Wednesday, 30 April 2008


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.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Lesson learned and a lost post !

I am still new to blogging and although I know my way around a computer, well enough for my needs anyway, today I learned a valuable lesson.
Now this is probably blatantly obvious to all you seasoned bloggers out there, and maybe to some of you who like me are new to all this.
Well, what is it I hear you ask?
I had written a post about recipes and maturing as a cook, and I was adding a recipe and picture at the bottom, simple enough task I hear you say, and indeed it should have been.
Alas I must have hit a wrong key, I had been having bother uploading pictures on my desktop and auto save had saved the post so I switched to the laptop. Fine and well up to this point, but when I tried to insert the recipe, it kept highlighting all the post, I tried and tried to stop this happening, but no, I lost the post, but before I could try and get it back, the auto save saved again and I was left with a blank page-
Lesson learned - do all my typing in word and import the finished item! Simple and obvious I know, but sometimes we have to make mistakes ourself before we can change our habits.
Note to self - remember that Angela when the teens are making their mistakes, much as you want to stop it, they have to do it themselves!

Here is the recipe anyway

Onion Fritters


1 large egg

1 tbs lemon juice

100g chickpea flour ( also called gram flour or besan)

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tbs ground cumin

¼ tsp ground turmeric

1 fresh hot green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)

2 tbs chopped fresh coriander leaf

Vegetable oil for frying

200g onions peeled and chopped into medium sized diced or sliced into thin half moons

Break the egg into a bowl and beat well, add 4 tbs water and the lemon juice. Mix, add the flour and mix well with a whisk. Put in the spices, coriander leaf and chilli if using. Mix well and set aside for at least 10 minutes or longer. Mix again with a whisk. The batter should be of a fairly thick, droppable consistency.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep fat fryer over a medium heat. A minimum of 3 inches is required in the centre of a wok. When the oil is ready, put the onions in the batter and mix – this is always best done just before cooking.

Take heaped tsp of the batter and drop into the hot oil. Use all the batter this way. Stir and fry the fritters for 7-8 minutes or until golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

All the fun of the fair

In Fife each spring we have one of, if not the largest street fairs in Europe. The Links Market has come to Kirkcaldy each April for over 700 years.
Now as I have 3 children, including 2 teenagers, this can end up being an expensive time. This year as DD#1 is almost 16 I had to cut the apron strings and let her go on her own. It did not help me make the decision when she told me that a worker had died this year after falling when building one of the popular rides called the bomber, but I bit the bullet and let her go, she had a great time.
DD#2 is not really interested and would rather go out for the day with friends, which is fine by me.

As a parent of young children you want to keep them safe and close to you, as you mature as a person and a parent you learn to let them be more independent, but making sure you are there in the background to make sure everything is ok. When they hit the teenage years you are given a person who is desperately trying to form their own identity, but who can turn into that toddler that you thought you had left behind a long time ago. I often think of how my parents allowed me quite a lot of freedom, but I never abused that, or took advantage.
I hope that when the girls are older they will see that Mum only tried to get the best for them, even if at the moment they can't really see it.

On Sunday I made a lovely Chicken Curry. It was full of flavour and the recipe for the "brown stuff" was an unusual way to get a base for many curries I only changed it by adding salt and sugar, but the recipe yielded enough to freeze some for later use. I made some lovely rice to go with the meal and here is the recipe

Turmeric Rice

Serves 4 – 6 Preparation 5 mins, Cooking time 20 mins

450 g (1lb) basmati or long grain rice

3 tbs vegetable oil

3 cloves

1 bay leaf

4 cardamom pods

2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

¼ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt

675 ml 22 fl oz water

2 tbs finely sliced chives or the green part of a spring onion

Put the rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water.

Drain and leave in a strainer set over a bowl.

Put the oil in a heavy based saucepan and set over a medium high heat. When the oil is hot and beginning to bubble, put in the cloves, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cinnamon. Stir once or twice and put in the garlic.

As soon as the garlic turns medium brown put in the rice, turmeric and salt. Stir gently for a minute. Now add the water and bring to the boil. Cover tightly, turn the heat down to very, very low and cook for 20 minutes. Stir the rice with a fork to separate the grains and serve garnished with chives or spring onions.

Testing Testing

Just over a week ago I got a new cooker, it is miles better than my old one and hopefully will allow me to experiment more in the kitchen. I am still getting used to the temperatures and any hot/cold spots, and the only way to do that is to cook and baking is a really good way to see how evenly an oven works. The novelty for me is having glass doors and a light so DD's can see whats cooking too.
I had a rummage through my cupboards to see what I had available, then I dug out my trusty Be-Ro Flour cookbook, a small but very handy book to keep in the kitchen which is full of basic recipes and old favourites. I always loved Almond Slices when I worked as a Saturday girl in a bakers so I thought I would have a go.
I made my own shortcrust pastry, as I had not made any for ages, but you could use shop bought if you were pushed for time.

