We recently enjoyed the pleasure that is old friends coming for an impromptu dinner. We’d had a lovely day taking things slowly: sleep ins; going for a drive in the country; and coming home for afternoon rests followed by feeling recharged enough to feel like cooking for the evening ahead. Still, I didn’t want to lose the sense of relaxation the day had brought so wanted to stick to a simple offering for dinner and dessert. A quick flick through Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express produced this recipe for Chocolate Croissants and the simplicity of just three ingredients grabbed me immediately. And they turned out to be all the things I love: fast, tasty, cheap to make and easy to prepare. I made these in the late afternoon, but didn’t bake them until we’d finished our main course, which turned out to be delightful timing – allowing dinner to ‘sit’ and then consuming them at their warmest and freshest. Serve stacked up on a platter for a free-for-all feast, or in bowls with cream or icecream. Alternatively these could be made in a more miniature form for church morning teas or a finger food dessert for a larger crowd. The quantities listed below serves 8 and costs around a total of $5.
- 4 sheets of ready rolled puff pastry, thawed and cut once each diagonally to create two large triangles per square
- 1 x 230g bag of Cadbury Choc Bits (I used milk, but use dark chocolate if you prefer)
- 1 egg, whisked in a cup
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees
- Evenly distribute choc-chips along the long end of each triangle of pastry and press them in firmly
- Starting with the long end of the triangle, roll pastry until you have all the choc-chips trapped inside. Then fold each end in to keep chocolate trapped. Then continue rolling into a log shape until all the pastry is rolled up.
- Shape the log of pastry and chocolate into a pretzel shape or whatever shape you like
- Place each on an oven tray with enough space between them to grow a little
- Using a pastry brush, cover each croissant in egg-wash
- Bake for around 15 minutes until brown on outside and mostly cooked through. Enjoy!
I stumbled upon this sensational recipe on Cath’s blog the other day and was immediately taken with it. So very easy, so very cheap, so very yummy. And seeing as I’m on a bit of a scroll making wave right now, I was keen to give them a go. And although I’m not really meant to be eating sugar at the moment, these have caused me to make some exceptions. These delicious cinnamon scrolls are not much harder to make than scones and pretty much the same cost as the cream goes in the mixture, and not on top. This recipe makes more than a roasting dish worth of scrolls (I had to use another smaller tin, just for the four that wouldn’t fit in!) so would be a great option for Bible study morning tea, afternoon tea playdates, church morning tea or any time at all really. The smell as they were baking was only topped only by the actual enjoyment of eating them. Approximate cost is $3.50 and makes 24 scrolls. Thanks for your blog Cath, and thanks for sharing this recipe with us.
- 4 cups Self Raising Flour
- 300ml cream
- 300ml milk
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Good dash vanilla essence or extract
- 1 cup icing mixture
- enough warm water to make a runny icing
- extra cinnamon if you like (I did!)
- In a bowl, mix self-raising flour with milk and cream.
- The mixture will be quite sticky still, but turn it out onto a well-floured board or bench, and turn it over a few times to flour it well.
- Roll it out into an oblong shape so it is quite thin – the thinner the better, but not so thin that it will tear when you move it.
- In a small bowl, mix together soft butter with brown sugar and cinnamon. Add a hearty dash of vanilla sugar, or vanilla essence. Spread this mixture over the rolled out pastry. Don’t wash the bowl – you will need it later for the icing.
- Using a spoon or pastry brush, spread this inside mixture all over scroll mixture. Roll it up from the long end until you have a log.
- Cut the roll into pieces about 1 inch thick, and lay them in a greased or lined oven tray, close together but not packed in. Sprinkle them with vanilla sugar if you have some.
- Bake them in the oven at 180deg. for 15-20 minutes, or until they are starting to brown nicely.
- In the bowl where you mixed the sugar and butter, mix 1 cup of icing sugar with enough water to make it go runny. The butter and spice left around the edge of the bowl is sufficient to give it a slight flavour, though you might like to add extra cinnamon. Using a dessert spoon, drizzle this over the scrolls while they are still warm.
- Enjoy! Best eaten the same day, though a quick zap in the microwave brings them back to freshness should they need it a day or two later (but they won’t last that long, anyway!).
