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The Edible Garden Show, Bob Flowerdew And A New Sausage Maker

On Saturday I went to the Edible Garden Show with my two sisters.  My eldest sister paid for our tickets as a christmas present and I loved it.

  You can read the ‘Edible Garden Show’ Website here.

There were plenty of interesting stalls, selling products and giving advice.  It was great to wander around.

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There were also lots of interesting talks which I enjoyed.  Alys Fowler talked about growing about fruit in small places, showing photos of her own garden.  She also included some photos of fruits that she foraged from car parks local to her, which was great.

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Another really good talk, was given by Bob Flowerdew, a wonderful organic gardener.  He talked about ‘No Work Growing’, which was basically ways to reduce or eliminate unnecessary chores.  He was very funny at times.

Earlier in the day I was really very lucky.  I noticed Bob Flowerdew in a quiet part of the hall and I asked him if I could have a photograph with him.  He was lovely and put his arm round me while the lady with him took a photo for me.  It made my day.

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My one and only purchase of the day was…….. drumroll please……

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A ‘Meat Mincer ‘ with a sausage making attachment.  A cumberland sausage mix and some sausage skins also came with it.  It cost me £20, but I was assured it works perfectly.

I have noticed since, that it can also be used to make pasta too.
I am really looking forward to using it and I have told him I will rewiew it on my blog, so he can see how I get on.

I hope it works well.

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As it’s been such a wet weekend, I haven’t been able to get to my allotment.  So today I thought I would show you a couple of photographs that I took on Thursday morning, when the weather was nice for a change:

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This is the robin that always comes over to me when I’m digging or moving compost at my allotment.  I always reward him with some tasty mealworms on my bird feeder.

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This is ‘Scraggy Fox’ that is always hanging around my plot.  He had just been drinking out of one of my ponds, he must have been thirsty.

Poor ‘Scraggy Fox’ has a skin condition which has caused some of his fur to fall out and I feel very sorry for him.  I don’t feed him as I don’t like to encourage town foxes, but he has been visiting now for two years and has become a familiar sight to me.

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The photo above is something that has surprised me… My cauliflowers were grown to be harvested last August, but because the weather was so dreadful last year, they are only just ready now.  Luckily they were an ‘all year round’ cauliflower.

This cauliflower fed us all for two meals and I have another five cauliflowers still to pick, which is marvelous.

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Finally, sadly we had our last homegrown butternut squash this week.  It was lovely roasted and was enough for a couple of meals.

This demonstrates how long they will store if they have the right conditions.  I store them in our bedroom, as it’s the coldest room of the house …so very romantic lol.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I’ll be back on Friday.

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.

My Allotment Today and A Diwali Meal

Today at the allotment I weeded around my spring cabbages.

Unfortunately the slugs have been eating the cabbages, so I had to put some more organic slug pellets around them.

I also cleared away all the dead rhubarb leaves and weeded around the plants.

I walked around my plot and noticed my poach egg plants are flowering again.  They look beautiful.

My chrysanthemums are flowering well too, considering it is their first year.  They were given to me last year, by my good allotment friend, Tina.

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Diwali – A Hindu Festival of Light and a Diwali Meal

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In Leicester, where I live, there is one of the biggest Diwali Celebrations outside of India.  Just over a week ago, on the 4th November, approximately 35,000 people attended the ‘switching on’ of the lights that decorate the road along the ‘Golden Mile’ in Leicester.  The Golden Mile is so called because it is lined with the largest selection of Indian jewellery shops outside of India.

For one night a year, the road is closed and they have a firework display and live cultural entertainment on a stage, as the ‘festival of light’ marks the start of the Hindu New Year.

Diwali is actually a five day festival.  It honors the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness.  It also marks the start of winter.

Diwali means “festival of lights,” and people light rows of lights.  The exchange of gifts is also traditional during this holiday, and many people host dinners and parties.

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We are not of ‘Hindu’ religion in our house, but we do enjoy Indian food.  So to join in the celebrations, we had a ‘Diwali’ meal on Sunday.  We lit lots of candles and enjoyed some lovely Indian food:

We had poppadum’s with mango chutney and a yoghurt and mint dip and onion bhaji’s and vegetable samosas.  The yoghurt and mint dip is so easy to make, as you just mix in a couple of teaspoons of dried mint into your natural yoghurt and leave it in your fridge for a few hours before you need it.

I cooked two different curries.  You can find one recipe here and the other recipe is a ‘Chicken and Vegetable korma’ which you can find lower down today’s blog.

I served the curries with rice and homemade naans.  You can find the recipe for naan bread here.

