The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday 4 December 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Money saving recipes.

Last week I had quite a few money savers. Plus I hope that learning how to keep sourdough and make all kinds of things from this has given me lots of savings in the future.

For my challenge I wrote down...
$300 in savings from DIY painting.
$50 from making up two presents from soaps and my cooking.
$20 from all the gingerbread.
$100 from making all the lunches.
This gave me a $470 total.
I can't believe there are only a few weeks to go and I will know my yearly total!

Last week we were talking about keeping the costs down when taking food to an event, pooled dinner etc. and also when we make gifts of food to give.
Already I have some of your best recipes to share!  There will be a part two and maybe a part three I think.
Anyway tried and tested recipes are wonderful. We have some USA to AU differences in terminology, measurements etc.  Feel free to ask questions. Google can sometimes help. I had to ask google many things such as what is a stick of butter? We don't have those...   Google gives quick weight and measurement conversions, temperature conversions etc.
I have recipes I am going to try for sure and when I do I will post the pictures of those also.
Thank you to everyone for sending in your recipes and photos!
We all feel like we know each other. Somehow it is lovely to see what you cook!

Firstly Rachel shared a recipe she makes. I really like the sound of this.  I don't know how it works but I know some kind of magic happens when you use dates, boiling water and bi carb soda... something sticky and yum!

Eggless Date Roll
                                                     (M. Smith, Imbil, Qld)
                                                       [my variations are in square brackets!]

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup sugar [dark brown works well]
1 Tablespoon butter/olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup boiling water [1 cup makes it nice and moist]

Combine the above set of ingredients.
Add 1 1/2 cups plain flour [freshly milled whole wheat works well] and 1 teaspoon baking powder

Bake in moderate oven 35-40 minutes [25 minutes in a small oven], using a loaf tin.

This looks to me like a lovely thing to make at home, for afternoon tea, or for a gift! Imagine it wrapped in cellophane with a bow. Lovely! 

Now over to Jane...

Tim tam balls
 1 pkt Tim Tams
1 container cream cheese
Process biscuits and cheese together. roll into balls. Roll in chocolate sprinkles. place in the fridge to firm up. Try not to eat too many.

This made up 14 golf ball sized balls.

For those without  a processor, crush the biscuits finely then mix with the cream cheese. 

You could use coconut instead of chocolate sprinkles. You could place naked Tim Tam balls in the freezer then cover in melted chocolate.

This basic, delicious recipe, has any number of variations.
Love Jane

Note Aldi Divine biscuits can be substituted.

Now I am glad of this next recipe as it is so useful and there are many variations but it is healthy, economical when Zucchini are in your garden or cheap and can be taken on a picnic, packed in lunch boxes and so on.  This is Jane's Zucchini Slice.

375g zucchini 
1 large onion
3 rashers bacon
1 cup grated cheese 
1 cup SR Flour
1/2 cup oil
5 eggs.
Grate unpeeled zucchini. Finely chop onion and bacon. Combine all ingredients. pour into a well greased lamington tin (I use a lasagna tin). Bake in mod oven 30-40 mins.

We had this for dinner tonight. It's  delicious hot or cold. When the children were small this was a lunchbox favourite.

Now over to Cookie...
These are her Cookie Rolls...
1 cup sugar,
3/4 cups oil or melted butter
4 eggs
4 tsps. vanilla or orange extract
5 cups all purpose flour
5 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt.

cinnamon and sugar( mixed together)
raisins, nuts(optional)
Jelly or preserves
grated apple (optional)
additional oil or butter for brushing.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the sugar,oil or melted butter, eggs, and flavoring.  Add
the dry ingredients and mix well.  (dough can be refrigerated and
brought back to almost room temp if you want to do this in stages.)

