Archive | November 2012

Clearing My Wildflower Patch And A Chicken Zorba Recipe

This week at my allotment I have been clearing the wildflower patch that flowered so beautifully, for so long.

You can read about my wildflower area here.

I knew my plot was too wet to dig from all the rain we have had recently, so I worked on an old plank so I didn’t destroy the structure of the soil.  The plank spreads my weight evenly over a large area.

Just in case anyone is unsure, as a general rule, if the soil sticks to your boots then it is too wet to dig.

I’m very pleased with the work I have done and all the old wildflowers are sitting in my compost bins, at the back of my plot.

When it has dried out a bit, I will fork the soil over lightly to prepare for next years wildflowers.

There are still loads of things for me to clear and jobs to do at my allotment.  I just hope the soil dries soon, as it’s frustrating that I can’t get onto the soil properly.

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Today I’d like to share a recipe with you, that I made on Wednesday night for my daughter’s birthday.  It is a bit more expensive to cook as it uses chicken breasts, but it is a treat and we all love it.

This recipe is a Sainbury’s recipe that I have been cooking for many years, though the original recipe uses lime juice and fresh mint.

If you haven’t got the herbs and spices in your store cupboard it can work out expensive, but if you do a lot of cooking then you will use these herbs and spices regularly anyway.

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Chicken Zorba

 Juice of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon dried mint

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

A tablepoon of olive oil

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Roughly chop the chicken breasts into cubes.

In a small bowl or a cup, mix the lemon juice, coriander, cumin, turmeric and mint.

Pour the herb and spice mix over the chicken and mix well so the chicken is all coated.

Leave the chicken in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and then add the chicken.  Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The chicken will be a golden colour when it is cooked, but do check it is cooked right through to the centre.

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The Sainsbury’s recipe suggests serving the Chicken Zorba with pitta, natural yoghurt and salad.

I served it with roast potatoes, pilaf rice, salad, pitta, sweetcorn, houmous and natural yoghurt…well it was a special occaision wasn’t it!

You can find the recipe for houmous here and how to make yoghurt here.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

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CanTeenagers Budget With Their Own Money?

Well it’s official, I now have two teenage girls in the house.

If you have time, have a look at this clip from the ‘Harry Enfield’ series, called Kevin becomes a teenager:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLuEY6jN6gY

I love this clip as he picks up so many traits of a teenager.

As parents, there is no ‘book of rules’ or ‘good parenting guides for teenagers’ and we muddle through as best as we can.

Life is hard for a teenager, they are at that stage where their hormones are on fire, so their emotions tend to be out of proportion.  They also have to contend with higher expectations from school and from society and the world in general.  There are so many issues that are around today, that weren’t around when I was a child, e.g. drugs, date rape, on-line grooming, cyber bullying etc.  As a parent it makes you want to tell your child that they must never go out again, but we can’t do that.

As a parent, I feel the best I can do, is to make sure my children are aware of all these things, without scaring them.  At least then they will have the knowledge to avoid these situations or at least know where to get help.

Everyday life can have many pitfalls too.  If they manage to get a job, they need to be able to budget their money.  It’s easy when they live at home with their parents, but when they leave home they will have bills to pay.

Over the last two or three decades, credit cards and loans have become a way of life for many.  Purchases are made on the ‘never, never’, just so houses looks trendy and beautiful, with two or three cars sitting outside.  Also, holidays are taken when people need one, rather than when they can afford one and unfortunately our children are learning that keeping up with the ‘Jones’, is the way to live.

The only problem with this way of life, is it usually catches up with people.  In February this year, the  PwC’s Precious Plastic report predicted that UK consumers will owe around £7,500 each by 2013 and this doesn’t include mortgages.

So one thing I feel I can do for my teenagers, is to teach them how to budget and talk to them about the tricks that advertisers and shops use, to pretend people are getting a bargain or a ‘must have essential item’.

So last month, we sat both my daughters down and discussed our plan with them.  We had decided to give them an ‘allowance’ once a month.  We had previously worked out exactly how much the allowance was going to be, by firstly making a list of exactly what their money was to be used for and how much we usually budget for them.  This is our list:

Clothes / underwear / P.J’s

Shoes

Haircuts / Hair Accessories / Make up / Jewelry

Presents for friends at birthday / Xmas 

School uniforms

School trips

School expenses / Stationary

Sweets.

We will still buy the basic items e.g. shampoo, conditioner etc. but if they want more expensive brands they will have to buy it themselves.  Also, I will supply them with a packed lunch every day, but if they want a school dinner as a treat, then they need to pay for it themselves.

This all may sound a little harsh to you, but we have worked out exactly how much we spend on average for the above list of things and we have actually given them a bit more money on top.

At first my daughters eyes nearly popped out when I showed them how much money we were giving them each month, but when we sat and talked through how much we spend monthly on each area, we did start to get a few moans and the usual teenage “that’s not fair” from them.

We have helped each daughter to set up a spreadsheet that contains a budget for each item and explained to them how to go about saving for things like school uniform, shoes and hair.

Before they get their each months new allowance, we tell them we need to see their spreadsheet, to make sure they are spending wisely and it is working well.  We want to ensure that they are not overspending.  We feel this will teach them how to budget well and how to save up to buy items they need.

We have just given them their second months allowance and we have already noticed that they have stopped asking for money from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’.  However, one hard lesson we have had to swallow is their priorities are not the same as ours.  My eldest daughter loves ‘designer’ things and the first thing she did was buy some ‘Vans’ (the designer plimsoles that I so hate), but she did learn from it, as she had to cut down on everything else she wanted for the rest of the month.  So even though we hated to see her spend money on these, she has learnt a valuable lesson.

I hope my daughters will learn alot from handling their own money and I hope we don’t have too many problems.  It’s early days at the moment, but we will give it a good go and I will let you know how we get on.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

Laundry Liquid And The Water Has Gone

Yesterday I mentioned that the dike that had once flowed through my four allotments had flooded again.  You can see this in the picture below.

Today I’m very pleased to say it had dried up completely, so my panic is over…for now.

 I really feel for all those people that have had their properties flooded in the UK, due to the constant rain we have been having.  It’s hard to believe now, that there were hose pipe bans around the country in the spring time.

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This morning I made some more laundry liquid as I had used the last drop that I had left.

I love the laundry liquid I make, as it is so cheap.  I use soap flakes, borax substitute (as you can no longer buy borax) and Soda Crystals.

You can find the recipe I use here.

As I said previously, I can’t take the credit for this recipe as I found it on the internet a long time ago and I haven’t got a clue where I found it.

The last time I made my laundry liquid was the 21st September.  I kept a careful note of how many washes this batch of laundry liquid actually did, so I could report this back to you.   I have worked out that I managed to get 71 washes out of my laundry liquid.

I have looked hard to find the cheapest laundry liquid that I could find in Tesco and it appears to be ‘Daisy’ which is £2.39 for twenty eight washes.  This works out at 8.5p per wash.

My laundry liquid cost me approximately £1.75 to make and that is a staggering 2.5p per wash.  I challenge the supermarkets to beat that.

It took me about fifteen minutes to make, but I think it was time well spent.

Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Bit of A flood And Work In My Polytunnel

After a weekend of wind and more rain, I visited my allotment yesterday, wondering what I would find.

The wind had blown my empty compost bin quite a distance:

It had also blown my arch over and broken it, though it was on its last legs anyway, after I had grown the heavy shark fin melon over it.

There is an old ‘dike’ that runs through our allotment site.  It has been dry for years until we had the summer of heavy rain and floods approximately five years ago, but it dried up again really quickly.   After all the rain we have had, the dike has been flowing again and unfortunately it runs across the middle of my four plots.

As long as it dries up in the next day or two then it should be ok.

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Yesterday, I worked in my polytunnel as it was looking a little bit uncared for.

 As it has been so wet outside recently, I haven’t been able to open it to allow the moisture to escape.  Unfortunately this has led to some of my summer lettuces suffering from Grey Mould (Botrytis cinerea), due to the moist conditions inside the polytunnel:

I removed the lettuces that were affected, but most of the summer lettuces were still looking good,  which is amazing as it’s nearly December:

After this, I noticed my cape gooseberries were affected with grey mould too, so I removed these.  I filled a small bag with the cape gooseberries that weren’t affected, so I am looking forward to a Cape gooseberry crumble tonight

I also removed the four old sweetcorn plants I had in my polytunnel and I managed to get four beautiful corn on the cobs from them.