All in all it was a lovely meal, which we all enjoyed.

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Chicken and Vegetable Korma Recipe:

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

200 grams natural yoghurt

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 teaspoons turmeric

2 heaped teaspoons of garam masala

1 teaspoon chilli powder

Leftover cooked chicken

Leftover cooked vegetables

 

Preheat the oven Gas 6 / 400F / 200C

Fry the onions in the olive oil until they are soft.

Put the onion, garlic, yoghurt and spices into a bowl and blend with a stick blender until smooth, (or use a liquidiser).  It should be a creamy consistency, add a little water to thin if necessary.

Put the cooked chicken and leftover cooked vegetables into the sauce mix and completely coat them with the sauce.

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and cook for approximately 45 minutes, until it is piping hot.

Serve with rice, yoghurt and naan bread.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Bonfire Night & A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10

Bonfire Night

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
Gunpowder, treason, and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”.

On 5th November 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.  He didn’t agree with the King, James I, and plotted with a group of men, to blow up the Houses of Parliament with gun powder.

The plan didn’t work and he was sent to the ‘Tower of London’ and was later executed.

Since then, the 5th November has been remembered as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.  Children would make a pretend ‘Guy Fawkes’ out of old clothes , stuffed with hay or paper and sit in the street asking passers by for a ‘penny for the guy’, to pay for fireworks. At night the guys were placed on the top of bonfires.

Today, children do not ask for money for fireworks anymore and most people prefer to go to large ‘Firework’ displays that are much safer.  However, Guys are still made to put on top of bonfires.

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On Saturday we went to a Bonfire party at our allotment site.  We are on top of a hill facing Leicester and we could see most of the Leicester sky that was lit up with all the fireworks from different displays.  They had a large bonfire to burn all our old bits of wood and allotment debris that can’t be composted.

Earlier in the day, my family made a ‘Guy Fawkes’ to put on the bonfire.  We used old clothes and stuffed it with newspaper and put an old mask on it.

We were very pleased with the result and we transported it to the allotment, ready for the bonfire in the evening.

It was put on the top of the bonfire and someone even put a can of lager in it’s hand, he looked so funny

You can just see it burning in the photo below.

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Everyone at the allotment brought a dish to share and there was loads of delicious food.

There was even ‘Beetroot wine’ to drink, which was actually really nice.

It was such a lovely evening.

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A Week Of Main Meals For Under £10.00

This week I thought I would set myself a challenge of cooking seven main meals for my family, for under £10.00. If I can do this, it will show people that we can and do actually live well on less’.  So watch this space Jamie Oliver!

To keep the costs down, I will be using my home grown vegetables and in the style of ‘Ready Steady Cook’, I will have free use of the following store cupboard items:

Flour (Self-raising / plain / strong white)

Margarine

Olive oil

Stock

Yeast

Sugar

Salt

Milk / milk powder / UHT milk

Gravy

Herbs and spices.

Obviously, if I didn’t grow my own vegetables then it would cost more to make the meals, but that is the exact reason I do grow my own.  I’m also hoping to demonstrate to you, that by planning meals using leftovers you can have some really nice frugal meals.

I started my challenge yesterday (Sunday) by cooking a Roast chicken, roast potatoes, roasted butternut squash, roasted onion, roasted parsnips, red cabbage, mashed swede, peas and beans.

 

Using my vegetables and store cupboard items, I only paid for a chicken that weighed 1.4kg (three chickens for £10).  So my total expenditure for Sunday was £3.33 and you can see in the photo below, I have quite a lot left over:

 

Tonight I made a curry with some of the leftover chicken and vegetables.  The curry recipe I used is here.

I served the curry with homemade naan bread (I will put the recipe on my blog tomorrow), and homemade yoghurt.

My total expense for Monday’s main meal was £0.87.  This was how much I paid for the rice and the coconut milk, everything else was made from the leftovers from Sunday, or store cupboard items.

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Homemade Yoghurt:

 

A few years ago I was given an Easiyo Yoghurt maker.  You can see a similar one here.

The idea of an Easiyo Yoghurt maker is to use sachets of the Easiyo yoghurt mixes which you buy.  I don’t do this, as I think they are expensive and I like to make mine from scratch.  This is an easy way to make yoghurt:

You will need skimmed milk powder

UHT Milk

A yoghurt starter

The first time you make yoghurt, you will need to buy a small amount of ‘live’ natural yoghurt, or ‘probiotic’ natural yoghurt.  This will give your yoghurt mix, the bacteria that it needs to make yoghurt.  Each time you make your own yoghurt, save 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt ready to start your next batch of homemade yoghurt.  Your starter can be frozen until needed.  I do this up to four or five times only, as the bacteria seems to weaken each time.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of skimmed milk powder into your yoghurt maker canister.  Half fill the canister with UHT milk and give it a good shake.