They turned out well, but the only thing I would maybe add is a tiny bit of almond extract, not essential but I am sure it would give a more intense flavour.

Almond Slice from the Be-Ro Book- Makes 10 slices.

100g Shortcrust pastry Home made or store bought

3 x 15 ml spoons of Raspberry Jam

75g Margarine

75g Caster sugar

100g Ground almonds

50g ground rice

1 medium egg

25g flaked almonds

Heat oven to Gas 5, 190oC, 375oF.

Line an 18cm square tin with the pastry and then spread the base with the raspberry jam.

Cream together margarine and sugar

Add ground almonds and rice along with the egg and mix together well.

Spread mixture over the jam and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool before slicing into fingers.

Tiny Visitor, hiding at work.

When I was at work on Tuesday one of the teachers that I work with beckoned me into the Janitors office to show me something. She carefully brought down a shoebox, and as she opened it all I could see was a fleecy blanket and some cotton wool. Curiously I moved them aside and saw a bundle of grey and brown fur. At first I was not sure what it was, but then realised it was a tiny baby rabbit, probably days old. It's eyes are still not open and its ears never moved.
She explained that it had been found in the yard at her Dads company when some building work had been done the day before. Workmen had been digging and had burst the burrow and sadly the Mum and siblings had been killed. Now , what would you do?
The men were quite happy to kill the baby, and I can understand why. Vanessa on the other hand is such a gentle caring person and wanted to give the baby a chance.
She contacted a vet, searched the Internet and gathered as much information as she could and the result is a baby who needs fed 10 times a day on puppy milk.
It only takes tiny amounts, but at least it is taking something.
So hopefully it will survive the weekend, but Vanessa has done everything she can for it and has been told by many "experts" that it is amazing that it has lasted for this long already.
The next thing will be if it does survive, what will she do with it- I would not be surprised if it became a house rabbit!

Monday, 14 April 2008

New Life - in the garden!

I have always wanted to grow my own vegetables. I was lucky when I was young as my parents had a huge garden and my Grandad helped take care of it. We grew everything, my favourite things were the tomatoes and the raspberry canes. When you are young you don't really think of all the time and patience it takes to maintain a vegetable plot/garden.
Now as an adult I feel that it is important that my children see me growing my own produce, and last year I grew peas and spring onions. I always have herbs and the girls love touching them and smelling them, but this year I am planning on having potatoes, onions, salad leaves, container carrots, corn and later in the year purple sprouting broccoli.
The potatoes have been chitting and are ready to go in the ground as are the onions. Now all I need is some better weather and the energy after work to plant them.
I have a window propagator and planted the corn and broccoli seeds last week. It is sitting pride of place on DD#3's window sill. She loves looking at them and seeing how much they have grown each day, I hope she will help to care for them and then ultimately enjoy eating them when the cobs are ready.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Cinnamon Rolls and a nice day out.

We are off to St Andrews today to visit my Aunt and Uncle. I love St Andrews and am so lucky to live not too far away from this beautiful historic place.
My Gran lived there when my Dad & Aunt were small and eventually returned there after many long years waiting on a house to become available. My Aunt & Uncle used to have a lovely Watchmakers shop on South Street in the town and I have many fond memories of visiting the shop. They are both retired now and seem to be as busy as ever, but doing the nice things that they never had time to do when they were running their own business.
They often treat us to lunch when we go and visit, but today I wanted to take them something as a treat. I have always wanted to make cinnamon swirls/rolls, but had never gotten round to it. I had been clearing out a few things yesterday and found some time to go through some of the many recipes I have printed out with the intention of making. So when I got up bright and early this morning I knew I should have a go and make these delicious looking rolls. The recipe is from Maries Muses .
Marie has been having trouble with her aol Journal, so she has continued writing here

Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12 delicious rolls that are just right for sharing.

1 cup milk

3 TBS water

1 egg, beaten

¼ cup butter

3 1/3 cups strong flour

3 TBS Castor sugar

¾ tsp salt

2 tsp yeast


¾ cup soft brown sugar, packed

3 ¾ tsp ground cinnamon

2 TBS softened butter


¾ cup icing sugar

¼ tsp vanilla essence

2 to 3 tsp milk

Put the dough ingredients in your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Mine goes like this: yeast, flour, sugar, salt, water, milk, egg, butter. Set it on the dough cycle and then go off and do something else while you are waiting.

When done, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead in enough dough to keep it from sticking and make it easier to handle. Roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to a rectangle, approximately ¼ inch thick and 12 inches long..

