Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Simple Supper

OH has gone off bread its official.  So in an attempt to give him a nourishing healthy supper this evening I put the small oven on - not really the weather for it but its been a couple of days since I cooked properly and I have found from previous experience that if he does not eat regularly and healthily it has an affect on his mood.  As he is bipolar in any event the more we do to keep him on an even keel the better.

So we have had mirrepoix of mixed vegetables, carrot, courgette, red onion, yellow pepper, green pepper, garlic,celery and fresh thyme with some nice chipolatas cooking on top of the vegetables.  (so we have had our five a day today) everything has been cooked gently and has not been cooked on too high a heat.  I mixed in a little light cooking oil into the veggies but the idea here has not been to colour the veg but to cook it so that it still retains some crunch and some flavour.  I had meant to put some garlic cloves in but forgot and then I cooked some rooster potato wedges. It was tasty and very filling (the sausages were cooked on top of the mirrepoix in until brown.

For pudding we have had some mixed seasonal fruits strawberries, blueberry and raspberries just put on a low heat and just allowing the fruit to break but not overdone and then combined with some natural yogurt and broken meringue (I always save broken meringue and use it for Eton mess or the like).  That has also gone down a treat.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos but it all went down very well.

Tomorrow evening we have home made lamb kebabs for tea and melon and ginger for pudding.

On the hospital front I have had a letter of report from my recent visit to the Rheumatology clinic.  Apparently a lot of the pain I am having is to do with my osteo arthritis and low vitamin D.  I need a top up again and I have to get in touch with the Doctors as they want me on a vitamin D course for a fortnight to top everything up and then want it repeating every six months.  The nasty conditions that I have i.e. the Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, Raynauds Syndrome Schrogens Syndrome and Lupus antibodies apparently I have managed to keep the antibodies down compared to when I was first diagnosed when they were well off the beam.  The medication I am on Hydroxychloroquine sulfate (basically quinine which they use a lot for treating malaria seems to work well with these kind of conditions as it works on the underlying immune system which triggers most of these conditions. They don't know why it works but it does).   I have to take two 200ng tablets twice a day and paracetamol for any pain.  So I class myself as extremely lucky in the greater scheme of things as the Scleroderma in its worst format can and does cause major organ failure.  So I am very grateful for small mercies.  I do not however have to go back to Rheumatology for a year!  Yes a result!

However today has been difficult; humidity has been high and my hips have not been moving as smoothly as they should have been and as a result I have been very stiff.  Hopefully things will settle again shortly.

Last evening I made the Tarragon vinegar but I have also made some Peach Vodka, Candy cane vodka (I found more candy canes that needed using up) and Rhubarb Vodka.  At this rate you lot are going to think I have alcoholic tendencies.

I have also added more fruits to the Rhumptopf.

I also intend to make peach jam, bottled peaches in syrup and peach chutney. The peach vodka was two punnets of satellite peaches chopped up without peeling and then decanted into a large Kilner jar (just remove the stone) and then you just add the vodka.  I will see how sweet it is at the end of the macerating period and then make a sugar syrup if it needs a little sweetning but I do not want to overdose it. Last night I went to Waitrose and came back with two Strawberry hanging baskets and some basil (normal) and the smaller leafed greek basil (I think this really packs a punch though) and some more chives.

I have the watering up to do now.

Catch you later.



White Chocolate sorbet with rhubarb compote

Ooh this is good and ooh so simple


250g good quality white chocolate chopped
140g tube of liquid glucose
700g new season forced rhubarb or young sticks if later in the season trimmed and chopped
50g golden caster sugar
3 tablespoon of grenadine (or water plus 1 tsp vanilla extract)


You start by making the sorbet

  1. melt the chocolate and the glucose together in a bowl (this can be done in the microwave on medium for 5 to 6 minutes.  Pour in 250ml warm water and whisk until the mixture is nice and smooth.  Allow to cool and then pour into ice cream machine (follow instructions for machine) or  if you do not have such an item into a freezer container.  Place into the freezer on fast freezer if possible for about 5 hours removing after two hours and again after three hours.  In between beat vigorously to break the ice crystals down.
  2. For the compote.  Place the rhubarb the sugar and the grenadine in a saucepan.  Bring very slowly to the boil and then cook uncovered for about 4 minutes or until the rhubarb is just tender.  Remove from the heat cover and cool until lukewarm,  Serve the compote warm with a small scoop of the sorbet.
This is just the simplest recipe making the most of very simple ingredients.


Tarragon Vinegar Reprise

I have just started this year's batch of Tarragon vinegar.  Its something I make every year and is such a useful and tasty addition to the pantry shelf - its also a useful filler for a home made Christmas hamper or for your Pantry Shelf.

Even if you do not grow your own Tarragon you can purchase it from the herb section of a store such as Waitrose a couple of bunches is enough to do a litre jar and you will get four or five or more little bottles (such as the ones that Lakeland have on sale at the moment) maybe a few more it really depends on the size of the bottle.  You do not however need much to really help lift a dish.

Items like this you end up paying an arm and a leg for so it pays to make your own.

