Monday 31 October 2011

Nigel Slater's Suppers

I've been following the recent series of the above programme. Last week he made Roasted Pepper, Tomato and Basil pasta. I didn't have any basil so used rosemary. As it is a tougher herb, I knew it wouldn't create the sumptuous green sauce like his but the taste was still lovely. I also added a little thyme, tarragon and finely chopped chilli.

All in all, a lovely meal which falls neatly into our way of eating. For pudding we had apple and grapes. Yum!

Sunday 30 October 2011

How frugal is frugal

I came across this web site a few minutes ago and have bookmarked it for future reading.

It got me thinking. Just one of the many definitions of frugal is “practising economy; living without waste; being thrifty” and that would describe us. Others live a less frugal life than us and some, as this site feels, live too frugal a life.

As explained in my War Diary - 1994 was a time in our life when we (2 adults and 1 child) had to live on £5 a week above the government's description of the 'poverty' line for many years. Things were not so desperate that we had to lose our home and end up on the streets. It was changing over to this war time economy (and more or less staying on it ever since) that enabled us to continue to live in our home, pay our bills and still manage to feed ourselves.

Today, although we are no longer in that 'dire' situation, both of us are retired (me early with no pension until I am 66 – gulp) therefore we continue to live a frugal but not austere life simply due to trying to live on the fixed pension of my husband.

My mother in law when she was alive, and many of her generation would always quote “look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. We are not too proud to pick up coins off the pavement (once found a £5 note in raised bed container in the town). It was in a sorry state so had been there quite a while therefore my feeling of guilt was short!

We grow what we can in our garden, we barter, make gifts for presents, buy our Christmas cards and wrapping paper etc in the January sales and so on. It keeps our life stable from a monetary point of view but the sheer pleasure it brings us living in this way is beyond money. By living this 'good life' we save a little for unexpected problems such as having to buy a new washing machine.

Finding blogs from like-minded people who live their lives in a similar way is exciting, benefits each of us but leaves us all free to live our lives as frugally as we wish.

Family visit

Had a short but lovely visit from DS, FDiL. and S. the dog. Went to our local seaside for a long walk and to let her see the sea for her first time – had a lovely time chasing the wavelets (no wind so reasonably flat water). 

She managed to find the same mini deep spot as the Labrador from our earlier walk in the week, also disappeared under but popped up quickly, seemingly none the worse. Had a quick snack before coming home. They all left after tea, arriving home safely after a couple of hours.

Friday 28 October 2011

War Diary October 1994

For those of you reading my War Diary Part I, October 1994 has now been added.

Although this diary is from 1994, we still abide by most of the 'restrictions' of war rationing but now plan our meals via food combining. I think it is fair to say that with the exception of butter (which for us 2 should be 1 lb for the month) we are using slightly more at 1 1/2lb for the month and tea, which again should be 1 lb a month we currently use 2 lb. Other than that, we still shop according to the ration rules and now that I have learnt to make my own laundry detergent, will be able to use our soap rations just for soap/shampoo/bubble bath etc.

Baking & Making

Have been busy in the kitchen all morning, baking pumpkin and sunflower seed bread, spicy beetroot soup and a Bara Brith. Have never made one before but a friend brought us one back from her Welsh holiday and we enjoyed it so much, thought we'd give it a go. 

We got the recipe from this web site and used the lower main recipe but only half the quantity here
Here is a picture of the beetroot soup, which has been adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe.

Peel and dice 1 1/2lbs beetroot (weight after topping and tailing). Heat 2-3 tbls oil in a pan and when hot put in 2 tsp whole cumin seeds. When sizzling add 8 oz diced onion and fry gently until softened then add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and cook them until softened. Add the beetroot, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp crushed dried chilli and 1 pint of stock (I used 1 1/2 vegetable stock cubes). Bring to a simmer, put on a lid and cook for about 1 hour - more if you feel the beetroot isn't cooked - it should be slightly al dente. Add 2 tbls tomato puree and thicken with a little cornflour and water and adjust seasoning. Serve hot with a dash of yoghurt or sour cream on top. Enjoy.

Reference using my home made laundry detergent, I have just finished washing a pale wash and can report it has come out perfectly clean. I have read somewhere that if you have stains on your clothes you can rub a little of the detergent into it before washing. 

Got to make the spare bed up now as our DS and FDiL plus our grand-dog S. (we don't yet have grandchildren so S. is our grand-dog!) are staying overnight so DS can get his car serviced locally. A flying visit only but very much looking forward to it.

Here she is, about 10 months old now. Ain't she gorgeous!


Wednesday 26 October 2011

Utter Indulgence!

We thought we would make something naughty but nice for Christmas after we came across a recipe for Sloe Berry Chocolate Vodka on this web site:

The music can be a bit distracting but bear with it, its worth it. We bought a 70cl bottle of the cheapest vodka we could find and followed the recipe but used 125g of white sugar instead of the recommended 100g – don't know why, it just felt right. After emptying the other 20cl of vodka into another container we found we couldn't fit everything back in so I would strongly recommend finding and using a 1 litre bottle/jar/container to store this in whilst it 'brews'.

