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The solution… make your own! Its incredibly moneysaving as the ingredients don’t cost a lot, but the main benefit is that you know whats going into it and you can sneak extra vegetables on the children’s portion and they don’t seem to care!
Pizza bread dough
450g Strong white flour
1 small tsp dried yeast
20ml Olive oil
Pinch of salt and sugar
170ml water (vegetable water is great as it gives a fluffy base)
1 tin of tomatoes blitzed smooth with a blender
1 squirt of tomato sauce
Pinch of mixed herbs
Pinch of sugar (I usually add a couple of tsp of homemade tomato ketchup for the sweetness)
I use whatever is in the fridge. Today it was Ham, Mushrooms, Onions and peppers but try using sweetcorn, bacon etc.
Mozzarella cheese if possible but cheddar also works for me.
I make up the dough and leave it for an hour or two to rise. I whizz the tin of tomatoes to get out any lumps, then add the other ingredients and simmer until it reduces down to a thick-ish paste.
Roll out the dough to fit the pan size. I use three 10 inch pans for this amount of dough.
Smear a teeny bit of olive oil onto the base and then spoon on the tomato sauce, spreading with a knife.
Top with any toppings you enjoy. I usually chuck in a few extra bits of veg for the children…. well, what they don’t know won’t hurt them
Finish off with a good sprinkling of mozzarella or cheddar and a pinch of mixed herbs.
I have noticed that by using a cast iron pizza dish in the oven and potato water as my liquid I can get a crunchy outer with a lovely soft inner base. Much nicer than the soggy efforts I’ve had from the pizza store!
Sometimes I drag myself into a well known high street store that sells body butters/soap etc. I always know when I’m just a couple of streets away from the store as I start smelling the perfume.
Anyway, one of the products they sell is a scrubby bar. It is a hard bar that has exfoliators in to slough off the dead skin cells. Its about £4.50-ish for a small bar. They are really easy to make so here is my recipe. I’ve given it in percentages so you can make a bar to the size of your container.
75% Cocoa butter
25% Shea butter
Exfoliants – Aduki beans and ground almonds. I like to use quite a lot of these but you can just keep adding until you are happy with the texture.
Essential oil of choice
Warm the cocoa butter in a pan until melted, turn off the heat and add the shea butter. The residual warmth in the pan should melt the shea butter.
Mix together the warm butters and leave to cool. You will notice the colour of the butters changing and getting lighter.
When the butters are cool but not yet set, start adding the exfoliants. Continue until you feel happy with the ‘scrubiness’ of the mixture. I find a good way of testing is to scoop a small teaspoon up and gently rub onto the back of my hand.
When you have a scrubiness you are happy with, set the pan aside and let it cool down even more. You want it to be almost set. Keep giving the mix a good stir to stop the exfoliants settling at the bottom.
Once the butters are about to set again, give them a final stir and pour the mix into your containers. I use old plastic yoghurt pots or dairy product pots, the list is endless, you’ll soon find yourself buying yoghurt for its unusual designed pot!
The reason for leaving the pouring until the last minute is that you don’t want the exfoliants settling into the bottom of your scrubby bar. However if you find them still setting once you have poured them, just give a careful stir with a teaspoon.
These bars are a dual purpose product as they moisturise as well as exfoliate the body.
Use them in the shower, once the scrubby bits have been washed away you will be left with a film of nourishing body butter on your skin. This sinks into the skin leaving it soft and comfortable.
You will notice a much lighter bar in the picture. This is a plain body butter bar with no scrubby bits in. I love to use these on holiday as they are much easier to carry than a load of bottles of aftersun. These bars are made the same way as the scrubby bars but using only the butters. They make a lovely soothing moisturiser.
Perfect for giving as presents. Why not make up a hamper of homemade beauty goodies to give to a special person…. its mothers day in a month!
She makes all my dishcloths out of old balls of wool. She uses cotton so we always keep our eyes open for odd balls in the charity shops or car boot sales. She likes to make them with cotton as that way they can be boiled.
They are fantastic for doing the dishes (the ones I can’t fit into the dishwasher!) And for wiping surpaces down. The pattern on them makes them chunky enough to stand up to constant scrubbing.
