Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner!

Fancy some proper pucka grub?

As you can probably tell from the above line, I’m no Jamie Oliver but I do love his books and, as I’ve maybe mentioned in other posts, to save money. Enter ‘Save with Jamie’ 2 of my favourite things combined ‘Could life get any better than this?’ I hear you ask. Quite simply- NO! Image

This time of year is ripe for roast dinners and stews so I was chuffed when MrT included a whole chicken in the weekly shop (I was busy working hard catching up on Downton don’t you know!) As is normal in our house- I do the roasts. It’s not that MrT can’t cook, he is a fab cook but we both know our strengths and the multi time and task management which a roast dinner requires is NOT his!!! The chicken dinner (stuffed with lemon and thyme) was, of course, delicious and provided plenty of left over veg for ‘Bubble and Squeak’ the next night- super stuff but what about the chicken?

The new ‘Save with Jamie’ book has a fab little ‘left over’ symbol for each main meet product, something I find really useful as I hate wasting food and try hard to use every morsel but I’m sometimes stuck for what else to do with it once the main dish and its leftover portions are eaten.Image

Jamie’s (first name terms) book answers this question and gives you lots of ideas for what to do with 1 basic base dish. So it was with a somewhat excited attitude (sad I know) that I attempted my first chicken stock boil off. If successful this would then combine with veg and chicken to form a stew.

Jamie tells you to

Strip up to 300g of meat off 1 leftover chicken carcass

I was sceptical. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, he is up there with Gandhi and the Dalai Lama as far as truth seeking and wisdom go but….. this is a carcass we’re talking about! I was amazed! Our Jamie hadn’t lied and I was gob-smacked to find out just how much meat there was! Once the carcass was stripped and in the pan of boiling water, I have to admit, I was less than impressed with its appearance but I persevered and was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it tasted once it was turned into a stew.

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This is the only ‘Save with Jamie’ recipe I’ve had a chance to try so far but I’m sure another dish won’t be far away- especially if the weather stays as miserable as this- ’tis grim up north I telt thee! (Cumbrian’s please don’t hate me!)

What are your favourite left over recipes?

Have you tried any of the ‘Save with Jamie’ leftovers dishes? What did you think?

Mrs T x

Lasagne Soup

It’s raining, it’s pouring and my tummy is a calling!!!
I don’t know about you but I can think of nothing worse on a miserable Friday than to have to cook from scratch! We had spag bol the other night and, whilst MrT did an exceptionally tasty version, he also made a feast! Nestled away in some Tupperware in the corner of the fridge are the left overs and this recipe is where they are headed!!
I’ve never thought to make a soup using bolognese before but this sounds amazing!
Just the thing to fill the tum before we snuggle up in the onesies for the night!
Happy Friday peeps!
Mrs T x

Mikey's In My Kitchen

Burrrrrrrrrr.

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Fall has come to Chicago.

It is cold, rainy and super blustery.

It smells like wet leaves and soggy grass and I am SO in love.

I busted out my scarves, jackets, hats and boots and have already made a few different pots of soup. This hearty lasagna soup is perfect for these cold, overcast days – AND, Mikey was obsessed with it (because lets be honest, Mikey is obsessed with anything in a red sauce/Italian seasonings).

Hope you are enjoying your fall so far…go make some soup!

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Will you still need me? Will you still feed me (apple cake)? When I’m 68?

Today I have mostly been catching up on Sky 1’s ‘The Face’ and making an apple and cinnamon sponge cake but more about that later.

You may ask yourself ‘How does a teacher have time to do such things on a school day?’…the answer to this my friends is….I’m on strike! I must admit, it has taken all of my moral strength to refrain from catching up on school work and stay in front of the T.V. today as I have been ‘directed’ not to do anything ‘school’ related, but, shockingly, however charming Naomi Campbell et al are, they are not the reason I chose to remain home today.

I love teaching and get up every morning looking forward to going into school and doing one of the most amazing jobs in the world but to teach is a bit like being a wedding photographer…everyone thinks it is easy, everyone thinks they could do it…that is until someone books you to do their wedding, you realise it’s damn hard, you’re not very good and the poor gets are stuck with the results for the rest of their lives!