I have just finished watering up for the evening and as well as managing to keep the plants alive by giving them a good soaking each night.  It is taking a little effort but as I have gone to the effort of buying and growing them I do want some kind of return for my time investment and my monetary investment although really its the culinary advantage I am most looking at.  Even though it is hot and sticky in the house outside it is nice and fresh and it has been good to be outside in the fresh air.

Right need to do some ironing for tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



Monday, 19 June 2017

Rhubarb Vodka and Strawberry and Rhubarb Vodka

I managed to get some lovely pink rhubarb yesterday.  On this occasion not for a crumble or two although if they have some next week they could be joining the contents of the freezer.  This time it was for some more flavoured vodka although may do some gin as well.

Rhubarb Vodka and Rhubarb and Strawberry Vodka,

I am hoping that there will be enough rhubarb to make some cordial as well.



and a lady after my own heart who uses instinct for quantities

and of course there is also Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam.

I like collecting the recipes and then getting to play every so often. Contemplating rhubarb and ginger as well.

Of course mine will be hot water bathed once prepared to take out the air and make it keep longer.  Using the baby bottle steriliser is ideal for this small bottles about five or six can be processed in one go and it takes up little time and is a lot cleaner than bottling on the cooker top and cooler.

Catch you soon.



So another week

in my life begins.  Back in the groove the old worn routine that I have been following week by week year by year. The routine is new and different at work one that I am slowly getting used to but at home a well trodden path in order to get to do what I need to do.

Clothes pressed for the day, and packup sorted.  Cheese and tomato buns with a little salt sprinkled on the tomato should do us both nicely and keep the hungry wolf at bay and a donut/satellite peach each as a treat.  I am aiming to stop nipping to the shop for things to eat and get into the routine of preparing pack ups again.  I need to watch the pennies a bit having bought a gazebo (still to be put up), a pizza oven/come smoker and a new barbecue for the garden. I had seen some garden furniture at a good price but when I went to get it they did not have any.  So may have to look further afield.

Despite a very hot night too hot too uncomfy and a second night where Demetri has refused to come in this morning is lovely not too hot but definitely warming up.  At the back of the house is a bit of a haven for the birds and occasionally we get foxes into the garden attracted by the neighbours chickens.  We get magpies, ringed doves, pigeons etc. However we get a lot of the smaller birds sparrows, a resident blackbird and robins darting here and there in next doors bird feeders but also coming into our garden and grubbing up cheerful little souls.

We have already had an accident this morning.  We left a plate out when we should not have with some food on it namely the remains of the Sea Bass and some onion rings.  Missy has helped herself and knocked a drink all over the floor in the process so more mopping up to do.  She is now flat out looking as though butter would not melt.

Its bad enough the kitchen sink is leaking all over the shop and I think we are going to have to get a new sink and unit as it looks as though it has been leaking for a little while.  Ah well its just the depth as usual.  Another problem to overcome but its how you deal with things at the end of the day that really matters and that you overcome something.  Another one in the list of personal challenges.

I have baby tomatoes and baby cucumbers. The sweet peppers are coming on well as are the Globe Artichokes.  I need some more compost to plant up the planters want to get some mixed lettuce in one and some strawberries including wild ones in others. We did a bit of sorting out with side shoots and a good watering up of the garden last night as I do most nights with the watering can. Still cannot find the hosepipe I know its there somewhere.  Would make my life a lot easier at the moment if I could locate it. I am enjoying the gardening and want to do more in due course but a lot of hard work has to happen before then.  I might start doing it for an hour or so at night on a little and often basis.

We have two ballerina apple trees bought as a reminder of OHs aunty in the garden.  They have never really amounted to much and I thought both had died.  Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to find one has an awful lot of apples on I am looking forward to harvesting some later on.  I would love a property where I could plant an orchard.  I grew up with orchards at my Nan and Pop's home.  Would love to have my own little bit of land for the living from.  A house can be created and crafted from nothing but the land and the call of the land that is something else.

We have herbed chicken and salad for tonight's tea something nice and light and some new potatoes so that should fill a gap.  I have a piece of pork I might cook later for pack up and a meal or two.  I actually like Porchetta in the summer months cold with home made chips or baked potato and salad.  Does anyone have a nice traditional recipe.

Right better get a wriggle on.  I have to get dressed and have some breakfast then wend my way to work.

Catch you soon have a lovely day.



Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sea Bass

To tell you the truth yours truly was not looking forward to the Sea Bass we bought from Mr Ts yesterday.  No matter how I thought about it in my mind the sound of it just did not tickle my pickle!

We were not quite sure what to do with it or what to put with it but like a lot of home produced meals we decided to go simple.  It was grilled with lemon gently and then served with sweet potato chips and fried onion rings.

And what a revelation I absolutely loved it.  I had never before had the Sea Bass the only thing I really knew about it was that restaurants charge and arm and a leg for it.  However in reality two whole fish were no more than £6 for the two and there was more than enough on the one fish together with the accompaniments.  It was absolutely delicious.

I love fish anyway; I love smoked haddock, cod, haddock, kippers, scampi, prawns, trout rainbow and brown, mussels, cockles, whole prawns, brown shrimps, herring roe, mackeral etc. etc.  It is also exceptionally good for you.  So to say I was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness of the Sea Bass is an understatement. 

