Archive | October 2012

Halloween Trivia and Pumpkin Recipe Week

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween originated back in the 5th century BC.  The Celts celebrated the end of summer and the gathering in of the harvest with a festival called ‘Samhain’, which took place on the night of 31 October.  It was believed that on this night the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred, and that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth in search of living bodies to possess for the following year.

A large part of the celebration involved the building of huge bonfires, which were thought to welcome friendly spirits and ancestors, but ward off those considered dangerous. People would dress up in animal heads and skins and noisily parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The name ‘Halloween’ came from All Saints Day on 1 November, named by Pope Boniface IV in the seventh century.  It was a day given in honour of saints and martyrs. It is believed that it was the Pope’s attempt to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows, All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated from a ninth-century European custom called ‘souling’. On November 2 (All Souls Day), Christians would walk from village to village begging for ‘soul cakes’, made out of square pieces of bread with currants.  The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.  At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could help a soul’s passage to heaven.

Now a days, children go trick-or-treating, which means dressing up and knocking at doors shouting “trick or treat”.  If you do not give a treat then the children will play a trick on you.  In actual fact, in England, it’s polite for children to only knock on a door that obviously welcomes ‘trick or treaters’.


Interesting facts:

About 99% of pumpkins marketed domestically are  ‘Jack O’Lanterns’ used at Halloween.

In the United States, 86% of Americans decorate their homes for Halloween.

Magician Harry Houdini died in 1926 on the 31st October.

The record for the fastest pumpkin carver in the world is held by Jerry Ayers of Baltimore, Ohio. He carved a pumpkin in just 37 seconds!

People have believed for centuries that light keeps away ghosts and ghouls. Making a pumpkin lantern with a candle inside may keep you safe from all the spooky spirits flying around on Halloween.

The record for the heaviest pumpkin grown is 2009 lbs.!  You can see the pumpkin here.


Thanks to Mrs Yub, one of my regular readers, I have a link here to a website that shows some wonderful carved pumpkins.  Some of them are absolutely brilliant.


Now I’ll continue with my ‘Pumpkin Recipe Week’, so you can use up the pumpkin flesh that you scoop out of your halloween pumpkins.  Don’t forget you can put your chopped up pumpkin flesh straight into a freezer bag (without blanching) and put it into your freezer, to use at a later date.

Today’s recipe is:


Spicy Pumpkin Soup

1.4kg Raw pumpkin cut into chunks

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

2 onions, chopped

1 ½ pints of vegetable stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mild chilli powder

A tablespoon olive oil


Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then slowly fry the onion and potato until they are nearly soft.


Add the garlic and pumpkin and continue frying for 1 minute.

Add all the other ingredients and bring them to the boil.


Simmer for approximately 25-30 minutes until the ingredients are soft.


Blend the soup in a liquidiser or by using a stick blender.


Bring the soup back to the boil and serve with some nice homemade bread.


I freeze this soup in one bowl portions, which I defrost and reheat. I take it in a flask to the allotment and it’s very warming on a cold autumn day.

Enjoy your ‘Halloween’.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Cooking On Radio Leicester And Pumpkin Recipe Week

Today was a big day for me, as I went into Radio Leicester to cook live on air in their kitchen.  It’s not the first time I have been into their kitchen to cook, but I was still very nervous.

You can listen to the program here.  I was cooking from the start of the program for the first hour.


A couple of weeks ago, a lady called Kimberley had asked Radio Leicester if they would help her to learn to cook from scratch, on a family budget.  They asked three ‘Experts’ to help her out (which made me laugh as I’m just little ‘me’ with no training whatsoever).  I was very humbled to be one of them.

They also invited a lady from Derby, who said she came from a family that has always cooked from scratch and she was trained in catering and hospitality at Southfields College and another lady who teaches cookery on behalf of Leicester City Council and writes for the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ website that you can find here.

I couldn’t ‘boil peas’ when I left home and my friends used to call me the ‘packet mix queen’, so knowing this I tried very hard to make sure that the recipes that I made were easy and quick to cook and were in my usual ‘Notjustgreenfingers’ style, of ‘cheap to make’.  I used ‘value’ ingredients to prove that good food can be made cheaply, so you can live well on less.

I started by showing Kimberley how to cook a Thick And Creamy Vegetable Soup, that I wrote about a few weeks ago.  I did have a problem with their Electric hob as it took 45 minutes to heat up and then in the end it went on ‘super hot’ mode instead.

