Monthly Archives: July 2014

A new recipe for courgettes! Stuffed with feta

At this time of the year I am always on the look out for new recipes to try to use up the courgette glut. Last night I made a pot of  stock using chicken carcasses from the freezer, and I will use that to make courgette soup for the freezer.

imageFor dinner I made stuffed courgettes, using a recipe I found in an old student cookbook and which I adapted slightly. I really enjoyed it, but Mr S was looking for the meat! Next time I will add chopped bacon to stop him feeling deprived.

Stuffed courgettes

4 medium courgettes
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion, chopped
8oz sweet corn
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
3oz feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Halve the courgettes lengthways, carefully scoop out some of the insides to make room for the stuffing and arrange in a baking dish.

Put all the other ingredients apart from the feta into a food processor with some salt and pepper and whizz it, then crumble in half the cheese. Stuff the courgettes with the filling then crumble the rest of the feta on top. Bake for about 40 minutes.
I think this would be nice served with a tomato sauce or just as it is with salad and new potatoes. We had it with rubber beans as that is the other glut.

If you have recipes for the courgette glut, please bring them on!


Busy Busy! I need more hours in my days

Firstly, I just want to say thanks to Declutterbug for nominating me for the Very Inspiring blog award. I will take a proper look at what I need to do for that over the next few days.

It’s all getting very extraordinarily busy here at Shoestring Cottage. The lovely Italian student we had at the start of the year wants to come back to see us and spend time with DD3, as they became the best of friends during her time with us and have been Face Timing ever since. The trouble is she can only come when the Spanish boy we are expecting this Sunday is still here. She will sleep in with DD3 – as she won’t be a paying guest she doesn’t need her own room.

Then, on the day she leaves us, our Mexican family will be turning up to see if we are suitable hosts to leave their 16 year old with as she studies for her A levels. This will be tricky as I need to work that day so I guess the best thing will be to provide a pre- prepared buffet so we can all get to know each other.

My head is spinning with the number of jobs I would like to get done before they arrive. I would like first impressions to be good! However I am a realist. I won’t manage to redecorate the kitchen but I can make sure the stair carpet is in place, the garden is tidy and and the downstairs loo gets a lick of paint.

Well, you know I hate to be bored and work best to a deadline so hopefully it will all work out.

Good News! And More Freebies…I’m a Happy Bunny

paving stones 2Busy busy day today! We packed off our student – adios to the fussy eater – then loaded up the trailer and drove to my friend’s house in Mersea to collect 100 old paving slabs from her garden. We have no idea what we will do with them yet but they are bound to come in handy somewhere in the garden so we couldn’t refuse them. We had to do two journeys and we certainly burned off a few calories lugging them up the garden and into the car then off again the other side!! I thought Mr S was going to expire!

paving stones I had some good news last night. It appears that we are very likely to get a long term student after all – an extremely bright 16 year old  girl who wants to study at the local grammar sixth form. I had a long chat with her dad and he was very nice and seemed to be happy to put his daughter in our hands for a bit. We just need to confirm a few details and hope she gets the required grades and she could be here within the month.

To celebrate the fact that my income will increase – and to make a good impression when she arrives – I am going to finally order my new hall stair carpet this week so that the hall is finally finished. There are lots of other jobs I want to do to make Shoestring Cottage look as inviting as possible as the whole family will arrive together to get her settled in. Exciting!!

My lovely foodie sister in law has decided to clear out her freezer today and wants us to help eat up the bits and pieces she wants used up. It’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it!!! So after all out hard labour I don’t have to cook. Bonus! I will take her some freebies too – I have two little money plants that I grew from cuttings, courgettes, runner beans and tomatoes.

Did you manage any freebies this weekend?

Fussy Students, Healthy Food at Last and Ideas to Make Some Money

chopped vegFussy student leaves on Sunday, so I plan a week of lovely meals containing as many of my nice home grown veggies as I can squeeze in to make up for our dull diet over the past 3 weeks. I am thinking stir fries, vegetable lasagne, chick pea curry, mediterranean pasta….

