It’s back to school week here and mornings are a mad scramble to get things done again. I baked these easy bread rolls yesterday, and they were such a hit I had to make another batch. There just wasn’t anything left from the first batch for today’s lunchbox.
This recipe is just an adaptation of the basic soft dough I use for American-style dinner rolls or any filled breads that don’t need to be shaped. Unfortunately, I have been using it for so long that I have forgotten where it came from. These rolls remind us of the Bacon and Cheese Rolls we used to buy from the shops, back when we still bought bread.
The dough is very sticky so I would really suggest using a breadmaker or food mixer for kneading. I used a breadmaker, and I am not ashamed to say that the machine has truly earned its keep. It has allowed me to make fresh bread for my family every day, regardless of how busy I am.
Easy Peasy Ham and Cheese Rolls
Makes 12 hearty bread rolls, enough to feed a hungry horde.
7 grams instant dry yeast
520 grams baker’s flour (or replace 100 grams with wholemeal flour for a denser, heartier roll)
10 grams salt
45 grams sugar
350 grams water
20 grams olive oil (or any flavourless oil such as canola or vegetable)
60 grams butter (or replace 20 grams with olive oil)
60 grams Tasty cheese, grated
40 grams sliced honey ham, diced
Put all the dough ingredients in the pan according to the order suggested by your breadmaker. Set the machine to run on the dough setting.
Lightly grease and line a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ rectangular pan. You may use any pan you have (e.g., a round Pyrex pie plate, or two 8″ x 8″ square pans. Just ensure the sides are at least 1.5″ high, as the dough does not hold its shape as it rises and the high sides will keep it from spreading out.
When the kneading has finished, allow the dough to rise in the pan for about an hour or so until it doubles.
Tear out and roughly shape the dough into 12 equal rounds. Space them evenly on the prepared pan. Alternatively, take two large serving spoons and spoon the dough out into 12 rough circles.
Leave the dough to proof for about 30 minutes, or until the rounds have squeezed into each other and filled the whole pan.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (conventional, not fan-forced).
Spread the topping evenly on top of the dough.
Bake 20-25 minutes. The bread should be firm and the cheese should bubble and melt, and turn golden in some parts.
Remove immediately from pan and cool on racks. You can portion and freeze them once they have cooled.
To thaw, simply move to the fridge the night before. Consume within a month for best results.
The bread itself is quite versatile, and you can top it with whatever you fancy. You can also bake them as plain rolls, just brush the tops with a bit of milk before baking. I have also added poppy seeds and sesame seeds.
I hope you try it and let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: I did not get paid by ALDI, nor was I given any of their items to review. They do not even know I exist. My children just happen to like their cheese and ham.
For many months now, I have been thinking about setting up a home-based business. It is not something I expect to be big and hugely profitable at the onset. At the moment I do not have the time, money, or contacts to make it so. However, as a stay-home mum, I often find myself with little snippets of time which I would like to put to good use.
Over at the Down To Earth Forum, we had been chatting about setting up a home based craft business for a few weeks. And I thought, if I were to do it myself then I had better formalise it. So I set off finding a way to do so, and have written down some initial steps for anyone who would like to do the same.
Would you like to join me?
Firstly, grab a small notebook and a pen (or your electronic device) and get ready to fill it with your ideas. Organise it however you want — for example, if using a notebook you can use Post-It notepads to mark out the sections on-the-fly. If you are tech-savvy, open up a blank Word document/spreadsheet/notepad/list. Put a label on your notebook’s front cover (or decide on a name for your electronic file, and save it).
Now block out fifteen minutes of your time and work on the steps below. You can think about your budding business as often as you want — while having your morning tea, while at the doctor’s waiting for an appointment, or when the kids take a nap. Just be sure to record your ideas.
Brainstorm and record your ideas.
Think about your skills, work experience, and hobbies. Is there anything you can do that can be sold online or at market stalls? Around your home, are there any unused items still in pristine condition that you can resell? What about any work experience you may have? If you are a teacher, for example, there may be a lot of tutoring opportunities for you. A professional or amateur musician would be able to teach music from home as well.
At the moment, just let your ideas flow freely — do not hold yourself back thinking how hard this is, or this other thing will never sell, or anything of that sort. There will be plenty of time to narrow down your list later.
Narrow down your options.
With your initial list now sorted, give yourself about two weeks to do a rough assessment. Try to see which of your ideas are possible now. Maybe your ultimate dream is to open your own cafe — but obviously that will take a lot of time and resources. But selling baked goods from home might be something possible for you? Do you garden? Maybe you can sell some seedlings at your local garden market?
