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Is it Thanksgiving already?

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I am just not a cold weather person, I like lots of things about Fall and Winter, warm and cozy sweaters, all of the wonderful boots that can be worn, the warm comfort foods… But the cold dark evenings, the bitterly cold weather and snow, one dump of snow is pretty and a good excuse for a day in doors but after that I’m done, done and even more done and ready for Spring! So with the days getting increasingly darker earlier, the weather getting colder by the hour I am trying to be positive, thinking of warm days in the house with my needles, hooks and yarn for company but even that cannot seem to brighten my spirits, I just do not like this time of year!

But one day I do enjoy is Thanksgiving, it’s like Christmas Day without all the pressures of presents, it’s just about food, family and relaxation… My kind of day! I am absolutely amazed that we are at this time of year already, it only seems like yesterday we were celebrating Thanksgiving last year, and now we are about to do it all over again!

On the menu in our house is warm seasoned turkey, hickory smoked ham, homemade sausage, apple and sage stuffing, a cheats version of boxed cornbread stuffing for Blu, mashed buttery potatoes and green bean casserole… Of course turkey gravy and the cranberry and orange sauce I made and froze a few weeks ago… Black Friday has become famous in our house for warm left over rolls toasted in the oven, I think my children prefer this meal to the actual Thanksgiving day meal… Crazy, but it is oh so good!

Take all your left overs, and pile them into your bread of choice, this year we have my favorite ciabatta bread from Trader Joes, we will be having turkey in one and ham in the other, warm through the stuffing and gravy, pile this on top of your roasted meat, add cranberry sauce too if you like, close the bread securely wrap in foil and bake in a 400f oven for 10-15 minutes… Take out unwrap the bread, slice, serve and enjoy… Delicious Black Friday food! Maybe it will become a tradition in your house too!

Now before I move onto another leftover meal we will be having on Saturday, I will tell you about our Thanksgiving day deserts I will be baking today, firstly a recipe I tried out a couple of weeks ago to take to friends for dinner a salted caramel apple pie, now I changed this recipe, it wasn’t gluten free as I made a pastry dough for the base and this time I’m going to make a crisp/crumble topping… This pie was delicious and with warm caramel and whipped cream topping it, it makes a great Thanksgiving desert! Secondly I found a recipe on Pinterest last night that works well with my giant bag of coconut I bought from Costco and the whole fridge drawer I have of limes I need to use up, lime and coconut cream cookies, then of course with a family of chocoholics white chocolate brownies are a must desert for the day of indulgence!

Back to my second left overs day meal… traditional pea and ham soup , another recipe I found on Pinterest, but I like the look of this one because it uses fresh peas instead of split peas, I will be using Trader Joes frozen organic peas but I am really looking forward to trying this recipe, seved with the Pioneer woman’s pizza dough made into an olive oil and rosemary flatbread!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone… Enjoy!

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Trying to stretch a dollar or two…

This year has certainly been financially difficult for us, we have had several car accidents costing us a lot of money not only with paying the first $1000 but also with insurance rates increasing dramatically. We also had a chimney fire and parts of our roof were damaged with the hurricane that came last year… All in all 2013 has been a little bit of a struggle in many ways… But on the positive side, we still have each other and I firmly believe that positive thoughts breed positive behavior!

With that said with things the way they are at the moment I am all in for trying to save a little bit of money, I particularly love this time of year food wise, you can really make your dollar stretch with hearty, healthy meals, soups and stews are perfect fall money saving meals, lots of root cheaper veggies fill out all those fall meals, last night I made a delicious potato, green bean and chicken soup, served together with a rustic sausage, apple and sage stuffing bake, I estimate the cost to feed a family of 6, and I say 6 as that is how many people ate this dinner was $2.65 per person… Hearty, warming, yummy and very cheap! With this in mind, I am challenging myself to make healthy fall meals for less than $15 a night… Can it be done? Who knows but I am going to try, I love a bargain and I do love a challenge!

Very quick chicken and potato soup… I found this recipe on the whole foods App, I did tweak it a bit, so no link…. I love this app for healthy recipes, I use it a lot!

