Sunday, 30 March 2014


I read recently that the UK throws away around 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year--that’s 5kg per household, every week.

That’s a lot of food. As hard as I try we have occasionally had to compost something that went a bit fuzzy. Bagged salad/spinach  is an issue for us as I like the convenience but it *always* has a bit that goes all slimy and limp in the bottom on the bag  before we can get to it. I know I should be buying a head of lettuce, tearing off leaves, washing them and then laying them out to dry (I don’t own/have the cabinet space for  a salad spinner) and then after all I’m too tired from all that effort so I just go……waaaahhhhh…I’m too exhausted to eat a salad….waaaahhhh.

I am the pity whore.

But A Girl Called Jack has really made me step up my game. I want  to have as little food waste as possible.

We recently ate this *amazing* appetiser from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows cookbook. I got this about the same time as A Girl called Jack cookbook. It has gorgeous pictures and the food (like the food on her blog) is divine. But I was shocked at how much more expensive this dish was as it involved cashew nuts and walnuts. Nuts are expensive, but currently Poundland has the best deal on nuts as I’m all about the bargain. But it was totally worth it and I was able to use the leftovers in a A Girl Called Jack chilli recipe the next day.

Taco Fiesta Potato Crisps from Oh She Glows 

 You thinly slice potatoes and bake them for 30 minutes (flipping half way) in a hot oven --425F/220C. 2 potatoes fit into my pan making about 18 slices.


After they are baked and brown and all yummy you add a blop of cashew sour cream, and a spoonful of Sainsbury’s smoky lime salsa.

Then add some walnut taco meat (this was the best walnut taco meat I’ve ever had) and a ring of red pepper (because I had some that needed to be used up in the fridge--this was not in the original recipe) and  some chopped spring onions.

Here one is up close:


These were amazingly good. It was *technically* an appetiser and we both could have eaten more, but I wouldn’t have wanted to eat them in front of company as they were a bit messy.

We were a bit peckish a few hours later so we made up some “cheesy rice” with nutritional yeast and sprinkled on some sour cream and walnut taco meat.

There was enough cashew sour cream and walnut meat left over so I used what was left on 4 Ryvita crackers the next day for lunch. I had half a jar of salsa left and some spring onions which I threw into the next evenings Mumma Jack’s Best Ever Chilli which was good (red wine really does wonders for food) , but I made a mistake of throwing in a diced potato that was also left over--I had bought three potatoes and only two fit in the pan. The potato was slightly undercooked in the chilli despite fishing all the potato bits out half way and dicing them smaller and letting it cook for 15 extra minutes longer than the brown rice.  Well, live and learn.

The chilli was alright, I have a chilli recipe I prefer better but I did try a money saving tip of Jack’s that I will definitely try again. The chilli called for a value range tin of kidney beans and a value range tin of baked beans.


The baked beans cost 25p and you were meant to rinse the horrible cheap and nasty tomato sauce off of them to get at the haricot beans inside. A tin of haricot beans costs £1 so this was a 75p savings.

When I opened the tin I must have make some sort of Yuk noise as Spiderman said, “Yeessss?” in the way that only he can. It smelled like spaghetti-o’s (or spaghetti hoops to by British peeps)  and I was desperate to get that sauce washed off. He reminded me that I ate nothing but spaghetti-os as a child for years (I was an extremely picky eater) but yeah, my palate has expanded a great deal since then. But once the sauce was off they looked  and more importantly smelled like normal haricot beans.

Jack says: If the thought of rinsing baked beans horrifies you, use a tin of any white bean--haricot, borlotti and cannelloni all work well here. But honestly, it’s just a bit of sauce.

She was totally right on this. She also boiled the beans for 10 minutes to soften them and get rid of any metallic taste. It worked and they melted into the chilli and really thickened it.

It was a shame about the potato. But that was my fault.

I forgot to take a photo of the chilli as it cooked for an extra 15 minutes and we had to be somewhere at 7:30 but here is a photo from Jack’s blog to show you what it looked like:


So how are you using leftovers so there is no waste? I want to get better because I hate to throw stuff out and lose money but also because I hate to lose nutrition. That was healthy food that could have been eaten, dammit! Real food rots, fake food just lives on and on and on.

It’s no wonder a twinkie had a shelf life of 100 years or whatever.

Give me real food any day.














Saturday, 29 March 2014

The truth about the library

Our friend Iain spent his gap year in Ghana and whilst he was there he met some Rastafarians on a beach. They told him that they refused to use the word library as it sounded like Lie-brary. Instead they used the word True-brary because books set you free--they are where you can find out the truth.

 I love this idea.