If you like craft, spend some of your daily internet browsing time looking at Etsy or MadeIt, and see which of the items you could make are selling like hotcakes. Make a note of how much others are selling it for. There is no point selling a handmade quilt that will cost you $200+ in materials to make, if people are only willing to pay $50 for a similar item. A decorated handtowel, knitted dishcloth, or handmade card, however, might only take 10 minutes of your time and a few dollars in materials cost.
Your local weekly paper is also a good place to scope out future business prospects, contacts, sales avenues, or like-minded people. Have a look at the Events section, or even the Ads. You might like to join a local craft group’s next monthly meeting, for example. Maybe there is a neighbourhood expo or market that you can visit?
Other opportunities naturally present themselves as well. If your child is attending a friend’s party, a little chit-chat might tell you that the birthday cake was actually ordered from a small, home-based business similar to what you have in mind. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for any opportunities that involve the ideas on your list. Even if you never act on some of the ideas, you might gain new skills or find new friends in the process.
Spend a quarter-hour every day scratching out the items that you cannot do now, or those that would be impossible to sell or do profitably. In a week, you will probably have crossed out five items; in two weeks, you might have narrowed it down to one or two.
Now is also a good time to find out if you want to run a business or a hobby. If you find you only want to run a hobby, there is no need to progress further into the business plan. You can sell any items from your hobby for the “cost of materials plus a little extra”. There is a special link catering to only Artists, Creatives and Makers at the moment. It includes people like me who wish to make craft items and sell baked goods. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from selling your craft as a hobby, while you proceed to work on your business plan to eventually turn it into a business (like I do).
Start drawing up your business plan.
So, you really want to run a business? In the next month or so, firm up your plans for the items on your list that have made the cut. You probably need to apply for an ABN. An ABN application is free, and it takes as little as 10 minutes to get it if you are entitled. The application process will give you hints to help with you with your business structure, and will tell you what other things you might need to do depending on your product/service, local government area and other circumstances.
You might also want to think about and apply for a business name. It currently costs $34 for a year, or $80 for three years, and you can use your chosen shop’s name to trade instead of your own name or a derivative. It takes about a day to process, after which you have 10 days to pay the invoice and make the business name your very own. Of course, if all you can do at the moment is to sell items on eBay, Etsy, or MadeIt on a small scale, you don’t really need to get a business name.
Scrounge through other government sites such as this and find out everything you can. There is a lot of information around about planning and starting your own home-based business, and an ABLIS search can help you identify the documents you need. Your local council will also have its own rules and advice. If you intend to work on your business plan from a tablet, you can take advantage of the free MyBizPlan app. Here is a comprehensive guide to writing your business plan.
In the next part of the series, we will talk further about filling up the sections in your business plan, including banking, insurance, and the requirements for setting up shop. We will also talk about the marketing plan.
My apologies to some readers who may be getting notifications of this multiple times. I had some server issues yesterday, but the site should now be back up. Thanks for your patience.
Mrs Meagre xx
Here are the books on my table this month:
The Grafter’s Handbook is quite possibly the oldest grafting handbook still in print. It was first published in the 1940’s and is on its sixth edition! I love that the author is so detailed and the drawings so precise. Here is the one for budding, which I will attempt to do again for some stone fruit soon:
Grafting is really quite simple theoretically, but I think I would need a lot of practice to get a good strike rate. Last spring, I used a whip-and-tongue graft for many fruit trees and got nearly 100% for the apples. Unfortunately I got a zero strike rate for the stone fruit so I will give that another go this summer.
If you live around Melbourne, I would encourage you to go to the Werribee Park Heritage Orchard Grafting Day in February. They will be selling scions from their heritage fruit trees — think luscious, old fruit varieties that you will never see in the shops. There will be activities, talks, and a tour of the orchard. Best of all, your fruit tree purchase will help maintain the orchard itself to ensure that these fruit varieties will be available for many centuries to come.
The next book, Uncommon Sense, is a relatively new Australian publication. It gives readers a fresh insight into what to look for in stocks. The great thing about it is that it outlines the many dissenting views about investing and encourages the reader to think independently. I hadn’t finished the book before I had to hand it back to the library, so I will have to get onto the queue again to borrow it. It is one of the books recommended by The Barefoot Investor, which was on my reading list last month.
