29 September 2014

MOO Monday: Raspberry Cordial

At the  Lets All MOO workshop on Saturday I demonstrated just how easy it is to make your own cordial, full of good things and nothing nasty added. I made up Orange and Lemon on Saturday and it is just delicious.

We don't buy soft drinks in our house. In fact we very rarely buy drinks at all apart from tea, coffee and milk. I like to make them. I like to be able to control what goes into them, especially the sugar! I like knowing that the drinks I serve to my family and friends are not only delicious but healthier too.

Yesterday was quite warm and while everyone was happy to enjoy Orange and Lemon Cordial, the boys requested raspberry cordial.

Raspberry Cordial

500g raspberries
3 cups sugar
1 tsp citric acid
Juice 1 lemon
500ml boiling water
1.5 litres cold water

Dissolve the sugar and citric acid in the boiling water in a large bowl. Place the raspberries in a blender or food processor and puree. Add the pureed raspberries, lemon juice and 1.5 litres of cold water to the sugar water mixture. Stir to combine. If you don't want the seeds in your cordial strain it before bottling.

To serve use one part cordial to four parts cold water or soda water or plain mineral water.

My raspberry cordial is one I make using frozen berries, lemon juice, sugar and citric acid.

This cordial isn't cheap to make. I use frozen berries, usually from Aldi, unless I can get them cheaper at NQR.
Five hundred grams of frozen raspberries costs $3.99 at Aldi, the sugar costs 60 cents, citric acid is 25 cents, lemons are free if you grow your own or up to 80 cents each if you buy them (try and find a friend with a lemon tree). The total cost for two litres of raspberry cordial is $4.84, not the cheapest cordial you can buy but by no means the most expensive either.

But if you like raspberry cordial, this one is delicious and much, much healthier for you and your family.

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25 September 2014

A Recipe for a Simple MOO Body Lotion

Winter is over and spring is here, it's time to get skin summer ready. That means moisturising, moisturising and more moisturising after the drying effects of a long, cold winter. I've found that as I have become older, my skin just needs more care and that includes lots of moisturising, especially after winter, if I want to avoid that crocodile scale look.

During winter, when long sleeves, jeans and socks are the norm I'm quite happy to just use my whipped coconut oil as a body cream and it works well. Actually it works really well and is so simple and pure although I've been told that some folk find the scent of the coconut oil overpowering.

So during the warmer months I use something a little lighter, that is absorbed just as well as the coconut oil. I use this really simple body lotion. It's great for arms, legs, d├ęcolletage. You can even use it on your face and throat as a night cream.

This body lotion is just scrumptious. It is so light and silky, and so moisturising that winter dryness just doesn't stand a chance. It's great for those extra dry areas too - elbows, feet, knees and hands.

You will need:
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
20 drops geranium essential oil
10 drops lime essential oil

Step 1. Mix all the ingredients together.

If you are having trouble getting the coconut oil and almond oil to mix try using a whisk.

Step 2. Store in a clean, dry container with a good lid.

To use wipe a little of the lotion onto your fingertips and massage it into those dry spots.

24 September 2014

Final Chance to attend the Lets All MOO Workshop!

The Lets All MOO workshop is this coming Saturday, 27th September and there are just a few places left!

If you've been thinking of coming, now is your last chance! Once these two spots have been filled the workshop will be full and bookings for this workshop will close tomorrow night at 8pm.

Hannah and I are really excited about this workshop. We both love to MOO and we have some brand new MOOs to share.

You can get the details and book your seat here.

I hope I get to meet you on Saturday when we all MOO together!

Spring Clean Your Finances Week 4 - Review and Refine

After four weeks of working faithfully on getting your Spending Plan tidied up you have a very good idea of where you stand.

You've tracked your spending and found the leaks.
You've made the commitment to a weekly review (with your spouse/partner if applicable).
You've become aware of the triggers that cause you to spend when you shouldn't and don't really want to.

