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, 24 May 2015

Stretch a Meal and Use it Up. Miracle Muffins.

I thought I would add today to our stretch a meal and use it up series. This week I am making a big effort to use up bits and pieces from the freezer. I seem to be a collector of lots of small bags of ingredients!  I started on the weekend with something similar to an archeological dig and unearthing random packets of left over berries. This produced about a cup and a half of mainly blueberries.
So I made my Miracle Muffins. Oh, I also unearthed a small tub of vanilla yoghurt. So that went in too.

This recipe is so handy. You can turn all kinds of bits and pieces into muffins that can become breakfasts, sides with soup, lunch box fillers, after school snacks, morning tea... anything! It makes two dozen medicum muffins but you could do mini muffins for a small child or texas man size muffins in which case you would get a dozen.

This is the recipe. It is very versatile!

4 cups of SR Flour,
1 heaped cup of sugar, any kind.
1 cup of butter OR oil.
1 cup of milk , any kind.
2 eggs.

To this you can add:
Chopped apple, raisins, sultanas, currents, dried apricot, date...
Pureed fruit, tinned fruit, stewed fruit, cooked rhubarb,
fresh or frozen berries, banana,
Yoghurt, plain, flavored....
Chopped nuts.
Chopped chocolate.
Grated carrot.
Any combination you like that you have, want to use up and think will be nice.

Mix wet ingredients together and add dry ingredients and blend. Add any ingredients you do not want broken up last and fold them in ie chunks of fruit or berries. I use a small square of baking paper in the bottom of my muffin tins. Bake in a medium oven about 12 mins but test with skewer.

My general rule is if I use really wet extras ie yoghurt or pureed fruit I will use a little less milk.
And another is probably I will use about a cupful of this or that but you could use more or less. If I have added too many wet ingredients I add a little more flour.

You can add a topping before you bake them and use up a sprinkle of sugar. A drizzle of jam. A sprinkle of left over cereal. Some nuts. Also add a spice or sugar that you think might work ie I would sprinkle with cinnamon if I made apple... or vanilla sugar goes well with fruit.

So mine on Saturday were the basic recipe plus a cup of vanilla yoghurt, plus a big cup of blueberries, plus about two tablespoons of plum jam. I went for plum as I have a ton and it's pink. I fold in the berries and then the jam gently so it is visible like strawberry ripple. This bulks out the berries and it basically seems you have way more berries than you actually do!

When baked I sprinkle with icing sugar.

The thing is this can make savory muffins also.
Use the base mix and omit the sugar.


A handful of grated cheese,
Creamed corn or corn kernels.
Chopped ham or bacon,
Cooked onion,
Mashed pumpkin, grated zucchini,
Also add herbs if you like. I add chives to cheese and bacon muffins...

The same flexibility applies.

Turning a few bits and pieces into a tray of hot muffins is a real family filler. These also freeze so well. Then you always have quick lunch box options on hand. I doubt I have ever made the ezcat ame combination twice but they are always really good.

Using up and stretching what we have reduces waste, saves a lot of money and might reduce our trips to the shops as well. Most of the time it is enough to try and keep food costs down. I would say just about everyone has that battle. When I see the price of something simple like a muffin in a cafe or a bakery I think how making a couple of dozen is so cheap in comparison.
My savings on the grocery budget are adding to my pantry so it is like a double challenge. Or a triple challenge if I count the use things up from the freezer one as well!
According to the prices in our local bakery my batch of muffins would have cost $64. I got just over two dozen out of this batch, I got 28. Can you believe that? $64.  The cost to make was probably four dollars or so. And it all took under an hour. So lets call that a $50 an hour pay cheque.

I hope this might add to your stretch it and use it up go to recipes and it will save you money also.

Have a wonderful week! We have a beautiful sunny day after a really cold night. I have grocery shopping to do and some errands to run then I hope to get into the garden and soak up some sunshine.