Thick And Creamy Vegetable Soup

You can find the recipe here.

I worked out that each bowl cost me approximately 40p to make.

This soup freezes well too.


Then I showed her how to cook Fish in a Parsley Sauce:

Fish In Parsley Sauce

You can find the recipe for the parsley sauce here.

I worked out that the fish in parsley sauce costs just 82p per portion.


I then followed this with a quick and easy Microwaved Jam Sponge, which is so quick and easy to make.  It’s great to make when you have unexpected guests for dinner.

I have worked out that each portion costs an amazing 9p to make.


Microwaved Jam Sponge Recipe

100g margarine, plus some for greasing the bowl

100g granulated sugar

2 eggs beaten

100g self-raising flour

2-3 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of jam


Beat the margarine and sugar together.

Add the beaten egg.

Fold in the flour and add enough milk to achieve dropping consistency.

Grease a microwave bowl with margarine.

Drop the jam in the bottom of the bowl and put the mixture on top.

Cover the bowl with a small plate or Microwave Clingfilm, leaving a small gap for the steam to escape.

Microwave on ‘high’ for 8 minutes (based on an 800W microwave).

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before turning it out.

Serve with custard or ice-cream.


Just to finish off I showed Kimberley how to make a multipurpose ‘Old fashioned cleaner’ out of white distilled vinegar and a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil.

White vinegar is a great mulitipurpose cleaner and if you add a few drops of Tea Tree oil it then becomes a multipurpose antibacterial cleaner.


I hope people enjoyed listening to the show.


Pumpkin Recipe Week:

Yesterday, I started my Pumpkin Recipe week.

  All of this week I will be looking at ways to use pumpkins, so they are not wasted after the Halloween pumpkin has been carved.

  Today’s recipe is great to serve at Halloween parties.

It’s a variation to the jam sponge recipe above:


Microwaved Pumpkin Scary Syrup Sponge Recipe


100 grams Margarine, plus some for greasing

100 grams Sugar

2 Eggs beaten

100 grams Self-raising flour

200 grams raw pumpkin

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

1 teaspoon baking powder

A few drops of food colouring (you can use any colour that you have, I used orange)


Cook the pumpkin in a pan of boiling water until it is soft.  Drain the pumpkin and mash it a little bit

Beat the margarine and sugar together.

Mix in the beaten egg and food colouring.

Fold in the flour, baking powder and the pumpkin.

Grease a microwave bowl with margarine. 

Drop the golden syrup in to the bottom of the bowl and put the mixture on top.

Cover the bowl with a small plate or Microwave Clingfilm, leaving a small gap for the steam to escape.

Microwave on ‘high’ for 8 minutes (based on an 800W microwave).

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before turning it out.

Decorate with scary things.

Serve with custard with a few drops of food colouring in for effect. 


Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Pumpkin Competition And A Pumpkin Recipe Week

What do you do with the flesh that you hollow out from pumpkins on Halloween?

Years ago, I used to just throw it away and I bet loads and loads of people still do.  Nowadays, my life is very different and every single bit gets used.  I grow my own pumpkins and do not want to waste any of it.


All of this week I will be looking at ways to use pumpkins, so they are not wasted.  The first recipe of the week is a really nice Pumpkin and Apple chutney.  You can find the recipe further down this page.

But just a quick reminder, don’t forget the Pumpkin and Orange Cake recipe that I have already written about on my blog.  It is also a good way to use up your pumpkins too.  You can find the recipe here.

Pumpkin & Orange cake


Firstly though, I would like to tell you of my daughter’s success at the weekend…

On Saturday it was our annual allotment pumpkin competition.  Last year my youngest daughter came joint first, with the pumpkin she had grown.  This year, she tried really hard to grow an even bigger one, even though the weather conditions were not good for pumpkin growing.

Back in April she sowed six pumpkin seeds in the hope of growing a large one for this year’s competition.  She potted the pumpkins on, at the beginning of May and finally planted two of the pumpkins in a piece of ground that we had prepared.

The pumpkins didn’t seem to move until the end of July, due to the weather and then finally one of the small pumpkins grew and grew.

She was really excited when the day of the competition arrived.  There were different catorgories in the competition.