Grease cookie sheets.  Divide dough into 3 to 5 pieces and roll each
piece out on a floured surface.  Brush the dough with oil or melted
butter, spread on the jam, sprinkle with raisins, and nuts and apples
if using, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Roll up the dough in
jellyroll fashion, brush top with more oil or butter and sprinkle more
cinnamon and sugar lightly.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices but not all the
way through.  Bake at 350 F. 20-25 minutes or until done.  Remove from
oven and cool slightly and cut all the way through.  (the rolls spread
so leave enough room on the baking sheet to allow this.) Makes about

Cookie added some easy instructions down in the comments below and a picture...


Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 large baking sheet with sides covered with foil that has been greased
Saltine crackers, 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, 1 cup of butter, 1
cup dark brown sugar, 12 oz bag of Heath's bits of brickle, plain or
chocolate covered.

Place the saltines on the foiled covered baking sheet salt side up. In

a saucepan melt the butter and brown sugar together, bring to a boil
and then simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour this mixture evenly as possible
over the saltines and bake for 6 to 10 minutes depending on your
oven..  Remove immediately and pour chocolate chips over the crackers
spreading them as they melt.  Sprinkle with the bits of brickle.  Let
cool to room temp and then refrigerate to harden.  Break into pieces.
These are best refrigerated and keep almost indefinitely (if you can
keep out of them) in the freezer.

Ooey Gooey Butter Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

For the cake
Mix together one cake mix of your choice (I usually make this with
chocolate or lemon Duncan Hines mix), 1 egg and 1 stick of melted
butter.  Press into pan.

For the filling.
8 ounces of cream cheese softened
2 eggs,
1 stick of melted butter
16 ounces of powdered sugar.
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Add
butter and beat.  Add powdered and mix well.  Spread over cake mixture
and bake 40 to 50 minutes.  You want the center to be a little gooey
so don't overbake. Remove from oven and cool completely and cut into
small squares.  I usually get 24 servings out of this recipe as it's
very rich and only a small amount is needed.

If using a chocolate mix you can gild the lily by sprinkling chocolate
chips and nuts on the filling before baking.  When using a lemon mix I
add extra lemon zest and juice or lemon extract to the filling.

Annabel, I costed this one out and it came to about 18 cents per
serving for 24 servings.  Everything used in this recipe was bought on
good sales making it a pretty cost effective dessert. Love Cookie.

Thank you so much Cookie I really want to try this... anything gooey is good with me! 

Now to Cristy... 

Red Beans and Rice from the kitchen of Crafty Cristy
1 pound dry red beans, fully cooked
1 32 ounce can chopped tomatoes, with the juice
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped celery or 1 T celery seed (optional)
4 teaspoons minced garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons pepper
½  teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 cup water or chicken broth
Cooked rice
1 pound smoked sausage, your favorite type

Directions: Prepare red beans until they are soft and ready to serve.
Salt to taste.
Then, combine prepared beans, tomatoes with the juice from the can,
chopped onion, celery, garlic, thyme, oregano, pepper, cayenne pepper
and chicken broth in slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours.
Prepare 2 cups raw rice and 4 cups water in pot on the stove until
done. Salt to taste. Add butter to taste.
Saute 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into bite sized pieces until lightly browned.
To serve: Put the cooked rice on the bottom of the plate, spreading
around. Top rice with the bean combination including the juices. Top
that with the sausage. Serve.
If you are taking this for a potluck, then combine the rice, bean
mixture and sausages after cooking each individually. Stir well.
***It is easy to make this recipe spicier, if that is your preference.
Just add more cayenne, and black pepper, or Tony Chachere’s Creole

This really interested me! Thank you Cristy!

Thank you everyone! Sometimes just one new recipe is a money saver for us. When we find something that the family loves that isn't expensive to me we are on to a winner!

