Sunday, January 31

Sunday Baking Project: Shrewsbury Easter Biscuits

I know what you're saying.  Easter?  Oh no!  We just had Christmas!  And I been witness with much horror the hot cross buns and Easter eggs in the supermarkets already.  These biscuits although called Easter biscuits are great any time.  Hubby loves them and I can tell you although I made 42 biscuits, they lasted a whole 4 days.  Yes FOUR days.  I think I had maybe six?  The kids had a few- the rest the Easter Bunny must have eaten.. hmmmm.

This recipe is from my new favourite book in the world - Stephanie Alexanders' Kitchen Garden Companion - this book is just spectacular to look through - wonderful photos - everything for the garden and even if you're just a wannabe gardener, it's worth the purchase just for the recipes.


100 g currants
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
370g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking poder
3/4 tsp tsp ground cinnamon
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
500g soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg white, extra
white sugar (for rolling in)

Put currants in a bowl, pour boiling water over to cover them, then leave for 5 minutes (they will become plump)  drain well and return to bowl, pour over the juice of one orange and put in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight if you wish.  When done, drain out the orange juice and set aside whilst making the dough.

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon together, set aside. 

Beat together butter, sugar and orange zest until pale.  Whilst still beating at low speed add the egg and combine well.

Whilst still beating, add flour gradually and then when all combined thoroughly for the last couple of beats, add the currants, be careful not to mix too fast and tear the currants.

Separate the mix into two halves onto greaseproof/baking paper.

Use the paper to roll the mixture into tight sausage shapes and wrap in the baking paper.  Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour, and whilst doing so preheat the oven to 170 degrees c.

After chilling set up your 'station'.  1 tray with white sugar, a cup with the egg white, a pastry brush, a chopping board, serrated knife and baking trays lined with kitchen paper.

Unwrap your cookie dough, and paint with egg white, roll white sugar, then slice into 7mm thick slices.
 Place on your trays and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool on tray for about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Saturday, January 30

Preserve Me: Versatile Plum Jam

Plum jam is so versatile isn't it?  I'm a recent convert to plum jam - I've always used it on ribs and asian marinades but now having made this, it's a favourite on toast!  In fact, I caught hubby with a spoonful in his mouth!

I'll be on the lookout at next Farmgate Trail for another box - I used 2kg (without stones) and it netted me 2.5 litres of jam.  But given I do marinade and now use it for toast, I think I might want to make some more right?  Plums are in season at the moment so are a good price, I picked up a box for $4. All up I would say it cost me about $2.50 a litre. 

2kg of Plums, weighed after stones removed. (I used a combination of light and dark fleshed plums)
350ml water
1.7 kg white sugar

Place water and plums into large stockpot and bring to a simmer for 25 minutes

Add sugar, and stir until dissolved, turn it up to boil for about 25- 30 minutes, check if it has set by dolloping a little bit on a cold plate (I put a saucer in the freezer) and if it sticks like jelly and doesn't move, it's set!.
Remove from heat and skim off any 'scum' (i.e. white stuff on top (as above)

Pour into your sterilised jars (don't you love my jar funnel - I love it and it was only $8.95!) and process in boiling water (I did mine for 35 minutes - see this post for more info on processing)

Friday, January 29

First Day of School in pictures...

I'm sure you're all sick of me banging on about this now, but today the day finally arrived.   She was up early, bouncing off the walls, impatient to get in her school uniform.

First of all we posed for pictures at home:

With the little sisters

With Nanny

Then off to school!

Obligatory pose in front of school

Putting bag on very own hook

Smile before entering the classroom

And don't look back (seriously, just met her school teacher, sat down and began colouring!)
At present she's on the phone, telling Nanny how spectacular her day was.  Bless!

Off to school muesli bars - nut-free!

When I'm stressed - I cook
When I'm happy - I cook
When I'm emotional - I cook

So of course my first baby going off to school today meant what? Yes, I cooked - muesli bars for school lunches.  I resent paying 50c a muesli bar (or more) for what I have no idea what is in them.  These ones were inspired by Julie Goodwin, she had a recipe in this months' Australian Womens' Weekly - however a few ingredients I didn't have and some others I decided to substitute for taste (where indicated)  - The AWW is a worthy buy this month for back-to-school recipes - I'm sure I'll try a few more from a seasoned school mum like Julie!

2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups rice bubbles (puffed rice)
1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1/2 cup currants (Julie uses 1 cup of sultanas instead of craisins/currants)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (Julie uses linseeds)
150g butter, diced (the 200g Julie suggested is too much, it didn't set properly and I had to re-bake it so I'd just use 150g in future)
2/3 cup honey (as per the butter, I'd reduce this from the 3/4 cup Julie suggests)
1/3 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. If using fan-forced, 160 degrees c.
Grease a lamington pan or one of similar sizing and line with greaseproof/baking paper.  grease the paper once in place.
Mix the oats, rice bubbles, craisins, currants, coconut, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Heat the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan, melt the butter and stir to combine all ingredients, simmer until mixture becomes more syrupy and honeycomb-ish colour.  Take off the heat.

Stir through gradually into the dry ingredients and when well combined,  pour into pan/tin.  Press down well..... put into the oven for 20 minutes, the mix will be golden brown on top when you take it out of the oven.  Cool in the tray.

It is delicious, and I will make it again, with the changes to the quantities of butter and honey.

