How To Re-Grow Vegetables For Free … In Water!

How To Re-Grow Vegetables For Free … In Water!

If you have bought any of my eBooks on thrifty cooking, you may have noticed that I like using spring onions (scallions or green onions) as I think that the flavour “livens up” so many dishes from salads and simple rice dishes to delicious bakes and stews. I like onions of any description and they’re so healthy too – but did you know that spring onions will re-grow themselves in a glass of water within a couple of weeks?! I have read quite a lot about re-growing veg and thought I’d try out this method especially as my books are about budget meals, using up leftovers and thrifty ideas.  Now you can learn how to grow a few vegetables for free! Two weeks ago, I bought some spring onions, leeks and celery. As you will see from the photo, the spring onions have completely re-grown!  The leeks aren’t bad at all and there are enough leaves to snip off for use in a stew.  I think I need to plant the celery in a pot of compost, again on the windowsill and see what happens…   Method   To re-grow spring onions, first, snip off the leaves leaving about 2”/5cm of the white base.  Use the snipped leaves in a meal or refrigerate until required.  Put about 1”/2.5cm of water in a glass, pop the spring onion ends in the water (root end down) and leave on a sunny windowsill.  They need light even if the sun doesn’t care to shine!  Change the water every couple of days and within two weeks the spring onions should have grown to their original length!  You can keep snipping and they will keep growing… I think I’ll buy more spring onions soon and repeat the method, staggering when I use them so that I have a continuous supply.  I should then have a mini spring onion farm on my kitchen windowsill! To grow leeks, do exactly the same as the spring onions but leave about 4”/10cm of the base.  Use the leeks in cooking or store in the fridge until needed.  The photograph shows the growth after two weeks and you should be able to see where I originally chopped the base off.   I will put several in a glass vase next time!   The celery, as I mentioned earlier, needs some soil to grow in now but it’s still very interesting to see the plant sprout lots of little leaves. I have heard that types of lettuces, spinach and cabbages can be grown in this way too.  I have grown watercress successfully in the past by taking a few strong stems from a bunch of watercress and putting them in a glass...

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How To Feed A Family On A Budget

How To Feed A Family On A Budget

How To Feed 4 People, 2 Meals A Day For A Whole Week For Under £60!   For those of you who have downloaded my two eBooks, “Main Meals” and “Light Meals & Lunchboxes,” I have drawn up a Week’s Meal Plan to make the most of the recipes in them which will hopefully reduce your shopping bill.  So many people want to cook budget meals for their families these days, not to mention students sharing the cooking! The plan includes a lunch and a main meal, from each book respectively, for four people over seven days and I have included a printable Shopping List.  I haven’t included breakfasts, fruit, snacks and drinks but have presumed that all you have in your food cupboard for lunch and dinner is some salt, pepper and cooking oil.  So, this plan includes all the food for two meals a day for a whole week with some left over! I have started the recipes on Sunday, presuming that most people do their shopping on Saturday.  The recipe I have chosen for Sunday is a little more special than the other days of the week and the leftovers from this meal are nearly all made into additional recipes later on during the week. The weeks’ meals should work out at about £59 (£14.75 per person) and I have used supermarket prices as a guide.  I know that if I bought the fresh items from my local shops – for example the meat, veg, bread and eggs – the cost would be even less!  I have not taken into account any supermarket offers as these are for a limited time.  The prices were calculated during the last week of October 2013 so may increase or decrease. The shopping bill for the week’s food will be more than the cost of the recipes (by about £14) but there will be leftovers for the following week and your food cupboard will not be so bare!  If you already have some of the basics, such as flour, baking powder, pasta, tomato purée, butter and mustard then you obviously won’t need to buy these items and you will not have to spend so much!   My Selection of 14 Recipes for You to Make   Sunday Lunch                 Tuna Salad  Main Meal         Roast Chicken with Wild Rice, Green Beans and Peas   Monday Lunch                 Chicken Pasta Salad Main Meal         Cheese & Ham Puffs with Baked Beans and Salad     Tuesday  Lunch                 Awesome Sausage Rolls with Cherry Tomatoes  Main Meal         Oven Baked Tortilla with Broccoli     Wednesday Lunch                 Cheese Pie with Sliced Tomatoes and Cress  Main Meal         Chicken with Sweetcorn, Baked Potatoes and Salad     Thursday Lunch                 Couscous...