How did you do with your Vicky Challenge or how did you save last week?
I am hoping to get this week off to a good start.  I did a lot of cooking over the weekend and do not have to cook for a couple of nights which I love. I have Christmas things to do. Things to post, things to wrap! 
Have a fantastic week! xxx


  1. Great savings again Annabelle! I'm going to make a copy of a couple of those recipes. Zucchini slice is a real favourite of ours and we had about three dozen little zucchinis on our plants all about three inches long and whammy, one night they disappeared overnight. Rabbits I'm guessing. So that won't be on the menu as much as I had planned. Last night I made mug cakes. I used a recipe from BH&G and less than two mins, two single serve cakes. Really yummy
    Have a great weekend. Fi xx

    1. Dear Fiona,
      I keep seeing recipes for mug cakes and also pictures on Facebook. I was thinking these could lead to a really good gift i.e. a mug with some of the dry ingredients and recipes. mmm I am going to check this out and try them now!
      Oh no about your zucchinis. At least I know you have eggs! I hope no more fox problems.
      Have a really good week Fiona! With love

    2. Annabel a few years ago I did a hamper of things for our children, I included mug cakes for our daughter. It is on the list for next Christmas.


  2. Annabel you had a great savings week and I did not. We didn't go anywhere to spend any money. We stayed at home and had a very quiet, do nothing week. We did all the cooking of all the meals and there was some baking done. It was such a hot week we didn't move too far away from the fans.
    I have been looking for a yummy date loaf for ages. Rachel not only produces lovely food she also makes it look so morish with her gorgeous photos. This loaf will be finding its way into our cake tin soon.
    Life is way to hot but it is good.

    1. Jane, about the heat, my husband said, "You said it!!"
      We did, finally, get a good storm on the weekend, with a good inch of rain. The ground has soaked all that up, and we need plenty more!
      Did I mention peach leaf tea?!!!!

    2. Dear Jane,
      Staying home and having a quiet week is really good savings in itself. I am going to try Rachels recipe also. I love dates. And she does take gorgeous photos!
      We haven't had true heat yet. When we do I will be staying indoors, maybe sewing. I dread it actually as the power is bound to go out.
      Have a really good week! With love


  3. Hi Annabel and Bluebird Cooks and Bakers!!

    I'm all hungry again!! I do enjoy prized recipes.

    Jane, I'd love to make a choko variation of your zucchini slice, in the appropriate season. That does look so very tasty and refreshing! I'm contemplating the thought of cream cheese-sweet combinations. Apparently we can make cream cheese from milk in a simple manner so very similar to one method of making ricotta! I love seeing how ingredients are packaged in America, so the opposite might also apply!

    Cookie, I'd love to see your recipes as pictures! I am thinking that your Cookie Rolls must be very light and wonderful to eat. Mmmmm, a Queensland version could be interesting to try! Again, the cream cheese aspect of your butter cake recipe seems inviting. The butter-dark brown sugar, caramel aspect is also inviting. You've given us a challenge!

    Cristy, thank you very much for putting your red beans and rice together - considering the bean preparation and slow cooking!! We have rice to use, and I am quite interested in these recipes. I like the herb and spice combinations you're using here. I could try this soon - a chilled version for summer weather?!

    Thank you, Annabel, for this very enjoyable recipe sharing!

    How am I saving right now? We're just taking up summer mode and just surviving the warm weather - lots of drinks and suitable meals. Well, peach leaf tea costs nothing!! It's keeping me hydrated, and that's really something!

    With very warm regards, and looking forward to more food!!
    Rachel Holt

    1. Rachel- Can any type of chopped dates be used in this loaf? I have medjool dates on hand and also some smaller ones. Your photography and the way you set up a shot is beautiful. I wish you could fax me a piece of that loaf for breakfast. Cookie


    2. Cookie, I just looked up medjool dates. I really think any dates will work. Anyway, you're a good cook, so you'll make it work!!
      I could try emailing a slice, only, being almost breakfast time here now, it will be some other time for you - and the cake is long gone!! It's a misty, moisty morning!!
      Enjoying the fun of this,

    3. Rachel the choko version of the slice is delicious. This slice can have all sorts added and subtracted. It is also really nice with kumera, orange sweet potato.