The best thing though is that I can boil them and they come up like new! I also chuck them in a weak bleach solution if they are looking a bit grubby.
They will last years and years so are worth considering if you have any odd balls of cotton hanging around. That is of course if you can knit… or your mother can!!
The night before last we had a lovely piece of organic beef for tea. I cooked it raised on a rack of veggies to let the lovely juices run out. I drained off the juices and added some fat back to the pan and squashed down the veggies. I then made a delicious gravy by adding a bit of flour to thicken it and then slowly added some water from my steamed vegetables. I then strained it to get rid of the veggies that had supported the beef. I ended up with a gorgeous thick gravy and didn’t need to add anything but a little seasoning to it. Perfect!
The remaining steamed vegetable water was refrigerated overnight to go in yesterdays ‘breadcakes’ That just leaves me with the remaining beef from the joint…. so I made a spaghetti!
As its a leftover dish, the ingredients change every time but here’s what I used in last nights meal:
Leftover beef joint
One onion plus a couple of garlic cloves.
Tin of tomatoes.
One carrot, grated finely.
Mushrooms/celery from my dehydrated stock as I had no fresh.
Heat a solid bottomed pan (I always use cast iron pans) and gently fry the onions until they go a golden colour. I make no apologies about my big onions in the picture… we love them! Add the garlic at this point so it doesn’t burn.
Cut the beef joint into small pieces. I find it easier to whizz it round a bit in the Magimix. I leave some pieces of meat a bit on the large size, I just think it adds to the dish.
Add the meat and tomatoes to the onions and garlic mix.
Next, pop in mushrooms, celery and carrots. I had no fresh mushrooms or celery in so used the ones I had already dehydrated. I often prefer the dehydrated ones as the flavour is so concentrated.
Season and add any extras you may think it needs for flavour. I added some mixed herbs, basil, half a kallo cube, a little honey and a square of chocolate. Add a little water if it looks dry. I left it simmering for about an hour because hubby was late in from work. It wont spoil, just add a little more water if needed.
I always add something sweet such as honey or a little chocolate to a savoury dish. It really adds a depth of flavour to the dish. And the chocolate seems to add a real richness. Give it a try when you are next experimenting
I have to apologise for the blurry picture… its my hubbies fault. I took one photo and was just lining up the dish in my viewfinder again so I had a couple of pictures to choose from when the dish dissapeared from the screen… hubby had knicked it! He wouldn’t put it back as he said he was starving so I’m afraid we all have to make do with this picture. I’ll not shout him in next time until I’ve finished lol!
Breadcakes, cobs, barms – or whatever you call them in your part of the country. These little bread rolls are delightful and can be easily adapted to to any shape or size you want. I like to make them as nutritious as possible and I use vegetable water leftover from steaming as the liquid part of the ingredients. I have a little flour mill and do a half and half mix of freshly ground wheat flour and Lidl strong flour.
275g Strong white bread flour
275g Freshly milled wheat
340ml veggie water. Today I used the steam water left over from steaming potatoes, carrots and sprouts.
2 tsp milk powder. Another way to higher the breads nutritional value
2tsp honey. Nicer than using sugar and gives a lovely flavour in wholegrain breads
1 tsp Salt.
1 and half tsp fastbake yeast or fresh if you can get it
20ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Butter can be used instead but I’m going the healthy way in this recipe
Sunflower/pumpkin/sesame seeds I love adding seeds to bread as they give such a lovely crunchy texture – and they are great for you!
Now I usually make the dough in my breadmaker or the Kenwood Chef. They just help me out so I can get on with other things. I sometimes make the dough by hand but rarely now I have my energy saving gadgets.
I let the dough rise twice. The first time for and hour or so, then I cut it up into little balls and give them another hour in a warm place. I pop them in an oven that’s pre-heated to 230c to allow for temperature drop when the door is open. I chuck a glass of water in the bottom of the oven to make steam and hopefully keep the atmosphere moist enough to get a good rise in the oven. The dough will rise until the crust hardens so the longer you can delay that the better. Commercial ovens have a steam injection but the nearest we have at home is adding water to the oven cavity.
