Interesting times…

Hello my lovelies. I’ve been very quiet of late, I know.

There’s a reason for that. It’s a very big, very expensive reason.

As you know, we’ve been building a house.

It started out looking like this, not very long ago at all. In November, in fact…

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

In case you’re curious, this is a photo of our inaugural cup of tea in our new kitchen. Natch. We set up The Boy’s camp stove and brewed up a Great Australian Cuppa in the roaring winds of Ballarat.

This was after 6 months of waiting for the land to title. Yes. Yes, this has been going on for a year now.

I think the last (and only) photo that I’ve shown you guys is this one.

Some of the stuff that's been happening.

This was in February.

Since then strides have – yea and verily! – been made.

It now looks like this.

Et voila!

Et voila!

As you can see, it is distinctly more house-shaped. There are still a few things to be done. The front door needs to be painted for a start *ahem*. Then the painting of the eaves, installation of the garage door and other major appliances and the removal of the port-a-loo and skip.

All this has meant that the possum-infested historical relic in which I currently reside now looks like this.

2016-05-10 17.46.54

Boxes everywhere.

I am packing, hopefully for the last time in many decades. Then I shall be cleaning quite a bit.

All of which means that very little blogging is being done. I’m sorry.

We hope to move in the next two weeks and I am very much looking forward to cooking in my new kitchen – snapped here through the windows.

My kitchen

My kitchen

Although I’ve realised that I’ve stuffed up royally with regard to power points in there. I’ve got one set of double points for the kettle and toaster – and that’s it. I had thought (looking at the plans) that there were some on the other side of the kitchen near the stove, but I’ve realised that they were to plug the oven and microwave into!  Disaster!

Thankfully, I may still be able to rectify this…I hope. (gulp)

Anyway, I had planned to post many things this year and I have lots of photos ready to go. However, this is unlikely to happen now and, admittedly, I will have much better lighting in the new place and may want to redo it all. Who knows?

Wish me luck, Peeps. Life is ultra-chaotic at the moment and my energy reserves are at an all-time low.

I will be back, possibly better than ever.

Hugs and kittens!

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Tuna Rice Bake (simple)

Simple tuna and rice bake.

This is a very simple meal from The Boy’s childhood. I begged the recipe from his mother about a year ago (he kept on about it), but have only just got round to making it.

Because fish.

I’m not a big fish eater, I’m afraid. My mother had a deadly allergy to shellfish and an uncanny talent to turn fish fillets into cardboard. It all rather put me off.

I didn’t make this exactly according to the recipe either – which kind of spoiled the nostalgia surprise effect I was aiming for. Meh. I didn’t have any celery (IKR!) so I used red capsicum and I added Old Bay Seasoning to the white sauce, because I thought it would taste good.

And it did.

So there.

Anyway, here goes. This is actually a really good, simple, casserole for those nights when stocks are low and inspiration lower. Most of the ingredients will be found in a well-stocked pantry, especially if said pantry includes long-life milk… It’s even better if you have some plain rice already cooked and languishing in your refrigerator.

It starts off with a large tin of tuna in brine or spring water. The tuna is drained, but the liquid is reserved and made up to 1½ cups by adding milk to it. Now, I actually ended up using about a cup or so more of milk when I made it, as my sauce was exceedingly thick. But more on that later.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Some butter is melted and and used to saute an onion until translucent. Now I did this bit differently to the original recipe, as I didn’t want to risk a raw flour taste in the sauce. A few tablespoons of plain flour were then added and stirred to make a roux before the milk mix was whisked in and stirred until it boiled and thickened. Basically a fish-flavoured white sauce with onions in.

Make a roux.

Make a roux.

After you have your thickened liquid, add salt and pepper. If you are me, however, add something more interesting (like Old Bay Seasoning).

Add some yum.

Add some yum.

If you don’t have any – which is understandable in Oz – something similar could be conjured up with a touch of dry mustard and smoked paprika, with a little salt.