The picture below shows the pumpkins that were entered into the smallest pumpkin catorgory:

The other catorgories were the heaviest pumpkin, the widest girth and the funniest shaped pumpkin.  You can see some of the entries in the photo below:

I’m very proud to say she won two categories, the heaviest pumpkin category and the widest girth category.  Her pumpkin weighed 24.4 kg and the width was 58 inches.  We came home with a very happy girl!

Afterwards we carved the pumpkin ready for Halloween on Wednesday:


The chutney recipe below uses the pumpkin that is left over from your Halloween pumpkins and some Bramley Apples which are in season at the moment.  It tastes really nice.


Pumpkin and Apple Chutney

1.4 kg Raw pumpkin chopped roughly into 1cm cubes

4 Tomatoes roughly chopped

500g Bramley apples, peeled and chopped

1 Onion chopped

125g Mixed dried fruit

125g Soft brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Ground mixed spice

1 teaspoon Ground black pepper

750ml Cider vinegar

A handful of fresh coriander chopped


Place all the ingredients, except the coriander, into a large pan and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Stir in the coriander and continue to simmer for a further minute.

Spoon into hot sterilised jars.

(To sterilise jars, just pop the jars and lids in the oven for 5 minutes Gas mark 4).

Leave for three weeks before using.

This chutney can be stored unopened in a cool, dry place for six months.  Once opened, keep it in the fridge.

Thank you for reading my blog today.


Saturday is ‘Bump The Blog’ Day

Today is ‘Bump the Blog’ day.

I pick a different blog each week, that I particularly enjoy reading.  I will then post a link for you to check it out, to see if it interests you too.

There are so many wonderful blogs out there, talking about subjects of all kinds.  Each person spends time and energy updating their blogs and it is lovely getting views and comments in return.

Todays blog  is simply called ‘Sabrina’s Allsorts’

SARINA`S ALLSORTS reports on small budget living, thriftiness, make do and mend, cooking, crafting, recycling, eco-friendliness, simple DIY, life in general and more.

I’m sure you will enjoy this blog as much as I do.

You can read the blog here.

Thank you for reading my blog this week.
I will be back again on Monday, at approximately 7.30pm.
I hope to see you then.

Half-Term Actvities and Weed Week, – The ‘Dandelion’

Today is the last day of my ‘ fun and cheap activities to do with children’.  I hope you have found my posts useful.

Firstly though, I will continue with ‘Weed week – know your enemy’. The more you know about a weed, the more likely you are to stop it from taking hold in your garden.


Todays Weed Is The ‘Dandelion’ – (A Perennial Weed)

Gardeners tend to think there is only one type of dandelion, the one with the Latin name Taraxacum officinale.  However, the dandelions you see in your garden, could be one of the hundreds of other species of Taraxacum.

The name dandelion is taken from a French word “dent de lion”, which means ‘ lion’s tooth’.  This refers to the coarsely-toothed leaves.

The Dandelion is a common perennial herb and is part of the sunflower family. It prefers chalks and loamy soils above a pH of 7.0. It has been found in prehistoric deposits, and has been recorded up to 2,700 feet in Britain.

The flower opens in the morning and then closes in the evening.

The dandelion has a very strong tap root which penetrates deeply into the soil. The flower heads appear from March onwards and it has one of the longest flowering season of any plants.

The dandelion flowers from May to October but mostly in May and June. A period of low temperature seems to intensify flowering. Established plants that bloom in spring can flower again in autumn. The time from flowering to seed ripening is about 9-12 days.

Individual plants may survive for 10 to 13 years in undisturbed sites.

Dandelions haven’t always been troublesome weeds. In Victorian times they were cultivated with care and eaten by the wealthy in sandwiches and salads.

Today, blanched young leaves are used in salads or boiled and eaten as spinach and the flowers are made into dandelion wine. In fact every part of the dandelion is useful for food, medicine and even to use its colour for dye.

Dandelions are also an excellent food plant for many beneficial insects and it provides an important food source to bees. The pollen from this plant helps bees out in the spring because it flowers early and the flowers continue through to the fall providing constant food. In fact no less than 93 different kinds of insects use Dandelion pollen as food.   For this reason, some gardeners leave them to flourish in their wild areas.

The seeds can develop without cross-fertilization, so a flower can actually fertilize itself. Therefore, it can disperse its seeds as early as the day after the flower opens.

After flowering, the seed heads develop into a white mass of seeds which disperse in the wind.  Each seed has a tiny parachute, to help it spread far and wide.  Seeds can often be carried for up to five miles.

