Tag Archive | Growing rhubarb

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, Flowers & Veg

The park has been looking even more wonderful this week on my dog walks and when the sun is shining the beauty of it all sometimes takes my breath away.  How lucky I am to not only have this splendid park on my doorstep, but be able to take the time to stop and stare at the things that change each week:

I have noticed that the hawthorn and cow parsley are putting on a wonderful display:

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And so too are the flowers that we so quickly remove from our own gardens, but on mass they look spectacular:

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Also the Horse chestnut trees are really giving a good display this year.  Apparently last year wasn’t a good year for conkers – it certainly looks like the trees are going to be making up for this later on in the year:

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But unfortunately there is always someone who wants to spoil things….it seems like every Monday morning there is lots and lots of rubbish for the park keeper to pick up near the cricket pavillion.  There is food left on the floor like chinese containers and chicken bones, which could quite easily cause dog owners large vet bills if their dogs eat something they shouldn’t.

It’s such a shame as the park keeper has enough to do without picking up rubbish that could quite easily be taken home with them.

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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After checking the weather forecast I decided that I would plant out my remaining tender crops.

I started by planting my outdoor tomatoes which are an early outdoor variety called ‘Outdoor wonder’…..I usually get a decent crop before blight hits with this variety and I use them to make passatta or soup to freeze for the winter months ahead, or we just eat them as they taste so much better than shop bought tomatoes:

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I also planted out my cherry tomatoes…..

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And my french beans which are a variety called ‘Maxi’ that hold the beans above the plant so they can be easily picked:

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I then began planting my squashes.  I started by planting a couple of pumpkins at the base of the arch I made a couple of months ago.  The variety is called ‘Winter Sweet Dumpling’ (which I have never grown before), but the seed packet says the squashes are small and the plants are highly productive, so I am hoping to train the plants up the side of the arch as they grow.

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I also planted two courgette plants and one patty pan plant in my new area……last year both these plants didn’t produce as much as usual, so I am hoping this year will be different:

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“I incorporated lots of compost in and around the planting holes before planting my squashes and I also sprinkled some blood, fish and bone around the planting area as squashes are hungry feeders”

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I have been trying to successionally grow my lettuces carefully this year so we have a constant supply.  Unfortunately my next lot of home sown lettuces are tiny, so I decided to buy some that are ready to plant.  I was very pleased to find some reduced to £1 (I would never pay the original price of £3.99 for lettuces though).  I planted them in a space next to my outdoor tomatoes, again in my new area:

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As all my plants have now been hardened off, I had room in my greenhouse to plant my basil and peppers.  Unfortunately the peppers that I grew from seed myself, just sat and sulked and did not grow…. so I decided to buy in some better plants for £1 each and planted them in my greenhouse this week:

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So that was all of my vegetable planting done for now and then I started to plant the remaining flowers that I had grown from seed.

As my garden is a kitchen garden and not an allotment I decided that I wanted to make it as pretty as possible, so it will be pleasent for my family to sit out in the garden as well as it being productive.  This will also have a knock on effect as it will attract beneficial insects to my garden which will eat pests and pollinate my crops.

So I planted antirhinums, dahlias, marigolds, tegetes, bedding begonias, tuberous begonias and lobelia, wherever I could fit them in:

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Things I noticed in my kitchen garden this week:

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My azalea is showing a dazzling display of flowers and I have also noticed that the self seeded aquiligias are now flowering too and looking beautiful (these are one of my favourite flowers).  The chives that line my path are beginning to flower as well, which is great as all of these flowers will attact the bees:

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I have also noticed my new strawberries all have flowers and one or two have tiny fruit on.  I have always read that you should remove the strawberries that the plants produce the first year to build up the strength in the roots….but I have never done this and I have always had good crops.  Next week I need to cover my strawberries to protect them from the birds:

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I have noticed that my plum tree that is growing in a pot has three small plums on…whether they develop into full grown plums, I will have to wait and see:

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The herbs that I planted this year are growing really well too:

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And the grass I sowed a couple of weeks ago has germinated well and is growing strongly:

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This week in the home:

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This week we have been eating lots of the lettuces, radish, coriander and chives growing in the garden.

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  However, what I found brilliant this week was my daughters quite happily nipping out into the garden to pick things to use in their sandwiches or to make a salad for lunch….this is something they couldn’t do when I had my allotment, so it is yet another advantage for me:

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This week I decided to use a little bit of my rhubarb growing in the garden to make some rhubarb crumble muffins.  I transplanted this from my allotment in January last year, so it is only in its second year in my garden.   Last year I didn’t pick any of it and this year I have been picking it sparingly, so it builds up strong roots.  From next year I will be picking it as normal.