And now it's time to take all that information and use it to review what you've learned to evaluate just how you did at sticking to your spending plan.  Keep the information to use next month, you may well see trends in your spending habits that will help you plan for the future.

If you find you've been over-spending (oops!) look at what you overspent on and why. Was it an emergency? Work on building up your Emergency Fund. Was it just an impulse? Try applying the $100/24 Hour Rule. Is your spending plan unrealistic? Work on getting it to honestly reflect your income and then trim the flexible expenses to fit and adjust categories to fit.

If you find you've underspent, congratulations! Now what are you going to do with that money? I recommend boosting your Emergency Fund if it isn't fully funded (with at least six months, preferably twelve, living expenses) or putting it aside in a savings account in case you've missed paying for something (it can happened, we're all busy!). Generally if you are under-budget at the end of the month it indicates you've missed something and you'll most likely need that money next month. Your spending plan should balance at the end of each month with incomings being equal to outgoings.

If you don't have a working Spending Plan I really recommend starting one. Try it for three months and see if it doesn't make a difference to your finances and the way you view your money, your saving and your spending. If nothing else you will be more aware of where you stand financially and just what you need to do to reach your financial goals.

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23 September 2014

Brownie Cake

This cake is a cross between a cake and a bread but we've always known it as Brownie Cake. It has absolutely nothing "brownie" like to it. Quick to mix it costs around $1.90 to make. It freezes well, making it ideal to slice, wrap and freeze for quick lunchbox fillers or a fresh treat for morning tea.

Brownie Cake

2 heaped cups SR flour
1tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup mixed fruit and nuts

Sift together flour, spice and cinnamon. Rub in butter and add sugar. Mix with milk. Add fruit and nuts. Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 hour at 180 degrees.

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22 September 2014

MOO Monday - Ants Be Gone!

I hate ants. With a vengeance. I'm sure they serve a purpose but not in my home. And with the warm days we've had recently they've popped their heads up and started the trek into my home. Up the steps. Along the verandah rail, down the post, along the bricks right to the kitchen window. I even found some coming out of the heating duct in the loungeroom yesterday. It's time to take action and get rid of them for good.

Ants Be Gone!

You will need:
Jar lids (that you don't want to use again)
1 cup sugar
1tbsp borax
1/2 cup water

Boil the sugar, water and borax in a small saucepan for 3 minutes. This is just like making a toxic toffee for ants.  Let it cool completely; it will thicken as it cools. Put a dollop of the cooled mixture into each jar lid. Then place the jar lids where the ants will find them. Under the fridge, behind the toaster, in the back of cupboards, on the windowsill and so on.

Please remember to keep it away from babies, pets and children - this mixture is toxic. It contains borax and while it is a natural product and safe to use properly, it is poisonous if ingested in large quantities.  Remember to wash your saucepan and spoon in hot, soapy water, rinse them and dry them properly.

Borax is available in the cleaning aisle of your supermarket.

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19 September 2014


Day 4: Grandma's Shortbread

Who can resist shortbread at Christmas, especially if it is homemade with love and real butter. This recipe is known in our house as Grandma's Shortbread because it's the one she makes every Christmas. Last year Mum taught Hannah to make her special shortbread, passing the recipe and method down through the generations, ensuring a family tradition will continue. 

Hannah is maintaining the tradition of making this recipe just for Christmas and that's OK, we appreciate it all the more because it is a once-a-year treat. Last year we made shortbread and included it in our Cheapskates Style Gourmet Gift Hampers, and it has been requested again this year.

This shortbread makes a wonderful gift, on its own in a pretty box or on a nice plate, or teamed with a special tea or coffee and a nice cup and saucer. It's also gender neutral - anyone can enjoy homemade shortbread.