To your newly-flavourful white sauce, add the contents of the tuna tin, some celery and some nuts. The recipe called for cashews, but I had slivered almonds so I used those and of course I substituted the celery with capsicum.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Now a smallish (1.5 l) oven dish was sprayed with oil and half a cup of grated cheese (I had mozzarella)was spread on the base before a cup of rice was also added.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

The tuna mixture followed.

Tuna mix next.

Tuna mix next.

Then a layer of sliced tomatoes. Related: we grew these tomatoes. In our garden. Oh yeah.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

I sprinkled the top with another half cup of cheese and it went into the oven for 30 mins.

After which it was eaten.

Dinner.

Dinner.

And everyone was happy.

I am particularly happy now. The fact that this is on my website will mean that I can find it and read it much more easily than this photo of the recipe that was emailed to me…

I couldn't change the rotation to read it when cooking...

I couldn’t change the rotation to read it when cooking…

Tuna Rice Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x 425g tin tuna in brine or springwater

1¼ cups of milk (approx.)

2 tbsps butter

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsps flour

Salt and pepper

¾ cup chopped celery

½ cup whole cashews or almonds

1 cup grated cheese

1 cup cooked rice

1 large tomato, sliced.

Method.

Set oven to 180°C/350°F.

Drain tin of tuna, reserving liquid. To the liquid add enough milk to make 1¼ cups.

Flake the tuna into a small bowl, removing skin and bones.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over gentle heat.

Add onion and sauté gently until soft and translucent (not browned).

Add flour and stir into butter, creating a roux. Fry gently for one minute.

Remove from heat and whisk in milk, dissolving any lumps. Return to heat and cook gently until liquid boils and thickens.

(If you think your sauce is too thick, add more milk a ¼ cup at a time until it reaches a consistency you prefer. You don’t want anything too runny.)

Add tuna, celery, nuts and seasoning.

Grease a medium-sized casserole and sprinkle half the cheese on the base.

Add the cooked rice.

Spread the tuna and white sauce mix onto the rice layer.

Arrange slices of tomato on top of the tuna layer.

Spread with remainder of cheese.

For ease of handling, place your casserole dish onto a larger oven tray. 😉

Bake for 30 minutes – until heated through and the cheese is browned.

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Simple lemon air freshener (and an update)

This is a lemon.

Hello All,

I have had another brush with bad health and that is why I deserted you momentarily. One part of this latest episode involved an abscess, a Golden Staph infection and an associated inability to use my dominant arm, the other part involved having the office of a Rheumatologist calling me to make an appointment before I even knew my pathology results were back…

Oh dear.

I have made some yummy things in the interim and one post is coming soon. However, I thought I should share something quick and easy with you for now. A lemon air freshener.

I can’t tell you where this came from. It appeared as a meme in my Facebook feed a few months ago but wasn’t attributed to anyone.

We now have THREE cats. The Accidental Cat, Sara, seems to have issues with entering the litter tray properly. This means that her rear end is often not occupying the designated air space.

Ahem.

When shall we three meet again?

Cats. Sara is the grey one.

Consequently, there is a fair bit of unaccustomed cleaning activity being carried out in the Budget Bounty household. This is often accompanied by much giving of thanks that there will be no carpets anywhere in the New House – once it is built. Also a certain ‘pungency’ of the atmosphere tends to occur alongside such events.

This little air freshener is coming in handy. It’s also doing the job without setting off any allergies, exacerbating hayfever or triggering asthma like a lot of commercial air fresheners can do. Just saying.

This is a lemon.

This is a lemon.

Firstly, get thou a spray bottle of some kind. It will need a capacity of at least 500 ml, which is 2 cups or half a litre. If you are American, a pint will do.

Then find a nice, juicy lemon. If you want it even juicier, then roll it on a hard surface to break up some of the internal structure and release more juice.

Squeeze it into a small jug.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

Add 2 level tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and wait for the fizz!  Stir well.

Chemistry in action.

Chemistry in action.

Once it has settled and you can be sure there are no undissolved lumps, add 2 cups of tepid water. Stir well.

All mixed up.

All mixed up.

