Sunday, 27 January 2013

A day of cooking

I've spent the whole morning cooking for today and the rest of the week. While the children were at their synagogue classes I took the opportunity for some me time in the kitchen (although I now have wrinkled hands from all the washing up). I started with dough for the bread (I made double quantities this time so I'm now baking two loaves of bread). I've worked out that I can make two loaves of bread for under a pound and they even taste nice.  You can find the recipe here. Once the dough has risen for the second time, cook for 45 minutes at 220 degrees centigrade until the bread is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

I decided to make some macaroni cheese for dinner tomorrow night. Now normally, I don't like makings the cheese sauce as I tend to burn it and then the pan is really difficult to clean. I'd read on the Internet that it was possible to make a cheese sauce in the microwave so I decided to give it a go and guess what, it worked and the bowl was easy to clean. While I was cooking the pasta (about 500g, enough for two meals for our family), melt 100g margarine in the microwave. I put it on high for 40 seconds. Take out and stir in 100g plain flour. Put back in the microwave for 20 seconds on high to cook the flour. At this point, add enough milk to make into a thick paste. Cook again for 40 seconds. Then stir in the rest of the milk (you'll need 2 pints for this recipe and I used semi skimmed milk). Cook on high for 5 minutes, stir and then cook again for 5 minutes. At this point, the sauce should have thickened. I cooked it again for another minute just to make sure. I then added in grated cheese, stirred into the cooked pasta and sprinkled extra cheese on the top. They're currently sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked.

Microwave cheese sauce

Macaroni cheese

On Wednesday I bought a bag of kale from Waitrose for 25p instead of £1.50. Now, kale is not my favourite vegetable but it is full of iron. So, I searched the Internet and I found crispy kale. I decided that even if it tasted horrible, I would have only wasted 25p. Wash and dry the kale, mix with some olive oil and bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes until crisp. Once out of the oven, sprinkle with sea salt. This tastes really good and a little bit like the seaweed you get from the Chinese restaurant. 

The bread is now out of the oven and the house is smelling great. Now just off to do the weekly shop. Can it get any more exciting!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Day Out

I had a lovely day out today in the most unlikely of places - Croydon. Both the children had a judo course at Croydon judo club and as it's a bit of a journey to and from, we decided to make a day of it. Not only was there surprisingly good shopping, there was also very interesting urban geography (can you tell what I teach yet?). I bored my husband silly talking about urban land use models, housing sectors and shopping transects. I didn't realise how close it was to Crystal Palace and the transmission masts.

What I didn't realise was how socially diverse Croydon is. We found some fabulous Asian and Caribbean shops at the far end of the high street and spent a happy half hour browsing the aisles. We even had a pleasant trip to IKEA and it's not often I say that. I managed to get 8 glass jars for 75p each. They are very similar to Kilner jars but so much cheaper.

And to top off the great day, Watford beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 in an away match and they're now 4th in the championship league. As a lifelong Watford supporter, it can't really get better than that.

Tomorrow will be a making and baking day, fresh bread, hummus, cookies, muffins...... I'll see what the day brings.

Eating well and cheaply

We've really been trying to spend less money this month. I've been reading a number of frugal blogs for inspiration including Frugal Queen and A Girl Called Jack. While I don't agree with everything that is written I do like to use some of their advice. My favourite supermarkets in the UK are sainsburys and Waitrose (not the cheapest I know). We use sainsburys for our weekly shop and Waitrose when we fancy a bit more of a treat. Wednesday was a day like that. It's been a bit of a weird week here with the snow and low temperatures. We've been in own clothes all week at work due to the icy site and the day has been finishing earlier. It will seem odd next week when we're back in work clothes and leaving at normal time (with at least three evening meetings). So, I was feeling in need of a treat by the middle of the week and Waitrose is sort of my way home. The exciting part of the shopping trip were the number of reduced items I managed to find. A big bowl of salad for 45p (it was enough for three different meals), half price avocados, cheap Quorn sausages and reduced sliced white bread, perfect for cheese toasties. You can guess that meals have been quite similar the last couple of nights (cheese and mushroom toasties with copious amounts of salad) but totally delicious and I haven't spent a fortune. I am finding that a lot if products in Waitrose are now much more reasonably priced. I think this way of thinking is going to increasingly become the norm in families especially as it was reported in the news yesterday that it's looking like the UK may be heading back into recession or as the radio presenters said, doing the Hokey Cokey (in/out). I guess it's time to spend less and think about our purchases a little more. I also find this website useful when deciding where to spend Money Saving Expert. It has helped me save money over the years.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Owl keyrings

It's still snowy here but the journey to work was much better than I expected. We finished early today so we could all travel home safely and it meant I had time to finish the latest batch of owl keyrings. Here they are in their multicoloured glory.