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Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

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The muffin Mix:

200g caster sugar

200g peeled rhubarb diced into small pieces

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100mls semi skimmed milk

200g self-raising flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

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The crumble mix:

50g light muscovado sugar

50g plain flour

50g margarine (or butter if preferred)

25g porridge oats

1 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat your oven 200C / 425F / Gas 7

Put the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and stir well together

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In a separate bowl make the crumble mix.  Put the muscovado sugar, plain flour, margarine, oats and cinnamon together and mix well using your fingers to rub in the margarine. 

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In another separate bowl put the oil, egg, vanilla and milk and add all of the rhubarb sugar mix (incl. all the liquid).  Mix together well

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Sieve the flour and baking powder into the rhubarb mix and fold it in gently until all the flour disappears….the mixture should appear lumpy-do not over mix

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Spoon the mixture equally into 12 muffin cases and then sprinkle the crumble mix over each of them

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Bake for approx. 18 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted and comes out clean.  

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week.

XXX

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Planting Potatoes, Peas And More….

Last weekend the weather was very strange and Linda Darby left a comment on my blog to say they had even had snow in Derbyshire.  Snow isn’t unheard of in April, but it is unusual.

Here in Leicester we had hail stones.  Unfortunately at the time myself and Mr Thrift were mulching around my mother-in-laws roses with greenwaste compost, so we had to stop what we were doing and wait for it to pass:

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Incidentally as there were lots of annual weed seeds germinating in the beds, I laid sheets of newspaper between the roses and put the mulch on top…..this will kill the small annual weed seedlings without having to pull them all up, so it saved alot of time:

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This week I went for the monthly dog walk in Bradgate park with our trainer Steven Havers.  Unfortunately this is the last walk in Bradgate Park as the walk is being relocated to Switherland Woods next month.

The Bradgate Park Trust reported this week they have now brought in a new sets of rules regarding dogs in the park, because people have been acting irresponsibly in Bradgate Park recently.  On their website it says…..

“Incidents have included parents filming children chasing the deer, dogs chasing the deer, fights between dogs, dogs bothering people, mountain bikers riding off permitted paths, as well as dogs killing wild birds.  In addition dog poo bags have been left hanging in trees and vandalism recently occurred over night in areas where the Trust’s rangers have been improving habitats and facilities”

Reading this made me extremely sad and I am amazed that people think that it is acceptable to treat the park and it’s wildlife in this way!

The ranger that took us around the park this week together with the dog trainer, told us that the number of deer calves is significantly reduced due to this, which is terrible.

Deer in the distance lying down

Deer in the distance lying down

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Castle Gardens:

 As I have said previously there are lots of places on our doorstep that we walk past frequently without even noticing how beautiful they are, or how they change in the different seasons.

This week I visited Castle Gardens, which is just five minutes from the clock tower in the city centre and I was amazed at how beautiful it was….again Leicester City Council should be very proud of their parks department:

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Everyone that walked past me seemed to be in a rush missing the beauty I was seeing.  Some walked along talking on the phone and others were listening to music through their headphones….I think this was such a shame as they were missing the wonderful birdsong that I could hear.

I honestly believe that when people sit at the ‘pearly gates’ they won’t be wishing that they had worked more, rushed more or spent more money on material things…..I think they will be wishing they had slowed down more and enjoyed the things that life can offer for free.

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Leisure  – By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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This Week In My Garden:

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This week I have been planting my potatoes.  I have planted my usual ‘Marfona’ which are white second earlies and ‘Desiree’ which are a red late main crop.

Over the years I have tried lots of different ways of planting potatoes, but I have found that speading manure / compost over the bed in winter and then digging a trench and using a bulb planter when planting the potatoes works the best for me.  This way I can plant them deep and I only usually have to earth them up once.

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Amazingly, as I was digging my trenches I still found lots of rubble (though I dug the beds well last year) and I even found a big blue brick!

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This week my parsnips germinated.  As soon as the seed leaves appeared above the compost in the kitchen rolls, I moved them outside into my mini greehouse for a few days.

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I then made holes in the ground that were deep enough for the kitchen rolls.  I did this by banging an old piece of guttering pipe into the ground and then planted the kitchen roll into it, making sure there were no gaps between the soil.

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I then watered them to settle the soil around the tubes making sure there wasn’t any of the cardboard tubes showing above the soil (as this acts like a wick and dries the compost out in the kitchen roll).