I am excited about Wednesday's Pantries and Preparedness post! See you then! xxx


  1. Yummy muffins, savoury muffins are on my baking list today Annabel. The man has gone to work with mimi's poached chicken sandwiches and I promised roast veggies for dinner tonight with some gourmet chicken snags. I did a freezer inventory yesterday and in my chest freezer I have 34 jars/containers and even snap log bags of our garden tomatoes, some pureed with basil and garlic, others just chopped and some made into the thermomix version of a dolman type sauce. There's a packet of pastry and that is it. This week I hope to top up some cooked foods. My fridge freezer is bursting at the edges. Because I used to get a bit mixed up with what was in the chest freezer, I made up a template and printed it out about 80 times and took it to office works with a nice header sheet. They then put plastic cover front and back and bound it for me. I keep clipped inside the back, some sheets of labels. Everything gets numbered and put in the freezer. Then all i need to do is open this book and find what i want then open freezer and find the corresponding number. It works really well for me this way, particularly if he wants to find something. I find whatever is frozen all looks pretty much the same after a while. Many weeks ago i had a big cook up but we've had a few leaner weeks and most of that is gone. Now to build it up again. We sat last night together and menu planned the week "no sweetheart you always pick such lovely food and you are such a lovely cook". No way hose I said. You can help this week, so he did. I'm going to make savoury muffins today like yours, as well as a batch of bikkies. So better get off to it. Hope you have fun shopping and get some gardening done. Enjoy your week and little Harper. Hope you have some new pics for us, and don't forget you promised pics of what your mum has knitted........... Fi x

    1. I love your system Fiona. I need to do this. There is always an element of surprise when I did around in my freezer. I have room for improvement thats for sure.
      Your garden tomatoes were a great success. This is the basis for so many meals. If you pour that mix over lamb shanks and cook all day in the slow cooker it is unbelievable! I add a ton of vegies and by evening it is falling off the bone.
      Thank you for these tips. I love them.
      Oh yes... photos of Harper plus of her cute knitted wardrobe are coming!
      Have a wonderful

    2. looking forward to the photos. The system I use works well in several ways, cos the master sheet has the date frozen, date I reckon I should use it by and the quantity etc so the only thing I need to worry about in the freezer is the actual number on the label. Oh lamb shanks, i'm feeling ill. Sorry I really hate lamb shanks or any other meat that is near a bone. I just can't do it. I can't even eat crackling or crunchy chicken skin etc. I can only do the leanest of pieces of meat. Always been like that. But I do like the stew part of what you suggested, just not lamb shanks. I don't own a slow cooker. Not sure whether i'd use one enough. I cook only in the oven, thermomix and stove top. I only use microwave to reheat or defrost. Can I ask if you use the slow cooker all year or is it just a winter thing? thx x

    3. Dear Fiona,
      I will have your lamb shanks then lol.
      If you go back to work and are working long hours (which is another subject I plan on getting to soon...) a slow cooker means when you walk in the door in the evening the house smells like cooking and your dinner is ready. That is the thing. Two minutes of prep before you leave the house and you have soup or casserole or pot roast or whatever. I do use mine in summer but not nearly as much as winter. But say I am having a BBQ in the evening I might fill it with baby spuds and then in the evening just dress them and viola a fancy potato salad. I am going to do a crock pot series coming up...
      I think its all about helping those who find evenings too busy... like if you work outside the home or if the kids are little and evenings are bedlam. this is a huge help. I also do puddings, stewed fruit etc as you dont have to stand and stir anything as the bottom doesnt burn. So you are free... Hope that answers your question.... xxx

    4. Annabel,

      And I learned very recently as a result of my vocal cord surgery that slow cooking any meat (ANY!) at 240 degrees Fahrenheit (under 250 degrees) prevents that meat from turning into trans fat-- which is horrible for our health. Slow cooking prevents the horror. Even the fat that is rendered from the slow cooker is healthy for the body, a good fat. My understanding was opened to this phenomenon so I've been making wise choices with the slow cooker.