There is a reason a Degree or further is required to become a teacher- it is a demanding PROFESSION and excellence is always required, our children deserve nothing less but these days it feels more like the ‘Gove’rnment (see what I did there?!) are one of the people looking to book any old ‘iPhone snapper’ to teach and are in the ‘stop moaning, anyone could do it’ camp.

To strike or not to strike is a question all of us, in the public sector anyway, face at some time or other and it would appear to me that teachers have been faced with it much more in recent years ( cough…Gove…) but it is never one we take lightly. I appreciate the need for child care can be an issue for some people but if we didn’t cause an inconvenience then what would be the point? Who would notice? It’s like people who moan ‘They could of picked a better time’ about Tube staff striking on NYE…well, no actually, for the purposes of a strike, they couldn’t!!

There are many, many reasons I have chosen to strike today (mostly summed up very nicely by my fellow blogger ‘The Hippy Geek’ here) but regardless of the reasons, I strongly believe I have the right to strike and shouldn’t get abuse for it from people who I would consider friends. This hasn’t been the case today.

The whole ‘What am I supposed to do with my child while I go to work?’ issue became a major rant about how inconsiderate teachers are and how they (a nurse) would never strike as they think it is irresponsible. Now, as much as I value my right to strike, I also value others not to. I admire and respect the hardworking and often undervalued nurses we are lucky to have as part of the NHS in our country (one of my best friends is an amazing nurse and I wouldn’t swap a class from hell with her endless nightshifts for all the tea in China) but it’s not a competition about which public sector workers are the most committed or the hardest done to.

Surely we’re not the bad guys here or have I (and many of my colleagues across the country) got it very wrong?

Maybe my nurse ‘friend’ doesn’t feel as despondent about the state of the NHS due to the fact that The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP is easier on the eye than Goblin Gove and thus less likely to become a beacon of hate? (Did I just say that? Yep… I think I did…but really…who would you rather?!)

Anyway chucks, back to the good ‘ol food. I hope I’m still able to feed myself this delicious cake when I’m 68- which, btw, is the age I’ll be able to draw my pension and retire- cheers Coalition, cheers!

I was given some cooking apples from my Head’s tree the other day and you know me…every penny counts…decided to make an apple cake.

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Not having a recipe for one in any of my books was no problem as there was this new fan-dangled thing called the internet at my fingertips! Low and behold a recipe I liked the sound of popped up. Minimal effort, I had all of the ingredients and I could try hard to do it justice. If you would like to have a go at the cinnamon and apple sponge cake I made today then click here and have a nose at none other than Nigella’s ‘Community Recipe’ page. It has proven to be the perfect antidote to my strike-day blues!

We’ve just had a slice for our pudding and I tell you- it beats the average ‘apple for the teacher’ any day! Yum!

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Do you ever try hard to do the right thing only for others to pull you down?

How do you respond to it?

Mrs T x

De-funked de-junk!

Over the weekend I continued the harrowing, enlightening and entertaining process that is sorting my mum’s house out- yes I know it has been 4 years, yes I know I should have it all done already, yes, yes I know!!! But I haven’t, so there!!!

It has been a laborious task partly because I constantly resist doing it and partly because (whilst not a hoarder in the T.V. reality series sense) my mum liked to keep things because they ‘might come in handy’! Hence, we have a house full of school planning, Junior Ed’s from the past 40 years, children’s exercise books from 1974 (the child adult probably chucked their own stash of primary school books years back) and photos! Oh the photos- millions! I usually end up sat crossed legged laughing and crying simultaneously at my mum and dad’s curly perms or my cousins daft face whilst wearing his sisters riding hat or commenting on how often Our A was in her nude as a toddler (I swear a future lifestyle choice as a naturist is yet to reveal it’s self- if you’re reading this- stay away from ‘those’ beaches!)

