Cassiefairy – My Thrifty Life

Cassiefairy's thrifty lifestyle blog – Saving money every day with DIY crafts, sewing projets, low-cost recipes & shppping tips


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More than chocolate eggs – Easter gifts ideas + win £40 of jewellery!

With Easter fast approaching, my thoughts have turned to chocolate eggs and rabbit-shaped iced biscuits. I love making marshmallow ‘nests’ with my niece and nephew, and an Easter cheesecake is a must in our household. But this year, I thought I’d consider some Easter gifts that are more than just edible treats. I’d love to receive something that costs the same as a chocolate egg but that will last me all year instead so I’ve shared my ideas in this blog post. PLUS you could win £40 to spend on anything you like at JewelleryBox.co.uk. Considering that they’ve got a fantastic under £5 section, you should be able to stock up on a few beautiful things for yourself too!

image by Popcorn & Glitter

This year I’m saying ‘no thanks’ to the chocolate (okay, maybe a handful of mini-eggs, but that’s it…) and yes please to some alternative gifts. In particular, I quite fancy getting some new jewellery this year. It doesn’t have to be Easter-themed (although the selection of fun Easter bunny earrings start at £4.95) and I’d be happy with any of these cool stacker rings or ‘love’ bangles.


One of my favourite pieces on the site is this honeycomb design. It’s available as a necklace, bracelet or earrings in 9ct gold, sterling silver or rose gold. It feels really spring-like without being OTT on the rabbits and flowers. Although I’m not a huge wearer of jewellery, I do like to wear the occasional special piece and I love the rose gold pieces I discovered. At least know where I want my birthday present to come from anyway!

I’ve also been looking on Etsy for some non-food related gifts for the little ones (and us bigger crafty folk too!). This Easter bunny kit looks like great fun for a start. It contains everything you’d need to make an adorable little soft rabbit – wouldn’t that be fun to make over Easter? It’ll keep the kids entertained for a little while at least! I also LOVE this cross-stitch kit for older kids, aunts and grandmas alike. It’s a skill I wish I could do, and I’d love to give this colourful spring sewing project a go.

Or if you fancy baking an Easter gift for your friends and family, why not try out some of my recipes? Cupcakes, meringues and iced biscuits all make lovely presents when presented in lovely wrapping. You could make fresh blueberry and lemon muffins in cute paper cases to hand out to the little ones. My dark chocolate meringue cookies look lovely when packaged in greaseproof paper and tied with a pretty ribbon. At the very least, you could make a batch of these recipes to share as part of your Easter Sunday dinner.And now, on to the part you’ve been waiting for – the giveaway. I’ve chatted to the wonderful people at JewelleryBox.co.uk and they are delighted to provide a prize for Cassiefairy.com readers. One lucky winner will be given £40 credit to spend on ANY jewellery they like! The giveaway runs until the end of Easter Monday so you could win a lovely Easter gift for yourself. There are plenty of ways to enter via the Rafflecopter widget below so enter now- good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to UK residents only, competition runs from 7th April 2017 – 17th April 2017, winner will be chosen at random from all entries via Rafflecopter and contacted via email. The winner will need to provide a UK delivery address to receive their prize.


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Pieday Friday – The Hairy Bikers’ coffee cake for Red Nose Day

Today’s recipe post comes directly from The Hairy Bikers, who have shared this recipe in aid of Comic Relief. The fundraising spectacular takes place on 24th March this year so you’ve got plenty of time to perfect your sponge cake before the big event! Without further ado I’m handing over to Si and Dave  to share their recipe – enjoy!
A deliciously moist, old-fashioned coffee and walnut cake is one of our very favourite treats and we like to make it with Camp chicory and coffee essence. If you can’t track this down in your local stores, use very strong black coffee instead. Make sure the walnuts you use are nice and fresh.

SERVES 12 – 65g walnut halves, 225g softened butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing, 225g caster sugar, 4 medium eggs, 225g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp Camp chicory and coffee essence

Icing – 150g softened butter, cubed, 300g icing sugar, sifted, 4 tsp Camp chicory and coffee essence,12 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.

  1. Butter two 20cm loose-based sandwich tins and line the bases with discs of baking parchment. Put the walnut halves in a food processor and blitz them into fairly fine crumbs, but don’t worry if there are a few larger pieces remaining. Tip the walnuts into a bowl.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and coffee essence in a food processor and blend on the pulse setting until well combined and creamy. You may need to remove the lid once or twice and push the mixture down with a rubber spatula. Take care not to process for too long or you will end up with a heavy sponge.
  3. Add the blitzed walnuts to the batter and mix until just combined. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop the nuts, tip all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, then beat like hell!
  4. Spoon the mixture evenly into the greased and lined tins and smooth the surface. Bake on the same shelf in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the sponge is well risen and just beginning to shrink back from the sides of the tin.
  5. Remove the tins from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cakes and turning them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.