Put 3 heaped tablespoons of ‘Yoghurt starter’ into the canister.

Top up the canister with UHT milk and give it another good shake.

Put boiling water into the Easiyo flask and then add the canister.

 Put the lid on and leave for approximately ten hours.

Take the canister out of the Easyio flask and then put it in the fridge to finish setting.

 Don’t forget to save 3 heaped tablespoons to freeze as a ‘yoghurt starter’ for the next time you make it.

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 Thank you for reading my blog today.

A lovely Birthday And A Nice Hot Chocolate

Yesterday it was my birthday and I had a lovely day.

I had lots of cards and lovely presents.

As per usual, my favourite cards are the homemade ones that my husband and daughter made me.

My daughters bought me some slippers and some trainers and I had some new ankle boots for the winter.   I also had some Thornton’s chocolates and some delicious Baileys Chocolates and a yearly subscription to ‘Gardeners World’ magazine and a lovely warm fleece too.

My husband also bought me a radio for my allotment, as my old one doesn’t work very well.  It’s brilliant as it solar powered and also winds up if it’s not sunny and it even takes normal batteries as a backup.  It’s small enough for me to carry too.

I’m very pleased with it.

I just love useful presents.

Unexpected presents are also really nice to receive.  My lovely neighbour Eileen bought me some new gardening gloves.  I will definitely be using these tomorrow as mine have a hole in.

I think I did very well for presents this year!

My favourite thing in the whole day was my daughters had made a birthday cake and small fairy cakes for me, all on their own.

This is the first birthday they have been old enough to do this and it was such a lovely lovely thing to do for me.  It all tasted gorgeous.

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I finished the day with a nice frothy Hot Chocolate.

I used to think that you needed to buy the expensive powder to make a decent hot chocolate. Then one day I learnt that it’s very easy to make:

All I do is measure a cup of milk in a pan and then add two chucks of your favourite chocolate or even cooking chocolate and heat the milk until it boils.  Stir occasionally to make sure the chocolate melts.

If you want it really special, you can froth it up with your stick blender and then put some squirty cream on top with sprinkles and marshmallows.

 I’d eaten far too many goodies yesterday to be able to have a hot chocolate with cream as well, so I just ‘frothed’ mine up:

Just before I finish for today, I wanted to show you a picture that was on the front of a birthday card I received.  The sender knew it was one of my favourite places to holiday and I have lots of happy memories there:

Eastbourne Pier

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Thank you for sharing my special day with me.

Luxury Lemon Cheesecake and My Best friend’s Visit

I was very excited on Saturday as my best friend and her family came to visit us.

I don’t see her as often as I’d like to, as she lives in Stafford.

She brought me a lovely present:

A Beautiful Mini Orchid

I can’t ever remember a time when my best friend wasn’t in my life, as we grew up living four houses away from each other.

My best friend is one year younger than me so we did have other friends, but she was the one I was always with, out of school.

I have many many fond memories of my childhood with her:

When she was little, she would knock on our front room window and yell “Lisa”, rather than ringing the door bell.

We would spend hours playing with her dolls house and Sindy doll, which I was very jealous of, as it was wonderful.

There was one time when we decided to ‘paint’ my alley, (my dad was a painter and decorator at the time)  as I had overheard my parents saying it was scruffy.  We thought my mum and dad would be so proud of us and we were both shocked when they were angry and told us it would cost pounds to replace the paints, as we had used the same brushes in all the different coloured paint pots.

I always remember our Christmas’s fondly, as we would run round to each others houses excitedly on Christmas Day, to show our presents.  Her family’s Christmas tree was always to die for, as they had a ‘real’ tree, that seemed so big every year and they were so beautifully decorated.

Her family always welcomed me as part of the family.

My first teddy
“Yellow Ted”

So many lovely memories.

We had so much fun when we were younger.  We would talk, play, laugh and dream of times when we grew up and had families of our own and here we were, together with our own families, still laughing and talking.

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We were going to have a Greek BBQ (as my husband is Greek Cypriot), but yet again the wet weather convinced us not too.  So I cooked the second best thing:

I made some patty pan soup and homemade bread as a starter.

For the main course, I cooked a very large roast chicken, roast potatoes, pilaf rice and served it with some pitta, salad, homemade houmous and tzatziki and some shop brought taramasalata.