Now, even the best juicers can let seeds and bits of pulp through into the resulting liquid. You don’t want those in your spray bottle or the works will get clogged up. Strain it. I placed a teeny tea strainer in the mouth of my funnel and strained it as I filled my bottle.

I am a multi-tasker. (Hear me moan as I finally get to sit down…)

Bits get strained out - which is good.

Bits get strained out – which is good.

Place the nozzle on your spray bottle and give it a small shake before each spray.

The finished article.

The finished article.

You’re welcome.

Simple

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 lemon

2 tbsp bicarb or baking soda

2 cups water

Method

Juice the lemon into a bowl or jug.

Add the bicarb. The mixture will fizz up a little, this is not something to worry about. Stir well.

Add 2 cups or 500 ml of tap water. Mix well.

Strain to remove any stray lemon seeds or fruit pulp.

Use to fill a small spray bottle or atomiser.

Shake before using.

This mixture will impart a slight lemon fragrance to the air and the bicarbonate of soda will help to absorb any bad smells that may already be there.

The Accidental Cat explores a favourite bird hide of her clowder mates.

The Accidental Cat.

How to make evenly-sized cookies – easily.

 

This post uses some of the content from this one.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with judicially minded offspring or youngsters – you know the ones, “Muuuuum, it’s not fair! Her cookie is bigger than mine!” needs to be able to say “they’re all the same size”; and mean it.

Also, it’s sometimes a useful thing in the adult world to know that everything has the same amount of calories kilojoules bad stuff diet disasters  the portions are all the same size for planning purposes.

So, when I make cookies, I use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure them out onto a paper-lined baking sheet.

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later...

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later…

This method means that they are all around the same size which helps with both portion control and arbitrating amongst the youngsters.

We’ve all been there.

It also helps if the kidlings are assisting you with your baking…

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

 

It won’t ensure that each child’s portion has the same amount of choc chips if they’re included in your cookie, but the rebuttal to that is that, if they are counting instead of eating, then they aren’t hungry enough for more cookies.

I bought my ice cream scoop on eBay. It was in a set of three, with the largest 2 inches across. They cost me something like $3 including postage from China, so the fact that I really only ever regularly use the one doesn’t bother me as a waste of money.

However, I do use the larger ones for scoops of mashed potato and pumpkin if I want to prettify a dinner serving or use them to top a cottage pie.

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When life gives you lemons…

Future cleaning products.

I would naturally suggest that you make lemon butter or lemon curd if you were handed large amounts of lemons.

Lemon Butter.

Lemon Butter.

Although, there’s any number of other things you could make with them, like Caraway and Lemon Biscotti or some of the other recipes I have planned to post for you.

But, what can you do with all the leftover lemon shells? They look like sunshine and smell heavenly and it always feels like such a waste to simply toss them into the compost…

Make a cleaning spray with them.

I kiddest thou not.

All you need is your lemon ‘husks’, some plain old household vinegar and a largish jar with a lid.

If you are an instant coffee drinker with a fairly decent habit, you probably find yourself with largish glass jars all the time. Use one of those.

The vinegar you need is not the high-brow, ultra-gourmet, aged in oak barrels, caressed lovingly by mountain maidens type vinegar. No. You want this stuff.

This is vinegar.

This is vinegar.

Plain old household vinegar. You can get a 2 litre bottle at Aldi for around $1.20. You can now buy ‘household cleaning vinegar’ in the detergents section of many supermarkets, but you don’t need that. This stuff will do.

You’ll find it on the bottom shelf in the pickles and condiments sections of your supermarket aisles. I tend to buy 6 litres at a time.

Vinegar is acetic acid. Acid cleans stuff. Better yet, vinegar doesn’t contain nasty fragrances that will set off hayfever sufferers until the perfume finally disappears. It doesn’t need you to suit up in coveralls and goggles to use it and doesn’t come with a Poisons warning.

Zest and juice your lemons

It cuts through grease, it’s antibacterial, and it’s biodegradable, it’s also highly unlikely to trigger eczema and other skin reactions like harsher (more expensive) chemical cleaners. It also kills moulds and mildew, unlike bleach which simply “bleaches” them and makes things smell clean.

