Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alex Riley, you're my hero

On the menu tonight, some engaging telly on BBC three.

Tonight I was watching another installment of Alex Riley's "Britain's Most Disgusting Food." A show that does an amazing job at taking the somewhat boring, yet important, topic of food sustainability, health & safety... and making it humorous and engaging.

Yeah... he often sets up obnoxious stunts like standing outside of Lidl and covering himself in Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (aka HVO) to make the point that many of their products contain this dangerous heart-clogging fat. Yes, some of the points he brings up are glaringly obvious, but I found this episode to be a bit more clear and to the point... and of those points? It's all stuff people should know, that people should question what they put in their mouth, that they should wonder about the origin of their food.

He also highlighted the fact that a lot of companies are beginning to build sustainability into their business plans, and that there are some European laws that are protecting our health when it comes to hormones given to dairy cows. Apparently some of these laws are starting to come over to the States... in fact, it's good to know my home State of California already has a ban on HVO.

Again, watching shows like this just confirm what I've always preached, buying fresh, organic and local where you can, including meat & dairy.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Freebie - Stylish DIY Garden Pots

I've always loved gardening, so as the owner of a small cement yard with no dirt or grass in sight, I have to make do with putting my all my plants in pots. LOADS of em. I think it looks a bit charming... but yes, it is a bit tatty and unmatching, and the fella completely hates it.

For years I've been looking for a stylish solution to consolidate all the little pots into big planters or raised beds to go all along the edges of my yard. However, big pots are expensive and heavy and generally just... the wrong size. So I was delighted when I happened upon a Martha Stewart video talking about homemade Hypertufa pots...

Hypertufa is basically a really easy and cheap-to-make concoction that can be easily formed in a mold. It's a bit like a grown up mud-pie. Once formed and hardened, it turns into a rock-like, yet strikingly lightweight substance. It can even be made into large planters that can withstand rough weather and frosts. Woo hoo! I'm really looking forward to constructing my own hypertufa back yard solution; you can use a variety of materials as molds and you can also add additional details into the mold for some visual intrigue.

I've included a link to a hypertufa recipe, although there's loads of other recipes all over the webs. I've also included the link to the Martha video & recipe that started my fascination.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Take A Weird Break

New Addictive Tumblr Alert!

When I first arrived in Ireland nearly *gasp* nine years ago, my good friend Joanne introduced me to the most MENTAL of literary genres... the British "true life stories" magazine. Yep. You've got your 'Take A Break' your 'Pick Me Up' and of course, my very favorite... 'Chat'

Anyone who has come across these in newsagents will know the hilarity the headlines provide. Usually the story isn't quite as horrific and grim as it appears on the cover, but they are entertaining none the less. And great for their "tips" section... a hem. One of my favorites was a mother who, instead of buying skim milk, bought whole milk, watered it down and then served it to her family as skim milk... What money saving genius! EWWW.

Anyways, I've left my Chat addiction behind, but I can still get my fix on a brand new Tumblr site which gives you just the headlines... sure that's the most entertaining part anyway isn't it?

So here you go: http://www.takeaweirdbreak.com/

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sweets for your sweet

Happy Valentines Day my friends!

As y'all know, I am a broke as a joke recession victim... But ho ho! Am I a negative nelly? Do I sit on a pity pot? Not me! No, I'm more of a fan of the aul "build a bridge" school of thinking, and know that lack of money doesn't mean I can't lavish my love with romantic gestures (which by the way, should not only be reserved for Hallmark holidays).

So here's my ideas for a cheapie but thoughtful Valentines pressie.

I am a very lucky lady with a fella who has a penchant for baking... He's been perfecting his lemon cake recipe lately and here's my Valentine's present from him.

Then of course... you did it in school, why not do it now? Homemade cards of course! So much cheaper, so much more awesome thoughtfulness. Here's mine for my fella who (aside from the cake) refused to acknowledge this "fake" holiday.

Moving on...

Valentines Day being a Sunday makes the perfect setting for a romantic breakfast in bed. Here's some yum brunch ideas:

French Toast

Whip up some eggs & milk, add a good dash of cinnamon and (here's the secret to extra fluffy french toast) a couple of tablespoons of flour. Soak some thick bread (brioche if you've got it) in your concoction and fry up in a blob of hot melted butter or oil. Shake up a dash of powdered sugar and maple syrup on top... and YUM yerself OUT.

Breakfast Burritos!

A weekend staple in our house, there is very little that is as easy, filling and delicious as a good old breakfast burrito. You can make it veggie or meaty. I scramble up eggs, add some rice, salsa, sausages, a big handful of fresh spinach and season to taste. Warm up some tortillas, stuff em with your eggy fillings top with grated cheese... wrap it up, take a bite and wait for the taste boat.

Enjoy & Happy Valentines Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Freebie - Pasta Sauces

As has been mentioned in this blog numerous times, over the last few months I have been living the "freelance" lifestyle... aka... broke. So my old carefree way of popping to the corner shop on a daily basis to buy dinner had to be curbed. I'm now much more conscious of every Euro which passes through my fingers and therefore more conscious of making the things that I already have go that extra mile.