 I’m married to a librarian (or should that be true-brarian?) He was the geeky kid at school who volunteered to shelve your books for you, grew up and his work-study job on campus when we were at Uni was a librarian. He has worked in both the public  and private sector, has worked in schools and in reference. The man is a walking font of knowledge--and if he doesn’t know the answer, he knows where to find the answer.

 In a book (obviously).

I worked several summers as a library assistant for the Summer Reading Programme for the Rapides Parish Library system.

We are library people.

 I don’t think I utilised the Rapides Parish Library as much as I should have. Mostly because you had to drive there to get books which made it more difficult. My borrowing years were better when I was working there in the summers or when Spiderman worked reference as I could ask him to bring me a book home and save the trip.

But now we live about a five minute walk from our local library and so I can pop in anytime I like --except Wednesdays as they are closed. But you know what I mean.
our library with the cool mural that features the Quakers

 I was thinking of all they do for me. I was thinking of all  the wonderful things they have to offer.

Wednesday--when they were supposed to be closed--they had a Craft Dabble Day that you could go to for £2. I didn’t know what to expect, but I paid my £2 and went along (in the pouring rain I might add).

Well, it was me and about 14 white haired old ladies and we had a jolly old time together. There were craft books laid out on tables with materials to make some of the designs featured inside. There was a knitting table with wool (what my American peeps would call yarn. If you want wool not made of sheep you have to ask for acrylic wool), a craft table with fabric scraps, ribbon, embroidery thread, needles, sequins, buttons etc.

There were people making crochet flowers, felt and fabric brooches, button necklaces, starting a patchwork design etc. There were also cups of tea and cake (how would Britain survive without tea and cake?) for those who like that sort of thing--which was all the old ladies.

Everyone was helping everybody else. I was able to be useful and helpful by threading needles as I had the youngest eyes. I got some invaluable advice on my failed knitting project (more of that to come later) and was able to help someone do a running stitch.

I made this felt owl brooch and it’s come out a treat. I added the blue beads from my craft stash when I got home and sewed the back piece on to hide my stitching, but the whole front I sewed there.  


 It was a lot of work to put on--two librarians had to swap working hours with other librarians as they were meant to be at another branch that day, one librarian came in on her day off. I know that hard work that goes into something like this--and I am grateful my branch always has something good going on.

I went back today to pick up a book to read and came away with eight items. I’ve got some fiction, some biography, some religious books, a craft book and a cooking magazine. I had to physically drag myself out as it would shortly be too heavy to carry on the walk home.

Because that is what to library does to me. I want to move in and live there. 

Be true to your library and your library will be true to you.

Visit your public library today and thank them for all the free stuff they offer.

Then check out some books.



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Going to pot

As I wrote last week, I have been very inspired by Jack Monroe keeping fresh herbs on her windowsill--even in her most extreme poverty. I figured, if she could do it then so could I.

The problem lies in the fact that I have never successfully kept anything alive and that was when my Mum lived close by and was giving me enormous amounts of help. Now she lives half a world away (we are separated by an ocean) and I’m sorta on my own except for a few emails and frantic phone calls for advice.

Even if I have no talent for growing, I have absorbed enough lectures about horticulture to know a thing or two. I could tell that the cheap herbs in pots that I had on my windowsill were root-bound and therefore would not fare well unless something happened. But what needed to happen I had no idea as I’d never gotten that far. Mum said they needed to be re-potted, in a slightly bigger pot. 

Ah. That meant buying a bag of compost and some pots. That meant looking at whatever local shops I could to find what I need. There was no convenient Lowes to go to for all your home and garden needs. After bringing a ruler into Wilkinsons and measuring the diameter of all the terra cotta pots (they were all listed in centimetres and I’m still an inches and feet kind of gal) and then emailing Mum for advice we settled on the 6 inch pots. She said terra cotta was best from a gardening standpoint, I thought they looked nicer from an aesthetic standpoint. I bought three at 75p each.

Finding an affordable bag of compost that didn’t weigh as much as me was a bit of a problem. I finally found a bargain bag of soil with some peat for £1 for 15 litres of compost.  I genuinely have no idea how heavy it was as it was measured in litres, but I was able to carry the bag home on my own, so not that heavy.

The next problem was the fact that we don’t actually have a garden or any outside space as we live above the church offices in the centre of town. Sure there is green space right outside our flat, but it is community green space. I figured I needed to do my planting indoors.

Mum had also recommended that I get another parsley plant as the one I had was a bit scalped from over use. She was afraid it would not grow back so I invested £1 in some parsley from ASDA. This kind was the curly leaf kind, the last kind was the flat leaf kind which I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the coriander so I had to put sticky labels on the pots. Now I can tell the difference. Plus Mum tells me that curly leaf is stronger than flat leaf so I can use less and stop risking giving it a crew-cut.