      My daughters both can be heard to exclaim as they lift the lid on the slow cooker and serve up a hot, delicious meal they did not slave over, "Ah! I just love our slow cooker!" That's a servant who did all the hard work, all day long. A heart of gratitude!


    5. Dear Kelley,
      That is really interesting... I knew that burned/charred meat/fat isnt good. So I guess it makes sense that slow cooking is better. But I didnt know this.
      I agree I think the slow cooker is one of the handmaidens! Truly it is a big help.
      I would say too that slow cooking extracts the goodness like the bone marrow from bone that has been cut through so is wonderful to make soup and baby food etc.
      Thank you for this. Very true and wise. I hope you are recovering and doing well. Surgery is something that I think you have to allow plenty of time to build yourself back up. With love,

  2. Annabel, I love the way you've explained how you make these muffins! The steps, suggestions and examples will make it easier to recreate in my own kitchen. I usually use up bits and pieces of fruits in my daily smoothies, now I have another way to use them! Thank you!

    1. Dear Patsi, thanks , I am trying to avoid grams and oz so that we can all easily follow recipes. When I first started out it didnt occur to me that the US ladies would have to convert metric... which is too hard in my book. So now I will stick to cups and spoon measurements.
      Muffins are great for feeding the children and for meals that are portable.
      Lots of love,

  3. It is quite shocking really the prices charged for muffins! I'm working my way through odds and sods too Annabel. Thanks for your suggestions.

    1. It is amazing Kaye how much home cooking is worth dollars wise but also surely it is healthier too.
      A basket of muffins is a lovely gift.
      Have a wonderful week! It is beautiful here

  4. I love muffins like this - perfect to use up little bits. Wow, $64 - that is incredible! How can people afford to eat them?!
    I love that you use cups and spoons. Whenever I cook from a US recipe, I have to convert. And I can never, ever remember how much a stick of butter weighs!

    1. Thanks Jayne, I have the same issues, I dont know what a stick of butter is either! I am trying to do cups and spoons from now on. So much easier for everyone.
      Many things we make are worth a fortune. The other day I made sausage rolls. This time I thought I would see what they cost at the local bakery. They were $3.40 each. I made 28 full sized sausage rolls. So to buy them would have been $95. 20! Isnt that incredible? I like to do this. That hours work was a good "earnings". It is just amazing how much we can save by cooking! xxx

  5. Oh my gosh Annabel. I must tell you! I took my little three year old granddaughter to a 'kid-friendly' café this morning as a treat. Indeed it was kid-friendly as promised, but oh the prices! $18 for a Chai latte, a baby chino and two gluten free shortbreads...oversized, granted, but still! The muffins and little individual bar cakes were around the $9 mark, and they had salsa sized jars (you know the short squat ones) of fresh muesli for $9, tomato relish and tomato sauce in a single sized juice bottle looking thing, were a bit more I think, and coffee grain scrub in the same squat jars, was $12! Oh my gosh! And they were packed....go figure. It was fun for my granddaughter, and a welcome respite for me after a frantic week though, so I see the attraction! Your muffins look fabulous as always. You have such a beautiful touch with everything. Mimi xxx

    1. Wow Mimi this is a classic example of pricing we are talking about! It is so good to know. We can get out of touch with prices. And these places are great for ideas! I am sure you were talking plenty of notice as I would.I come out thinking how much I could make for gifts and at home for such a small amount.
      Thank you so much. I hope you have a less frantic week this

  6. These muffins look great and thank you for sharing the recipe. I have not made muffins for ages but won't just yet as my freezer is full and I am struggling to fit in anything at the moment.

    Tomorrow is a day off and I was going to use this same principle to make some biscuits with the bits and pieces I have around the place. It will start with the butter left over from a fortnight ago when I made Anzac Cookies for Miss Pamela.

