Save the Bank Gift Idea

Free word art for every occasion

Mothers day has just been and the next occasion I have coming up is my siblings birthdays in april. Sometimes the need to spend money on gifts and going out to celebrate occasions can feel never ending especially when your on a tight budget. So instead of breaking the bank I am going to create home-made presents for the next few occasions. Hopefully more if I have any success. I want to create something unique without having to spend hours working on it. Im all for gifts from the heart which you have spent time and effort making however with three separate birthdays in the next two weeks and very little time to make anything due to working twelve hour shifts I need something simple.

Looking at gift ideas on Facebook swap sites and google I found this website where you can buy personalised word art for any occasion :https://www.facebook.com/Wordartforyou

I really liked the concept but didn’t want to spend £13 buying something I could probably make myself. So I googled it.

The first helpful website I found belonged to another blogger Maggie.  http://blog.thelovenerds.com/2013/09/free-shaped-word-art.html Her website provided instructions on how to make your own word art using a free online engine called Tagxedo. http://www.tagxedo.com/app.html

I decided to give it a go. First I headed over to the website.

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Then I clicked on create. Next I had to install silverlight as I am now working on a new (second-hand) laptop.

This took me to the creation engine

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Next you need to click load. On the left hand side.Then you can either type in the words you want to use, upload a file from your desktop (perhaps of your favourite poetry) or choose a web address.

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For my first trial I chose to use a web address. In fact I chose the address for my blog.

Then I hit submit and waited.

Once you have chosen your text you can change the shape.

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I decided to try a dinosaur as they are awesome.

din 1

If you then want to change the colour of your creation use the theme arrow down the left hand side.

If you want to change which words are which colour then clock thee circular arrow next to colour.

If you want to change your text font then you can either select the circular arrow next to font for a random selection or use the arrow to pick a specific option.

The software is nice and easy and best of all free to use. Have a play around until you find something you are happy with.

“Orientation” : allows you to choose the direction that you would like your words to face.

“Layout” shifts the words around

When your done click on the save/share button to either print or save the image to your computer.

Good luck                                            dino blog

Emergency flour free dessert – Rissoto cake

English: a fruit salad Deutsch: ein Obstsalat

English: a fruit salad Deutsch: ein Obstsalat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I was invited to have dinner by a friend from my chapel who lives a few villages over. Me and another friend had agreed to walk down and visit before the end of the academic year. I volunteered to bring the dessert if she brought the wine. Being me I didn’t want to bring a shop bought cake so decided to make my own. However my attempt at making a pineapple sponge ended very badly. Although I followed the recipe, I forgot baking powder gets stronger with age and added an extra pinch, the cake tasted very bitter.

At this point I had finished the last of my flour but still needed to make something for the promised dessert as I would be walking across the next day.

I Googled flour free desserts and found this recipe at :

http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/2762/italian-rice-cake-with-red-fruit.aspx

It was a recipe for cake made from risotto rice, milk and lemon peel. It came with the suggestion to serve it with a red fruit salad. I didn’t dust the top with icing sugar as suggested but the cake was well received.

Ingredients

Serves : 8 

  • 600 ml (1 pint) semi-skimmed milk
  • a strip of lemon zest
  • 150 g (5½ oz) risotto rice
  • 100 g (3½ oz) pine nuts
  • 100 g (3½ oz) blanched almonds
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 85 g (3 oz) caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • sifted icing sugar to decorate
  • Red fruit salad
  • 300 g (10½ oz) strawberries     I used strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
  • 125 g (4½ oz) raspberries
  • 200 g (7 oz) cherries, stoned

Directions

Prep:1hr15min  ›  Cook:40min  ›  Ready in:1hr55min

  1. Heat the milk with the strip of lemon zest in a heavy-based saucepan until boiling. Stir in the rice, then turn down the heat so the milk barely simmers. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 40 minutes or until the rice is very soft and the mixture is thick and creamy.
  2. Spoon the rice mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Grease a 21 cm (8 1/2 in) springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  3. Spread the pine nuts and almonds in separate baking tins and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Roughly chop the almonds.
  4. Remove the strip of lemon zest from the rice. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Beat in the caster sugar, grated lemon zest and rum, then add the nuts.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture using a large metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then wrap (still in the tin) and chill overnight. (It can be kept in the fridge for 48 hours, if necessary.)
  7. To make the red fruit salad, purée 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of the strawberries in a food processor or blender. or by pushing them through a sieve. Halve the remaining strawberries and stir into the purée together with the raspberries and cherries. Spoon into a serving bowl.
  8. Unmould the cake onto a serving plate and peel off the lining paper. Dust the cake with icing sugar, and serve with the fruit salad.

