Home-Made Pizza! Go on, you can do it!

Is there anything better than the smell of pizza wafting through the home?

pizza

If more people knew how surprisingly easy it is to make your own pizza dough, I’m sure more people would do so. You can’t beat home-made. Honestly, once you’ve tasted a home-made pizza, you’ll never want to buy a store bought base ever again.

My kids love making the dough with me. Kids can help measure the ingredients, stir, knead, roll dough, and then top pizzas – all with a little help from mum, or dad. In this post, I’ll try to step you through how to make your pizza, so anyone can do it.

What makes this a busy, working mum’s favourite? My recipe makes two pizzas, so leftovers for the following night! It also freezes well.

First, you’ll need to buy a few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 11/4 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1 sachet of dried yeast
  • 11/2 tsps. sugar
  • tomato paste
  • mozzarella cheese
  • topping

How to make it (i.e. Method):

  1. First up, put your flour and salt is a big bowl and mix.
  2. Next, fill a jug with the water. It needs to be a bit warm for the yeast to activate. Add your yeast, sugar and olive oil and gently stir.
  3. Make a well in flour and pour in water mixture. Gently mix.
  4. Turn onto a floured surface and knead a bit. If it’s too dry, add a little bit more water. Not too much water, or it won’t rise properly. You want it to be just perfectly combined.
  5. Wrap your fingers in some glad wrap, pour a little oil into another big, clean bowl, rub oil over inside of bowl. Now’s a good time to quickly oil your pizza trays too. Place dough into this bowl, cover with cling wrap, and put somewhere warm in the house. My upstairs is always warmer than downstairs, so I put it on a table upstairs. It’s going to take a few hours to rise. You’ll  know it’s rising nicely when it looks like this:

Dough in bowl risen

It spreads to fill the bowl, then continues rising higher and higher.

6. When it’s risen, tip it onto a floured surface in the kitchen. Like this:

tipped dough

7. Now the fun part! Flour your rolling pin and coat the dough with some more flour too. Knead it a bit with your hands. This means mix it a bit. Roll it. Mush it together. Some traditionalists knead their dough for ages. My family like to lightly roll the dough, as we like it light and fluffy out of the oven. It’s a personal preference.

8. Next, cut your dough in half and roll each into a pizza base size, like this:

Dough rolled on bench

9. Put the two rolled pizzas on your pizza trays. If you need pizza trays like mine, with holes at the bottom to allow for a crusty base, see here:

Cuisinart AMB-14PP Chef’s Classic Nonstick Bakeware 14-Inch Pizza Pan

10. Open your tubs of tomato paste. Spread one on each base. I use the back of a tablespoon to spread it. It will then look like this:

dough with sauce

11. Next, sprinkle your mozzarella cheese on top and then your toppings. My kids like pineapple pieces and fresh ham. I like antipasto: artichokes, olives, capsicums. Here’s another ready to bake one:

topped pizza

12. Bake on 180 celcius for around 20 minutes. Ah, the smell. Oh my goodness!

ENJOY!!!

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Stir Fry Sundays – Freeze leftovers

veggies

Stir Fry Sundays!

You’ve heard me mention Casserole Sundays, and well now, you can introduce Stir Fry Sundays too!

You know I love steaming vegetables and eating with rice. Another way to mix up your vegetable intake is by stir frying them instead. Again, it’s quick, easy, low-fat, healthy, nutritious and they can be easily put in the freezer for dinners through the working week.

Don’t you just love the colours of vegetables! Choosing lots of different colours is the key to keeping your food engaging for the kids. Get them involved in selecting the vegetables at the shops. I say to my kids, ‘Okay, we have red capsicum, now we need something orange. How about carrots?’ etc. This way, they learn to appreciate the beauty their food.

