Tag Archives: Baking

Birthdays the Frugal Way

Wow it’s been a really busy couple of weeks at the My Borrowed Planet house and the icing (literally) on the cake was both my girls having their birthdays this week.  Quite a few people have expressed their surprise (OMG!) at the fact there is only one day between each of their special days.  Yes family planning was not my strong point, but one thing I know is that birthdays don’t have to be expensive.

I guess I am lucky in a lot of ways.  My girls don’t expect a lot in the way of gifts – even my eldest who I must admit received far more presents in the 6 years before her little sister came along than she ever has since.  In fact, my 10 year old is now soo anti-corporate it makes me smile. She can often be heard exclaiming “How much? What a waste of money for a load of plastic rubbish!” when she sees adverts for the latest must-have toy on the telly.  My youngest is just happy, pretty much all the time.

I have what I consider to be a reasonably large budget for their birthdays of around £40 each.  Their gifts tend to be a mixture of new and second hand and naturally include a lot of the home school resources we will use over the coming 6 months such as games, puzzles and books.  By that time its Christmas of course so having their birthdays so close together actually works out pretty well.  Our extended family and friends also tend to give gifts that will enhance our play based learning curriculum so I’m really grateful to them too.  Crystal growing kits, flower presses and art materials are the perfect gifts and the girls are looking forward to a trip out to a rare breed’s centre where they will get to feed wallabies with their granddad as an extra special birthday treat.

The only downside to having two birthdays so close together is the slight overload of cake, but to be completely honest it’s not really a hardship.  Their dad made some amazing creations this year (he’s gotten so into baking since he’s been unable to work) and made the TARDIS console for my eldest and a pink Dalek for the littley.  They cost less than £3 each and tasted awesome (I must post some pics).

Of course, we should really be getting back into our normal homeschool curriculum today, but to be honest we’re all suffering with festival flu and are absolutely exhausted.  The weather outside is rubbish too so I thought I’d catch up with some blogging and let them spend the day playing.  After all, isn’t that what play-based learning is all about?  I will go and join them in a minute, just as soon as I finish this post.

I’d be interested to know, however, what you think of our low cost birthdays.  How much do you spend on birthdays and what do you get up to?  Do you think I’m an old meanie for keeping things simple or is it a refreshing change in today’s increasingly hectic (and expensive) lifestyle?  Please leave your comments below! x


Hippies Hedge Jam

I hope you’ve been taking advantage of all that free food!  As promised, here’s our really easy Blackberry Jam recipe.

You will need:

  • BLACKBERRIES
  • Sugar.  The same weight of sugar as the weight of your fruit
  • A squirt of lemon juice
  • Clean empty jars

You can also add a couple of cooking apples for increased pectin to help the jam set, but I find our recipe works fine without them.

1.  First you need to sterilise your jars.  This can be easily done in the dishwasher if you have one.  Just stick them on a hot wash and they’ll be ready to use.  We don’t have a dishwasher so we sterilise ours by giving them a good wash in soapy water, then sticking them in the oven at 110°C / 225°F / gas mark ¼ for 45 mins.  Once the time is up, simply turn the oven off and leave them there until you are ready to use them.  Hot jam needs to be added to warm jars, otherwise the glass may break.

2.  Wash your blackberries and put them into a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  Turn up the heat!  Your jam needs to get hot, really hot, so make sure the pan isn’t too small.  You don’t want it to boil over.

3.  Mush the fruit and let it boil.  Lots.

4.  Heat your sugar.  It’s really important to warm up the sugar before you add it to the fruit.  If it’s cold it will cause the temperature to drop, resulting in sub-standard jam.  Pour your weighed out sugar into a roasting tray and put it into the oven for 10 mins at the same temperature as you sterilise your jars.  110°C / 225°F / gas mark 1/4

5.  Once the sugar is warm you can add it to the fruit.  Keep boiling and keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.

6.  To check if your jam is set, remove it from the heat and drop a small amount onto a cold saucer (it helps if it’s been in the fridge).  If the jam is ready it will form a skin which wrinkles when you push it with your finger.  Happy days!  If it’s still runny then return it to the heat and boil it up some more.

7.  Once your jam is achieving a good setting consistency it is done and ready to be bottled.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little by allowing it to stand for 10 minutes or so.

8.  There will most likely be a lot of foam on the top.  Now you don’t have to remove it, but I find that your jam will taste better if you do.  Take a large spoon and gradually skim it off.  Be careful not to burn yourself!

9.  Now your Blackberry jam is ready to be bottled.   Make sure those jars are still warm, you don’t want them to crack.  I find it easiest to ladle the jam into a Pyrex jug before pouring it into the bottles – it makes much less mess.  Label and date your jars and you are done.  Easy Blackberry jam!

Now you can eat it straight away, but it usually tastes better if you leave it 2 weeks to settle.  Once opened it’s best to keep your jam in the fridge, but we find it gets eaten so quickly it’s not too much of an issue.  It’s delicious on toast, in rice pudding or on homemade Soda Bread.  Happy jam making!


Easy Peasy Soda Bread

This recipe is loosely based on the one from the kids kitchen recipe deck which is a brilliant resource for teaching kids how to cook fun, fresh and healthy food.  My 9 year old can make this one pretty much unaided and it’s a totally tasty tea-time treat.

ok. stick the oven on at 350f 180c 160c for a fan oven

450g plain flour

a level teaspoon of bicarb of soda

150ml sour cream

150ml milk

extra flour for dusting

sift the flour & bicarb into a bowl.  push the flour to the sides of the bowl to leave a hole in the centre.  pour the sour cream and milk into a measuring jug, mix and pour into the hole in the flour.  use a table knife to mix all the dough together.

use one hand to grab all of the flour into a ball – use the dough like a dishcloth to wipe your bowl clean!

put the dough onto a lightly floured baking tray & shape into a 20cm circle (you don’t need to knead the dough)

cut a cross in the dough, almost to the base, to divide the bread into four.  bake for 20-25 mins until the bread is golden.

turn the bread upside down & tap it – if it sounds hollow its done!

put on a cooling rack until cool enough to eat – best eaten straight away with some yummy homemade jam!


%d bloggers like this: