Monday, 26 June 2017

Shepherdess Pie

Hello Dear Reader,

Years ago when I first started getting really serious about being more careful with money I started reading the "Frugal Queen" blog and I am still hooked. She and her hubby have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can achieve great things if you both work hard together and share the same dream. Being frugal isn't a lifestyle choice on its own but rather a tool to help you reach your goals and dreams for the future.

 The idea for this recipe came from "Froogs" but until now I hadn't made it. It is just a meatless variety of good old fashioned Shepherds Pie using Puy lentils and veggies for the base and of course a mashed potato topping. This quantity makes quite the dish, and will easily feed 4 to 6 hungry adults. It is packed full of goodness and has a lovely flavour that you get from the long sautéed veggies.

Two points that are important when cooking with lentils, always pick them over before using and don't add salt before they are cooked. Over the years I have had my fair share of small stones amongst lentils, you don't want to find them with your teeth and secondly if you add salt before the lentils are cooked they will go tough and never seem to soften. Now on with the recipe.

Ingredients for Shepherdess Pie, clockwise from top right-
1.25 litres of veggie stock(I use Massel stock cubes)375 gram packet of Puy lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained, 1/3 cup of port or red wine, 3 tablespoons tomato paste, a small handful of parsley, 200 grams of mushrooms, sliced, celery, diced (I used up the heart of a celery-use what equates to about 4 sticks of celery) 2 onions, chopped,  4 carrots, diced plus 2 kg's of potato's and 1/3 cup of grated cheese (Not pictured)

Sauté the veggies on medium heat, in about 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil

For about 15 minutes until nicely golden

Meanwhile slice the mushrooms and chop the parsley

Push the sautéed veggies to one side of the pan and add the mushrooms, sauté them until softened 

Add the chopped parsley and mix all sautéed veggies together

Add the rinsed and drained lentils plus the veggie stock

Let cook for 40 to 50 minutes until most of the stock has been absorbed and the lentils are soft. I cooked this on medium low heat with the lid of the pan, ajar

While the lentils are cooking, peel, boil and then mash the potatoes. Use one cup of milk and 50 grams of butter to make the potatoes lovely and creamy

Once the lentils are soft add the tomato paste and stir through, take pan off heat

Put the veggie and lentil mixture into a buttered casserole dish, pile the hot mashed potatoes on top and scuff the top of the mash with a fork. Sprinkle over 1/3 cup grated cheese

Bake at 190C for 30 minutes or until golden 

Serve piping hot. I love a squirt or two of tomato and chilli sauce on mine, no class at all. 

I love that it makes a mountain of a dish, plenty for dinner and plenty of leftovers for another meal or lunches during the week. Filling and delicious. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Easy Beef Rendang

Hello Dear Reader,

About 10 years ago we went to our first Good Food and Wine Show in Brisbane and it was simply amazing. There was a stunning amount of great food companies and of course row after row of wine makers. We probably went for four years running and then were disappointed one year, as there was so much wine and not enough of the good food, we stopped going. I will always remember my first Good Food and Wine Show as there was so many freebies, give aways, samples and celebrity chefs it was so worth the entry cost.

Any way, that is a long story, about how I discovered this simple but delicious Beef Rendang. We were attracted to the Ayam stall because of the amazing aromas coming from it and also because they were handing out bowls of this delicious curry with steamed rice. What an easy meal it is, just beef, one jar of Ayam Beef Rendang, one can of Ayam coconut milk and some toasted coconut for garnish. The recipe calls for Rump steak but I used the Oyster blade steak I was given to replace some, not so wonderful rib fillet, we bought from "The Meat Truck" at the local Sunday morning Markets, a few weeks ago. The Oyster Blade was quite fatty, so I removed all the visible fat and let it cook for two and a half hours instead of the one hour, stipulated in the original recipe.

I do love all of the Ayam products as there aren't any artificial ingredients or numbers insight and you can clearly taste and smell all the wonderful spices in their curry pastes. The Beef Rending is no exception, with a long list of real and authentic ingredients-toasted coconut, onions, garlic, chilli, ginger, tamarind, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. I love that I can buy and use an exceptional product with no nasties. Now on with the recipe.

