Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 frugal baking tips

If you don't already know by now, I try to do everything on the cheap, including baking, without sacrificing on taste or flavour. There are some recipes I'd just love to try but can't justify using a dozen eggs or a whole block of butter. Yeah sure, they might taste delicious but with my family's tastes, my grocery budget and the effort to make some of these recipes, it's just not economical. Here are some frugal baking tips that I've put together just to help you save a few dollars but without sacrificing on flavour.

Caramel Mudcake I made for my sister's birthday which needed 200 grams of white chocolate and that's about as extravagant as I get.

1.  Don't buy special ingredients

I've been seeing quite a few recipes coming through my Pinterest and Facebook feeds, for slices, cookies and bars that have candy or chocolate bars added. Unless it was for an absolute special occasion, I would never buy these ingredients. For example, if you were wanting to make something with those delicious (I love them) peanut butter flavoured chocolates (you know the ones I mean), you can achieve the same taste with your basic pantry ingredients of peanut butter and chocolate. I always have a block of dark chocolate in the pantry for baking. Same with chocolate mint flavoured baked goods. Having a good supply of essences like peppermint and almond essence, for example, you can achieve the same result.


2.  Bake while the oven is on

You know the old saying "make hay while the sun shines" or "strike when the iron is hot"? Well, nothing could be truer than making the most of an already preheated oven. I try to bake every fortnight on a Sunday for the kid's lunchboxes and after school snacks so try to plan a roast or meal that requires baking in the oven. Sometimes this doesn't happen so it might be a quick batch of muffins made during the week, while the oven is on. You might only be saving a couple of dollars but over the course of the year, you'd be surprised how much that adds up.

3.  Make your own bulk baking mixes

There's a few recipes around for bulk baking mixes like pancakes, cakes and cookies but having them already made up will save you a bit of time as well as money. The only time I buy a box mix of anything is a 70 cent vanilla cake mix for the kid's birthday cake. This may change as they get older because, my son in particular, is developing some exotic tastes and loves rich desserts. 


4.  Use seasonal fruits to determine what you bake

It's nice knowing that nature has it down pat when it comes to deciding what to cook and when to cook it. During winter, fruits like apples, pears and citrus fruit are in abundance and can be made into beautiful hearty, warm desserts like pies, tartlets and wholesome cakes. During the summer months, fruits like strawberries and tropical fruits can be made into no bake, lighter desserts. I always decide on what to bake with what's in my fruit and vegetable crisper.

5.  Avoid recipes that require a lot of expensive ingredients

In my part of the world, eggs and butter aren't the cheapest ingredients around so I avoid baking anything that requires a lot of either. We're not big egg eaters so I usually only have a dozen eggs in the fridge and this might last me a month or so. I do stock the freezer with butter, for sandwiches and baking (we're a butter only household) so it has to last. Unless you have a cow and chickens, then use the butter and eggs to your heart's content.


6.  Use up leftover breakfast cereal in your baking

Does your breakfast cereal stash look like mine? Half eaten boxes of cereal in the pantry? The kids must get bored of them. I can remember as a child we did. We'd usually only want the box of cereal for the toy and then not eat it. Breakfast cereal makes a wonderful addition to baked goods. I like to turn my leftovers into Breakfast Muffins for a quick, on-the-go breakfast option. I've always got oats and Weetbix in the pantry because the make the best baked goods. Here are just 5 recipes using breakfast cereal I like to make on a regular basis.

7.  Never throw anything away

I like to keep all the bits and pieces from birthday cakes and broken biscuit pieces from the cookie jar to use in my baking. Making my son's 8th birthday cake, for example, I had the 2 circles cut out from making the number '8'. I stored them in the freezer and I used them to make chocolate truffles. Broken biscuit pieces are excellent for cheesecake bases, bars and slices. I particularly like this Rough Road Slice I make with any leftover candy (is there such a thing) and broken biscuits.


8.  Substitute, substitute, substitute

I guess if you've been baking for as long as I have, you quickly learn which ingredients will still work well when substituted for those that the recipe calls for. For example, sugar is pretty much sugar in any form it's in. If a recipe calls for brown sugar and you don't have it, use white. If you need sour cream, use yoghurt, milk or cream. My 'go to' web site I use when I'm not sure is The Cook's Thesaurus. It's a wealth of information for everything from herbs, spices, ingredients and everything in between. Also, if you're trying to 'lighten' things up a bit and reduce sugars and fats, fruit and vegetable purees work just as well. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I substitute with 1 cup of fruit puree like apple, for example. I've very rarely had a failure. It's all a matter of trial and error. Baking is a science they say but if you substitute like with like, you're bound to have success. Except unless you substitute plain flour for self raising flour, like I have done on more than one occasion, and got flat, lifeless cakes like bricks.