The first time we had proper mackeral was in my teens.  We had gone in a camper van to Wales but this time stayed on the Gower Peninsula which is a beautiful unspoilt part of the country especially around Manorbier.  Whilst on the camp site we were approached by two entrepreneurial young lads looking to profit out of a little fishing.  As a result we ended up with a couple of large mackeral for tea.  Mum was not sure what to do with them but in the end chose to flour and pan fry them.  Needless to say I will always remember the first time I had mackeral. 

We used to love our camping holidays and buying and eating local food.  We have over the years gone on to fish for mackeral ourselves in the Harbour at Mevagissey and various other places on the coast.  You cannot beat fresh fish.

Needless to say I shall be having Sea Bass again its absolutely delicious.

Weatherwise is has been a hot one again today and as  my post said yesterday.

It is too darn hot!  We have stayed in for the best part today with the fans on trying to keep ourselves and the animals cool.

As it has been a relatively dry winter in the greater swing of things the next thing will be hosepipe bans.  Although finding my brand new hosepipe might be a bit of a novelty.  We are not sure where it is at the moment it cannot be found and I very much need it for watering up all my tomatoes and strawberries.

Hopefully it will materialise in due course.

However talking of water issues we seem to have a problem with the kitchen sink.  It seems to have been emptying itself behind the kitchen units and under the flooring instead of down the drain pipe.  I have a dehumidifier I may well have to drag that out to get the kitchen under control again.  It will be something daft it always is.

Right better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



Saturday, 17 June 2017

Its too Darn Hot

For the best part of the day we have kept to the shade of the house although we ventured out to Mr Ts this afternoon and got caught up in a tailback for over 3/4 of an hour.  Thank goodness we had left Missy at home in the shade and for air conditioning.

I hadn't been to Mr Ts for several years and with OH getting the mussels there previously I wanted to check out what they did and did not have.  I must say it has come on quite a bit since I last went and I think we shall be going back every so often.   The fish counter is certainly a decent one and this time we have come away with some sea bass.  We have had burgers for tea tonight in buns with salad and large slices of a beefsteak tomato which was lovely.  We did not get all the way round the store but no doubt we will another time.

I have also got some fresh cherries to top up the two Rumptopfs and hopefully to do some home made cherry brandy with.   I also have some rhubarb to make some rhubarb vodka and some rhubarb cordial.  I also plan on making some strawberry and raspberry coulis for serving on ice cream.

So lots to do as usual.  I also want to make some peach wine but we shall have to see on that front.

Anyone who is on holiday this week looks set to have good weather.  When its like this I love being down on the coast and in particular Cornwall and the lovely beaches.  Deep sigh would love to be down there.

I have also watered up again and drenched all the plants.  I have tiny cucumbers coming and lots of flowers and growth on my tomatoes.  The peppers are shooting up as are the globe artichokes.  So have a little bit of something on the go.  Will be more next year.  I have some planters to pot up with some strawberry plants.  I still need to get more pots but will get them all eventually.  At least this way the fruit plants are going to be nice and sturdy by the time they are transplanted into the main fruiting garden (that is once it is sorted).

We have a gazebo to get up yet as well.  Might be done in the cool of tomorrow evening (that is if it does cool down).

Right am off to sit in the garden and to watch the bats flying display.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 15 June 2017

Thursday night catch up

Its been one of those weeks it did not start very well as I got up as usual at 6:00am on Monday morning and before OH had left the house I ended up having another small fit and then sleeping for the rest of the day.  This time round I have been very lucky no bitten tongue and was only out for a short period of time.  But its happened and its back to brass tacks and the drawing board for my routine of looking after myself it needs to be reviewed and tweaked!  We shall get there eventually.  Needless to say Missy never left me after I had had the fit (I fell face first on the settee) and she did not think much to it when I left her to go to work tomorrow.

Out of curiosity would any of you know what to do if someone had a fit in your vicinity.  Let me know/  A fit is more frightening for someone looking on than for the person having the fit.  I just feel incredibly sleepy can't get my words out and make a funny noise and then just collapse.  In effect I am fast asleep.  Basically a fit is a short circuit of ones electrical system.  In fact when I just had the lesser of the epilepsy conditions once known as petit mal we used to call it switching off because I was gone for seconds and not aware of what had gone on.  Sometimes I get what is called the aura and on such occasions before passing out I get the smell of burning cordite or rice cakes.  I as a consequence cannot bear the smell.  Epilepsy is life threatening that is why I asked if you would know what to do if someone had one near you.  Epilepsy is not selective it just happens and anyone can develop it either at a very young stage or later on in life.

When someone has an attack near you don't try and hold them down.  Make sure they cannot hurt themselves and once they calm down a little try and put them in the recovery position.  If you try and do it whilst they are thrashing around they will fight you tooth and nail as even though they are unconscious they are aware if someone is trying to hold them down.  Also don't put your fingers anywhere near the mouth I have a very strong bite and would snap your fingers off unintentionally and the more you hold them down the more they will fight you. As long as they are safe and cannot choke on their tongue they should be okay.  They will be confused and not quite with it on coming round and have a splitting headache and hurt all over as when you go into a fit the body goes into a spasm and literally shakes every muscle in the body.  If I bite my tongue as well that takes ages to recover.  Talking calmly and smoothly to the person reassuring them that they are alright can also calm them down and reassure them.  Most people who have an attack get upset afterwards as it is literally back to the drawing board with them.

