Sunday, March 18, 2012

Almost Everlasting 'Savers''

When it comes to 'self-sufficiency', the most savings can be made when we 'grow our own'. True this can take time (but not 'work time'). We start with one seed, which could be a 'free' one using the seed/s saved from a butternut squash or bell pepper, an avocado stone or citrus fruit pips. We can even sow one or two of those dried peas we have bought in a packet from the supermarket to soak/cook/eat. These grow into wonderful pea shoots.
Myself have even bought an inexpensive pack of mixed dried beans and separated out the different types, soaking one of each, all all sprouted!

Once we have grown a plant (floral or edible) we can let it grow to seed, thus giving ourselves sometimes hundreds more seeds to plant another year. And so it goes on. From one little acorn will grow a huge oak tree!

Although I did plant the herb 'mats' yesterday, you will not be interested in seeing pots of soil, so will wait until they have sprouted before I take their first photograph. Instead decided to show another form of saving. This was making one pot plant turn into more - and lots more over time.

Maybe I should start at the beginning. When we moved to Leeds, over 40 years ago, our youngest daughter went to the local primary school barely 100 yards away from where we lived. During the holidays, many children were asked (or offered) to bring home either a small animal or plant the school had, then take care of it until school began again.

Although nothing to do with plants, you might be amused to know that once we had a hamster to care for, this was kept in a cage in our daughter's bedroom and one day I went to wake her up and found the hamster missing - it had somehow got out of the cage. Fortunately it was still in the room, so I dashed down and fetched my largest sieve (it had a long handle), and - still in my nighty) lay on the floor trying to trap the hamster with the sieve as it dashed around the room (and my goodness, how fast they move). Did of course catch it, but I bet it was a funny sight.

Another time my daughter brought home a plant, and just before she took it back a little 'sprig' had fallen off. This appeared to have a few roots growing from just under the leaves, so I kept this, planted it and it grew. And grew. And GREW!
The common name for the plant is 'Money Tree' (or Jade plant), it is a 'succulent' and probably a Crassula. If you keep one growing in your house it is said you will never be short of money. In many ways this could be true, for since I got mine growing things did get easier.

Over time the plant kept shedding 'sprigs' (as is normal), each time they were planted and all grew into good-sized plants and all given away. The 'mother' plant continued to grow and when it was nearly 40 years old, decided - as we were leaving Leeds - to give it to my friend's son (who was very into gardening and indoor plants) as it was about the same age as he was. The trunk of the plant was about the thickness of my wrist, and the whole thing was a considerable size. It also flowered profusely (bunches of very tiny white star-shaped flowers) in mid-winter.

We brought one small Jade plant I'd been growing from a fallen 'sprig' a couple or so years back, and yesterday took a photo of this for you to see. It would have looked better if I'd taken the shot without bright day-light behind it, but you get an idea of the size it is now.
When I brought the plant from the windowsill to photo, noticed a 'sprig' had fallen from one of the branches, so picked this out and laid it on the table next to one I had potted up some weeks ago. You can see the two in the picture below. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to see the many little rootlets that are close to the mid-leaves, and the way to grow this 'sprig' would be for me to lay it on the top of damp soil so the roots touch the soil. The 'dead end' would be left sticking out of the soil.

The great thing about this 'Money Tree' is it needs very little water (a good thing at times of drought). One good soak can keep mine happy for almost a year (and probably longer. They also like being pot-bound, so once the plant has established, no need to pot on until it grows too large for the pot. Once watered, you can tell when it needs more water by the colour of the leaves - they tend to turn reddish brown in colour and begin to look a bit wizened (well so would I if I hadn't drunk for a year!), also many 'rootlets' become visible along the branches (perhaps the plant also 'drinks' in moist air - it is like a cactus, used to dry conditions. After a good soak the leaves plump up again and go back to being a glossy green. It seems to live quite happily in a dark corner as well as on a sunny windowsill (but the pot will need turning occasionally as it tends to grow towards the light and ends up with a flat back otherwise).

We have only to check the price of ones on sale to realise the benefit of buying one small one, then buying just one ourselves and continue to 'grow our own' for generations to come form this one 'mother plant.

In a way this could be almost an 'heirloom', each plant's offspring being given to our own when they set up home, , and from these they grown more plants to pass on down to their own children and grandchildren. Perhaps the only plant we can grow that we can still have the original 'mother' still in the family. Makes me feel quite good to realise this.

The only other 'savings' made yesterday is an on-going one. Was not sure how to cope with the orange peel, so decided to do my own thing. I measured out one pint of granulated sugar and put it into a pan with one pint of cold water (in fact weighed it as well, and it weighed the same so it's obviously equal amounts whatever way you decide to measure). Brought this to the boil then added the drained orange peel. Did weigh this and it came to 52g (although don't think this is particularly significant - I was 'playing it by ear').

The previous time I tried to make candied peel (a Jamie Oliver recipe) it was a disaster. He (and other recipes too) suggest removing the pith from the peel before candying it. The candied peel I buy from the supermarkets always seems to include a bit of pith, and anyway, after thrice boiling my saved orange peel (still with its pith), discovered most of the pith seemed to have disappeared anyway, just a thin layer left, so I cut the peel into chunks, put them into the boiling sugar (just enough of the sugar syrup in the pan to nicely cover the peel), and boiled the lot for 15 minutes. Then put on the lid and turned out the heat.