    1. Its good to know you have a full freezer again Mel. That is a good sign!
      It is amazing what we can make up from bits and pieces. Its kind of a fun challenge. Have a great day off! xxx

  7. Great idea! You are a genius ;)

  8. Yum Annabel, your muffins look so good!

    I think I might make muffins this week. My church are wanting cakes for a cake stall on Saturday and this is such a simple way to produce a variety of muffins.

    Thank you for sharing :)


    1. Tania yes when you have to do something for a cake stall individual portions make more money than big things. These are quick too. Good luck! xxx

  9. Love any muffin and I do use your recipe, they always turn out great, I am using a lot if food out of my freezer too, this week so far I have had a pumpkin and feta quiche, pastitsio (which is leftover spag bol ), steal and kidney pie and ham and pea soup, all these needed was a heat up and dinner was ready.
    Enjoy your week with that beautiful little baby girl xx

    1. Thank you Debbie! Harper gets cuter everyday! (no bias)
      Your meals sound delicious. Quiche is a good one for adding all kinds of things to as a use it up meal. Lovely. The weather is good for yummy hot meals like this. Plus its so nice to have things ready to go.
      Have a lovely week! xxx

  10. Love any muffin and I do use your recipe, they always turn out great, I am using a lot if food out of my freezer too, this week so far I have had a pumpkin and feta quiche, pastitsio (which is leftover spag bol ), steal and kidney pie and ham and pea soup, all these needed was a heat up and dinner was ready.
    Enjoy your week with that beautiful little baby girl xx

    1. Harper gets cuter everyday Debbie. But I am not biased!
      Quiche is good for using things up. Pumpkin and feta sounds delicious. The other day I did a baked feta for the first time. I have baked Ricotta plenty of times but not feta. I did it with lamb and oh my goodness it was nice!
      Your meals sound beautiful and just right for this weather and time of year. It is so nice having meals ready to go. xxx

  11. Hi Annabel I have never made muffins but i am going to give them a go I am such a novice cook How much of a 250gm pack of butter would you use? They look lovely Shelley

    1. Shelley this is a good recipe if you feel like a novice cook. All my recipes are super easy home cooking type recipes.
      a cup of butter is about 230 g so just cut a little off that block. And melt it.
      I hope they work out great for you! xxx

  12. Muffins, what a joyful reminder of years gone by.

    Our son is not a bread eater, school lunches were never easy where he was concerned until I found a recipe for cheese muffins (this was before muffins became a stock standard on everyone's baking list) - so I would make a batch of these cheese muffins and pop them in the freezer. Our son then had salad makings and a cheese muffin for lunch.

    From memory the recipe included mustard as well.

    At this time in my life (25 or so years ago) I was also given a recipe for 'Canadian Muffins' - now this mixture was huge but the best part was that you could store the made up mixture in a covered container in the 'fridge and take out an amount then add what ever you felt like to it then bake fresh muffins for breakfast. It was a true breakfast muffin as it included bran in the fry ingredients.

    Then there was a lull in my muffin making until recent years where I found that muffins have become the major offering in cafes etc and I look at the price and walk away thinking yep can get a whole mix made for less than one of those babies.

    Muffins may have to make an appearance on the baking list - wonder if I can come up with some 'girly' ones - I am thinking lavender and vanilla and rose and vanilla.

    Muffins have been overtaken by cupcakes which are not really 'blokey' food which with a 'lady tradie' in the family would get her laughed at when having smoko.

    I am going to have a walk through my bits and pieces and see what I can come up with.

    Hope everyone's week has got off to a great start.


    1. Mustard would go well in cheesy muffins so that would be good. A great solution instead of sandwiches.
      Cupcakes are an even worse price here. About $4.50 each for the fancier ones. And yet overall smaller than a muffin. Also as you say not really feed a man filling food either.
      My week did get off to a good start yesterday. I got heaps done, lots of errands out of the way.
      A muffin full of fruit and a muesli topping would be lovely for breakfast. mmm blueberry, apple and a crunchy top or something like that. Or coffee and nuts!
      For girly ones the ones I did were very pink... so that kind of thing works.
      Have a great week. I am off to see Lucy and Harper. Harper is going to be weighted! xxx

  13. Your muffins look delicious, Annabel. I will have to try your recipe for sure.

    We had some cream cheese and a partial package of frozen blueberries that needed used, so I made Overnight Blueberry French Toast. It lasts three breakfasts for us, so goes a long way.