Tuesday I had the hospital for my foot.  It is healing well although there has been some movement due to natural settling of the foot to the plate and there may be a need to remove it.  According to the Xray the foot is healing well and is starting to develop new bone and reattaching to the main part of the foot.  So they are going to keep me on the books for the next six months just in case I have any further problems.

I then had the rest of the day off and went back to work yesterday gradually easing myself back into the routine of things.

Its been a busy day today and will be again tomorrow but then at least we have the weekend for me to recollect myself and hopefully get a little more sorted out. 

This evening I have watered up the plants in the garden they are all doing very well having put on a lot of growth since I got them  Hopefully will be able to get round to some serious gardening this weekend.

Right better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.




Its going to be a busy weekend the elderflowers are out round here.  That means

Elderflower cordial
Elderflower champagne
Elderflower Liqueuer
Elderflower Curd (new to me)
Elderflower Turkish Delight
Gooseberry and Elderflower jam
Elderflower fritters
Dried Elderflowers
Elderflower Sorbet
Elderflower Ice cream

Do you think that will keep me out of mischief

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pinterest and Home Infused Alcohol/Drinks

Do you use Pinterest?  I must confess I do tend to lurk on there quite a lot researching different recipes and different ideas people come up with.  Often their posts are inspiration for me and my own version of things.  However it frequently introduces me to some lovely people and some lovely blogs.

Being as I have been concentrating on items of a liquid nature quite a bit just recently I had a browse round to see what I could find on Pinterest and there is quite a lot.  I include some links below for you just in case you are interested especially for the elderflowers which are out and about just now.

Orange and  Elderflower Vodka
and Lemon and Elderflower Gin

home made Ameretto :

Just a little food for thought and there are more there besides.

I have made some Toffee Vodka as well with 1 litre of vodka and two bags of Thorntons Special Toffee.

Catch you soon.



Saturday, 10 June 2017

Saturday Musings

Yesterday I bought some lovely Strawberries from M & S and one lot have been used in some Vodka and already the colour is starting to seep into the Vodka.  So that's another jar of flavoured vodka on the go.  The other Strawberries will be for tea this evening after we have had another lot of Mussels for tea served simply with crusty bread and butter. Yum.

This morning I ran out of milk and went to the shop first thing and while out called at the Charity shop.  Nothing much for me this week although I did get a couple of bottles to be used for elderflower fizz/apple pop/ginger beer.  £1 each and when you are charged over £3 a bottle for me its cheaper to either get the bottles of fizz from M & S and then recycle the bottles often for less than £3 a bottle or keep my eye out at the Charity shops.  You can get the little seals from Kilner to replace the seals on the bottles.

At the moment I am enjoying a few cherries that OH got from Mr T's yesterday when he went for the mussels.  He says that they were only £2 a bag and they taste absolutely delicious they are full of flavour so I am hoping he will take me to see if I can get some more for squirrelling away in the pantry.  I am thinking brandied cherries, Black Forest style cherries in Kirsch, some to go into the Rumptopf, some to be dried in the dehydrator for use in dried fruit mixes come the winter months.  The one thing you do need when processing lots of cherries is a good cherry stoner and a bit of time to process them.  I sit on my Nan's old kitchen stool, radio on or just in the quiet processing them and end up with purple stained hands.   I always have a bowl for the pits and a bowl for the cherries and a bowl for the processed cherries so I tend to have a bit of a routine in place.

For a Morello Cherry Jam recipe

I also managed to get some more Strawberries this time from the Co-op and a bit cheaper than M & S which are going into the Rumptopf and also to make the first batch of crushed Strawberry jam.  Haven't tried them yet so do not know about the flavour.  I have a suspicion that M & Ss will be superior but will have to wait and see.

 I do so enjoy this time of year when you get a plethora of fresh fruits and so much choice.  A great delight after the lack of colour during the winter months.

There are also lots of ways of using the fruit fresh and also in puddings etc.

I might make some lemon barley or home made lemonade later and store it in the fridge ready for getting a nice cold drink over the next few days and not much sugar in.  There is also the option below which is very refreshing.

Oh and I nearly forgot this is the recipe I have used for the Lemoncello.  Home made of course.  I have two litres put up. These are the lemons that I actually used.  They were massive and the peel on them was lovely.

the flesh etc went into making lemon chutney and lemon curd.  They were nice fat lemons which peeled ever so finely with the aid of a sharp potato peeler.  made the room smell lovely as I was peeling them.


And in the Vodka steeping

I also intend to make some summer berry vodka

I have also been to the veggie shop and come back with a couple of pineapples not sure whether having these fresh or turned into pineapple jam.  But the tops of the pineapples I am going to try and grow.  No use wasting anything.

I have also bought some cooking apples to process into apple sauce either for having warm with cold ice cream or as apple sauce for roast pork or putting in mini pies or a large apple pie with both puree and apple slices.  Gives a bit more texture.  There are always lots of way you can use apple.

Some tomatoes to make home made salsa.

Some nectarines to make nectarine chutney the recipe is the same for peach chutney.  Or they may get turned into nectarine slices in syrup.  Not sure which yet.

