Friday, 15 September 2017

Cookery calendar challenge

The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food - Paperback - 9780297609315 - Hairy Bikers

During August I bought 'another' new cookery book, The Hairy Dieters Fast Food. I've chosen 2 books for the Cookery calendar Challenge, you can find more on the link at the end.
I'd watched the Hairy Dieters series of cookery programmes and I was pleased to see they'd released a new book. This book promises to help you have a meal on the table within 30 minutes. One that is healthy and lower in calories and hopefully won't be clogging up your arteries or tipping the cholesterol balance.

The book seems to be carrying on in the same vein as their previous books where they lesson the refined sugar carbohydrates and try and look for replacements. For example in this book, they bake bread tartlets with sliced bread instead of high fat pastry and in a previous book they cut leeks open length wise and used the layers instead of pasta sheets in a lasagne. For this healthy reason alone, I would recommend them.  

Each recipe has a short intro that is informative, offering advice and serving suggestions. They provide suitability for freezing, vegetarian and the important calorie count which is after all a huge reason for buying the book.

Si and Dave write in their unique style that feels like they are there with you. You can be sure they've tried and tested each recipe and if they say it's good, it is. Following their testimonials at the beginning of the book, they reveal their new challenge, which is to have 'fast' recipes for the table before you reach for the snacks.

There is a section in the book for slow cooking and making use of the pressure cooker. The slow cooking just means, the preparation required will take up to 30 minutes. I'm tempted by some of the pressure cooked recipes as I love using my pressure cooker. I find stews and casseroles always taste full of flavour cooked in there and have been very disappointed with my slow cooker. My second recipe I've chosen requires the pressure cooker, though you could simmer it for an hour.

The first recipe - 'Stove-Top Granola' is from the 'Breakfast and Brunch' section. I was looking for an oat cereal recipe as most shop cereals contain one or more of these - barley, soya, dried stoned fruits, nuts and coconut. As I can't eat any of these, I was pleased to see a few recipes that are suitable. I will be re-testing the nuts soon and hope these will be ok to eat.

The recipe itself is simple enough, melting the butter and maple syrup with some oil and then stirring in the oats and salt in a pan to coat evenly, this is done in 20 second bursts for 5 minutes. They should give off a nutty aroma and look slightly golden.

At this point you can add your chosen dried fruit, seeds and nuts if wanted. Then tip onto a tray to cool and crisp before serving with milk or yoghurt. It'll store in an airtight container, this amount for one will last a few days. I used sultanas and sunflowers and I also added some fresh fruits to my bowl one morning.

There was a nice buttery taste with this cereal but I was a bit disappointed. When I think of granola, I imagine crisp, hard pieces or nutty oats but this quickly absorbed the milk and became the usual soggy oat based museli breakfast. I did wonder if baking it in the oven rather than a non-stick frying pan would've crisped the oats up a bit.

I would definitely make it again, but would use less butter, as the taste was overpowering after a while, with the milk.

The second recipe I've chosen is 'Pressure Cooked Tomato Sauce' from the 'Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow' section. We were wanting to use up some tomatoes from the greenhouse and this was perfect. You do need a glass of white wine for this recipe, not to drink whilst it cooks, but to add to the pan as it steams away merrily. The recipe calls for 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, so you could of course make this all year.

You start by lightly frying a chopped onion to brown the edges, meanwhile continue chopping the other ingredients and then adding the garlic. 

All the other ingredients can then be added but don't be tempted to add more water as it won't need it. My assistant was busy chopping for me whilst I stirred and tidied things away.

Here it is in the pressure cooker before the lid went on for steaming. It is very bright, bold and with the red onion, quite something to see.

The recipe says to cool quickly and reduce the sauce on the hob stirring with the lid off. I served some (not reduced yet) in a ramekin dish alongside our jacket potato as dinner had already been planned but we wanted to try it. The sauce was delicious, sweet, fruity and flavoursome.

As it was not yet reduced it was more liquid than it should have been but I ended up tipping it on my plate and it complemented the dinner nicely.

I shall be making this again, they suggest freezing it, eating it with pasta, meatloaf or burgers. I've made tomato sauces before and they have never tasted this good. I've added marrow or other squashes and basically ended up with a very watery tasteless liquid. I wouldn't really like to call them a sauce. This one is delicious and looks and smells good too. There was no complaints from the family which is always good when they like what you've provided.

Next month I'm going to choose 2 recipes to cook from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' cookbook. I know not everyone is keen on him or his style of presenting his ideas but I've watched this particular series on TV and bought the book. The whole point of the cookery calendar challenge was to get reacquainted with our long forgotten cook books, this book certainly fills the brief.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my 2 chosen recipes, I certainly loved making them and hope to make more in the future.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Sock knitting and back to school.