9.  You don't need expensive equipment to bake

I hope I'm not going to get anyone offside with this one but I don't use anything but my Nanna's wire whisk when I bake. I don't even own a mix master. There's a certain appliance on the market that everyone raves about for about $2,000 and yes, it might be good and an absolute wonder in the kitchen but you don't need it to achieve excellent baked goods. People were baking for hundreds of years without electricity and achieving wonderful results. Pastry, for example, was around back in Roman times and as far as I know, no electricity. My Nanna also won many prizes at the county fairs for her sponge cakes, all made by hand with her wire whisks. I do have a hand held mixer for whipping egg whites if I need to but I avoid baking things like that unless I really want to.

10. Avoid buying baking specific ingredients

I very rarely buy ready made chocolate chips, rather opting for chopping the chocolate myself. Like seriously. If you're making a chocolate chip cookie you want to bite into a decent piece of chocolate, right? I tend to buy a basic sprinkle but don't get caught up thinking you need special sprinkles or decorations for cakes. A good supply of icing sugar, a few different food colourings and a basic sprinkle and the kids will still be happy. Easter and Christmas time the supermarkets are inundated with special toppings. A crushed candy cane, for example, (we all have stacks of those at Christmas time, don't we?) makes an excellent topping for cookies or cakes. Same goes with nuts, chopped dried fruit, crumble topping, coconut, biscuit crumbs, oats, poppy or chia seeds or a simple piece of candy.

Remember, you don't need to buy special ingredients if you've got a well stocked pantry with the basics and use seasonal produce. If you're looking for recipe inspiration, just Google the basic ingredients you have, for example, if you have a glut of oranges and a tub of yoghurt, and you want to make a cake, Google "orange yoghurt" and there's over 14 million different recipes for you to choose from. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Double Chocmallow Muffins

It's funny how recipes just 'evolve' due to lack of ingredients or ingredients going off. Such was the case when I was all set to use things up in my pantry for Rocky Road Cupcakes but wasn't sure how long the peanuts had been there until I tasted one and yep, they'd gone off. I needed something for the lunch boxes that week so omitted the nuts and decided to do muffins instead and add cocoa, chocolate chips and marshmallows so the Double Chocmallow Muffins evolved.

This is just my basic muffin recipe which is so good and so easy. I can add any flavourings to them and they always turn out.

I don't normally ice my muffins either but I had a bit of leftover chocolate icing in the freezer (I don't throw anything out) so thought I'd finish these muffins off with a bit of extra sweetness. Just another version to mix things up a bit. 

What's your favourite muffin flavour or more to the point, your kid's favourite?

Double Chocmallow Muffins
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup small marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used Canola)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • quantity chocolate icing (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C.
  2. Add all ingredients, mix lightly and pour into cupcake papers and bake  for 15 minutes. 
  3. Makes a dozen large sized muffins, 18 cupcake sized muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thriving on Thursday - Linky Party # 143


Welcome to another (warmer) Thriving on Thursdays. I say it every year but I'm so over winter. I really don't do cold very well. The days are just beautiful though with no humidity, which is something we endure for a very long time in my part of the world in summer so a little dry heat is just marvellous.

Talking about 'biting off more than you can chew'. I can remember up until only a little while ago when I didn't really have anything to do other than be a Mum and be a try hard 'domestic goddess' but since our plumbing works were completed, we've decided to do a bit of landscaping, in time for the wedding. We've had so many setbacks trying to get it done with Damien's Mum not being well, us not being well, my studies and Damien's work. We're slowly making progress but I found two outdoor chairs on the side of the road that I'm going to redo AND make cushions pads for our newly paved area. Talk about making a lot of work for myself. They may get finished. They may not. Stay tuned. Anyway, onto the linky party. So many wonderful posts linked up last week and all worthy of being featured. Here's my top 3 food and non food posts from last week.


Recipe: Parmesan Thyme Zucchini Rounds (From the Family WIth Love)



How to make a DIY Glass Terrarium

summer memory book


Thank you so much to everyone who linked up last week. So many wonderful ideas. If you were featured, please feel free to grab a 'featured' button from above. Don't forget, if you were featured, your post will be shared on Facebook, my Thriving on Thursdays Linky Party Pinterest Board plus other relevant Pinterest boards of mine and Twitter. Can't wait to see what you've all been working on this week. Now, let's party!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pea & Ham Soup

I don't know why I haven't shared my Pea & Ham soup recipe before. I have it every winter and probably have had it every winter since I was born. It was a staple in our house growing up, in the days when ham hocks and bacon bones were usually thrown away and considered to be scraps. Now the supermarket is really cashing in on people wanting to make this very Australian winter staple.