I pulled up the dying pepper plants and planted some more winter lettuce that I had grown.

I had a general weed around the remaining plants and a tidy up.  It looked much better afterwards.

So, left in my polytunnel are the remaining summer lettuces shown above and my winter lettuces (below), which seem to be doing well:

Corn salad:

Mizuna:

Three turnips:

Celeriac:

And winter hardy spring onions:

So things are going well in my polytunnel:

Thank you for reading my blog today.

A Lactose Free Sweetie Cake And A Fun Birthday Party

At the weekend my daughter invited seven of her friends round to celebrate her 13th birthday.

My daughter was diagnosed as lactose intolerant a year ago by the hospital.  Lactose free milk and cheese can now be bought from the supermarkets, but unfortunately my daughter can only stomach a small amount of these, so she has a mainly dairy free diet, except for the lactose free milk and cheese occaisionally, in small amounts.

So it is really difficult to take her out for a meal, as nowhere seems to cater for this type of intolerance.   Milk, whey, lactose, etc. is hidden in so many things it’s ridiculous, milk is even sometimes pumped into the skin of some frozen meat, as it’s said to give it a better browning effect.  My daughter is really poorly after eating something she shouldn’t, even in small amounts and sometimes the effect happens very quickly after eating.

So this is why we had her friends for tea, as I know I can prepare a meal that she can eat, which tastes no different to the dairy equivalent.

I cooked pizza for everyone (and a special one for my daughter), chips, corn on the cobs, sausage rolls, chicken drumsticks, samosa, crisps, cucumber sticks and tomatoes.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy the meal.

Dairy free birthday cakes are impossible to buy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and even if I did I’m sure it would taste like cardboard (like the jam tarts we bought not so long ago).  Dairy free cakes are again so easy to make.  All you need to do is replace the margarine or butter with a dairy free margarine.  I use ‘Pure’ Margarine as it gives good results.  If milk is required, I also use  soya milk or for a lactose free cake, I use lactose free milk.

I wanted to make my daughter a really special cake as she always misses out when there is cake and sweets at school.  So I decided to make a cake using a ‘Baba Pan’.

A baba pan is a cake tin with a hole in the middle.  My mother very kindly gave me her pan as she never used it.  I made a marble cake (the recipe is below) and covered it with a chocolate frosting (you can find the recipe here) and covered the cake and filled the hole in the middle with sweets that she can actually eat.  I also put lollies and sweets around the base of the cake too.

It was a very easy birthday cake to make and it was lovely to see her eyes nearly pop out when she saw it, as she knew it was ok for her to eat.  Her friends all loved it too.

I also made some dairy free butterfly cakes and a good friend brought some homemade dairy free flapjacks for my daughter too.  I’m not sure if she realises it, but gestures like this mean the world to my daughter, so if you are reading this, thank you.

After they all ate, they played different games that my husband had sorted and when they left my daughter gave them all a gift which we had actually bought in the January sales ready for parties, so it does pay to think ahead.

All in all, the kids all had a great time and my daughter was very happy and we were happy because it had been achieved cheaply.

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Chocolate Marble Cake

185g Margarine, plus extra for greasing the pan (dairy free margarine such as pure)

265g Caster sugar

3 Eggs

225g plain flour, plus 1 tablespoon extra for dusting your pan.

85g self-raising flour

5 tablespoons of milk (lactose free milk or soya milk)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

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Preheat your oven Gas 3 / 325 / 170C

Grease a baba pan and then lightly dust with the 1 tablespoon of extra flour.

Cream the margarine and sugar together, until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs until combined.

Sift both the flours and the baking powder into a separate bowl and then mix half of it into the margarine/egg mix, together with 1 tablespoon of the milk.

When this is combined, mix in the remaining flour with another 1 tablespoon of milk.

In a separate bowl, blend the cocoa with the remaining 3 tablespoons of milk, until it is smooth.

Take 2 tablespoons of the cake mix and add it to the cocoa mix and stir until smooth.

Fold the cocoa mixture into the cake mixture. Do not over mix, it should just give a rippled effect.

Spoon into your pan and smooth the top lightly.

Cook in the oven for 40 minutes and then lay some foil over the top to stop it from burning and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out clean.

Dust with icing sugar to serve or cover with chocolate frosting.

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 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 called ‘Bowerbird Blue’.