Above is my well-worn copy of The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need, an Australian bestseller that got a lot of tongues wagging recently. The author gives a no-nonsense approach to finances that is accessible to many. It is amazingly simple, and is one of the few books I have found to align with my own thinking. In fact, we found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of the Barefoot Steps, even though I have never come across the book before. I had been following Scott Pape’s blog for years and I find his advice to readers very down-to-earth. I also find it heartening to know that he and his family live a very simple, financially comfortable life.
Finally, the last book needs no introduction, being written by the famous Jackie French. In New Plants From Old, she describes the traditional tricks of plant propagation. I had a chuckle when she described how she and many others from her generation expanded their gardens by swapping plants. A few years back, I saw an elderly lady pottering about in her Thornbury garden and asked her what a plant’s name was. She said she didn’t know, but I was more than welcome to take a cutting. Indeed, that was the way it used to be done — no big green sheds around to buy plants from in every suburb.
On a recent visit to the library, I brought home a book called 7000 Islands. The author, Yasmin Newman, writes about growing up in Sydney and being exposed her mum’s Filipino heritage by way of its cuisine. Getting everything ready.
I started flicking through the pages today to see which recipe I can try, bearing in mind that I needed to fill the bread tin. I could not have picked a better recipe to start with! This buttery, sweet, cheese-topped brioche, fondly called Ensaymada, is a real star. Here is her recipe. After the first rise. Cutting the dough into 12 to fit my paper-lined cupcake tin.
Filling the flattened dough balls with softened butter and grated cheese, and rolling them up like logs.
Shaping like snails, and into the tin for proofing.
Swirly dough balls have doubled, ready for baking!
Cooling in tins. Time to cream the butter and sugar, and grate some more cheese.
Assembly time. I might have licked the buttercream-filled spoon afterward. Oops.
Ta-daaa! Ready to devour.
Eating this today brought back memories from my youth. I hope you give it a go. Best with a cup of hot, black coffee and some company to chat with.
I am not a morning person. Up until a few years ago, I would wake up no earlier than 8 am (often much later) and drag my feet all morning until I am sane enough to tackle the day. It is no wonder I struggled through the first few months of being a stay-at-home parent, and eventually having a school-age child. Dough on the rise and ready to be cut.
Nowadays, I look forward to starting my day early. Waking up before the kids are awake is THE best thing since sliced bread! It means I get to enjoy my cup of coffee in peace, free from the screams and babbling. It is just the most relaxing, calming moment. Shaped…
In those first few minutes while I sip my hot drink, I mentally go through everything that needs to be done for the day. Often, it is a load of washing, or some baking that needs to be dealt with. Occasionally it could be other tasks, like calling banks or decluttering the kitchen. It takes no more than five minutes, but it makes all the difference especially when there is a lot to be done and there is an optimal order of doing them. There is something about that time of day that speaks to me gently. The soothing sound of the birds chirping, the neighbours’ car engines purring, the golden sunrise peeking through the blinds in the bedroom window.
Proofing now… Nearly there…
The kids’ alarm rings and then it is time to wake them and get ready for school. The moment everyone is out of bed, I fluff up the pillows and smooth out the sheets. As I walk around the house with toddler in tow, I tie the curtains, pull the shades up, and open the windows and doors. Sunlight fills our home and soon the pot is filled. Breakfast, and lunch for the schoolkid is made, and the kettle whistles softly to let me know that another day has begun. Hot bread rolls, ready for the taking. Now where is that butter knife?
I go through my day knowing that when the sun goes down, my bed will be ready for me — with its sheets refreshingly cool and pillows so soft, offering a respite for my tired but happy self. And tomorrow I start my morning routine again.
I wrote this a few days ago and it has been sitting in my scheduled posts since. It is amazing what clarity the written word will give sometimes. I now have a renewed appreciation for our choices, and the simple life.
Like many young Australian families, we are still paying off the mortgage for the home we live in. Mr Meagre and I started rather late, and because of that we have only just begun the lengthy journey past our mid-30’s.
A typical spring harvest of plant-and-forget garlic and carrots.
We are three years into the mortgage and most days it feels so slow… like a winding road so tight you cannot see the end of it even if you tried. Being an obsessive planner by nature, I like having my goals listed down. Ticking any list, or seeing any “percentage complete” figure has to be right up there in the happiness spectrum for me. It is weirdly normal for me to have many goals, some of which are very long term (for example, our financial goals 30+ years from now).
However, since “meeting” Rhonda I have been trying to simplify my life. I still remember reading her first book for the first time; that list I came up with about my life goals is still being revisited nearly everyday. Part of living simply, to me, was and still is being happy with what I have and making the most of what and where I am. “Bloom where you are planted,” as Rhonda would say.
