup nut mix (can be whole nuts, I do like to chop mine though. Dried fruit can be used instead)

½ cup Wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ cup raw sugar

½ cup coconut

125g Butter

1 tablespoon Honey

2 eggs

Method:

  1. Melt butter and honey. I do this in a pyrex jug in the microwave. Once melted, allow to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C-160 C (fan forced), and line a slice tin (approx 28cm x 18cm) with baking paper or greased foil.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. That’s your oats, nuts, sugar, flour, baking powder and coconut. Mix together.  
  4. Add the cooled butter and honey  then mix.  Add the 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly.

5. Press into prepared tin.

6. Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool.

7. Cut into slices, and store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a couple of weeks. Great for snack and treats. Make a fruit only (nut free) version if sending for school lunches.

 

I really like the honey flavour in this recipe, especially for having only one tablespoon of honey in it.

Enjoy!

Fiona T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!  All the best for the New Year ahead. It promises to hold much adventure, and I hope you enjoy sharing the official beginning of my PhD journey with me.

Here is a recipe for a quick and fun cake to make on the holidays with kids…chat about what might be making this rise with your kids when you make it as it has no eggs or dairy in this chocolate wacky cake.  It is believed to have been created during the depression/war when eggs and dairy items were rationed.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir until moistened. Pour into 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350°F (200 degrees C should do it) oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

 

sourced from: http://southernfood.about.com/od/chocolatecakes/r/bl01018c.htm

I first read about this cake in ‘Apple turnover murder’ , by Joanne Fluke., I quite enjoy reading these mystery books…have a look for then at your local library for some light (and yummy) holiday reading.

All the best

Fiona T

 

Recipes- Maple Date Loaf

In the lead up to Christmas I am working on conference papers for next year and my Ethics applications. Here is another recipe you may like to try. This recipe has been requested each time I have made it for others, so here it is. Quite quick to throw together and very filling and yummy. Enjoy!

Maple date loaf

(Super food ideas, August 2010 page 78 and http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/25390/maple+date+loaf)

(serves 6-8)

1 cup dried pitted dates, chopped

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

60g butter, chopped

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup cold water

2 cups Self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice (or ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg)

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 170oC/150oC fan-forced. Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 10cm x 20cm (base) loaf pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing 2cm overhang at long ends.
2. Place dates, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and 1 cup of cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring for 6-8 minutes or until butter has melted. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes.
3. Sift flour and mixed spice into a bowl. Add egg and date mixture. Fold into flour mixture. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth surface.
4. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Prick top of loaf all over with a skewer. Drizzle with maple syrup. Stand in pan for 10 mins or until syrup has absorbed. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. Serve.

This loaf will also freeze well. Slice and wrap slices to freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipes- Crumble Topping

Well, I am waiting for my paperwork to go through for my candidature and am working on Ethics Applications, and papers for conferences next year. So in the lead up to Christmas I will be putting up some recipes we like. I hope you enjoy them.

Here is a recipe that is yummy for either hot or cold weather.

Topping for Fruit Crumble

(for apple/fruit crumble. From Super food Ideas, July 2002 Page 27)

Ingredients:

½ cup plain flour

30gm low fat margarine or butter

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon mixed spice

What to do:

1.     Combine flour and butter in bowl, mixing with fingertips until breadcrumb consistency.

2.     Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well.

3.     Sprinkle over chopped fruit

4.     Bake at 1800 for 15-20 minutes. This will cook fruit too (don’t need to stew first!!)

I sometimes make a big batch of this topping and have found I can use half straight away, and freeze the other half in a freezer bag.  It makes a really quick dessert for another night.  Can use almost any chopped fresh fruit (apple, pear, nectarines etc) or frozen berries.

Bulk Meals and Freezing: some links and tips

My menu planner has served us well this year. The post linked here is a little updated with a new link or two to online versions of the recipes I have used. The Spinach impossible pie is fabulous, and fits into my allocated 1 hour of preparation and cooking time. Ditto for the Devilled Sausage Casserole from Liss at Frills in the Hills, I won’t be buying the packet one again.

Something I also referred to in the above post was cooking bulk meals and freezing them for later dinners. I have been a fan of freezing for many years and when we moved and acquired a deep freezer, well I was in heaven! I have many old and new books on freezer friendly meals, but in discussions with some of my Mum friends it seems many are not so confident. So here are two things I have found to help those who are presently ‘uninitiated’ into the fun of freezing meals.

  1. Super Food Ideas is a magazine I have been buying every month since around 2000. The recipes are easy to follow, use pantry/easy to obtain ingredients and they WORK. They also have great tips and features, here is a link to their info on freezing: http://www.taste.com.au/super+food+ideas/blog/super+food+ideas/freezer+tips,900
  2. This week while on Facebook I saw a post from ‘stay at home mum‘  who has written a book promoting bulk cooking and freezing called “Once A Month Cooking“. For under $10 it is a great read and resource. It is well structured to support the freezer shy to begin to save time and sanity, and has some yummy recipes for those who maybe don’t want to do the full months cooking in one day. It is Australian, using healthier ingredients in recipes that families will enjoy.

So as I trudge back to do my marking, I am wondering what your families favourite quick meals are, please comment below and let’s see how many we can get!

