All posts by FeedingTheMinions

The Perfect Roast

I have decided – after many many years of trying – that the perfect roast will always continue to elude me!  I never seem to get a roast cooked on time (as in, we’re always eating after 8pm!), crackling doesn’t crackle, and meat tends to dry out . . .

I am open to advice, hints, tips, anything really!  I’m not ready to give up yet!  Our family of Minions love a roast!

Please help!

Our first week using a Monthly Menu Plan

In my last post, I mentioned that we are going to be trying out monthly shops every second month.  Well, in order to do this, Minion Dad and I sat down and worked out our menu plan for the month, including a baking list.

Our menu for last week was:

Monday:  Banana, Blueberry & Weetbix Smoothies –  it was my shopping day, and on shopping days there’s no cooking!

Tuesday:  Open Hot Dogs with Tomato, Onion, Bacon and Mushroom – these were supposed to be just ‘normal’ hot dogs, but the buns split when we toasted them, so they became ‘Open Hot Dogs’ instead!

Wednesday: Chicken Cacciatore – from scratch, but the recipe I found needs tweaking a bit, so if anyone is willing to share an easy and delicious recipe, I’m open to ideas!

Thursday: Gourmet Tomato Soup – I spent this day at the Mater Children’s Cardiology Unit at the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic for our oldest Minion (he has a rare heart/lung condition and if you would like to know more, here’s my blog about our families journey called ‘Saving Jules’), so Minion Dad made up his delicious Gourmet Tomato Soup for dinner; my folks picked us up from the hospital (after a very long day) and drove us home and of course we invited them to stay.  This fed 4 Minion Adults and 4 Minion Kids, with enough left over for my folks to take home for their lunch the next day!

Friday:  Homemade Hamburgers – Friday night is movie night, so Minion Dad and I decided that Friday dinners would be ‘take-away style’ meals.  Very easy to make yourself and much cheaper than buying them!

Saturday:  Roast Pork and veges – I bought a 2.4kg Rolled Pork Roast (sadly, crackling is nigh on impossible with a Rolled Pork Roast, so despite being absolutely delicious, we did feel that something special was missing that night!) on special for $18.79, so not only was this for dinner it was also made into Toasted Pork, Gravy and Cheese sandwiches for lunch on Sunday, and then for the kids lunches today.  There’s still about 1/3 left, so that will be frozen for pasta later in the month.

Sunday:  Tuna, Rice & Veges – so easy, especially if you have a rice cooker.  We cook up enough rice for all of us, steam some frozen beans, peas and corn and mix it all up with a tin of flavoured tuna!  It’s delicious and the Minion Kids love choosing their own flavoured tuna, which is a huge bonus because we never hear  “But I don’t like that”!

For snacks for all of us, I baked 5 Cup Slice, Banana Bread, Muesli Bars and Rice Bubble Squares.

I think we did well for our first week . . . now I have to go, ‘cause Minion Dad is trying to steal my avo on toast!

Full boot!

Monthly versus Fortnightly Shopping

Aldi shop
Aldi shop

There seems to be more food waste in this house than us adult Minions are willing to put up with any more.  Last week, I saw somewhere that a lady manages to shop once a month for only $300, feeding her family of four pretty darn well for that month.   Needless to say, I can’t do that with our family of six, but I figured that we could come close for $500, which is our normal fortnightly grocery budget.

 

Coles Shop
Coles Shop

In order to do this, Minion Dad and I sat down and worked out a monthly dinner plan so we knew what we absolutely needed for this shop.  We’ve also decided what I would be baking, and what easy snacks we could do up for the little Minions that don’t involve turning on the oven.  We shop at Aldi, Coles and occasionally Super Butcher, and I usually Eftpos each time.  Today, I stopped off at an ATM and withdrew my budgeted amount instead, so there was less chance of temptation or impulse buys.  I’ve put $100 aside for next fortnight, which will cover milk, bread, fruit and vegetables plus a few items I’m sure I’ve forgotten about!

Full boot!
Full boot!

We won’t shop like this every month.  We’ve decided to try it out for alternate months, and in between we’ll make sure we stock up on meat and specials each fortnight so we can stick to our new shopping budget . . . keep your fingers crossed.  I’ll make sure I keep you up to date on how we’re faring.  Any tips and pointers to help us out will be much appreciated!!!

* Originally posted on the 11th November, 2014

* Note:  We didn’t actually keep up with this, life got hectic and it was easier to go back to the same old, same old way of shopping.  Transferring from my old site to my new one has renewed my motivation to start up again though, and I will definitely be getting back into this once I have family life organised once more!

