Thursday, May 28, 2009

Simple Scones

I wrote about making scones the other day and here is the recipe I use.

Makes approx 12 scones.

2 cups self raising flour

pinch salt (for a flavour enhancer, not for taste)

30g cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup cold milk

1/3 cup water

extra milk for glazing

Preheat oven to 210 oC. Prepare your baking tray (I use baking paper but you could grease if you want to).

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Scones need lots of air so this step is important. Add the chopped butter and rub in lightly using your fingertips -it will end up looking like fine breadcrumbs. Only use the tips of your fingers. You shouldn't have any flour on the palms of your hands and you should be using a light touch.

Make a well in the centre and add most of the combined milk and water. Mix with a flat bladed knife to a soft dough, add more of the milk/water if you need to.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough very briefly and lightly. Your aim is to just make the dough smooth and not sticky. It shouldn't take any longer than about 30 seconds.

Roll out dough to 2cm thick (or so). Cut the dough into rounds about 5cm in diameter. You can buy scone cutters but I just use a small drinking glass. Flour the edge of the cutter first. Don't re-knead the left over dough but press it together and lightly re-roll to cut more rounds. You don't want to over work the dough or you'll end up with tough scones. Place the cut rounds onto the baking tray so that they just touch and glaze them with the extra milk.

Bake for about 10 mins or until they are golden. To check they are cooked, break one open - it shouldn't be doughy in the middle. If you want soft scones wrap them in a clean tea towel (my preference) otherwise, put them on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Serve warm with jam and whipped or dollop cream.

I Hate Mieces to Pieces

image by tomsaint11

Yesterday I was sitting down having a nice quiet lunch when out of the corner of my eye I spot a little brown mouse run into the dining room then run back out into the hallway (and I assume back into the kitchen). I did what any respectable eco warrior would do. I jumped up on my chair and did what I like to call the two step chicken dance - I jumped from one foot to the other whilst waving my arms like a chicken.

I then called my Dad.

Luckily, Dad was only ten minutes away and had time to drop in. Now I am all for wildlife - providing said wildlife doesn't enter my domain. Once they enter the house that's it. Miss Berry was miraculously still asleep so Dad went to the local hardware for some mouse traps. Apparently soft paste-like foods is better than cheese so we set the traps with peanut butter and waited.

This morning my eco warrior surfaced again and I sent Mr Berry into the kitchen to check the traps. No mouse, and no peanut butter.

I mean no peanut butter. I think the mouse had licked the traps clean. At least we have a smart mouse.

We reset the traps (still with peanut butter) and I am going out for the day. If he manages to take the peanut butter again I might try cream cheese. I think the cold is solidifying the peanut butter allowing it to come off the trap in one go.

So, the moral of this story is that it doesn't matter how old you are, Dad's can fix anything (well, almost anything).

Edited to Add: I just checked the traps and one of them has been licked clean. Little Bugger. This means war!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Minute Morning Tea

Today I was on morning tea duty at Playgroup and as always I was my usual organised self and did not get around to baking a cake yesterday. I really didn't want to buy a cake, not only are they really expensive but they also aren't very nice.

So, this morning I cooked 2 batches of scones and served them still warm with strawberry jam and cream for morning tea.

I was amazed (and a little shocked) at the response from the other Mums. Everyone seemed really impressed that I had scones for morning tea. In particular, they were surprised that I actually made the scones instead of buying them at Baker's Delight. (at $4ish each?) They were surprised in a good way - I received a lot of thank yous.

The thing is, I see scones as a last minute thing - the sort of things you cook when unexpected guests drop in or when you don't have time to bake a cake. I also think they are super yummy - as did the other Mums.

I guess it just goes to show that most people are not living simply. People do not take the time to bake, even though scones take about 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook. For less than the cost of 2 packets of biscuits, we had a lovely homemade morning tea that was super yummy and not full of sugar and preservatives. And even though it was a morning tea that is one of the quickest, cheapest things you can make, it was a special treat at Playgroup.

I think that is a little sad.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Perfect Rice

I have been searching for the perfect rice recipe and I think I have found it. It is from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food Cookbook.

Serves 4 (I think it is more like 6 serves)

  • 350g basmati rice
  • sea salt

Put a large saucepan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil.
Rinse rice in a colander under running water til water runs clear (this takes about 1 min).
Add rice to saucepan and wait til the grains start dancing around.
From that point boil for 5 minutes.
Drain rice in colander
Pour 2.5cm of water into the saucepan and bring it to the boil then turn down to a simmer.
Cover the rice in the colander with foil or a lid
Place colander on top of the saucepan of simmering water and let the rice steam for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve.
The rice will stay warm for about 20 minutes with the foil left on the colander.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We'll Keep on Looking - and Saving

We didn't get the house.

We decided that it would be too risky for us at the moment to buy at auction. One bank (one of the big 4) has still yet to look at our application for a pre-approval - it has taken them 4 weeks so far. With the banks taking so long at the moment to give pre-approvals we had absolutely no confidence in them getting the loan organised in time for settlement. The house sold for $20,000.00 more than our upper limit anyway, so even if we had our finance sorted out we wouldn't have won the auction.

I do feel empowered in the decisions we made during this exercise. Even though I loved the house (it was perfect) we (or should I say I) was able to make rational decisions about the price we were willing to pay, the loan options we wanted as well as the ultimate decision about risk concerning the auction. I understand some people will pay anything and take any loan they can get in order to buy a particular house. That then leaves them with a lovely house, but with huge debt that they really can't afford to repay. I have heard stories of people living off their credit cards because their mortgage repayments are so high. They then roll the credit card debt into their mortgage as the house increases in value so they can start the cycle again.

This was exactly the situation we do not want to get into. Last year we made the decision to live off one income so we could give Miss Berry what we believe is the most important thing - time and attention that comes from having one parent stay at home. This means that we not only have to rent for longer whilst we save for a deposit, but also that we need a bigger deposit so that our mortgage repayments are low enough to maintain our current lifestyle on one income.

Although it will take longer to get our own house, I am happy with our decision. It has made it a lot easier to stay on budget and i think it's because the decision was ours. If we had been forced into this it would be a lot harder.

So we will keep on saving and I will keep on looking. I am sure the right house will come at the right time. There are after all, a lot of houses in our area. Surely some of them will be perfect?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Reducing Stress Levels

As you may have guessed from my previous post, I have been somewhat stressed out. My solution was to get stuck in to some sewing and forget about the whole house hunting thing for a while.

I found this tutorial on Sew Mam Sew for a great tote bag. Mine is a little different, but not by much.

I also added some inside pockets. I love my bags to have lots of pockets (there is some on the other side on the outside of the bag too.

Not sure what I will use it for. Is that really the issue anyway?

I don't seem to get much time for sewing these days. I can't get the machine or iron out during the day with Miss Berry around and after dinner I am usually too exhausted to pull the machine out and tend to reach for some handwork instead. It was nice to make the extra effort to get the bag made.

On the house hunting front - the auction for this house is today but I think we have decided to chicken out on bidding. The banks are just so slow at the moment that we are worried that they won't be able to get the loan sorted before settlement date. I have been told that the delay is a combination of the tightening lending policies they are bringing in as well as the ending of the home owners grant. Hopefully by July things will have slowed down and the banks will have their acts together.

In the meantime we will keep saving and looking. I am sure the right house will come along at the right time, although the house that is up for auction today is really, really nice. I am a bit disappointed that we will miss out on it - might get into the garden for some more therapy this weekend.
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