A flower head can produce up to 400 seeds, but the average is 180. A plant may have a total of 2,000 to 12,000 seeds.

Generations of children (including me and my children) have helped the dandelion become one of Britain’s most common weeds, by blowing the seed heads to ‘tell the time’.

Ripe seed is able to germinate at once and gives around 90% germination.

Viable seeds have been found in cattle and horse droppings and from various bird droppings.

The dandelion can reproduce from seed and vegetatively.  If you leave a small piece of root in the ground then it will regrow.

To stop dandelions from spreading, it is important to prevent flowering so the seeds do not blow away.  To remove the weed completely, it is important to dig out the long tap root without breaking it.

You can keep hoeing the dandelion and eventually it will weaken and die but it is a slow process.

If you use weed killers, then glyphosate will kill the dandelions.

There is a beautiful film on YouTube that demonstrates the dandelion beautifully and it is worth watching it.  You can see it here


I really hope you have found my ‘Weed Week’ interesting.


Today’s Half-Term Activity – ‘Cereal Cakes’


I remember making these cakes with my two daughters when they were small, and they still sometimes make them even now.

These cakes are good as they are cheap, quick to make and they don’t need cooking in the oven.

Small children will need help melting the chocolate mix, but then they will have fun stirring the mixture and decorating the cakes.  (I’m sure they will eat a fair amount of the mixture too, so make sure you do this activity after they have eaten a meal).

Cereal Cakes


200 grams of cooking chocolate (or really cheap milk chocolate)

114 grams of margarine

228 grams of plain cereal (e.g. Rice krispies, cornflakes, Weetabix)

2 tablespoons of golden syrup

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

Sprinkles, silver balls, sweets etc.  to decorate if required


Put the chocolate, margarine, syrup and cocoa powder in a large pan and heat slowly until they have all melted.

Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cereal.

Mix until all the cereal is coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into cake cases and have fun decorating with sprinkles, silver balls, sweets or whatever you have, or just simply leave plain.

Leave to set, or just eat straight away.  The kids will love them (and the adults too)


Thank you for reading my blog today.

Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Broad-leaved Dock’

As it’s half term for the children here in Leicestershire this week, I thought I’d do something a little bit different. Each day I will be looking at a different activity to do with children. The activity will be fun and obviously cheap.


Firstly though, I will continue with ‘Weed week – know your enemy’. The more you know about a weed, the more likely you are to stop it from taking hold in your garden.


Broad-leaved Dock – ( A Perennial Weed)


Broad-leaved Dock are perennial plants that are sometimes known as butter dock, cushy-cows, kettle dock or smair dock.  Its Latin name is Rumex obtusifolius.  It is one of commonest British native plants.

Broad-leaved dock grows on a range of soils but not the most acid of soils.  They are said to favour soils that are high in nitrogen or low in potassium.

Broadleaf dock is a slightly poisonous weed.  Livestock have been known to get sick after feeding on it.

Established plants can withstand quite a lot of trampling and mowing.  They form a deep branched taproot that is difficult to remove and it will regrow from a small amount left in the ground.

Broad-leaved dock flowers from June to October. It can shed seed from late summer through to winter. A large mature broad-leaved dock can produce up to 60,000 ripe seeds per year.

The seeds germinate any time that conditions are favourable but they mainly germinate in March-April and July-October.

I think the seeds are fascinating as they contain a chemical that inhibits microbial decay and they are capable of surviving in undisturbed soil for over 50 years.

Seedlings of broad-leaved dock generally do not flower in the first year.

In the UK, broad-leaved dock is a host for the potato eelworm, so this is a good reason to remove the plants, eelworm can do a lot of damage to potato crops.

The main weakness of broad leaved dock is it’s not good with competition, i.e. crowding causes flowering to be delayed for up to three years.  Also, frequent tilling will disrupt the roots and kill the older plants and seedlings. The plant also thrives in moist environments and improved drainage can also help control its growth.

The best thing is to remove the dock as soon as it appears before the large tap root can develop. If the plant is established then use a fork to dig it out to avoid chopping the root up.

If you want to use a weed killer, then use a glyphosate based weed killer.  This will probably need several applications to actually kill an established plant.

If it’s an area you can leave unattended for over a year, you can apply thick, black polythene sheeting, anchored down round the edges, it will kill everything beneath it you leave it for no less than a year.  The polythene must be thick to exclude all light, air and water.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this weed.


