Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Banana Muffins


I couldn't resist buying yet another cookbook a few weeks ago, it is called Baking with Tiny Tots and is full of easy fun recipes you can make with children. I had a few very ripe bananas so DD#3 and I set off to make some banana muffins.
I rarely make muffins, fairy cakes now and again, but although we like muffins, especially the ones you buy at Costco, they are not something I would make very often. I have to say that this recipe will certainly be made again. The first thing I liked was that it was only for 6 muffins, ideal to give us all one each and still leave one to argue over. Honey was used instead of lots of sugar and only a small amount of butter. These muffins were moist and delicious, we had chocolate butter cream on ours as I had no caramel sauce, but next time I would probably make a cheese frosting to top these lovely muffins.

Here is the recipe

Makes 6

25g 1oz butter
2 tbs runny honey
2 tbs milk
2 large very ripe bananas
150g 5 oz self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

icing

175g 6 oz icing sugar
1 teaspoon caramel sauce
2-3 tbs preboiled warm water
dried banana chips to decorate


Pre heat oven to gas 4 180oC (350oF) and put paper cases in muffin pan.

Put butter, milk and honey in a small pan and place over a low heat till melted.

Mash the bananas in a bowl using a fork, sift flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.

Pour the melted mixture into the bananas and mix well, tip into the flour and mix together with a wooden spoon. Remember lumps are good in a muffin mix, so just a couple of stirs or they will be tough and flat.

Quickly spoon the mix into the cases making each about 2/3 full, bake for 20-25 minutes till risen and golden.

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.

While they are cooling make the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl, add the caramel sauce and enough water to make a thick, but spoonable icing. Spoon over the muffins when cool and decorate with a banana chip.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Healthy Eating


I suppose most people at some point in their life watch what they eat. Some do it without thinking while others have to really work at it.
I have always tried to have healthyish food at home and now more than ever as I get nearer to the big 40 - a couple of years away, but getting closer all the same, I really want to eat the best quality food that I can.
When you open up a recipe book and actually start making things from scratch, especially baking it gives you a greater understanding of what is in the food you eat. If you go to the shops and buy brownies for example you may eat the lot over a couple of days, but if you made them yourself you would see what was in them, be able to control the quality of the ingredients and eat a little less of them as they will be infinitely better.
It is often easier to adjust a savoury dish as they are not so dependent on ratios of ingredients, use a low fat spray instead of oil, cut out the butter, oven bake and grill instead of frying. Often it is simple changes that we make over time that can have the biggest impact on our health.
When you are told not to eat something, it then often becomes the one thing that you crave above all, moderation is good and resisting the temptation to eat the whole tube of pringles at one sitting is always the best option.

I caught an episode of the barefoot contessa the other day and she made a dip that looked perfect for tweaking.
All I did was omit the olive oil and used low fat spray instead, make sure you use plenty of seasoning - a little cayenne works well in this dish. This also benefits from being made the day before you want to eat it. I am going to have some stirred into cooked pasta for tea.

Friday, 3 October 2008

If you always do what you've always done........

....You'll always get what you've always got.


I had never heard this before, and sometimes the simplest things jump out and speak to you when you are least expecting it.
I was sitting watching an episode of NCIS a few weeks ago with DD#2, if I am honest I really like Mark Harmon, and have done so since I was a young girl and he was in St Elsewhere, but enough of that, one of the cast said this phrase and it hit me hard, why? I don't know, but the more I thought about it's simplicity, the more understanding I had about the enormity of how much I could change by doing thing differently.
I suppose it is easy to get stuck in a rut with the same old routines and habits, but they say a change is as good as a rest, and I really need one of those so I will have to think about how I can do some things a little differently.

I was lucky enough to go to Edinburgh Zoo with the school yesterday to learn more about the Indian festival Dussherra, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
I had the job of photographer and got this great shot of a penguin. So no food pictures today, but some animals from the zoo.





Monday, 25 August 2008

Yorkshire Pudding

Years ago when I moved to England I had my first proper yorkshire pudding, it was delicious, especially with some lovely gravy. On Sundays, we would all descend on the ministers house for Sunday dinner, young, old and needy people were all welcomed into their home where we all mucked in to create a feast of food, but most importantly we created a family environment for those who had none.
One of the ladies made fantastic yorkie puds, and they always turned out beautifully. Her cooks treat was one that had been left over drizzled with golden syrup and some cream - how many calories in that? I don't want to think about it!

I was often invited to other peoples houses for tea, and one family had me over and made yorkies for the meal, but they were flat, pale and stodgy. I then thought, hang on maybe these aren't so easy to cook after all. From then I was wary of ever making them, there seems to be two camps on theses delicious puddings, those who say there is nothing to it and those who think there is some mystery to them.

I recently got Nigella Lawson's book How to eat from the library and followed her recipe, well attempt one amazed me and was absolutely delicious, attempt two was almost as good, but would have been better if I had a big enough metal dish to cook them in. Her theory is to mix the eggs and milk well together with the salt and pepper then set that aside for 15 mins before adding the flour, I will not argue with her as it worked for me, now I just need to pluck up the courage to cook some roast beef, something I have never done.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Greens in the Garden



I have tried this year to grow a few things in my back garden. Last year I did some peas and spring onions, but this year I did a few more.
The weather has been against me and most vegetable growers this year in my neck of the woods with low sun levels combined with high levels of rainfall.


I have been waiting patiently for my corn to grow and have at last seen the silks peeking out beside the leaves of the developing cob.
















My other success was my dwarf french beans which I have had a few lovely pickings from.






I lost my spring onions this year, but have been rewarded with a few potatoes, peas, onions, lots of lettuce and a few large and still developing purple sprouting broccoli plants.









All in all if the weather had been better I would have had more of everything, but I have been pleased with the produce I have grown. There is nothing better than something taken straight from the garden,

Friday, 22 August 2008

Back to Work

It is hard to believe my summer break is over. The six week holiday is normally the time I try to get on top of all the things I am too busy to fit in during the rest of the year, but this year with a combination of miserable weather and feeling unwell these had to go on the back burner.
We have had a lot of changes at work over the past year and we welcomed new members of staff onto the team. It made me think about how it feel to be the new person on the block, and how nervous you can be on that first day.
My first proper job after leaving college was as a Nanny. It is something I had always wanted to do from a very young age, why I don't really know, but I knew that I wanted to move away and be a Nanny. I joined an agency and was promptly given 3 interviews in the North West of England. I had chosen that area as I had family there I could visit on my weekends off so I didn't feel completely lost. Luckily I was successful in all the interviews and was able to choose the one I felt most comfortable with. A couple of months later I had to pack up my things and head off for pastures new to start my job as a Nanny to Edward. I don't remember feeling nervous, more excited to be doing such a grown up thing. I loved my job and my employer was a wonderful lady bringing him up on her own and she welcomed me into her home.
How different I was as an adult staring a new job, worrying, nervous, lack of confidence and feeling like a fish out of water, those feelings pass quickly and I hope I made the new people at work enjoy their first week, just like the members of staff who welcomed me 8 years ago when I was the new girl.
I made a lovely cake last week, it was a Honey, Lemon and Yoghurt sponge, and it was delicious served with a wee smidge of low fat yoghurt, a drizzle of heather honey and some fresh raspberries.



