Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tomato Tango Meatballs "Cook Up" Quantities

These have been very popular each time we've made them - I say 'we' because not much happens in the kitchen without others doing their part. This time it was Melinda (9.5) who made the meatballs, with a little help from Timothy (almost 4). Meatballs are time consuming - especially when doing this many - so not always a meal of choice but again like my pasties, worth doing in bulk.

Melinda made the meatballs with
1.9kg beef mince (ground beef)
5 eggs
2 cups of quick oats (for best preparation, soak and dehydrate rolled oats and then whizz them through the food processor to make them smaller)
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Celtic sea salt
2tb dried parsley (3 if fresh)
2tb spelt flour

She first breaks up the mince then tips in the oats, followed by parsley, salt and flour.
Mix together with fork so everything is pretty evenly distributed.
Add in the eggs and Worcestershire sauce. Mix briefly with a fork then mush with your hands. Squeezing it through the fingers. Cold eewey work! LOL
Roll into lots of small balls and fry gently in fry pan with a little butter till nicely browned.
(An electric fry pan is an excellent tool to enable a child to do cooking at dining table level instead of the higher level of the stove. It also keeps the kitchen free for me to be working in.)

Once cooked, all the meatballs weighed in at about 2kg. Once the sauce was added, we were up to a bit over 3kg.

About a third of the meatballs in a pasta bowl

Tomato Tango Sauce - this is what makes the meal so popular!

I used:
2 bottles of tomato passata
Either: 2 cups condensed home made beef broth and 4tb(ish) spelt flour
OR: 4tb(ish) gravy powder
Balsamic Vinegar to taste (a few good tablespoons here)

Tomato Passata and beef broth into the pot and simmer it down till it's a bit thicker than commercial tomato sauce. Turn off the heat.
Add in 1/3 of the meatballs, stir in and then  add in the spelt flour or gravy powder. Stirring in immediately.
Pour in the Balsamic vinegar, stir in and taste, add more as needed. I nice strong tang is what I aim for as it tends to disappear a bit in the rest of the cooking.

Put the rest of the meatballs in the bottom of casserole dish and then pour over the sauce with the meatballs
These have been chilling in the fridge for a couple of days before I got to making the sauce. They're a lot darker when first cooked!

Add a little more balsamic vinegar on top and then bake at 200 till hot all the way through.

Serving suggestions:
With mash & vegies
On cous cous with stir fried vegies
Over diced roasted pumpkin and some greens on the side

Also, 'once upon a time' I made this with fresh tomatoes and not Passata... the difference being that I diced the tomatoes (lots of them) and barely heated them before adding in flavouring, thickening and balsamic vinegar. Still works great and retains some of that beautiful 'garden fresh' tomato taste!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pasties "Cook Up" Quantities!

Jumbo Pasties

Making pasties is time consuming and a little bit fiddly, so to make the most of it I make them to a couple of 'rules'... a) They must be made in a LARGE quantity... enough for at least 2 meals, preferably 3 (they're great for freezing) and b) I must have other tasks I can do in the kitchen at the same time... passing them through the oven takes a few hours so I either need to be cooking other non time sensitive things, be doing a deep clean in the kitchen or be able to work on the laptop.

I made the equivalent of 20 small pasties on Monday

10 sheets of butter puff pastry (you may prefer to make your own pastry and you may prefer short crust too)
1.6kg rump steak
3 small/medium potatoes, peeled and diced
800g carrots peeled and diced
2 medium-large onions
Peas - enough to 'look right'. Probably close to 2 cups
Celtic sea salt to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Condensed beef broth (Massel beef stock powder could be used)
Flour as needed, 1-2 dessert spoons
I often put in a table spoon or two of tomato paste too, but forgot this time!

  • Many hands make light work, so do electric ones!
  • Someone small can peel the carrots & potatoes
  • Someone bigger can dice them or put them through on a chopping setting in the food processor
  • Steak is easier to dice when almost totally frozen, freeze in single layers though as once it's frozen together, it's too hard to separate before defrosted. If you don't want to work with it mostly frozen then a great pair of kitchen scissors can make sort work of it too - my personal favourite are the Tupperware scissors
  • Don't try for a typical Pastie shape, just work with the shape of the pastry. I ROLL nothing! Jumbo pasties are one whole sheet of pastry and small pasties are half a sheet. Then I also make mini ones and medium ones from one sheet - 1/3 for the mini leaving 2/3 for the medium!