Today will heat up the pan and continue boiling until the syrup has reduced considerably (but still some left), and then will think what to do next. Probably remove the peel and leave it to drain on my cake airer, any syrup left will be put into a sterilised jam jar and used like golden syrup - it will be orange flavoured so useful when baking. But more on this (with photos if it works out) later.

Our Spring Bank Holiday is not this coming week Lisa. First we have the long Easter Weekend (Good Friday, Easter Saturday/Sunday and Easter Monday. Then back to work. At the start of May we have May Day holiday (is that our Spring Bank Holiday? Not sure), but we also have another at the end of May.

Your mention of 'paper dolls' reminded me of when a school friend and I (we were probably in our mid-teens) used to cut out a photograph from a magazine of a model (usually in a swimsuit), and glue this to card with a flap at the feet end so when folded it would stand up. We Then used to lay this 'model' flat onto white paper and draw lightly round the body part, then remove the 'doll' and carry on drawing - by this I mean designing a dress or outfit for the 'doll' to wear. We would tiny tabs on the shoulders and round the waist so when the 'clothes' were placed onto the doll the tabs could be folded to secure them in place.

We spent HOURS designing the most lovely clothes, colouring them in with water colours or poster colours, and we could even make them look as though they had frills or pleats.

This sounds as though an odd thing for teenagers to do, but in those days we were probably young in heart, but it is a more interesting way to 'design clothes' than just drawing them in a book. According to our chosen 'model', we can design for children, teenagers, the thin and the not so thin. We could even cut out a photograph of ourselves and find out what style suits us best (not a bad idea even at my age - might just do this).

Certainly your bargains can be counted as 'deliberate' Eileen. Were you allowed to take your own scooter into Morrison's or did you have to transfer to using their own. My scooter is a four-wheeler and on the large size, so not sure if they would let me scoot around their store on Norris. Mind you, I wouldn't be able to put much food into the tiny basket on the front, so maybe I would find this a bit limiting.

One of the good things about travelling by scooter is that we can go a fair distance on the one charge. Apparently it costs only 13p to charge the scooter fully and this should last up to 26 miles (according to the size of scooter/battery). Certainly cheaper than going to a supermarket by bus (or even car).

Looks like being another lovely day today. B has just left as he is helping out at the sailing club (they are putting up new fencing). So I have most of the morning to myself and intend sowing more seeds and maybe even doing some 'outside' gardening. As well as indoor cooking.

The 'Mediterranean Roasted Veg' pack that B brought in had a few days shelf life, so will be cooked today. Yesterday B preferred to make himself some bacon sarnies. He brought me in three more packs of Walker's 'what flavour is it?' crisps (naughty when he knows I'm trying to lose weight), and think I've just about sussed out three different flavours. One is probably 'roast lamb with mint sauce', another 'a spicy beef', the third definitely a cheese and something, can't quite decided what type of cheese. Maybe Parmesan or Stilton? Has anyone tried these and what flavours do you think they are?

With Eileen's mention of buying a cabbage (reduced in price), she - and hopefully others - will find this recipe useful as cabbage and pasta are not two ingredients you expect to go together.

But in this dish - they do! It doesn't have to be 'penne', any pasta shape will do.

Pasta with Cabbage, Bacon and Cheese: serves 4

12 oz (350g) pasta penne

1 tblsp olive oil

5 oz (150g) smoked, streaky bacon, chopped

few fresh thyme leaves, or pinch dried thyme

1 cabbage (outer leaves removed)

4 oz (100g) mozzarella cheese, diced

1 oz (25g) toasted pine nuts

salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until 'al dente'. Meanwhile heating the oil in a frying pan, then frying the bacon for 3 - 4 minutes until crisp. Quarter the cabbage, remove core and slice finely, then add this to the pan with the thyme and seasoning to taste.

Give a good stir to coat all with the oil/bacon fat and then cover pan with a lid and cook over low heat for 5 or so minutes (giving the pan a shake now and then), by which time the cabbage should be just tender and a bright green colour (cooking it for too long the colour can change to an unpleasant khaki).

Drain the pasta well and add to the pan. Chuck in the mozzarella and pine nuts, give a stir, have a taste and - if necessary - add more seasoning. Toss well so everything is well combined, then tip into a warmed dish and serve immediately.

Broccoli is another one of the 'greens' that many find 'not that interesting'. But it is known to be very good for us, so we should eat as much broccoli as possible. Here is a spicy dish that could go down well with everyone who really is not fond of eating greens in any form. Worth a try.

Broccoli and Sweet Chilli Spaghetti: serves 4

10 oz (300g) spaghetti

5 fl oz (150ml) water

1 lb (450g) broccoli florets

3 tblsp sweet chilli sauce

1 tblsp tomato puree

3 tblsp olive oil

2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated

salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking put the 150ml water into a large frying pan, bring to the boil, then add the broccoli and 2 tblsp of the chilli sauce. Cook until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is tender.

Add the remaining chilli sauce, the tomato puree, oil and Parmesan cheese to the drained spaghetti and toss together, then add the cooked broccoli, add seasoning to taste, give a further toss (or two) and serve immediately.

Too good a day to sit any longer at the computer, so will love you and leave you and be back again tomorrow, usual time (unless I have a lie-in). Please enjoy your weekend and make the most of the good weather. TTFN.