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Pieday Friday – How to make crisps in the microwave + tasty flavour combinations

Oh my goodness, it’s Christmas next weekend. How did that happen? I feel like I’m not entirely ready for it yet so want to get a move on with planning my recipes for the festive period. I shared a round-up of my previous Christmassy recipes last week (including 2 types of gingerbread, coffee shop hacks and some Christmas cake ideas) but my favourite part of Christmas cooking is preparing snacks. I love to have hot crunchy savoury treats in the oven throughout the holidays (and mince pies too, of course) just in case a guest arrives. Surely, there’s nothing better than being welcomed into a home with a big plate of nibbles and treats, is there??pieday-friday-diy-low-fat-healthy-microwave-crisps-recipe-parmesan-paprika-salt-pepper-12I’ve made star tarts, pastry rolls, pizza twists and leftover pasties in the past but never have I attempted to make my own crisps. While I loooove crunchy crisps, I do worry about how healthy (or not!) they are, and I know that I’ll be tempted over Christmas. So when I began craving fried snacks I started to do some research into healthier ways to make my favourite treat. Let’s face it, I’m going to want to eat them all month long, and will definitely be dishing out bowls of crisps on New Years Eve too!pieday-friday-diy-low-fat-healthy-microwave-crisps-recipe-parmesan-paprika-salt-pepper-18It turns out that it IS possible to make crisps without a deep fryer, and all you need is a microwave. Considering that I got a new Panasonic steam combination microwave about three months ago, I was feeling very confident that I’d be able to pull off making my own crisps. It’s got a great range of power settings so knew I’d be able to adjust the power accordingly to get that perfect crunch. Well, noone wants a soggy crisp, do they? Here’s how I got on and the recipe for (wait for it…) parmesan and smoked paprika potato chips.pieday-friday-diy-low-fat-healthy-microwave-crisps-recipe-parmesan-paprika-salt-pepper-16Ingredients: Potatoes (1 ‘jacket’ sized potato will make a small bowlful of crisps), olive oil (or you could use Fry Light for an even healthier version), salt and pepper, dried parmesan and smoked paprika.pieday-friday-diy-low-fat-healthy-microwave-crisps-recipe-parmesan-paprika-salt-pepper-1

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Pieday Friday – 12 days of Christmas recipe round-up

I thought I’d share round-up of my favourite festive recipes this Pieday Friday. The idea was to get you in the mood for all the Christmas baking to come but, in fact, I’ve actually started craving most of these recipes now, so I’m sure I’ll be whipping up some tasty this weekend! Below you’ll find links to my top twelve “12 days of Christmas” recipe blog posts, starting with these snowy dark chocolate cookies and cream-filled snowball meringues – enjoy!pieday friday baking recipe microwave meringues chocolate cookies-13 Recipe for snowball meringues Christmas pudding dessert-18It wouldn’t be Christmas without gingerbread. Last year I made a gingerbread sleigh but the recipe can be used to make traditional gingerbread men or decorations to hang on your tree. You can find the classic gingerbread recipe in this blog post plus there’s a festive spiced banana muffin recipe in the gingerbread blog post too, bonus!baking-a-gingerbread-sleigh-using-cookie-cutters-1diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-7Even though I first made this chocolate gingerbread recipe for halloween, it’s definitely going to be baked again in December. The chocolate makes a nice change to the traditional gingerbread biscuit recipe, and you could make a batch of both types for Christmas, mmm.

Cheesy Christmas Stars

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Pieday Friday – Chocolate gingerbread skeletons recipe for Halloween

A slightly different take on the classic festive gingerbread man, this cookie dough contains cocoa powder so it produces a dark, crisp biscuit. When cut out with a gingerbread cutter they’re the perfect shape for icing a skeleton design for Halloween. The darker colour biscuit emphasises the spooky shape and tastes even better than normal gingerbread thanks to all the chocolate in the recipe!diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-12I think that these homemade biscuits would be great to give out to trick-or-treaters or could be the dessert for your spooky Halloween party. Here’s how to make the dough and bake the perfect chocolate gingerbread skeletons:diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-11Ingredients for around 18 biscuits (depending on the size of your cutter): 300g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 120g butter, 120g brown sugar, 140g golden syrup, icing sugar for icing the skeleton shape.diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-puddingdiy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-2Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa, ginger powder and butter together in a bowl. Either use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, like a crumble recipe, or put into a food processor and pulse together until it forms a crumbly consistency. Drizzle in the golden syrup and continue pulsing the processor until it forms a dough, or mix with a knife if you’re doing it the manual way.diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-3Step 2: Divide the dough into quarters and place between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough then peel away the top layer of paper.diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-4 diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-5diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-6Step 3: Use a gingerbread man cutter to press shapes into the dough. Peel away the excess dough, leaving the gingerbread man shapes on the greaseproof paper.diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-7diy-halloween-cookie-recipe-chocolate-gingerbread-men-skeletons-treat-dessert-pudding-8