In the ‘About Us’ section it says:

I love old things and the stories that they tell. I am passionate about environmental education for kids. Just like my nannas, I feel most at home in the garden, hands in the earth, flowers and children at my side.

I like this blog as the photographs are so beautiful.

You can find the blog here.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog this week.  I will be back on Monday at approximately 7.30 pm.

An Eco House Event And A Christmas Pudding Recipe.

I don’t normally advertise on my blog, but today I thought I’d talk about a wonderful place in Leicester, called EcoHouse.

Their website can be found here.  It says :

“Leicester’s EcoHouse was the first environmental show home to be opened in the United Kingdom. The House demonstrates how people can live in a more sustainable way, saving money in the process. Entrance is free to the House, although we welcome donations.

The garden is fully organic and demonstrates how to garden for wildlife and food.

The house, café and garden are open to the public Wednesday to Sunday to both look around and seek advice. Guided tours are offered and the training room may also be hired for events and meetings.  For school visits we can tailor tours and activities to a group’s needs to tie into the National Curriculum”

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There are various events that take place at EcoHouse, that are well worth a visit.  One such event is:

‘Christmas Decorations From The Garden’

Sunday 2nd December 2012

2.00 pm – 4.00pm  

Rob Carter

Rob Carter will be running the event and this is what he says about it:

“We provide a range of green material from local gardens and people use their imagination to make things.  There are always folk who know exactly what they want to do and others copy them, while their own atrophied imaginations are kicking into gear.

The sort of material that will be used, is willow and hazel wreath frames, wooden roundels for table decorations, logs, conifer greenery, holly of various types, dried flower heads, pine cones, etc.”

I think it sounds fantastic.

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Also, while I’m on the subject of EcoHouse, Rob Carter also runs an excellent organic gardening course:

“This friendly course has been running since 2001. It offers new organic gardeners a grounding in the basic principles and makes strong connections with the worldwide issues of resource depletion and sustainable cultivation. Established gardeners are also very welcome. New gardeners are often excitingly innovative and experience contributes great wisdom and intelligent criticism. The course hopes to encourage participation from the group at all times.  The course comprises of nine sessions in total.”

I personally know Rob and he is an inspiration with his knowledge of organic gardening practises.  I have learnt so much by listening to him.

You can read about the course he runs here.

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‘Stir–up Sunday’

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Last years Christmas pudding

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This Sunday is ‘Stir-up Sunday’.  This is the traditional day to make your Christmas pudding.

The name comes from the opening words of the collect (the prayer of the day), in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:

“Stir-up, we beseech thee” .

On Stir-up Sunday, families would return from the church and each give the pudding a stir and make a wish.  The pudding would be stirred from East to West  in honour of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus.

As with many English puddings, Christmas pudding started out as a meaty dish but evolved over the centuries, via Plum Pudding, into the sweet creation that we know today.

The recipe I have written below is one my eldest sister gave to me.  She has been making this pudding since she was eleven years old, so it is definitely tried and tested.  It is an unusual recipe because it doesn’t contain any alcohol and it doesn’t use eggs.  If you are dairy intolerant, I’m sure it would be fine to use soya milk instead of the cows milk too.

I’ve got to say it is delicious.

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Helen’s Christmas Pudding Recipe

3 oz. plain flour

3oz soft brown sugar

1 lemon zest and juice

1 orange zest and juice

1 small carrot grated

¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ oz. white breadcrumbs

1 ½ dessertspoons golden syrup

6 tablespoon of milk

¾ teaspoon mixed spice

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

3oz suet

3oz grated apple

1 lb. mixed dried fruit

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Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Mix all the ingredients together and place in a greased pudding bowl.

Cut out two 12 inch squares of greaseproof paper.

Put the squares on top of each other and put a 1 inch pleat in the middle.

Tie the greaseproof paper over the pudding bowl with string.

Steam for six hours.

Either serve straight away or allow to cool and replace the greaseproof paper and store in the fridge.

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My sister tells me that this pudding will keep in the fridge for up to a month.  However, the pudding tastes lovely the day you make it, so this pudding can be made much closer to Christmas.

I reheated the pudding in the microwave for approximately 13 minutes.  My microwave is only 700w so it may need less time, depending on how powerful your microwave is.  Just make sure it’s piping hot inside.

Thank you for reading my blog today

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