You can see from the photo above that I love the following vegetables to stir fry: carrots, snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, spinach, zucchini and mushrooms. Just throw them into a hot frypan with a little olive oil.

stir fry

Fancy cooking blogs will have you adding all sorts of sauces and spices. I’ll be honest, my kids like me to keep it simple. Sauces turn the veggies soft and they like them to be firm and dry (not gooey and sloppy). Once I’ve popped the stir fry on the rice, the kids usually add soy sauce. They go crazy for this.

To make this a balanced meal, you need to add a protein. After you’ve cooked the veggies, drop a few eggs in the frypan, and within seconds, you’ll have fried eggs to pop on top of your dish. So, you’ll have rice, veggies, and egg. A perfectly balanced meal! By the way, I use a Calphalon fry pan. They aren’t cheap, but I find them really durable. You can get the same here:

Calphalon Classic Nonstick 3 Pc 10″ Fry Pan and 1.5 Qt Sauce Pan & Cover Cookware Set

Here’s my stir fry, served with brown rice: Honestly, you can’t get healthier than this!

fry egg

Don’t forget to freeze leftover portions of the rice and veggies. I wouldn’t freeze the egg. Enjoy!

 

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Hearty Medieval Beef & Veg Stew with Dumplings!

stew 1

I’m going to let you in on another best kept secret: Stew! I’m talking Medieval cooking where you throw the meat into a pot with vegetables and cook it for ages until all the flavours blend together in one big, hearty pot of goodness. I mean, if we want to be truthful, this is caveman cooking!

Again, I’ve told you about the beauty of casseroles, soups, steamed rice & veggies, as meals for busy working mums. Well, add stews to that list! Basically, a stew and casserole is the same thing – that I know of – but I mix it up by using both terms, so that the kids don’t get bored of hearing the same thing for dinner! Shh, don’t tell them they’re the same thing!

To make this a balanced meal in itself, add barley or a bit of soup mixture (barley and lentils). This way, you have meat, veggies AND a carb.

To begin, you’ll need to buy lots of root veggies and other types of veggies to put in your pot. Root veggies are best as they retain their shape. Others go all gooey and gushy after so long in the oven.

I’ve just popped this dish in the oven for tonight’s dinner, and before that, I took this pic to show you what I’ve put in today’s stew:

veggies

As you can see, I have used the following: carrots, zucchini, asparagus, potatoes, corn (which I’ll cut off the cob), garlic, onion, potatoes, sweet potatoes (I think Americans call them something different, I’m thinking Kumara?), broccoli, parsley and bay leaves from my own garden (I love that!).

bay

On that note, buying a bay tree is the best. I have two in pots and, whenever I need to use their leaves, I simply pop outside and pick them freshly off my trees. Here’s a pic of my beautiful bay leaf tree…

 

 

Aside from the ingredients that I’ve mentioned, you’ll also need beef stock and diced beef.

 

 

I use a big cast iron pot that can cook on the stove and then be moved into the oven. I suggest you invest in one, if you haven’t got one. It makes life easier. If you don’t have one, it means you’re using two different pots, which means more washing up, which in my book means too much hard work!

This is what my pot looks like:

pot

If you don’t already have one, check this out:

Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice Red

Now for theMethod’

  1. So, begin by cutting up all the veggies and set aside.
  2. Next, you’re going to throw a big chunk of butter into the bottom of your pot and fry your onions and garlic.
  3. Quickly coat your diced beef in plain flour. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add your floured meat and brown.
  4. Throw in all your veggies.
  5. Pour some hot water from the tap into your pot but only fill a quarter of the pot. Your veggies and meat should nearly be to the top. See the photo right at the top to see what this stage should look like.
  6. Add your bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper.
  7. Pop in the oven and cook on about 170 (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit) for a good hour and a half. You’ll know when it’s ready as the meat will fall apart easily with a fork.

Did I say ‘DUMPLINGS’?