Anyway, here is his recipe:

Break up 200g of good quality (70%+ cocoa) dark chocolate into a pan. Add 100g (or 125g) of white sugar, 1/2 litre of vodka and 250g sloes that have previously been frozen. You can use fresh but will have to prick them. Warm gently until all the chocolate has melted. Pour through a sieve into a jug. Feed the sloes from the sieve into the bottle then pour in all the chocolate vodka mix. Its easier to use a funnel for this stage. Store for 2 months.

He doesn't say anything about shaking it like you normally would in sloe gin/vodka as the sugar is already dissolved. He also doesn't say whether you leave the sloes in after the 2 months is up. We have decided we will strain them out after this time then refill the bottle. We tasted a little and it is reminiscent of good quality chocolate miniature bottles – the ones that come out this time of year with Rum, Tia Maria, Whisky etc in them.

So … we went dashing out to find some more sloes and now have another 700g in the freezer - I think we will be making another batch when we can get some more vodka!
Regarding our laundry detergent used for the first time yesterday, the washing came out clean. It was a dark wash so will report if a pale wash comes out the same. These clothes were not very dirty so again, will have to wait and see. I have now got some distilled white vinegar for using as a conditioner. Meanwhile, our bottles of mucus are lurking underneath the sink. They are now so thick that when we turn the bottles upside down, they don't move. Should be interesting the next time it is used.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Laundry Liquid

Having read many sites referencing making your own laundry liquid I thought I would give it a go. Wasn't quite expecting the end result to look and feel like mucus but there you go.
I put 2 litres of water in a non-aluminium pan, brought it to boiling then turned it down, added 1 cheap 4oz bar of grated soap and stirred until it was fully dissolved. Making sure it didn't boil, I then added 1 American cupful (or about 6 oz) of Washing Soda (not Bicarb of Soda!) and stirred well - it temporarily went lumpy so I lightly whisked it then carried on stirring. Once everything was dissolved I took it off the heat and added 7 litres of cold water. I am in an hard water area and although it was recommended I only use 5 litres it was still very thick so added more.

This is when it looked for all the world like a giant had sneezed into my pan. - wow, he really has a very bad cold! This is just one of 2 full size sweet jars that this recipe made - see

There are many others on the web site. I am trialling some of my recipe now - didn't know how much to use but 200ml or an American cupful seems to be the average. I waited for some water to go into the machine before I opened up the drawer and put it in. I had planned on putting it into some saved detergent bottles but its consistency made me worry that I wouldn't be able to get it out! It is suggested that I use 1 tablespoon of distilled white malt vinegar as a conditioner to help prevent any possible build up in my machine but I haven't any until I go shopping.

The machine is still washing. There was no sign of suds at all which for a front loading machine is good, although a few appeared on its first rinse cycle which seems to suggest that 200ml was enough. I may need to use more if I feel its not cleaned properly but will wait and see. This site also suggests that this recipe and their others are okay for those of you with septic tanks.

The total cost of ingredients for this was 41p therefore using 200ml as an average amount at one time from 7 litres, I reckon this works out at an unbelievable 1.1p per wash.

So - what meals do we have on our Food Combining way of eating?

We stick 95% to this way of eating, the 5% exception being Sunday which is our weigh day. We reserve that day for treats. Below is a basic list of our meals, we eat a greater variety than this. 
Monday to Friday - Porridge made with water, sugar, topped with some cream and dried fruit. 
Saturday - Cereals with watered down cream (this made me feel ill so I have to have milk).
Sunday - Toast & Jam/Honey/Marmite.

Soup, salad or banana sandwiches, pasta, something on toast, fry-up, bubble & squeak.

Evening Meal
Meat & vegetables, vegetarian curry/bolognese/goulash, jacket potato with creamy mushrooms & salad, fish & vegetables/salad, potato wedges with salad or vegetables etc.

Basically, any recipe which I can adapt is used. If we have a roast dinner we'll eat roast parsnips instead of roast potatoes. If we fancy roast/mash potatoes with roasted meat on our Sunday treat day, we have them but not any other day. The same goes for a bacon sandwich. We used to eat quite a lot of these but now rarely have them. 

We occasionally miss cheese or meat sandwiches but oddly enough, when we do have them we realize we haven't really missed them so again, only have them as a treat. A full fry up (minus the fried bread) satiates our bacon need. When we have meat to use, we eat meat versions of curry/bolognese/goulash etc but instead of having them with pasta or rice, we eat roasted vegetables or vegetable patties etc.

Pudding/baked consumption has really gone down. The problem with puddings/cakes is the mixture of complete eggs and flour. So I do bake but usually non-sponge things. Apple pie is out unless made with sweet apples (or tarte tatin) but we love stewed fruit and cream etc. Again, if we really fancy a combined sweet/cake we have it - on a Sunday. Most days, the sweet version of our meals is fruit or yoghurt. 
We are not saints and if we get a very strong urge for something 'non-combined' we will have it but often wished we hadn't bothered. Our mince pies the other day used vegetable fat instead of lard in the pastry and vegetable suet instead of beef in the filling - couldn't tell the difference from a taste point of view.