Ingredients for Easy Beef Rendang
One jar of Ayam Beef Rending, one can of Ayam Coconut milk, 1/4 cup of shredded coconut, toasted, 750 grams of beef (I used a slow cook type of beef)

Remove the lid of the coconut milk and scrape off the thick coating of coconut milk into the frypan, You use this to sauté the curry paste in

Heat a heavy based, non stick pan to medium high and once the coconut milk has stated to bubble add the whole jar of Rendang sauce, scrapping out every last bit from the jar

Sauté until fragrant 

Now add the beef and sauté until nicely browned

Add the can of coconut milk, give it a good stir to incorporate. Pop a lid on and turn the heat down to low. Let blip away for and hour if using Rump steak or up to two and a half hours if using a slow cook type of meat. You may need to top up with water occasionally if cooking for a longer time

Once the meat is, fall apart, tender, garnish with toasted coconut and serve

I served ours with steamed basmati rice, papadums and chutney. Delicious and warming on a cold, mid week, night. 

I know it is a bit of a cheat, using a ready made curry paste, but I love these products, it is easy to open a jar on a week night to make a wonderful, flavourful dinner. I got this curry on by a quarter to five in the afternoon, after work and we were eating by a quarter past seven that night. Of course if you use a more tender meat you can have the curry done in one hour. 

This post is not sponsored, I just love the Ayam products.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

What we bought, spent and ate this week

Hello Dear Reader,

As I mentioned yesterday I had made a beautiful big pot of pumpkin soup which kept on giving, so it was another week of not really cooking a lot, which I just loved. There is something to be said for having dinner already sorted at the beginning of your day. I also made a big pot of cabbage rolls which fed us for two nights as well. I love this dish but I didn't have a recipe for it, I did have a good look though, hoping it would be amongst the reams of loose, hand written recipes, from my husbands Nanna and Grandmother.  But unfortunately it wasn't.

All the recipes I found online weren't really close to what I remember, so I just went on memory. It was lovely Hubby's Mum that actually used to make it, but the original recipe was from Gran. Lovely Hubby's late Mum was a wonderful cook but she didn't have recipes for all the dishes she made, in fact now that we have started to go through some of the stuff in her home (next door to us) I haven't seen one recipe book! How funny! Never mind, the cabbage rolls turned out pretty close to how I remember having them and everyone enjoyed them. They were lovely and warming to have on a cold night.

What we bought
Shopping from Coles

Shopping from Aldi

Mince from Marjax Meats at Rothwell, they are happy to put the meat in containers I bought in from home

Shopping from Northside Discount Fruit Barn

What we spent


Marjax Meats-$13.90

Northside Discount Fruit Barn-$64.64


What we ate
Saturday, Monday and Wednesday-Pumpkin Soup with toast and butter

Sunday and Tuesday-Cabbage Rolls with steamed basmati rice

Thursday-Easy Beef Rendang with steamed basmati rice, papadums and chutney

Friday-Stir Fried Prawns with snow pea, bean sprouts and green onion with egg noodles. Lovely hubby gets the prawns direct from the trawler owner on a barter system. Sweet!

One Year Ago-Norfolk Island

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely weekend. I love to read your comments, they are always so positive and supportive. Thank you. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

This Weeks 5 Frugal Things on a Friday

Hello Dear Reader,

How was your week? Mine was okay, just the same as most weeks, home, work, sleep, repeat. We had one outing, on Wednesday night, nothing exciting, just our 6 monthly dental appointment. Not exciting but necessary, keeping my teeth in good working order is really important to me, like most things in life, prevention is the key. On the subject of health I have made an appointment for a medical checkup, now that I have turned fifty. I want to enjoy good health for the rest of my, hopefully long, life and while I enjoy good health now I want to see if there is anything that needs tweaking. 

My darling Mum and Dad retired into ill health which was incredibly sad for all of us. Mum had long standing ill health, starting with a kidney transplant and ending with a massive stroke and Dad contracted viral Cardiomyopathy which ended his life a year before we lost Mum. They were both only in their early 60's when they passed away, which is way too young and I grieve their loss every day. Dad always used to say"Your health is your wealth" and he was so right, if you don't have your health no amount of money will make it right. I guess that is why eating well and getting some exercise everyday is so important to me. Some illnesses are out of our control and occur randomly, but I still want to take care of myself. 