    4. Dear Rachel,
      I have discovered that you can get battery operated fans. Some are chargeable from power or use D batteries. When things are dire such a thing could be very good. Keeping hydrated is number one. Peach leaf tea sounds good. Do you dry the peach leaves or is this with fresh leaves... since there is a peach tree out the back I should find out about this!
      It sounds like choko will work just fine with the recipe! Thank you Jane! I am keen to try it with the sweet potato!
      I hope there is mild weather for you! Thank you so much for your recipe and lovely photos! With lots of love,

    5. Jane, thanks for the confirmation on choko. I hope they grow this autumn!

      Annabel, peach leaves can be used fresh or dried. Apparently, people make cold water infusions by sitting the leaves in cold water out in the sun for, I think, at least half a day. Since we boil our rain water for drinking, I use the hot infusion/tea method - leaving the leaves in boiled water for a good few minutes. There is a slight almond-type bitterness, which I find refreshing. Peach leaves are supposed to be cooling, rehydrating (as opposed to the dehydrating action of tea and coffee), good for the digestion (and women), and can even make one sleepy! So there! I simply find it easy to drink by the large cup load! ----- Yes, fans are good! My husband, not finding what he was looking for in the shops, took fan parts out of an old car, mounted it on timber and hooked it up to an old car battery for rapid cooling if it's really hot. (The battery charges from the generator.) It's in development, and quite fun!! I have found a shady place under the macadamia trees. I think I ought to make a hammock to rest there in really hot times!


    6. Also, Annabel, with a storm on the weekend, our old mains supply of power was out - again. We use the power outage checker of the power company, on the internet, to check on things. My husband thought it rather sweet that we could continue on as usual, and have hot tucker on our plates that evening!

  4. Wowzers! What fantastic recipes. Tim Tam Balls? I ask there anything more tempting? This is going to be a wonderful series Annabel! I know what you mean about the Sourdough too. The prospect of having another feather in your cap (so to speak, Bluebird wise) is very exciting! I must have a think about my favourite bring-a-plate recipes. Great savings this week. Well done! Love, Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi,
      I am laughing. Another bird reference is funny as they keep coming in and its such a thing now! I have to use that one somewhere!
      Well I never have had wonderful success with yeast. Now and then but mostly getting things to really rise well has been a failure. They just sit there doing nothing. But this sour dough you can't keep it quiet. You turn your back and the thing has risen inches. You beat it down, roll it out, answer the phone and come back and its giant again. mmm should I be afraid? Anyhow its a discovery and now I am trying scrolls.
      I know you have a lot of good recipes, economical too. I love your recipes in four sentences. These are my kind of cooking. There are so many possibilities. Its an interesting subject since many foods are very expensive now yet we can beat that!
      Many thanks Mimi, love

  5. Thank you so much, Annabel, for all the great recipes. And thank you for posting my recipe, too.

    1. Dear Cristy,
      Thank you so much for the recipe and the photo! This is a true economical recipe, hearty and comfort food too.
      I hope you have a great new week! With love

  6. Dear Annabel,
    You had wonderful savings this week. After reading everyone's recipe's I'm famished. I look forward to making them all.
    One of the things I left out of the cookie roll recipe was how thin to roll the dough out and into what shape. Roll the dough out into a rectangle that's about 1/4 of an inch then brush with the filling and roll up like a jelly roll making sure the seam side has been sealed and place it seam side down on the pan. I've been either watching my Nana or Mom make this all my life so it's easy to forget to put in the small, but really large, details.

    I've been doing Christmas things this week, happily playing in the sewing room, and today baking with a good friend. I need to get back on track and record savings. It is cold here and we may have a dusting of snow. A good day to stay indoors and fill the house with the aroma of good things to come. Blessings. Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie,
      Thank you for explaining that. That is true, when we have been doing something for ages it seems normal to us!
      Baking with a friend sounds lovely! As soon as you mention that I know you are probably saving a fortune right there.
      Snow! I can only imagine. I really have come to love winter and the feeling of being snug indoors with cooking going, crochet out... lovely.
      Have a great week Cookie, With love

    2. You're such a clever Cookie - to get that photo for us! I really think I'd like to make your Cookie Rolls, and how lovely to have a collection of Bluebird recipes! Thank you kindly!

