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My all time favourite Pasta Bake Recipe

Monday, 29 February 2016

Hello Dear reader,

I am sure every family have a go-to Pasta Bake recipe, it could be creamy chicken and mushrooms or like this one, with a tomato and bacon flavour base. This recipe originally came from my Aunty Brenda, she bought this dish along to a BBQ we were having years ago. It was such a hit with everyone, especially the kids, so I asked for the recipe. Usually she would write it down in her beautiful cursive writing, but this one was so easy, she just talked me through it.
It is delicious, quick to make and frugal, so it ticks all the boxes.

Ingredients for my all time favourite Pasta Bake
Grate 2 cups of cheese
1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic chopped
200 grams bacon, chopped 
2 cups pasta of your choice, cooked and drained
Cook onion, garlic and bacon till slightly coloured and set aside
Cook mince well, breaking it up with a potato masher
Add onion, garlic, bacon and can of tomato soup to cooked mince
Add cooked and drained pasta
Add 1 cup of grated cheese to mince mixture
Mix well until cheese is melted
Pour into greased baking dish
Sprinkle over the other cup of grated cheese
Grill until cheese is melted and golden


500 grams beef mince
200 grams bacon, chopped
1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can condensed tomato soup
2 cups grated cheese
2 cups pasta of your choice, cooked and drained


Cook pasta according to packet directions, drain and set aside

Grate Cheese and set aside

Chop onion and garlic and saute 

Add chopped bacon and cook until slightly browned, take out of pan and set aside

Add mince and cook well, I use a potato masher to break up all the lumps and to make sure it is cooked through

Add onion, garlic and bacon mixture back to pan, mix well

Add tomato soup and mix well

Add cooked and drained pasta and mix well

Add 1 cup of grated cheese to pan and mix until melted

Turn mixture into a greased baking dish

Sprinkle over remaining 1 cup of grated cheese

Grill until cheese is melted and golden

Serve with steamed greens or a big tossed salad

So, over to you, what is your families all time favourite Pasta Bake?


Marinated Butterflied Shoulder of Lamb

Sunday, 28 February 2016
Hello Dear Reader,

This is a super simple and super tasty way of roasting lamb, it has loads of flavour and being butterflied, takes less time to cook.

Marinade ingredients-parsley, mint, rosemary, juice and rind of two lemon, 3 cloves of garlic-grated on a microplane, salt and pepper and two tablespoons of honey

Add combined marinade ingredients to the butterflied shoulder of lamb and marinade, overnight, if you can or as many hours as time allows


Butterflied shoulder of lamb
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Good handful each of Parsley, Rosemary and Mint, chopped finely
3 fat cloves of Garlic, grated on a microplane
2 tablespoons of honey
Good grind of salt and pepper

Ask your butcher to butterfly a shoulder of lamb for you. Doing this cuts down the cooking time, all the flavours of the marinade are able to penetrate all the nooks and crannies and once cooked, slicing the meat is a breeze
Put the Butterflied shoulder of lamb in a big, non metallic bowl
Combine all the marinade ingredients and pour over lamb in a big bowl
Massage marinade into lamb making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies
Marinate overnight or as long as time allows
Preheat oven to 160 C
Turn marinated lamb into large lined baking tray
Cook long and slow till your liking. I like my lamb well cooked through but you cook it the way you like it. 

I served this lamb with a big tossed salad and crunchy golden roast potatoes for a family lunch which we had about a month ago. I just hadn't had a chance to post it here. 

So, over to you, what is your go to marinade for lamb?


Controlling Weeds in the Garden

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

My son, at one stage, was really into the art of Bonsai and he still has quite the collection (with me now taking care of them) On one of these Bonsai plants there was a little green plant that he encouraged to grow. Well I still don't know what this insidious plant is but it is evil, evil I tell you!

At one stage it had taken over the whole yard, and has been so difficult to get rid of. I noticed when I was watering yesterday there are a few little out breaks of it, so today I am going to treat it with my home made weed killer.

I got the "recipe" from Colin Campbell on ABC's Gardening Australia, wasn't he an absolute gem of man! Missed by all.

This weed killer is made from simple White Vinegar and Common Salt. Two very cheap ingredient which you mix together and either spray on or apply with a small paint brush. I opt for the small paint brush as I have more control over where the weed killer goes. This is not a herbicide and it will kill any plant it touches, so be careful.


To one litre of white vinegar
Add one cup of cheapest cooking salt


Add salt and vinegar to a plastic bottle, screw on lid and shake to dissolve salt. I use a 2 litre vinegar bottle and usually have one or two spare to decant one litre of vinegar into.

You don't dilute this mixture, just use it straight. You can use it in a spray bottle but I find you have more control over it if you paint it on the weeds.

This is the culprit

Evil weed 

If there is any one out there that can identify it, I would be grateful to put a name to this pest of a weed. Whatever you do get rid of it early because its an absolute menace in the garden.

So, over to you, what homemade remedy, do you use in the garden, that works like a charm?