Now for the piece de resistance! Just when you thought the stew was sounding good enough, it gets even better! Yep, I’m going to tell you how to add dumplings – your own, hand-made dumplings – into this pot. Now dumplings need about 20-25 minutes to cook. So, check your stew, and when you think it has around this amount of time to go, add your dumplings. If all the water has been absorbed, add a little more with stock. By the end, the dumplings take on the flavour and transform into buttery, doughy balls of deliciousness.

butter and flourYou basically rub butter into flour, as you would when you make scones (again, I think Americans call scones something else. Sorry, I can’t remember what). Anyways, use approximately 2 cups of flour (I love plain flour as I like my scones to be thick and chewy, but you can use SR Flour for fluffy ones. It really doesn’t matter which flour you use) and 5 tablespoons of butter. This is not an exact measurement. I appreciate that some people might find making a dough difficult, so here is a picture of my flour and butter to the right of this paragraph.

butter crumbs

 

Next, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until they resemble breadcrumbs – see left.

 

 

 

Dumplings.jpg

Now, you need to add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until this forms a dough. You can add a fresh herb at this point if you like. I love thyme. Then, roll into little balls. Don’t be precious about the appearance of the balls. They’re going to be thrown into your stew now, so don’t waste time making them look pretty!

Drop them in, and that’s it, you’re done. Wait 20 mins or so, then enjoy!

Note, I normally serve this with buttered toast. Here’s picture of the finished stew.

stew 2

 

 

And, what makes this a Busy Working Mums’ favourite? 

Freezing leftovers, of course!

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Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does! Post me a comment and let me know.

ood Ideas For Busy Working People by Busy Mum (i.e. me!) is now available on Amazon. The book contains all your favourite blog posts and recipes so far from my website. I hope you all love it! Click link below:

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Aussie Pavlova: Pure Indulgence!

Pavlova

Aussie Pavlova: Pure Indulgence!

For a favourite Australian dessert that looks this amazing, it’s surprisingly quick to make and pop in the oven. Don’t believe the Kiwis (New Zealanders) when they tell you this is their dish. It’s a bit like Russell Crowe. Is he Aussie or Kiwi? Anyway, I’m claiming the Aussie Pav as our own.

Yep, like good Aussie things, the pavolova is known to Australians simply as a pav. I’ve posted a pic above of my latest pav, topped with fresh berries. Lot’s of people also use passionfruit on top too, and even Kiwi fruit (still not your pav Kiwi friends!).

The pav is basically a meringue which is hardish on the outside and sweet gooey in the inside. Topped with cream and berries, you can see why it’s an Aussie favourite. No Aussie get-together is complete without a pav on the table. You can buy them in the supermarket, but once you’ve tasted this home-made one, you’ll never see the bought one as nice again.

Kitchen AidBefore we get started, are you new to baking? If so, you’ll need a mixer to make pavolova. When I started learning how to cook many years ago now, I saved up and splurged on a Kitchen Aid Mixer. I still love it so much. I paid $600 for mine, but I’ve just seen Amazon have them on sale for half this price. I got ripped off! You can get one just like mine here.

KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 5-Quart, Empire Red

 

I can hear you shouting for the recipe from here and I don’t blame you. Not to keep you waiting, here it is:

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites (yep, throw those yolks out)
  • 11/4 cups caster sugar
  • 1 1/4 tbsps. cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar
  • Whipped cream
  • Berries

Method

  • I simply throw some baking paper on a baking tray and I’ll place my meringue in a circle on this at the end (no bowl needed to bake with – too easy!)
  • Begin by beating your eggs. Once thickish, slowly add the sugar – do not pour all in at one. Pav’s can be temperamental and they don’t like it all at once.
  • Once whipped up nicely, you’re going to sprinkle the cornflour onto it, then add the vinegar. Gently stir  until JUST combined. Don’t go beserk and whisk away frantically. Pav’s don’t like this. Just a wee, gentle stir will suffice.
  • Turn onto your baking paper in a circle. It will largely keep this shape while baking: just spread a bit.
  • Bake in a low oven heat. Try 150 (that’s celcius my US friends. Not sure about your Fahrenheit business). It’s going to take at least half an hour, probably more like 45 minutes. If it starts browning, I put baking paper on top to try to stem this.
  • Allow to cool completely. Serve or refrigerate. Best eaten within 24 hours.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Scrumptious Salads