2/3 packet of frozen hash brown potatoes ( a trick I got from the Pioneer woman, when you just don’t want to peel and grate potatoes or just do not have time)
1 finely chopped onion
1 stick of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
4 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ready cooked chicken tenderloins ( these are another of my short cuts, Costco have a large bag for $14, and are perfect for very quick healthy meals)
2/3 bag of frozen green beans ( the recipe actually said frozen peas and although I love peas my children do not, and as I wanted them to eat it, I changed to something we would all eat)

Place all of the ingredients into the pot, placing your chicken tenderloins on top, cover, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes, then take off the chicken and chop or shred the meat, place to one side whilst you blend the contents in your pot, add in your green beans, top up with a little bit more water if you think the soup is too thick, bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes then add your shredded chicken and simmer for a further 5 minutes… Time to serve… Delicious!
(Of course this recipe would also work well in your crock pot, I would place all the ingredients as stated in the slow cooker and cook on high for two hours, then follow the instructions for adding shredded chicken and beans but this time together, switch to a low setting and cook for a further hour).

I have always been a fan of repurposing things, I love Antique shops, thrift stores and flea markets, you can find so many hidden treasures… I don’t get to go nearly as much as I would like to these days. There was a time not so long ago when we used to spend Sunday afternoons in a little town called Lewis, near Brighton browsing the antique shops then drinking coffee in the quaint little coffee shops, of course this was when my boys were much younger and we just seemed to have far more time on our hands… Oh how I hunger for those lazy Sundays right now! I really think in this economy many people have turned to making and repurposing things within their homes… In the days of Margaret Thatcher, life became about the money and the possessions you had… Keeping up with the jones’ was the phrase of the day, and for some this is still very much the way things still are… I have never been like that, my style is shabby chic, I don’t care if something is designer and expensive or cheap and second hand… If I like it, that is all that counts! All this is a very fortunate trait , as right now I am very keen on making, creating and repurposing to create things I love for those that I love!

On a side note… Florrie’s Attic has taken a back seat in the last few months, due to the dreadful first trimester sickness, it was as much as I could do to get out of bed and cope with my family let alone think about my beloved Florrie’s Attic… But now 16 weeks later I think I am finally feeling a little bit better and my head is buzzing with all things Florrie’s Attic… First I have to complete some projects I had already started and post them up, then I will be moving on… Look out little boys things will be being added very soon… Some things are just meant to be!

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Menu planning again…

After many, many weeks of first trimester sickness, lack of sleep, tiredness and just plain feeling bad I need to get our menu planning back on track, the slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen at the moment, I have so much to get done in the house and I’m always so tired in the evening, the slow cooker really is my savior! With a big, big shop on the horizon, I need to get slow cooker friendly meals lined up and ready to go for the next week… Pregnancy has made my brain like mush, I can’t even think of one thing I regularly cook apart from white turkey chili, so I need to have a refresher cooking course and quickly!

This past week has been using up what we have in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, all thrown into the slow cooker, I have had some weird concoctions cooking, chicken noodle soup with a Mexican twist, a weird bolognese risotto with orzo pasta instead of rice. And a potato and sausage soup… I still have a few things to use up, but I think tomorrow could be my big shop day!

Here is a rusty menu planners first menu plan of this fall:

TEX-MEX NOODLES
QUICK CHICKEN AND POTATO SOUP
TURKEY PUMPKIN CHILI
ONE POT CHILI CASSEROLE
SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND GREEN BEANS
CHORIZO AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO RICE WITH SPINACH
TEMPEH CURRY WITH SWEET POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS (I think I may have to add chicken to this dish)
COCONUT, CARROT AND CHICKPEA SOUP and BLT PASTA SALAD

Today I am trying a slow cooker mac and cheese creation, I have taken the recipe from Food Networks Paula Dean’s Slow cooked Mac and Cheese recipe and I have just tweaked it a little bit… I’ll let you know how it turns out but for now here is the recipe:

8oz box uncooked macaroni elbow pasta shapes
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 eggs beaten ( I will be using egg whites)
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pack of chopped frozen broccoli
1 pack of bacon

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box until just tender but not quite cooked! In a bowl mix together the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and broccoli, then add most of the grated cheeses leaving enough to just cover the top, mix then set aside! Add the chopped broccoli to the bottom of the crock pot, toss the pasta with the soup mixture then add to slow cooker layering over the broccoli, top with strips of bacon then sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese… Set the slow cooker on low for 3 hours and then serve with a salad and warm garlic bread… Now this is truly pregnancy food at its best!

Just a small note for those crock pot lovers like myself, I recently discovered that baked/jacket potatoes are fabulous cooked in the slow cooker… Ok, you don’t get the crispy jacket of skin, but the potato is delicious inside, it’s so easy too, you just wash and scrub your potatoes as usual, prick all over then place in your slow cooker, I set mine on high for five hours but I had 9, yes 9 huge potatoes stuffed in the pot, but I read that 6 hours on low is a good setting if you need to let them cook all day! Enjoy and serve them with all your favorite toppings… Mine is lashings of butter and grated cheddar cheese!