This one is perfect for the slow cooker but this particular day, a very cold one, I wasn't organised enough to get it on in the morning so cooked it in my stock pot. Not even it was big enough for my ham bone I saved from Christmas. That's about the only way I can afford to make Pea & Ham soup these days. The price of ham hocks in winter is ridiculous. As with all my soups and stews, I start off with a traditional mirepoix (diced onions, carrots and celery) fried off until soft in a little olive oil.

Then I add a 500 gram packet of dried split green peas which have been rinsed off under running cold water. Add them to the pot with about 2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock.

As you can see, my ham bone was sticking out of the liquid but there was enough steam to loosen the meat on the bone and add plenty of flavour to the soup. As this soup cooks, the peas will produce 'scum' which needs to be scooped off the top of the soup as it cooks.

As the meat falls off the bone, I keep some to leave chunky in the soup and I blitz the rest of the meat along with the vegetables until it becomes a thick puree.

What I love about this soup is that it's very hearty. It's a meal in itself, there's always heaps of leftovers and it sticks to the ribs. My son loved the 'bacon soup' I made. I dare not say it was 'pea' and ham soup. You know what kids are like eating their peas.

Pea & Ham Soup

  • 1 large ham bone or 2 ham hocks
  • 500 gram green split peas
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • olive oil for frying
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 litres vegetable or chicken stock

  1. Fry off onion, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until soft.
  2. Rinse dried split green peas under running cold water and add to the pot.
  3. Add stock, bay leaves and ham bone or hocks.
  4. Cook on the stove top until dried peas are soft (approximately 45 mins to 1 hour - alternatively can be cooked in a slow cooker).
  5. During the cooking process, remove any scum that forms on the top of the soup.
  6. Once peas are soft, remove ham bone and take off any meat and return it back to the soup. (Larger pieces of meat can be left aside to stir through the soup after blitzing to give it a more chunky texture.)
  7. Blitz soup until smooth.
  8. Serve with crusty bread.
Note:  Add pepper if desired but taste soup before adding any salt. The ham bone or hocks are very salty and the soup may not require any added salt.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How to look your best on your wedding day

Okay, I'll be upfront and honest. You won't find any actual make up tips here. Nor will you find the latest wedding hairstyles. I know nothing about either. In my 20's, I was probably a little bit more conscious of the latest make up to wear but as a 51 year old woman, I'm pretty  happy with the skin that I'm in and don't wear very much make up at all. What lead me to writing this post actually was a comment an acquaintance made to me just recently. She was selling a new range of skin care treatments, make up, anti-aging products etc etc and asked if I'd be interested in viewing the range. I hadn't heard from this woman for a really long time and mentioned to her that I was getting married in a couple months time. She said "this new range of products would be just perfect for you as.....

...you want to be looking your best for your wedding."

I didn't give what she said much thought until a little while later and thought "what does that actually mean?". I thought I already looked my best. I thought with a little makeup on the wedding day and a bit of a 'do', I'd be looking especially at my best. She hadn't even seen me for 12 months so how would she even know I wasn't already looking my best? I started to worry a little bit. (Just a little.)

It then led me to ask my fiance "when do you think I'm looking my best?". God love him. This is what he replied.

When I first wake up in the morning. Having fine, frizzy hair, it's usually everywhere. 
My fiance's nickname for me is "Fuzzy Bear".

Attending my first heavy metal outdoor concert with my partner.
He loves this photo so much he has it as his wallpaper on his mobile phone.

To my fiance, I look my best when I try new things and don't give up.
Here's me skateboarding for the first time in my life aged 50.

When we spend time together.
Here we are climbing the Story Bridge in my capital city, Brisbane

When we're at the beach together enjoying the sun and the surf.
Swimming costumes aren't very forgiving but he loves me in them just the way I am.

And when I had my hair and makeup trial for my wedding.
We had our engagement photos taken that evening and he said I looked like a 'model'.

In my partner's eyes, I look my best to him every day. I belong to a couple online bridal groups and I see so many girls going for spray tans, beauty treatments, going on diets, even getting botox, all for the BIG day. Please don't. Be happy with the 'skin you're in'. Be happy in the fact that your husband to be loves you the way you are. They've seen you at your best already and probably seen you at your very worst. Wearing a nice wedding dress and wearing a bit of makeup and your hair nicely done on the day is all you need. Don't try and recreate that look in all the bridal magazines. We went to a local bridal expo just recently and at the fashion parade, all the girls wearing bridal gowns were high school girls. We all looked like that at 16 years of age.

Let me assure you, you will look your best on your wedding day, in your partner's eyes, without all the treatments.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Apple & Walnut Turnovers

As a rule, we never eat dessert, that is unless it's winter time and it's a good excuse as any to try some warming desserts. Having puff pastry on hand in the freezer is dangerous (for me anyway) because you've got some great options to prepare a quick dessert like these Apple & Walnut Turnovers.