Recipe Method:
Sautee the onion in butter, in a big pot.
Increase heat then add the finely diced beef and stir while continuing to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Once most of it is starting to brown, add in the diced carrots and potatoes.
Stir these through and continue to cook, stirring again every couple of minutes.
Once carrots and potatoes would be hot, add in the peas, stirring and adding 'till it looks right'. If adding liquid stock, add with the peas so excess liquid can be cooked off.
Once the peas are cooked, add in seasoning... a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, Celtic sea salt, tomato paste etc. Stir through thoroughly and finally add flour for thickening, a little at a time and then stir. You want NO liquid in the pot as once cooking in the oven, the vegies will produce more liquid)
At this point, everything in your pot is cooked. Stir in tomato paste now, if using.
Turn it off and allow to cool for half an hour... now is a good time to get the first sheets of pastry from the freezer. I can only fit one tray of pasties in my oven at a time so I defrost pastry accordingly.

Ready for cooling

You can start doing the pasties after about 20-30 minutes of cooling. Sooner will 'melt' holes in the bottom of the pastry and they'll fall apart as you move them to baking trays.

Spoon it onto the pastry (which you've already cut to size if needed), fold over the tops and press seal with a fork. Bake at about 180/350 till golden for eating right away or slightly less golden if you want to be able to keep in fridge or freezer for reheating.

2 Jumbo ones about to be sealed

4 small ones (half jumbo) ready for the oven

One jumbo almost gone and thoroughly enjoyed!

Connecting The Disconnect (part 1)

If we want our children to eat healthily when they're young adults, we start when they're much younger, right? Like from the start?

If we want our children to treat other's nicely, we teach them from the beginning, yes? not to bite, kick, destroy things... we don't let them get away with 'whatever they feel like' until they're 10 and then try and train them to be 'nice', do we?

If we want our young adults to exercise - it's MUCH HARDER to wait till they turn 12, 15, 18 or whatever and then ask it of them, isn't it?

Why then do some of us, who want our grown children to be active in a personal Christian faith and see church attendance, participation and involvement and a vital part of that...train them for the first 10-12-15 years to NOT be there, and to NOT be involved, and to NOT listen... and then watch the church youth including our own, walk away from the church and any faith of their own?

Starting to see the disconnect?

Fool yourselves not, this IS what is happening to the church as a whole and has been on a large scale over the last 30 years or so. The church body is on the decline, starting with our youth. No, not all and yes there has always been a few, but it's different now, it's FAR TOO MANY to keep thinking the way things are done, is good.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Boys 1st Camping Trip

A couple of weekends ago, Pete and the boys went camping for one night. Their first 'father/son' camping trip. The first of many, I hope!

Pete wasn't so keen but was pushed along by yours truly, an excited 8yo who had been awarded with a new sleeping bag for his Best Boy award in Boys Brigade last year and was soooo very keen to use it FOR REAL, and of course, the 3yo brother who was oh so excited but can't have had too much of a clue as to what he was excited about! But hey, one in, all in, right? He thought so anyway and tents and food must = FUN

Not quite fast enough for the timer!

The best bit (IMO) about camping - the FIRE!!

Poor Timothy was apparently terrified of the toilet... I got the giggles when I heard, because I knew WHY... his loving brother had said to him before going on the trip that "if you fall in the toilet hole, you'll NEVER get out!!". I must say I don't like the bush toilets myself!

Mighty small space where one was allowed to pitch one's tent

Pete wasn't sure they'd have enough to do but sure enough the time was easily filled with setting up camp, building the fire & enjoying it with marshmallows, a nice long bush walk and just fun enjoyment of the bush that God has blessed us with just an hour away.

Melinda and I enjoyed the 24 hours in a much quieter house... chinese takeaway & a movie :o)

Time to schedule the next camping trip on the calendar, I think!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ready for white walls

I am sooo over it, I'm ready to invest in paint.

Everywhere I have ever lived has had walls that can be washed. And I'm someone that will wash them every now and then because marks on walls is more visual clutter that I do NOT need!

We moved into this house about 20 months ago 'freshly painted'.


Some of it was freshly painted. With cheap dodgy paint.

You know how I know that it's cheap and dodgy , for sure...?

Soon after we moved in there was a small accident and we needed matching paint for the repair job. I went to Bunnings (Australian hardware store) and asked in their paint department for the cheapest nastiest wall paint that they had. They asked why and I said I needed it to match what was on the walls and we didn't know what brand/shade it was, other than dodgy. He told me I'd NEVER get a match and found cheap paint for me. I asked if it came any flatter than the can he'd handed me and it did, so that's the one I got.

Cheapest, nastiest paint possible.

He thought I was mad.

And yes, it's a perfect match!!!!

See I told you it was bad!