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You Only Need Basic Cooking Equipment!

You Only Need Basic Cooking Equipment!

There are endless lists of what everyone should have in their kitchens and, in reality, there are only a handful of really useful utensils needed.  There are so many gadgets and electrical items available, many of which are very expensive and not necessary at all.  Some electrical gadgets are very useful and save a lot of time in the kitchen but others are difficult to clean, take up a lot of space and cost a fortune in the first place!  When people are cooking on a budget, the equipment they use needs to be limited. The essential items for a thrifty kitchen are, I believe:-   Baking sheets Balloon whisk Can opener Casserole with lid (which can double up as a saucepan if needed) Chopping board Colander Fish slice Grater Knives – one large and one small (make sure they are sharp) Measuring Jug Mixing bowl (preferably not plastic as you may want to mix hot food) Ovenproof baking dishes, one rectangular and one round  Potato masher Roasting tin Saucepans with lids – at least one large and one small Sieve Slotted spoon Speed peeler Wooden Spoon   STEAMER When cooking vegetables, a steamer is perfect for cooking several types together.  If you don’t have a steamer and want to cook, for example, carrots and peas, cook the carrots in a saucepan with a lid on, then put the peas in a heatproof colander resting on top of the pan (making sure the peas are above the water level) a few minutes before the carrots are cooked.  Rest the saucepan lid on the colander until the peas are steamed.  The lid shouldn’t be tight fitting as some steam needs to escape.  This is a healthier way to cook vegetables and also saves energy as only one hotplate is used. PESTLE AND MORTAR If you need to grind spices with a pestle and mortar but don’t have one (they are quite expensive to buy), use a fairly heavy plastic container – a jug or large beaker or even a clean plastic tub.  Grind the spices carefully with the end of a wooden rolling pin or even a very clean smooth stone!  If you use a stone – do scrub it thoroughly first and then boil for a few minutes to make sure it’s clean.  Press and twist gently until the spices or herbs are ground up.  If you have a large chopping board, spices can be ground in the centre of the board rather than using a container. LIQUIDIZER If you want to purée some food for say soup, use a potato masher or even squish the food with the prongs of a fork, then push through a sieve.  If...

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Don’t Be Embarrassed To Go To Your Butcher!

Don’t Be Embarrassed To Go To Your Butcher!

There’s a lot of talk these days about eating cheaper food and making budget meals.  This is not surprising as food keeps going up in price (and just about everything else too) whilst earnings are not moving up in line with the cost of living. I have read some worrying comments on food forums recently, posted by people who are trying to make ends meet.  Some have families to feed and some are university students trying to survive and cope with their debts. What’s worrying is that many people are frightened in case they get embarrassed in their local shop if they don’t have enough money to pay for their food.  The comments which I’ve read are mostly about butcher’s shops as people are worried that they won’t know exactly how much they’re spending until it’s weighed.  “What if it costs more than I’ve got and I have to ask him to take some off? – awkward!” I can’t think of any reason why your butcher would ever want to make you feel awkward or embarrassed.  If they did, then they wouldn’t deserve your custom in the first place and would be sure to lose other regular customers by behaving this way! So people go to the supermarket where the pre-packed meat is price stamped and it’s easy to work out how much the shopping will come to.  Ok, lots of us do this so why do I keep on writing about shopping locally for fresh food?  Because it’s cheaper!  I spend much of my time checking food prices so that I can find the best value ingredients to use in my thrifty recipes.  I have always found my local butcher cheaper than the big shops, I know where the meat comes from and I also know that what I am buying really is what is advertised in the display cabinet! How Not to be Embarrassed – Ever! Say, for example, you have £3 in your pocket or purse.  Go to the butcher’s shop and have a little look at what’s on offer.  Then see what’s in the display cabinet.  When the butcher asks if he can help, tell him how much money you want to spend and what you’re looking for.  If you think about it, many people routinely ask for an amount of meat by cost rather than weight.  Anyway, your butcher is there to help and wouldn’t dream of asking why you only have £3 to spend!  I expect you’ll find there will be quite a few choices… For £3 I can buy:- 1 lb/450g of sausages for £2.80 1 lb/450g of minced beef for £3 4 chicken thighs for £2.67 2 half pound burgers for...

