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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Saving money this winter – tips for home, wardrobe & cooking

If you are living on a tight budget, each season brings its own challenges and I think that winter might be one of the most difficult. During this season one of the biggest issues homeowners face is finding the money to pay for higher-than-usual power bills. We all know that it’s likely that we’ll be using more fuel and power in the winter; it’s cold, so we have to put the heating on. In addition, the fact that the days are shorter and we usually end up spending more time at home means higher electric bills too. We tend to have the lights and electronics, like the TV, on more. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the bills down, so that you don’t get a massive shock when the gas or electric bill arrives in three months time and here’s what I’ve come up with…Insulate, insulate, insulate

And I’m not just talking about in your loft. It’s draughts that zaps the heat from your home at this time of year but you can stop them today. Getting draught excluders for your doors is a really easy and cheap way to stop heat leakage. Make your own using just a towel and a fold of fabric – here’s my DIY draught excluder project  (I used an old fleece blanket to fill mine) so have a go at making one for yourself and stop that draught now! While it’s not a great idea to not open your windows at all in the winter (the stale air and condensation is a breeding ground for mould, ick!) there will be windows in some rooms that aren’t usually opened anyway. These windows can be insulated using a thin film of plastic that is specifically made to block out any draughts. These kits are widely available and extremely easy to install. In the summer you can remove the film and  you can go back to opening and closing your windows as normal.Knitted layers

Usually if you wear a jumper and a pair of cosy slippers around the house, you can get away with turning your heating down by several degrees. Doing so can save you a lot of money and on average you will save 2% for every degree lower you go. I know it’s kind of the norm to be able to just wear a t- indoors, but I think you should dress as if you’re going outside. In winter you’d usually wear more than just the one layer to go outside and if you wear the same indoors too you’ll definitely be able to turn down the heating. Knitting scarves and big chunky blankets for everyone is a fun winter project, which will soon pay for itself in the extra warmth you’ll all enjoy. Crocheted throws are great for snuggling up under while you watch a movie or play video games when the weather’s bad outside.Slow cooking Continue reading “Saving money this winter – tips for home, wardrobe & cooking” »


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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 FriYAY – Chai Latte Rice Pudding

Pudding is my favourite treat. It can be any pudding – hot cold, crumble or cake. Whatever it is, a pudding turns my dinner from ‘mmm nice’ to ‘yaaay!’ I think that’s probably because I don’t tend to have a pudding most of the time, which means that ending my dinner with a dessert is a proper treat. I’ve been away recently and it’s been a lovely indulgence to have two (okay, sometimes three) courses while I’ve been eating out. I guess I just don’t take the time to make a pudding when I’m cooking for the two of us; when the family are round for dinner they will be treated to cookie cups full of ice cream or a zesty lemon tart, but when it’s just me and my husband having tea, we tend to skip the pudding or have a piece of fruit instead.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-10But that’s all changed now that I’ve worked out how to use my slow cooker to make puddings. Now I can pop the recipe for a sweet treat into my slow cooker and it’ll do its own thing while I get on with cooking the main meal. And it’s hot and ready for me to eat whenever we’ve finished our dinner. The recipe I want to share with you today is for a rice pudding but not just any rice pud. It’s actually a chai latte rice pudding! Combining all my favourite flavours (yes, I’m one of those people believe that a chai latte is for life, not just for Christmas) it’s so simple to make and it really helps to turn any meal into a special occasion. Yes, this weekend is your time to #MakeItAYayDay, so here’s the recipe for you to try out.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-2Even though I used my slow cooker to make the rice pudding but it’s just as easy to make it on the hob too – it just takes a little more stirring! The recipe was actually inspired by Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE, as I decided to use the Skinny Iced Coffee as the milky base for my rice pudding. The drink only contains 90 calories and the recipe uses two of these creamy drinks, along with some skimmed milk. So it’s truly a healthier version of a rice pudding than cream-packed traditional recipes. I added a small amount of soft brown sugar and a knob of butter. The spiced chai flavours come from mixed-spices, cinnamon and vanilla, yum!creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-12creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte-11Ingredients (serves 4): 2 x cups of Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE Skinny Iced Coffee topped up to 1 litre with skimmed milk, 110g Arborio/risotto rice, 25g butter or margarine, 25g soft brown sugar, 1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon powder, 1 heaped teaspoon of mixed spice, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, a drizzle of double cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon to serve.creamy healthy skinny chai latte rice pudding emmi caffe latte