Seriously - if you breathe on this paint, it leaves a mark. Add in 3 small kids going in and out of the house multiple times a day and the walls become feral all too soon. Washing the walls removes more paint than dirt and so has proven futile. I said to Pete just days after moving in "You know we'll have to paint before we move out, don't you". Well, we're not moving any time too soon but I NEED white walls. No it's not a NEED as in need to survive but so far as my sanity goes, I reckon it's a serious need. I wish I was kidding.

So on the list of things to tackle in the next month or so is painting the main traffic areas with better paint. Paint I will be able to wash. And life will be good.

About as good as it gets at the moment


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Menu Plan for the week

I find meal planning helps life move along a little more smoothly around here

B: Scrambled eggs on toast
L: Baked potatoes
D: Beef Stew (already cooked)

B: Breakfast Muffins
L: Picnic in the park (all going well!)
D: Lasagne (already cooked) & extra vegies
Note: Start the chicken broth in the crock pot if haven't done so yet

B: Porridge & eggs
L: Zucchini slice
D: Stroganoff shepherd's pie (already cooked) with extra vegies

B: Fried eggs on toast
L: Dim sims
D: Chicken and corn noodle soup

Friday (Cook Up! day)
B: Porridge & eggs
L: leftovers
D: Roast something but must include roast pumpkin... my favourite! Possibly roast lamb as there's nothing like roast pumpkin & potato drowned in both mint sauce and gravy!!

Cook Up! Goals (Friday): Pasties, Country Chicken double meal, Tomato Tango Meatballs (mmm) 2-2.5kg, Savoury Mince x 6L, Bean & Pasta soup x 8L and... (brain working hard music...) oh yes, a couple of Tuna Bakes

By the way... is the evening meal 'tea' or 'dinner' in your home? I'm pretty sure I grew up with it being 'tea' but have switched to 'dinner' after 10 years of Nannying in homes where it was called 'dinner' and now saying 'tea' sounds odd to me even though it's what I seem to hear most from others!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tonight's Dinner


My all in one beef crockpot stew :o) Changes a little every time but this is today's version!
1.2kg rump steak, 1 onion, 2-3 cups butternut pumpkin, 200g mushrooms, 1/2 red capsicum, 1kg carrot chunks, 2c chicken broth, 2 cups zucchini, 1/2 jar of tomato passata, 3 potatoes (one diced so it will fall apart and thicken the casserole, 2 in large chunks), 2 tsp Celtic sea salt and 1 beef stock cube (Massel). All in a 6L crockpot for the day. Thinking I might put some more mushrooms in once it cooks down a bit and will probably add a cup or two of green beans about 2 hours before the end of cooking.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Small things...

Church had a family fun day in December... cool things like an animal nursery and face painting, a jumping castle and this huge caterpillar that kids could crawl through...

and of course the best bit - coming out of the caterpillars BOTTOM. It was the highlight of their day!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Sneaking back in to update

3 months passes too fast! Each time I think about returning to blog, the list of updating that I WANT to do, is overwhelming. Conclusion - I shall have to put that long list aside, update a little and move on. *sigh* LOL

Christmas... was lovely...but too busy. Visited the inlaws and my mum/family all on Christmas day. 2 visits, 1 day = nuts. Especially when for years we've not gone anywhere and just enjoyed the day at home! A new plan is already in our minds for this year.

Blue Moose family catering craziness proved to be exactly what God wanted us to be doing over that time with was affirmed and reaffirmed. Listen for God's voice, most especially when you think it's nuts and others are telling you it's nuts. For the entire time we were doing Blue Moose Summer Mission Catering, my MS symptoms did not increase above winter levels. Blew me away that! The blessing's of God continue to surprise. God is good.

Road Trip like none other - at the end of January, we were invited by friends to join them on a day trip to the SPC outlet in Ballarat and to Costco Melbourne on the way back. Sounds ordinary enough yeah? Well, Pete was working so he didn't come. All up though, we had 10 children and 3 adults in our friends van (bus?). Plus an enclosed trailer attached. Awesome day of much fun. A picnic by Lake Wendouree, off to SPC, road trip back to Melbourne, into Costco and finishing with a quick dinner there just before they closed. Back home to unpack and stack all the goods. That took time over the next couple of days!! (for those that don't know,SPC is a (mostly) canned goods outlet)

Early Feb brought another major change our way - Pete had been in his new job for 6mo and they decided not to renew his contract. So back to job hunting we go, on a centrelink income. Best thing is though that we've followed God's leading and reduced our basic living expenses over the last few years. Thus, while living on the centrelink benefits is by no means fun... it's do-able, especially as God continue to provide in other unexpected ways :o)

More to come... and a few photo's