There you have it.

Monday 24 October 2011

Time for a change

My OH has had to get down and dirty with our wood burner! We had noticed the door seal fraying and as it had got to the point of looking very hairy had to change it.

As you can see, I sensibly removed my rag rug before it got soot and glue on it. We went over to Peterborough today, looking for a chest of drawers for the spare room and finally got one - most unusual as it is covered in fabric. It wasn't as cheap as we hoped but did have 75% off! and is a very good make. After examining it carefully to see what was wrong with it, we couldn't find anything so bought it.

Might not be to everyones taste but we like it and it fits nicely into the colour scheme of purple and light grey.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Making & Baking

The new washing machine turned up at 5pm last night and has today been fixed in, had its trial run and is now washing its first proper wash - quite a lot quieter than the last one.

Having made my mincemeat a few weeks ago (adapted from a Delia Smith recipe), I have today baked 12 mince pies. I like to use muffin tins, that way you get a decent amount of filling inside them. Have also made a batch of sloe vodka. Yes, I know, not very frugal but the sloes were free, I already had the sugar and although the Vodka cost £10, I know this drink will last us several years. So all in all I think that is quite good. I made sloe gin 3-4 years ago and it is still being drunk and getting better each year. My mini Christmas puddings have already been made and are in the freezer as the recipe I use (another DS recipe) is very light and they won't keep unless frozen.

Final batch of baking for today was our bi-weekly loaf of bread. This one is made with white flour but I vary the mix, sometimes adding brown, rye or using white and adding a large amount of wheat-germ.

Home made bread is so nice that we only bake it twice a week otherwise we would quite happily get through a loaf every 2 days.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Still waiting

Our new washing machine will not be delivered until after 4:30pm so will have to continue wandering around our old one, currently stuck in the middle of the kitchen. 
Made some sweetcorn soup for lunch. Along with the remainder of some home made baps, it made for a filling meal. If you want to have a go, here is the recipe:
Fry 1 diced onion in 2 tbls oil until nice and soft. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli flakes and 24 oz frozen sweetcorn. Add 1 1/2 pints of stock (use 2 vegetable stock cubes)and simmer for 25 minutes until cooked. Season to taste with salt & pepper and a little lemon juice. Stir in 1/4 pint coconut milk or make up 4 teaspoons coconut milk powder and stir in. Liquidize until well blended then stir in 2-3 tbls fresh or 2 level tsps dried parsley/tarragon. If you need to thicken it, do so using 2-3 level teaspoons cornflour in a little milk, cook to thicken.

Got to get on with some chilli for tonight. Have just harvested the last of our sweet and chilli peppers and will make it using some of these and the 1/2 price beef bought yesterday.
Have finally finished my first rag rug for a long while. It is laid in front of our wood-burner which hopefully will protect our carpet from any falling embers.

Friday 21 October 2011

New washing machine

First thing this morning we popped into town to buy our new machine, another Bosch. The shop had a sale on so we got £50 off it as well as a further 10% off everything including delivery charge and taking away the old one. We had our last machine for 8 years and it looked like it needed a new motor. This would have cost only a little less than buying our new one which hopefully means not having to worry about a repaired one breaking down.

I'm still learning about blogging. For example you can see I have a new wartime diary tab at the top of my home page. As this is only a static page, I need to be able to post entries (quite long ones) as I work my way through my diary. I tried using a label but found my entry arrived on my normal day to day page. I gather there is currently no way around this so will have to have a rethink.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Walking, talking & enjoying life!

Been out for a 4 mile walk today around part of the North Norfolk coast with OH and 2 friends. Stopped at a pub for a lovely lunch. We don't often eat out so this was a lovely treat. The sky was the most gorgeous blue with just a few clouds and the con trails of passenger aircraft. It was very cold and windy as we were in the shade for most of the walk but needed to undo our coats whilst in the sun.

Our washing machine has broken this morning - beyond repair by all accounts - so will have to break into savings and get a new one. This one had been making a dreadful noise for several weeks, the source of which we couldn't find. Loaded it with towels, it filled up, made a buzzing noise and just stopped. Managed to drain it and take the washing around to one of the above friends who very kindly put her machine on to wash it for us whilst we were out on our walk. Picked it up and got more apples off her tree as well. Ain't life grand.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

At Last!

Having debated with myself for months (if not years) about setting up an online journal, I have finally taken the plunge. The spur for this has been the treasure trove of frugal blogs I have recently discovered and thoroughly enjoyed reading - thanks folks.It will take me a while to understand the process so please bear with me whilst I learn!

The weather here in Norfolk is cold, windy and rainy. We are trying to not have our central heating on until November 1st - as we have a wood burner in the lounge we will shortly be lighting it before my fingers turn blue - brrr.

Ah, that is so much warmer - just lit, will turn down to tick over for rest of evening.