Fiona T

A quick sweet recipe- Caramel Slice

Welcome to my new subscribers and followers via Facebook. Today is a break from methodology, with a recipe to fill those sweet slice tins. Yes, it’s my famous Caramel Slice recipe, it must be one of my most requested recipes from friends. I first made it for my WH not ling after we were married…it was also one of the first reasons I bought SFI (Super Food Ideas magazine) as it had this recipe in it.

It is quite quick, in fact I usually do it in short bursts, first I mix and cook the base. While it is in the oven I ‘whip up’ the caramel on the stove. By the time the caramel is ready (just combined, so no butter is sitting on top of the Condensed milk), the base is cooked and it all goes back in the oven. Then I wash up (admittedly after licking the warm caramel from the saucepan, but I digress). Once the washing up is done and put away the slice is usually ready to come out of the oven. It needs to cool, so is left on the stove top covered by an immaculately clean tea towel. An hour or so later I melt the chocolate and butter for the topping (in the microwave) then spread it over the top and pop it in the fridge, setting the timer for half an hour. I used to leave it overnight in the fridge, but it would always shatter the chocolate in the morning…still tasted fab, but didn’t look as appealing for sharing (for some reason WH never seemed to mind).

So enjoy…I have listed the original recipe (and my alterations are in brackets)…enjoy 🙂

Chocolate Caramel Slice (super food ideas Oct/Nov 2000. Pg 92)

Makes 24 slices

Ingredients

Base:

1 cup plain flour, sifted

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup desiccated coconut

125g butter (or margarine), melted

Caramel:

60g butter or margarine

1 x 400g tin sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons golden syrup

Topping:

60g of copha (or butter or cream)

200g milk or dark chocolate melts

What to do:

  1. Combine flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Stir through butter.
  2. Press mixture into a lined 18 x 28cm lamington tin. Bake in a moderate (180 o) oven for 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden.
  3. Melt extra butter in a saucepan. Mix in condensed milk and golden syrup. Stir over very low heat until well combined. (don’t boil..I find the caramel burns really quickly)
  4. Pour over base. Bake at 160o for 10-15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.
  5. Melt copha in a saucepan over low heat. (Alternatively you can melt chocolate and butter/cream in microwave proof bowl in a microwave, for 30 second bursts on medium. Stir at each 30 second interval. Will take 2-3 minutes in total.)  Add chocolate melts. Stir until melted and well combined. Spread evenly over slice. Refrigerate until set. Approx 20mins. (If you leave it overnight the chocolate will crack instead of cutting straight)
  6. Cut into squares. These will keep well in an airtight container.

Planning Meals

In a previous post I mentioned that I plan my meals in a 3 month block.

First I print off a calendar for the month I want to plan (or three months as the case may be).  I had originally wanted to type it, or use drop down menu fields to select meals before printing, but these took to long to try and set up. The ones I found already set up online were American and the food was just too different to what we eat. At this stage handwriting is working for me (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). I also like to sit with the calendar at the table with my latest cooking mags and books around me to put in things I would like to try to cook. It is a nice experience to plan this way. It takes approx 2 hours in total. That sounds like a chunk of time, but it seriously saves me so much more time than this over the next 3 months, as well as relieving anxiety everyday, the 2 hour investment is worth it.

Meal planning has been so helpful in a number of ways:

  • It aids speedy grocery shopping, as I know well in advance what is on the menu and can buy certain things when they are on sale.
  • It provides much more balance to our meals, as well as variety. We are not eating the same things every week and are also able to try new recipes regularly.
  • It means we are wasting less food and also eating less takeaway. Takeaway is now once a month, or if our day has gone pear-shaped.
  • It stops that 4.30ish anxiety of ‘what’s for dinner…’ This in itself is brilliant, I can have relaxed time with my LT after school and not be flipping through recipes and racing to the shop for last minute ingredients.
  • It also means that I plan the days I am cooking bulk meals and can freeze them to use on busy work/study days.
  • I also am able to have a few emergency meals from the bulk cooking that I can share with family or friends in case of illness etc. I love to be able to help people out every now and then, and a spare lasagne or soup can give someone else the night off.
  • Oh, and sometimes we don’t feel like the meal on the planner, that’s OK too…it is flexible.

A number of my friends are now using menu planners too. They are finding it helps with all of the above things. It takes one thing off the constant list that runs through a Mum’s head, and that has to be a good thing.

Below I have attached the excel spreadsheet I downloaded from the internet earlier this year. I don’t recall which site it came from, but will reference it if I find it again. I have also compiled a list of the meals we have on our list for this three month block (May-July) with our winter selection, in case you are interested. Some have links to online versions of the recipes too.

Click this Link to download the ‘monthly-menu-planner‘  it is an excel document. When you open it, make sure you enable macros (it will prompt you to do this) otherwise the calendar will not update to the month you enter.

sfi= super food ideas

Favourites from the summer planner include:

I generally have at least 3 veggies in a meal. If they are not hidden (as in sausage rolls) then they are either steamed, roasted or eaten is a salad. I have some ‘nutirent dense’ (N) food too, these recipes have been either chosen because of the extra nutrients in them or I have adapted them to have more ‘good things’ in them, like my morrocan casserole, or the nachos.

I hope this  post helps to generate ideas. I look forward to seeing what others are cooking too, always like to try new recipes 🙂

Happy Planning!

Fiona

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