Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Making the most of flowers.

I love it when someone gives me the gift of cut flowers.

They brighten up the house in a way that nothing else can and each time I look at a gift of flowers on display it warms my heart.

The down side is that all too soon cut flowers will begin to fade - but there is a way to hold onto them and continue to appreciate and love their delicate beauty.

On my final day at work I was given a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. (Sorry, I didn't get around to taking pictures.) 

Now they lasted well - almost two weeks in fact, but by Thursday of last week they were looking undeniably tired.

My first task was to save those that still had some life in them. There were some red carnations and some white chrysanths that still looked quite perky, so were cut down and rearranged into a couple of small jugs.

These are still going, albeit they are just starting to look a little jaded around the edges and may have to be "recycled" tomorrow, but an extra whole week of pleasure has been gained.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth I recycle jaded blooms. 
For some time now I have always removed the petals from any flowers once they are beyond display. Indeed the petals from the part of the aforementioned bouquet that could not be salvaged were duly removed and placed in a plastic tub.

The said tub is placed on top of my central heating boiler, an airing cupboard or anywhere else dry and warm would work just as well. When the petals have dried I place them in bowls around the house and scent them with essential oils - free "pot pouri".

This is the bowl of dried petals that lives in my sitting room. I love the delicate faded colours of the dried petals.

And this is the bowl of faded red rose petals in my bedroom. 

The bowl incidentally was a charity shop buy - only 50p! I keep a look out for nice bowls and containers to pop my petals into. 

Eventually the petals will become too faded and dusty to display, but if you save and dry your flowers regularly you will always have replacements.

Final tip: once dried, if you don't need to use them immediately just seal them in a paper bag and store in a dark, dry cupboard - I have found that they seem to keep indefinitely like this without further fading.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Rather Delicious Rabbit Pie - is this as frugal as it gets?

You don't get more frugal than free!

While I had to pay for most of the ingredients in this pie the rabbit itself was donated by my youngest daughter's boyfriend.

Whenever I am faced with a wild rabbit to cook I make this pie and it is always well received.

There is no guarantee of age or tenderness with a wild rabbit so I always begin the day before I want the pie and cook the rabbit in the slow cooker.

I added a few ingredients to enhance the flavour of the stock as it will be used in the sauce for the pie.

  • The washed top and bottom of an onion skin and all - no point in wasting a full onion when it is only for flavouring and will be discarded, so I use the trimmings from an onion used in another recipe. (If you want to be really frugal you can save these in the freezer for just such a purpose - I don't but maybe I should!)
  • A washed and unpeeled carrot well past it's best. - Again it's not going to be eaten and so dosen't need to be pristine. If I have been preparing carrots for another dish I have sometimes used the washed peelings and trimmings to flavour the stock.
  • Some herbs - I used a couple of sprigs of rosemary from the plant in my front garden, a tiny few sprigs of thyme that were barely clinging to life again from said garden, a dried bayleaf and some parsley from the freezer. I buy any whoopsied bags of herbs from the supermarket especially if they are reduced right down to 10p. Pop them in the freezer, just as they are and crumble bits off the frozen herb as needed.
The rabbit was left simmering all day in the slow cooker and then allowed to cool overnight.

Next day remove the rabbit and pick off all the lovely meat, being careful to leave any bones behind. Strain the stock and then use both meat and stock in the rabbit pie, recipe below.

Rather Delicious Rabbit Pie

Cooked rabbit - prepared as above.
1/2 pint of reserved rabbit stock.
1/2 pint milk.
1 heaped tablespoon flour
1 oz butter (NOT margarine please. -  It is just not the same!)
2 hard boiled eggs.
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard.
Salt and pepper.
Ready made (All butter) puff pastry.

Place the rabbit in your pie dish. Quarter the eggs and arrange them among the chunks of rabbit. Mix the stock and milk together. *Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the flour - combine them quickly and ensuring that you stir constantly cook over a medium heat for 30 seconds or so. Take off the heat and add the stock/milk gradually. At first add only a little at a time and beat the mixture furiously after each addition. Once about 1/4 of the liquid has been added you can usually add the rest all at once. If your sauce looks a little lumpy at any stage just use a balloon whisk and beat furiously and it should all be ok. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil stirring constantly. Once boiled and thickened remove the sauce and add the mustard,  and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the rabbit and eggs. Roll out the pastry and use to top the pie. I tend to brush the top of my pastry with milk - too stingy to use an egg. I also like to score a fancy pattern in the top, but that is only because I like the look of it. Bake in a hot oven until the pastry is well risen and golden.

*If you are a little nervous about using the "roux" method to make your sauce bung the flour, butter and cold milk/stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil whilst stirring constantly. You will still get a lovely smooth sauce, I just feel that using the classic method results in a slightly creamier sauce, but I may be wrong!

I served ours with roasties, carrots and purple sprouting broccoli - Yum!!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Granola Recipe

One of the things that I did at the weekend was to make home made Granola.