Now on with the frugal stuff-

1. Cut up some, not so wonderful, strawberries and gave them a little love in the form of some icing sugar and vanilla essence. I find sometimes there is a few dodgy strawberries amongst the perfect ones in large packs. Last Saturday at the Northside Discount Fruit Barn they had 3 large boxes of strawberries for $5.00, what a bargain. This weekend I am going to make this dessert for a treat and to use up some of those lovely strawberries. 

2. Made a huge pot of pumpkin soup with a magnificent pumpkin we bought a few weeks ago. I keep the cut pumpkin wrapped in foil to keep it fresh and it lasts for ages. That being said, it was high time to use this particular pumpkin up. This is my favourite recipe to use. It made such a large batch of soup, that we dined off it for 3 nights, a few lunches and a container for the freezer. Talk about economical. 

3. Rode to work everyday. After the heavenly rain of last week kept me from riding to work, I am enjoying my brisk ride to work every morning. I do rug up against the cold but by the time I have reached work I am well and truly warmed up.

4. Line dried all the washing. Same as above, because of the rain last week I had to use the drier quite a bit. I love sun dried washing and as I look after the washing by shaking out all the wrinkles as I hang it up on a hanger or peg it out, there is no ironing! Sweet! I didn't inherit the ironing gene. 

5. Kept the warm up water to keep the fig trees out the front hydrated, even after all that rain they dry out very quickly. If there is one constant in my garden, it is my potted figs at our front door. They are over 20 years old and have been repotted into bigger pots three times now. They seem to be very hardy and pest resistant. We give them a trim every now and then to keep their height down, in fact looking at them now, they are well overdue for a cut back. 

How was your week? What frugal stuff did you achieve this week?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Our Big Holiday Plans

Hello Dear Reader,

Back in 2009, lovely hubby was very ill and for a long time the doctors were baffled by what was causing him to be so sick. He developed stroke like symptoms, his vision was failing and even standing up became difficult. This process was gradual, starting in early May and ending in July, when he was finally hospitalised and endured three major brain surgeries. In the end, it was discovered that a bacterial infection had infiltrated the meninges of his brain, by sheer luck they were able to retrieve a tiny specimen that indicated a bacterial infection of some nature and he began on a very long and intensive course of big gun antibiotics. On his 42nd birthday, in August, we were allowed to take him out to dinner to a wonderful Chinese restaurant not far from the Wesley hospital and ironically from this point on, he started to get better. It was a slow road to full recovery but even now his memory is affected and he has slow information processing time.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it was this event that made us realise we had better do some planning for our future lives instead of just talking about it. Lovely hubby had always been one to say "We will do it, one day" without really making any firm plans. Well, because of this life changing health scare, now we are planners and doers instead of just wishers and hopers.

On the 28th of July this year, we will be going on our trip of a lifetime, a dream that has come true. We are flying to Vancouver, cruising for 7 days to Anchorage, Alaska and then spending the next 7 days at 3 wilderness lodges in Canada and Alaska. We have saved hard for the last 8 years to achieve this dream and I hope it will be everything we dreamed of.

Like most cruises everything is well planned, from when and where you dine on board, to what shore tours you would like to book. It is all done well in advance with plenty of time to peruse your itinerary and shore tours. We love cruising and so far we have done a couple of cruises up the coast of Australia, two cruises to the Pacific Islands and one cruise to New Zealand. All these cruises were saved for, booked well in advance and paid for in full before we left. Cruising to Alaska will be truly a trip of a lifetime, we have booked shore tours that will let us get up close to the amazing wildlife, fascinating history and stunning nature of Canada and Alaska.

The cruising photos above are from 2014, when we went on a cruise to New Zealand. It was truly a beautiful cruise with Princess cruises. We have chosen Princess cruises again for our Alaskan cruise and I am sure it will live up to our expectations. There maybe some people, that think that this is not a very frugal thing to do, and they would be absolutely right, it isn't, but we did and do live frugally in order to fulfil these dreams. 

All work and no play is no fun for anyone and I am a firm believer in always having something on your horizon to look forward to, it balances out, the not so wonderful days and weeks at work, to know that you have a lovely holiday to enjoy after all the hard work. 