Want to see what we did on Australia Day?

Head on over to Not Quite Nigella where you can see the extravaganza that was Australia Day at our house!

I'm off to school with Eloise!

Thursday, January 28

Tears or champagne?

or maybe crying into my champagne is what I'll be doing tomorrow after I drop my first born off at her first day of school.   But we're set.  Everything is purchased, labelled, and ready to go. 

So what about you? Got one starting school this or next week? Do you think I'll have tears or champagne or both?

Preserve Me: Sweet Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

Yes, yes, I STILL am preserving, and yes, I'm still on tomatoes (and then some!) 

I've not made these before, but I couldn't resist this preserve recipe which promised after 6 weeks that when you eat the tomatoes they explode with flavour in your mouth and are a bit on the moorish side.  It's also comforting to think in months to come I'll still be eating our gorgeous cherry tomatoes!

Now, another thing, about sterilisation - I recently discovered with thanks to David at Green Living Australia that in order to preserve with 100 % confidence you will not poison yourself or others is to sterilise and process your jars correctly:
  • Submerse your jars and lids (and at least half of your tongs!) in cold water in a stockpot.  Put on hob until it boils and boil for 10 minutes.  Remove with tongs.
  • Fill your jars, do not touch the inner rim or the inner of the lid of the jar.
  • Then processing.  When all your jars are filled and sealed, then you need to boil them again submersed in water - this is to kill all the yeasts and bacteria left in the jar/preserves.     The amount of time you need to boil/process the jars depends on the acidity of food you are preserving, how much you are processing at once and believe it or not, your altitude!  There's more information here - The USDA Guide the canning which the CSIRO recommend following.

OK, back to the recipe!

1kg cherry tomatoes (I used a mix of varieties and some ripe to a little under-ripe, looks good !)
Mint or basil, optional
1 litre cider vinegar
75ml apple cider vinegar
1 1.2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cloves
1 1/2 coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2cm dried chilli/pinch dried chilli flakes

Place peppercorns, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and chilli/flakes in a 10x10cm square of muslin and tie with kitchen twine to make a spice bag.

Into a saucepan, add your vinegar and apple, boil for 10minutes with spicebag submerged.

Whilst vinegar/apple juice is boiling, place your washed cherry tomatoes into your sterilised jars, if you wanted to add mint or basil, do it at this point.

Pour over the vinegar mix when you've boiled it for the 10 minutes, seal and process.  These two I processed (i.e. boiled submerged in water by 2 inches) for 25 minutes.

Store in cool dry place for 6 week minimum before consumption

Tuesday, January 26

Make it from Scratch Carnival #152 - Celebrate Australia Day!

Yes, today is Australia Day at Frills in the Hills.  It's a public holiday where we celebrate being Australian, usually eat off a barbeque, eat too much, have a few celebratory drinks and enjoy the fireworks.  It falls on 26th January to mark the day in 1788 the first settlers (british that is) arrived at Botany Bay, here in Sydney.

So, what are you up to today? Even if you aren't in Australia or Australian - raise your glasses to our wonderful nation!  I will be when I host our annual barbeque with friends!  Yes, there will be prawns (shrimps) on the 'barbie'. 

Now onto the carnival!

Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker shows us how to make Hostess Cupcakes - with filling.  Oh my.  they.look.wicked.

Cyndi L from Real Food Fast shares her recipe for Cranberry Bread.  That would smell amazing coming out the oven I imagine!

Kristia presents Easy Chicken Noodle Soup posted at Family Balance Sheet.   Nothing better for when you're feeling poorly and have no-one else to make you chicken noodle soup huh?

This one made me hungry looking at it!

Melissa from Until Wednesday Calls gets frugal with her Vegetarian Leftovers Lasagne, looks very cool!

If you've ever wondered how to make your own yoghurt, here you go! Dimes2Vines presents Dimes2Vines posted at Dimes2Vines.
It's a double Whammy over at Funny about Money this week - Vicki shows us how she cooked for one when all alone in the house - Greek Hawaiian Fish and Blackberry Delight.  Yum.  I don't know which I want more - the solitude or the dinner!

And why order in for pizza when over at SimplyForties we can check out Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Dough ?

If you've got a hankering not for pizza but for Mexican - Penniless presents Vegan tortillas posted at Penniless Parenting.  My sister and her family are Vegans so it's always great getting new Vegan recipes! Thank you!

Or, create a chinese takeaway at home - Annette tells us that her  Easy Stir-Fried Vegetables is the tastiest and easiest way to stir-fry vegetables!  Check it out at her blog: Craft Stew.

Now here's one to get you thinking - what do you do with your plastic shopping bagsStuff with a purpose gives us 10 suggestions on how to use them after you've bought them home and prolong their usefulness.

Alex presents Printable Valentines Cards posted at Home Life Weekly.
How cute and economical!

RecycleCindy presents Bread Bags Upcycled into a Coaster posted at My Recycled   I am constantly amazed at Cindy's ingenuity!

Savvybrown presents Whipped Shea Body Cream | Savvy Brown posted at savvy brown. To be honest I never thought I could make something like that, but it really doesn't look to hard!

Jessica Christman presents DIY Bath Bombs Using Acrylic Fillable Ornaments posted at Factory Direct Craft Blog.   I haven't used a bathbomb in YEARS.  Ahh for a nice long bath...


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