Grandma's Shortbread

250g butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1-1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup rice flour

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Sift flours together.
Using fingertips gradually work flours into butter mixture until combined.
Knead on a floured surface until smooth.
Roll out to about 2cm thick.
Cut into circles or fingers.
Put on buttered trays. Sprinkle with castor sugar if wanted. Prick top of biscuits with a fork.
Bake until firm and light golden around edges, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Cool on cake rack.
Store in airtight container.

How I Turn these 5 Store Tricks Around and Save My Money

I'm positive that everyone is aware that shops use tricks to entice customers, just like you and me, into spending money, usually more money than we had intended.

But have you ever thought of turning those tricks around and using them so you, the customer, gets more out of the transaction than the stores? It's easy if you know how.

Trick 1: Loss Leaders.

These are the items "on special" that are priced so low you just have to go in and pick them up. Of course while you're there the store would like you to pick up a few other things that aren't on special.

I turn the trick around and pick up my loss leaders, pay for them and leave.

Trick 2: Interest Free Time Payments.

You've seen the ads "no payments and no interest for 39 months" and so on. With these deals the stores are footing the bill for the interest in the hope that at the end of the 39 months (or however long it is) you won't have finished paying for it. You'll then be whacked with a huge amount of interest back dated to the time of the sale.

I turn the trick around and pay the item off before the due date, using their money for free. Beware though: this can be a dangerous trick to play. Miss a payment or pay late and you'll be footing the entire bill plus interest.

Trick 3: Extended Warranty.

This one really plays on your emotions. You're so happy to be finally buying that new computer or TV or DVD recorder (extended warranties are usually targeted at electronic items), it's so lovely and new and a huge investment (according to your salesperson) that before you know it you've been signed up for an extended warranty. Don't do it, it's just easy money for the store.

I turn the trick around and say no. Extended warranties are used to get you to pay even more than you need to for that computer or game console or camera or whatever. Goods sold in Australia not only carry manufacturer's warranties but statutory warranties too, making extended warranties completely unnecessary. If you are really worried about out of warranty repairs write a category into your Spending Plan for such an event and bank $5 or $10 or however much you think you'll need each week.

Trick 4: Buying a Mobile Phone 

Phone companies love to sell you a contract because you are basically their financial prisoner for the duration. That's what they sell - contracts, the phone is an accessory. Don't do it.

I turn the trick around and buy my phones outright. When you do that you can buy it from an independent retailer.  You can even buy a used phone in good condition. There are lots of people out there who just have to have upgrade to the latest phone, making their current phone obsolete, at least in their eyes. If you need to upgrade snap up that bargain, then choose the service provider and plan that suits YOUR needs and budget. You won't be stuck in a contract so if you find a better deal you can just switch.

Trick 5: Buying one instead of the "2 for" deal.

I hate these deals. These deals are designed to get you to spend more. Plain and simple.

I turn the trick around and if I only need one, buy one. If I need three buy three. There is absolutely no reason why you can't just pay the unit price and be done with it instead of spending more money than intended and being stuck with an item you don't want and may not use.

These days shopping is a science. It's not as simple as deciding to buy something and heading to the shops. Stores use tricks (not that they would call them tricks) to part you from your money.

It's time to let the stores know the science is working. Take those tricks and turn them to your advantage, say thank you to the stores for investing millions of dollars into the research (saving you the money, time and energy) and keep more of your hard earned in your pocket.

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18 September 2014

Banish Stains the Easy Way

We are a messy, mucky lot in our household. Wayne works with grease and dirt and saw dust and graphite all day. I cook and bake and clean and dig in the garden. The boys play sports and help around the yard. Hannah likes to bake and cook. Every day one of us will manage to spill something on our clothes or wipe their hands down  their pants (I'd never do that!) or run out to the letterbox in socks because it just takes too long to put shoes on (I'd never do that either!).

That means there is always something in my laundry that needs a heavy-duty stain treatment.

Soakers are expensive. Even the generic equivalents are pricey, especially when you're a stain freak like me. Nothing upsets me more than doing the washing only to find a stain on an otherwise spotlessly clean garment. I've been known to howl in frustration at the clothesline, much to my neighbour's surprise.