The first fruits off our PeachCot tree that has been in the ground for two years.
Which brings me to the question that has been bugging me for the past few months. Does simple mean being content with our current home and not desiring to move anywhere else? If I dream of owning a farm “someday”, am I still being true to my simple values? I love trees — I like seeing them grow, and to me the best trees are the big mighty ones with trunks so wide there is no way to put your arms around them… Where we are now, it is impossible to plant those so I content myself with dwarf netted trees in all sorts of espalier and I keep them pruned to within an inch of their life.
But this “content-ing” of myself, is it not me cheating? When I tell myself, I shall do this when the backyard is bigger… or, if only I had the space I would do this or that… That kind of thinking, to me, is definitely not blooming where I am planted. Or is it? This is the best place for us at the moment, I am sure, so should I just spend my days bunkering down and start blooming? Is my dreaming putting a damper on my happiness, and preventing me from living my life the way I should? Do I need to come to terms with the fact that my values are not what I thought them to be?
Over at Kristen’s, she talked about her usual Five Frugal Things. As I had my second cuppa of the day, I began my own list and here is what I came up with.
1) I made bread.
It was a bit overcast (no free solar power for us) so I decided to let the breadmaker do all the work. My trusty old Panasonic makes an okay loaf — the best I have found among the handful of breadmakers I have had.
2) I sliced/diced/grated cheese from a block.
Now I know this sounds strange to some, but I used to baulk at the thought of preparing cheese myself. I would buy them cubed, shredded, sliced… but never in blocks. Luckily I have overcome my laziness (at least for that part of my life) and now only stock up on blocks of cheese. It is, after all, the same cheese for a fraction of the cost. And a little elbow grease would certainly not hurt me.
3) I saved a plum pit to propagate.
Mr Meagre has been bringing home some excellent black plums so I have been saving the pits from the children’s fruit for future rootstock. I usually keep them in pots on the kitchen windowsill until they sprout, on the heatmat in the winter, or directly into pots outside in the spring/summer.
4) I refilled the foaming hand soap bottles.
I think I learned this trick from Wendy. One part regular hand soap to four parts tap water equals a frugal version of the foaming hand wash refill. The change is not noticeable apart from the less overpowering scent, and there is one less working dispenser bottle thrown into recycling. I keep an empty hand soap refill bottle under the sink to mix them well without shaking.
5) I made a shopping list.
Here at the Meagre house we try to do a monthly shop, and weekly top ups are only for milk and fresh produce. Occasionally, I would see something we need on half price special at a certain shop so I check the catalogues for any other items on our shopping list for this month or the next. This week, the big bags of Australian grown rice are on half price so I will be getting that along with some other things like sugar and pasta. That part of the pantry should be set for a month or two.
What have you done today (consciously or unconsciously) that saves you money or time?
We live in the western fringe of Melbourne, a place with average rainfall in the warm temperate region. The past winter/spring has been really wet, though. We are supposedly in the midst of summer at the moment, but occasionally we are still getting cool, spring-like temperatures.
This is what’s in the garden at the moment:
Braided garlic ready to use. On the left: California White; on the right: Tasmanian Purple. These were harvested in December.
Immature fruits on the grafted Dwarf Ichikekeijiro Persimmon. It has been here for just two winters. I thought it died last year because it lost all its leaves even before autumn started.
Our first pomegranates! These ones are a variety called Elche.
Baby White Adriatic figs. I can’t wait to pick them.
Tiny olives on our one-year old tree. We only have one kind (Verdale) but the neighbour’s tree must have pollinated it.
Growing the West Indian Lime and Custard Apple (African Pride) from seed. Lychee seeds from Aldi are in the background (left), and some apricot seeds are in the middle back pot. I also stuck some China Flat peach, Black plum, and Kensington Pride mango pits today. We shall see how they go.
My first successful capsicum from seed. These are Capsicum Perennial from Green Harvest. I think I was planting them too late in the past.
Autumn-planted multiplier brown onions are just beginning to be ready. The white ones are still green. On the right are turmeric, and ginger in pots.
Very pleased with this rescued lemon tree from the big green shed. We found it toppled over and uprooted last spring. A careful repotting and good feed was all it took. It is now laden with fruit and hopefully we’ll know which variety it is by winter. The leaves smell like Meyer lemon so my money is on that.
Apple trees I grafted last spring. These are heritage apples on dwarfing rootstock and I plan to keep them in pots as columnar apples.
How is your garden looking? Are you getting ready for autumn/winter or still planning to get through the summer?