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Pieday Friday – Bottomless Harvest Pie

After going foraging on a blackberry walk last weekend, today’s blog post is the result of that walk. I decided to combine the blackberries with apples (cooking apples are abundant in the garden at the moment) and make a bottomless pie. What does that mean? It means that I made a blind-baked pie base and it shrunk so much that I couldn’t use it! I therefore went for just a pie crust on top of the filling in a pie dish. Don’t worry, it tasted just as yummy and actually it’s a little bit of a healthier pudding, because there’s about half the amount of pastry!diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-7 diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-3Ingredients: 225g plain flour, 100g butter, 25g caster sugar, 2 tablespoons water, a pinch of salt, 100g sugar, a dash of amaretto, plus as many cooking apples as it takes to fill your pie dish and as many blackberries as you can gather!

The pastry: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips. Add the cold water and stir with a knife until it comes together into a stuff dough. Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. By the way, my pretty rolling pin is from The Caravan Trail if you’re interested. I like to use it for pastry as it’s ceramic so stays cool – very important in pastry-making!diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-2The filling: Peel, core and slice enough apples to fill your pie dish. Put the apples in a pan over a medium heat and add 100g sugar to sweeten the tangy taste of the cooking apples and a splash of water (or a dash of amaretto if you like the flavour). Allow to cook down (keeping some chunky bits) and allow the apples to become a little mushy. Taste the apples and add more sugar if needed. diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-4 diy-recipe-baking-harvest-pie-cooking-apple-and-blackberry-pastry-dessert-pudding-5

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Pieday Friday Recipe – Pressure cooker beef & Guinness stew

Last weekend I cooked Sunday lunch for the family. But it wasn’t just any Sunday lunch, oh no. It was the ultimate autumnal stew recipe, with the flakiest beef and the tastiest gravy you’ve ever tried. And it only took 30 minutes to cook. How? I used a pressure cooker for the first time and boy was I impressed. Of course, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can let this stew blip away in the oven or you could even load it into your slow cooker for a few hours. Either way, the flavours will be just as amazing and will be a real treat for all the family to enjoy. Here’s the recipe I used:pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-11Ingredients: 1.2kg beef, 60g plain flour, 3 crushed cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree, 2 diced red peppers, 2 diced onions, 200g sliced mushrooms, 4 sliced carrots, 2 tablespoons of fresh (or dried) thyme, 1 can of Guinness, salt and pepper, olive oil, served with mashed potato.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-3pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-2Step 1. Turn on the pressure cooker and use it as a pan to sauté the onions, peppers, garlic and mushrooms in a little olive oil until softened. Set aside.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-5pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-6Step 2. Put the flour and seasoning into a freezer bag and add the beef. Seal and shake the beef around in the bag until coated with a thin layer of flour.

Step 3. Use the pressure cooker pan to brown the beef in two batches.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-7Step 4. Add the sautéed vegetables back into the pan and stir in the tomato puree.

Step 5. Add the carrots, fresh or dried thyme and pour over a whole can of Guinness.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-8Step 6. Turn the pressure cooker onto ‘stew’ setting for 30 minutes. If you’re cooking in the oven, test the beef after an a hour and a half – it should flake apart and have no chewy fat left.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-9Step 7. Season to taste and serve with mashed potato and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.pieday-friday-guinness-beef-stew-slow-cooker-recipe-pressure-king-pro-10Let me know if you try this recipe for yourself and which method you use to cook it by leaving me a comment below. I used the Pressure King Pro cooker from Debenhams for the first time and this is a recipe from the recipe book that comes with the machine. I’m so pleased I tried it out because it took considerably less time to cook the stew than in an oven or using my slow cooker. Plus, the inner pan was big enough to cook for 6 people easily. In fact, you can see from these photos that I could have fit even more stew in that pan and it wouldn’t have been a problem. Let me know if you have any top tips or great recipes for pressure cookers that I can try. I’ve seen a YouTube video where someone cooks a whole chicken in one of these pressure cookers so I’d love to give that a go!