Another idea

To make a chocolate rice cake, cook the rice with the strip of lemon zest as in the main recipe, then remove from the heat and discard the lemon zest. While the rice mixture is still hot, stir in 55 g (2 oz) grated good dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa solids) until melted, then leave to cool. Instead of the grated lemon zest, add 2 tbsp cold strong espresso coffee with the rum.

Plus points

Pine nuts have been eaten for hundreds of years – husks have been found in the rubbish tips from Roman camps in Britain. Pine nuts contain useful amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and vitamin E. * Cherries are rich in potassium, and provide useful amounts of vitamin C.

Total Time

1¼ hours, plus chilling overnight

Some other flour free dessert recipes

http://nymag.com/restaurants/recipes/inseason/45991/ – recipe for flourless chocolate walnut cookies

http://www.chefeddy.com/2010/08/flour-free-chocolate-cake/  – recipe for flour free chocolate layer cake

Beans of any other name

English: Pitha made from rice flour with cocnu...

English: Pitha made from rice flour with cocnut,jaggery,black pepper filling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my quest to make gluten-free flour for my friend, after the unsuccessful attempt at grinding the rice, I decided to see what else I could get hold of locally that would allow me to produce flour at less than the supermarket price.

I returned to my initial site: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/ and worked my way through the list looking at what my blender could survive and was cheap enough to be in my limited budget. Anything nut based was automatically disregarded as my fiancé is allergic to nuts.  I didn’t want to try rice flour again so began to research the other possibilities.

WHOLE GRAIN FLOURS

 

buckwheat flour

Corn flour
mesquite flour
millet flour
quinoa flour
sorghum flour
sweet potato flour

teff flour

WHITE FLOURS/STARCHES

arrowroot flour
cornstarch
potato flour
potato starch
sweet rice flour
tapioca flour
white rice flour

However, one section that interested me was the bean flours. I had never heard of flour made from beans before. On the other hand I had never heard of any of the beans on the list either: fava bean flour, garbanzo bean flour and kinako (roasted soy bean) flour.

I worked my way through the list to see how much they were on amazon as an example. Then realised I had no idea what these beans looked like and if I had to use these specific ones or if I could use others. I Googled the fava and garbanzo beans and found that fava beans are a type of broad bean and that garbanzo was another name for chickpeas.

Apparently chickpea flour classes as a whole grain, so following the rule from earlier of 40% wholegrain to 60% white flour or starches; I needed to find another flour to create my all-purpose celiac substitute.

I really wished I could use the white rice flour as that was the easiest to get the ingredients for however after my last attempt I needed something else. This left me with the option of garbanzo flour.

To make the garbanzo (chickpea) flour:

You take dried chickpeas blend them in a food processor and then sieve out any remaining lumps.

However it has been suggested that it is possible to use canned chickpeas instead if the recipe you intend to use the flour for will be adding liquid anyway. We used canned chickpeas to make pizza (Post to follow soon) and added less water than suggested by the recipe as the chickpeas were already soft.

White and green chickpeas

White and green chickpeas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope this post was helpful. There will be more up shortly on how we used the flour, hopefully, with pictures.

Relevent:

How to make your own bean flour can be found at http://www.livestrong.com/article/472318-how-to-grind-bean-flour/ along with ideas of the best things to use it for at http://www.livestrong.com/article/516649-how-to-cook-with-bean-flours/

Over at the little house on the prairie Julie also suggests the ways different bean flours can be used why not check it out at: http://www.littlehouseliving.com/making-and-using-bean-flour.html

Whilst Googling for garbanzo beans I discovered the recipe for a gluten free snack which I will test out and let you know the results asap:  http://www.steamykitchen.com/10725-crispy-roasted-chickpeas-garbanzo-beans.html

http://www.celiac.com/articles/863/1/Gluten-Free-Flour-Alternatives-by-Karen-Robertson/Page1.html – an article about different uses of gluten free flour. No recipes but helpful nonetheless.

http://www.cooksinfo.com/broad-bean-flour – a cooking dictionary where I learnt about bean flour this week.

http://the100poundchallenge.wordpress.com/ – a recipe for pizza using chickpeas as the base

http://www.whats4eats.com/blogs/chefbrad/how-to-make-chickpea-flour – one way to make chickpea flour

Mango Madness

When I went to the shop they had mangoes reduced from £2 to 40p each. I love mango and at this point got carried away buying three instead of just one. So here is what I decided to do with my mango’s:Mango Madness 001

1)      I decided to have a go at making Aamras suggested by : http://karma-free-cooking.com/2010/06/29/incredible-india-all-over-again-%E2%80%93-sweets/ I got the recipe from http://www.spiceupthecurry.com/aamras-recipe-aamras-puripoori/.

