Category: Food

Frugal Friday – Almost Free Ricotta

On Tuesday I returned to work after the New Year’s Day holiday. I’d like to say “like everyone else” but a lot of the people at my work wisely booked the extra leave, which my team are unable to do at the start of a new month due to our reporting responsibilities (boo!). Coming back from leave to a whole lot of repetitive fiddly work? Not the greatest!
Somehow, a mistake had been made with our milk delivery company and all we had left in our fridge was a bunch of milk expiring that day. Some people were really leery of using milk at the expiry date, so we ended up with three two litre (approximately half gallon) bottles that were unused at the end of the day, which would only have been tipped down the sink by our cleaner. What a waste!
Instead of letting the inevitable happen, I took the unopened bottles home with plans to make ricotta to go with some mushrooms I’d bought and frozen a while ago.
The idea started when I was telling a friend about a meal I used to make when I worked at Maggie Beer Products – staff would sometimes receive stock with a short code so it wouldn’t be wasted, and I absolutely loved the Mushroom Pate in an individual Beef Wellington. I can’t find it on the website anymore (is it gone? I loved her vegetable pates!) but after leaving the company and not having my favourite snack easily accessible, I made something similar by sauteeing some mushrooms with butter and rosemary and mixing in some cream. The memory of fragrant rosemary and mushrooms and flaky pastry wormed it’s way into my mind and I thought – why not mix it with ricotta instead of cream and make mushroom rolls instead of sausage rolls?!
Back to the point – this unexpected bounty of free milk made a trip to the supermarket unnecessary!
This time I used this recipe from Super Kitchen Machine as I wanted to be able to do small manageable batches right after work. However, if you don’t have a thermal cooker, this recipe over at Little Green Cheese works really well and I’ve used it before.
I’ve priced up the cost of making the Super Kitchen Machine recipe using my free milk (super cheap because free ingredients), a supermarket home brand, a home brand cream (right here), unhomogenised milk (this one) and based the cream amount on this table. Costs can be reduced by using a home brand cream, or free if it’s available to you!
1.5 litres (cost) + 200ml cream (cost) + salt (cost negligible) + vinegar (cost negligible)
Free milk:
1.5 litres milk ($0.00) + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $0.86
Inexpensive milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.00 litre) $1.50 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $2.36
Unhomogenised Milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.50 litre) $2.25 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $3.11
My combined yield from two batches was 700g, and I did drain it a bit longer than instructed.

The supermarket brand at Woolworths ends up being $8.00kg; if my yield is 350g then I believe mine works out to about $6.74 when using the inexpensive milk (and obviously if you get free or clearance milk then you’re making out really well at $2.03 for just your cream).

Because I haven’t tested it, I’m unsure if the inexpensive or unhomogenised milks would have a higher yield of cheese but I do believe you get different yields depending on milk quality. Making your own ricotta is probably a bit of a labour of love if you’re buying all of your own ingredients at an expensive rate but if you enjoy cooking and science experiments then it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two.

That’s it from me for today, I’m going to go and start dreaming up this rosemary mushroom roll!

Harvest Monday

My harvest this weekend was a bit of a downer – Konrad decided he’s interested in gardening again.

When he was younger, and only half grown, he developed an enjoyment of getting in to garden beds. At that stage, he’d do a bit of damage but he was mostly after eggs that the chickens had laid in clutches that they were hiding from him. Last Friday we had some appointments to go to and when we got home it was to find that one of our wicking beds had been attacked. Initially I thought it was just the wild weather, but seeing as though plants were pulled out roots and all, some just with snapped branches ..it doesn’t seem very likely. Hopefully they’ll be able to recover a bit before Spring rolls around so we don’t have to replace them. And it sure wasn’t our other dog, Sasha, because she can’t jump at all!

I’ll spend the next few days figuring out what to do with all of the chillies that came off of the plant, in addition to the other things we picked once the chilli plants were back in the ground. In addition to the food we picked, I’ve had a half of a huge Queensland Blue pumpkin that mum gave me – I made a curried pumpkin soup and got the filling ready for tortellini with some ricotta I made, as well as a roll filling, the last two with spinach from the garden as well! There are some dill pickles in the fridge for burger nights that I made from some cucumbers that I got from the local farmer’s market, but I haven’t quite got around to using the peaches mum passed on to me from their neighbour’s garden. I did manage to give the lavender a haircut the other day with Olivia’s supervision (she spent her time trying to eat lavender stalks), so I’ve got two jars full of blossoms to use..maybe in some soap.