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Back to School!

These past few weeks have been more than a little bit frantic with the kids going back to school after holidays and hubby going to stay with my folks for a few weeks to work on a commissioned art piece.

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I know that I can get a little lazy when it comes to school snacks when it comes to hectic times, so this time around I pushed myself to get some baking done instead of cheating and buying snacks instead.

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So last week, I made Banana and Oat Muffins, Rolled Oat Slice and Banana Bread (recipe courtesy of Mrs K., a long standing loyal client turned friend!).  This particular Banana Bread recipe never lasts long in our house, although I did manage to save about ¼ of it to send with hubby, along with ½ a dozen muffins.

I’m sure I’ll find myself back in the kitchen at some time this week . . . in between washing, mowing and taking the Minions to visit their Daddy!

* Originally posted on the 16th October 2013

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Banana and Oat Muffins

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Banana and Oat Muffins

Ingredients

  • 4 small ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ cups wholemeal Self-raising Flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ cup rolled oats (not quick oats)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (170°C fan forced) and place muffin papers into a 12-cup muffin tray. This makes between 12 and 18, depending on how you fill your muffin papers.
  2. Place mashed bananas, egg, milk, butter and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Mix well with an electric mixer.
  3. Add flour, cinnamon and sugar and mix well.
  4. Spoon mixture into the muffin papers. I make sure they’re about ¾ full. They’re not too big for my Minions this way.
  5. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until cooked through (use a metal skewer to check). Do not overcook.
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* Originally posted on 16th October 2013

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Rolled Oat Slice

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Rolled Oat Slice

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Wholemeal Self-Raising flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 150g butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (170°C fan forced).
  2. Combine flour, oats and sugar in a large bowl. Melt butter and golden syrup, then mix into dry ingredients.
  3. Press into slice tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Cut into bars while still hot (if you try and cut after it has cooled down, the bars will crumble), and leave to cool before removing from tray.
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* Originally posted on 16th October 2013

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Banana Bread – Quick, Easy and Delicious!

 

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Banana Bread – Quick, Easy and Delicious!

Ingredients

  • 115g softened butter
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • 3 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 ½ cups self-raising flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (170°C), and prepare a loaf tin. You can either line it with baking paper, or prepare with butter and flour.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time (mixing well between each egg).
  3. Add the flour and bananas and mix well until smooth.
  4. Put into the prepared loaf tin, and bake for approximately 40 minutes until golden. Use a skewer to make sure your banana bread is cooked through.
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* Originally posted on 16th October 2013

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Baking Day!

When my brother and I were kids, we used to spend at least one weekend a month, and plenty of holidays with my grandparents.  On Sunday mornings, my Pop would walk up to the local corner store – it was one of those fantastic corner stores selling everything from fresh bread to bait! – to get a couple of loaves of freshly baked bread.  My brother and I would wake up to the morning sounds of my parents and my grandparents making coffee and toast.  There was nothing I loved more than walking down to find Nanna and Pop sprinkling cinnamon sugar on toast for us kids (we were only allowed this particular treat at my grandparents’ house).  It’s one of my best memories of them.

Now, as an adult with my own family, hubby and I have instilled our love chowing down on fresh baked bread in our little Minions, and trust me this can get expensive!  Especially when this Minion loves getting the uncut loaves so I can slice my own lovely thick slices, and then smother them with butter and vegemite . . . yum!

Today, there is an extra Minion in our house, so I’ve decided to escape the high-pitched girlish giggles and spend the day making my arms ache . . .

Fresh baked bread

Ingredients:

7g dried yeast

275ml warm water

500g good quality plain flour (I like to use bread flour)

5g bread improver

1tsp salt

2tbsp powdered milk (this is optional, however my family can really taste the difference if I don’t use it!)

Method:

Preheat your oven slightly – just to warm it up a bit.

Add dried yeast to warm water in a small jug.  Mix it with a fork, just enough to wet all the yeast.  Leave it to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, place plain flour bread improver, salt and powdered milk.  Make a well in the centre, and add the yeast and water mix (by this time, it should have started to foam a bit).  Mix until well combined.

Take your dough out of the bowl and knead on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy.  As I mentioned in ‘Stupid cars and yummy pies’, I’m lazy in the kitchen so I do this part in my mixer using the dough hook.  I’ve found that I only need to ‘knead’ the dough for about 8 minutes in the mixer instead of hand kneading for 10-15 minutes – and my upper arms thank me for it!