Today’s Half-Term Activity – Salt Dough

This is a lovely rainy day activity for all ages and you can make some lovely ornaments using salt dough.  In fact a couple of years ago, my girls made letters that spelt out ‘Happy Christmas’ and painted them.  They hung each one from a piece of tinsel and they lined our fire place beautifully over christmas.


Salt Dough

300g plain flour

200ml water

300g salt

2 teaspoons cooking oil


Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix it all with your hands until it rolls into a ball.

Roll the mixture out and have fun making shapes.  Keep the shapes small and chunky so they don’t break easily.  (Make sure your shapes are a similar size so they cook evenly).

Place your shapes on a baking tray, and cook for 20 minutes – Gas mark 4 / 180C / 350F

When the shapes are cold, paint them with acrylic paint or poster paint.


  • Put a hole in each shape so you can thread string through to make necklaces or hang them to make a salt dough mobile.
  • Put a paper clip in the top of the shape before you cook the dough, so you can pin it up (see the panda below)
  • If you mix a little bit of PVA glue with the paint (1 part PVA to 2 parts paint) this will make the surface tough and shiny.


Thank you for reading my blog today.

Half-Term Kids Activities and Weed Week – ‘Groundsel’

As it’s half term for the children here in Leicestershire this week, I thought I’d do something a little bit different.  Each day I will be looking at a different activity to do with children.  The activity will be fun and obviously cheap.


Firstly though, I will continue with ‘Weed week – know your enemy’The more you know about a weed, the more likely you are to stop it taking hold in your garden.


 Today’s Weed Is ….Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) – An Ephemeral Weed


Groundsel is a common garden weed, found on all types of soil, though it favours heavier, moist soils.

It has yellow daisy like flowers with fluffy seed heads.  It can grow all year round.

It is part of the asteracea plant family and it is also sometimes known as ‘Old-man-in-the-spring’.

Groundsel is an ephemeral weed (a plant which germinates, grows, flowers and sets seed several times in one growing season).  In fact it can complete its life cycle in just 5-6 weeks.

 The flowers are self-fertile and an individual plant produces approximately 1200 seeds.  Because of this and the fact that it is a fast growing plant, it can smother younger crops around it.

The seeds are dispersed by wind.  Seeds have been found in bird droppings and found in cow manure too.


Groundsel acts as a host for Cinerara leaf rust and the fungus that causes black root rot in peas.

Groundsel is a good food source for the caterpillars, butterflies and moths and is one of only two plant species that provide food for the cinnabar moth caterpillars.

You can find details of the cinnabar moth here.

How To Control Groundsel:

I find it’s best to just hoe the seedlings while they are small, before they set seed, or just pull them out by hand.  If you do decide to use a chemical weed killer, you need to do it early in the plants life, otherwise the weed killer may not kill the plant.




Today’s Half-Term Activity – Gingerbread Men

Today I thought I would write about an activity that I regularly did with my children when they were smaller…Ginger Bread Men.  They are really easy to make and kids love to get their fingers into the mixture and play with the dough.

They can be decorated with raisins, cherries or anything you have available.

While my daughters were eating them, I would tell them the  ‘Gingerbread Man’ story.

If you don’t know the story, you can all watch it together here.  My daughters would pretend that their gingerbread men were running, as I chanted the words from the story:

“Run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m a gingerbread man”


Ginger Bread Men

400 grams self raising flour

3 teaspoons ground ginger

100g caster sugar

50 grams margarine

3 tablespoons golden syrup

4 tablespoons of milk

currants, glace cherries to decorate


Preheat your oven Gas mark 3 / 160C / 325F.

Put the flour and ginger into a bowl.

Melt the margarine, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat.

Add the margarine mix, to the flour and ginger.  Mix well.

Add the milk and mix to a firm consistency.  Knead lightly with your hands.

Roll the dough thinly, using more flour to stop it from sticking.

Use a cutter to make the gingerbread man shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet.

Cut the cherries for the mouths and use the raisins for eyes and buttons.

Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Allow them to cool slightly before transferring them to a cooling wire rack.


I managed to make seventeen gingerbread men with the mixture, but I suppose it depends on how big your cutter is and how thin you roll the dough.

The gingerbread men cost me just 63p to make, plus the cherries and currants to decorate, but you can use what you have handy in your cupboards to decorate them.

It’s another cheap and fun activity to do with your children.

I hope you find todays blog helpful.