 

Salads really are a working mum’s best friend! I know so many mums whose kids won’t eat fresh vegetables, but I’ve been giving my kids this kind of dinner since they were little, and they love the different colours on the plate, and I’ve never had a problem with them not eating their veggies.

The key is to always offer kids a variety of fresh vegetables. Don’t pester them about eating it all. Instead, talk about all the pretty colours. Eat together and say how yummy the avocado is etc. They many not eat it all immediately, but over time, you’ll be surprised how they develop a taste for fresh foods. If you don’t offer it, they can’t eat it. If you offer it, they have the choice to eat healthy. Simple.

I always consider that I need to offer a carb of some sort, protein of some sort, and vegetables. The photos above are an example of the types of salads I throw together.

Let’s start by talking about carbs. I have wholemeal pasta in one, soba noodles in the other, and my favourite barley in another. Others to consider include beans and brown rice. I like to mix it up, so we don’t get bored.

Protein. I know that I feel sluggish if I don’t eat enough protein. Growing bodies need protein, as do… um… aging mums! Basically, think meats. Eggs are my favourite as you can boil a whole lot, use some on the day, then pop them in the fridge for the next few days to use in lunches etc. I love salmon too because this can be easily baked in the oven with no fuss and no washing up!

Veggies. Veggies are great because you can buy up big at the grocers and then leave them in the fridge to use through the week. If you’re really keen to time-save, you can cut them up on the weekend and have them ready to use through the week. My favourites include: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot, broccoli (raw), mushrooms and avocado.

Yummy extras. My kids and I are totally in love with pomegranates. They are the prettiest dark pink colour and they taste sweet. I throw them over salads. I like telling the kids that they have been eaten since the beginning of time – since the garden of Eden. We aren’t religious, but I’m sure I read somewhere that they were eaten way back when… The other thing we love in salads is bocconcini: soft, cheesy, creamy balls of deliciousness. You can throw in any other cheese really. Persian feta is another one you should try.

Salad dressing: My kids aren’t fans of salad dressing. I usually pour a little Apple Cider Vinegar over mine as I find it refreshing, it has health benefits, and can help you lose weight, apparently!

School lunches. You’ll notice the image in the top right is a salad in a lunch box. I make these ahead of time and bring them to work. They have two sections, one with  the salad you can see, and another smaller one sits on top, where I put barley. At work, I add them together. So delicious and healthy!

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Holiday Baking: Piroshki Beef Pastries

Piroshkis as far as the eye can see …

Little balls of doughy sweetness with beef, bacon and potato

Piroshki 1

This recipe is not for the time-poor you. Save it and make on the holidays. It makes heaps and you can freeze them too, for nights when you get home exhausted and too tired to cook.

I love working with dough. I think it’s the Italian in me. For this recipe you start with the dough, as it needs at least an hour, preferably more, for it to rise – like a pizza dough. My kids go crazy for these things!

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 6 cups plain flour
  • I tsp salt
  • 1 packet of dried yeast
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups full-cream milk
  • A 250g block of melted butter
  • 2 egg yolks

Method

So, heat the milk up a tad and add in the yeast and sugar. Stir. Add in the butter. In another bowl, add your flour and salt. Add the milk mixture to the flour and add egg yolks too. Mix it all together and knead a bit. Put into an oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Set aside.

Piroshki dough

Note: If you need a nice, big stainless steel bowl like mine, you can get one here:

bowl steel

American Metalcraft SSB1300 Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl, 16″ Diameter, Silver, 13-Quart

Now for the filling.