Now I just have to get matching handbags for them!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Crafty day

Woohoo, I've got my mojo back. It's amazing what a couple of days of enforced house bound days due to the snow can do to my crafting. I've spent the day making some more owl keyrings. Mum came by this morning and liked them so much she wanted one for each of her back packs so I suddenly only had one left. Here they are all cut out and ready to sew.

I managed to use some off cuts for the beige owls. I also spent the morning baking for the week ahead. The usual flapjack

double quantity of course. It amazes me how much ds eats of it during the week. I also tried out a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies from the original green & blacks cookery book (which is why it's in the picture above). The recipe is supposed to make 20 cookies but I only made 15 (I think I rolled out the dough a bit thicker than the recipe suggested). Here's the recipe:

Cream together 75g butter or marg and 60g of caster sugar. Add 1 large egg (beaten). Add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and then 175g self-raising flour with a pinch of salt. Add a splash of milk so the dough is soft but not sticky. At this point mix in 100-150g chopped chocolate. I used Lindt chocolate as I had it left over from Easter and Christmas. Roll out the dough to 5mm thick and cut out with a round cutter. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and bake for 20 minutes (I baked them for 10-15 minutes). Here's what they looked like.

I also baked another loaf of bread as yesterday's bread disappeared in one sitting. One off to finish the owl keyrings and maybe fit in a snowy walk.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Wintry Walk

I made slodge and fresh bread for lunch. Of course the children refused to eat the slodge (I imagine because it has vegetables in and according to them you can have too many vegetables, especially as a vegetarian!) so they just had the bread. The good news is that there's plenty left over for lunches next week to keep away the wintry chill. I'm really pleased with the bread recipe I've been using. I've made it three times now and it's turned out perfect every time. So perfect that it doesn't last much longer than one meal. The plans for tomorrow morning is to make some more bread dough so it'll be ready for lunch.

We managed to get the whole family out for a short walk this afternoon which I can tell you was a minor miracle. It looked beautiful outside...

We walked in the fresh snow, threw snowballs (and dodged them) and generally had fun. I made a new batch of ladybirds when I got back, this time in pink and purple. Here they are part way through

and here they are finished.

I'm really pleased with the way they've turned out. They were my excuse for sitting under the blanket before and after the walk and watching reruns of Miss Marple. So, marking done, fresh bread cooked, walk with my family and a bit of sewing done. The day can't really get any better. Hope you had a lovely day.

Snowy day

Well, the snow came down thick and fast yesterday. The local schools were closed and I spent the afternoon starting on my marking (I say started because I only finished it this morning). I'm sitting in my craft room (the tv room for everyone else but all my making things are stored here), making cards and looking out at the snow with the cat snoring next to me. Here are my efforts so far

Now I just have to decide who will get which card. The bread is rising in the kitchen ready for lunch when dd arrives back from judo. Apologies for the lack of posts recently but work and home life have  been so busy to my creative juices had disappeared. I'm hoping that they will return today and I will start planning some more felt ornaments. I'm also planning on spending a bit of time in the kitchen and walking in the snow so it looks like it will be a busy day.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Comfort food

As the weather is turning a bit colder and the first week back at work has tired me out I decided to make some comfort food. I have some dough rising for homemade bread. It was such a success last weekend that I've decided to make it again. It's the first time I've made bread that tastes as good as the bread from the bakery. Here it is rising

You can see the air bubbles in the dough and it has nearly doubled in size. My next job is to punch it back, shape it into a round loaf and leave it to double in size again. When it has done that I'll bake it for 45 minutes at 220 degrees centigrade.

