Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back to school lunches.

The Savoury Lunchbox

Don't know about you, but I find making savouries for the lunchbox tiresome.
 Catering to the likes and dislikes of four kids over the years, has just about sworn me off cooking forever. In an endeavour to stretch our single income to the max, my job is to avoid pre-packaged expensive foods as much as possible and cook from scratch almost everything that goes into our school lunchboxes. I don't know for sure but I think salad/vege laden lunches are why my kids are rarely sick (that and good hand washing)
 Cooking sweet things is simple, because there are few cakes, slices, biscuits kids won't happily scoff down.
  We are very fortunate, that none of our kids have any food allergies or intollerances which makes options easy. But, I'm happy to have some control limiting the added flavour enhancers etc. in most of the prepackaged stuff and the fact I can use a wide variety of veges and they'll  (mostly) happily eat it.

 I do love the look of Bento style lunchboxes, but at 6 in the morning I can't be bothered cutting decorative carrot shapes and threading skewers esp. if I get to throw it in the scrap bucket in the afternoon. Curried quail eggs, grilled mushroom caps and cold broccoli just wouldn't cut it at our house. I've learnt - if it's simple and tomato/cheese flavoured, it gets eaten. I know lots of mum's love/have to, but I'm not a fan of packing sandwiches and such the night before.
Other than the usual meat and salad rolls, wraps, egg and lettuce sandwiches, tinned baked beans or spaghetti ( love those days), I like foods that I can make the day before or prep and freeze beforehand and cook and cool at 6am.
One child wouldn't eat sandwiches at all, so his sandwiches were cut in the usual four triangles and wrapped standing up and he hasn't refused them since. Just a small change in presentation.
Here's a few of the savoury bits that go in our lunchboxes.

Crust-less Quiche

This usually finds it's way into lunchboxes at least once a fortnight.
  • Small diced onion (or leek)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped ham/ bacon/ chicken
  • good chunk of red capsicum diced
  •  (I like to quickly fry in a small saucepan to soften but you don't really need to.)
  • couple of spinach/ silverbeet leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup Self Raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • paprika, ground black pepper, a bit mixed in and some sprinkled on top.
Mix eggs and milk together and add flour and cheese.
Add all other ingredients and pour into 20/22cm dish.
Bake mod to slow oven until just set in centre of quiche.

Puff Pastry
Some times I'll cook off puff pastry the night before and bag it, or just chop a few toppings and cook and cool that morning.
1 sheet of puff, cut into four, spread with sauce of choice, topped with veges and cheese and baked in a hot oven.
I don't serve puff pastry weekly, but I also don't worry about low-fat anything for my kids (or us).

1/2 puff pastry sheets spread with vegemite/promite and grated cheese, rolled up, sprinkled with more cheese and cracked pepper, cut in to four and baked.

Sheet of puff pastry cut in half,  centimetre and a half strips cut from each side and laid on outside edge. Spread valley with tinned flavoured or plain tuna (eg. tuna and seeded mustard) or tinned chicken and mayo, spinach, green/red capsicum, cherry tomato halves, mushrooms, cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Sheet of puff pastry cut into four squares, tucked into muffin tins. Filled with (microwaved) sweet potato chunks, sauteed leek and capsicum, sliced zucchini and crumbled feta cheese and seasoning.
Baked in mod to hot oven until cooked.

Easy Dough Recipe

Love this easy dough, to smother with any topping and bake until golden brown.  Use this for a homemade pizza on weekend lunches or snacks. Six individuals or 1 large size.
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • teaspoon of sugar
  • 7g packet of dried yeast
  • 3/4 cup of warm (not hot or you will kill your yeast) water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
Sift flour into bowl, add sugar.
Make a bit of a well and add warm water and sprinkle over yeast.
Allow to dissolve for a minute and add oil.
Mix together with your hands and knead on the bench until relatively smooth.
Roll or push out to fit your tray.
Spread with sauce and toppings and bake in moderate oven until cooked.
I don't usually, but you could baste the dough with a bit of beaten egg or milk to make the rolls a bit more golden looking.

Tomato, capsicum, onion, spinach, ham, bacon, chicken etc. pineapple chunks, cheese.