Put in a greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until double in size

 

Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl.  Cover with a clean tea towel, and leave it to rise in your warmed oven (make sure you’ve turned it off!) until doubled in size.  This can take up to 2 hours.

 

After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.  Knock back the dough by lightly kneading it for 2-3 minutes, then shape into whatever shape you would like.  I usually go for just a round or oval shaped loaf, and you can also use a loaf tin if you have one.

DSCF5535Place the shaped loaf on a baking tray which has been oiled, or lined with baking paper and dusted with flour.  Make 3 or 4 slashes across the top with a sharp knife, brush the top of the loaf with some salted water, then sprinkle with some more flour.  You could use sesame seeds or poppy seeds or even go without any of it if you prefer!  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size (the extra flour will help make sure the tea towel doesn’t stick to your dough).

Preheat your oven to 240°C (230°C fan forced).

Place your shaped loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for 8 minutes.  Open the oven door slightly, and bake for a further 2 minutes with the door open.

Reduce the heat to 190°C (180°C), close the door and bake for a further 25 – 30 minutes (if you want a darker crust, just keep a close eye on your bread from this stage until the crust is to your personal liking).  You’ll know when your bread is cooked when it makes a hollow sound when you rap your knuckles on the crust.

Slice – thickly if you’re one of our Minions! – butter and enjoy!

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Baking Day!

Ingredients

  • 7g dried yeast
  • 275ml warm water
  • 500g good quality plain flour (I like to use bread flour)
  • 5g bread improver
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tbsp powdered milk (this is optional, however my family can really taste the difference if I don’t use it!)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven slightly – just to warm it up a bit.
  2. Add dried yeast to warm water in a small jug. Mix it with a fork, just enough to wet all the yeast. Leave it to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, place plain flour bread improver, salt and powdered milk. Make a well in the centre, and add the yeast and water mix (by this time, it should have started to foam a bit). Mix until well combined.
  4. Take your dough out of the bowl and knead on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy. As I mentioned in ‘Stupid cars and yummy pies’, I’m lazy in the kitchen so I do this part in my mixer using the dough hook. I’ve found that I only need to ‘knead’ the dough for about 8 minutes in the mixer instead of hand kneading for 10-15 minutes – and my upper arms thank me for it!
  5. Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with cling film and a tea towel, and leave it to rise in your warmed oven (make sure you’ve turned it off!) until doubled in size. This can take up to 2 hours.
  6. After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface. Knock back the dough by lightly kneading it for 2-3 minutes, then shape into whatever shape you would like. I usually go for just a round or oval shaped loaf, and you can also use a loaf tin if you have one.
  7. Place the shaped loaf on a baking tray which has been oiled, or lined with baking paper and dusted with flour. Make 3 or 4 slashes across the top with a sharp knife, brush the top of the loaf with some salted water, then sprinkle with some more flour. You could use sesame seeds or poppy seeds or even go without any of it if you prefer! Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size (the extra flour will help make sure the tea towel doesn’t stick to your dough).
  8. Preheat your oven to 240°C (230°C fan forced).
  9. Place your shaped loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Open the oven door slightly, and bake for a further 2 minutes with the door open.
  10. Reduce the heat to 190°C (180°C), close the door and bake for a further 25 – 30 minutes (if you want a darker crust, just keep a close eye on your bread from this stage until the crust is to your personal liking). You’ll know when your bread is cooked when it makes a hollow sound when you rap your knuckles on the crust.

If you use bread flour, you don't need to use the bread improver.

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* Originally posted on 4th October, 2013

Make sure your pie mix is nice and thick

Stupid Cars and Yummy Pies

I created this blog page a few months ago, fired up to get creative in the kitchen with hubby.  Then, one after the other, the kids got sick and the fire went out.  We became a smoldering ruin in the kitchen, and meals were, quite frankly, more than a bit boring.

Then, a couple of weeks ago our car started to sputter and the news from our mechanic is that our leads need to be replaced . . . but he can’t do it until mid-next week.  We only have the one car so our fortnightly trip down the mountain to do our grocery shopping is now kaput!

Nigel and I went through the cupboard, chest freezer, fridge and freezer and decided that now was the perfect time to get that fire burning under our butts again, and get creative in the kitchen.  It’s not only on a budget this time around, but out of a necessity to use what we have and make it stretch to feed the six of us.

Thankfully, I have used Charlie’s Fruit Online for fruit and vegetable deliveries before, so I knew I could count on getting fresh fruit and veges delivered the next day.  I’ll be making our own bread and scrolls for the next few weeks (we still have a few loaves to keep us going), and we went and got the few essentials we absolutely needed from our local Supa IGA.  Fingers crossed this will work out fine!