Then I put mini-cloches made out of ‘pop’ bottles over them to give a bit of protection from the weather and slugs (I use old sticks inserted into the bottles to stop them from blowing away):

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This week I have also been planting my climbing peas.  They are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which I have been growing for quite a few years now.

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As with all my crops, I  raked in some blood fish and bone a couple of weeks before.

I put up some pea and bean netting using canes and planted the peas.  Last year I grew my peas facing east to west, however the peas at the back didn’t do so well due to the shade from the peas in front, so this year I am growing them facing south to north in the hope they will do better:

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I have given the peas a bit of protection from the weather and birds using old panes of glass that I brought back from my allotment when I gave it up.

You can also see in the photo below that I put weed suppressant in between the peas so it helps to cut down the weeding, where it is awkward to hoe:

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I have continues to deadhead my daffodils this week and nearly all of them have finished flowering for another year, which is sad as they are my favourite flowers….however there is so much more to look forward to in the garden now the weather is warming up.

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We have eaten our first ‘cut and come again’ salads in my greenhouse and today I have noticed that my first radish of the year are ready to eat:

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And the ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce which is growing under glass outside is ready for me to pick the odd few leaves to add to our salads.

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Also the chives I brought back from my allotment in January 2015 are doing brilliantly sitting along my main path and I am picking them to add to every salad we have:

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Also the rhubarb I transplanted from my allotment in Jauary 2015 is also doing well.  I will be picking it sparingly this year so each plant builds up it’s roots system ready for normal harvesting from next year.

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It’s taken me over a year to get used to my small kitchen garden instead of my four allotments.  Finally I am beginning to enjoy working in it, instead of constantly thinking about what I would have been doing at my allotment.

I have had moments during this month where I can honestly say it has been sheer bliss working in my garden, whilst Judy (my dog) has basked quietly in the sun.  One big advantage is I can nip out when I have five minuites to spare and finish a job, deadhead, weed etc. and if I want I can stay out until the sun goes down and the moon shines….. and once again I have felt happy to be alive in my garden, which is how I used to feel at my allotment!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

Winds In The Park & A Special Birthday

What a windy few days we had this week with storm ‘Imogen’.  Here in the Midlands we weren’t hit as hard as the southern half of the country, however I did see a couple of trees that had lost large branches in our local park which was sad to see.

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The weather really has been strange this winter with more storms than usual and it has been very mild.  I think a lot of plants are quite confused about the time of year, though I’m sure they will adjust.

Whilst walking my dog this week I saw my first daisy….I don’t think I have ever seen one flower this early:

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Also I saw rhododendrons beginning to flower which is also a bit early, but beautiful to see on a cold damp day:

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Another thing I found on one of my walks this week was a Christmas rose (Helleborus).  This is about the right time for it to flower, but I would have missed it if I hadn’t walked through a quiet wooded area in the park for a change:

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This week in my garden at home:

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This week I have noticed that my rhubarb is growing well now (and I still haven’t got around to mulching it all with manure – I better hurry up).

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I transplanted this rhubarb from my allotment last January so this will now be its second year, so I will be able to harvest a small amount this year and I am already looking forward to it!

“If you transplant rhubarb it is best not to harvest any the first year and only a small amount in the second year to avoid weakening the crown”

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I have also noticed that my spring cabbages are beginning to grow a bit and it will soon be time to give them a feed.  I need to lift the net and remove the yellowing leaves first though:

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The garlic that I planted in the autumn in the ground is doing very well.  I planted some ‘back up’ garlic in my cold greenhouse which is also doing well, so will have to find a place in the garden for it soon:

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You can see in the right hand photo above that my broadbeans seeds and leek seeds are now growing well too.

In the garden my chives are poking through now and so too is my comfrey:

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These things show me that Spring is on its way.

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Inside the house the flower seeds that I sowed last week have now all popped their heads up too, which is surprisingly quick (lobelia, dhalias, marigolds, and antirrhiums):

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To speed their germination I decided to give them a bit of ‘bottom’ heat in their propagator by placing it on top of my radiator, with a chair placed against it to stop it falling off….and it worked a treat!

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This week in my garden outside I moved my rosemary and mint forward and sunk them into the holes where my blueberries sat last week before I moved them.  I am keeping the mint in pots to stop the roots from spreading and the rosemary is a young plant.  By sinking the pots in the ground it keeps the roots a bit cooler which means I don’t need to water them so often in the summer.

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I gave the rosemary a bit of a hair cut too:

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I also decided it was time to give my bay tree a hair cut too, so it doesn’t grow too big.  It certainly looks neater now:

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Out in my small front garden I also gave my three spirea plants a good prune.  I find this stops the plants growing too large.  I planted three spirea plants approximately thirteen years ago and all I ever do is prune them in February and they look good every year…they were well worth the £2 each that I paid for them!

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This week in the home:

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This week Mr Thrift had a few days off work and we decided it was high time we sorted our cupboards out as they had become a bit messy.

We found things in them that we didn’t know we still had:

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We found some little plastic things that cover the screws in our plug sockets, that we didn’t know we had and we also found a couple of birthday candles that I must have bought and forgotten about – unfortunately my youngest daughter turned sixteen last November so I will have to pass them on to someone else to use:

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It took a while to sort everything out but it’s nice to have tidy draws and cupboards once again:

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This week there are two birthdays in our family.  The first was my step mothers.  My dad and step mum came round on Saturday (my step mums birthday) to watch Leicester City play on the television….this was a spur of the moment thing so I wasn’t prepared.

While they watched the first half of the match I made my step mum a birthday cake.  I did it as quickly as I could using my favourite ‘throw it all in’ recipe and I whipped up some chocolate butter icing to spread over it and I grated some white chocolate on the top.  I just managed to light the candles as the whistle blew for half time:

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I don’t think I have ever made a cake so fast, but it proves that it can be done quickly (though a little bit of the butter icing did melt on the top as the cake didn’t have time to cool down as much as it should have, but nobody noticed).

And it is my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday….where on earth did that time go?

She has grown into a beautiful, intelligent, well manored lady, who we are both so very proud of.

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I spent Wednesday and Thursday making a large cake for a her.  My daughter’s middle name is ‘Rose’ so I decided to have ’18’ roses around it.

I made three sponges and eighteen little mini cakes and decorated it with icing:

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My cake isn’t perfect, but I’m sure it has saved us a lot of money and ‘homemade’ cakes always taste nicer than shop bought cakes….and more importantly, my daughter loved it (thank goodness).

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back as usual next Friday.

Have a lovely week!

A Bread Roll Recipe And Planting Cordons

For the last few weeks I have been trying to use up all the things that end up getting pushed to the back of my freezer and cupboards.  So this week I decided to do a great big food shop, as my pantry shelves were beginning to look empty.

So armed with a long list of items that I needed, I began shopping.  I don’t just use one shop, but several depending on the offers and cheapest prices for the products that I want.

There are loads of tips to save money on your food shopping here, if anyone is interested.

So my cupboards are full again.

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I then set about batch baking:

I started by making some spaghetti bolognase sauces using a 750 gram pack of minced beef.

I do worry about the amount of fat there is in minced beef, so a tip I was given many moons ago when I attended a Rosemary Conley class, was to put the ‘browned’ mince in a sieve to let the fat drip away and then wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen paper to remove any excess fat in it, before returning the minced beef back into the pan.

In my bolognese I also used onion, garlic and passata (I made the passata in the summer using the tomatoes I grew).  I also padded it out with a carrot, sliced courgettes, curly kale and even broad beans (that I cooked and pureed first before adding to the mix, so my daughters don’t know they are in there).  I added some tomato puree and a couple of beef stock cubes and finally some mixed herbs.

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I managed to get four portions out of the minced beef to freeze.  It makes a really easy meal for another day, as when the sauce is defrosted I just reheat it in the microwave and then add it to pasta…….or sometimes I use it to make a quick lasagne.

A tip I learned in an Italian youth hostel years and years ago, was always make sure that the sauce is added to ALL of the cooked pasta / spaghetti and give it a good mix.  This way the bolognese sauce goes further than when you serve a ‘dollop’ on top of each persons pasta.

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I also made a large pot of chilli with another 750 gram pack of mince beef and again I managed to get four portions out of it, three of which I froze for another day and one we had for tea with jacket potatoes and it was lovely:

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I also decided to make a lemon traybake for the week ahead.  I love traybakes as you get a lot of cake without messing about too much:

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 I will put the recipe on the blog another time for you.

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And finally I made my usual bread rolls.  Regina who regularly leaves lovely comments on my blog, has asked me for the recipe I use to make my bread rolls, so I have written it below.  I don’t use the ‘posh’ brands of yeast or strong white flour, I use the supermarket own brand that is the cheapest at the time I buy it and my rolls always turn out fine.