  7. Dear Annabel,

    I don't think I managed to comment at the end of last week (did I??? :)), but I just loved your moose gingerbread cookie! These recipes all look delicious...thanks to everyone for sharing! I went to take a picture of my two finished items for the Christmas Show and Tell and found we have no batteries for the camera, so I will have to roll them into the next Show and Tell. I got a dress sewn and a pair of sock knit (big surprise :)). Just have to stamp a pair of p.j.'s with fabric paint and trim a snood (yes, a snood), and maybe knit a hat or two and that's it for present making, I think. Just the Christmas baking to do! Hope you have a wonderful week, are a constant inspiration.

    Love, Jen in NS

    1. Dear Jen, My Moose cookie cutter was from IKEA I am not sure if you have IKEA up there... but it is pretty cute!
      You have made so much this year. I would love to see the dress! Also stamping your own pattern on to pj pants! I would love to see this also when you have batteries! Well everything really as I would like to see the knitting and the snood.
      I hope your week is going well! With lots of love

  8. Dear Annabel, thank you for a lovely post, thank you everyone for the recipes. Rachel I will be trying the eggless date roll, I will probably ask my mum to make it for is perfect for me as I am intolerant to egg.
    Annabel, it has been a very quiet week for me , cleaning and other services $70 savings approx , grocery savings $25 approx,plus this week I have had an almost $20 a fortnight decrease in rent total savings for the week approximately $115 .
    Have a good week everyone. Love Barb W.


    1. Dear Barb,
      That really warmed my heart to read that the date roll recipe may suit you, and it's cool enough this morning to have my heart warmed!!

  9. Dear Annabel,
    What an excellent idea to have a recipe swap! I am going to have to file your food posts away for later, though, I think. Food hasn't been my best friend these past few weeks, I'm afraid! I do have to say, Cristy's beans and rice look good to me. I have been wanting Spanish rice and beans, so the beans with tomatoes and rice sound like a winner. I will enjoy looking over the others in another month or so :)
    This past week, I signed up with a midwife and had my first appointment! She sent me to a place that does free ultrasounds, and on Thursday I got to witness the miracle of my baby's heartbeat!!! That is by far the most amazing thing I have ever seen. My husband was with me and we are just overjoyed! I am eight weeks along today and I have another appointment in two days.
    I hope all is well and everyone has a good week!
    With lots of love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey,
      Oh this is wonderful news! I had been a bit worried about you not feeling well but also I thought I should email you and check how you are going. Well this all sounds very good! What a good experience and I am pleased your husband could be there as well!
      I really wanted to know how the news went over at Thanksgiving as you said you were telling everyone then as a big surprise! I thought I wished I could have seen this! I think this means you are due end of May or June? Anyway your baby is the best news ever and if you can have Bluebird Aunties then you have a heap of them!
      With lots of love

    2. Thanks, Kelsey, for getting back to your feathered friends! It's wonderful news!!
      With very warm regards,
      Just one 'Auntie Bluebird', Rachel

    3. Thank you Kelsey! PURE, UNIMAGINABLE JOY to witness your baby's heartbeat, isn't it!? I'm so thrilled for you, and praying your sense of smell, taste, appetite etc., all calms down for you! It will be normal again, I promise you!
      What Rachel said!! Another 'Auntie Bluebird', Colette :)

    4. That is the best news, Kelsey! I am so excited for you! I just know you will make a wonderful mother. Such a lucky baby! It is good you have a midwife. I hope you don't feel sick for much longer. Rest up. Lots and lots of love to you, Bridge