So, dinner last night was pies.  Not just any pie though.  This time, Nigel and I worked out the perfect pie base was actually made with the simplest of ‘pastry’ recipes, tweaked for texture and a few add-ins for taste.

Making the bases:

Preheat your oven to 190°C fan forced.

Ready for the bases
Ready for the bases

Next, prepare your pie tins.  Rub butter around the bottom and sides, then shake enough flour around your tin to cover the base and sides well.  I used wholemeal flour for ours.  Do this now before you forget!  Otherwise your mix will dry out while you’re frantically trying to get six pie tins ready, like I was.

Into a food processor, put 2 ½ cups wholemeal flour (for the texture), 110g cubed butter (I only use unsalted butter in my baking, but this is up to you), 1 tsp of paprika, ½ tsp salt (optional) and 2 tsps herbs to your own taste.  Mix until the butter has been worked through well.  Pour in ½ cup water slowly until the mixture comes together.

You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times.  Add in a little water – just a teaspoon at a time- if the mix is too dry.  You want this mix to come together in a firm dough when you knead it, but you don’t want it too wet.  It’s a fine line with this mix.  Not enough water and it will dry out quicker than you can roll it out and line the pie tins, too much and you’re playing a catch up game with extra flour!

Dust your work surface lightly with flour.  Take the dough out of the food processor and knead slightly into a ball.  If you’re using individual pie tins, just take a small amount of dough at a time.  When you roll it out, it kind of springs back a little bit, so rolling out a larger amount is time consuming and let’s face it, I’m lazy in the kitchen, so the less work for me the better!

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Cut off the excess base mix

When you’ve rolled out your dough, place your pie tin on it upside down and cut around it.  Make sure you cut a larger circle than your pie dish, about 2 – 3 cm larger should do it.  Gently push your dough into the pie dish, pushing your fingertips around the base to make sure it’s tucked in nicely.  Some of the dough may fold up on the sides.  This is fine, just flatten it and smooth it as much as you can.  Cut off the excess, but make sure you have enough dough over the sides to allow for a small amount of shrinking during the baking process.

Place your pie tins on a baking tray and bake for between 5 – 10 minutes.  Check it after 5 minutes, they can start to burn quickly if you’re not watchful.  Leave them to cool for about 5 minutes after you take them out of the oven, then give them a bit of a shake in the tins to make sure they will come out easily later on.

Making the filling:

Take out a couple of sheets of puff pastry to thaw, and rub a small amount of butter around the tops of your pie tins.  Preheat your oven to 170°C fan forced.

I can’t give you exact measurements here, as hubby cooks to taste, not to recipes, but I’ll do my best.  Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan, and brown 500g mince.  Add about 2 tablespoons of Masterfoods Smokey BBQ Marinade (well, I say 2 tablespoons, he really just blobbed it in) and about 2 teaspoons of American Steakhouse Seasoning (we bought this from Aldi, so it may not be a permanent stock item).  If you don’t have this or can’t find it anywhere, just use seasonings to your own taste.  You don’t want your mince mixture too runny.  Nice and thick is perfect.

DSCF5090-LRAllow this to cool slightly, then spoon into your pie bases, allowing room for a couple of toppings if you’re using any.  We added thinly sliced onion, tomato and 3 – 4 slivers of Black Forest Style Ham (again, an Aldi product – you could use Prosciutto though).  Sprinkle a bit more of the Steakhouse seasoning, and add a ‘lid’ of puff pastry.  Cut a couple of ‘vents’ into your puff pastry, and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

Remember, the bases and fillings are already cooked, so the amount of time it takes to bake your pies all depends on how dark you like your puff pastry.  We started checking ours after about 15 minutes, and took them out at the 25 minute mark.

DSCF5098-LRWe served our pies with honey carrots, mashed potato with sour cream and chives and green beans, feeding all 6 of us for just under $10, including our side vegetables.

 

 

The best thing was I had plenty of pie dough left over so I decided to experiment with it.  I made savoury biscuits out of it for the kids, and sent them to school for their lunch today with homemade avocado and cream cheese dip!!!

Minion Dad also made Pear turnovers with the leftover puff pastry and sent them with the kids for a snack!  So easy to make!  Just finely dice a pear, mix with cinnamon and sugar to taste.  Place spoonfuls this mix onto a square of puff pastry, fold into triangles and press the sides down with a fork.  Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and bake in a preheated 170°C oven for approximately 25 minutes.  Yum!

*Originally posted 25th September, 2013