 

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1  bacon rasher
  • 400g beef mince
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • fresh thyme

Method

Fry onion, garlic, bacon, potato until soft, then add beef. Once browned, stir in thyme and paste. Cool.

To finish

Once the dough has risen, roll it out and cut squares. Place filling in centre and then tie at top. Place on baking tray and bake until browned. Enjoy!

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Food Ideas For Busy Working People by Busy Mum is now available on Amazon. The book contains all your favourite blog posts and recipes so far from my website. I hope you all love it!

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New Steamer! Losing it over egg trays!

steamer 1

You know I love steaming for the ease, the convenience, the health benefits. Well, I bloody broke my steamer! Yep, I wasn’t concentrating – too busy on social media – and I let my steamer bubble on without topping up the water in the base. Oops! The element started burning, a weird smell started permeating through the home, and voila, I realized my mistake!

It’s not all bad news. I raced to the shops today in a frantic attempt to replace my necessary cooking appliance. Yes, it is essential. I don’t know how any working mum gets by without one of these!

Talking Aussie context here: I tried JB-HiFi. Lovely guy gave me a great discount on a the only steamer they had  – only one! – but the rice dish was tiny and there’s no way it was going to cook enough rice for me and two cherubs. So, I ducked next door to Target. They didn’t even have a single steamer! Wtf? I had little time left before I had to return and pay for my daughter’s haircut – I was seriously multi-tasking as any single working mum will appreciate – and so I made an executive decision that I HAD to try KMart too.

Bingo! Seriously, thank goodness for KMart. They had a PERFECT replacement steamer. In fact, I’m thrilled to say, it’s even better than my old one. I didn’t even know steamers could do this, and I’m losing my shit over it, because I can actually steam eggs at the same time in this one – see banner image above. No kidding! You all know I love eggs – well you would know, if you’d read my other posts.

Yep, there are grooves in each of the thee trays to cook eggs. Just when I thought these things couldn’t get any better. For my fellow Aussie readers, this steamer only cost me $39! Take it from me. Best investment ever for time-poor mums!

I can now steam my rice, veggies and eggs all at once with the flick of a button. Almost too good to be true. Just remind me to check the water level with this one! That’s a low fat, nutritious, balanced meal with the flick of a switch!

KMart should be paying me for this! Anyway, Aussie friends, this is the package of the steamer I’m talking about. Overseas friends, I’ll see if I can find it on Amazon – hang ten.

Steamer 2

Check out the big steamer rice dish:

This is bigger and deeper than my former steamer. I love it!

steamer rice dish.jpg

Overseas friends: I’ve had a look on Amazon for you. I’ve found a steamer that looks like this one: it’s has 3-tiers and the egg trays, which I love. I doesn’t mention ‘rice bowl’ but it does say it has a smaller bowl, which might be a rice bowl. Worth a look!

steamer 6

Elite Platinum EST-2301 Maxi-Matic BPA-Free 8.5 Quart 3-Tier Food Steamer, Stainless Steel

 

 

Don’t forget to check out my new book Food Ideas for Busy Working People, available on Amazon. See here: http://a.co/2yDxoCf

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Real Time-Saving Food Tips for Busy Working Mums

Don

sandwich.jpg

Working and raising kids is no easy feat, especially if you are a single parent on your own, juggling both. The reality is difficult to comprehend. You have demands placed upon you from the minute you wake up, with hungry children, you go to work and have to pull your weight there, then you arrive home, tired, and need to tend to your kids again. This continues, day in day out. It’s not easy.

I can’t underestimate the fatigue many mums feel and this can impede motivation to spend time preparing and cooking food at home. There’s no time during the day and little at night, which makes buying food all the more appealing. However, most bought food has preservatives and additives that you would not put in your own cooking, including high levels of salt, sugar and fats, not to mention the numerical additives, symbolising colours etc.