 We have a week free and then another Spanish boy will arrive. Hopefully he will enjoy his food!

Counting the pennies

 I have been absolutely counting on my new agency finding me a long term student for September. However they haven’t been able to get a response from the local school about placing them in their sixth form. Now they have broken up it is looking increasingly unlikely this will happen. There is a chance of a girl from Mexico who is hoping to start at my daughter’s school but we are just one of several families her parents are talking to plus she has to get good grades because it is a grammar school, so it may not happen either. Today I am going to sign up with a couple more agencies so that there is at least the chance of more short term students.

 It really is the difference between worrying about money all the time and getting by ok. I need to think of a Plan B if Plan A goes to pot. Sell a kidney or one of the kids maybe ;-). We shall see. Our favourite student ever is coming to see us in a few weeks, as a friend this time. She is adorable and DD3’s particular buddy.

 Anyone have any fantastic ideas for money making schemes that don’t take up much time?


I love a container!

I love a container!

We have an area of the garden that just isn’t working. I had a plan to make a cottage garden bed there but because there are a large number of trees along the fence line on my neighbour’s side the bed is too dry for anything much.

We were thinking of abandoning it, maybe gravelling an area and growing some plants in pots. The problem is that large pots can be expensive! Stroke of luck then. One of Mr S’s neighbours rang him a couple of days ago to say she was revamping her garden and did he know of anyone who might want all her old containers 🙂 result!image

Now we just need to find some plants to it in them!

Knitting your own Yogurt :-)

I popped into Sainsbury’s after yoga last night to buy a few bits that they don’t sell in Aldi. I was debating how many Lactofree yogurts I could afford (ie none really as I really need to stretch my budget!). They were £1.25 for four little pots; not extortionate but I could get 6 Sainsbury’s fruit yogurts for £1.

Mix up the ingredients...

Mix up the ingredients…

So, in the spirit of frugality, I decided it was high time I made my own again. It really takes just minutes in my Easi-yo yogurt maker, so there is no excuse.

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker...

Pour boiling water into the yogurt maker…

I bought some Lactofree UHT milk, a small pot of live natural yogurt to use as my starter and some dried milk powder to make my yogurt thicker. Ok, this lot won’t be lactose free, but as I have a dairy intolerance rather than an allergy it doesn’t matter that much. However, if anyone can suggest a thickener other than milk powder I would be grateful – I like my yogurt thick!

Put the container of milk and away you go

Put the container of milk and away you go

This morning I mixed a tablespoon of milk powder with the same amount of starter, then whisked in the milk. I filled my yogurt maker up to the required level with boiling water, stood the pot in it and put the lid on. By the time I get home from work this should be ready to go in the fridge.

I have some blackberries in the garden so I will make a purée to mix with the yogurt and take a small pot to work each day. I reckon it will make double the amount contained in the 4 little pots and cost me £1.35 for a litre of Lactofree UHT AND 50p for my starter pot plus about £1 for the milk powder. Next time I won’t have to buy the powder or starter so it will be £1.35 for at least 8 pots of yogurt.

Do you knit your own yogurt? Any tips on a lactose free thickener?

Skip surfing and the village show: what a lovely day

In his element

In his element

We had the most fantastic day today in Suffolk, one of my favourite counties and just up the road. We decided to drive out to a little traditional village show, but stopped off in Ipswich to eat our picnic by the marina.

We idly looked in a skip on our way past a restaurant – well you have to, don’t you – and couldn’t believe what we saw. About 100 or so large white restaurant quality plates of various shapes and sizes and in perfect condition had been chucked in there! No one else appeared to have spotted them, so we picked out 6 round dinner plates, and 12 bowls, 6 round and 6 square. We would have taken more, but they were heavy and we had to lug them back to the car, and by then a crowd had gathered and started picking bits out. No one could believe they had just been dumped. The restaurant was closing down but it would have been a criminal waste to send them to the tip.

Can you believe what people throw in skips??

Can you believe what people throw in skips??

