Monday, June 11, 2007

Cooking Up A Storm

And I don't mean the kind that NSW has just suffered through!!! How awful!

I'm talking about my big day in the kitchen on Saturday. Once upon a time I used to do a bit of a baking session once a fortnight and try to make enough to last the fortnight (that's getting more of a challenge as the kids get older). But recently I've discovered the enjoyment of just doing one thing at a time and I've tended to extend that to my cooking. A big baking session often involved having several projects on the go at once and trying to co-ordinate all of that. Just making one thing (whether it be a cake or a batch of biscuits or whatever) seems so much more peaceful and pleasurable in comparison.

But for some reason Saturday I decided I was going to make a number of things. Back to my busy, multiple projects type session. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Mostly I just worked on 1 thing at a time (other than the bread rolls which take a lot longer).

PROJECT 1: FILL UP THE CROCKPOT WITH VEGETABLE SOUP

My aim was to have this ready for lunch on Saturday but I slept in so things were a little crunchy still by lunchtime. LOL. Not to worry, it was mainly for lunches for this week. Had my first taste test today (we were out all day yesterday - Sunday) and mmmmm....yummo! I have never been a fan of homemade vegetable soup before. But using a tomato base for the "stock" seems to suit my tastes well. I never use a recipe so my soups never taste the same from one time to the next.

Here's a rough outline of how I made it:

* put jar of passata into crockpot then fill jar with water, shake and add that to crockpot. Add beans (already soaked - I use about half a packet) and a couple handfuls of soup mix. I add whatever I tend to have in the way of pulses to the soup whether it be dried or tinned, beans, peas or lentils (or a combination of). Chuck in some diced onion and crushed garlic (I think I used about 1/4 onion and a healthy teaspoon of crushed garlic). You can add whatever seasonings you like really. We're fairly basic eaters when it comes to seasonings. I usually let that cook for a little while to get the beans etc going. You wouldn't need to do that if you were using canned (which are a little more expensive) or if you've precooked the beans/peas.

* chop up whatever vegies you happen to have - this time I used carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes plus cut up the smaller stems of the celery and the stems of the broccoli (sometimes I'll chop and freeze celery and broccoli stems and throw in next time I'm making soup - it's a good way to use up the bits most of the family don't usually eat). I also added a couple of generous dollops of tomato paste and topped up with a bit more water. Then leave to simmer away for however long.

I love the way soup is so cheap to make, healthy to eat and hard to go wrong with. It's such a yummy and comforting food to eat on cold wintery days (just like today!).


PROJECT NUMBER 2: CRUMPETS

You know, I didn't even know it was possible to make your own crumpets until a couple of weeks ago. DH and the kids love crumpets (I'm not such a fan but will eat them). I tend to buy them occasionally as a treat when they're on special. I find they work out a fairly expensive way to feed the family so we don't have them all that often. So when I saw this recipe for crumpets posted on the simple savings forum by Paula (the legend) I thought it was well worth the try. I couldn't believe how easy and cheap it was. They were a hit with the family (although I'm still experimenting to work out how to make them with holes like the bought ones). Even without holes, they still definitely taste like crumpets (in my opinion they're nicer than bought crumpets). The most time consuming part of the recipe is cooking them but DH is going to try and make me some rings (by cutting up a fruit tin) so that I can cook more at once which will make things progress quicker.

Here's the recipe:

Dissolve 1 Tbsp yeast into 3 cups warm water. Stir.

Combine: 4 cups plain flour, 2 Tbsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp sugar in a bowl.

Add yeast mixture to dry ingredients and beat to a smooth batter.

Cook in greased egg rings in frypan (3/4 fill each one). Egg rings make them slightly smaller than regular round crumpets. I think the cut up tin will make a better size. If you're not worried about having them perfectly round you can just add dollops of mixture to frypan.

The original recipe I have suggests cooking slowly for 10 minutes, adding the lid of the frypan for the last 2 minutes (which just finishes them cooking on top). I found using setting 5 on my electric frypan gave me the best number of holes in the top. I'm still experimenting with this so I'll let you know how I go next time I give them a try.

This made enough for our family for 2 meals (about 24 crumpets in total) served with soup.

* Just a note - you still need to toast these, just as you would with bought crumpets.


PROJECT 3: CUPCAKES

Well I'm sure you don't really need a recipe for these. The kids did have a great time scooping them into the patty pans. For some reason my kids will eat a cupcake whereas they won't eat a slice of regular cake. So they make a great lunchbox filler (if any make it until tomorrow to go in the lunchboxes). I can't believe how cheap they are to make - between 5 and 10c each. There aren't too many things I can find (except popcorn) that work out quite this cheap as a lunchbox treat.


PROJECT 4: BREAD ROLLS

I use my breadmaker to make the kids bread rolls for school. They give them a nice break from sandwiches and work out quite a bit cheaper than 2 slices of bread. One lot of dough in the breadmaker gives me 12 rolls which works out to around 10c each (might be a little higher now that everything seems to have gone up). The cheapest loaf of bread I can buy here works out to around 30c per sandwich (just under).