Some Italian red sweet peppers at 50p per bag which are going to get chopped and put into the freezer.  I like sweet pepper.
I have also made some more Raspberry vinegar with some more reduced raspberries.
I also notice that peaches are out and about. Might make some peach preserves and also some peach and raspberry jam.  You have to make the most that comes your way and if it means a little hard work to do it I just get on with it.

I have also purchased Apricots which are going into syrup and be bottled and also some pears I think they are going to get the same treatment.  So it looks as though I am going to have to drag Big Bertha out of the shed sometime tomorrow to hot water bath the bottles.  The beauty of this is that it is independent and I can leave it on in the shed as it has a timer and a thermostat and bulk processes a lot of jars and saves time.

So back into the fray of preserving.  I couldn't be happier when I am doing things like this. 

We have had mussels again for tea done in a little water and garlic and dressed with butter and served with chunks of French bread stick washed down with a glass of cider.

Went down very nicely it did.

Catch you later.



Rumptopfs Getting ready for Preserving

I started writing this post the second week in May, and now we are into June the time when the Strawberry season starts and time to get the Rumptopfs on the go as well as some mini ones for use for the pantry shelf or for packaging into hampers for Christmas pressies.  To me although other countries grow Strawberries the taste of proper English Strawberries is unbeatable. I preserve them in whatever way I can even popping them into the freezer.  Good for making smoothies, ice cream and popping into pancakes.  I love all the naughty things when it comes to food.

With this in mind I have decided to bring the Rumptopfs out but out of the way of the cats.  They broke two that I had last year by getting where they shouldn't and one quick flip of their backsides and the Rumptopfs were no more.  To say I was not pleased is an understatement as one of them was an original Rumptopf that my brother had bought me back from Germany as he was based there for about 10 years or so. However I have replaced them and I intend to get a couple of more as well. 

[I don't only use the Rumptopf pots for Rumptopf but also use it for making home made mincemeat by the traditional fermentation method first introduced to me by my Internet friend Bovey Belle.  Tis a really good recipe and has a bit of this and a bit of that in it.  You add bits when you have them So it works along similar lines to a Rumptopf as you add the fruit, sugar and rum in layers as well.   Mincemeat is a good way of using up older dried fruit without wasting it.]

Anyway I digress back to the Rumptopf if you make them then come Christmas you have a really naughty alcoholic fruit salad but you can also drain the syrup off (the alcoholic syrup) and use it as a liqeuer.  However the trick is you do not leave any of the fruit exposed of its spirit. Ideally you use a small saucer to weight it down but I also use a greaseproof style cartouche to keep the fruit submerged. In effect its a good idea to eat the fruit up first and serve this with ice cream or cream very simply and then decant the liquid afterwards and use it as a homemade liqueur/  It is quite punchy and so perhaps not one for the kidlets.  I remember the first time I served it to my parents they had never had it before and were quite taken with it.  It was served after Christmas tea/supper as a finale in little glass bowls so that you could see the glorious rich colour.

If you have never made Rumptopf before it is well worth it.  Shop around though and get the best price you can on the Rum  (and on the fruit)as you will end up using more than you anticipated.

I don't only use Rumptopf stone crocks for this I also have some supersized glass jars that on occasion have been used with sealable lids.  However one thing I was taught to do if using glass was to cover the outside of the jar with brown paper to preserve the colour of the fruit.  Even with other dark coloured preserves you should do this to preserve the colour and in turn eatability of the preserve.  We eat with our eyes first and therefore you want it to look as good as possible. 

The only thing you have to remember with this kind of preserve is that the outlay is a little pricier than that you do have compared to say other preserves because of the spirit and the prices of it these days.  However I have never seen proper Rumptopf  for sale and if it is then it is likely to be pricy.  When you consider that M & amp; S sell in the run up to Christmas preserved fruits like peaches in brandy and that these small jars are nearly £10 a pot they are getting quite a return on this but if you do it yourself you will get more by way of pots of fruits than just the one jar.

There is an English version of this called "Hodgkin" and also a French version but using Brandy often referred to as Folie au Fall Fruits or Batchelors Brandy and uses  white fruits rather than the red fruits including small apples, grapes, peaches and pears.

I will post recipes for these so that you can take your pick but as I am about to start my Rumptopfs for this year so will take photos so that you can see how it is done or not done as the case may be.

Catch you later.



Catch you later

Friday, 9 June 2017

Making the Most of what you have

At the moment things are good for me on a financial footing (not brilliant but better than they have been for sometime)  and I have been buying one or two things that I have had my eye on after a long time without. In that respect I am very lucky at the moment but equally I know the tide can turn just like that. With a quick snap of the fingers.  I

t did a few years back when OH lost his job and was out of work for 4 1/2 years. That's when the way I keep the pantry came to the fore and saved us a lot of money and gave us meals not necessarily what we fancied but decent honest filling meals all the same.  That was a time of financial tightness but also of making the best of what we actually had.  We had a roof over our heads, food in our tummies and heat.  The only three things that really matter when you are up against it.  We did not get any help from benefits or anything like that because we were not married even though the rent was in his sole name.  As a result I rely on my own abilities to get through and believe you some of the things I have had to learn I was not very good at to start with, but practice and doing helps make you learn and get better.  You have to be sensible even when you don't feel like being sensible and want to kick up your heels

At that time and since I made meals go further by having two three vegetables at most on our plates (Sunday dinners are always different) and padding the meals out with Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, roast onion, roast potato, roast pumpkin and squash (I freeze this for use out of season) and lashings of gravy.