Honey, Lemon and Yoghurt cake

for the cake
6oz plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
6oz butter or margarine
6 oz caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
4 level tbsp natural yoghurt
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tsp honey

for the topping

1 lemon, juice and zest
2 oz caster sugar

Grease and line a 8" round cake tin and pre-heat oven to gas 4, 180oC

Cream butter and sugar, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl till pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, you can add a little flour to stop it curdling if you want to.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, followed by the yoghurt and honey, folding it all together with a metal spoon as quickly as you can without over beating the mixture.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake on a low shelf in the oven for about 1 hour.

Make the topping when the cake is still warm by mixing the juice and zest of the lemon with the sugar in a small pan and heating till the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a clear syrup. Pour evenly over the cake and dust with sifted icing sugar. Delicious while still warm or left to cool.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Swiss Roll


It was my Mum and Dad's wedding anniversary yesterday and I did not know what to get them. I always think something home made is more thoughtful thank something bought and I knew I did not have enough butter to make a victoria sponge. What should I do?
In the book I mentioned in a previous post there was a lovely recipe for swiss roll, so having all that was needed to make it, the decision was made.

There is a really good recipe here for swiss roll with good instructions, it really is worth setting a timer when you are beating the eggs and sugar together as it makes all the difference to the finished cake.

I just had to sample a teeny weeny bit when trimming the ends and it was delicious.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Making Food Last and Lovely Bread

I wrote in my previous post about wasting food and decided that for the following week I was going to see how well I could do with minimal effort and planning.
I am finally feeling better after over 4 weeks of misery, all I have been left with is blocked sinuses which I can cope with. Thanks to everyone who commented. It was really appreciated.
Anyway we have a very limited budget for food in my house, as will many people out there so I searched out some meals I could make using things I had in the house. So far we have had meatballs stretched out to 2 meals with pasta and fresh bread, with enough left to top a pizza today. These fantastic chicken breasts did 2 meals for 2, as well as 2 wraps for lunch, not bad considering I only used 2 large fillets. The rice I cooked the other day made a quick fried rice dish for 2 last night. My DD#2 was impressed and interested in how you can make extra food into another meal.

I often find that it is too easy to go to the shops and buy out of habit rather than need. I am not at work today as there is industrial action within the union, so I am going to have a good look in my cupboard to see what else I have lurking in the back that needs to be used up. I know there are some green lentils hiding there so if anyone has a good recipe they can suggest, please let me know.





Here is the link to the bread I made at the weekend. We liked it so much I made it again with a different topping the next day. It was a lovely dough to work with and could have any topping you fancied on it. We had caramelised onion and parmesan, then roasted red pepper and mozarella. Will be a regular side to pasta now and the girls could make it too, it was that easy.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Wasting Food

There is so much in the media just now about all the food that is wasted in households each week, especially here in the UK. I know that in my house with 3 growing children to feed, it can be a challenge to keep everyone satisfied on my limited budget.
My Dad visited me the other day and I was telling him about a new book I had just ordered from Amazon, I had read about it on a forum that I sometimes pop into and the title caught my attention straight away. How often have you bought a book, only to find you need to buy special ingredients that you will never use again, or equipment that you can't afford or don't have the storage space to keep.

Some people will not find a book like this useful, but so many young people can be overwhelmed with the thought of cooking and planning meals and then end up spending ridiculous amounts of money on ready meals or take away food.
I hope that by cooking as many meals from scratch that I can will inspire my children to try new foods and understand that the food we make at home is miles better than anything from a packet.

I really fancied a roast dinner the other night and made chicken, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, and 5 different veg, fresh gravy and yorkshire pudding. It was delicious, simple and yielded enough leftovers for another meal. Making it a very inexpensive meal over all.

The book includes some weekly meal plans for Monday to Friday including the shopping list. Each week uses leftovers to create another meal. Simple I know, something many of us do without thinking, but in todays cash strapped climate it is important to help those who find this difficult to achieve. I won't be making all the recipes in the book, but have already seen some lovely things that the children would enjoy, that don't need lots of fancy ingredients or snazzy equipment.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Fun at the Fringe last Friday


On Friday I took the train to Edinburgh with dd#3 to meet her big sisters at Waverley. The journey is such a beautiful coastal one with views of some lovely beaches as the train glides right alongside them. We do have a quicker service, but I do love travelling on the coastal route. I only had my mobile phone and managed to grab a couple of shots of the Forth.


After a prolonged coughing fit I am sure the poor lady who sat next to me regretted it, she probably thought I had TB or something equally ghastly.


When we arrived at the station the girls train was running late so we had a walk along Princes Street Gardens to see if there were any performances going on.

Edinburgh is such a fantastic place during the Fringe and you get the chance to see some amazing and beautiful things from around the globe.

We managed to get a good view of a street magician from California who entertained the crowds with his act, while some other acrobats from down under had a large group across from us captivated.



Sadly we ran out of time and had to head back to the station, only to be stopped by the most beautifully dressed girls from Thailand handing out some flyers for their show. Sadly I was too slow to get a picture, but the girls were stunning in their costumes and make up.

I managed to grab a picture of the Scott monument on the way past before we decended back into the hustle and bustle of the station for some serous people watching.


I ended up going to the emergency doctors that night as my breathing had gotten worse and the cough would not subside, thanks to my allergies I can't take too many meds. The doctor was great and has given me a course of steroids to take for 5 days and if I am still not well its back to the GP to arrange x-rays. I hope it is better by then as it is wearing me down now.
Hence the lack of cooking posts!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Under the Weather

Often when we Brits get ill, we say we are feeling a bit under the weather. I have not really been feeling well for a few weeks and have no desire to cook anything new or fancy, but after 2 trips to the doctor, one of which left me feeling worse as he told me he thought my aches and pains were due to my psychological well being, the other after a week of coughing and spluttering convinced him it was maybe more than he thought. As I am one of the unfortunate souls allergic to the major groups of anti-biotics he gave me a different one to try. I always see these as a last resort, but as the symptoms were not for easing even though I doused myself in good old vapour rub, sucked on the cough sweets and kept my fluids up I thought I had nothing to loose.
This is my 5th day on the tablest and my 3rd week of misery and I still feel terrible! Oh joy, half of my holiday has been spent peching and coughing, but on the bright side at least I have not had to take some time off work.

I did have a couple of lovely days where I ventured out into the brief, yes you could count the hours of summer here rather than the days, good weather to see a friend get married and attend the wedding of my OH's brother.