Leftover chicken, corn and grated cheese on sweet mustard pickles rolled up in dough, sprinkled with red capsicum and chives. Brush with egg or milk if you like, bake in mod. oven.

For Mr CH
Cook 1/2 red onion, garlic, 1/2 cup currants, small splash of red wine vinegar, teaspoon brown sugar, pinch mixed spice or (whatever you fancy) in saucepan until liquid is absorbed and onion soft. Stir in leftover turkey roast meat, spread over dough, roll up and cut, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in mod. oven.

Vege fritters

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 large zucchini grated
1/2 large carrot grated
shallot sliced
grated cheese
oil for shallow frying

Whisk eggs and milk together.
Add flour and whisk until smooth.
Add other ingredients except the oil and mix to combine.
Heat oil in frypan and cook heaped tablespoons of mixture, turning once.
Rest on paper towels to absorb oil.
These taste better hot than cold, so try hard to leave some for the lunchboxes!
Other candidates for the savoury lunchbox at our house include, chicken wingettes, cold sausages (pack a little wipe towel eg. KFC), homemade mini sausage rolls (not very often), and of course leftovers. I always include an ice pack in the lunchboxes.
You know your onto a winner when other kids want to swap their packaged lunch bits and your kid says no, wonders will never cease.
 Also seems, some of no.2 son's class mates like to crack open a large tin of tuna and eat with a fork.

That said, on a "too tired to think" week, all they get are cold toasties and rice crackers!
So do you do the mini shepherd's pie/ mini meatball skewers etc. or the good old vegemite sanga?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mirror makeover - part 2.

After the glue on the mirror frame dried, the frame was sanded and undercoated (which I forgot to photograph).
I used some ? blue from a sample pot I already had and mixed in gloss white until I was happy with the colour. Then painted the whole frame, blending some green and white strokes as I went along.

Has taken a few weeks to muster up enough enthusiasm to finish sticking all the shells on. I used the Super grip glue again, though any kind of liquid nails would do. I gave the shells a rough brush-over with some left over floor varnish to gloss up some of the dull shells. As all of the shells used were found at the beach, they were washed, scubbed and dried before being used,to remove the salty coating.

I think daughter was pretty happy with how it turned out and even though these shell mirrors have been done to death in the past, it's new to her (genY). And it is probably the mirror I dreamed of as a teen emersed in the beach lifestyle, adding freckles and listening to the Beach Boys, Midnight Oil, Ganggajang etc.

 We decided to give this little cupboard a matching makeover at the same time. It has been sitting in the junk  store 5th bedroom with nowhere to go and therefore couldn't get a much needed makeover. We thought daughter could use it for something?
It was sanded to rough up the varnish, undercoated and given two coats of Vivid White.

The door was painted the same mixed-up blue as the mirror with a bit of green and white brushed on.


As the mirror is quite heavy, it will need two screws in the wall to hang safely. Ideally we should have attached the hanging chain before sticking all the shells on!
Mr CH measured in from the side and down from the top to find the spot to attach the hanger to. If you don't want the top of your mirror (or picture) to hang out away from the wall, you would need to attach the chain near to the top of the frame.

Pre-drilling the holes.
 Don't you love those drills with the little light on them?

The chain was a bit found in the left-over goodie box and we used about 1/2 a metre and last time we bought it from the hardware shop it was a few dollars a metre.

 Never underestimate an ugly piece of furniture.

Hope you haven't been flooded out, we've had some local flash flooding after almost 150mm yesterday. So I am keeping busy white-washing a few small pieces of furniture for my MIL.
Stay dry!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mirror makeover - part 1.

Just a revamp of a mirror for daughter, that we started a few weeks ago at the very end of the holidays. I think she got the mirror from a junk shop with the intent of decorating it. She has been wanting a shell mirror for a few years now and has been collecting plenty of shells. While this mirror wasn't suitable for decorating, MR CH decided to modify what she already had, rather than hunting out another framed mirror. So while I sanded and undercoated the mirror frame, Mr CH got to work cutting and routing a pine frame to embed the mirror into, wide enough to stick lots of shells onto. 