 So I did what my Mum suggested and put some broken shards of a plate in the bottom of each pot to help with drainage. I did this by putting a saucer in a ziplock bag and beating the crap out of it with a hammer. It was very satisfying.


Then after replanting and major kitchen cleaning (the compost got  *everywhere*) it looks like this:

Isn’t that gorgeous? I am really pleased with my work and got phone confirmation a few hours later that I had managed to do it right. She thinks that the coriander may have had a bit of a root shock after I loosened the rootball, but as of typing this it has perked up enormously.

 I have enough space on the windowsill and plenty of compost left (despite how much I managed to spill everywhere as I was planting) for another pot so I may pick up a basil in a week or so after payday.

But I am hoping that some of her green fingers have worn off on me and I can keep these herbs alive. Which, by the way, are pronounced HERBS not ERBS because there’s a fecking H. (thanks to Eddie Izzard for that joke)

So there. 

Please grow.

Thanks Mum.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

What does George Michael say?

This is a game we saw comedian Rob Deering  do at a Distraction Club a few months back.

I thought it was *hilarious* as it involved rhyming. But since George Michael has a new album out I thought I’d share it with the world so you can all play too!

The one snag is, you need to know the song Faith by George Michael in order to play. Actually you just need to know the opening line which is:

Well I guess it would be NICE….

It would also help if you could sing it to correct tune and know where to air guitar (at the beginning)

Here is a link to the video so you can join in properly.

Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait.

(twiddles thumbs whilst humming) Oh, you’re back! That was quick! Did you see it? Are we ready? Then let’s go.

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call it when someone asks for your opinion and wants you to tell them what to do?

A: Well I guess it'd be ADVICE
Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call those cubes with dots on them used in gambling?
A: Well I guess it would be DICE

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call frozen water you put in your drink to make it colder?

 A: Well I guess it would be ICE
Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call those creepy crawlies that get in your hair, sometimes referred to as nits?
A: Well I guess it would be LICE
Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call those little rodents that are smaller than rats and like to eat cheese?
A: Well I guess it would be MICE

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call the word that means how much something costs?

  A: Well I guess it would be PRICE
Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call the grain you might serve with curry?

A: Well I guess it would be RICE

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call a word that means cut but also means a piece of cake or pie? 

A: Well I guess it would be SLICE

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call when someone has to ask you two times?
A: Well I guess it would be TWICE

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call that show that took place in Miami in the 80s and starred Crockett and Tubbs?

A: Well I guess it would be VICE
**And lastly, for my peeps who grew up in Alexandria--this one is for you (because no one outside of CENLA will get it)**

Q. Hey George Michael, what do you call that shop in the mall that went with Goldring?

A: Well I guess it would be WEISS
Isn’t that a laugh? I mean you could play for hours, right?

 Or until you run out of rhymes for NICE.

Which has probably already happened, unless you can think of some I forgot.

 So yeah.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Peachy keen

One of the first recipes I was keen to try from A Girl called Jack was the Peach and chickpea curry made with tinned peaches. While tinned veg made me feel skeevy, tinned fruit somehow seemed alright. I first tried to look a the cheapest value tinned peaches--but the ones that were 30p for a 400g tin were in syrup that contained high fructose corn syrup and so I put them back. I ended up having to buy 2 smaller tins of the Sainsbury’s brand peaches to get 400g worth of peaches in juice. It cost me 40p each (80p total) for the peaches.


I went to ASDA the other day and their 400g tin of peaches in juice was just 65p so when we do this again I’ll got there to buy my peaches as that is a 15p savings.

But basically this curry is a tin of chickpeas (I had fresh cooked chickpeas as I cook from dry beans to save money), a tin of tomatoes, a tin of peaches and their juice with an onion and some garlic.  I added a small sweet potato and a TB curry paste as I had some on hand (a £1.25 jar of Pataks Balti paste gives us about 6 meals making it about 25p a serving) I know curry powder is cheaper--but the curry paste adds richness and depth to the curry that powder lacks.

can you spot the fresh coriander on top?

I served it with homemade GF Peshwari naan bread (basically my regular GF naan bread recipe plus a bit of sugar, coconut and ground almonds and raisins--all stuff I had in the cupboard)

I've already nibbled on the naan bread


It was gorgeous--sweet and spicy and really filling. It made 4 big bowlfuls and 4 naan breads which could have feasibly served 4 people, but actually served 2 very greedy people. If I had been less greedy it would have made a lovely leftover lunch. 