Once the bread is in the oven, lower the temperature down to 220c for the first ten minutes and then reduce to 200c for the remaining time. I find that the rolls are ready in about 12 to 15 minutes.
So with all the extra goodness from the seeds and whole-grains and the vitamins from the milk powder and veggie water, there’s no comparison with shop bought rolls. I do hope you give them a try, I’m sure you will love the taste of them.
They can be made in advance and frozen. When my son was younger I would make a batch at a time and freeze. Then take one roll out of the freezer on a night time to put in his lunch box. It would be lovely and soft in the morning. Fresh breadcakes every day.. yummy!
I was reading an article in the Mail on Sunday and it talked about how beneficial those little yoghurt drinks are. The bacteria in the drink set about colonizing the gut and as they grow fast, they soon start taking over the bad bacteria to bring harmony to your gut… simple eh?
The article suggests that in the future, probiotics could be used to combat diseases such as colon cancer and diabetes. They also worked out that probiotic drinks cost around £10 per week for a family of four. So at £520 a year, its not exactly a cheap option.
Now I have always thought that using a healthy approach in our diet would help keep us safe from a lot of the diseases out there so for a few years I’ve been drinking a product called kefir. Kefir is a living cluster of good bacteria. It contains billions more beneficial bacteria than the probiotic drinks and far more different strains so we have more chance of getting all the health benefits available from these sorts of drinks.
Once kefir starts to colonize your gut with friendly bacteria, it then starts helping to digest the food you eat, turning it into a substance much easier for your body to cope with and expel. It is claimed that kefir is like a mini vacuum cleaner for your gut. Getting rid of all the bad bacteria and even ‘grabbing’ debris and bad bacteria whilst travelling through your colon on the way out of your system.
If you look around the web you will find hundreds of websites telling you of the health benefits related to kefir drinking. I studied it in detail before taking the plunge and actually drinking it. I stay clear of the websites that are trying to sell products from kefir. There seems to be a lot of studies through university’s that rate the benefits of kefir as real and genuine so its definitely worth taking a bit of time to read up on it….
Kefir isn’t pretty to look at. Think of it as a little spongy cauliflower. Its very white and a whole one fits on a teaspoon. Its a living organism and the most amazing thing is that it has babies! Every so often you will see the shape of the kefir grains starting to change until one morning when you strain it out… and you will find a tiny little kefir grain ready to grow and start its own little colony! You can keep the baby grains with the mother until its big enough to give to a friend so they can enjoy the benefits too. You can also freeze some grains in case catastrophe strikes and you lose your grains.
on to the taste… hmmm its like a slightly sparkly thin yoghurt. Its not lumpy or anything, just smooth. I’m not overly excited by the taste so I add a bit of strawberry crush to mine. I’ve also added a mashed up banana and this combination kept me full to way past lunchtime…. worth thinking about if you are on a diet?
So now you are thinking ok where do I buy kefir? Don’t buy it… it should be given away! Ask on your local freecycle. That’s where I originally got mine from. Once you have your grains its simply a case of popping them into a glass of milk and leaving them overnight. I repeat this process the next day and so on. I strain the grains into the new glass and pop the ‘inoculated milk’ into the fridge for an hour to chill, then drink it down.
I find that as a breakfast drink, when added to fruit it is very filling. But the main thing I noticed with drinking kefir on a daily basis is its colon cleansing ability! Within an hour of drinking kefir I would be on the toilet, maybe this is something worth considering if you have constipation problems?
I was a fool and killed my kefir at Christmas. I put it in a little bag with some milk in and then threw the bag away whilst doing the post Christmas clean. Writing about it again has reminded me to get some more so its off over to freecycle I go…
By the way if anyone is interested in reading comments about kefir making, I started a long thread on moneysavingexpert.com. The thread is here http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=181557&highlight=kefir I posted under the username of Leonie in those days
I like to make up vinegars with the branches of the plant. Vinegar is invaluable for so many things in day to day life. I use it for cleaning, disinfecting wooden chopping boards, descaling my kettle and of course, in the washing machine in place of fabric conditioner. It keeps towels lovely and fluffy and because it removes all traces of washing powder that can collect in the fabric fibres it helps keeps thing like socks fresher for longer as the sweat molecules have nothing to bind to. I use white vinegar in a white wash and just cheap brown vinegar in everything else as its half the price of white vinegar.
