Sunday, 26 April 2015

Filling the freezer with meals made with reduced ingredients ...

I have to say first of all, that I just phoned the vet hospital and Sopicat has eaten, his breathing has much improved and he is sitting up and taking notice - I'm so relieved.

I got these bargains before the weekend, I've made loads of veggie stew and put it in the freezer, there's another two slow cookers full and working their magic as I speak.  There's loads of meals here.  I will add spices when I reheat them, some will become vegetable curries, some will be pasties or pies, some will be blitzed as used as a rich sauce or gravy, all for pennies !

5 x packs of prepared sprouts - 2p per pack !

Ready prepared carrots - also 2p per pack !
Look at this selection of sandwiches for 10p per pack

I've been living on these while Sopi has been away from home, I didn't feel like cooking
Here are some chicken 'wrap' thingies, I don't usually buy these but wasn't going to walk past them at 10p each.
and for pudding - a rhubarb pie for 10p.  I've been having this with yoghurt, reduced of course, I got a pack of 6 for 10p - Muller Light.


Update on Sopicat and an explanation of his name ...

First, welcome to 'Sooze' who joined recently.

I phoned late last night to check on Sopi's condition.  There was all sorts of treatments going on, he was having fluids, and 'steam treatment'  to help him breathe and anti-biotics, but he was 'holding his own.
This morning I phoned again and his breathing is much improved, the nurse said he has drunk some water and was looking through the animal cage bars with interest !  this was like being told I've just won the lottery.
He has more procedures and observation to come, he may be coming home tomorrow, but for now I feel a huge dark cloud has lifted sufficiently to clear my mind enough to get one or two jobs done and go for a walk later.

Thank you so much for your comments and good wishes for Sopicat - you are such an understanding lot !

One of the emails I had was asking me how Sopi got such an unusual name.

For years he was registered at the vet as 'Soapy' - which gave rise to his nickname - 'Suds' - !

Also he has been listed as 'Sophie'.

'Sopi' came about because many, many years ago (before digital cameras !)  I had two black and white cats, one very aloof and was called 'Superior Sooty' who lived to be 19 years, and Pretty Pixie, a tiny dainty little girl who also lived a long life.  One day I will get some of these old photographs scanned in and posted.

When Sopicat was brought to me, along with his sister Lady Leah 1, I couldn't think of a name for him, probably because at the time I was running an animal rescue centre and had over 200 rabbits ! plus sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and anything else that turned up wanting a home or had been mistreated,  so you can imagine, where names were concerned, my brain  had run out of ideas.

However, I took the first two digits of SOoty and PIxie in rememberance of them and came up with Sopi - I don't know how the 'cat' bit got stuck onto the end, just one of my silly moments I suppose, and it has stayed with him ever since.

I got some bargains before Sopicat was taken ill, I'll post about them later.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sopicat has been hospitalised ...

Sopicat has had to be hospitalised this afternoon.  He is poorly.  He is 20 years old and is FIV positive so anything he gets wrong with him, he gets much worse than he should.  He has difficulty fighting off ill health.

I love this cat so much it hurts ..., we have been through a lot together, he's always at my side.

Not too bad a day after all ...

After my self indulgent post yesterday, I got off my **** and got some jobs done.

I got stuck into the housework and moved stuff around and vacuumed up the 'tumbleweeds' of dust !

I washed covers and throws, and the cats blankets and got them outside to dry.  I always dry my washing outside weather permitting and inside on a clothes horse in bad weather.  It makes me smile when younger bloggers recommend 'air drying' as if the have just discovered it and reinvented the wheel !  ha ha

11 days ago, I sowed some runner/French beans inside in the conservatory.  Even being given such a good start I think they have done very well, they're now 10" high and going outside to harden off during the day already.  I've started off another few for successional harvesting.  I've put them in here: - my upmarket mini-greenhouse/cloche !  an old fishtank from Freecycle.