Both brides were stunning and the weddings beautiful in their own way. One bride was the most relaxed I had ever seen and had a fantastic day, the other was 37 minutes late and poor thing was so nervous she nearly did not manage to say her vows. It was not until her hubby to be took her hand, looked her in the eye and said something quietly to her that she took a deep breath and spoke out her love and commitment to her new husband. The setting for the family wedding was a beautiful castle set in lovely grounds with a lake and woodland.

I was lucky enough to catch up with an old friend from school who was there to do the wedding video and we managed to spend time chatting about our families.

As money is always tight in my house and I really could not face shopping, the only meal of note I made this week was out of desperation, and sometimes those meals can be the most satisfying.

Sausage and Tomato Pasta

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 pork sausages, cut into chunks ( they were all I had)
2 slices smoked bacon, chopped (all that was left in the packet)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tsp italian herbs
Seasoning to taste
cooked pasta of your choice, I used fusili

Soften onion in the oil till translucent and add garilc, cooking gently, add sausage and bacon and turn up the heat till they are coloured. Add tomatoes, herbs, puree and seasoning and pop a lid on ane leave to cook for at least 30 minutes on a low heat.
Cook your pasta in boiling salted water then drain and mix into the tomato and sausage sauce.
Delicious served with garlic bread and plenty of fresh parmesan.

Sorry no pictures as I was starving ;-)

Monday, 4 August 2008

An Award - Thanks Raquel


A good few weeks ago Raquel over at Kitchen Mysteries gave me the Arte Y Pico award. I have not had much time to accept it as I have been a bit under the weather lately, hence the lack of posts.

The award has some rules so here they are

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I always find it hard to pick as there are so many interesting blogs out there but here goes.

Karen at Do better

Melody at My Sweet and Saucy

Wendy at A Wee Bit Of Cooking

Julia at A Slice Of Cherry Pie

Em The Repressed Pastry Chef

All of these ladies have great blogs and a passion for good food so have a look at them while you are here.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Quick Chilli


I was never much of a fan of chilli when I was younger, it is probably due to the beans or the horrid packet mixes that were available years ago. I have made my own chilli several times over the years and have had success with most of them, unless I was too heavy with the chilli peppers!
Sometimes I have used minced beef, others used diced steak and each was delicious in it's own way.
My eldest children are away on holiday to Turkey and I had a notion for chilli yesterday, but as I was pushed for time I decided to go down the express way with Nigella's quick chilli. I don't add beans as my OH and DD#3 are not keen, but this is a quick and satisfying dish that can be put together with minimal effort.


150g chorizo sausage - I could only get the sliced one and it was fine.
500g minced beef
500g jar of chunky vegetable pasta sauce - I used onion and garlic instead.
390g can of mixed spicy beans
60 ml sweet chilli sauce - I could only get sharwoods dipping sauce
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes ** only used these as I did not add the spicy beans**

In a heavy based pan heat the chorizo till it starts to crisp and release it's oil.
Add the mince and brown, breaking up so there are no large clumps.
Add spices, chilli sauce and pasta sauce, bring to the boil and lower to a simmer for around 20 minutes.
Can be served with a nice dollop of soured cream and freshly chopped coriander if you like.
I like to make fresh tortillas when I have a bit more time.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Tagged

I have been tagged twice recently by two lovely ladies I have met through the site Recipezaar.

Raquel over at Kitchen Mysteries and Julie of Tulips Kitchen have both tagged me with the 6 random things about me tag.

Here goes the tag:

1. I love working with children and from a young age (around 8 or 9) I decided I wanted to be a nursery nurse when I was older. I did it and was a nanny too. I still work with children today.

2. I sang in a choir for charity in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Caird Hall, Dundee 2 years running. This was a Christmas concert to raise funds for a children's cancer charity. It was lovely to learn all the parts, including the descants to some traditional carols. I have not done this for a long time, but am hoping to do it again this year.

3. I have been gradually going grey since I was younger, but recently I decided to embrace the grey and stop colouring my hair. It took just over a year, and much to my DD's dismay her Mum has grey hair at the front.

4. I love crafting, but don't get the time to do much at the moment.

5. I have 3 cats - Kandy, Suki and Scratchy - Itchy went walkabout, never to return!

6. I am the worlds worst clothes shopper. I hate shopping and will walk around admiring things but never buy them.

What you do now:
Write 6 Random things about yourself.
Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on the blog.
Tag six people at the end of your post and let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know when your entry is done.


Who to tag is the hard one if you are reading this and want to have a go feel free. Most of the people I would tag have been done and I know some people aren't keen on them so take the offer if you want to.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Meatballs

When I was a child I hated meatballs, Yuk, just the thought of what I was given brings back the taste and smell of those horrible tinned things, I am sitting here wrinkling my nose at the thought!
I was never given tinned food very often thankfully, as my Mum is a great cook and baker.
Years ago a good friend of mine would come for tea and we took it in turns to cook, he was an artist with a keen interest in cooking and had just been assisting Nick Nairn on his first or second tv show doing the prep. He made me spaghetti and meatballs, wow, I realised that I did not hate meatballs after all.
I never had them much after that as I thought it was a lot of guddling about to make them, but over the years I have either got it down to a fine art or I am just a more confident cook.
I made some yesterday and have learned through time that it is always best to make double the amount that I need. There was a whole new world of things to do with meatballs ahead of me!

I don't follow a recipe as such, but have picked the things I liked from a range of good recipes.




Tomato Sauce


1 onion finely chopped and softened in olive oil, add 3 tins of chopped tomatoes,( I fill each tin to a 1/4 with water and swirl to clean out all the juice) a generous squirt of tomato puree, some herbs - Italian blend, or a mix that you like, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar and once the sauce and meatballs are cooked a dash of balsamic vinegar. This must be cooked for at least an hour, bubbling away at the back of the cooker. If you have a parmesan rind lurking in your fridge, chuck that in too as it adds a wonderful flavour to the sauce - don't forget to take it out before serving.

Meatballs

In a bowl I put some garlic powder, dried oregano, thyme, basil and parsley. Salt, pepper and parmesan. I used just minced beef this time, but sometimes I use half beef half pork. One recipe I used years ago - and lost, used a slice of bread soaked in milk in the meatball mix. Just squeeze out most of the milk before adding it to the meat and herbs and mix well with your hands.

Form into meatballs - I like wee ones just now, but go with whatever you like and brown them in batches in a heavy pan with olive oil. Add to the bubbling tomato sauce and leave for as long as you can resist.
They will taste even better the next day if you can leave them that long!

