22 March 2024

Square toast bread and other treasures

I've been writing about change recently, mostly because I've undergone significant change in the last two years but also because that’s what we all do - we change. Change is healthy, it shows we’re evolving and not standing still. However, my change topic today is not about personal change, I’m changing the shape of my bread, it will be square, and the recipe is changing to suit the shape. I have many posts here about baking bread and yes, I've been through all the changes you're currently going through - sourdough, artisan bread, sandwich loaves, ancient grains, rye, milled oats and the rest. But now I'm focusing on square toast bread and, of course, scones. I will bake scones using the recipe now engraved on my brain that was taught to be by my mum when I was about 10 years old. She used to tell me I had "a light hand" and that was what was needed to make good scones. Who knew!

Almost all the bread I eat now is in the form of toast, generally one slice with my breakfast. It bugged me that my tall loaves had to be put through the toaster twice so the complete slice was toasted from top to bottom. Then I came across Japanese square bread made in a loaf tin with a lid. Now that I think back on it, I'm amazed that I didn't think of this sooner and looked for the right tin to bake it in. But I'm there now so that's all that matters.

I bought my loaf tin at Amazon au I've been using it for a couple of months now and I'm very happy with it. I don't grease the interior of the pan nor do I use parchment paper, The dough goes in, bakes and it comes out as a perfect square - there’s no sticking to the loaf tin and no fiddling with it.

The first problem I came up against was my normal milk bread recipe, even when I adjusted the amounts in the first loaf I baked, it was too big. I was getting a square loaf, but there was too much dough in the tin and because the lid stopped the dough from rising, the bread was dense. I kept working on it and I’m pretty happy with my recipe now. It makes slightly more dough than I need but I always take a small portion off to make pizza.  I looked at the Japanese recipes traditionally used with this loaf tin but they used a fermented starter that had to stay in the fridge overnight and I didn’t want that added hassle. 

I've been baking bread for over 20 years now and most of that time I baked every day. The reason I didn't give up on it was I simplified the process so it didn't take a lot of time. People were shocked when I said I was using a bread machine to knead the dough - I still use one now to do the same thing - but back then most of the people who baked bread used the traditional methods which I thought took too long. I worked from sunup to sundown in my home, cooking from scratch, preserving, gardening, keeping chickens, harvesting, composting, making simple cleaners, recycling, mending, sewing and knitting, and saving 20 minutes, or 2 ½ hours a week, made a big difference to me. I needed a way of making good bread that was just another task, not a time sponge. Now, of course, bread machines are commonplace and although I usually don't buy everything new that comes along - I have no airfryer, pressure cooker/Instapot, Thermomix or coffee machine, my bread machine will probably be buried with me. πŸ˜€

My next step is to source quality bread flour online so I don't have to rely on the white bread flour available at the local supermarket. I'm thinking I'll probably go for the Wholegrain Milling Co.'s Stoneground flour from Gunnedah - they have a selection of white, wholemeal and rye. If you have a favourite flour, please let me know about it. This is my current recipe:

500g bread flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
300g warm water
2 tablespoons milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
20g melted butter


I bought too many citrus last week so I've been drying a few lemon and orange slices. I also discovered 20 red and green chillies growing in the back yard so made up a few jars of sweet chilli sauce. I bottled it yesterday so that will sit in the fridge for a few weeks to mellow and I'll have some delicious quick sauce for pasta and for adding to soups and stews. I had steak, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and carrots for lunch yesterday so today I'm making miso and pumpkin soup. I'll make enough to store for later in the month too. The sweet chilli sauce recipe will be in the PDF/ePub cookbook.

And there have been a few repairs to do this week too. I've had to learn about repairing all manner of things since Hanno died but it's been good for me to do it. Sarndra helped me replace a venetian blind in my office that refused to open or be adjusted in any way and this morning I learnt how to unstick a press-in bathroom plug. I also had to fiddle with the back door lock to free it up and reapply a skirting board that fell off. What next? LOL

Hello to Judith Waller in Victoria. Thanks for your letter Judith, I appreciate you thinking of me. xx

I hope things are going well in your home. Thanks for your visit today I hope you're enjoying this time of year. Stay safe and well. xx


Great vintage bake-off: why lamingtons survive while fruitcakes fell from favour

Play outside and sing together: what living in Denmark taught me about raising ‘Viking’ children


9 March 2024

This is real freedom

One of the things I love about living alone is that I can do whatever I want to do. I've always been independent and a loner but this puts a new sparkle on the edge of it. This is REAL freedom. But hand-in-hand with that freedom is the importance of maintaining relationships with family, friends and neighbours.  My family continues to support me with phone calls, messages and visits which I know will carry on until I die. Thankfully, we are that kind of family. I have a couple of online friends who I speak with online or on the phone and two other friends I see every few months - it works well for me, keeping me in touch with the people I love while enjoying my independence and time alone. My neighbours seem to have adopted me since Hanno's death and I can rely on them for almost anything ... except getting rid of snakes. LOL I am reluctant to ask for help but sensible enough to know when I need to. 