I always keep leftovers and turn potatoes and veggies into bubble and squeak which go very well with cold chicken and/or game birds. If I was not going to use them straight away I used to freeze this in patties and just get some out to go with a meal. 

I saved the trimmings from Chickens and made stock from the carcass after we had had about three meals out of the chicken. Gravies are used as a base for soups and often the leftover veggies are turned into Sunday Dinner soup.  Something my Nan used to do on a regular basis.  On a cold winter day there is nothing warmer  than a bowl of  steaming warming soup and chunk of bread and/or a stew.  Proper soul food that's cheap, tasty and it fills you up. 

I freeze the chicken carcass if I am not in a position to use it straight away and I always make sure that the carcass is picked.  You can make coronation chicken for sandwich spread from the left overs or use it in a salad or make chicken soup or cream of chicken soup.  Sometimes the cats get it though as a treat.  They don't get many but if there is chicken or meat scraps going spare then they do get this from time to time.

I keep things like dried peas in the pantry and turn them into home made pea and ham soup often utilising the trimmings left over from a cooked ham hock or gammon joint as well as using the stock from the gammon or ham as base for the soup.  Waste not want not. 

Equally those dried peas with the aid of some bicarbonate of soda can be turned into home made mushy peas with a little bit of preparation the night before.  Come spring and summer months you can always plant these dried peas in a planter/trough and end up with pea shoot salad for use in salads.  Home grown and quite fresh.  You can also set your own salad planters as well and then when you want salad you literally pick it from your own garden without wasting any and the bonus for doing this is that you get the salad at its freshest.

I don't buy eggs from the supermarket.  I buy a tray of eggs from the Greengrocers.  I use them for meals, baking, for custards as well as for breakfasts, with smoked fish poached on their own.  When you have a family a tray goes very quickly.  Even with two of us we use quite a few.

In the winter months I buy a sack of spuds.  Its cheaper than buying the bags from the supermarket.  I get the large sack from the Greengrocer and one of the men delivers it home for me.  In the summer months when you cannot get the bigger sacks I have been able to get the mini sacks from either the Asian shop or the Polish shop.

I made my own bread and buns for pack up.  There are recipes for Foccacia, and home made Tiger buns on the blog.  The buns went for the kiddies and OHs pack up and were made fresh every day.  I also made a loaf every couple of days.  This is still a cheaper option.  I am afraid I am a big fan of rustic type breads especially with a bowl of soup, but I am fond of the home made Tiger buns and the Foccacia.

I made my own yogurt and my own flavourings stewing fresh fruit and also using jams.  You get quite a lot of yogurt if you make it yourself and it is a lot cheaper than buying individual pots.

Brown bread can be turned into brown bread ice cream.  White bread into bread pudding, bread and butter pudding.  I have covered bread use before.  We spend so much on it why the heck should we waste it.

One thing we have always had a lot of is veggies of many different kinds.  I freeze my own for use during the working week and I always have fresh veggies in.  I buy mine from an old fashioned greengrocer shop that is plain and basic and does not cost the earth and I know their suppliers a lot of the time are local farmers who grow in the deep rich soil of the fens.  They also sell off things like cherry tomatoes when they are getting to their best before date  and tomatoes in bowls at £1 a bowl often there is about 1kg of produce in those bowls so they are a good bargain and you can do all sorts tomato passata, tomato chutney tomato and basil soup, tomato paste, dried tomatoes, roast tomato pasta sauce,  dried tomatoes in oil, tomato powder.  Equally you can use them fresh with a breakfast, in salads like onion and tomato salad which is chilled and dressed with vinegar and is lovely in sarnies, on their own.  There is always so much you can do.  They also sell off apricots, apples, beetroots anything that is getting towards its date but is still perfectly edible.  We have meat not as much as we used to have but

However equally I know that the things I have purchased will help me in the long run and also help me either on a recreational basis i.e. the Gazebo will give me shade and help me enjoy the summer months outside.  (The Doctors have advised that as I have a vitamin D deficiency that I should get out into the sunshine as much as possible). however I burn very easily and that is why I need some shade.  This in turn will enable me to do my craftwork outside instead of being cooped up in the house all the time.  My little stockpile of kits, fabric, embroidery threads etc. will give me something to do for the future and keep me occupied without having to spend an enormous amount and let the creativity within me out.  So that for me is and was how to make the best of what I actually have.  I have always plotted and planned things along the way stockpiling stuff until I am in a position to actually set to and do something with it.  This in turn enables me to take advantage of bargains, make things and introduce preloved items into my home to make a very individual home - not the same as other peoples but most of all save money. 

I never bought cake I always made it.  In fact if you search back through the blog there is a bulk Victoria sponge type recipe for making lots of fairy cakes or cupcakes or sponges.  Ideal for Sunday afternoon tea and also the pack ups during the week.   Tray bake recipes are ideal for packups.

So there is always something that you can do to eat well and save money in the long run.  A lot of the time all you need is the bare ingredients.