I use a bread maker to mix my dough (as it gives me more time to do other things), but I have made it using the same recipe without the breadmaker and it turned out well.

My Breadmaker

My Breadmaker

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Bread Rolls Using A Bread Maker:

1 ¼ teaspoons Easy Bake Yeast

550 grams Strong White Flour

2 teaspoons sugar

25 grams margarine (or butter)

½ teaspoon salt (add more if you like it salty)

360 ml water

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I put all the ingredients into my breadmaker in the same order as above and set my breadmaker onto a ‘dough’ setting.  In my breadmaker the dough will be ready in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

(If I am short of time I sometimes put my breadmaker on a ‘pizza’ setting which mixes the dough in 45 minutes, but the rolls do not rise quite so much this way).

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When the dough is ready, take it out of the breadmaker pan and place it on a floured surface and cut into ten equal pieces:

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Make each portion into a ‘roll’ shape.  I use my thumbs to gently ease the edges underneath each portion, turning and repeating until it’s the shape I want.

Put your rolls onto a greased baking sheet in a warm place until they have risen. I cover mine with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for approximately one hour.

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After an hour

Bake in a preheated oven Gas mark 5 / 190 C / 375F for 16 to 17 minutes and then leave to cool.

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If I am freezing the rolls for packed lunches etc. then I slice the rolls before I freeze them.  This way I don’t have to wait for them to defrost and I can put fillings straight into the frozen rolls and they defrost in sandwich boxes easily by lunchtime.

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My New Kitchen Garden:

This week I was very excited as my new fruit trees arrived.  I ordered three ‘Braeburn’ apple trees grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks (m26) and three ‘Conference’ pear trees grafted onto Quince A rootstocks.  I will be growing the trees as cordons along the fence at the bottom of the garden.

I haven’t got the luxury of space now I have given my allotments up and so by growing my fruit trees as cordons, I can plant the trees a lot closer together and the fruit will be easy to pick.

I have never grown cordons before and so I used a really good RHS guide to order and plant them.  You can find it here.

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The trees were delivered ‘bare rooted’ which just means that they don’t come in a pot and their roots are bare.  At this time of year the trees are dormant, so as long as you don’t allow the roots to dry out, young trees can be dug up and replanted easily.

I unpacked the trees and put them straight into a bucket of water for a couple of hours to ensure the roots were moist:

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I screwed in wire supports along my fence before I planted the trees, as per the RHS guide. I then dug the holes for the trees.

The soil was pretty awful in places, so I added lots of compost and thanked my lucky stars that I brought the rootstocks that I did (Quince A and M26) which should do well in my awful soil.

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Preparing the soil is the same for any type of bare root fruit tree.  I have a guide to planting bare root trees here if anyone is interested.

I planted the trees and gave them support by tying them to a cane, which was already tied to the wire supports.

I then cut back all the side shoots that were no longer than 10cm, to three buds, again as per the RHS guide.

And now I am keeping my fingers crossed that they grow:

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A bit of good news this week is I spotted my rhubarb growing.  These are two bits that I split from the my allotment rhubarb to bring home before I gave my plots up.  I just bunged the two pieces in the soil, without adding any organic matter as time was short, but I can top dress it with compost another time.

The place they are growing gets no sun what so ever in the winter and it is in partial shade in the summer…..so I will have to wait to find out if it crops well in this position.  I won’t be harvesting any this year to allow the roots to establish and next year I will only pick a small amount for the same reason…providing it grows ok in this position.

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Judy – (Our Problem Dog) – A Quick Update:

I know a lot of people reading my blog are interested in our rescue dog called Judy, so I thought I would give you a quick update (you can read about the problems we are having here if you are interested).

We have been giving Judy the tablets the vet prescribed (Selgian) to help with her excessive anxious behaviour for 2 ½ weeks now and I can honestly say there has been no change in her whatsoever.  However, I have read that it takes 4-6 weeks for the tablets to take effect so I will let you know how we get on.

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We have had another session with our behaviourist and she has suggested that we walk her just twice a week for a ten minute walk, as her stress level is so high at the moment – so this is what we are doing.

Last week I had yet another person shout at me over my dogs behaviour (barking and lunging) and that totals eight people since we brought her home in October, so walking her twice a week will give my nerves a break too.

I so wish people would realise that my dog barks and lunges because she is scared and it is the only way she knows how to show this emotion….I am really hoping that one day I will be able to teach her differently, as when she isn’t scared she is an adoreable, loving dog.

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I hope you all have a good weekend and I will be back next Friday as usual.

Thank you for reading my blog today.