PROJECT 5: PITA BREAD SNACKS

My DS has decided that these are the best thing since sliced bread! They're pretty easy to make and don't work out all that expensive. I buy the pita bread when it's on sale for $1.99. I know in the city it's sometimes possible to pick up a pack for as little as 99c which would make this recipe even cheaper to make! The main thing I like about it is that it's a lot healthier for the kids to crunch on than chips. You just cut the pita bread up into pieces (whatever size and shape you like) then separate each slice in half and place on an oven tray with the cooked side down. Spray the whole tray with some cooking spray and then sprinkle on seasoning of choice (I use a chicken seasoning). Cook in the oven until crisp. One packet of pita bread makes quite a large container full.

PROJECT 6: CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP

Well I wore myself out completely on Saturday so project 6 had to wait until today. DH has been picking quite a few mushrooms from the paddock. Just recently I'd seen a recipe for "Cream of Anything Soup" (thanks to the same Paula who provided the crumpet recipe). With free mushrooms (and DH had already eaten some so I knew they were safe) I decided to try my hand at making cream of mushroom soup. I use the tinned variety when cooking steak in the crockpot as a kind of gravy and it comes out yummy, yummy. Again I couldn't believe how quick and easy this recipe turned out to be. I now have what I'd estimate to be 10 tins of cream of mushroom soup (which I will freeze when it has cooled) for the cost of around 2 cans (on special).

CREAM OF ANYTHING SOUP
4 cups powdered milk
1.5 cups cornflour
0.5 cups chicken stock
4 tsp onion flakes
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp pepper

Mix together and store in an airtight jar. To make up soup use 1/3 cup of mixture in 1 mug hot water.

As I tend to do with recipes I just adapted the above idea to suit what I had on hand and what I wanted to do. I used 1/4 fresh onion chopped up since I bought some cheap recently (and it didn't matter as I didn't need the recipe to stay dry as is the intention with this recipe). Then I shook in some mixed herbs as that's what I happened to have in the cupboard. I added 12 cups water and chopped up some mushrooms and threw them in. Then cooked on the stovetop until it thickened. I'll freeze it in margarine containers ready to be thrown in the crockpot whenever I need it. With not having to pay anything for the mushrooms, I'm estimating that each "tin" of this soup has cost me around 25-30c to make.

Thus endeth my big cook up. After having DH's grandfather and 2 aunties visit this morning (which was lovely I might add) and being out all day yesterday, I'm a bit on the tired side. So this afternoon is "take it easy" time. :-)

8 comments:

lowincomelady said...

I'm a member of simplesavings too, I'm known as Cheryl R (NSW) there. I saw that thread by Paula on the forum, what an amazing lady! I still have to go through the thread and write down a few recipes! Cheers Cheryl.

Anonymous said...

Madly Saving from SS site - love your site! You have been a very busy girl and interestingly tried the things I have been wanting to try. Good to hear they worked out. Look forward to visiting your blog often.

lightening said...

Hi Cheryl and Madly Saving. I will have to keep an eye out for you on the forums. I think my name comes up as Jodi(SA) on the forums.

Thanks for reading. I agree, Paula is awesome. I can't believe the number of things she makes from scratch. Not sure if I could ever reach her calibre but I'm making an effort to head in that direction. I can't believe how much satisfaction there is in making something from scratch. It's not just about the money is it - so many benefits from personal satisfaction to reducing nasty preservatives etc from our diet.

Anonymous said...

Madly Saving again - just finished reading through the rest of your blog - thoroughly enjoyed it! I can't believe how similar our interests are!!

Kin said...

Wow, I wish I could cook that much in a day. I have a busy day planned today with a Bacon & Egg Pie, Fried Rice, Pumpkin Scones and pikelets.

I'll definitely be adding that crumpet recipe to next week's cook up though.

Well done!

lightening said...

Madly Saving - I love the way the internet can bring people together with similar interests that geography has traditionally kept apart. Glad you enjoyed my blog. Hope we get the chance to get to know one another a little better. Do you have a blog of your own at all?

Kin - hope your cooking goes well. Mmm...I love pumpkin scones. Might pop over for a cuppa and scone ;-). I don't make them often enough for how much I enjoy them (could be a good reason for that though - I eat them with HEAPS of butter, not so great for my weight loss efforts).

Anonymous said...

The cream of anything soup sounds nice but as we are not mushroom lovers, please can anyone give some hints of how else I can use this recipe?
Thanks LS

lightening said...

LS - what you do with it might depend on how you want to use it. I tend to use mine as a sauce when I'm cooking in the crockpot. So the mushroom flavour doesn't end up being the main flavour. I wouldn't enjoy it as a straight soup. If using as a straight soup I get the impression that the original recipe is designed to be a complete soup in itself if you enjoy that kind of thing.

My other thoughts are cream of chicken soup - you could add more chicken stock powder to the recipe and perhaps even some diced chicken. Or cream of celery soup is another one by adding celery (and perhaps some celery salt as well).

As I was making it I was thinking how much it smelt like a fairly plain white sauce. So you could add cheese and vegies for another variation. Might be a little bit strange as a soup - would probably be more of a casserole type dish I guess or used as a sauce over other meats.

If you're a garlic lover - perhaps add some garlic. Mmmm... I'm just thinking garlic with a few prawns and you'd have a nice sauce to pour over steak. Not so frugal though. LOL.

Anyone got any other thoughts for the Cream of Anything soup?