Today we will be having either subs or pizza with the leftovers.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Moonblush Tomatoes


I love tomatoes, ever since I was a child and was given the task of nipping out the side shoots on our plants in the greenhouse, although I was not keen on the smell left on my hand I knew that soon I would be rewarded with a juicy, ripe red tomato sprinkled with a little salt, Oh the delight when you tasted the sweet flesh of a tomato just taken from the vine.
Sometimes when we travelled to see relatives my Dad would drive through Lanark, where they grew wonderful tomatoes and we would get a brown paper bag full of them to take with us, some would be eaten and the rest would be given to my Aunt.
Now the supermarkets are laden with many different types of tomato, but few taste as good as home grown, even the ones classed as vine ripened are sometimes tasteless. We have a good greengrocer in a town nearby and when I was outside the shop last week they had the most wonderful selection of tomatoes outside, they had orange, beef, plum, cherry ,cherry plum and juicy fat Scottish ones. I bought some scotch and orange and was not disappointed. The beef ones were the most unusual shape, all grooved and bumpy, not perfect, thank goodness the EU have not spotted them or they would be relegated to a tin somewhere.
I used the vine cherry tomatoes I got at the market to make these moonblush tomatoes from Nigella Express. The name itself is beautiful and the recipe, well instructions are simplicity itself.




>
Moonblush Tomatoes



500g or 24 on the vine cherry tomatoes
1 tsp salt or 2 tsp maldon salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbs olive oil


Heat oven to highest setting for at least 20 minutes.
Slice the tomatoes in half and place cut side up in an oven proof dish.
sprinkle evenly with salt, sugar, herbs and oil.
Place in oven and immediately turn the oven off.
Leave for at least 12 hours, Or overnight - hence the name moonblush.
Simple, tasty tomatoes for you to use in salads, sauces pizza, or whatever you fancy.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Market Stall Bargains

When I lived in the north west of England there was a market on somewhere each day of the week. I loved it and with 2 young children to feed on benefits I had to make the most of the little we had and markets were great for getting fruit and veg at a low price.

Where I live now there was no such thing as a market till a few years ago when a nearby town held one each Thursday. There were loads of stalls with everything you could imagine, but sadly over the years the stalls have dwindled to around 20.

I don't often get the chance to go, but when I am off work I like to get some bargains and today was no exception.






I spent £7 at a fruit and veg stall and got 7lb of steak mince for £10 ( which I vacuum packed and stuck in the freezer).




As I am trying to have a healthy diet I made a curry using some mushrooms, potatoes, spinach and fresh tomato. My base was slow cooked onions, garlic and ginger, cooked in a small amount of stock - as per slimming world hints and tips!
I added some tomato puree, spices and a tin of tomatoes along with the veg - not the fresh toms and spinach as they would be added nearer the end.
I like the swiss boullion stock and added some to the pan, but as it is a bit salty I did not add any more salt. I left it bubbling away till the potatoes were tender, popped in the spinach and tomato and left for a few minutes.



I made a couple of roti to go with it thanks to you tube!

Although this was a bit of an experiment it was ok, and there is some left for tomorrows lunch. As you get to know ingredients it lets you be a bit more adventurous, so never feel bound by the constraints of a recipe, after all it's not written in stone.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Planned or unplanned the food was still good!

Money is tight for most people at the moment with the credit crunch, Gordon Brown telling us we waste too much food - some people are moaning about it, but he is not saying something that isn't true. (I am not politically minded and think whoever we have a PM will make decisions we do not like.)

I, like most people who work in low-medium paid jobs, have always had to be creative with my finances. One thing I suppose had been good about that is the ability to make a meal out of anything when needs must. I always look for bargains, but one area I could do with improving is the planning of meals for the week. I am off work now for the summer (unpaid) so this is going to be my task - to get in the habit of planning as many of the family meals as possible.


Sorry for the poor quality picture, but DD#2 was famished and was fed up with Mum taking pictures of her tea.



Saying that, yesterday when I went to the local express supermarket, they had some lean minced beef going cheap and instead of making the usual meatballs. burgers, or bolognese, I added some herbs and spices to the beef: onion powder, garlic powder, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, thyme, oregano and a finely chopped fresh red chilli.

I mushed it about for a bit and wrapped it onto some skewers, chilled them and then popped them under the grill.

I had some salad leaves from the garden, a couple of lovely tomatoes and a dip made with v.low fat creme freche with finely chopped pineapple mint, it was delicious, but as I never measured anything will probably never taste the same again.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Lifestyle Choices

We hear so much in the media today about what to eat, what not to eat, how much exercise we need to take weekly, the best way to do things how to save money and more often than not we are bombarded with adverts for things to spend our hard earned money on.

I have always lived a simple life, and I have always tried my best to make the most of the things I have. My parents brought me up to look after and treasure things that are important to me and not just to throw something out because it may not be the "in " thing anymore.

I have been trying to make some healthier life choices this year and have lost over 30lbs and have been trying to fit some regular exercise into my life. I still have a long way to go, but it will be worth it. I like to follow (well, most of the time!)the slimming world eating plan. So hopefully all the food pictures will be from tasty things I have made from the plan. This is one I made a while ago and it was really tasty, you would never know you were on a health kick.






Slimming world Green Day Cannelloni

225 g spinach
150 g pot Quark
150 g pot low fat cottage cheese
3 garlic cloves
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 egg yolk
salt
pepper
12 cannelloni tubes
500 g passata
1 tablespoon artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 200c/400f/Gas6.

Blanch spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and place in a bowl.

Mix together the quark and cottage cheese.

Crush 1 clove of garlic and stir into the mixture with the lemon zest 1/2 the basil, the parsley and the egg yolk. Add the mixture to the spinach, season to taste and combine. Spoon mixture into tubes and place in an oven-proof dish.

Crush the remaining garlic and mix with the passata, sweetener and remaining herbs. Season to taste. Pour over the pasta, sprinkle with the parmesan and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve with a salad.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Tagged!

I have been tagged by the lovely Raquel over at Kitchen Mysteries.

There are some rules that apply:
Each participant answers questions about himself. At the end of the post the participant tags 5 people. Their names are posted letting them know they’ve been tagged. They then have to read the participant’s blog. The tagged let’s the tagger know when he’s posted his answers.

So here goes:

What was I doing 10 years ago ?

I was still getting used to a new baby as my DD#3 had been born 5 weeks beforehand. 

5 Things on my to do list today.

1. Make a pizza with the leftover Nigella Express Chilli I made yesterday.

2. Sort through a mountain of clothes in my bedroom and try to be ruthless about what needs thrown out!

3. Look out my DD#3 hospital appointment form for this week.

4. Feed the vegetables in the garden

5. Write some letters for the Scouts as I am now the local groups secretary.

 

5 Snacks I enjoy.

1. I love toast, buttered, marmalade, cheese, honey, jam, ham and pickle, I LOVE TOAST!

2. A cheddar cheese and homemade raspberry jam sandwich. Don't knock it till you have tried it, it is one of my Dad's favourites as well.