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How to Store Fruit and Vegetables

How to Store Fruit and Vegetables

Have you ever wondered why some fruit and veg rot quickly or have that unpleasant mealy texture?  Storing fruit and vegetables correctly can make a big difference to how long they will keep and how they taste. I never wash fruit or vegetables until just before they are eaten.  Some people say that they should be washed prior to storing but salad leaves (not those that are pre-packed and already washed) will go off quickly unless they are completely dried out after washing & spinning and are then wrapped in a clean towel.  This especially applies to watercress, rocket, lambs lettuce and other delicate leaves.  What about apples or pears?  They sit in my fruit bowl for a few days and I prefer to wash them after the odd little fly, hair or dust has landed on them! Below are guidelines, from my own experience, on how to store fresh fruit and veggies.   Store in the fridge I find that some fruits and vegetables continue to ripen after picking but others don’t and need to be stored in the fridge or eaten on the day of purchase. The fruits that need refrigeration include all soft berries e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and cranberries.  Others fruits such as cherries, figs and grapes should also be refrigerated.  When buying these fruits, it’s important to buy them when they are ripe (as they won’t ripen any more) but not overripe or they will be mushy and won’t taste pleasant. Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, celery, globe artichokes, green beans, peas, spinach, spring onions (scallions), sweetcorn and salads all benefit from refrigeration.  Mushrooms should be stored in the fridge but in a paper bag rather than a plastic one.  A plastic bag will not soak up the moisture that mushrooms produce and they will go off quickly.   Store in the fruit bowl A display of fruit in a bowl or basket can look very attractive and colourful.  Being on view to everyone will also be a good reminder to eat fruit! Fruits that continue to ripen after harvesting can be stored in a fruit bowl, out of direct sunlight, until ripe.  This group includes avocados and bananas (which only ripen after picking), apricots, melons (all varieties except watermelons, which will not ripen any more), kiwifruit, mangos, nectarines, peaches, pears, passion fruit, pineapple, plums, pomegranates, star fruit and tomatoes.  These fruits become sweeter as they ripen.  Once they are ripe, either eat them or put them in the fridge for a short time until required. Other fruit to store in the fruit bowl are apples, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats, tangerines, satsumas and clementines. Bring fruit out of the fridge an hour or so before...

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Save Money In The Kitchen – Energy

Save Money In The Kitchen – Energy

Today I’d like to make everyone aware of how they can save energy in the kitchen.  When I say ‘energy’ I mean saving fuel whilst cooking (you can dance around and use as much personal energy as you like!).  I am thinking in particular of students and new or novice cooks.  People who are cooking budget recipes and trying to feed their family thrifty meals will save more money if they cook and store food efficiently.  Some of the points below might seem obvious, but even if I have highlighted one single idea that you hadn’t  thought of, then that will be a bonus!  Here goes …   When using the hob (stovetop) on the cooker, use the smallest ring to fit the base of the saucepan.  Even a 6”/15cm saucepan on an 8”/20cm element will waste over 40% energy! Make sure that the hob is kept clean as the heat will be more efficient. If you cook on gas, the flames should be blue.  If they are yellowish it means that there’s some adjusting to do. If you want to boil water, say for a cup of tea, only boil enough for the purpose.  There’s no point in boiling water which will just go cold later! If your grill (broiler) has a half setting on it – use it if you are only cooking a small amount of food. Always close the oven, freezer or refrigerator door as soon as possible to save energy.  Don’t open the oven door too often – use a timer instead. Check the seals on appliance doors to make sure there are no tears or bumps.  Keep the seals clean – even dirt on them will allow air to escape and will therefore use more energy. When the oven is on – is there anything else that you can cook for tomorrow?  Have you planned tomorrow’s lunch or main meal?  If there is any food that can be cooked at the same time to save switching on the oven unnecessarily the next day?  If you do cook ahead, make sure that the food is cooled down completely before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Don’t put sheets of foil on the oven racks.  Doing this will stop food dripping onto the oven floor but will also stop the airflow!  It is better to give the oven a quick clean once it has been switched off for a while and still warm. Fill up the fridge and freezer for optimum economy.  The air needs to circulate around the food so make sure there is a little space above and between the food. If you don’t have enough food to fill the refrigerator or freezer, fill...

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