I started the first lot in here:
My 'state-of-the-art' propagator !  another fishtank, with a crack in the glass it won't hold water but is perfect for starting off seeds.  I have a framed piece of mesh on top from an old rabbit hutch to stop the cats jumping in and stopping any growth before it gets a chance.  They're lurking here, ready to jump inside:
If you see any old fishtanks at boot sales I'd recommend you pick them up, they really do the job.  I have a heated metal 'pad' that I have used sometimes in the winter for some 'bottom heat'.
So pushing myself onwards and pushing the Gremlins out, I decided to make some 'scrap soup'.  On this occasion it consisted of the outside leaves from a cauliflower, one carrot, one onion, a stock cube and some spices from one of these:
A cute spice carousel.  Now the problem with this design is that when you have handled the small jars a few times and wiped them with a damp cloth, the writing disappears from the lids, so it's pot luck what goes into your dish !  This is what happened with my soup, a pinch of this, a sprinkle of that, a spoonful of something else because I like the colour, that sort of thing.  
Notice the drawer front missing from the kitchen unit ?  and the drawer !  this house is full of 'interesting' features like that !  Mr landlord thinks it's perfectly functional so that's the end of that.  Ready to start:
The result was delicious (and free).  Since my liquidiser packed up a couple of weeks ago I've been using my hand held mixer and I'm loving it.   Here is the result with a nice 'brick' of toasted home made bread:
There was enough to two portions, one was supposed to be for today, but it was so lovely I ate the second portion too !  It would have been even more delicious with  a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.  Perhaps next time.
Anyway, I made a step forward with my problem, hopefully another one today, little by little ....

Friday, 24 April 2015

Feeling overwhelmed ....

On this blog I've sometimes hinted at my personal situation - 'it's complicated' as they say.  I'm not going into details (yet) because it is personal.  I know there are bloggers that pour out their hearts on their blogs, if that helps, then good for them, but I don't subscribe to that approach.

However, I had a bad night, the Gremlins were in my head and I didn't sleep.  I have 'stuff' going on which is not going to go away on its own.  I'm continually working on it, but it gets tiring and draining.  I am making headroads.   It can and will be done, but it's not easy.
The sun is shining right now and I'm feeling brighter, I'll be clearing some of the garden again, I'll go for a walk, make some bread, sort out some craftwork and drive the Gremlins out.
So that's my little helping of self-pity for today - see you later.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Cooking 'in' the car to save energy ...

 Welcome to Tanya from 'Out Back' and Penny from 'Black Sheep Cottage'.


I've been delighted with my mini (oven) and already it is a firm favourite for cooking all sorts of things from main meals to bread and cakes, however, never one for being satisfied !  I've been looking for more ways to cook to save fuel.

Cooking under the bonnet (hood for American readers) seems to be very popular, there's even a couple of cookery books devoted to this method on Amazon.

I don't really like this idea, because even though the food is heavily wrapped in foil, I still think it's got to absorb some of the smells and tastes of the engine, i.e. oil/petrol/grease.  A nice pork chop basted in sump oil doesn't really fill me with enthusiasm.  Also, surely there is a danger of those little 'packages' of food slipping into the engine parts where they're not supposed to be and cause some damage, not to mention spillages ?

'Sorry Mr Mechanic, I'll clean the remains of my pasta meal off the engine before you start work' - !!

Also, this method is only suitable for those who do a lot of mileage, truckers perhaps or reps, the engine has to be very hot for a long time to cook something through thoroughly.  The cooking times are given in mileage!  also, there's always the possibility that when you pull over for lunch, you realise you've left it somewhere on the M25.

I do, however, like the idea of using heat that would otherwise go to waste.  I read somewhere that the heat that builds up inside the car can be used to cook food.  It gets very hot inside a closed car - 'like an oven', so yesterday I decided to give it a try as the sun was shining and the inside of the car was getting warmer.

