25 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

Yes, I did play with my food a bit to get this but what fun! I got this box of Alpha Bites on offer but had them this morning and thought could I find enough letters to say Happy Christmas - I did and more as you can see!

Well it is Christmas and I just wanted to show you a bit of what I've been up to lately.  I've been busy the past two weekends baking my socks off as all my presents this year were home-made in some way or other.  I bought only one present that at least was made here in the UK and the rest made by my hands.  I did a vaiation on hot chocolate mix, vanilla shortbread, butter mahagony toffee crunch, and yes, double-chocolate flapjacks (I'll do a posting later on these).  All have passed muster with J (they cannot make it out of hte house until they've passed this tough critic!) and hopefully are being enjoyed with their recipients.

We also took the time to reflect on how lucky we are to have each other and to have what we do that we decided to give locally to the chairty that works around here to provide food and help to families who cannot afford to have a Christmas or life as they should.  We took what we didn't spend on presents and gave them the money to hopefully make it a better time for them.  We also donated to our usual charities that I do each year instead of sending out cards to colleagues. 

I took this picture as J usually makes us porridge at the weekends when it's cold.  It sure does get you going and keeps you going the whole day.  Anyway, a while back I found some flavoured porridge reduced - it was organic and one was chocolate and the other was vanilla/banana flavoured.  I got it like for £0.50p a box so bought a number of them as it was going into winter.  Anyway, we tried them and while they were OK I thought I can do this.  So below is the result of porridge which has 2 cups of oats with 2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa added (this is enough for two - scale up for your needs).  I soak the oats overnight or at leat 15 minutes before cooking - it does make a difference - it comes out so creamy.  I have to say next to cinnamon and rasin this is my next favourite.  Please do try - it really is lovely!
This is a cake by Mary Berry called Cherry Cake.  I made for one of the people leaving work earlier this month.  I had seen it in The Great British Bake Off and looked and sounded so good that I thought I've got to try that recipe. I had to improvise with the self-raising flour as I don't normally buy that kind - but in the end I found a conversion so did that and it came out really lovely - or so everyone told me.

This is a small tree I made out of buttons I had around the house.  I did another one the same in white buttons with green pins - came out cute but forgot to take a picture of it before I wrapped it up as a gift. I thought it came out really cute - and it was so easy to make and put together.  I did a paperback book which I decorated with glitter and pearls.  I've got a picture somewhere - just have to find it and when I do I'll post it.
And this finally is my reduced haul although not all of it as the cheese (fresh mozzerella) and a few other bits were in the fridge by the time I got around to taking the snap.  The lamb roast is Christmas Day dinner (along with reduce parsnips, roasted potatos), the fish and lamb mince are in the freeze for dinner on other days, the eggs - well they always come in handy with a mad baking woman in the house, and the bagels and blueberrys will be breakfast during the days I'm off.  The blueberrys will go into making some corn / blueberry / almond muffins one morning - I'll have to devise a way for the recipe as I tend to just mix it in my own way - measuring is sometimes the last thing I do.  What a way to warm the house.  
Well that's all for the day - enjoy your special day with family and loved ones.  It is after all what the time is about.  Enjoy!

12 October 2014


I know that’s not a word but what else can one say about something so simple in ingredients – Flour, Salt, Yeast and Water that make something so lovely.  The only thing you have to do is wait – patience is the virtue and cannot harm your bread. 

I just took this out of the oven and it looks so lovely had to share a photo of it.  I use my usual starter (as I do with anything I make) and added a bit of rye to the whole mix just to add texture and flavour.  I mix it up each time I bake – why keep to the same recipe?  I never tire of trying something different – sometimes it’s wholemeal, or brown, or whatever is in the cupboard that needs using. 

And the smell well that too doesn’t go wrong and the radiant heat that stays in the flat also makes it homey.  I just love baking bread – it is what gives you life!  Enjoy!

4 October 2014

That time of the year again...

Well it’s birthday time again this year and as usual I made my favourite White and Chocolate Pistachio cake.  I just kept adding the chocolate until it ran our - I hate to waste it and after all this isn't a professional bakery but home baked goodness!  I love it because the frosting isn’t too sweet but also light.  The cake with the raspberry vinegar in it makes it just that bit different.  This year I made some homemade raspberry vinegar as I could not find it for love nor money at the grocery store.  I found it on-line but the cost was really more than I care to pay to be honest. 