3.  I can quite happily munch through sour cream and chive pringles if I am left alone with them.

4. A nice bar of milk chocolate and a glass of cold milk.

5. Leftover cold curry!

 

5 Things I would  do if I was a Millionaire.

1. Clear any debt within my own and my OH's immediate families.

2. Go on a worldwide holiday to see all the places I have visited in my dreams.

3. I would buy a remote house for us to live in where I could have my goats and chickens and a vegetable patch.

4. I would put money aside for the girl's future.

5.  Set up a trust for children in Primary school who are disadvantaged.

 

5 Places I have lived.

1. I grew up in a small paper making town in Fife, my parents have been in the same house for over 40 years.

2. Rochdale, Lancashire when I was a Nanny.

3. Middleton, Manchester where I lived when I was first married and had DD#1&2.

4. Glenrothes, Fife. I came home to Fife and my family when my marriage broke down.

5. Still in Fife, but in a small ex-mining village where my OH grew up and which I have grown to love.

5 Jobs I have had.

1. I was a Saturday girl in a local bakers when I was a teenager. I loved that job and the experiences it gave me.

2. I was a sole charge live-in Nanny for a little boy. After qualifying as a nursery nurse I left home to move to England for that job. He will be 20 now.

3. I worked as a customer service representative at Sky at weekends.

4. As receptionist/PA in a home improvements company. This is where I met my OH.

5. Currently as a Pupil Support Assistant in a school and it is the job I have enjoyed the most.

 

Ok so who should I tag?

Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking

Karen at Do Better

Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie

Cowie and Browners at Around Britain With A Paunch

Jules at Domestic Goddess in Training

You are all it!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Fathers Day

Yesterday was Fathers day and I was stuck as to what to get for my Dad. My youngest daughter said "Why don't you get him that thing you got a lady to make ages ago in that shop where she had lots of good food!"

Mmmmm, I started thinking and, although children have this knack of composing looooong sentences, she had managed to get enough information in it to remind me of what she meant.

Ages ago in Anstruther there was this fabulous little shop on the waterfront that sold amazing home made food. It turns out the lady was a farmers wife and had started her own cooking business. She had a selection of wonderful soups, mains and puddings, vegetarian fayre, fresh or frozen but all home made and additive free.

One day when we were in the shop I spotted a treat in the corner, now this treat has many variations according to region and family recipes, but this one looked good. What was it? It was a clootie dumpling.

My Dad loves dumpling and sadly not so many people make them nowadays. When he was young the dumpling would have been huge and lasted for several days in a variety of dishes, as a cake, served with custard or best of all fried and served with bacon and eggs.

So yesterday I made my first dumpling, lovingly prepared and cooked for hours before drying in the oven. I used the recipe from the link above and was pleased with the result, especially as I had managed to get a nice skin to form around the dumpling. I did not have a cloot, so according to tradition I used a clean cotton pillowcase, but it was not just any pillowcase I used one that had been my Grannys. I am sure that made all the difference!

Heres a picture of a slice.

 

PICT0110

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Past times

 

I had the pleasure of another school trip yesterday. We went back to Dunfermline but visited  2 places I have always intended on going to but just never had found the time. We took  the train as it is only a few stops away from school and the children were fantastic.

First stop was abbot house where we had the most wonderful guide to take us round, but the first and most exciting thing for the children was getting to dress up. We had a King and Queen, a soldier, various street sellers, pennant holders and some monks.

We then took a tour of the house, abbey and graveyard. It was wonderful and the guide had some wonderful stories to tell, he really gave you a feel for how it would have been to live in Dunfermline in the time of St Margaret.PICT0025                                                                                              

At the top of the abbey you can see the words King Robert The Bruce around the tower, the stonework is beautiful, and some of the letters have been recently restored.

The children had a procession back to the house chanting

   "Make way for the King and Queen"

The actual house is like a tardis and there are 14 rooms for you to explore. It was while in the room where a whole family would have lived that the children were told how cramped conditions were.

The next stop was the Glen for a quick picnic then off to see Andrew Carnegie's birthplace.

The cottage is beautiful and the children got a flavour of how life would have been when he was a young boy living in Dunfermline.

PICT0072 PICT0084 Life would have been hard, but I am sure people were happier. When you see how much we waste today, and how many things we have that we don't really need, it makes you think that sometimes we should look to the past if we want to protect our future.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Tough Love and Rum Truffles

I have been really busy at home and work lately, and of course living in the UK I have tried to catch some of the good weather we have been having, as you never know how long it will last.

Teenagers are funny creatures, they want so much to be grown up and have their "freedom", but they are not ready for the responsibility that comes with adulthood.

My eldest has left school and I am actively encouraging her to seek some employment, or go to college. To my horror she is showing no interest. I know how hard it is for her and I think she feels that she will wait till after her holiday with her Grandparents, but try telling a moody 16 yr old that all the jobs will have gone to uni students by the time she gets back!
I have now had to resort to tough love - something I used to find hard to understand, but now as a parent I know it is sometimes essential.

Mum, have you got 50p for the shop.....NO
Can you get me this at the shop.....NO

We are trying so hard to help her understand that everything we have has cost money, the time she spends on the computer = electricity and internet subscription.
watching the TV = electricity, TV License and Sky subscription.

I know that one day the penny will drop, but until then I will keep chipping away with my fingers crossed. Hoping that she will do something worthwhile with her time.

I made these truffles last week and they were delicious, next time I make them I will coat them with white or milk chocolate for an extra treat.













Rum Truffles

4 egg yolks
8 oz cooking chocolate
4 oz unsalted butter
6 oz icing sugar
2 dessertspoonfuls rum

Cream butter and sugar

Beat in egg yolks

Melt Chocolate

Mix all ingredients together (chocolate last as it sets quickly)

Cool in fridge then roll into balls, coat with cocoa or vermicelli if desired.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A Glorious Day at the Glen






The school where I work were given the opportunity to see a play called The Song from the Sea at the Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline this week. As the hire cost of transport often makes these Free days out unachievable, the Headteacher thought we might as well make a day of it, so off we went to Dunfermline Glen to play at the park and have a picnic before walking along to the theatre to see the show.


The views were stunning, you could see the Forth bridges in the distance, there is also a museum, greenhouses and hundreds of squirrels who love being fed around the gardens.While walking to the bottom we got a lovely view of the Abbey.

We were blessed with glorious weather and staff and children had a good day out.
The first local strawberries have appeared in the shops and have so much more flavour than all the imported and forced ones. I had seen a recipe for Pavlova in a book I have and what better combination than meringue, cream and juicy ripe strawberries.





Pavlova

Serves 8

4 egg whites
8 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp cornflour
15 floz double or whipping cream
Fresh fruit


Pre-heat oven to gas mark 2 150oC.

Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl or mixer till stiff, keep whisking while adding the sugar a tbsp at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy and all the sugar is used up.

*handy hint* rub a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger, if there are no gritty bits, it’s ready, if not continue mixing for a few more minutes.

Fold in the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and spoon into a circle on a piece of silicone paper which is already on a baking tray. Make a slight well in the centre with the edges slightly higher.

Cook for 1 hour, then cool slightly before peeling from the paper and carefully placing on a serving plate.

*handy hint* you can brush the well with melted chocolate and let it set
to keep the base crisp when it is filled.