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Addicted to crochet…

Ever since I was very young and my grandmother taught me to knit, I’ve been a knitter, granted I have gone through phases in my life of knitting and then not knitting, but I can knit so I would say I am a knitter… Well now I have a new found passion for crochet… I have had a yearning for quite a few years now to learn to crochet, I dabbled a little bit last year, I could crochet a granny square but I was not using the correct hands, so I really wanted to master this craft! A couple of weekends ago I set about actually learning to crochet correctly, I you tubed a few videos on how to begin, voila i finally undestood how the yarn should go through your left hand, so far so good, I have the hands correct now, I would even say my tension is not too shabby, the next step for me is reading actual patterns… I’ll let you know what happens!

The other big thing for me this week is a two week menu plan… This is a first for me and I am not sure even if this will work out… Do I shop for two weeks? will things last long enough? questions, questions, but the thought of having a menu planned and shopped for, including lunch meals too… for two weeks has me so excited… This is one task I can halve completely, hopefully it will work out… Fingers crossed, grocery planning and shopping are not on my list of favorite things to do!

2 week menu plan

Day 1
Pesto bean soup , rotisserie chicken, pasta – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/pesto-bean-soup-recipe/index.html
Lunch – pasta salad

Day 2
Italian marinated chicken -http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/italian-marinated-chicken-with-red-potatoes-recipe/index.html
Lunch – chicken salad rolls

Day 3
Sausage bean pasta
Lunch – sausage rice salad

Day 4
White turkey chili and brown rice (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – baked potato and left over chili

Day 5
Sausage with zucchini and tomatoes served with ciabatta (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – rice and sausage salad

Day 6
Lasagne and salad
Lunch – left over lasagne and salad

Day 7
Green salad with buffalo chicken and blue cheese (Whole foods recipe)
Buffalo chicken salad sandwiches

Day 8
Chicken noodle soup, ciabatta bread
Lunch – chicken soup salad

Day 9
Pasta with cauliflower and sausage (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – Sausage pasta salad

Day 10
Chili and quinoa
Lunch – Left over chili and rice

Day 11
Italian chicken casserole and gnocchi
Lunch – Chicken and biscuits

Day 12
Salad leaves with sausage and fennel, served with baked potatoes (Whole foods recipe)
Lunch – Baked potato and salad

Day 13
Red Thai turkey curry (Whole foods recipe)) quinoa
Lunch – red thai curry flat breads

Day 14
left overs day
Lunch left overs lunch

Finally on this gray morning in March I want to say what a beautiful day it was here in New Jersey yesterday, the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, it was a little chilly but still nice enough to think spring is on it’s way… Then BAM, we are expecting yet another snow storm later today… REALLY! Florrie and I attended book babies at the library yesterday too, it’s a 6 week class for 20 minutes on a Tuesday morning, well believe me 20 minutes was long enough for these 12 to 24 month olds, after a couple of songs, a couple of books their attention was completely gone… It’s so weird how we develop these things we take for granted over time… She loved it of course, although she was very shy for most of it, which believe me is not at all like my little Florrie Flower!

Stay warm and enjoy hopefully, our last snow storm of this winter!

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Happy Wedding Day…

Yay for March… Lets hope Spring is truly on it’s way now! Here in New Jersey the sun is shining, today, friday march 1st, temperatures are meant to be slightly into the 40’s, which I know is not high, but hey it’s not freezing, so I will take it and the snow is still lingering in large dirty piles in a few places, but at least we have a kind of strawy looking grass again!

My learn a new craft is coming along, I am deeply addicted to crochet, after being a knitter for so many years now, I am discovering how much I love crochet, I love the way the finished article looks very shabby chic retro, just my style, and I love sitting with my hook and yarn and just yarn over and create a stitch , I even took my growing blanket along to the baby gym yesterday and crocheted whilst Florrie played, I got a few looks from other mothers, but hey, it beats sitting on my phone for 2 hours! Mollie Makes is a great British magazine for the avid crafter, this month has a few crochet projects worth taking a look at, so here is the link if you want a sneak peak Mollie Makes

My menu plan for the week is very basic, I have totally had a spring clean of my pantry and now there is nothing left… I love to do this occasionally, you can start afresh and know that everything in there is tidy, necessary and fresh… But what it does mean is that you don’t have a lot in to plan your weekly menu…