I quickly made some sponge mixture and threw in a handful of dandelion flowers (they're free), then placed them on the parcel shelf in the car and made sure it was facing the full sun.

I checked throughout the day and there did seem to be signs of 'cooking' i.e. tiny bubbles appearing around the edges of the tins.  I was excited.
However, the sun decided to disappear half way through the afternoon and it was clear that no more cooking would take place, so I brought them in and finished them off in the mini, it took 5 minutes.

They didn't rise as much as cooked all the time in a conventional oven, but were fine and tasted good.

Conclusion:  it will work, but needs a hotter day, one of those days when it's so hot you can't touch the steering wheel.  Unfortunately we don't get many of those days here in UK, so it's a good job I don't have to rely on this method of cooking or I'd starve ! but it is a definite 'yes' to try again.

Also on the subject of  'in car cooking' I came across these:

A small oven that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car, I think this is a brilliant idea for long distance drivers.  They've been around for some time, but I've never given them much thought in the past, however it occurred to me that they could be used in conjunction with a 12v battery ?  I'll give that some thought, it may be that the cost of buying a battery and the cooker will outweigh the savings made.

Thermos flasks and heated lunch boxes are also a consideration, but you have to cook the food first with those.
A solid fuel AGA would be perfect, but I'll never get another one of those (sigh).

I'm now looking at how to make a solar oven from cardboard boxes, foil and black paint or fabric - sounds good, but with our weather it probably won't get much use - ha ha.
Any ideas for cooking for free ?  I'd love to hear them.

Monday, 20 April 2015

I made bread in my mini - ( no not the car !) and some gardening gossip ...

I'm using my mini oven a lot now, getting more used to adjusting the temperature settings and length of cooking time.  I'm really glad I bought it, and am always surprised at  how quickly things cook in it.

I tried making bread, I used exactly the same ingredients as the recipe, but the first attempt, although edible (everything has to be here 'cos I can't afford to waste anything) wasn't what I expected.  The loaf rose so much that when it cooked it touched the top of the oven and the element making me more work in cleaning it up, also it was nice and crusty on the outside but a bit 'heavy' on the inside.

I tried again, this time I halved the dough and put it in two tins (had to be cooked separately of course) and this time it worked perfectly, a nice crusty top and soft inside without being 'doughy', so I'm well pleased with that, I will use that recipe again when I can't get bargain loaves at 10p or 20p, that's all I can bring myself to pay for bread !

Here is one of the loaves rising at the back of the cooker where it was warm.
Here is loaf one, cooled and ready to be wrapped for the freezer
Loaf two had provided me with breakfast and plenty more for the next couple of days.
I was surprised to see that a few sticks of rhubarb were ready for harvesting over the weekend, only thin ones but 3 of them provided a lovely treat with some plain yoghurt.
On the subject of garden fruit, when I was in PoundWorld the other day I saw these and couldn't walk past them - £1.00 each !  I got 2 x blackcurrants and 1 x blueberry.
I decided to check just  how much soft fruit I had in my tiny garden, and was surprised to find I have :
blackberries (the thornless kind)
honeyberry (honeysuckle with edible fruits)
goji berries
an 'unidentified' climbing fruit, it has bright green fruits which are very sweet, but I haven't been able to find out what it is.
I can't believe all this stuff is growing in my garden.  Not far away I can steal forage apples, pears, damsons and wild plums.  I'm well pleased with that lot.
My compost has failed for the second year running, it keeps getting full of what I call 'coconut matting' tight roots which seem to eat all the compost, so I've given up on that.  I put a sheet of black plastic over it and placed my shade-loving plants on top as it is out of the sun.
Hope you all had a nice weekend.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A blast from the past ...

On one of my regular 4 mile walks, I walk through a new housing estate, (used to be fields) and the houses are unusual to say the least.  They have been painted pastel colours, pink, blue, pale green, cream etc.,  I can't help recalling this song everytime I see them.  It looks like Toytown to me.