These days stains and spots get treated with Stain Removing Soap. It is the best stain remover I've ever used. It lifts graphite off Wayne's work shirts with just a rub. Grease (of the engine type) comes off jeans and shirts without scrubbing. I love it. It is one of my favourite MOOs.

I can't remember where I first found the original recipe, but many, many heartfelt thanks to the inventor. This soap is brilliant, easy and cheap.  Even on Wayne's work clothes (do you have any idea how hard graphite is to get out of shirts and trousers?) and the boys' sports clothes I just damp the stain, rub it with the soap and put the garment in the wash.  And I haven't howled at the clothesline in ages.

To make your stain removing soap you will need:
4 bars of soap*
4 tbsp (60ml) Eucalyptus oil
1 cup methylated spirits
1 cup boiling water
A stainless steel or enamel bowl
A saucepan big enough to sit the bowl over, like a double boiler
An old metal whisk
Soap moulds - I use empty egg cartons, silicone cake moulds work well
1.  To get started, fill the saucepan with water and bring to the boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil grate the soap, using the zester side of your grater. You do this so the soap will dissolve faster. You can just cut it into chunks, but you'll be standing stirring forever, waiting for it to dissolve.

2.  When all the soap is grated into a fine powder, add everything to the bowl and whisk together. The mixture will be cloudy.

3.  Turn the exhaust fan on and place the bowl over the pot of boiling water and start stirring with the whisk. I prefer to use the whisk because it helps the soap to dissolve completely.  The smell will be very strong, which is why I like to have the exhaust fan on.

4.  Stir until the mixture becomes transparent and thickens. It will look like a thick custard or sauce. Remove from the heat and pour into the moulds.
I use an egg carton because the little half egg shaped bars of soap are just the right size and shape to fit into the palm of my hand when I'm using it.

5.  Set aside to set and cure. It will need to dry for at least four weeks to harden enough to last when you use it. The longer you let it cure the harder it will be and the longer it will last. When you want to use a bar of your stain-removing soap just tear off a segment of egg carton and pop the soap out.

*You can use any type of soap. It's a great way to use up all those scraps of bathroom soap no-one will use. If you use scraps you'll need approximately 5 cups of scraps. Laundry soap is cheap and perfect for re-making into this stain-removing soap if you prefer to use cakes of soap.

I've used this amazing soap for years - since the boys were in primary school, so at least 18 years and it has never let me down.

To use it I simply wet the stain, rub the soap over it a couple of times and toss the garment into the wash. That's it. Easy. Effective. Cheap.

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17 September 2014


Day 2: Personalised Calendars

Personalised calendars are well, such a personal gift. You put time and thought into the layout, the embellishments, the format, how it's bound, what details you include on it. You can make it as personal or as generic as you like. You can include family photos or use clip art for decorating. You can choose the colours, the fonts and the backgrounds.

Calendars are so easy to personalise and even easier to make.

There are dozens of free calendars available online; a Google search will help you find the one that is just right for your gift.

Then go to town adding in important dates and reminders. I like to include:
Public holidays:

  • New Year's Day
  • Australia Day
  • Labour Day
  • Easter
  • Queen's Birthday
  • Christmas Day
  • Any state specific public holidays i.e. Melbourne Cup Day, Show Day etc.

Family birthdays
Mother's and Father's Day (if applicable)
School holidays
Sporting calendar (if applicable)
Club meetings (if applicable i.e. CWA, Sunshine Group, Youth Group, Scouts etc.)

When it comes to decorating your calendar you are only limited by your imagination.