It can be used in all sorts of things. But sometimes you don’t want stuff to smell like vinegar for even a short time. (However, the scent does dissipate really quite quickly.)

So try doing this:

lemons in white vinegar

lemons in white vinegar

  1. Thoroughly clean your jar.
  2. Pack it with your used lemons.
  3. Fill with vinegar until the lemons are covered.
  4. Tightly cap the jar.
  5. Place in a dark cupboard for a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
  6. Strain the liquid from the lemons and reserve.
  7. Discard lemons.

The vinegar will draw the essential oils out of the lemons and take on their colour and fragrance.

It can then be diluted 50:50 with water and used to clean floors, glass, shower recesses and counter tops. Use  a microfibre cloth and it will be even more effective.

It may require a little more elbow grease than a stronger store-bought chemical, but you also won’t require breathing apparatus to be in the same room immediately after you’ve used it.

Sturdy, inexpensive spray bottles are available in most supermarkets or hardware stores. I use this kind.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

This is filled with undiluted vinegar. I had a greasy grill I wanted to get clean, so I didn’t add any water this time. As you can see, the liquid has taken on the colour of the lemons.

The house I am currently living in has hardwood floors throughout. It was costing me a fortune to clean them with commercially available liquids – then I discovered this. It cleans beautifully with a microfibre cloth on a swiffer-type mop, with no streaking at all and a fresh scent.

My subscribers may have noticed that I make large amounts of lemon curd when the fruit is in season as The Boy seems to inhale it. This leaves me with 6 half lemon shells for each batch. Into a jar they go, and I will keep topping up that jar until it is full. I have about 6 jars steeping in the back of my pantry at any given time.

It doesn’t go off.

Future cleaning products.

Future cleaning products.

You can also use orange peels in exactly the same way. So, if you are a maven for freshly squeezed OJ, here’s a way to generate less waste.

A word of warning though: do not use this spray on a marble surface, or you will get etching. That would be bad.

Laminates are fine, as is solid granite and other stones.

However, check with the manufacturer as I accept no responsibility for any damage that might be caused…

 

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Sweet Quesadillas

I’m pretty sure I saw this on a now defunct kid’s television show, not long after I was retired. Rollercoaster was one of my favourite parts of the day at the time, especially The Secret Show which I still consider to be one of the best shows ever made. Fluffy, fluffy bunnies….

Ahem.

Fresh stuff

Fresh stuff

Anyway, Rollercoaster stopped airing quite a long time ago and I still hadn’t made this recipe.
I bought some bananas this week thinking I might try it sometime, but then this morning this happened.

This is bad.

This is bad.

What better reason to eat something quick, easy and sweet? (Gotta get those blood sugars up…)

On a more serious note, this is a great snack to make with the kids, after school or during the holidays. It takes mere seconds, is relatively healthy – especially if you use wholegrain wraps -but needs adult supervision.

I used a sandwich press (panini), but this could easily be done with a frying pan.

Sandwich press.

Sandwich press.

Basically, grab a flour tortilla or a wrap.  I had this packet already open in my fridge.

That's a wrap.

That’s a wrap.

Zap the closed packet for 30 seconds in the microwave to heat them and make them a little more pliable. Then take one out and fold it in half, like so.

Looks tricky, doesn't it?

Looks tricky, doesn’t it?

Then, peel a banana and slice it thinly. You don’t want it too thick or it may not stick together later.

Slice a banana thinly.

Slice a banana thinly.

I used a Cavendish banana, but I’m willing to bet that a sugar or Lady Finger banana would be even better (if more expensive).

The slices of bananas are then scattered on one half of the inside of the folded wrap, like so:

Start filling your quesadilla.

Start filling your quesadilla.

Use the fold line as a guide as to where to stop.

Then choc chips are added in between the slices. Yum!

You don’t need a great many choc chips, and try to place at least a few on the edge of the wrap to hold it together.

Add choc chips.

Add choc chips.