The marina has been hugely regenerated and is very smart these days, so it was a lovely place to watch the boats whilst we picnicked. We left in driving rain thinking the village show would be a wash out, but as we neared Butley, where the show was, it was suddenly dry!

We looked at the flower and produce show, watched an assortment of dogs running riot in the arena, bought some plants and a lovely Pyrex casserole dish on the WI stand, and finished it off with a cream tea, which at £2.75 each was an affordable treat.  I love these traditional shows, and wish we had more in Essex!

Village show veg

village show flowers



We decided to drive onto Orford Ness – what a beautiful Suffolk village this is, with its own castle, lovely pubs, picture box cottages and it’s own RSPB reserve. We plan to go back to have a proper look when we have more time.

So a successful and enjoyable day :-).

The Good Life: Redcurrant Jelly, and ‘this week we will be mainly eating runner beans’!

redcurrant jellyMy freezers seem to be very full, which is a bit ominous as I am about to hit courgette, runner bean and tomato glut time and will need to be freezing some. I have pulled out all the ends of bread for bread pudding, and some frozen redcurrants to clear some space. I don’t get that many redcurrants (from my neighbours overhanging bush, as she doesn’t use them) so save up a couple of years worth to have enough for redcurrant jelly, my favourite. I know you can use it on meat, but for me it is completely delicious on hot toast! Mmm, salivating now.

Straining the redcurrants with my dishcloth strainer!

Straining the redcurrants with my dishcloth strainer!

So I made some this morning, and I am waiting for it to cool so that I can eat some 🙂 I couldn’t find my jelly muslin, so I fashioned a strainer from a new dishcloth and it worked a treat! Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

rolling boil

Bringing the jelly to a rolling boil

The garden is looking lush and productive, with spinach, lettuces, courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes and runner beans all ready to eat.

The sweetcorn looks just pathetic. I’m not sure why, although I haven’t grown it in that spot before so maybe it doesn’t like it for some reason.

Triffid pumpkin

Triffid pumpkin

The sweetpeas are just starting to look lovely so I need to cut some today, and the pumpkin is going crazy! If I’m not careful it will take over the veg patch. I deliberately planted it right at the edge but it is spreading everywhere. I think I will grown my pumpkins somewhere else altogether in future, but for now just keep pulling and training it onto the grass at the front of my patch.

Off to try to dry my laundry before it rains again, and do the weekly clean. It is non stop at Shoestring Cottage as usual, but if I get everything done today I can have a nice day out with Mr S tomorrow.

What are you growing this year? And what are your plans for the weekend?


Smart Phones, Burgers and too much Wine

We had an unexpected last minute invitation to a barbecue yesterday evening. It arrived so late we had already eaten our tea (Mr S’s sister decided to be spontaneous), so we went along for a few drinks anyway. I only had a couple, but I am such a lightweight I have had a headache all morning!

imageWe finally discovered something our fussy student would eat with a junk food tea of burgers in buns and chips. It was quite nice actually – I can recommend the Aldi frozen quarter pounders, but I am not eating like that too often!

I got a new iPhone at a bargain price yesterday. I am already a Tesco customer so I managed to negotiate a brilliant deal on a new iPhone 5 that is only a couple of pounds more than I pay now. I managed to get the old one to last me nearly four years, but it was so slow, kept switching off and then I dropped it and cracked the screen. It is good for blogging and I am using it now!

Making it up as I go along: pasta with everything

Our student declared at the last minute that he didn’t want dinner. I was grateful not to have to eat the junk food tea I had planned in order to get him to eat something (burger and chips – I will have to endure that tonight!), so I had to decide what to make at the last minute. I looked what was lying around in the fridge and  decided on pasta with a courgette and mushrooms sweated in butter, some grilled chopped bacon, half a pot of tomato pesto that DD1 had opened and a third of a pot of soft cheese. I mixed it all together and also chucked in some canned sweetcorn I found lurking asimage well.

Guess what? It was delicious and had the added advantage of using up lots of bits and pieces that needed eating. I had the last portion for my lunch today at work.