  • Decorate the blank side of calendar pages with pictures of friends and family members who have birthdays in the next month! Write the person's name on the appropriate date on the calendar.
  • Make a collage using pictures cut from magazines. Use pictures of items related to special days of the month or a special theme.
  • Draw a picture on the blank part of the calendar. Try to make it related to special events that month, birthdays, or a specific theme.
  • Find clip art for each month. Use your own graphics program to add the clip art to the blank calendar. You can also print out the clip art, cut it out, and glue it into place.
  • Use stickers to decorate the calendar pages.
  • Scan and then print your children's artwork onto the blank side of calendar pages.

When it comes to binding you can have your calendars professionally bound at any of the large stationers and some larger newsagents.

You can simply staple the pages together across the top (making sure the pages are level and square so the edges are smooth and even).

You could punch holes through all the pages and tie them together with string, raffia, cotton yarn or ribbon.

These calendars will cost you anything from 10 cents each if you use your computer to create, decorate and print them and bind them yourself to around $2.30 each if you use your computer to print and decorate and have them professionally bound; they certainly suit a Cheapskates style Christmas.

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Spring Clean Your Finances Week 3 - Just Say No

If you like to shop you will know that from the moment you set foot in the shopping centre car park you are being tempted to spend, spend, spend. Actually these days you are probably being tempted before you leave home with emails advising sales and special offers and of course highway advertising.

So just say no.

It's usually the first real word babies learn, so if a baby can say it so can you! Marketing experts depend on our inability to say no. They place the most expensive items at eye level in the most eye-catching displays. The real bargains are on the top and bottom shelves. Say no to expensive eye-level buys and look high, look low for the real bargains.

When you are tempted to buy things that aren't on your shopping list, that you don't have the cash to pay for or that would put you over-budget, first ask yourself whether or not it's a necessity.  Most of the time, it's not. Then remember the $100/24 hour rule (if it costs more than $100 wait 24 hours before buying it).

But what if you find a really great deal on something?

Again, ask yourself whether you really need the item? Will it will go back on sale at some other point in time? Do you really need it? Do you really want it? Do you have the cash to pay for it?

You know that most grocery items run through a sale cycle. If an item is on sale at Store A this week, you know it will most likely be on sale at Store B next week. If you still think it's too good a deal to pass up and you don't have the cash, use your grocery slush fund or your mad money, or go back to your Spending Plan and review your categories. Is there wriggle room in a category that you can use for this really great deal? If so then perhaps you'll be able to afford it. If not then really think hard before spending money on it. Remember your Spending Plan is not set in cement, it is a fluid and constantly changing document to help you stay on budget and help you live within in your means.

It's OK to say no to people too. Most of us have friends or family members who love to spend. They don't understand how to live according to a spending plan. Try to plan ahead. If shopping with them is too much of a temptation invite them to your home. If they like to eat out perhaps you can join them for coffee and dessert rather than a full meal? Or meet at lunchtime instead of dinnertime.

You don’t need to be anti-social because you are living the Cheapskates way. There will be times you won't be able to avoid spending money and that’s OK. But there will also be times when you can just say "no thanks" and relax, knowing your budget won't suffer. You don't need to explain why you've said no, it's no one's business but yours. Just say "no".

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16 September 2014

100 Days to a Cheapskates Style Christmas

Here's a cheery thought for you all: it is just 100 days until Christmas!

This year I thought I'd do something a little different and have a 100 days to a Cheapskates style Christmas as a part of our annual Christmas Countdown (which starts on the first of October).  Every day for the next 100 days I'll share a Christmas idea, hint or tip. It may be a frugal gift idea, it could be an extra special recipe or a decorating idea. Whatever it is it will be cheap, cheery and Christmas themed (I just love the alliteration of that don't you?) so you can own your Christmas.

Today's idea is for a very inexpensive but oh so valuable gift. It comes in the form of a family recipe book.

Day 1: The Family Recipe Book

Almost every family has a treasured, favourite recipe or recipes that have been handed down through the generations. A great way to ensure that the recipe and the family history aren't lost is to make a family recipe book.