  10. Hi Annabel, part four always welcome lol x

    1. Thats a very nice thing to say Michelle thank you! I think we all feel like we know each other so well that recipes have that trust factor to them! Plus they are broadening my horizons i.e. to learn more things from another country and so on. More recipes and pictures have arrived so part two is assured anyway! xxx

  11. Lovely post I love getting everyone's recipe I feel as though you are all special friends even though we've never met in person!! Can't wait to try your tim tam balls Jane esp as Philadelphia cream cheese is on half price sale at Woolworths from next Wednesday We love zucchini slice and I never thought of using sweet potato in it Do you use the same amount as you do for zucchini? Shelley

    1. Dear Shelley, Thanks for the tip off on the cream cheese special. I love cream cheese and want to make some of these balls so I will be stocking up.
      I would use about equal quantities of any vegetable and you could do half and half or a mix also. Pretty colours as well!
      Thanks for you lovely comment! Love

  12. Good morning everyone, thank you for sharing your recipes with us all, love the recipe for the date roll will be making that to slice, wrap and pop in my mother in law's freezer along with some scones.

    Jane I make my zucchini slice without oil - just throw in a few extra eggs until the right mix is found. Having said that I am now going to think outside the square when making it and use other vegetables rather than zucchini. Funny how we get stuck in a rut.

    Kelsey this Blue Bird Aunt is glad that you reported in - thank you for sharing with us.

    We had a horrendous day yesterday - really hot and I had a Christmas function to attend - we had paid a couple of dollars a month towards it so it was all paid for apart from some of the drinks. The function place had air conditioning but it wasn't hitting where we were so it made it less than enjoyable. The worse part was when we got back to where our cars were parked and we got out, it was like stepping into a furnace.

    We had a storm come through in the wee hours of the morning which has meant a cooler start to the day. At least we can start the day of feeling a bit more human.

    With cooler weather I can make a start on doing the cooking for my mother in law - I was surprised when I saw her last Friday at just how much she has aged - sometimes it only takes one fall and they get sick and slip away. Everyone has been told not to come in for Christmas lunch - there should only be 4 of us rather than the 30 I cooked for last year. My mother in law is just not up to it at all.

    It is sad seeing her life coming to an end, she is tired and ready to go.

    Best get on with my day and take advantage of the cool.

    Have a great week everyone.


    PS Annabel I did give our daughter the makings and instructions for a mug cake a number of years ago - it is on my list for next Christmas.

    1. Dear Lynette,
      That is sad that your MIL has ages so fast. I know that a fall can be a terrible blow. My very elderly neighbour was fine in her own house until I think 94 then she had a fall and suddenly she was just no longer able to keep going at home. It was so sad. She had done so well though!
      It sounds like keeping things simple and quieter will be better.
      The heat really takes it out of you. You seem to have had really extreme weather and I just saw SE QLD has more storms. I basically dread the heat. It is hard on everyone. Let alone if you don't have air conditioning or the power is out etc! I don't even want to think about it!
      Thanks for the tip on the zucchini slice. I think a mix of vegetables and colours too would look lovey and taste good as well! It could be "use it up" slice then!
      Many thanks Lynette! With love

  13. These recipes look delicious! I can't wait to try them. I love nothing more than a tried, but true recipe. And these recipes have love and comfort written all over them. I am so thakful for the recipes that you have shared, Annabel. It has made a difference to our everyday life, that is for sure. So these recipes will too. Thank you everyone for being so generous and kind to share them. I will think of Bluebirds when I make them. So lucky to be part of this community! Love, Bridge

    1. Thank you so much Bridge! Soon you will have a new kitchen to be cooking in! Many of the very best recipes are simple tasty and nourishing and when you find them they can be made over and over and still loved. Each time I find one it is so helpful! xxx

  14. Oh, goodness! The right recipe (or set of recipes) can be such a saver of sanity as well as money. I had three Christmas parties to attend last weekend and my pantry and gift stash rescued me once again. As you mentioned on my Facebook page, having time on my side is a huge help!
    Blessings, Leigh


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