I'm also making a soup for lunch. We call it slodge in our family as we add mini pasta so it is a cross between a soup and a stew. Thinly slice an onion and gently fry it. Peel and chop 4 carrots and add to the onions. Cover with a litre of stock made with 4tsp of bouillon powder and 1 litre of water. I found that if I add 2 litres of stock, the soup is too salty. Leave to simmer until the carrots are soft. Add a couple of handfuls of mini pasta and frozen peas, stir and cook for a further 8 minutes. This will make a cheap and tasty lunch that will hopefully help to lift the spirits. You can, of course, add any vegetables that you like to change the flavours.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Date flapjack

This morning has been spent sorting out the food cupboards. I have plenty of tins to keep us going during January. I've stocked up on chick peas (for hummus, falafel and soups) and tomatoes, good for just about everything although I haven't tried them in desserts yet! Have you noticed that the price of tinned tomatoes has nearly doubled over the past year so I tend to stock up whenever they're half price. I've tried the value tomatoes from all the major supermarkets but they seem to include less tomatoes than the napolina brand so I always look out for them on special offer. As I was sorting out the cupboards today, I noticed I still had some dried dates so I decided to use them in my flapjack recipe. I made plain flapjack for ds and then I add dates for the other half of the flapjack. Here is the recipe..

Chop up 200g of dried dates and add 250ml of water. Boil together until they have become a date purée (make sure you stir the mixture so that it doesn't burn on the bottom).

For the flapjack, melt 175g Pure margarine with 175g Demerara sugar and 2tbsp golden syrup. Take off the heat and add 225g rolled oats. If the mixture looks to wet, add some more oats. Spread out half of the mixture in the baking tray. Spread the date mixture on top and then spread the rest of the flapjack mixture on top. Bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees centigrade. Once out of the oven, cut into 12 portions.

These will be headed into my lunch box next week. While I was sorting out the food cupboards, I fund some more packets of instant yeast. As I was cutting them in half to put into a glass jar, I cut one too far over so the yeast started to fall out. Oops. So I had to make some bread - here it is waiting to rise.

I weighed out 500g of strong plain flour and added the yeast and 1.5tsp salt. I then added 325ml of warm water and mixed well. Is used the dough hook in my mixer and kneaded for about 5 minutes. It's rising as a write so should be ready for shaping soon.

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Box of Ladybirds

It was my last day off work today (I'm back on Monday) so it was my last opportunity for a lie in and I did it in style - I read my book until midday! How decadent is that? I've still got enough of it left to read tonight. My MIL lent me the book - The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas - which I can recommend as a lovely light read. I've also finished the House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz which was very true to the originals.

But what about the crafting I hear you all cry. Never fear, I finished my ladybirds today and they look really cute. I also stocked up on food for next week and I'm planning a stock take tomorrow so I can plan the meals for next week. I always start the new year in this style and it never lasts but maybe this year will be different and I won't get home from work, too tired to be bothered to think about what to cook. If I've done the planning, I won't need to engage my brain very much. Watch this space.

Here is a box of ladybirds. They are all scented with lavender which was harvested from my parents garden. The harvesting was so successful that I think it will become an annual thing. I love to use things that would otherwise go to waste. I always save glass jars which I can then fill - with jam, marmalade, fudge, lavender, the list goes on. This year will be one of reduce, reuse and recycle, even more so than last year. I can feel that this year will be one full of possibilities. Thank you for joining me on me journey so far and I look forward to travelling even further on it. I know there will be moments when all I want to do is crawl onto the sofa and sleep forever (that happens quite regularly during the week which is why I rarely post anything during a working week) but I'm looking forward to trying out lots of new crafts.

Here's to a crafty new year.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


This is the result of today's crafting...

Now off to design some ladybirds.

Update - here is my new ladybird inspired by our trip to London.

Trips out

I'm afraid there hasn't been a lot of time for crafting over the last couple of days. We've been out walking and visiting family which has been lovely. In the in between times, I have cut out some felt which I am hoping will be mini mushrooms. I have a image in my head which I'm hoping is going to transfer into reality. We have watched lots of films this week including The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. I love a bit of Julie Andrews that you can sing along too. We also watched Up (it made me cry as usual) and The Princess and the Frog which I highly recommend. As well as the movie watching, we've been walking in Wisley gardens which was lovely. They have enchanted story telling on at the moment. Whilst my children disappeared at this point, dh and I went to see the mad professor and her farticus plant. It was supposed to be for young children but the acting was great and it made me laugh. Here is part of the set which was used to water the plant...

The story telling is being done in conjunction with the Rose Theatre in Kingston and that really showed. We also saw lots of lovely sculptures....

We spent yesterday visiting family and went walking on Hampstead Heath which was lovely. I saw a tree with blossom on which just shows how mild our weather has been so far this winter.

The plan is to spend the day tidying and crafting today but I feel a cold coming on so it might be spent on the sofa. We'll have to wait and see. I hope you have a lovely day.