I will definitely cook this again, perhaps next time over rice. I would also be willing to serve it to company--so if you are coming round--be warned!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Savings vs. Ethics vs. Health--part two

1) Jack also uses cheap strong cheese and bacon scraps to give a punch of flavour to dishes. Clearly for us, cheese and bacon are out of the question. The thoughts also of *why* they are so cheap and how badly and intensively must the animal have been reared to be sold for that price makes me want to cry. Animals are not vending machines to just give parts of the body, their children, their lactation fluids for us just because we want something. They are creatures with thoughts and feelings and emotions who can feel pain and loss and I would not want to cause them suffering, not for the world. One thing she does do in the cookbook that I find interesting is that in the very small meat sections in the back of the cookbook she refers to the animals as animals not the meat name for them (e.g. pigs not pork ) which is one of the ways people make the disconnect between the animal on their plate and the real living, breathing animal it once was. But the best bit about the cookbook is that she knows that vegetarian food is cheaper and healthier than eating meat. There are 92 pages of vegetarian meals and only 50 pages of meat recipes. But some of the meat recipes can be adapted. I’ve got some smoked tofu in the fridge that can substitute for ham in the ham, pea, mint and potato casserole  (using some of those fresh herbs!)  I’ve got homemade smoky black eyed pea and mushroom “sausages” in my freezer which I can make into the sausage and lentil one pot dinner.


2) One of the things she often uses is tinned vegetables because they are infinitely cheaper than fresh and don’t go off like fresh food does. I am  a bit skeevy about some of that. I’ve always thought tinned carrots were like  totally grody and tinned green beans-- Don’t get me started. The smell makes me gag. Gag me with a spoon. There is something about tinned veg that brings out my inner Valley Girl. But tinned potatoes I was up for if they were used in a soup. I’d be willing to try it. I wanted to try the  ham, pea, mint and potato casserole as I had some smoked tofu to stand in for the ham and I always have frozen peas. The recipe said I needed 500g of potatoes. I bought 2 tins for 15p each (total 30p) which would have cost me at least £1 if buying fresh potatoes.

Result: This soup was delicious. I had a momentary wobble when I opened the tins because a metallic sort of smell emanated out slightly, but a quick rinse under cold water cleared that away. I ended up chopping them and then putting them back in cold water to keep them fresh until Spiderman got home from the zoo. The soup is basically 2 onions, garlic, potatoes, mint and parsley, veg stock, smoked tofu (I did add a bit of liquid smoke to ramp up the smoked ham factor), white wine and peas. It came together really quickly due to the tinned potatoes already being cooked. Then you take out about half the potatoes and a bit of stock and whiz it in the blender and then pour it back into the soup to thicken it..  


Spiderman and I discussed it at length-- fresh potatoes would have been *slightly* better, but the tinned were nothing to sneeze at. They were not mealy (one of my fears) and had a firm outer texture with a soft interior. We both agreed they had roughly the same consistency of day old potato soup where the potatoes lose a bit of firmness and get a bit softer but still stay in potato chunk shape from being in the fridge overnight.  Score one for cheap and healthy and vegan!


3) Cereal is an issue for us. We eat it loads. As a snack, when you want more dinner but there isn’t any etc. We love cereal. The one we like the best is called Mesa Sunrise and is a fancy cornflake made with corn, buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth. It also costs  between £3.35 and £3.50 for 355g depending on where we have to buy it. We can go through a box in a week easily. Sainsbury’s Basics cornflakes cost 35p for 500g. But they’re just regular old cornflakes, not this wholegrain kind. Is there a way that we could marry the cheap and the healthy? I decided to mix in 100g of the cheap cornflakes in with the 355g of the brand we like. Just that little bit doesn’t seem to have made a difference in taste but will make it last just that bit longer before having to buy a new box.

Plus, the posh brand we love has 13.3g of sugar per 100g while the cheap cornflakes were just 3.6g of sugar per 100g.  The cheap cornflakes were higher in sodium (but so were expensive Kellogg’s version!) but came fortified with niacin, iron, B2, B6, B1, folic acid  and B12.


I had so many of the cheap cornflakes coming out my ears (not literally!) that I made the My Cakeys recipe from A Girl Called Jack. This was the name Small Boy gave these cheap and easy treats.  Basically you melt 100g chocolate and 1 TB peanut butter and stir into crushed cornflakes and then spoon into lumps and let cool and harden up. There were lovely and reminded me of ferrero rocher . Spiderman said he wouldn’t go that far, but he said they were quite good.


So I think I’m starting to prove that the cheap can go along with ethics and health.