Sausage pasta
White turkey Chili
Dumpling and bacon soup
Tortellini pesto chicken soup
Stuffed baked potatoes with sausages
Meatball sub
Spaghetti bolognese

Sausage pasta is an old recipe I have been creating for many years, it varies each time i make it, the secret ingredient is a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans, it just creates a totally different texture to the sauce coated pasta

Take any sausage you would like, I used polish kielbasa last night, but anything works great, slice into 1/2 inch rounds and sauté in a little olive oil with one chopped onion, after 10 minutes add whatever vegetables you would like, I used chopped broccoli and cabbage, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon on red chili flakes, a jar of tomato pasta sauce, 1 teaspoon of boullion, 1/4 cup of water and one can of baked beans bring to the boil, cover reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes whilst you make your pasta. Once the pasta is cooked add your sausage, vegetable mix and coat evenly, serve with garlic bread or a green salad… Very basic, but very delicious!

My shout out recipe of last week was the dumpling soup recipe from the food network not only was this recipe quick and easy, but it tasted delicious too, I used bacon instead of ham, which I think enhanced the flavor, and I also added a few wide ribbon noodles too… Try it, it was delicious… So good it’s on my menu plan for this week!

Today my friends daughter who I have known since she was 4 years old is getting married, she is a few months older than Dominic, we spent so many school holidays out and about with them I lost count, I have watched her blossom from childhood into her teenage years and now beyond… I cannot believe that she is old enough to get married, but she is… I hope she has a wonderful day and I am very sad I could not be there, sometimes the miles between us make a huge difference and sometimes they really don’t… Today is one of those days I wish I could still live in the same town and be there to watch her marry the boy of her dreams!

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Black Friday… Love it or hate it?

In my head I’m a very organized person, or that’s how I would like to be anyway. In reality I am very unorganized… Thanksgiving has been and gone, so that means one thing, Christmas is just a few weeks away! I had ideas of all presents being bought, wrapped and sent back to England, leaving me just my own children to sort out! In reality I have the presents sitting on my dining room table awaiting paper and ribbon and then their final trip to the post office!

My house is exactly the same, I have thoughts of being the most organized person, but in reality it never happens… Well now I have a new plan, well a stolen one actually… Set myself daily tasks, nothing too big so I get swamped, set my timer and go to it… Lets see if it works and I get a clean tidy house along with more rest and relaxation time for myself!

Thanksgiving dinner worked well this year, once again I stole a great cooking idea form the domestic semi homemade goddess of food network, Sandra Lee… Yes you have guessed my idea, a semi homemade Thanksgiving dinner, it felt a little like cheating at first but it worked out well, Trader Joes stuffing mix, who needs to be cubing bread for stuffing when Trader Joes has done it for you, then added to it spicy Italian sausage meat, chopped onions and celery, at this point I thought pecans would have made a good addition, but you have to remember I have fussy eaters in my house! I bought Costco ready made mashed potatoes, which by the way are delicious and then added my own pot of creamy mustardy potatoes to it… The left overs went on for days! Black Friday dinner is becoming a tradition in our house… Thanksgiving dinner in a sandwich, meat, stuffing and gravy all warmed in a crusty roll… Yummmmm, a family favorite now!

I am not usually a Black Friday shopper, in fact I usually stay as far away from the shops as possible on this day of the year, but this year was totally different, Florrie has had a cold and been waking a lot in the night, so at 4am on Friday morning I found myself sitting in bed reading my iPad, next thing I know Paul had joined me, Florrie was back to sleep again… We looked at each other and said wouldn’t it be fun to go shopping right now, so we did! The trick was to keep Florrie asleep from the house to the car, so with my iPhone as a flash light, we did not want to wake up the whole household, we carried our sleeping baby into a freezing cold car fast asleep… Then we headed off to Best Buy and the mall for a fun early morning shopping trip, and of course a salted caramel mocha in Starbucks… It has to be done!

As much fun as Black Friday was and the savings we made this weekend were good, I will not be repeating it again! I was very disappointed with the deals in the mall, there was nothing special to ever make me get up that early again, Best Buy on the other hand had some great savings if you wanted electrical goods, we managed to get a $1500 Samsung 55″tv for $800 and we are in desperate need of a new refrigerator, we have been looking for weeks now as ours is not working properly, we decided to wait for the Black Friday deals and we are glad we did, although we did order it on Saturday, so technically not Black Friday, but the deals were on for three days and we saved $1300 on a $3000 fridge/freezer… Bargain!

Happy Holiday shopping…

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