We all know pasta is a super cheap and simple way to fill your belly, but what happens when you don't have much of any sauce at home to jazz up that bowl of carbs? I've found a little trick to make a little leftover sauce go a lot further without sacrificing taste.

Creating a "creamy" sauce from bits of other leftover sauces is super easy, and can sometimes be more tasty than the original. I usually start with heating up a bit of olive oil and crushed garlic and throwing in the base of your sauce, whether is a bit of leftover tomato sauce, a tablespoon or two of pesto, some passata or some crushed/steamed tomatoes. Add the base and heat it up a bit and then slowly add some milk and dashes of flour stirring constantly. Don't add too much at a time otherwise the flour will clump up. You don't need to use fatty cream, skim milk will do the job, the more flour you add, the thicker the consistency of the sauce. The important part is to add seasoning, some garlic salt (or just pain salt) some nice cracked black pepper, basil, oregano or whatever savory herbs you've got in the house. You could also add cheese if you like, but I find that sometimes that makes it a bit clumpy & curdled.

I also like adding extra veggies if you've got them; such as cooked peppers or a big handful of spinach - fresh spinach will melt down really small into the sauce - or you can use frozen spinach which has already shrunk. The important part is to taste your sauce the entire time to make sure you've got the flavors you're looking for.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Heart Rachel Ray

As a new "Stay at Home Person" I have become guilty of watching a lot of daytime TV. You know daytime TV... aimed at housewives, unemployed people, or folks who are in need of workman's comp. Luckily in Ireland we don't have all those obnoxious no win no fee attorney ads, we're just stuck with "MONEY 4 GOLD".

Anyways.... one show I have become addicted to and excited about is Rachael Ray. Yeah it's got the usual chat show dross, but it also has great cooking ideas, including ways to make a little bit of food go a long way... very important for a non-earner like myself.

So here's one I tried out earlier, her Butternut Bowtie Pasta Bake Fakeout. On the show she described it as a fakeout because she makes a golden "cheesy" sauce out of the much healthier butternet squash. Aside from just the health side of things, squash is also a lot cheaper than mounds of cheese. You can find the recipe here: http://www.rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=2200

I changed it up a bit, cuz that's the beauty of food, there are no hard & fast rules. Rather than bowties I went with shells cuz I thought they'd be nicer in a fake macaroni & cheese dish... I also had no sage leaves, so I added a store-bought pesto to the sauce as well as dotted more pesto on the top of the bake. On the website Rach suggests sprinkling almonds on top, instead I added some nice sharp cheddar... to add to the "fakeout".

The results? Roasting the squash took a while, and there's a lot of dishes to cleanup - esp as I used a food processor (apparently you could use a potato masher). I did enjoy making a gorgeous golden sauce that didn't actually include cheese, but the end result was quite heavy & filling, and according to the boyfriend... bland.

I think it's worth trying again, personally I enjoyed it, but here's what I would change: I would use less squash in the sauce and more milk to make it thinner. It was HEAVY. I would also use a lot more pesto... or just a lot more seasoning. When eating, every time you hit a pesto pocket it was divine, the rest was just okay. If I'm feeling brave the next time, I might even add some Tabasco... which goes with everything... in theory.


Oh and PS, if you have a veggie-loving cat like me, beware of leaving out your unused cooked butternut squash & husks. I got to wake up the next morning cleaning up golden orange cat barf. Nice.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I haven't been to Disneyland in at least... 15 years, but I remember very very clearly that (aside from the Haunted Mansion - which is amazing) my favorite section was "Tomorrowland." Not because it predicted the future, but because it was like stepping back into the the 50s version of "tomorrow", aka the 60s, which, as a reader of this blog you'll know, I'm a bit obsessed with.

So I found it very amusing today when I ran across an article displaying 1940s Seagrams Whiskey Ads that "predicted the future." No jetpacks and flying cars in these ads, instead they pretty much had a spot-on vision of today's 3D movies, Mobile phones, Skype... oh and a weird grocery store on wheels (Tesco delivery?). Anyways, I enjoyed, so I figured you would too:

"Yesterday's Ads Predicted Today's Tech"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Freebies!

As a person thoroughly immersed in unemployment, I've decided to (attempt to) start regularly posting more on the topic of "Living on the Cheap." Basically chronicling my attempts to still continue living the life I became accustomed to before the big "R" word set in. Covering topics such as: not becoming a shut-in, using your creativity wisely, eating generously & deliciously, entertaining & more... all whilst not breaking the bank. For cuteness sake I'll call it my "Friday Freebies". So, here ya go, Friday Freebie numero uno:

Joyous was I when I first heard that this Saturday is a FREE OPEN DAY AT THE IFI TO WATCH AWESOME MOVIES FOR FREE!

I know right?! Its so awesome it's AHSAHM. One of the films on schedule is Bringing Up Baby, which has always been a fave, but what I'm really looking forward to the vintage Irish travel films. Oooh err... I'm desperately in love with anything vintage, especially now that I spend my days reading all of the internets from start to finish and back.

Full info here: http://ifi.ie/cinema/season1_07.asp?PageID=60&SID=193