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Pieday Friday – Kitchen mishaps

Over the years I’ve come realise that I’m quite a clumsy person. I trip over on flat pavements and I bruise myself almost daily by bumping into things. I’m a bit of a calamity but thankfully I’ve never seriously hurt myself or anyone around me. The worrying thing is when someone with a tendency to be slightly clumsy gets into the kitchen. Expect trouble, and lots of it! And that’s what I’m blogging about today: the mishaps and mistakes I’ve made in my kitchen and the reasons why it makes sense to stay focussed when you’re baking…pans-419249_1920Grills. Many a time I have turned on a grill to ‘pre heat’ without opening the grill door, or checking whether there’s already something under there. This is how my mum’s favourite frying pan (the one she’d owned for longer than she’s had me) ended up with its wooden handle on fire. Okay, I didn’t put it in there in the first place, but I did turn on the grill without checking that it was empty. Another frying pan handle met its doom in my grill recently when I was trying to brown the top of a Spanish omelette. It was all going great, with a crispy golden cheesy layer forming nicely, until the (not heat-proof, it turns out) handle started bubbling. Oops.muffins-480513_1920Hobs. Hobs are my worst enemy. They stay hot for far too long, and I regularly get scolded on the rim of hot pans. But the main problem I have with hobs is that they are not a work surface. Let me explain. In my home (in fact, in all of my previous homes) I have a small kitchen with not much work space. I therefore tend to use the back two hobs of the oven as an extra surface, which is where my kettle etc live when they are not in use. The trouble is when I turn on the front hob to cook a dish and start to wonder why my onions aren’t sizzling away. The smell of melting plastic soon helps me to realise that I’ve turned on the back hob by mistake. And chiseling the base of a molten coffee machine off the back hob made me realise that I’m always just a couple of minutes away from disaster when I cook.kettle-653673

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Weekend treat – A vegetarian curry feast!

Today’s Pieday Friday recipe is a lovely guest post from my blogging pal Lucy. When I saw her mouth-watering curry recipes on her blog LucyLovesYa, I emailed to ask her permission to share these delicious dishes with you today. And thankfully she said yes! These vegetarian dishes are packed full of freshness and flavour – and it costs a lot less to make your own ‘takeaway’ at home than it does to go out for a meal! Lucy says add as many chillies as you like until you get the right level of hotness for you, and don’t forget to cool things down with coriander,  lemons and natural yoghurt mixed with some chopped mint. I never knew how to make an onion bhaji until I read Lucy’s recipe so I hope you’ll enjoy making some of these simple recipes at home too! Vegetarian-Curry-Onion Bhaji Ingredients: 2 large onions, 1 mug gram flour (chickpea flour), salt to taste, 1 egg, handful coriander leaves, pinch chilli powder, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon paprikaMix the ingredients together until a smooth consistency is formed. Don’t feel tempted to add water as the onions will provide a natural liquid if allowed to stand for an hour before frying. Ladle individual bhajis into a frying pan of hot oil. When they are golden brown, remove and serve with a squeeze of lemon all over and a dash of natural yoghurt.Veg-Curry-Recipe1

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Black sesame seed ice cream + free recipe ebook!

Today’s post is a fantastic original recipe by Omo and Eulanda from award-winning travel and food blog Hey Dip Your Toes In. I first met these guys at the UK Blog Awards, where they scooped the award for Best Food & Drink blog, and they have very kindly agreed to share a guest post with you today while I’m lounging around on my holiday! This ice cream recipe is like nothing I’ve ever seen before – it’s a black sesame seed ice cream, which is also gluten & (partly) dairy free. Sounds amazing doesn’t it?!black sesame seed ice creamOriginally a South East Asian recipe, Eulanda and Omo have adapted this ice cream to suit their allergy requirements, packed it full of good-for-you ingredients and have replaced sugar with a dash of honey instead. The colour of the ice cream may seem unusual to you and it looks a little bit like it might be a savoury flavour, but it’s definitely a sweet recipe. The vanilla, coconut and honey make sure of that! With summer in full swing,  it is a great time to indulge in something creamy and cool, and this recipe ticks the boxes on so many levels including taste, nutrition and presentation.  The HDYTI couple says that they had missed ice cream for so long with their pesky food allergies, but now ice cream can be back on the menu thanks to this tasty recipe.Recipe-ebook-summerThe black sesame seed recipe was originally featured in Eulanda and Omo’s Book of Yummy, which is available to download as an ebook, so be sure to check that out. Their top tip for making this recipe is “good things often come to those who are patient. Make the most of it, and start your recipe prep on a Friday night, and enjoy the fruits of your labour later on Saturday evening!”

Useful equipment: An ice cream maker is helpful but it is also possible to make this recipe without a machine, although may not achieve the familiar ‘ice cream’ texture. You will also find that a thermometer will be useful to measure temperature at some point during the process.Recipe-ebook-summer ice cream black sesame seeds and lemon

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