Aamras is very easy to make you blend a mango, add the flavouring of your choice, mix together then chill in the fridge before eating with puri or rice. I am going to be trying mine with cinnamon and rice.

I found a recipe for puri here with pictures for anyone who wants to try making their own puri: http://www.rakskitchen.net/2012/06/puri-recipe-poori-recipe-breakfast.html

2)      Next I had a go at Mango curd suggested by http://www.seriouseats.com/user/profile/Saria recipe taken from http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/06/project-wedding-cake-mango-curd/. You add the fruit of one mango, 1/3 of a cup of sugar, 3 tbsp citrus juice and a pinch of salt to the food processor. Blend. Add 4 egg yolks ( I use the whites to make omelette). Blend again for about 15 seconds. Pour contents into a metal bowl. Place metal bowl above a saucepan of boiling water (not touching the water). Stir until mix starts to thicken. Take bowl off heat and mix in ¼ cup of butter. Then place in the fridge overnight. Once set it is ready to top toast or bind cakes.

Mango curd about to go in the fridge

Mango curd about to go in the fridge

You can find a video of my attempt here http://youtu.be/bjqdEzKnZ6E

 

3) Finally I made Chicken and mango curry. I used my final mango and 3 chicken breasts. Both sliced.  I cooked 1 sliced onion and my chicken in a wok then added the mango and a tin of tomatoes. I added a tiny bit of coconut some chilli, cardamom and a teaspoon of curry powder. Stirred everything together and cooked on a low heat whilst I made rice. Once the rice was cooked I served the curry and enjoyed. I hope you enjoy too.

Fruit leather

Preserving fruit for later may not save you much money (in season fruit is usually cheaper) but it is a lot of fun. There are many different methods for preserving fruit other than freezing or making jam. Here I explain how to make fruit leather.

 

Cheese making 004

 

I wanted to have a look at some of the different methods available for preserving fruit and try them out. So I Googled fruit preservation. I keep getting the suggestions of canning, dehydrating (or salting), pickling and freezing .

The first thing I decided to try was fruit leather. This is involves making fruit mush, boiling it down with water and honey before then allowing it to dry out at a very low temperature (about 50 degrees) in the oven. This can then be stored in an air-tight box for months (there has been suggestion of years). I got the recipe for this from: http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Make-Fruit-Leather.htm . My experience of having a go was fun. I cooked pears with cinnamon and honey before using my hand held processor to create a smooth mush. Unfortunately, I got halfway through the recipe before realising that we had run out of cling-film (obviously I should have learnt by now to check stock before I begin a recipe). It was an early closing day and the shops had already all shut but I had a pan of fruit puree ready to dehydrate. Instead of lining my baking tray I just poured it straight on and anxiously hoped for the best.

I placed this in the oven at 50 degrees with the door shut then waited. Checking every few hours to see what was happening.

Eventually, about eight hours later, the leather had dried out. It smelt wonderful and I had to resist the urge to eat it then and there. I scraped it off the tray using a metal spatula and folded it up so it would fit in a box. It is now stored in the fridge.

I have had a few pieces and it is amazing. It is great to take out to munch on when busy, I just stick a bit in a food bag.

 

 

Homemade flour

After all the examining of back to basics I had a sudden inspiration. Could I make my own flour? Most of my favourite recipes involve some sort of flour but if I made my own would it be cheaper than buying it from the shop.

I decided to test this theory out. I have never made my own flour before so started by doing some research. I wanted to discover what flour could be made out of. Were there any ingredients I could forage for or anything lying in the back of my cupboard that could be used.

I found that often you don’t need specific flour for a recipe and can adapt the recipe to suit the flour.  One example, which shows how to use normal flour instead of self-raising and vice versa can be found here: http://southernfood.about.com/cs/breads/ht/self_rise_flour.htm

Then I remembered that acorns are sometimes used to make flour. There are no acorn trees near us but there is a recipe for acorn flour here: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Acorn-Flour orhttp://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Making-Acorn-Flour.htm  Don’t forget to rinse out the acorn mush before drying to remove tannins (which are bitter and poisonous but thankfully water soluble)

Next I looked at rice flour: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Rice-Flour . However after reading reviews about white rice flour is mainly used for thickening soups, stocks and stews and not for baking. What I needed was an all -round multi-purpose flour that was inexpensive to produce.

 I found a handy list of different types of flours you can make and level of difficulty at: http://www.attunefoods.com/blog/2013/04/how-to-make-your-own-gluten-free-flours-in-3-minutes-or-less/

The two that appealed to me were rice and oats as I already had these in. I decided to make a small batch and see how I got on.