They brought the wine, so we also had the odd glass, or two or three (I’m not quite sure)

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My recipe for houmous is very easy and cheap.

Recipes for houmous have tahini in, but I found it didn’t store very long (according to the bottle) and so I ended up wasting it.   So I make houmous without using it and it tastes just as nice.  It also freezes very well, so I usually make a double portion and freeze half.  This is my recipe:

Houmous:

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

A 400g tin of chick peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 garlic clove chopped finely

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

3 tablespoons of natural yoghurt

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz round until the chick peas are thoroughly chopped and it’s creamy.

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That’s all there is to it.  I make my own yoghurt and grow my own garlic which makes it even cheaper for me to make. I buy larger packs of cumin and my tins of chickpeas from the ‘world food’ section in the supermarkets, as you usually find cheaper brands in this isle rather than the brands you find in other isles (the supermarkets are so crafty).

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For pudding I made some courgette chocolate cakes with chocolate icing on top:

The recipe for this cake is here.

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Also I wanted to make something extra special, so I made a Luxury Lemon CheeseCake.  It isn’t cheap to make, but it tastes divine and it’s another very easy recipe and it doesn’t involve cooking it in the oven.

I’ve worked out that my cheese cake totalled £5.51 to make.  To give you a comparison on price, Marks and Spencer sell their cheesecakes for £13.00

This is how I make it:

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Luxury Lemon Cheesecake

300 grams of digestive biscuits

75 grams of margarine

3 X 250gram tubs of mascarpone cheese

60 grams icing sugar

Finely grated zest of 3 lemons

Juice of 3 lemons

Grated chocolate or lemon zest to decorate

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Line a 9 inch, loose bottom tin with foil

Put the biscuits into a clean bag and bash them with a rolling pin until they are all small crumbs

Melt the margarine in a large pan.  When it has melted, take off the heat and mix in the biscuit crumbs

Press the biscuit mixture into the tin with the back of a metal spoon so it is flat and even

Put the base in the fridge to chill for an hour before making the topping.

Beat the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, lemon zest and juice altogether in a bowl and then spread over the biscuit base

Decorate with either more lemon zest or chocolate

Leave in the fridge over night to ‘set’ as this makes it easier to remove the cheesecake from the tin and foil.

Enjoy!

It is lovely served with cream

I had a great time with my best friend and her family, I feel very privileged to have a friend like her.

My oldest, best friend.

Afternoon Tea and a Trip to the Sea

On Sunday I invited my family round for ‘Afternoon Tea’.

‘Afternoon Tea’

‘Afternoon Tea’ was originally intended for just the ‘ladies’ of the family.  However, all the men folk wanted to come too, so it became a whole family occasion.

This has now become a regular thing over the last few years, as everyone seems to enjoy it.  This time there were 18 people including my 1 year old great nephew, so I was grateful that the weather stayed fine, so we could all sit and eat outside.

My China Tea Set

I took out my best ‘china’ tea set for the occasion (which I bought second hand from ebay).

This time I decided to have an ‘allotment’ theme.

I started by serving Patty Pan Soup and homemade bread.

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My wonderful sister made sandwiches for everyone this year to help me, so we served these next.

Afterwards I served the cakes.

To keep with my allotment theme, I served the following:

Chocolate Beetroot Cake, with chocolate butter icing and a chocolate topping:

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Pumpkin and Orange Cake

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Rhubarb and Ginger Cake

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Blackberry Flapjacks

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Apple & Yellow Plum Muffins

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Chocolate Courgette Cakes

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This was all served with lots of Tea and Coffee and homemade Raspberry Cordial.

It did take quite a while to bake all the cakes, but everyone seemed to have a lovely time.

 The recipes for the Patty Pan Soup, Chocolate Beetroot Cake and the Chocolate Courgette cakes, are already in the ‘recipe section’ at the top of the page.

I will be writing the other cake recipes for you to enjoy, on my blog in the next few days.

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Yesterday, the four of us went for a lovely family day out to Skegness in Lincolnshire.

Skegness is a well known place for a day trip when you live in Leicester, as we do.  It’s one of the nearest beaches to us.

It took two hours to drive there.

Skegness has a reputation of being a bit ‘tacky’ with the amusements and ‘cheap’ shops, but for a day on the beach you can’t beat it.

We took a big picnic, chairs, buckets and spades, etc. and had a wonderful cheap day, making sandcastles, playing cricket, collecting shells, etc and chatting about life.

The weather was good and the sea was calm and I had fun with my husband and daughters.  What more could anyone want in life?

Thank you for reading my blog today.