Doing for your family brings a lot of satisfaction or it did/does for me and it is making the most of what you have available food wise but it also stretches and improves your own skill set.  That truly is making the most of what you have.

Catch you soon.



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Them jars them jars - they are not jamjars

I have been a lot better pain wise today although its raining again tonight.  I have only just got in from an evening out so this is a little bit of a quick post.

I have been into town today intent on getting a couple of jars for sourdough starters and also more liqueur type drinks for the pantry shelf.  I bought four large tall Kilner gasket preserving jars for this purpose.  I have Cherry Brandy, Strawberry Vodka, some more Raspberry to prepare.  I also want to do a mixed fruit one at some point.

I also have two bottles of brandy and two of rum to use.  The brandy I intend to use for a fruit based liqueur which is referred to as Batchelor's Brandy and the Rum for Rumptopf.  I will post separate posts on these for those of you wanting to have a go.

I also want to get to grips with the wine making.  Will probably get some elderflower on the go weather permitting this weekend and probably some Elderflower fizz.

However whilst in town I came across the Kilner canning/bottling jars at £1.25 each and ended up with 8 of them everything that they had on the shelf for that size.  So pretty chuffed.  I will add these to my stash.  You can never have too many jars no matter what the type.  Another good place is TK Maxx for preserving jars in packs or singly.  I regularly go and check out what they have and I mean really silly prices including the Quattro Staggioni preserving jars.  The 0.5ltr smaller jars the Kilner rings and seals will fit.  The Quattro Staggioni jars you can get replacement lids for but they are a whole lid and are somewhat expensive plus you cannot always source the replacement lids easily.

I then went into John Lewis and found some more jars there - some celebratory Kilner jars the old style jar with a metal lid instead of a glass one commemorating their 100th anniversary.  However because of the three bags I had and my handbag I could not manage them so I will be popping in there on Friday lunchtime to purchase some of the same.  I also need a few of the smaller glass lidded Kilner gasket jars for fridge preserves the type I am after are ideal for pate or home made fridge preserves.  I aim to have a little stock of these in hand for Christmas this year probably well before then say for September which for me really is the month when things go haywire on the preserving front.

I also aim to bottle a lot of fruit this year and make fruit sauces for pouring over ice cream etc. amongst other things.  I also need to sort out my jam store and recycle some of the jars in there which are past their best before date.  You always end up with one or two stragglers no matter how hard you try. 

I will try and pop up a list of some of the books I use for preserving and which are very useful.  Probably more for the variety of recipes they contain.  Obviously some books have similar recipes for things like marmalade or Strawberry jam but some of them have some really special recipes and dare I say different.  However I personally believe that people do not make their own preserves because they really do not know how to use up "such a large quantity" of any one preserve or in fact how to use the preserves.  I have some ideas on this too and perhaps that will make a post in itself as well.

Some of the books are not in print but you may be lucky enough to obtain copies from some of the cheapie book shops.

Right am off and up the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire.  Sleep tight everyone.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Pain Pain Go away

Don't come back another day

I love the fairer weather when the sun shines and it makes you feel happy and that everything is okay with our world  - well my world at least.  However I don't do humidity or rain.  I go a bit like the Tin Man out of the Wizard of Oz before he had a revamp and was oiled and cleaned.  As soon as the rain disappears or the humidity goes I am as right as rain excuse the awful pun.  I also know when its going to rain as that is when things start up.  I have said before stick me on a wall and I will make a very good barometer.

When its wet or humid I get a lot of pain as well which is very tiring and on those days I tend to get myself in my PJs and just go to bed and rest even if I do not sleep.  I have phases like this and I have found it best just to give myself a little TLC like this otherwise I am far worse if I don't.  Not easy for someone who is used to charging around like a bull in a china shop.  It is very frustrating but a little time spent resting often does the trick even though it does not come easy.

This evening because of the pain and the weather its been very wet for the past few days, and is blowing a hooley and has gone very cold again I decided that we were going to have more fish for tea.   We had mussels last Friday. When I went to M & S the other day I came back with some undyed smoked haddock fillets for myself and some cod fillets with herbs and a red pepper sauce for OH.  Mine was delicious cooked in milk and then served with poached eggs some homemade chips and bread and butter.  OH's had to be cooked in the oven and it looked very nice.  I was supposed to smear the red pepper sauce over the fish but I erred on the side of caution I wanted OH to be able to eat his meal so I put the sauce on the side.  He also had homemade chips.  We don't like bought chips and prefer home made but we don't have them every week.  In any event he enjoyed his meal but did not like the pepper sauce.  So we have both had a reasonably healthy  meal this evening that supposedly should be easier for our systems to process properly and hopefully the pain will die down.  I know when there is a lot of pain that the antibodies are high in my system and are having  a flare up so I do try and have lighter food to try and keep it in check.  Keeping warm is also another good thing to do.