It is rather ironic then, that it was as we were sorting through box upon box of ‘stuff’ that Mr T uncovered a book. A book so aptly titled ‘How to say de-junked forever’. The title implies you were ‘de-junked’ in the first place- something my mother most definitely wasn’t! I’m not sure my mum ever read the book but I do love the fact that the ‘Life Laundry’ (BBC) ladies face smiles brightly amongst the junk she (well her book) is now part of! Love you mother!

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I adore, love and respect my mother to bits- she is on the highest pedestal anyone could be on and nothing will ever knock her off it but, whilst there are many, many qualities of hers I aspire to copy, her lack of ‘de-junking’ isn’t one of them. I always remember watching ‘Life Laundry’ and seeing the emotional baggage the people had collected come pouring out of them as they ‘de-junked’. It struck me as a harrowing process. It is. Going through my mum’s life cripples me but also galvanises me to keep in control of my hoarding tendencies and foster the ‘Virgo’ traits I also posses. Like my mother I do attach memories and emotions to objects- I am very sentimental and I love that about me but I also try hard to keep my house tidy and regularly go through my wardrobe and cupboards but, as a teacher, just like my mother, I always seem to acquire ‘stuff’.

Most of the ‘stuff’ that clutters up my…ahhem… ‘office’ is paper. As a household we do try to recycle and always put our paper bin out but I still seem to find myself every half term drowning in the stuff.

Our struggle to recycle, despite trying hard, is maybe something to do with the fact Daisy thinks the basket is a bed?

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What do you think?! She is cute though!

Recycle, reuse, reduce kids!

Any de-junking tips are greatly received- I’m sure you’ve gathered that they don’t come naturally!

Mrs T x

Autumn days when the grass is green… and the sausages are only 29p!

Today’s post is inspired by the Daily Prompt which got me thinking about my most favourite time of the year- Autumn!!!! I know many of you out there will be thinking ‘ughhh cold, rainy, miserable and yuck!’ but I would rather wrap up warm and pull on my wellies than stress over ‘is it flip-flop weather or not?’ or ‘will I need my brolly?’- in my mind, you know where you are with the cold!

Autumn days bring back warm family memories of fun and frolics- kicking leaves, jumping in puddles, conker fights……yeah, yeah nostalgia is a wonderful feeling but as soon as the weather and the leaves turn I know that my favourite time of the year is here! It starts with my birthday in September, then we have Halloween and Bonfire Night and once those autumnal celebrations are over for another year we begin the lead-up to Christmas- truly ‘The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!’

These celebrations, where you get to wrap up warm and drink hot chocolate, are where it’s at for me! Nothing beats the feeling of standing in the freezing cold in Memorial Park (bonfires are too much of a H&S risk these days…weep!) oooing and ahhhring at the flashes of brilliant colour against the black night sky whilst enjoying that snuggly feeling of itchy scarves and restricting mittens!

As a 30something I often scald myself at just how excited I get when I dream of the Hot Pots and casseroles, stews and roast to be cooked and eaten and the smells which accompany them- surely there is more to my 30? Apparently not! In the run up to Christmas this year, we are truly being squeezed for money as I am sure many of you are- damn economy- and Mr T and I are often found perusing the reduced shelf in Saino’s (‘not that hard-up’ I hear you cry, but it is the only supermarket in our town- ASDA was apparently scared off by the looming middle classes of Cockermouth!)

It is extremely depressing to admit, that these days I have to stifle the ‘YES!’ as I spot a yellow sticker on a jar of pickled anchovies- who buys that stuff? Certainly not me so why the enthusiasm? Whilst I generally subscribe to the ‘every penny counts’ camp, I must also admit that we I have become a bit of a ‘reduced snob’ and can often be found shaking my head and pursing my lips in an ‘oh no, no, no, that will never do’ fashion when the 20 pence they have deigned to take of the ‘going out of date today’ calfs liver just doesn’t cut the mustard- I mean, if you want shut of the stuff then at least knock a quid off it!!!

So, it is in the spirit of ‘economy’ that I have lovingly made tonight’s tea- a yummy, heartwarming and autumnal sausage casserole! I never use a casserole mix as I think it is easy enough to make myself and (yep you guessed it) saves me money!