Life is too short to not live a little, every now and then. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Really Simple Date Loaf

Hello Dear Reader,

This recipe comes from a blog called "Frugal and Thriving" and I have baked it countless times over the years. It is one of those really simple recipes that always works and tastes just wonderful. The ingredients list isn't exhaustive and again uses simple ingredients usually found in your pantry and fridge. I always have a few Weetbix leftover from when we go camping so this recipe speaks to my frugal, no waste, soul.

I have tinkered with the original recipe slightly, using brown sugar instead of white and only using 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup. The only stipulation is that you must use Weetbix not Vitabrits, the reason is Weetbix contains malt and Vitabrits doesn't, it all comes down to flavour. It is a super moist loaf that is beautiful slice fresh and spread with butter or toasted with peanut butter and honey. YUM!

Ingredients for Really Simple Date Loaf, clockwise from top left-
1 cup of dates, chopped, 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 cup boiling water, 4 Weetbix, crushed, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup SR flour

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a loaf tin by greasing and lining with baking paper. In a bowl, add the chopped dates, bicarb soda, brown sugar and crushed Weetbix and mix well

Pour over the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes

Mix in the beaten eggs

And then add the SR flour

Mix until just combined, don't over mix

Pour into a prepared loaf tin (greased and lined) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 180C or until a skewer comes out clean

Devour fresh from the oven with a hot cup of tea. That is my kind of bliss.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Setting up the new compost bin

Hello Dear Reader,

My worm farm has been happily chewing through our fruit and veggie scraps for years now but just lately I have had a glut of scraps that I have been digging into our postage stamp size veggie garden. Now there just isn't any more room for me to keep doing that so it was high time to invest in a compost bin.

So, last Sunday, at about 9 am, I hopped online and googled Gumtree for a compost bin. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw a brand new looking, compost bin for the crazy cheap price of $5.00 and even better it wasn't too far away from our home. So, half an hour drive later we picked up, a new to us, compost bin, in the pouring rain. Not that we were worried by a bit of rain, we just got the bargain of the century.

I have been doing a lot of reading on how to set up an effective compost bin. I really wanted one that sat on soil rather than one of those tumbler compost bins, as I have read that all the beneficial bacteria and of course the earth worms will enter the compost bin and weave their magic when the compost bin sits on open soil. I have read about the ratio of 1 part green to 2 parts brown and I hope I have done it right. I haven't turned it over yet, I will let it sit for a week and the give it a good stir over next weekend.

So, from what I have gleaned this is what I should and should not be doing to achieve sensational compost


1. Layer with 1 part green to 2 parts brown and break down any large pieces


fruit and veggie scraps
fresh grass clippings
coffee grounds, tea leaves and tea bags
manure from cows, sheep or chicken
egg shells


tissues and newspaper
drier lint
egg cartons
dead leaves and branches
sugarcane mulch

2.Water in-between each layer

3.Turn the compost regularly

4. Repeat


meat or bones
fats or cooking oils
dairy products
waste from domestic pets
weeds or diseased plants
garden waste that is contaminated with herbicides or pesticides 

Don't let the compost become too wet or too dry

The compost will be ready when it resembles healthy soil and smells like earth. Wish me luck

To fit the compost bin in, I removed the spent chia, amaranth and one of the pumpkin vines. Unfortunately every time a pumpkin would start growing it would shrivel and fall off, this pumpkin vine came up by itself and looked healthy enough but as it wasn't producing pumpkins, out it came.

I have used lucerne and sugar cane mulch for the "brown" part as I didn't have enough brown stuff laying around the yard.

All I have left now in my little veggie garden is my lime tree, my one last healthy Red Paw Paw tree, a robust rosemary plant, a struggling strawberry runner that has come from somewhere (maybe next door), a pumpkin vine that I have re-trained down the left hand side of the garden and a newly acquired cutting of lemon grass from Morag at Our Permaculture Life, oh and of course the compost bin. I won't plant anything else for a while now, I will just concentrate on making the best compost I can. 

I have read conflicting reports about using junk mail/catalogues in the compost bin, has any one used junk mail for the "brown" part of the ratio? Any suggestions for how I can "do it better" are more than welcomed. 

Have a lovely day.