Using an oil spray, lightly coat the upper and lower plates of the sandwich press once it is heated.

Fold the wrap in half and place it on the press, close, and toast to the level you prefer. When you sneak a peak (you know you will) you’ll see that the chips have melted.

A melting moment...

A melting moment…

Using an egg slice or spatula, remove to a piece of paper towel to cool.

DO NOT eat the quesadilla immediately!

The chocolate is hot and will burn.

Distract children with making further servings. We found three wraps was a perfect snack size for two adults.

When you have finished. Wipe the sandwich press with a piece of paper towel, turn it off and put it out of reach and THEN cut your snacks into wedges and serve.

If you don’t own a sandwich press, then a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat will work too. Just remember to press on the top of the folded wrap to encourage the two sides to stick together. Turn once.

Hungry?

Hungry?

You may not use all of a banana, depending on its size. Anyone wanting seconds should be given the banana to eat IMHO.

Enjoy!

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The most important tool in your kitchen.

This is a post without a recipe.

Sorry.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something close to my heart. Something that makes life just that little bit easier and multi-tasking a breeze. Something that every – and I mean *EVERY* – kitchen should have and cook should use.

A timer.

Yes, I said a timer.

A kitchen timer will save your sanity.

Use the timer on your oven

Use the timer on your oven

My mother was a great cook. She also burned things regularly. This was because usually she was trying also to stop my brother and I from killing each other, trying to stop the cat from killing the dog, doing the laundry and everything else that mums do – all at once – while cooking.

It could only end badly, really. And it did. Often.

A kitchen timer means that, if you put a pot of rice on to steam and the doorbell/phone rings, then you will get a reminder when it is done.

It means that pasta can be put on to boil, a timer set to let you know when it’s cooked, and you can go about making a quick sauce without losing track of your noodles.

You can pop some biscuits into the oven, go to hang some washing out and be reminded that there is something else that you are also doing…

Delegate keeping track of time to something else that won’t mind doing the job.

You have a timer if you have a microwave. Use it.

Just between you and me, the most use my microwave timer gets is when I am cleaning my kitchen.

Years ago when I was still working, my energy levels were pretty much nil when I got home from work, because MS fatigue. I would have just enough energy to go to work but none for anything else. One day, I came home to find my front door open. It took about 30 mins before I could tell if I had been burgled or not as my home was in such disarray!

This is just between us…right?

Anyway, I came upon a link to the Flylady.net site and slowly started getting on top of everything again. I did this 15 minutes at a time, using my kitchen timer. I haven’t visited the site for many years now, but when any part of my home looks like it’s going to take several days to get habitable, I set a timer for 15 mins and just do what I can. Then I have permission to stop.

Try this at your place. You don’t have to get it all done, but you’ll have more done than you would have otherwise. I’ll often have the kitchen spotless in that quarter hour.

In the same vein, I often find that when I’m gardening I’ll overdo things (good old MS again!) and end up paying for it for many days after. So, I manage my energy by taking a portable timer into the garden. I work for 15 mins, rest for 15 mins and repeat.

It works.

If you have small children, a timer can help you with kid-wrangling. Tell them they have to pick up their toys for 15 mins and then they get to stop. Stick to your word. They may drag their feet and muck around a bit at first, but after you’ve repeated the exercise on several days and they know you’ll keep your word (no fair setting the timer again immediately after!) they’ll start to play nice. Trust me.

Your timer can follow you into your bathroom in the morning. I always lost time in the mornings and found myself suddenly running 5 minutes late after a leisurely warm shower…you know what I mean, right? It’s not just me, is it?

A timer set for 5 mins when I got into the water kept me on track. Try it yourself, try it on your kids. Save your sanity while saving water.

If your teenagers have their own mobile/cell phones then they have a timer

Use the tools available on your phone

Use the tools available on your phone

If you have a tablet, you have a timer. If you have neither, then they can be bought quite cheaply at dollar stores, in supermarkets, pretty much anywhere – really truly.

Change your life, use your timers.

I suspect that I may be required to buy one of these. Sigh.