I made a batch of oat flour which was fantastic and my old blender processed in seconds. I now have a tub of oat flour which I will be using in my next bake session. Probably to make pasta or bread.

cooking attempts flour 003

However when it came to producing the rice flour I tried both blending it with water and blending it dry. Blending it with water slightly crushed the rice but that was all no sign of flour after a good ten Minuet’s of holding my hands over my ears to counter the noise made by the machine.

Rice flour wet blend

Rice flour wet blend

Blending the rice dry in an attempt to crush it was more effective with an obvious sign of flour. As you can see against the plastic of the tub. Unfortunately my poor old blender was not up to the challenge of totally crushing the grains. In the case of rice I think some kind of grinder definitely needs to be used.

Rice flour dry blend

Rice flour dry blend

Eventually after much searching of the web I found this awesome recipe for multipurpose gluten free flour and the importance of the ratio of different ingredient with suggestions and a how to video. Check it out at: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/ . This site was amazing as it showed how to balance my homemade flours to ensure that they could be used for most cooking just like normal flour. I didn’t intend to learn how to make gluten free flour when I set out but it was an added bonus as several of my friends are gluten intolerant (celiac). I will definitely be using some of these (easier to crush) combinations in future when we have a baking spree.

At Gluten-Free-Girl they suggest using 40% wholegrain flour to 60% white flour or starches and provide a list of examples for each category.

I have now learnt how to make my own flour and would love to make some acorn flour when I get a chance. However, I think for now I will be sticking with basic shop bought flour. For those of us who can get away with gluten flour it is still cheaper to buy it from the shops at 65p for 1.5kg of Sainsbury’s basic flour compared to 40p for 500g of basic rice. This can be made cheaper if you buy in bulk but not everyone has access to bulk-discount store and for this experiment I only wanted small amounts and had to rely on the local supermarket. However, for those who are intolerant to gluten making your own is a much cheaper alternative to the shop priced packs.

Related

http://www.forgivingmartha.com/ – a blog by a gluten free dairy free chef who cooks amazing masterpieces from her apartment.

http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/index.htm – website for anyone interested in foraging and recipe ideas.

https://frogandcount.wordpress.com/

Basic Pasta

This week I decided to concentrate on back to basics. I have had a request for how I make pasta so will be covering that today. Fresh pasta is easy to make without too much hassle, tasty and inexpensive with plenty of variations available. I tend to make mine in batches freezing the spare before cooking to eat at a later date.

The basic ingredients for pasta are: flour ( I use basic plain although you can get wholemeal, gluten-free and other types if you want to adapt the recipe to your taste), eggs, salt( a very tiny amount) and water (some people use oil) which helps bind the dough together and stop it from becoming too stiff.

How I make pasta:

I take two pre beaten eggs, a pinch of salt and 3 ½ to 4 cups of plain flour and place it in a large mixing bowl.

Then I use a silicon spatula to mix it first but it is fine to use a metal spoon or clean hands.

Once the egg and flour is mixed begin to knead together by folding and pressing the mix until it becomes a stiff, thick but not too sticky consistency.

If the mix is too sticky add a tiny bit more flour or if the recipe is too floury use a bit of the water. Make sure all the dough is well mixed together.

After this I usually cover my bowl and leave the dough to rest for a minimum of half an hour.  If you’re planning on saving some for later then let it rest in the fridge.

Divide the dough into sections and roll out to the desired thickness on a floured surface (pasta swells when it cooks and thinner pasta cooks faster). I find it easier to only roll in one direction and then flip the dough as it prevents it sticking and ensures a more even thickness.

Cut into the required shape either by hand or use a pasta machine. I cut mine by hand and find that squares are the easiest shape to get even size pieces and it is far less fiddly than trying to cut straight lines.

Very lightly flour the pre-cut pasta you want to save and place in a box/ bag into freezer.

The other pasta is ready to cook now. Boil some water and cook for 3-5 minute’s. it will float when done. Serve immediately with the sauce of your choice and enjoy.

Finally stick your feet up and let someone else do the washing up.

Dough

Dough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other ideas

This is a recipe from one of my favourite sites that suggests measurements for serving eight: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/2984/fresh-pasta.aspx

For those of you wanting to try something a bit more extravagant that still won’t break the bank why not try making potato pasta (gnocchi). I found an easy step by step recipe which I intend to test myself here: http://www.delallo.com/articles/making-homemade-gnocchi-step-step-guide

I haven’t tried making vegan pasta yet, but someone who has is Vegan Dad. Why not check out some of his recipes at: http://vegandad.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/easy-fresh-vegan-pasta.html

If you want gluten free alternatives to your favourite recipe there are some fantastic suggestions available here: http://www.delallo.com/blog/recipes/transform-your-favorite-recipes-gluten-free-recipes