I remember it when it first came out and it didn't register too much with me then, but now I am older I find it very profound and quite sad.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A cat clock, an upcycled fish tank, soft fruit, knobbly Hostas and eating weeds ...

I picked up such a pretty clock today from a charity shop.  I absolutely couldn't resist this :

The time when I took this picture was Ginger past Persian !!

The side of my house is a wind tunnel, plants, garden furniture etc., spend more time lying down after a strong wind than standing, so it's no good at all trying to sow seeds there, I've lost so many, it's disheartening.

I can't afford a greenhouse, I've tried those plastic covered ones but they just get blown away and torn.  I got a used fishtank last year from Freecycle, I bought it with the intention of using it as a mini greenhouse/cloche, to raise seeds and keep the wind from killing everything.

I put it in place today, there's just one or two pots of lettuce in there at the moment.  I've covered it with bubble wrap to keep in the warmth and keep out the cold.  I intend to make a wooden frame and staple the bubble wrap on when I get around to it.  I'm sure it will do the trick.

I have strawberry plants coming on in pots
Some raspberry plants are looking good
I have some healthy looking gooseberry plants that I dug up last year.  They self seeded from the main bush and have done very well.
I was pleased to see my Hostas shooting up a few days ago, and knowing how appetising they are to the slugs, dutifully applied slug pellets (I don't like doing this, but it's them or my plants!)
Anyway, I thought they looked strange, a little 'knobbly' like this
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted my mistake.  They're not Hosta's at all, they're Lily of the Valley !!  my friend gave them to me last year and I forgot I had them.
Last night, with my tea I had a serving of dandelion leaves, lightly steamed, then added to a pan of chopped onions and a little garlic, they were delicious, and couldn't get any fresher, straight from the garden to the pan.
Tonight, I had a serving from my 1p cauliflower, and before that a serving of nettle soup - again absolutely delicious, the fact that it's packed with iron and nutrients makes it even more delicious.  I don't like calling these 'weeds', they're 'edible wild plants'.  I think it's sad that they get a bad press from people who haven't even tried them, they are missing a treat.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Some of the cheapest bargains ever ... !

I left it quite late to go bargain hunting yesterday, I was busy with other things, I wasn't going to go because I thought at 9 pm all the reduced produce would be long gone.  However I was out of milk so had to go anyway, and was very surprised at what I got at that late hour.  Perhaps I will go later again next week ?

Here is my haul :

3 cauliflowers at 1p each  ! yes 1p each.  Now unless they're being given away, no one is going to do better than that are they ?  and as you can see, they are all lovely and fresh and firm, no brown bits to cut off, I feel cauliflower cheese coming on and spiced cauliflower, some will have to be cooked and frozen.

Two packs of vine tomatos for 5p each, a little soft but made lovely tomato salsa, one lot to eat and two for the freezer.  One pack of Mediteranean, Mediterarian, Medit nice vegetables for roasting for 5p.

Two packs of prepared carrots and peas for 5p each and a container of roasting veggies also for 5p, these have gone in the freezer too.
With all this excitement, I forgot to buy the milk, and called in at a small local shop on the way home (the milk is cheap there as well as the supermarket) and picked up these two packs for 25p each.
A pack of veggies, enough to make a small stew/casserole which will last me two days, I'll just add a few frozen peas or sprouts for something 'green', and a pack of mixed fruit which will do for two desserts with a blob of natural yoghurt.
I think it's very clever of a small shopkeeper to do this, the shop is in the middle of an estate and I can imagine single people buying these packs because they wouldn't want to buy a bag of potatos, carrots etc.,  I know these packs can be bought at the big supermarkets, but not for 25p.
So there you have it, I'm well pleased.
I also made an effort in the garden yesterday, which is why I was late going shopping.  I wasn't going to because my heart just isn't in it knowing I'm moving, but I feel better for it.


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