One thing I will need to do soon – figure out how to use my Malabar Spinach! This one has almost overtaken the bed it’s in and I’m pretty sure I saw another one popping up nearby. We’re also considering a front garden plan now since we had a very fortuitous visit to the library over the weekend..but that’s a story for another day!

Check out Dave’s harvest at Our Happy Acres and then have a look at everyone else’s!

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Butternut Pumpkin Soup

Everyone knows one of those kids that doesn’t eat much of anything..or they do, but it’s not the food that anyone else really wants them to eat.

I was one of those kids. Think of the most boring, beige meal you can and I was there. Chicken nuggets? Chips? Plain bread? That was me. Even cheeseburgers were too much for my tastes. I remember my parents trying to get me to eat peas and corn once (not even corn on the cob!) – it didn’t work at all!

So I was never one for soup when I was young. I remember making chicken noodle soup with my dad once when my mum was sick, but that was about it. And don’t even get me started on soup in cans, I saw condensed soup once and I think it put me off for even longer that I would have been otherwise.

But cheeky kids with no taste grow up and their tastes change, and sometimes they’re introduced to new things like pumpkin soup.

It shouldn’t be revolutionary, but sometimes it is. This picky little kid grew up to like pumpkin soup and eventually introduce her partner to it. You see, Pete’s family errs more on the side of south-east Asian cuisine, so he’d never really had a chance to try it before and when I made him some last year, it went over well.

So a few weeks ago I picked up a couple of butternut pumpkins at the farmer’s market, promising myself that I’d definitely, definitely make up some soup for us just as soon as the weather started to cool down.

Here’s what I made, for posterity’s sake;

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Butternut Pumpkin Soup
Print Recipe
Pumpkin soup is one of my favourite Winter meals, and so easy to prepare in a slow cooker.
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Butternut Pumpkin Soup
Print Recipe
Pumpkin soup is one of my favourite Winter meals, and so easy to prepare in a slow cooker.
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 serves 20 minutes
Cook Time
8 hours
Ingredients
Servings: serves
Instructions
  1. Put oil in small frying pan on low heat, bring to a low simmer.
  2. Add garlic and onion to oil, stir frequently until garlic and onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Transfer garlic and onions to bowl of a 6L/6+ quart slow cooker, add pumpkin, potato, carrot, chicken stock, and water.
  4. Cook on high for 6-7 hours, checking to ensure that the vegetables have softened.
  5. When the vegetables are easily broken apart with a fork, let the soup cool, and use a stick blender or potato masher to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Warm the soup back up to serve.
Recipe Notes

Serve with extra cream or basil pesto if desired.
I tend to add about a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper to this, but I can be pretty heavy-handed with pepper, so easy does it.

This soup is even tastier if you roast the pumpkin in a low oven for an hour prior to adding to the slow cooker.

As is the case with everything, the soup will probably taste better if you have the time to make your own chicken stock from scratch, but if you don't have it on hand, anything will do - even vegetable stock.

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Easter Week

 

I have a friend who works as a Catholic school teacher; we used to work together elsewhere and every year I’d bake buns at Easter time. I’ve never liked the taste of the mix used for the cross, so I’ve never gone to the extra effort of applying them to the buns I make; but every year my friend would decline to eat the buns as he felt it was wrong to partake prior to Good Friday. This was in stark contrast to everything else I’d bake! The rest of the team finished them off with me, and another co-worker was pretty pleased the year I added Lindt orange chocolate to the mix.

This year I still baked buns without a cross, this time for Pete since I’m not at work at the moment. He likes the chocolate chip kind better than the fruit ones, so that’s what he got.

I did make them in a rush because a certain four month old was feeling a bit grizzly and unsettled, so the ones with lots of chocolate chips are a bit less bun-like than normal, but they all taste pretty good! I did remember to put in my favourite extra ingredient (a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, so getting them all done was a win for a tough day.

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We’re going to dinner at my sister’s on Friday, so I might make another batch to take along with us, since I hate turning up to people’s houses empty-handed. Do you have any go-to recipes for special occasions?