Yesterday, I did my grocery shopping, came home having bought a new moth orchid, repotted it and two other orchids and then had a tea and toast breakfast at 10am. I worked on the cookbook for three hours. At 2pm, I cut up tomato, onion, cucumber, lettuce, avocado and chilli, made guacamole, and had lunch of corn chips, salad and guacamole, then I finished off the fresh pineapple I cut up the day before.  From 3 - 5pm I was mending and sewing, then took Gracie outside again until it was almost dark. Inside again, I showered, read for a while, made some notes about ideas I'd had through the day, read The Guardian online and went to bed. It was a good day.

Spending time with Gracie is very important to me and seeing as she likes to be WITH me, I have to juggle time working on the computer and being outside with her watching her chase March flies and lizards or watching what's happening in the neighborhood - which usually is not much. There's virtually no traffic, but a lot of birds and after 3pm, neighbourhood kids playing in the street. Every couple of weeks I wash Gracie, or groom her, she hates having all that done but being a Scotch Terrier in a warm climate, she tolerates it and me fussing over her.

Here are my beautiful sons, Shane and Kerry, when they were in grade one and preschool, they are now in their 40s.

I think a lot about my life and my good fortune to have met Hanno all those years ago and how grateful I am to have this life. I have a wonderful family, I have nothing to complain about, I have more than enough, I'm happy to live on less than I earn and feel fortunate to own my home and have no debt. I've met many interesting people, made a living being a writer since I was about 30 years old and have an abundance of optimism and general good health. I wonder too about the state of the world, how wars break out and how it is usually the innocents who pay the ultimate price for that. Hatred, aggression, greed, jealousy, sexism and racism are reported on the news everyday - it never goes away.  And yet here I am, a dog at my feet, reading this blog post I just wrote and wondering how I got so lucky.

Addition: I've just restored the comments. I hope they aren't swamped with spam like there were before, if so, I'll deal with it then. Please comment here rather than Instagram.


1 March 2024

Grocery shopping and bill paying

I gave up looking through supermarket specials catalogues years ago when I realised that 90 percent of what they reduced in price was junk food: fizzy drinks, sweets, chips, biscuits, sugary cereals, cake mix, canned soup etc.. Grocery prices started rising before Christmas and while many of us are used to higher prices, we're all looking for value for money so it's still very difficult shopping for fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, staples and cleaners. I put cleaners in there because although I don't buy washing liquid, spray and wipe or any of the common cleaners, I do buy borax, washing soda, laundry soap, vinegar, disinfectant, oxy-bleach, dish liquid and White Magic Flat Pot Scrubbers. Those scrubbers are very effective, they're $5 each, you can wash them in the dishwasher or the washing machine and they last well for at least six months. 

This is my general cleaning kit. It contains disinfectant, a homemade spray of water, vinegar and a few drops of dish liquid, small bottle of vinegar, brushes, eucalyptus oil, bicarb soda, a duster and rags.

This is a robot wet mop brought back from South Korea. Sunny and Kerry gave it to me as a Christmas gift a few years ago.  It's fabulous.  It uses plain water with a dash of vinegar.

I use the borax, washing soda and laundry soap to make laundry liquid, I use vinegar, disinfectant and dish liquid for general cleaning and the oxy-bleach on stains or in the washing machine to make sure everything is cleaned to the standard I want.  One 10 litre batch of homemade laundry liquid lasts for about four months, so I'm not weighed down by the cost of buying a bottle of Cold Power or Radiant every week or two and bringing in all that extra plastic into my home. Buying ingredients for homemade cleaners will save you a lot of money and it's ongoing so the savings continue over the years.

I usually have my groceries delivered from Woolworths but two weeks ago I decided to do a test shop. I always knew Aldi was cheaper because we used to shop there but I moved away from them when I thought the quality of their fruit, vegetables and meat weren't as good as they once were. To help me with my test shop, I made up my shopping list on the Woolworths app as I usually did but didn't pay for it - I just had the list in my phone. The app automatically creates a shopping list on your phone with weights and prices. Then I went shopping at Aldi and as I walked around the shop, I could compare the Aldi prices with the exact price Woolworths were charging for the same product. An average Woolworths shop cost me around the $100 mark (that's for me and Gracie) and the Aldi shop was around $80. So I'm back at Aldi for the time being. I've always believed Aldi sold the best dairy products and I'd pleased to tell you that they still do. Their butter is $6.39 per 500g against Woolworth's Western Star butter at $8 per 500g, recently reduced from $9 per 500g. Their milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt are all excellent and cheaper than the same products in Woolworths. I'm pleased to say their nuts, tissues, tea, and general groceries are cheaper too. Most of their products are made in Australia, their fruit, vegetables and meat are all local and for the foreseeable future I'll be shopping there. If you think you might change too, download the Woolworths or Coles app, make up your shopping list and take that list to Aldi to make a real comparison. I hope it helps you make the most of your grocery money.