Mitre cutting pine boards and routing a groove along one side of each board.
Checking the mirror fits and that the corners match.
Applying the polyurethane glue and nailgunning the corner to hold in place while the glue dries - 30 minutes. PVA glue would work as well, just needs 24 hrs to dry.

Polyurethane construction adhesive by Sika. Foams up after awhile so you only need a small amount.
 Frame drying, you can see a little bit of glue foaming out of the mitre. Just needs scraping off with a chisel.

Back next time with the painting and decorating.
Wow, where did that weekend go? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oppy finds, projects and Canon error 99.

Just a few lovelies found at the op-shops in recent weeks. I overheard someone lamenting on how slim their oppy pickings had been lately and wondered at some empty shelves. Do people not donate as much as they used to, preferring to try their hand at raising cash on ebay or the like? How have your shops been lately?
 Found a cute basket for crafty clutter, a crocheted face washer (new) and a vintage pot holder that was very badly stained, but came up lovely after a good soak in vanish.

I was quite happy to find a Pyrex pie plate (8inch) in blue for $2.50, though I think it looks a bit out of place with all that orange/yellow/brown?

 Also a tile trivet, though I just want the tile only for a project way down the track.

Found these lid-less dishes on different days $4 for the two, love the pattern. I like to use these in the microwave as I don't buy the plastic cooking ware.

Found a small piece of pink "gooseberry" Pyrex for $1.50 and a square gingham tablecloth...

and metres and metres of barkcloth for $5 that was sewn into a large tablecloth with a bit of trim around the edges. Wondering if it would be too pink to recover the old 70's TV chair and would the males in the house resist?

After spending January posting about checkerboard floors, other projects are sitting in the pile of photos. The Reno cottage door was painted on the holidays and has been undercoated and given one coat of white while I try to decide what colour or not to paint it. White door with white walls? or trim/panels? in oxblood? green? The front veranda doors are oxblood, but I wonder how clean a white door would stay. Opens up against a light brown wall.

This is the inside side now.

 All veranda windows are undercoated, puttied, cured, putty undercoated and painted white...

... and going in and out a few times to be fitted. The middle window is the only moving window which slides on the steel rails, more on that another time. Feels very strange as a few windows start closing in the veranda after a few years open.

Imagine walking in on Hubby surrounded by the innards of a $900 (at the time) 17-35mm camera lens! He told me he wanted to have a go at repairing the lens himself, but...!
This was the second time apart, the first was to find the broken piece.

Error 99 kept flashing up on the screen when this lens was on the camera and it wouldn't allow you to take the pic. So he bought another  camera body (for me) to see if the camera was the problem, which it wasn't. There are people who fix this problem other than Cannon, but they usually want you to send the camera away as well, which is like asking which hand can you live without for a few weeks/months. Also there is no guarantee they can fix the problem or refund your $80+ deposit. So you "Google it" and work out you need a  "shutter flex cable" which you can buy online for $20 something dollars postage included.

Then you watch a few youtube videos on how to do it, take photos of bits you can't see and use the zoom as a magnifying glass, install the new part, put it all back together and then find out something is wrong with the auto focus. But a very happy wife won't let you have it back to pull it apart again. Who needs auto focus anyway! Yay, how nice it is to have his and hers cameras again.
DIY geek.

Before checkerboard floors, the long awaited shed was started. A bit of child labour was involved, though not nearly enough according to Mr CH.

A nice pile of hardwood was milled at a small family run business and delivered.

Addressing the jumbled mess that is the back fence, was also started on the holidays. Only because the posts and rails were on sale and we already had some left over palings. Over the years, fence boundaries have edged-out closer to the road and adjoining fences have been replaced to the same line, when the buildings next-door went in years ago, they had to build a retaining wall and our corner (of the wall) was built facing inward as the boundaries were too far out. This meant we needed to adjust the fence line between our bottom neighbour and top neighbour (which is still way out).


 A few weeks later in it's partly constructed state, just ran out of palings. Took the photo just now, it's been raining on and off today and it's all so green outside. The honeysuckle (from an old family plant) has been draped over the fence and it is now on the outside. Amazing what a few hundred mls of rain can do.
One panel almost done and the fence is started at least. One of those jobs to be completed as time, energy (mainly the energy) and funds permit. Yay, progress albeit partial!

Have a great week!
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