For those who are interested here is my recipe and method-

(serves 2 greedy gets or 4 people who can practice portion control!)

2 large carrots (scrapped and chopped) , 1 medium onion (peeled and chunky chopped), 2 bay leaves , ½ pint of boiling water, 2 heaped tblsp of plain flour to thicken, 1 beef stock or OXO cube, a generous squeeze of tomato puree (at least a good tbsp worth), 1 pack of 8 sausages.

Place all ingredients in a casserole dish with lid and place in the over at 180 for approx. 40 mins- top up with water if needed. You may like to brown your sausages first, I don’t but I do remove the lid for about 15 mins to allow them to colour as there is nothing worse than beige sausage is there?! Serve with mash and pour over the excess gravy- YUM!

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Well…. we have enjoyed our cheep as (but not quite) chips tea.

How are you trying hard to save money?

All and any tips welcome!

I’m off to jump in some leaves!

Mrs T x

Preserve Perfection!

So…. day 2 and post 2!

I realise I am posting rather quickly but such is the flush of new romance (I’m sure in a few weeks you will be lucky if I scrape together a few words a fortnight!)

I thought for this blog I would tell you a little more about me. I live in a small town on the edge of the b.e.a.u.tiful Lake District where I moved 7 years ago to develop my career as a primary school teacher and ended up meeting and marrying MrT (or Mr Right as he likes to call himself!). The rest, as they say, is history.

Moving to a new town in my mid- twenties, ALONE, was a daunting and life changing bump in my otherwise smooth bumpy journey to where I am today- a 30something, married, cat loving, food eating, stressed but happy teacher.

I come from a good- sized and extremely close and loving family so it was lucky for me that the saying-

The best part of life is when your family becomes your friends, and your friends become your family

came true and it is this that forms the backdrop of my post today.

There are 5 of us ‘girlies’ altogether. We come from a variety of backgrounds, careers and interests but we have 1 big thing in common- FOOD!!!! We manage to keep our friendship tight, despite our stressful and hectic schedules, by meeting regularly for tea and cakes or meals because, lets face it, everyone has to eat!!

The most recent ‘catch- up’ was to celebrate my B-day and coincided with ‘Taste Cumbria Food Festival’ YUM!!! Add to this the fact there is a huge champers tent and you had us at ‘Hello’!!!!

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Now, a few people in the town of Cockermouth can be found grumbling and moaning at this time of year about the time it takes to get around town or the fact that, for one weekend a year, people are more interested in James Martin than William Wordsworth but not me!!! Stall upon stall of yummy bakes, fresh fish, amazing pates and cheeses and did I mention the champers tent?! WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? HEAVEN!

After a few bottles glasses of champers and a spot of celeb chef spotting….ahhem..Paul Rankin… (name drop there!!) we headed out to the stalls and I decided I would challenge myself and my taste buds to try something different…well, different for me. I should clarify here that, whilst I adore food and am by no means a picky eater, I know what I like and I’m usually excited by seeing my favourite foods on a menu not a new or ‘interesting’ taste sensation!

My lovely and well informed friends had purchased me a hamper from a deli in our town packed full of my favourite things and pride of place was a huge chunk of goats cheese!!!! As I perused the offering on a preserves stalls my eyes fell upon ‘Plum Chutney’ made by a lovely local lady named Jill Johnston and it looked just the part to accompany my goats cheese and for fill my challenge brief- woohoo! (I am sure by many of your standards this is nothing but I was venturing outside of the red onion family here!)

I must say- I was very pleasantly surprised by just how tasty the chutney was and suffice to say it has all been gobbled up already! The true joy found by the purchase of the chutney though was Jill. A friendly lady who shared her story of how she became a professional preserver (not sure if that’s a real thing but you know what I mean) and she has inspired me to try and make my own chutneys and preserves. I have begun my ‘pinterest’ research with gusto and will keep you posted on my progress in the word of pickled veg- and just in time for christmas too…..you lucky lot!

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What new things are you trying hard to master?

Until next time…. Mrs T x