Get into the habit of shopping with the UNIT price in mind, not the product price. The unit price must be displayed near the product price for you can compare before you buy. For instance, I buy a 1.5 kg bag of Australian traditional rolled oats, grown on Australian farms and it costs 17 cents per 100 grams or $2.60 per 1.5 kg. If I bought Uncle Toby's traditional oats, they would cost me 65 cents per 100 grams or $6.50 per kg. I've eaten rolled oats since I was a child and there is no difference in the taste of these oats. Getting into the habit of shopping by unit price, you will save money. Look at generic brands too. Some, but not all, of the generics are good but you have to test them first. If you want to test a product, buy the smallest size you can and go for it. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

If you cook from scratch or you're planning to, having the staples you need in your pantry will make cooking easier and will open up a wider range of meals you can make on a regular basis. Your staples are the ingredients you have on hand to make the food you usually eat. My pantry staples are: plain, self raising and bread flour, cornflour or arrowroot (to thicken sauces), salt, pepper, curry powder, chilli, onion and garlic powder, dried italian herbs, dried oregano, ginger powder, mustard seeds, sweet paprika, honey, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, shredded coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, vinegar, tea, rice, barley and pasta. In the freezer I keep two 500g blocks of butter and in the fridge I always have milk, mustard, dried yeast, eggs and cheese. I usually have the following in my stockpile cupboard: tins of salmon and tuna, baked beans, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and passata. The start of a lot of meals I cook are onions, carrots and celery but when I cook asian food that changes to garlic, ginger and green onion, so I have those ingredients on hand too or will be ready to buy them when I shop again. If you can work out what ingredients you need in your pantry/fridge/freezer to cook your favourite meals without going to the supermarket you'll make things easier for yourself. Set yourself up with the ingredients you need but don't go overboard on things like spices because they'll go out of date before you use them. Just get the basics - salt, pepper, flour, sugar, tea, coffee, rice and whatever it is you need every week to keep you going.

I wish I had more information on bulk meat shopping but I haven't bought bulk meat for years. If you have family or friends who will share the purchase with you, and you have a large freezer, it's an excellent way to save money on meat. Here is the last blog post I wrote on bulk meat.  You can get a general idea of the process in that post and it will give you an understanding of weights as well as how to order.

Rice pudding is a delicious breakfast porridge and is much cheaper than commercial cereal. I make rice pudding or rolled oats porridge for six months of the year and when I see the prices of those other cereals, I just smile and walk on.

Rice pudding - ½ cup white rice with 2 ½ cups of milk and a 1 tablespoon sugar. Place everything in a saucepan, bring to a gentle boil while stirring so it doesn't catch, then simmer for 15 minutes. OR, make it the night before, store it in the fridge overnight and reheat in the morning.

Looking through my collection of 1970s and 1980s recipes.

Try to be flexible too. If you don't have fresh garlic, use garlic powder; if you don't have passata, use tinned tomatoes or make a cream sauce. As you become a more experienced cook, you'll know what you can use in place of something else. There's one thing for sure, when you're a cook, you're always learning. I've been cooking from scratch for most of my 75 years and I know there's still a lot to learn.

I really wish I still had a chest freezer. I have the freezer at the top of my fridge but a chest freezer would help me shop less often.  I'd be able to store milk, packs of flour, blanched vegetables bought on special as well as more cooked meals. If you're just starting out, think about getting a chest freezer, it's a very wise investment.

The harmful effects of ultra-processed foods such as cereals, protein bars, fizzy drinks, ready meals and fast food.  

Paying the bills

In the past, Hanno paid all the bills and I had to learn, very quickly indeed, about how to do it so I didn't pay late fees or have the electricity cut off. Now I have a master bills list which is made up of all the bills I pay during the year: every month, three-months, six-months and 12-months. I made that list by going through the previous year's online bank statements. I also add up how much I spent on groceries in the previous year and focus on reducing that with smarter shopping. Like my bills, yours are probably paid in a variety of ways - by Direct Debit, BPay, Credit Card or online transfer. When you set up each account, choose the payment option that's easiest for you. Having a list made up will help you organise your bill paying and when you see amounts deducted from your bank account, you'll be able to check them off your master list or if their not legitimate, you can report it to the bank immediately.

When I get an online notification about a bill and it's not due for payment for a couple of weeks, I put the date due in my online calendar and set the calendar to send me an email reminder three days before the due date. That's been working well for me but work out what will help you and make it a regular thing. 

~~~  πŸŒΏπŸ’œπŸŒΏ ~~~

I'm finishing this post now but I feel I still have important things to tell you 😡‍πŸ’«. I might remember them later today, if so, I'll add them here.  I do hope you're helped by some of the above. Grocery shopping is an important part of family life and in these difficult times, we all need to save where and when we can.

I hope you're doing well and looking forward to the change of seasons like I am πŸ₯°.  

Blogger Template by pipdig