Fill with whipped cream and fresh fruit

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Things I Take for Granted About The Country I Call Home

I love where I live, I have many happy memories of growing up in Scotland. I have always had a desire to travel and see the world, but as yet I have not ventured far from home. As I was driving to Dundee the other day, I was thinking about how beautiful  the scenery was and the children were commenting on the lovely farmhouses and lush green fields around us. It made me think about the reasons I love my home turf.

1. The hills, no they are not alive with the sound of music, but they sure are stunning, from small hills in the lowlands to huge ranges in the highlands hills often dominate the skyline. I never appreciated that till I flew to Lincoln a few years ago to stay with my brother and saw how flat everything was. I knew I was near home on the flight when the landscape changed again.

2. Being near the sea, in Fife we are blessed with a large coastal area and you are never really more than 30 minutes from the sea. You can take your pick from rocky shores bursting with pools hiding sea creatures to long sandy stretches in St Andrews which are great for kite flying. If you are lucky you may get a couple of curious seals following you. When I lived in the north west of England the sea was one of the things I missed the most.

3. The language we use, although all areas of the UK have local variants and dialect it is not till you have left that you realise that people sometimes don't have a clue what you are on about. I love these Scottish children's  books, they are a joy to read.

These are just some of the things I love, but often take for granted. This year I plan on exploring more of my home ground to help the girls find the love I have of the country I call home. What about you?

Here is a tasty sweet treat you will find in many bakers across Scotland

 

Fruit Slice aka Flea Cemetery

Ingredients

For the pastry
750g plain Flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch Salt
225g margarine or Butter
250g Butter, (at room temperature), plus extra for greasing
250g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, beaten

For the filling
550g currants
1 heaped tsp ground Mixed spice
4 heaped tsp granulated sugar
2 heaped tsp custard powder, mixed with a little cold water to make a thick, smooth paste

Method
1. For the pastry: sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub the margarine and butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, then add the beaten egg, mixing until the ingredients bind together to make a soft dough. Knead the dough until it is smooth, then pop it in a polythene food bag and leave it to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

2. For the filling: put the currants, mixed spice and sugar in a large pan and add enough cold water to just cover the fruit and no more. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for no more than 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Gradually add the custard paste, stirring until the fruit mixture has thickened slightly - bear in mind that it will thicken even more when cold.

3. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. Grease a 30 x 18cm Swiss roll tin and line it with non-stick baking paper. To assemble the fruit slab, divide the pastry in half. Roll out one portion of pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the prepared tin, pressing the pastry over the base and up the sides of the tin. Lightly brush the top edges with water.

4. Spoon the fruit mixture into the pastry case, spreading it evenly and packing it in well. Roll out the remaining pastry to a rectangle just slightly larger than the size of the tin, then lay this sheet of pastry over the filling and pat down lightly.

5. Trim away any excess pastry from around the edges using a sharp knife, then decoratively crimp the edges. Cut two slits in the middle of the top of the pie, then bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden. Sprinkle with caster sugar while still hot, then leave to cool and serve warm or cold in slices.
Often in bakeries they have one slice with the sugar coating and one with a thick layer of white glace icing on top.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Birthdays, Parties and Cake

I had a busy weekend last week, my eldest was 16 one day and my youngest was 10 the next. It made me think about how differently they see birthdays.
When I was young very few people had parties, and if they did it was generally in their own house with the usual sandwiches, sausage rolls, fizzy juice then ice-cream and jelly for pudding. Simple, kid pleasing food. I can't recall anyone having a party every single year and it was not presumed that if it was someone's birthday that there would be an invitation winging it's way to you.
When I became a Mum I never felt the need to have parties for the girls, when they were really small we would maybe have my parents round, but that would be it. They were not really bothered till they went to school and it all seemed to change.
It then became the done thing to have a party, and as time went on the parties changed, long gone was the way I remembered and in came McDonalds parties, Bouncy castle parties, Fairy parties, and Bowling parties. It seemed every child had a party and each would be different. It was now expected to have a party and I felt saddened that the children that could not afford a party would often not make a fuss of their birthday as they did not want to highlight the fact that they were not having a party.
Thankfully I have noticed a shift again and not so many parties are going on, and often children just have a get together with a few good friends and have a nice time together.
My eldest is not a fan of cake at the best of times and although I tried to tempt her with a chocolate cake she did not want one. My youngest is like me and loves cakes and all the food you should not eat. She only wanted a victoria sponge for her cake so that is what she got, but not just any victoria sponge. I had a disaster with one layer so I made another batch and ended up making a triple layer sponge with chocolate spread, pink cake, pink butter icing and topped with fluffy yellow butter icing. She refused the maltesers and mallows on the top and instead opted for sprinkles.



















Victoria Sponge

100 g (4 oz) margarine
100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
2 medium eggs
100 g (4 oz) Self Raising Flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1 Heat oven to 180ºC, 350ºF, Gas Mark 4. Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) sandwich tins.
2 Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each.
3 Gently fold in remaining flour.
4 Place in prepared tins and bake for 20-25 minutes in 2 tins or 40-45 minutes in one tin.
5 When cool, fill with jam or cream. Dust with icing sugar.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Caught!

Having sent the children to school on Tuesday morning I took some rare time to myself to get ready for a hospital appointment.
Off I went, the day was going well, I managed to get a parking place at the hospital, I was early for my appointment and was taken straight away. I was glad that I was going to be back at work earlier than I had thought.
Driving back to the village, minding my own business, then I saw 4 teenagers out walking and just thought och they are on study leave and out for a walk. But no, as I got closer I looked at them and they looked at me and we both did a double take. I stopped the car, put on my hazard lights and rolled the window down to say to DD#2 what on earth was she playing at. For the 4 teens were not on study leave, but were DD#2 and her friend skiving school with their boyfriends. Well she ran away screaming and would not come home till late at night.
If I only could have had a picture of their faces when they realized it was me. I was the last person they would have expected to see coming along the road at the time as I would normally have been at work.
Now this is where choices come in,

1. Stay and face the music, take the grounding or whatever consequence was to be dished out and admit you were in the wrong.

2. Run away screaming, leaving your friend and the 2 boys standing not knowing what to do, then don't go home till after 9pm, cause a riot in the house by shouting and being cheeky, then storming out again till 10 pm.

I guess you can decide which option my daughter chose. It never ceases to amaze me how so many young people today are not able to admit they are in the wrong, it is always someone else who is at fault, or made them do it. I try really hard both at home and work to help the young people I work with understand that choices are important and we make so many in the course of a day, never mind our life that we really should stop and consider now and again if the choice we make is the best one for us.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

What is a right?

Answer this question in one short sentence, one word would do it.