Last week on My Kitchen Rules Jake and Elle won the People’s Choice Award with this yummy dish in the Budget Challenge. The show itself gets on my nerves for lots of reasons, but still, I find myself watching it with some regularity. I was so glad I saw this episode! It was easy to find the recipe online and it truly was a fast, easy and cheap meal to make. And the whole family loved it. I love how it uses mince rather than pieces of expensive meat which I always seems to murder in the stir-frying, resulting in tough bits of meat that are hard to eat. But this pork mince stir-fry is wonderfully forgiving – a great one, I imagine, to teach teenagers to cook for themselves when necessary. At the most, this tasty stir fry will take 15 minutes to prepare and another 15 to cook, and using the quantities listed below will cost around $10 to make. Serves 4, though I stretched it out to serve 6 by adding more noodles and it worked a treat.
- 400g egg noodles
- 1/3 cup kecap manis
- 1½ tbs fish sauce
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
- 500g pork mince
- ½ bunch coriander, chopped
- 1 bird’s-eye chilli, finely chopped
- 1cm-piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1 bunch bok choy, chopped
- Coriander, to garnish
1. Cook noodles in a saucepan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain noodles and set aside.
2. Combine kecap manis and fish sauce in a small jug.
3. Heat oil in a wok or large deep frying pan over high heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes or until onion softens. Add garlic and cook for a further 1 minute. Add pork mince and sitr-fry, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add sauce and noodles and stir through for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
4. Garnish with coriander to serve.
• You can also use chicken or turkey mince in this dish.
• For variety, this spiced pork mixture would also be great served in lettuce cups or with rice.
• You can add any type of extra vegetables to this dish – try sliced red capsicum, baby corn or bean sprouts.
No sooner had I posted Kath’s contribution of 2 ingredients Cookies, did she sent me this next 2 ingredients recipe of Pizza Scrolls. Tonight I found myself trying it out, and oh my goodness, if I put on weight this winter it will be because of these super fast, delicious and comforting pizza delights. And I suppose I should come clean – the 2 ingredients in the title refers only to the amazing bread-like, not-scone-like, base for the scrolls. But I think this is forgiveable as the fillings come from whatever veggies and bits of deli meat you have lying around in your fridge, and although they’re necessary, they’re incidental in ways that keep the food bill down. Rapidly going off in my fridge was some pre-grated cheese, 3 slices of short cut bacon, 4 mushrooms, 4 rings of tinned pineapple and half a red capsicum. So that’s what went in! We enjoyed our scrolls for dinner (and the kids loved them), but they’d be terrific as a weekend lunch option when having friends over and, cut into quarters, would make a yummy and affordable church morning tea option. I didn’t bother costing these cause it wasn’t worth it, given how they came into being. Thanks again, Katherine!
- 2 cups Self Raising Flour
- 1 1/2 cups Natural or Greek Yoghurt
- Pizza sauce/tomato sauce/crushed tinned tomatoes/pasta sauce, enough to cover the mixture when rolled out to 2cm thick
- Grated cheese, about 2 cups
- 1 onion, diced finely
- Whatever meat and/or veggies you have to use up. Make sure you chop everything finely so that they get caught up in the rolling of the scroll without falling out too much.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix flour and yoghurt together. I did mine really quickly using my bench mixer, but this is not at all necessary.
- Knead on a well-floured bench top, adding extra flour to aid in process. Roll the dough out to about 30cm x 20cm, which should end up being around 2cm thick. Don’t stress at all about this – these scrolls are meant to be rustic looking, almost free-form.
- Spread tomato base, sprinkle with whatever fillings you’ve chosen, and using a rubber spatula or egg flip, start rolling at the end closest to your waist, using the spatula underneath the dough to encourage it off the bench and into the roll. Again – don’t worry how lumpy or uneven it is, just aim to get it rolling together.
- Cut your log in the middle using your biggest knife, cutting each section into halves until you have 16 scrolls, each about 2 cm wide. Spread out biscuit style, on lined baking trays, ingredients showing upwards, giving plenty of room for them to rise. Bake at 200 degrees for 10-12 mins. Enjoy immediately or later – whichever you need.
So it seems I’m slowly being converted out of my anti-biscuit baking funk by some contributors and their awesome recipes. My old uni friend Katherine has sent in this fantastic contribution – cookies with just two ingredients + whatever mix-ins you might like. There’s so much to love about this recipe: no butter, no eggs, no refined sugar, minimal mixing, less than 5 minutes prep before they go in the oven, they’re much healthier than their mainstream counterparts, they taste terrific and the oatey substance of them is so homely. But since this is a blog about easy and affordable hospitality, I should mention too that they’re a great option to make for last minute guests who drop in (no rolling mixture, just dollop the mixture on the trays using 2 dessert spoons), a yummy addition to a meal provided for folks in need or freezing in advance for the never-ending stock needed for healthy school lunches. Originally from a terrific blog called The Burlap Bag – all credit is given to its author, Lauren who invented these. Using the quantities listed below, with choc-chips used as my mix-in of choice, these little babies will cost you no more than $6 to make 40+ cookies and less if you get bananas cheaper than $3/kg. Thanks for sharing, Katherine and thanks for inventing, Lauren!