I try to avoid using chemical based products in my kitchen and bathroom. I find that vinegar can do almost everything that a harsh cleaning product can do but is much kinder to the environment – and our lungs!
When making up vinegars for skin and hair care I like to use organic apple cyder vinegar. Then its simply a case of opening the vinegar and popping in your chosen herbs. Give it a good shake and leave on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks. If you want it sooner, simply heat the vinegar in a pan until just simmering. Turn off the heat and add the herbs, put the lid on the pan and leave until cool.
You can continue adding fresh herbs over the following weeks if you want a stronger vinegar.
I usually have two ‘flavours’ on the go. A lavender one and a rosemary and nettle combination are my favourites at the moment. I use the relaxing lavender one as a night time toner. Simply pop a few drops into a glass of water and apply to the face with a cotton ball. It will remove any traces of soap/cream from your face and return its ph value back to its normal state.
The rosemary and nettle one can also be used as a toner but I prefer to use it as a hair rinse/conditioner. Add a few drops to your last bowlful of water when rinsing your hair to rid the hair of any remaining shampoo and to close the hair shaft so the hair appears shinier. Rosemary makes a great hair tonic and the nettle helps with dandruff and is supposed to aid in hair loss.
Oh and of course, herby vinegars can be used in cooking so make up your own combinations and add to your favourite dishes!
Here you go… my face on Utube, how scary is that!
Thank you to Martin Lewis from It pays to watch and Moneysavingexpert.com for inviting me on to his show.
I shall be on again showing how to make body butter and flour making. Also butter for spreading on fresh bread. Catch the show on Channel 5 Wednesdays at 7.30pm. It features tons of ways to keep your money in your pocket and how to get back your penalty charges from the greedy banks!
A few years ago I bought a dehydrator. It wasn’t an expensive one, I bought it from Tchibo for £25 but its incredible what you can do with it.
I keep my eye on the reduced section in the supermarket and often see tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers etc reduced down to a few pennies. Now I used to wonder how I could use these things up in a short period of time. There’s a limit to how much food you can give the family at once!
So I came up with the idea of drying and storing them. I started off drying them in the oven but when I came across the dehydrator I grabbed it at that price.
I dry them and pop them in separate airtight pots. The children love the little cherry tomatoes as drying them makes them incredibly sweet. I pop them into a pasta sauce and its a fight for who gets the most in their dish!
I use the dried veg in tons of different recipes. Garlic, celery and mushrooms added to a tin of tomatoes makes a great pasta sauce base and its incredibly tasty as the dehydrated veg has such a concentrated flavour.
I also grind down a mix of peppers, mushrooms, onions and a little garlic and use as a seasoning for potato wedges. Or take the same mix and add breadcrumbs for a tasty coating for chicken pieces.
Throw the veg onto a pizza to help the kids get their five a day or just pop in the pan to liven up stews and casseroles.
Its an incredibly cheap way to keep in a stock of essential ingredients that may otherwise go off in your fridge.
Fruit leathers can be made by mashing up fruit and pressing a thin layer onto the dehydrator. I dont make them in this house as fruit makes the children suspicious!
At Christmas I had a few oranges that were way past there best so I sliced them and dried them on the dehydrator, threaded a bit of string on them and made decorations. They look great around the festive dinner table too!
Cream cubes are a great idea for when you have just a bit of cream left in your pot and you don’t want to throw it away.
Simply pour the leftover cream into ice cube trays and freeze for 24 hours. At this point, chuck them all into a freezer bag or a little box and just take them out whenever a recipe calls for a small amount of cream.
I add a few cubes to mash potato for extra creaminess and the best bit is I dont even have to defrost them first. Try adding a few cubes in a white sauce… or my favourite way of using them is to pop a couple into the pan when making porridge. My favourite winter breakfast!
This is also a useful tip for lemons. Our local market sells fruit by the bowlful so you get around 10 lemons for a pound. I juice them up and freeze them the same as the cream. You’ll never have to rush out to the shops at the last minute when your recipe calls for the juice of half a lemon…