A much needed Holiday

Friday, 19 February 2016
Hello Dear Reader,

Me, alongside the Sea Princess while docked, this was taken in 2014. It was a Cruise to New Zealand

About 3 times a year for 1 week at a time, my Hubby and I try to get away for a short break, you know what they say - "All work and no play..."This week we will be doing a Cruise up the coast of Queensland with Princess Cruises. As always this holiday was saved and budgeted for to the last cent.

I love Cruising as you only unpack once, the food is truly amazing and you don't have to lift a finger all week. I always try to find the very best deals and found this one to be exceptional value for money. We will, hopefully, be meeting up with our Daughter and her Partner while up that way so that is an extra bonus to look forward to.

As the cost of accessing the internet on board is just too expensive, I will be having a little break from blogging while away, sorry. But I will be back renewed and refreshed in one weeks time. These photos are from our last cruise to New Zealand in 2014. It was just so beautiful.

Hubby on deck while going through the Fjords in New Zealand. 
Simply Breathtaking! 

A snap shot of one of the dinners 

All dressed up for the formal night

So, over to you, do you scrimp and save for holidays? What's your favourite Holiday destination?

This weeks 5 frugal things on a Friday

Hello Dear Reader,

This weeks 5 frugal things on a Friday are...

I used the slow cooker to make Pork with Red bean Curd. The slow cooker uses less energy than the cook top. 

Picked another sweet Pineapple and a Pumpkin from the Garden. I grew these pineapples from the tops of bought pineapples and the pumpkin from seed, so except for water and time they were free 

Planted out 3 Pineapple tops from the home grown pineapples 

Used a homegrown pumpkin to make pumpkin soup, have a look at that colour! 

Pumpkin soup in the making (recipe coming soon) 

Dug out and potted up 2 plants that had self propagated from elsewhere in the garden.
The one in the black pot is a ornamental grass with frothy cream flower heads and the one in the red pot, I think, is a passionfruit. 

So, tell me, what things did you do this week that were frugal or free?

What we buy in China Town

Thursday, 18 February 2016
Hello Dear Reader,

The haul from out last China Town trip

My Husbands heritage is Chinese. He is pretty watered down but his Dad instilled in him to be proud of this heritage. Food, and lots of it, was always a very big part of his families life. Their pantries, fridges and freezers were so chock a block with food I am sure they really didn't know what they had in there.

I take the opposite approach, in that I only buy what I need for a week and make sure every last food item is used up. No waste, ever. Above is some shopping we did on the way home from visiting my Mother in Law, who is still in hospital. What we buy is only a shadow of what my Husbands Mum, Dad and Gran would have bought and this will last us a good while. 

So, itemised below, is what we bought and how we use it.

Starting in the bottom left hand of the picture, working anti-clock wise

Tempura flour - Tempura fish, our favourite way to eat delicate fish like whiting

Raw Australian Peanuts - for best homemade Peanut butter and a Peanut soup which uses Pork, green Paw Paw and dried plums ( my all time favourite Chinese soup )

Oyster Sauce - we use this in stir fries and on Chinese greens

Sesame oil - again used in stir fries and to finish dishes like Congee and Omelettes

Ayam sauces - I love these good quality sauces, they make a quick meal and contain no numbers or artificial ingredients 

Red Bean Curd - used in one of Gran's hand me down recipes " Red Bean Curd Pork" one of our absolute favourites 

Spices - this time I picked up some more chilli flakes, Ground Cumin and Coriander, hands down best prices and value for money

Fu Ye - Chilli fermented bean curd, we serve this with most of our Chinese meals. My husband calls it Chinese vegemite. It is salty and a little bit goes a long way and I just love it

Dace in Blackbean - this is a dried, salted fish in blackbeans and oil, my Husband loves this, not for me though. He has it heated through as a side dish 

Blackbeans - great for stir fries

A block of Tamarind - to add the sour element to Thai dishes, lasts for ages in the fridge

We also bought some Chinese Barbecue Pork which did us for 2 meals, served sliced finely with steamed Basmati rice and Chinese greens (with oyster sauce)

As I mentioned this shop will last us quite a while and really only go shopping in China Town about 3 to 4 times a year. It is worth the trip as the prices are so much cheaper than the Stupidmarkets and of course there is a lot of stuff that you simply can't buy there.

So, over to you, where do you shop that is so much cheaper than the normal supermarkets? What do you buy there?


What we ate this week

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

I had to change the menu around a bit this week as we ended up being quite busy, it didn't matter though, we still ate well and didn't resort to takeaways!

So, in the end, this is what we ate this week.