One thing I have noticed with OH being diabetic and also being bipolar if he has not had a home cooked meal for a few days for one reason or another he starts getting down in the dumps.  He was like that last night which is why I set too and cooked roast chicken and all the trimmings last night but as a result we did not get our meal until about 9pm.  It seems to have done the trick he has been  a little happier today.  So what you eat and how you eat it and when you eat it does have a big impact on you well him at least.  Because I have been on medication of one sort or another since the age of seven I tend to do what I can with food.  Anyone with long term medication really should have yogurt or an Actimel first thing in a morning to put a lining on their stomachs and also to help the body process the medication properly and in so doing not cause any nasties like ulcers.  I have a whole raft of medical conditions which are autoimmune based and I hit on the Actimel yogurt thing by chance and it helped me an awful lot.  The Doctors are not quite sure how it works but it tends to help the autoimmune system work more efficiently.  It certainly helps me.  My system is in overdrive and it helps me keep a lid on things. 

Tomorrow evening he has an option of meat balls and pasta or steak and salad with a baked potato and coleslaw.  It will be the steak knowing him.  However I am very fond of pasta although I do not have it too often  I am especially partial to stuffed pasta.   Waitrose do a nice goats cheese and onion stuffed pasta and I usually serve this with a tomato sauce.  I love goats cheese salad with French stick and onion relish and salad leaves and home made herb oil.  Yum

Yesterday I went to The Works a cheapy book shop who also sell on the Internet.  They do quite a bit of craft stuff.  I came back with a paper trimmer and board for my card making, some sticky pads for decoupage and card mounting, three new crochet books, a couple of stacks of fat quarters in packs of five and a kit for making one of these cakes that has things magically up in the air.  Lakeland were selling them for an arm and a leg mine cost £1.50 if I bought something else as well rather than £7 that was on the packet.  I also bought a couple of rolls of cellophane wrap clear for use come Christmas at £1 per roll.  I will try and get some more of this as it will be ideal for wrapping hampers come Christmas.

Now is the time of year for searching out those items for doing your own hampers.  I have the Go Cutter for Patchwork but I did buy a die set for doing quite large circles.  I intend to have a little play but I think this will be ideal for making pretty cloth bonnets for the top of my home made preserves to give away as part of my Christmas hampers.  Anything to pretty things up and a good way of using up scraps of fabric.  I have not really had time to play with this.  OH is not fishing at the moment and will not be fishing until the beginning of July so its going to be a little while before I can have a play.  I am looking at sewing machines at the moment I have an eye on a Janome machine that Lewis' have but I don't really know its capacity.  I need to speak to the lady who does the sewing machines but each time I have been in to see her for a demo she has not been there.  I don't intend to rush into things though I want to make sure that I get a machine that will do everything I want it to and perhaps a lot more as I have a terrible habit of getting things because I do not know much about them and then play with them and find out that the model etc I have has been outgrown.  I want a good all round machine to start with.  I would love an embroidery machine but my budget does not run to that at the moment.  Perhaps one day.

I am going to retire shortly and peruse some magazines that I bought today and probably get some more ideas for doing different things.

My Gazebo arrived yesterday out of its box - I was none too pleased with the delivery company - however it did weigh over 30lbs in weight.  Hopefully everything is there -we think it is.  Its in the house at the moment but when this wet weather clears I will get it into the shed until we are ready to sort the patio area.  It was too much of a bargain to miss.

Right upwards and onwards.

Take care everyone.  Catch you soon.



Monday, 5 June 2017

Its been a tad hectic

this weekend,  Out most of yesterday in the morning shopping at M & S in town.  Supposed to be back in time to cook lunch for OH and myself but too late back so had to leave him to fend for himself which did not go down too well.  I was out a friends house for the afternoon and early evening which was very pleasant.  Today I had a slight lay in and then have been sorting out the dining room.  Giving it a deep clean which I aim to do every month.  No sooner has it gone round its time to do it again.  It seems to work out that I do a room every weekend but that's how the cookie crumbles with me working full time as well I have to do things where I can.

I had hoped to have a little play with some needlework this weekend but it has not turned out that way.  I will aim to do a little bit during the week probably something I can pick up and put down probably my butterfly cushion or some of my hexie patchwork which I have not picked up for a few weeks.  I really need to get stuck in on this front again as it really helps me relax and I need that with working full time. The same goes for the gardening there is nothing more satisfying after being cooped up in an office all day to come home and do a little weeding get your fingers mucky and grow seeds or transplant plants.  It is very grounding and very therapeutic and hopefully will produce some food.

The Lemoncello has been made and is in its jar waiting to mature.  I know that technically speaking there is no need to do this but it is the way I tend to work anyway.  I need to get some more large jars for infusing more spirit with fruit and toffee.  I am aiming to have a little stockpile of liqueur type drinks to hand to use for the summer months but also in readiness for Christmas.

I also want to make some lemon curd, lemon and passionfruit curd and some lemon vinegar and some lemon marmalade jelly as well as preserved lemons and some lemon wine.  That's a lot of lemons.

The apricot jam is also made that will be lovely with some cream cheese and croissants for breakfast. YUM!

I have ordered a gazebo for the garden.  I have seen a barbecue and a pizza oven/smoker as well but they are not in stock at the moment but they will be.  I am determined to have the garden that I have longed for for so long so that I can sit out on the nice days and do some of my hand worked items.  Well that's the idea anyway when OH is out and about fishing.  Think I have seen some garden furniture that might work well and also I have still to look for my garden swing which OH is buying me as a birthday present - a little late but I am after a wooden one.

Right time to retire.

Catch you soon.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)