Spread with the softened butter. Mix together the brown sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Roll up tightly, (from the side of the rectangle) You should have a long roll, not a short one. Cut the roll crosswise, at one inch intervals, into 12 pieces. Place cut side down into a well buttered 9 X 15 inch baking pan with sides. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 30 minutes or so.

Pre-heat oven to 180*C/350*F. Place the pan into the heated oven and bake for about 25 minutes , until nicely browned on top. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Stir together glaze ingredients and swirl over finished buns while still warm.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Dance show and Dressing Up

Last night I went to see the "On The Run" annual dance show and it was a really good night. DD#2&3 danced well and all the children seemed to enjoy themselves, which of course was for the me the best bit of the evening. The dance teachers did well to co-ordinate the event and for the last bow there was over 250 children aged from 3-19 on stage. The costumes were so much better than last year, and thanks to shops like Primark and the trend for pre-made dressing up clothes the costs were low, and I am sure they now have a good collection of clothes for future productions. Sadly it is not the cheaper option to have specially made clothes for these events.

I loved dressing up when I was small, as a girl one of my best friends and I used to trail along the High Street in our dressing up gear, shoes, necklaces, bags and oversized clothes. We must have been a sight to behold, but to us we were glamorous grown ups out for a walk. My friend's Dad was an actor as was his brother-in-law who at the time was on a really popular Sci-Fi show here in the UK called Blakes 7. There was always a huge box of clothes for us to play with, none of the pre-made costumes that we have today, just dresses and blouses that were not getting worn any more.

As an adult I seem to have withdrawn from dressing up, I love texture and fabrics and colours. I love clothes and more so accessories. Do I buy any? No !
Now I am in my mid 30's I live in work clothes that get covered in paint, glue, snot and worse....euch! or lounging about clothes for doing the housework at home. I have lost the part that likes getting dressed up and putting make-up on. Last night I wore a top I bought a year ago and made myself keep it on. I did not want to stand out in the crowd, silly I know, but slowly I need to get back to liking dressing up and re-awaken the little girl inside me that did not care what other people thought about how she dressed.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Bishops Hill & Loch Leven

It was a lovely day yesterday and my OH had to go to his Grandparents house to finish a job. I get on well with them but as it was such a lovely day Me and DD#3 went for a drive to the farm shop at Loch Leven.
The shop was full of lovely gifts as well as food items, although a bit pricey. DD is now booked on a beading workshop there next week where she will get to make a trinket box.
We were not far from the Loch, which is steeped in history so I drove to Burleigh Sands and we went for a walk. I was lucky enough to have my camera with me and thought it would be nice to post some pictures of where I live and the things I love there. This is a picture of Bishop Hill, in the summer you always see lots of hang gliders dotting the sky so gracefully around the hill.
Next week if the weather permits we are going to go to the castle on the island in the Loch where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.
As we walked along we met a couple who said there was a black swan in the field so off we went to have a closer look, we were glad we did, it was beautiful.
We met a lovely lady when we were sitting watching the swans, she told us a bit about it and how it had made all the local papers. There must have been 50 white swans in the field munching on the tops of the turnips that are planted for winter.
The lady said it was the first time they had had a black swan at the nature reserve, and they had no idea where it had come from, but some people think it has escaped from a nature reserve further inland.
My batteries died on the camera but at least I got 1 picture of the visitor to the Loch.
This year I plan on visiting as many local places of interest as I can, I am also a member of the National Trust and Historic Scotland so we will get in all their properties free, I just need to remember extra batteries and a bigger memory card so I can record our adventures.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Razzle Dazzle Dance rehersal

Today DD2 & 3 have a rehersal for their dance show. They have been working hard for 7 months and the result is 2 performances in a local theatre. The girls enjoy the classes and the teacher is really good with them. They will each do 2 dances and then all the different classes do a finale.
Later today the hairspray will be out along with the make-up and costumes, not to mention the stress and excitement.
I love watching them and really admire the way they remember quite complex and fast sets of movements. I could not keep up with them if I tried. The thing I like most though is the fact that the classes are fun and non competitive. Some of the classes in our area compete at quite a high level, which is fantastic if that's the way you want to dance, but for someone who just wants to have some fun they are not the best place to go.
As an adult I never dance, never, never, never! I did not even have a first dance at my own wedding 16 years ago, ( divorced 3 years later, but that is a whole different story). My Mum says I danced a lot as a child, always making up dances to things on TOTP (top of the pops), at school I loved Scottish Country dancing, but dancing at a disco, party or in public, no way. I do not know what happened to make me feel this way, maybe someone laughed at me, maybe it is because I embarrass easily, who knows. I just know that the old chat up line of "You dancing? " would never work with me as the answer would always be NO!