- 8 bananas, mashed (or blitzed in food processor)
- 4 cups quick cooking oats (homebrand is fine)
- My mix in: 1 x 230g bag cadbury choc-chips
Mix ingredients together. Old bananas are amazing for this, but you can use fresh ones too. I buy a bunch of bananas, let them get old on my counter, giving the family the opportunity to eat them and then stick what remains in the freezer – whole with the skin on.
Then add in what sounds yummy to you (or nothing!) Lauren suggests these:
- a handful of chocolate chips
- crushed walnut pieces
Lauren’s tip: Since all bananas are different sizes, the needed measurements can vary. If it seems too runny and the cookies would flatten out too much, add in more oatmeal. And make sure to not add in TOO many mix-ins as the cookies won’t hold together very well. Dollop onto trays using dessert spoons and flatten before baking with a fork. Bake in a moderate oven for around 15 mins. Enjoy!
Oh my goodness life is busy at the moment. My five year old has started school and there’s so much to get my head around (news, library books, computers, home readers, buddies, making friends at the school gate, getting out the door on time and the endless cycle of making lunches – I could go on). The uni year which has been amping up began to reach one of its crescendoes with O week which started today (exciting times!). There’s been lots of slack dinners lately but thankfully my friend Belinda shared this recipe with me and it lasted us three nights in a row – economical on both time and money. And it’s a sensational tasting dish too. This mexican beef and pasta bake was scoffed down by my kids (perhaps because it wasn’t Weet-bix?) and us grown ups loved it just as much. And don’t worry, it’s not hot in the spicy sense at all. The pictures above represent a double quantity and using those listed below this dish will set you back between $10-12. Serves 6. Thanks Belinda – this one’s already part of our family.
- 200g spiral pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 brown onion
- 1 red capsicum
- 400g beef mince
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 30g packet Taco Spice Mix (generic is fine)
- 1/2 cup water
- 400g can diced tomatoes (generic is fine)
- 2 zucchinis, chopped
- 400g can red kidney beans, drained (generic is fine)
- 310g can corn kernels, drained (generic is fine)
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees fan-forced. Lightly spray a 2L oven-proof dish with oil. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and capsicum and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add mince and cook, breaking up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Stir in taco spice mix and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, zucchini and 1/2 cup water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes or until zucchini is just tender and mixture has thickened. Add pasta, beans, corn and mix to combine.
- Combine mixture into prepared dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden.
This post has been bubbling away in the back of my mind for some time as I’ve reflected on the ways I try to save my own sanity and hip-pocket when it comes to feeding our family. What follows are the three main ways I find work for our family. I hope you’ll find them helpful.
1. Weet-Bix or Porridge for Dinner
We seriously do this at least twice a week, more often when life is more hectic than usual. When we first started doing it, our kids were quite little – the eldest around 2 years old. At first, to make it ‘normal’ we used to put some fun music on really loud and dance around the house singing “It’s breakfast for dinner tonight!” but we only had to do that a couple of times and it became a normal part of our family culture. These days the kids don’t bat an eyelid when told it’s a porridge night. Make it special by adding grated apple, a handful of sultanas and a dollop of yoghurt. Home brand quick cooking oats are less than a dollar a packet and I keep large stocks of these in the pantry ready to go.
2. Make Enough for Two Meals
My friend Nicole does this all the time and I often do too. Its cost effective because there are less ingredients used and needed over the course of the week and it saves time only needing to cook every second day. Throw in a porridge night each week and you only need to cook three times.
3. Meat and Three Veg
If you stick to cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken drumsticks, sausages, rissoles and anything that’s on a good special, meat and three veg meals are amongst the easiest and cheapest dinners. My favourite version of this right now is cheap fillets of fish such as Whiting or Basa, tossed in White Wings Crumb in One and panfried in three minutes flat. Just add some microwave steamed veggies and your favourite seasonings such as Tartare Sauce or lemon juice. It tastes terrific and it’s dinner cooked in ten minutes!
What do you do to save time and money when feeding people?