Wednesday- Pan fried fish and big tossed salad
Thursday- Thai Green Vegetable Curry with steamed Basmati rice and papadums

Friday- Smoked Salmon Frittata, recipe from here

Saturday- Pumpkin and Asparagus Jalousie, which is a fancy name for a savoury strudel or turnover

Sunday- Smoked Salmon Pasta with steamed Asparagus and for dessert we had the Sweet 
Strawberry Pie Cake that I made for Valentine's Day

Monday- Slow cooked Pork with Red Bean Curd with steamed Basmati rice and Brocolini

Tuesday- There was enough left over Pork with Red bean Curd for another Dinner, so we had a 
re-run of Mondays dinner for Tuesday (I love a good leftover)

So, over to you, what were the eats at your place this week? Anything new on the menu? 

Silverbeet and Feta Parcels

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Hello Dear Reader,

Freshly picked silverbeet from the garden 

Cook silverbeet until wilted and soft 

Draining the cooked silverbeet in a colander 

In a bowl, combine cooked silverbeet, finely chopped parsley and onion, eggs and cubed feta 

Mix all ingredients together 

Cut shop bought puff pastry sheet into four, add about 2 tablespoons of filling, brush edges with beaten egg to seal 

Fold square over to make a triangle, crimp edges with a fork, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle over sesame seeds 

Bake until golden

Who doesn't love a little parcel full of savoury or sweet goodness? I love these silverbeet and feta parcels and have been making them forever. Of course you can use spinach which cooks exactly the same as silverbeet. If using silverbeet you just need to cut the stems really finely so they will cook down with the leaves.

These are wonderful for a light summer meal served with a big tossed salad and great cold for lunches, as they carry really well.


A bunch of silverbeet or spinach
3 eggs - 2 for the filling and 1 for the sealing and glazing
1 onion, finely chopped
A good handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 packet of danish feta (we use Aldi brand)
3 to 4 sheets, shop bought puff pastry (I find Coles own brand best for its price and quality) 


Preheat oven to 180 C
Cut the silverbeet leaves into strips and chop the stems finely
Cook silverbeet in a shallow frypan till wilted
Drain in a colander, really well, you want the silverbeet to be quite dry
In a bowl add cooked silverbeet, chopped onion and parsley, cubed feta and 2 eggs, combine well
Defrost puff pastry sheets (the sheets need to be still really cold though) so they are still
Cut each sheet into 4 squares
Add two tablespoon of filling to centre of each square
Brush beaten egg on edges to seal
Fold over to form a triangle
Crimp edges with a fork
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake at 180 C for 20 to 25 minutes, keep an eye on them as every oven is different
Serve with a big tossed salad

I find if you put the tray of prepared parcels back into the freezer for about 5 to 10 minutes, to firm up a bit, you get a higher rise from the puff pastry giving you a flakier, crisper pastry. 

So, tell me, what is you favourite savoury or sweet parcel of goodness? 


Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Monday, 15 February 2016
Hello Dear Reader,

Sauté Mushrooms in melted butter and a little oil. As Julia Childs said "Don't over crown the pan" 

Beautifully Sautéed Mushrooms, notice there is no liquid from the mushroom 

Take Mushrooms out and set aside, now Sautee chopped onion 

Take out onion and set aside and add cubed chicken, and cook through 

40 grams plain flour and 2 cups milk for white sauce 

40 grams butter 

Melt butter then add flour and cook on medium heat, stirring all the time 

Add warmed milk and keep stirring till nice and thick, add cheeses and let melt 

Add cooked Chicken, Mushrooms and onions to the cheesy white sauce, then add cooked pasta of your choice. I used half a packet of Fettuccini. Turn this mixture into a baking dish and cook, covered with foil for 20 to 30 minutes. You want it bubbling but not browned too much. 

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favourite blogs Mels Kitchen Cafe, and even though Mel is on the other side of the world and experiencing extreme cold weather, while we have had hot, humid days, I thought I would give this a go. 

It would be so lovely to warm your soul in the winter months, so I will keep this in mind for when it is much cooler. I ended up in a sweat bath (not so wonderful) while making this earlier last week, but, oh my it was delicious. Its a bit of a fiddle as you don't just add everything to a pot and let it do its thing. There are several steps to this recipe, but it is so worth it.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
1 smallish brown onion, chopped finely
500 grams mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 kg of chicken thigh fillets, cubed
40 grams butter (for cheese sauce)
40 grams plain flour
2 cups milk, warmed through
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 packet of pasta of your choice, I used fettuccini 

Preheat oven to 160 C
Cook pasta as directed and set aside
In a large frypan, sauce mushrooms, in batches, and set aside (don't over crowd the pan)
Add chopped onion to frypan and cook gently till translucent and set aside
In a saucepan make cheese sauce - melt butter on medium heat, add flour and cook for a few 
minutes, stirring all the time with a whisk, add warmed milk and keep stirring till thickened, add cheeses and stir until melted. Take cheese sauce off heat and set aside
In the frypan, cook chicken till cooked through
Now add cooked mushrooms, cooked onions, cooked chicken and waiting pasta to cheese sauce and stir until well combined
Turn into a baking dish and cook in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, you want it bubbling and the edges just starting to catch
So, tell me, what recipe have you made that would be better suited in cooler weather rather than hot, like the surface of the sun?