Putting your Family Recipe book together will be great fun and easy to do if you follow these simple

Planning & Design

*Will it just be a recipe book or will it have space for family history?
*Will you include stories with the recipes, such as why Granny's Johnny Cakes were the best ever, or the secret to Aunty Mary's Beef Casserole?
*Will there be space to add other recipes?
*Are you going to include illustrations, photos (you can scan them in), family sayings, funny events etc.?
*And will you leave space for comments and notes to be added later on?
*How will you decorate it?
*Is it to be a single page or a double page spread?
*And what about a cover and binding?
*Is this your own personal project or would you like some other family members to help you?

Gathering the Recipes

Ask family members for copies of their favourite recipes and anything else you want to include in the recipe book. Give a deadline for the return of the information or your Family Recipe book could be an ongoing work.

Putting it Together

This is the fun part. Use your computer to type the recipes up, add the images etc. Have someone else proof read it for you, there are bound to be typos and formatting errors that you just don’t notice because you’re so close to the project.

Printing and Binding

You can print the pages yourself if you’re confident and have a good printer. Alternatively you can take it to an office supply store (Officeworks etc.) or a printer (Kwik Copy etc.) and have it printed. The size of the finished book will determine the best binding. A spiral or comb binding will allow the book to open flat, making it easier to use and read. If your book isn’t too thick, you can punch holes and tie the book off with a ribbon.

Laminating the pages will also help to protect them from spills etc. something you can do if your Family recipe book is to be just for the family.

How to Make a Simple, Yummy Cheese

There's a saying, "everything tastes better with cheese", and it seems it's one of those sayings everyone believes.  I mentioned here on the blog last week about making ricotta and mozzarella and all I've heard since is "how?" "can you share the recipe?".

We are big on cheese. We love the stuff. I buy four 1 kilo blocks of tasty cheese every month, and it's not often we'll have any left over. It gets sliced for sandwiches, cubed for salads, grated for spaghetti and casserole toppings, melted for dipping (and yes, I'll share the recipe for the yummiest cheese dip later) and cut into fingers for lunchboxes.

We love soft cheeses too. Cream cheese (Cream Cheese Patties, cheesecakes, cakes and frostings), ricotta (as a layer in lasagne or in a dip  or in a lettuce leaf with sultanas and grated carrot), mozzarella (grated fresh onto pizza or  crumbed and baked for a snack) and cottage cheese (instead of butter on sandwiches or scones, or on celery for munching) are always in the fridge too.

I haven't tried making hard cheeses yet. Parmesan is the one I'm bursting to try, but so far time hasn't allowed. I'm hoping for a few quiet weekends over the next couple of months and it is just one of the things on my to do list.

I do however regularly make cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella and feta (which may well be my all-time favourite cheese). They are all simple cheeses that can be quite easily made in your very own kitchen.

Just one thing I'd like to point out: good cheese demands good milk. I do my very best to find fresh raw milk for cheese making. That's not always possible (depending on who we know currently milking a house cow), so my next milk of choice is Swampy's. It comes from a dairy down Warrnambool way.

And one more thing: making your own cheese is not always cheaper than buying it. Good milk is expensive and it takes a lot of milk to make cheese. But if you love fresh cheeses it is worth it.

This week I'll show you how to make a basic cottage cheese. This cheese is great spread on bread or crackers, makes wonderful dips, can be used to make a mock b├ęchamel sauce for lasagnes and is pretty darn good for you.

It is also the easiest of the cheeses I make to actually make.

First you mix the milk powder and water (I do it in the saucepan, saves on washing up).

Put the saucepan over a low heat and warm the milk to around 30 degrees Celsius so that it is warm but not hot.
Very slowly add the lemon juice or citric acid, stirring all the time. Just add it a drop at a time, you only want enough to form curds. Too much lemon juice (or citric acid) and the curds will be big and tough - you're aiming for nice small, soft curds.