We had an in-service day at work last Tuesday, now these can be a really good chance to get things done, or a day to get given all the horrible jobs to do.
Fortunately it was a mixed day and the most thought provoking part was our visit from a UNICEF representative. As a school we have many groups for the children to be involved in, Pupil Council, Eco Council, Snag group, School Travel plan and our newest one, the Rights Respecting School group.
I was really lucky to be asked to run the group with one of the teachers. So, on Tuesday we had a chance to talk to all the staff about rights and responsibility. He came out with some shocking figures and sadly the UK is one of the worst places to be in the developed world as a child.

How can this be? We have free health care, a state benefit system, a good standard of education, yet we are going seriously wrong somewhere.
I was brought up by parents who had been children during WWII, my Dad and I were talking about how most of the youth at the time were being brought up in single parent families as the Fathers were doing their bit for the war effort. In fact one of the facts given to us was that Holland is the best place to be as a child growing up, and incidentally, they have a high percentage of single parents.

Our group is hoping to enable the children, staff and community to respect each other, know our basic rights and the responsibilities that come with it. It will be a long journey, but one that will hopefully change some attitudes.

Patience and understanding, rather than fiery tempers and the want want want of young people is what we need to see more of.

Oh by the way a right is a need. plain and simple, do you need water - yes
do you need that new pair of shoes that you adore - NO! that's a want and we all have too many of them.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

In the Garden

I had planned on writing a post about something that had happened last week, but I never got time to get it finished so the moment had passed.

I have spent the weekend trying to get my wee garden ready for planting. I am sure some of you busy Mums out there will agree with me that although summer is great, think BBQ, Strawberries, fresh salad, long warm nights, ice-cream, it also brings on an extra workload in the form of an ever changing garden.

I do not profess to be green fingered, but I am interested in trying to grow things in my own garden, this year will hopefully see, potatoes, onions, french beans, purple broccoli, carrots, spring onions, corn, peas and a host of salad leaves. I have good intentions of spending many a happy night pottering about in the garden, but they rarely happen as I end up being overloaded in the house. My OH seems to forget that he has not been working for ages, yet other that running the Hoover over or having a quick tidy (means hiding everything in a cupboard or pile in our room) he does nothing. I will tidy the kitchen at night, only to find the fairies have been really hungry and made sandwiches and a cup of tea in the wee small hours.

My DD's also seem to think we have a super douper washing machine that will actually sniff out the dirty clothes, wash, dry and fold them and return them to their rooms automatically!

Yesterday I decided to spend the day in the garden and I got so much done I felt better and even though there was a lot left to do in the house it was worth it.

I must leave a note for those fairies about putting a new toilet roll on the holder and the lid on the toothpaste as it wears me down eventually.

I made these lovely dropped scones last night for pudding. DD#2 had hers with pears and maple syrup, but DD#3 likes just butter.

Dropped Scones

Dropped Scones aka Scotch Pancakes

Makes around 14 small pancakes.

4 oz SR flour

1/2 oz margarine

1 egg

4 to 6 tbs milk, beaten with the egg

1/4 tsp salt

2oz sugar

6 drops of lemon essence (optional)

Sift the flour and salt and rub in the margarine.

Stir in the sugar.

Add the beaten egg and milk slowly to make a smooth batter. I found it too thick with only 4 tbs milk so added a little more till the mix was smooth and spoonable, not unlike a cake batter.

Add essence if using, I never have.

Drop spoonfuls onto a hot buttered griddle of heave frying pan.

Cook for a few minutes on each side.

Keep warm in a clean tea towel.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Exams, not just stressful for the student..

Today sees the start of the exam season for High School pupils across Scotland. In Fife it is an in-service day for teachers and all other staff in school today, so most children have had a lovely long weekend behind them and only 3 days ahead till the weekend.

Unusually there is an exam today and DD#1 sits her standard grade English today, I think she is more annoyed that everyone else has a day off than the fact that she has an exam to sit.

My DD is not the most studious person, and over the years I have encouraged her to study, but she finds it a real challenge. I grew up in the shadow of a very clever brother, who even now after over 20 years in the British Army, is studying to be a radiographer. This put enormous pressure on me when I was going to sit my exams. I was not a high achiever in exams, even though my coursework was excellent.

DD#1 has always had difficulty with reading and spelling. Each year I would bring it up at parents night, but the teachers were not to concerned. Today will challenge her and hopefully the pressure will not be too much in this first exam as she has several over the next few weeks.

As a parent I will be thinking about her today, I have always wanted my children to do their best, whatever that is.

I was lucky enough to know the job I wanted to do from a very young age and achieved it by the time I left college and worked away from home as a Nanny. DD#1 has no firm ideas of what she wants to do, and it really makes you stop and think about how young we are when we have to make decisions about our future.

Broccoli and Potato Soup

Broccoli and Potato Soup

Now I don't really have any set measurements when I make this soup, I really just gauge it by the size of the pot I am using.

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 onion diced

1 clove garlic sliced

1 head of broccoli

some potatoes, peeled and diced

good vegetable stock (I like Marigold Swiss Bouillon)

Freshly ground black pepper

Soften the onion in the oil, add the sliced garlic and cook gently for a few minutes.

Add the broccoli, separated into florets and the potato.

Fill the pot with boiling water and stock powder or hot vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil, pop on a lid and cook gently till the potatoes are cooked, about 20 minutes should do it.

Season to taste and blend before serving with crusty bread.

If you like you can sprinkle some grated cheddar on the hot soup before serving.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

How to Embarrass Your Teenage Daughter.....

1. Stop colouring your hair so all the grey comes through.

2. Dress like a bag lady.

3. Wear funky shoes.

4. Blow her kisses in public.

5. When out walking, talk to everyone you meet.

Although my 2 teenagers think all these things are highly embarrassing, I am sure that there are many parents out there whose own children would have a list of different things.

I remember as a teenager dreading having to take anything back to a shop, or make a complaint as my Mum could be quite snippy and my heart would sink, not just for me but for the poor shop assistant who was dealing with us. I had to laugh about situations like this last week, my middle daughter was staying with my Mum and she had been in a clothes shop getting some trousers. My DD came home and told us she had been mortified when the assistant had folded the item and placed it in the bag as my Mum promptly pulled it out and said to the assistant " You cant get good service nowadays!" while re-folding the item and putting it back in the bag.

Now I may be an embarrassing Mum, but I am a Mum all the same and I know I can put things right by making these lovely biscuits and all will be forgiven....






















Custard Creams Makes 18

For The Biscuits:

2 oz icing sugar

6 oz marg

¼ teaspoons baking soda

2 oz custard powder

6 oz plain flour

Filling:

1 oz marg

2 oz icing sugar

Few drops vanilla essence

Pre heat oven to gas mark 5 or 350oF.

Cream together margarine and sugar.

Sift flour, custard powder and baking soda together and add to creamed mixture. It is quite stiff to work with, but will come together in the end.

The recipe says to roll out the mix, but my Mum always took teaspoonfuls of the mixture and rolled it into a ball before placing on the baking tray and flattening with a fork. The mix had a lot of margarine in it and would benefit from chilling if you had the time.