Here's the recipe I used to make it and really this is all that is on the ingredients listing - red wine vinegar and raspberry juice in varying strengths - how hard is it to make your own - not very!   
Homemade Raspberry Vinegar
2 cups fresh, organic raspberries
3 3/4  cups white wine vinegar

• rinse raspberries. pat dry.
• place raspberries in a 1 quart ball jar.
• pour vinegar into jar, covering the raspberries completely.
• place lid tightly on the jar.
• store in your pantry, 2 weeks.
• after two weeks, place a mesh strainer over a 2 quart glass measuring cup and strain the liquid.
• discard the raspberries.
• transfer vinegar into a clean glass container and store indefinitely.
And no sooner had I found this recipe did I yes, find organic raspberries reduced at the store – well this was a sign!  So of course I made it and you know it came out really nice.  I gave it away to another friend who like me enjoys the taste and we both had some of this lovely ingredient for our recipes. 
The cookies (or biscuits as they are called in the UK) are ones I baked for work – in the UK if it’s your birthday you bring in the goodies for all to enjoy.  I suppose this is a good thing if all abide by it – which happens that not all do but this was my contribution.  I used King Arthur’s black cocoa powder (a shirt did get a burst of it – which thankfully washed out!) which makes them appear nearly black.  If you keep to 10 minutes in the oven they come out perfect if you like moist and chewy cookies. 

I added chocolate chips to mine as I had loads of them left over from another project and I cannot stand to waste anything, so in they went.  If I had some nuts I would have added those too but sadly, all out.  I found them quite nice and J certainly loved them too.  I have to say we got some ready-made ‘homemade’ style cookies from the store a few weeks ago so he had something to contrast to it with and of course mine won hands down (they cost only £0.14p for one so you can see why he wanted to try it!).  

That's it for now - more to follow as usual check back soon. Enjoy!

27 September 2014

Recent Projects and their results!

Thought I’d give you a few updates on some of my projects I’ve been doing around the house lately.  So you know from a previous post some of my paper roses.  Well I’ve expanded them as you can only imagine (if you know me you know this is true!).  So I found some really cute paper that is iridescent and made those into roses and then I decorated two presents I had to give recently. 

The first was just some plain Winsor Newton paper which was 160gsm – it was hard cutting it as well as keeping it rolled but I can say it came out quite good. This one you have to use a hot glue gun to get it to stick.  I tend to do the paper ones with PVA glue - it isn't hot and doesn't burn my fingers.  I also like that it allows the paper to unravel a bit and they all come out different.
The second picture was of the iridescent paper – all three the green, blush and purple papers (they were about 120gsm in weight) which I glued to a present I wrapped in velum.  I’m really pleased with them both
My second project was to get away from commercial fabric softener.  I had seen many recipes on these both on-line and in magazines.  We have finally gotten rid of all of our store purchases and kept the bottles for this purpose.  So we tried it and really I have to say it was quite good.  The clothing came out quite soft and yes, there was a *hint* of vinegar smell – but nothing overt in your face and while I’m not adverse to this I mention it for those who might try this so you expect it.

Once the clothes are dry however, there is no smell – nothing at all.  The clothes I have to say were just the same as those with the commercial kind only better and softer as I did my own side-by-side test feel.  You’ll have to do the same when you try and I certainly like the much lower cost on my budget.

The recipe I used is enough to do about 3-4 loads which I found to be enough – you can double the recipe if you want more but I felt I wanted the softening ability of the bicarbonate of soda which I think peters out after a bit if left to sit too long.  We tend to do full loads so while we can have 2-3 loads in one go this is an ideal amount for us.  With this amount of a recipe you can at least try it and not commit yourself to too much hassle – if you don’t like it then you can just chalk it up to an experience.  I’m glad I gave it a try as it certainly will help on saving those pennies!

Homemade Fabric Softener

1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cups vinegar (white kind not malt!)
2 cups water
Essence of choice – 5-10 drops

Add vinegar and water to bottle; shake to mix as well as possible.  Carefully add vinegar (it will bubble) and again shake to dissolve baking soda (be careful as it will bubble and shoot up the bottle!).  Add essence of choice if desired, shake and dispense into your softener drawer.  I used the max the drawer held and this seemed enough for a full load - use less if you do partial or half loads.

20 September 2014

Nothing Fishy Here....

When browsing the aisles I found some fish I’d never had before of course reduced.  As you can see each fish cost me £0.88p each – so for my main meal it was £1.76 for us both.  That didn’t include my other bits but in total the whole meal (food and fuel) cost me £4.00.  I don’t have a particular price point for my meals – this would mean I’d be limiting myself.  Sometimes I find things reduced and just have to try them – this was gurnards.  I just couldn’t pass them up. 

I hadn’t a clue about what to do with them – thank goodness for Rick Stein’s Seafood book!  It showed me what to do and while I had a few recipes I kept it simple with just some parsley, white wine and a knob of butter (OK – some Old Bay Seasoning might have gotten in there too!). 

I hope the next time you see something reduced and don’t know what to do you’ll think again and get it and give it a try.  I’m very glad that I did and yes, I found them again at an even cheaper price and yes, got them again!

24 August 2014

Oh my Samphire!