Once the curds start to form stop adding the lemon juice and let the mixture rest for about ten minutes to set the curds.
Strain through a cheesecloth. We like quite a dry cheese so I let it drain for about 30 minutes. If you like a creamier, more moist cheese then don't drain it quite as long.
Scrape the cottage cheese out of the cloth into a container. Chill it and it's ready to use. Add salt to taste when you use it if you want to, I usually don't bother.

Strain the mixture over a bowl so you can keep the whey. You can add it to soups, gravies and sauces, to muffin and cake batters (remember to adjust the other liquids), it is full of goodness, far too much to waste.

Cottage Cheese

1 cup skim milk powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice OR 1 tsp citric acid in 2 tsp water
5 cups cold water

Add the skim milk powder to the 5 cups of water. Beat with an egg beater or electric mixer to ensure the milk powder is properly dissolved. Heat milk in a saucepan, over low heat, until just warm. Remove from heat and slowly add the lemon juice or citric acid and stir. Let the mixture sit undisturbed. When curds and whey have formed strain through a cheese cloth (I sometimes use a clean Chux). Before using, add salt to taste.

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15 September 2014

You've Gotta Try this Cookie Dough Dip

To top off an almost wasted day spent wandering around the house in circles and browsing the Internet in between wanders, I made this absolutely decadent, certainly not healthful, totally delicious Monster Cookie Dough Dip. Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. Someone please save me from myself, it is so nice.

I found it on Skip to my Lou, a gorgeous blog full of fun craft ideas and yummy recipes. Thankfully all the ingredients were already in my kitchen, just begging to be turned into cookie dough dip. Even the mini M&Ms (I stocked up when they were on half price sale a couple of weeks ago) and they are not something we would normally have in the house.  I took it as a sign I was meant to make this dip. Who am I to argue with signs? So I went ahead and made it.

I also had dibs on licking the beaters, that's how good this dip is. Everyone else had to wait to get a taste.

It's not something I'd make regularly. Probably once a year for a special occasion so I'm not worried about the fat content or the sugar content or even using M&Ms. It will be a truly rare treat. But if you are looking for a decadent dessert and want to try something new Monster Cookie Dough Dip may well be what you're looking for.

Be warned - this recipe makes a lot - I filled two noodle bowls with the dip. One I've transferred to a Tupperware container and put in the freezer. It should freeze well; cream cheese freezes well if it's whipped and the other ingredients are all freezer-friendly. Hannah mentioned turning it into ice-cream when she feels better and I think it's a great idea.

Next time I make this recipe I'll halve it. While I'm sure it would all get eaten, it really does make too much for a normal (for Australia anyway) sweet.

I also think it would be beyond delicious if Nutella were to be used instead of peanut butter - I'm almost drooling thinking about a yummy chocolate concoction with shortbread fingers for dipping.

I've adapted the measurements and ingredients to our Australian terminology so just follow the recipe as it is below.

Monster Cookie Dough Dip 

(recipe from Skip to My Lou  http://www.skiptomylou.org/)

250g cream cheese, softened
125g butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick)
1 cup mini M&Ms
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix cream cheese, butter, vanilla and peanut butter until smooth.
Stir in brown sugar and icing sugar, mixing well.
Next fold in oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips.
Form into two balls, place into dip bowls, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to be served.

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MOO Egg Substitutes

Eggs are among the most nutritious, value for money and economical foods on earth and can be a frugal part of a healthy diet (the Heart Foundation now says up to six eggs a week can be a part of a heart healthy diet). 

It is not often I run out of eggs, but it does happen occasionally, usually after a huge baking session just before shopping day. We don't have chickens (yet) so I do buy eggs. I try to buy the cheapest free range eggs I can find, usually from the egg farm, but sometimes I just have to buy supermarket eggs. Even at Aldi eggs are expensive bought this way so there is no way I will buy them outside of shopping day.

Over the years I've tried a few egg substitutes. Most of them are OK. I don't mind the Orgran Egg Substitute, it's a powder that just needs to be mixed into whatever I'm cooking, although it is pricey. It does for camping because it doesn't need refrigeration and it's light to pack.

