Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Growing things from old scraps - Gardening



I love growing veggies - my seedlings are coming along great but I also like recycling, reusing and saving money so when I heard you could grow certain veg from "leftovers" I jumped at the chance.
We had actually done it once before - this potato crop was straight from sprouted potatoes in my cupboard re-planted and regrown.

This time around I tried out new things.

Scallions     

I use scallions quite a bit in cooking and I was told these were easy to regrow - just pop the cut ends into water for a couple of weeks, keep the water fresh and they will start to regrow and they did.
 I had scallions growing all winter, from the off cuts of last years summer crops. No need to buy scallions again, unless you get purple scallions seeds which I am trying out this year.


The same will work with Lemon grass, Leeks, Fennel and Spring Onions

Garlic  

If you have a bulb in the fridge that has sprouted - plant it out in the garden in a sunny location and it will start to grow leaves, wait until the leaves start to die back, pull it up and you should have a new full bulb of garlic.

The same with work with Ginger roots although they must be planted indoors (must try this next)

Gem Lettuce

I love little gem lettuce and grew them in my raised bed but over winter I had to go back to the supermarket. So I was thrilled when I found out you good regrow these, I popped this one in water a week ago and already it is growing back, Plant it out in the garden and it will grow a new head of lettuce. 


Apparently the same will work with Cabbage, Bok Choi  and celery (yuck -nope not trying that one!)

Pineapple

I love fresh pineapple, when I found out you could grow your own I couldn't wait to get started. It was even better when they were on special offer in the supermarket last week.
To regrow Pineapple I have found two methods -
1. You cut the top off and place on a saucer of water in the sunshine for a week and then plant in the ground.


2. The other method says cut off all the flesh and expose the stem of the leaves and plant into soil.


Both  say it must be kept in a warm, sunny environment as it is a tropical plant.



Also your pineapple will take 2 years to grow so this one requires patience,so while you waiting take all those lovely pineapple you now have leftover and make Pineapple Upside Down cake below.




Pineapple Upside down Cake

Ingredients

Pineapple Slices
4tsp Brown Sugar
4 oz Caster sugar
4oz Butter and a bit extra for greasing the tin
2 eggs
 4 oz flour

The "How too"

1.Grease a loose bottom tin with butter and place the pineapple slices neatly on the bottom.

2. In a bowl or mixer cream together the caster sugar and butter until light and fluffy, slowly add the    eggs and then mix in the flour.

3. Pour the cake mix over the Pineapple slices and spread evenly.

4. Place in a preheated oven 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F/ Gas mark 4 and bake for 40 minutes.

5. Turn out the cake onto a tray, sprinkle with Brown sugar and place under a hot grill until the sugar is caramelised and the pineapple is lightly toasted.

6. Serve with whipped cream or even better Vanilla ice-cream   - Yum

Printable recipe - HERE

Have you grown anything from scraps and has it worked let me know in the comments ?



Monday, April 14, 2014

Organising Monday - Freezer Cooking Irish Style


I keep threatening to tell you about my Freezer Cooking exploits so here goes. As part of my "tightening our belts" and "being more organised" plan I read a lot of blog posts about freezer cooking mostly from the States which had great ideas but weren't great in practise for an Irish girl like me.

Basically Freezer Cooking in the US is when you take an afternoon out do a huge batch of dishes for your freezer after bulk buying with coupons at Walmart or Costco ect.
  •  I don't do coupons and we don't have huge clearance places, so buying in bulk wasn't always an option.
  • I also have two small freezers so can't store months worth, I still lament the passing of my old chest freezer - RIP old friend.
  •  Also I didn't really want to spend all afternoon or day at this I have lots of fun stuff to do.

Anyway while looking more closely at my shopping habits I stated to notice that every few weeks my local supermarket would do special offers on steak mince and my local butchers would do a special of 10 large chicken breast for 10 euro (bargain !!) But what was I going to do with these specials, I like chicken as much as the next carnivore but can't eat that much in one sitting.

Here is where Freezer Cooking for me became a reality - Instead of just chucking the whole lot in the Freezer without think, it take less than an hour out of my day and I can prepare 6 meals to go in the Freezer that can easily be thrown in a slow cooker in the morning for dinner in the evening. So an hour one day saves me loads of time on those days when I am up to my eyes with the million and one things.
 And because I brought all the meat and a lot of the veg on special offer it means those meals are saving us money in the long run because there is always something in the freezer to pull out for dinner instead of resorting to take out.


Freezer Shop Shopping List

Steak Mince - 2 packs for 5 Euro
Chicken Breast - 10 for 10 Euro
Onions 39c Aldi special
A bag of Peppers - 99c
Carrots 99c a bag
Mushrooms 99c a punnet
Garlic 99c for 3
White wine sauce - Aldi 99c
Spanish Chicken Sauce -Aldi  99c
Tinned Tomatoes - Aldi 35c x2
Mixed Beans - Aldi 59c
Balti Sauce - Aldi 99c
Passata -Aldi 59c
Store cupboard was used - things like spices and chilli and Thai sauce.

Total - € 23.21 which divided by 6 is €3.85ish per meal and our meals feed 4 people - a lot less than take away.
You will need Freezer Bags or Containers - I use bags it is just easier for me.


How to get it done in less than an hour.

1. Get everything out on the counter to prepare.

2. Brown all the mince in a pan , I usually do with onion and garlic and let cool.

3. While the mince is browning, peal and chop the carrots and the rest of the onions and the mushrooms, the garlic and the peppers.

4. Get out the bags and label with the meals you plan to make - this session I made Chicken and white Sauce, Bolognese Sauce, Chilli, Spanish Chicken, Balti and Thai Chicken. I also put directions for slow cooker times in case I am not the one putting them in.

5. I dice the chicken as I am putting in the bags so I know that 2 1/2 Breast are going in each bag but you can always prep this before if you wish.

6. For each bag I add the ingredients - so for example the Chicken in White wine - I added the chicken, a cup of chopped mushrooms, half a large chopped onion, two handfuls of chopped carrots and two chopped cloves of garlic and the sauce.
 And for the Balti it was Chicken, Mushrooms, Onions and Balti spices - I usually add fresh spinach in the slow cooker.

7. With the mince I make one batch of Bolognese Sauce with Passata and Chopped tomatoes , Italian herbs. And a batch of Chilli with the Beans, Chopped Chilli, Peppers and Tinned tomatoes.

I wait until Mince dishes are cold and then fill my tiny freezers with lovely dinners. I usually only have to do this every 3/4 weeks as I mix freezer meals with fresh dinners over the week if you look at my Meal Planner here - which has a free Meal planner Printable.

Let me know how you do your Freezer cooking - if that is something you do.
I love getting new ideas about organising things. So feel free to comment below :)