By eating and preparing your own meals, you can be sure that you are eating well. This does take time. Since the working week is a write-off, set aside some time on the weekend to plan and prepare your food for the coming week. Here are some tips for things that I do to make my life easier through the week, while ensuring that the kids and I are eating foods that I’ve prepared. It will also save you money!

  • Set Sundays aside to cook a big batch of something that will give you dinner both Sunday and Monday nights. Try casseroles and soups – see my casserole posts. Soups will follow soon.
  • Cut up salad items and store in the fridge, so that through the week, you can pull them out, pop them on a plate, and just add some kind of meat and carb with it (like grilled fish and black eye beans from a can) – see my Too Tired To Cook! post
  • Use a steamer to cook rice and vegetables (pre-prepared on weekend and stored in fridge ready to throw in steamer) and just add a meat to the side, like boiled eggs – too easy!
  • Freeze leftovers, especially steamed rice and veggies, in little containers. These can be taken out of the freezer the night before and then re-heated. Perfect to give to your daughter if she has ballet classes on until late!
  • Make cheese or Vegeminte rolls or sandwiches and freeze these for school lunches. All you need to do is take them out the night before and throw in a lunch box. If you don’t know what Vegemite is, you’re probably not an Aussie. Curious? See my link below.
  • Bake cakes or muffins on the weekends and freeze portions for school lunches. Again, take out the night before and throw in lunch boxes. See my Banana, Choc Chip, Oat Muffin post for starters.
  • Pre-prepare school lunches as best you can for the coming week by adding the fresh fruit in, some dried fruit and nuts. Just add in the sandwhich and baked item the night before.
  • If you’re bringing a salad to work, and you’ve pre-prepared this, boil some eggs and keep these in the fridge to take too. Better still, boil some barley and keep in the fridge to add for your carb component.

Note: Eggs are really, really good for you. Apparently the Queen and Prince Phillip eat an egg each every day. I read that somewhere. Many people who live long lives also eat eggs regularly – read that study too somewhere. Moral of this story? Eggs are an easy option to add protein to your meals and they are full of amazing goodness. I usually eat one every day and have boiled ones in the fridge for the kids to snack on.

Note 2: Vegemite. 

Never tasted out national Australian food? Even Amazon stock it. Amazing! Tip: do not put too much on your bread and butter. Only a sprinkle is needed. This is a staple spread in every Aussie household and it contains vitamin B.

vegemite

Vegemite (220 gram)

 

 

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Too Tired to Cook! Do you really need take-away tonight?

chicken

You get home from work exhausted: mentally drained and incapable of logical thought – well almost – yet you have hungry children to feed, along with yourself. You have zero desire to use Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. I’m talking spent. You reach for the phone…Stop. Do you really need take-away?

If you can summon-up enough energy to open the fridge and put chicken in the oven, you don’t need to call a pizza. Here’s how to toss together a quick, healthy dinner with 1% energy.

Try this:

1. Throw pre-crumbed chicken in the oven. Should only take 7 minutes on each side.

2. Throw salad on plate. Cherry tomatoes, rocket, capsicum, canned beetroot – other things if you have them: cucumber, avo (avodado) etc.
.
3. Throw beans on plate. I love Edgell’s Black Eye Beans, which are an Aussie brand. If you’re too tired and busy to shop, you can even buy these from Amazon, although they are a different brand and the Americans call them peas, not beans. Who is right? Must google it one day to find out. Perhaps we could start a great debate in the comments below. Anyone listening? Anyway, here are the beans:

black eye beans

Natco – Black Eye Beans – 400g (pack of 2)

 

 

Why do I love this variety? I suppose it’s a personal preference. I find broad beans too fiddly to peel and cook when fresh. Kidney beans are too gushy – these ones hold their shape. I suppose I think they look pretty too with their specked colour.

Check out Food Ideas for Busy Working People, available now on Amazon! See here: http://a.co/2yDxoCf

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