Dave loves a good granola after buying some from a farmers market which I have to agree was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately at £4.99 for a 475g bag, buying this just doesn't fit into a frugal lifestyle.

Making granola... ahhh now that's a different matter. It's easy and compared to buying ready made it is cheap.

I used quite a high proportion of seeds and nuts, but that's because Dave likes his granola nutty a bit  like himself, But you could make it cheaper by adding less and increasing the quantity of oats. Some recipes I've seen don't add any seeds or nuts and just use oats, which would take the cost right down. You can also add dried fruit once the granola is cooled and ready for storage, though we prefer it without dried fruit.


All the dry ingredients measured and ready.

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup seeds - any you like I used sunflower because that's what I had in.
1 cup chopped nuts - again any you like, but I had brazil nuts and almonds in stock.
1/2 cup of oil - I used an organic cold pressed rapeseed oil, but it doesn't really matter unless it's a strongly flavoured oil that you don't like - I've even seen some recipes that use melted butter.
1/2 cup of honey or soft brown sugar - used honey this time, but have used the sugar before.
1/2 tsp cinnamon - add more or less, substitute for another spice or even leave it spice free.
1/2 teaspoon os sea salt - don't be tempted to leave this out, in the grand scheme of things it's not a lot of salt per serving and it does make a difference to the flavour.

Mix all the ingredients together - I just do it in a large roasting tin, but if you do it in a bowl, spread it out onto baking tray/s.

Bake at 150C/130-140C fan oven/ Gas 2 for about 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes and when it has all turned a golden brown remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray. Break up any large lumps as it cools. If you want to add any dried fruit do so now. Store in an airtight container.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Winter's Return

When I picked up my granddaughter on Friday my two daughters were sitting outside in the garden wearing summer vests and enjoying the rays.  Yesterday I was sat snuggled up next to the fire watching a blizzard outside. 

This was the view from my front window, and it just continued to snow...

...and snow
...and snow.
(Scroll down to see how much!)

The menu plan had been to use up some fish from the freezer and make home made fish cakes served with salad. 

Hmmm seeing the snow this didn't feel like a good option at all, so plan B.

Pop down to our local Co-op (only about 20 yards from my door, or I wouldn't have ventured out) and purchase a bottle of real ale. 

No!! getting drunk wasn't the plan. Beer batter was.

The new menu:
Beer battered fish with home made real chips (not oven baked - comfort food was called for after all!) and mushy peas. Followed after a break to let everything settle, so to speak, with home made apple crumble and "real" custard.

Now the reason I put "real" in them there quotation marks is that it is my version of real custard - it does contain egg, but does away with the long slow constant stirring and risk of curdling. The reason I do my custard this way is all to do with my dislike of additives, colourings and such  - I refuse to contemplate those packets of lurid instant stuff. 

My recipe for "real" custard

Serves 2

1 egg yolk
1 level tbsp sugar
1 level tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 pint milk

Put the first 4 ingredients into a bowl and mix to a smooth paste with a little of the cold milk. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil then pour onto the paste, stirring well. Tip the mixture back into the saucepan and place back on the heat - stir vigorously until the mixture come up to the boil and thickens - Voila custard!

I'll leave you with a picture of the snow this morning as it was on the road coming out of the village of Stanley Crook, on my way home from visiting one of my daughters.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Babies galore!

Well that's it, as there has been no luck on the jobs front I am now officially unemployed. Now ordinarily being a teacher I would be on holiday at this time anyway, but it feels different knowing that I don't have a job to go back to. I'm also finding it a bit galling that because last year I took a short term contract covering maternity leave, rather than redundancy I am no longer entitled to any redundancy payment so my pay for March has to last as long as possible. I knew when I took the post that this was the case and a years work was preferable to the small redundancy payment I was due, so I shouldn't really be letting it bother me.

Soooo...  never one to shirk a challenge, I have set to with a will making sure that I am as frugal as possible and making every penny stretch. To be honest I think we are actually eating a lot better because I have the luxury of time.

On Saturday we took our granddaughter to Hall Hill Farm. Now ordinarily I would have just tootled off and bought our lunch in the cafe there. Not this time - I thought ahead and made some of those mini pizzas I told you about in this post. I made them just before we left and wrapped them in foil so they were still warm when we ate them - just as well because it was freezing!!! I also took some hot water in flasks and some camomile tea bags, and as a treat some 1/2 price mini Thorntons caramel shortbreads - yum yum.

It doesn't look it but it was bitterly cold.
Despite the cold and watching the pennies we had a lovely time. There were loads of lovely babies to hold and to see.

Baby chick held by little Flic.

Spotty lambs.
Bottle fed lambs.
How cute is this?
If you look closely at the pouch of the wallaby that is sitting down you might just be able to make out the head of the joey that was peeping out!

Flic had a great time and I think she actually preferred having a picnic even if it was in the cold!

I've been making lots of other rather nice things to eat too - but I'll leave them for another post.
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