Bake for around 15 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Saturday, 3 May 2008

Who am I?

I know who I am really, well I always thought I did. I was the good quiet girl that did what she was told, she tried so hard not to upset people. I then became the teenager who did not rebel, but went to church and had a good group of friends there, not for us was the under age trips to clubs or pubs, no line of boyfriends or gangs going about looking for trouble.

I left home to become the lovely Scottish girl, taking care of a little boy who always said goodbye with a “cheerio”.

Next came the first boyfriend at 19, flattered that someone was interested and caught up in something that would become life changing. I would call home happy, only to be disappointed in the cool response from home. I then changed to the girl who was caught out, the one who really disappointed her parents so much that they would not talk to her for a while; within weeks I was to become a wife.

I was not a wife for very long, for my most important job was about to begin, that of a Mother and within 16 months I was one again. My husband became increasingly difficult and if I had known the signs I would have seen the violence coming. There and then I changed and became strong, where that strength came from I do not know, but I am so glad it did. It allowed me to go to a safe place, even though I was hundreds of miles from my family I made it home.

That little girl who was quiet and did what she was told is still very real, but when she needs to, the strong and resilient woman surfaces to remind me that I have come very far in my life and that is all my life experiences good and bad, that make me the person I am today.

Here is a lovely dessert I like to make, it is so much better than the packet pie filling.
Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie Serves 6

1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
juice and zest of 2 lemons, unwaxed
2 tablespoons butter (not margarine )
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 (9 inch) pie crusts (bought or homemade)
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F, 175°C.

Filling: using a medium saucepan, whisk together cup of sugar, flour, cornflour and salt. Stir in zest and juice of lemon and the water. Cook over medium heat till just boiling. Stir in the butter. Beat yolks together well in a bowl big enough to add a cup of the hot mixture to. Add a cup of the sugar mix, whisking all the time then add this back to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time till thick. Remove from heat and pour into pie case.

Meringue: Using a large clean bowl ( wipe out with remains of lemon and dry with paper towel to make sure there is absolutely no grease/residue in the bowl), whisk the whites till foamy, can be done by hand but I find the electric mixer does the best meringue for this. Add sugar gradually, whisking till you have the stiff peak stage (or you can try holding the bowl upside down above your head to make sure!)Also check at this point that all the sugar has dissolved by rubbing a small amount of mix between your fingers. continue whisking for a few minutes if it still feels grainy. If its smooth, drop the mixture all over the warm pie filling making sure to go right up to the edges smoothing out the gaps as you go. I like to make sure there are peaks all over the meringue as I love the chewy bits too.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or till meringue is golden brown.

To enjoy at its best, let it cool down for a wee while before chilling for a few hours then serving with cream/ice cream.








Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Awards

I was so lucky yesterday. For a long time I have lurked in the fringes of online communities but never felt the desire to surface. In the past year I have discovered many wonderful blogs, but one of the first was by Marie. I can honestly say she has inspired me with my cooking and each day I look forward to her writing. She has, through her blog, made me think about my life, the way I see myself and my family.

Marie has passed on two awards to me, the first one is


This one is awarded for creativity, design, interesting material and contribution to the blogging community. Wow Marie, I am thrilled that you think I deserve this award, especially since my blog is so new.









The next one is this you make my day award.

I only started to write as I had felt things at home getting on top of me, I am such a loner, but a loner who loves people! I know it sounds strange, but by writing my thoughts and memories down I have moved on from the stressed place I was in.

So now, as with all awards it is wonderful to receive them but equally rewarding to pass them on to some one else,
so now I have great pleasure in passing the Arte Y Pico award to the blogs below, each of them I look forward to reading and they all have beautiful pictures.

Cabbage Roses and Cupcakes
No Special Effects
The Wandering Eater -
(this blogs transports me to NY and lets me dream about the things I could try if I ever got there, it was also one of the first blogs I discovered.)

The you make my day award is going to these blogs

Cookie Baker Lynn
Domestic Goddess in Training
Hannah's Country Kitchen

Thanks again to Marie, and all bloggers out there who do their best to inspire others.



Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Recipes, funny old things!

I have a small but growing collection of cookbooks and take great pleasure from rummaging around charity shops looking for old books to give a new home to, of course the added bonus is that these books are usually a bargain.

Over the years as I am slowly gaining more confidence and experience, I no longer feel the need to stick to a recipe exactly.

As a young girl who moved away to England to have the sole charge of a 2 year old boy I mainly prepared breakfast and light food for lunch as his Mum liked to prepare the evening meals when she could. Not long after that I was thrown into a turbulent period of my life and found myself being a wife and Mother, who had to work as the man of the house would not lower himself to get a job. (We split up 14 years ago and he has only started working in the past 3 years or so). We lived on a tight budget as most young couples living on the breadline do, but my inexperience at cooking left me with few meals that stick out in my memory, one I do remember was making my first proper curry, I had to buy so many “special” ingredients and borrow a food processor to make the dish. It turned out well, but I remember thinking at the time how expensive it was and how I would not use many of the spices again.

Other times I have looked at the glossy picture in the cookbook, followed the long list of instructions only to be left with something that bears little resemblance to the dish in the book!

Now, although my home life is still turbulent, but for different reasons, I really enjoy cooking and trying out new things, but at the same time I am confident enough to leave something out, use a different meat/veg, tweak the spices and herbs a bit to the ones my family like. Sites like Recipezaar and allrecipes are full of real pictures of home cooked food. They don’t replace books, but give you a wealth of new things to try with the added bonus of honest reviews and helpful hints so you can make an informed choice.

I am now trying to keep track of all my thrown together meals that I am sure you all do where a little bit of this and a pinch of that get mixed together to make something wonderful- but often never to be made again because I know I often forget what I did!

The other night I had thrown together some meatballs and tomato sauce, the girls love meatball pizza, so with the leftovers I made this lovely pizza using a base recipe from a BBC Good Food magazine I got last summer, it was on the table in under 30 minutes and kept my 9 yr old busy doing the kneading.












Easy Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Serves 4 (makes 2 pizzas) Prep 25 minutes Cook 10 mins.


300g strong bread flour

1tsp dried yeast

1tsp salt

1 tbs olive oil plus extra for drizzling

Pre heat oven to gas mark 8, 240oc. It helps to place an upturned baking tray in the oven on the top shelf while the oven is heating, not the same as a pizza stone, but better than just a tray on its own!

Put the flour into a large bowl, and then stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in 200 ml warm water and the olive oil, bringing together with a wooden spoon until you have a soft fairly wet dough. You may need to adjust the flour/water ratio as all flours absorb the water differently.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5mins until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and set aside. You can leave the dough to rise if you like, but it is not essential for a thin crust.

Roll out the dough. If you have let it rise, give it a quick knead, then split into two balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into large rounds, about 25 cms across, using a rolling pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise in the oven.

Put the rounds onto thick baking sheets dusted with flour, add your favourite toppings and bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes till crisp.