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Pieday Friday – Mediterranean chicken & bean stew

I wasn’t sure what to call this recipe when I rusted it up for the family earlier this week. As we tucked into our Mediterranean dish – and mopped up the tomato sauce with our homemade garlic bread – some recipe name suggestions were thrown about. We couldn’t decide if it was Spanish, Italian or something else, whether the beans made it a cassoulet, or whether the slow-cooked chicken created a casserole. Can we just call it a surprise stew? In the end, I decided to name it ‘Mediterranean chicken and bean stew’ as that seemed to sum up most of the flavours and ingredients well.mediterranean italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking slow cooker casserole-2mediterranean italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking ingredients-2The plan was to create a Mediterranean-inspired recipe and I think the lovely fresh ingredients in this dish create a rather ‘eat-al-fresco-under-the-olive-trees’ result. I’ve use chicken, tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, basil, olives, garlic and beans in this recipe so I was hoping that this combination of flavours would result in something that tasted rather Mediterranean, even if I didn’t quite know what that was when I started to cook! Thankfully, it turned out really well and after a second-helping (some of us even had thirds) we were all really rather stuffed, and very happy. A siesta seemed to be calling us…mediterranean italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking slow cooker casserole-5italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking ingredientsIngredients (serves 4): 1 cup of beans (about 300 g – I used red kidney beans, borlotti beans, black-eyed beans, green beans, leftover baked-beans and sweetcorn but you could throw in any other kinds of beans you have in the store-cupboard and even chickpeas or a handful of lentils), 8 chicken thighs, 1 red onion, 300g fresh tomatoes or one tin of chopped tomatoes, 200g button mushrooms, 2 peppers, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 cloves of garlic or 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, handful of basil or a tablespoon of mixed dried herbs, olive oil, 1 litre chicken stock, salt and pepper.mediterranean italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking casserolemediterranean italian chicken and bean stew recipe cooking flavours-2 Continue reading “Pieday Friday – Mediterranean chicken & bean stew” »


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Pieday Friday – Slow-cooked beefy pie for USA’s National Pie Day

It was National Pie Day on Wednesday this week! Unfortunately, it was the American National Pie Day, but I didn’t let that stop me making this yummy meaty pie for our dinner to celebrate (do I ever really need an excuse to bake a pie?!)

pieday friday beef stewy beefy meat pot pie recipe cooking

The meat in this pie is super-tender and flakes apart on your fork, and this is due to the slow-cooking process of the filling. You can’t usually get such a well-cooked meat in a normal pie, because the pastry crust usually cooks in half an hour and the filling needs a lot longer, so I start this one off on the hob then transfer to the oven like a stew, or you could put it in a slow-cooker in the morning and it’ll be perfect to add to  a pie-case when you want your dinner. Or maybe make double-portions of a beef stew the day before, saving half for a pie on the second day. Either way, it’ll ensure the flavours are beautifully combined and the beef is lovely and tender. I used beef fillet, but because you are slow-cooking the filling, you can use any stewing  cuts of beef you like.

pieday friday beef stew pie for usa national pie day

Ingredients: shortcrust pastry, 300g diced beef, 1 large chopped red onion, 2 large diced potatoes, 4 sliced carrots, 1/2 diced swede, 2 sliced parsnips, 1 & 1/2 pints beef stock, 1 glass red wine, 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 teaspoons tomato puree, 1 tablespoon mixed herbs, salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Season your tablespoons of flour and toss your beef chunks in it before browning in the casserole pan with a little olive oil. Add the onion and brown for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables. Stir in the tomato puree and mixed herds before adding the beef stock and red wine to cover the veg and put it in the oven to simmer until the veg is soft and the beef is well stewed and flaky. Add to a pie dish and cover with a shortcrust pastry lid, brush with a little milk and put back into the oven to cook until the pastry is golden brown.

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