Granny Smith apples are in full season at the moment and are great for cooking. It was just a matter of melting some brown sugar with a little water, softening the apples and adding a little cinnamon while they cooked.

You could cut the square piece of puff into four triangles but there was just the two of us for dessert this particular night and well, I've got nothing to say except I really wanted to get a good fill of apples. Once the apples have cooled slightly, spoon into the centre of the triangle piece of puff.

Top with the other triangle of puff and press the edges with a fork to seal. Brush the top with egg wash and pierce a hole in the top to allow steam to escape.

I sprinkled a little sugar on top before popping in the oven and the result was very warming and full of flavour with a light puffy pastry and a soft apple filling with the crunch of the walnuts.

I hope you didn't throw the liquid away that you cooked the apples in? That is a delicious caramel that can be poured over the vanilla ice cream. This is the exact reason why we don't have dessert every night. Too much of a good thing? You could try this with pears, plums, peaches, nectarines or other firm fruit.

Apple & Walnut Turnovers

  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
  • sugar for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C.
  2. Add diced apples, walnuts, brown sugar, water and cinnamon to a pan and allow sugar to melt and apples to soften. (Save liquid from softened apples.)
  3. Cut puff pastry into two triangles. (For a smaller pastry, cut into four triangles. By rights, I should've done this!)
  4. Spoon cooled apple mixture into centre of pastry triangle.
  5. Put other half of triangle pastry on top and brush edges with a little egg wash.
  6. Press with a fork to seal and cut a small hole in the top of pastry to allow steam to escape.
  7. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with a little white sugar.
  8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or custard and spoon reserved liquid from the apples over the ice cream.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Business Mamas Diploma of Business - Staying inspired

Well, I'm two months into my Business Mamas Diploma of Business and there's nothing like a couple of hurdles to jump in your every day life to throw you off track. I needed all the help I could to remind me to keep motivated and stay inspired. Lucky the content of the Business Mamas course is motivating and inspirational. It makes you want to stay on track.

There's also nothing like a winter cold to go through the house to set you back a couple of weeks. First it was my son, then me and as I was nearing the end of it, my daughter came down with the same annoying coughing bug. It was a good three weeks I lost and got totally off track with my studies. Needless to say, during that three week period, all of my daily chores all took a back seat so I've been in catch up mode since. It's all about staying motivated to complete the course and good organisational skills to keep you on track.

I like to think of myself as a pretty organised person but with a couple of set backs I soon found I had a lot on my plate. I find my daily to do list is a great tool to remind me of what's on for the day. Taking out 10 minutes just before I go to bed and checking my calendar, I can see what I've got on for the next day and I prioritise my workload for the day. I've learnt to write everything down. It's so easy to forget something that you had planned. Even if it's a phone call you need to make, an appointment, helping out at the kid's school or scheduling in your laundry, baking, grocery shopping, coffee with the girls, getting dinner on, it's all important to help you schedule study time. Don't forget to schedule in breaks during your studies, even if it's 15 minutes. You can achieve so much in that little amount of time. Tidy a drawer, wipe down the fridge while you're boiling the kettle for a cuppa, check your Inbox, put a load of washing on, take a walk around the block. If it's written down and you can check it off, you really feel like you're accomplishing all that's on your To Do list.

I started off the first unit of study, Go Mama with a bang and the first study module, Ms Happy was the perfect opportunity to look deep inside myself. Having gone through a lot in the last 3 years with the loss of my mother and my marriage break up, I'd forgotten just what makes me happy, like really happy. This was a fantastic exercise because if you find out what truly makes you happy you can apply that to the type of business you'd like to create. They say "if you do a job you really love, you'll never work a day in your life" or something like that.

The next unit of study, Inspire Me was like a smack in the face with a wet fish for me. It truly was inspirational to watch the webinars from truly inspirational women who started out with a dream and made it happen. It made me want to start my business, like yesterday, and put some action into place. Such perfect timing when I found it hard to get back into it after dealing with illness and a back load of housework. 

The next step is working on Have Your Cake And Eat It Too, then the assignment for this study module, a complete review of the subjects that I have already covered. I can't wait to get my 'teeth into it' and recap on what has been a great start to my Diploma of Business journey. Stay tuned for my next update next month.

You can check out my previous post, Getting Started here.

Take the first step to live happy, work happy, be happy! Contact Business Mamas today and the Business Mamas team will be in touch with more information.
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Disclaimer:  In return for monthly blog posts for a 12 month period, Business Mamas have waived all course fees associated with the Diploma of Business. All thoughts, photos and opinions are my own. 

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