    I want to use up some of the dried fruit that we still have from last year, so I made Overnight Oatmeal with Dried Apples and Raisins. I let the oatmeal and dried fruit soak in Maple Syrup, half and half, and cinnamon overnight and pop it in the oven in the morning.

    We had a quarter head of lettuce left to use up, so for dinner I made a big salad with things left in the refrigerator; garlic olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers; one chicken breast (I shredded this); peas; grated cheese; and homemade Ranch Dressing. It was nice to use up so many leftovers on one meal.

    I still have two lemons that need to be used right away, so I plan on baking some fish for lunch tomorrow. There was 1/2 package of frozen organic green beans in the freezer, so I steamed them today to go along with the fish tomorrow.

    It's always fun to use up the bits :).

    Blessings to you, Annabel, and thank you for sharing your muffin recipes.

    1. I love your overnight recipes Glenda! These sound delicious.
      I think every time we use things up we are stretching the budget and can work on the pantry or another area instead. Also some of the best meals ever come from an experiment or trying something new that turned out fantastic!
      This week I am using a heap from my freezer. I realized I need to do this when I saw a heap of great specials and couldnt buy many because my freezer was already full!
      Have a great week and enjoy your lovely fish meal. xxx

  14. Annabel, Those muffins look delicious! Thank you for sharing your recipe. Two days ago, I made small bags of strawberries, a few leftover blueberries and some ripe bananas - those will be smoothies but now I'm thinking muffins! :)

    As always, I glean a lot from your posts! I have also been rummaging in my freezer, trying to find the older items and using them in meals each day. I also made a zucchini chocolate cake from frozen zucchini from our garden last year. I have several packages left so plan to make a cake again or muffins. My grandkids loved the cake so I always can share with them!

    I just wanted to say that I use my slow cooker year round. During summer, it helps keep the kitchen cool plus dinner can be cooking while I am working in the garden or canning our harvest. And wintertime brings soups, stews, broth, etc. I'm looking forward to your post on slow cooker meals!

    And thank you, Annabel for making your recipes easy. I don't get the metric measurements lol We have local bakeries that charge as much as $4 a muffin! I always get ideas there but never buy. Plus, I like the taste of home baked muffins and goodies so much more!

    Thanks for all the ideas everyone! Teri

    1. Thank you Teri! I think the bakery and shops are great for good combination ideas. I got a lot of ideas for quiche and flan fillings at a place with Lucy recently. I write then in my note book! It is also so good to see what is charged for things.
      I hope this is useful for you, it is so handy for me.
      Thanks for your comments on slow cooking, I will let Fiona know as now there are quite a few tips for her and I agree about how they keep the heat out of the kitchen in the summer whereas the stove heats it up.
      Love and thanks,

  15. Annabel, I don't normally make muffins but might give the savoury ones a try seeing as I can't have the sweet ones. Thanks for the recipe.

    1. Thats ok Nanna Chel. I am not sure if you eat fruit? If so you could use apple puree instead of sugar... or just leave the sugar out and have berries etc I think they would be fine.
      Savoury though are yum so I hope they are useful for

  16. Oh Annabel those muffins look absolutely delicious! You are such a great cook. I have to tell you that pre- baby, I made your use it up fruit cake....DH LOVED IT!! He has begged me to make it again, which I most definetely will. Thank you so much for all that you give- you inspire so many. Love, Bridge

    1. Thanks for telling me that your DH loved that cake Bridge. You can serve it warm as a desert with cream too. And if he liked that then maybe plenty of fruit in these muffins will get you the same good review!
      Hope you are having a good week and little H is doing


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