At home I much prefer to use another ingredient I already have in the pantry. There are a lot of ingredients that work as egg substitutes, most of them do a very good job, especially in baking.

What is a good substitute for eggs?

Orgran Egg Substitute -  in the health food aisle of the supermarket, follow directions on box.
2 tbsp cornflour = 1 egg
2 tbsp arrowroot flour = 1 egg
1 heaped tbsp soy flour + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg
1 tbsp soy milk powder + 1 tbsp cornflour + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg.
1 banana = 1 egg in cakes

Low Cholesterol Egg Substitute 

Homemade egg substitutes are less expensive and the end result is just as satisfactory as using fresh eggs. If you are looking for a substitute for fresh eggs that you can use in quiche, omelettes and scrambled eggs, this low cholesterol egg substitute works very well. The food colouring is optional - I have never used it and no one has complained.

1 tablespoon of non-fat dry milk powder
2 egg whites from large eggs
4 drops of yellow food colour (optional, depending on use. If in cooking, not necessary, scrambled eggs and omelettes look better with a little colour in them).

Sprinkle powdered milk over egg whites, beat with fork until smooth. Add food colour and beat until blended. This makes 1/4 cup, which is equal to 1 large egg. If you use this homemade substitute for scrambled eggs or an omelette, cook it in vegetable oil or margarine so the eggs won't be too dry.

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14 September 2014

Homemade Vanilla Slices, a Weekend Treat

I have no idea if the humble, but oh so very delicious, vanilla slice is an Australian creation or not, but I am more than happy to enjoy one every now and then.

So last week when the topic came up in the Member's forum, and Coles had Lattice biscuits on sale, it didn't take too much encouraging to have me dragging out the slice tin, whipping up a custard and making a passionfruit icing.

Because if it doesn't have passionfruit icing it isn't a real vanilla slice (a bit like neenish tarts that have white icing instead of pink - it's just wrong!). I'd love a passionfruit vine but we don't have the room so I had to resort to using a tin of passionfruit pulp. Of course that was way too much so the excess is frozen in ice cube trays.

Anyway, back to the vanilla slice. I remembered my mother making the lattice biscuit vanilla slice when she was too busy to make the pastry from scratch so I wasn't at all worried about giving it a try. I did have to buy two packets of the biscuits though.

You'll need a slice tray about 16cm x 26cm (or a Tupperware slice container works just as well).

Line the tray with baking paper, making sure it comes up the sides so you have a "handle" to lift the prepared slice out.

Place a layer of biscuits in the tray, shiny side up.

Make a nice thick vanilla custard. Let it cool to warm then spread it over the biscuits.

Place a layer of biscuits over the custard, shiny side down.

Make a passionfruit icing. We prefer the icing to be reasonably thick so it sets quite hard (stops sticky fingers). Spread the icing over the top layer of biscuits. Place the slice in the fridge to set and chill, about two hours.

Cut the slice into squares, using the edge of the biscuits as a guide.

Make a cup of tea, use your best china and enjoy a fresh, yummy vanilla slice with your tea.

No Bake Vanilla Slice

200g packet Arnott's Lattice biscuits
1/3 cup custard powder
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup icing sugar mixture
1 passionfruit, halved

Grease a 3cm-deep, 16.5cm x 26cm (base) slab pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at both long ends. Place 12 biscuits, in a single layer, in pan to cover base. Combine custard powder and 1/4 cup milk in a saucepan. Whisk until smooth. Pour in remaining milk. Add sugar and place pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until custard comes to the boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool slightly. our warm custard over biscuits. Top with another layer of 12 biscuits. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set. Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon passionfruit pulp. Stir to make a thick icing, adding more pulp if required. Spoon icing over slice. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until icing sets. Cut slice into squares, using shape of biscuits as a guide. Serve.