I’m well known for my savvy shopping skills – as most of this blog shows the kind of prices I find things at while out on my shopping expeditions.   However, this one really does take top some of my finds. 
I can remember watching Rick Stein on one of his many shows going on about samphire.  I thought shame I’ll never get to try it and just moved on as they say. 

So come one of my shopping trips out and about and stop into Asda and what do I find reduced?  Yes, samphire!  It was marked at 50p although I tore the sticker off – you’ll have to trust me on this.  I didn’t know how to cook it other than boil it for a bit and to not salt it.  So that’s essentially what I did and it was lovely.  I’ll probably never get to taste it again but am so glad I was able to get it – and reduced!  It was as salty as they claim and was most like asparagus I’d say in texture. 

I’m rather lucky in all that I do find reduced and it just goes to show you can have a very varied diet if you are willing to experiment and also willing to just go with whatever you can find.  I think what I try to do most is have options in the freeze for those instances we I don’t find anything but I’m always willing to exploit a find and maximise it’s potential.  I’ve seen a lot of shows lately on just how difficult it is for people to make ends meet and how they have trouble finding good food – I don’t think this is true.  I think you can do it all – you just have to be a bit more resourceful but you also have to WANT to do this – it’s not something that comes easy.  But oh boy are the rewards worthy of the eating!  Enjoy!

20 August 2014

Being crafty in a new way!

Well I know I have many interests – who doesn’t?  I love vintage things and have seen for absolute age, up-cycled clothing and love most of what I see (well you will always find something that you think to yourself – what were you thinking!?!).  I’m one of those who get’s something without a particular purpose in mind but saves for that special something – this isn’t always the case but you know what I mean.
So ages ago when trawling eBay I found this rather plain blue jean dress.  It went for a silly price – something like £5.00 for the dress and shipping – so I figured why not?  Then it sat in the closet for a long time.  I pulled it out last winter and thought – right I’m going to do something with it over the winter.  Well that plan went to pot but there it sat teasing me.  I then got a whole bunch of sewing supplies from a friend who was getting rid of them.  In this goody bag was some lovely glass bugle beads along with a load of pearls.  I instantly saw in my mind what I would do with them and this dress.  

As you can see from the pictures above I just added a bit at the collar along with two glass buttons (yes, I’m still stock piled with them – gotta use them up!).  I then had a vintage doily and put that on there and then decked it out with the pearls and bugle beads.  I then had a few other buttons that I wanted to use and that was it.  I looked at the rather plain blue buttons on there and well you know by now they went and yes, the glass ones came out and went onto it as well.
I think it came out pretty cute and I can guarantee no one will have anything like this.  I rather like that idea – a single one off creation that incorporates my love of vintage.  I'm now on the trek to making a cheesecloth rose - that one will be pinned to the dress in some fashion but I'll follow that up with a posting later.

I then was decorating a present for a friend and just wanted something different so brought out my crafting books stash and saw some roses in paper and thought - yeah that would be cute and different rather just the usual bow or ribbon.

So I did a search and you got to love You Tube – because at times they really do have some good videos.  So found a few and then began attempting to make them with my old dictionary that was falling apart.  Well in no time I had some very lovely little items as you can see below.

Then not I just had to bling them up a bit – they were after all plain (but plain is nice if that’s what you want) it was jus this was a special birthday so had to add a few pearls.  I think they came out great and when people saw the present they all asked where did I buy those?  I think they all knew the answer as I just smiled and said I made them.  They were so easy – and if you are interested in doing your own this is the video I used to make them.

Go forth and get crafty!

3 August 2014

Birthday cake...

Well you saw the chocolate in my previous posting - this cake took all that *plus* an additional amount.  Yep to the tune of nearly 2 pounds of the lovely dark stuff.  J sure is a lucky guy to get this one but he sure does deserve it! 

31 July 2014

Blueberry muffins that won’t make you blue!

OK – I’m probably not your average shopper.  I admit I know my prices of my basics in my head, use the web to get me the best prices but I also adjust my plans for what I can find reduced.  I’m lucky in that I find a lot of variety reduced and thus get a varied diet.  

Take the blueberries, I got them reduced but I also had some milk that was on its last leg.  So what to do?  Make muffins of course!  If I don’t have buttermilk and often I don’t – I just sour it with lemon juice instead but the milk provided me with the perfect reason to use it up.  I also had some corn meal that needed to be used up so that got thrown in – voila – muffins!

It’s not a complicated recipe as I have a basic muffin recipe and I just alter what I put in depending on what I’ve got loads of or found reduced.  I also am lucky that I get some fresh rhubarb from a friend so I just add an apple or pear or any other soft fruit I have that need using up into the mix and make a crumble.  
And here is a teasing look at the chocolate that will be going towards someone’s cake in early August!

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