Hello and welcome. I was pleased to see my yellow sunflower, fully open today, just what's needed on this gloomy wet day. The petals and their shades of yellow and orange are a delight. I hope the weather is good wherever you are today. I collected teen 2 from the bus this evening, his first day back and not at all happy to be back at school, especially with the rain. It's not that he doesn't like school, rather he'd prefer to be at home. We arrived home just in time, before the heavens opened. Teen 1 has another day off before college starts back, he's always liked being at school, being a social child chatter box

My sock knitting is progressing, slowly. I've struggled with this one, not sure why exactly as I've knitted socks before. The pattern by Winwick Mum, is relatively simple as it's knitted in the round on short circular needles. M has read some parts of the pattern to me, and I've followed the instructions. The heel was looking a very funny shape before I asked him to 'sort this out'. It seems I was only decreasing on one side of the heel flap. As it's going to be for him, he has strong feelings about wanting to be able to wear it comfortably, fair enough. For the sock details, which I spoke about before see here.  

Overall, despite the frustration in understanding what I'm doing, I like this method of sock knitting. After trying it on, M found the leg section a bit loose. I'm going to continue and finish this pair and consider doubling the length of rib and reducing the cast on stitches by 4. If that produces a tighter leg section next time, I'll be happy. I'm not unpicking it again!

It's a good thing M asked me how many stitches I had last night, I'd been decreasing 2 stitches on alternate rows and I'd gone way too far. As he always points out, I spend longer unpicking than actual knitting. He terms it my anti-knitting. Now the heel flap, turn and gusset is complete, it's continuing knitting until nearer the toes. It should be quite straight forward now.

Time for tea and blueberry muffins with hidden blueberries. I made them in the food processor following an all-in-one method. I can't remember where I found this recipe from, I've copied it out into a recipe book a long time ago. The recipe uses oil, which is handy as teen 1 is dairy free at the moment. If he can avoid scratching his hands, I'm hoping he'll improve. The recipe is better with lots of blueberries, I've added dark chocolate chips to mine to fill them. If you'd like to bake some, with 'visible' blueberries here's the recipe. My fruit and chocolate are placed at the bottom of the cake cases. If you wish to use a food processor, either blitz quickly at the end to mix the fruit in without chopping, stir in the fruit or add separately to the cup cases.

More spring cleaning today, this time in the bathroom, complete with raindrops outside. With other routine cleaning jobs to be done such as hoovering and floor washing etc it seemed a strange day with the schools back today. It's a 4 day week for teen 2, so not so bad for him really, despite his protests. The summer holidays do seem a long time off. I think many children are already dreaming about their next summer holiday. 

Dinner time - Tuna pasta bake tonight. One is made with goats milk, goat cheese and sweetcorn, being dairy free can sometimes be difficult. As teen 1 isn't sure it's totally successful anyway, we've introduced goats milk and cheese. M isn't keen on sweetcorn and I can't eat it anyway, so the other has diced aubergine and cows milk. I've not tried the goats milk but having found the goats yoghurt to be sharp in taste, I can understand that teen 2 wasn't totally happy with it.

QT's had his dinner and has retreated to his bed. He tried and failed to gain some tuna from our dinner. He has 2 other proper cat beds upstairs but... cats! He chooses somewhere to sleep and returns to it frequently over a few days. At the moment the box is 'the one'. He's a funny boy.

Do leave a comment telling me what you've been doing today.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Five on Friday - Savouring summer.

Hello and welcome as I join with 'Five on Friday'. As the weather seems to be cooling and the evenings drawing in, I find myself not really wanting to let summer go just yet. My five random summer photos reflect my mood perfectly, summer days with winter preparation.

Summer holidays and carrying on with routine jobs and shopping, are not so easy with teens, that don't really want to be taken out for some 'fresh air and a change of scenery'. These bold, bright and beautiful flowers, complete with a sunflower, were purchased on one such occasion. Chosen with a chorus of 'can we go home now'.

A bit of a polish and more spring cleaning, this time upstairs in my room. I found all these seaside, ocean related ornaments tucked away and neglected behind a calor gas fire. This unused fire place welcomed a sweep out and polish. The birds drop twigs down the chimney and of course dust and cobwebs are never far behind. Having lit the multi- fuel stove a few times this week downstairs in the lounge, it's reminded us to source a double fronted stove to replace it. This will open up and heat into the dining room, which is the coldest room in the house. 

I've neglected Knit and Natter group over the holidays, there have been other things to do. Having teens you're sort of wanted home, but not really needed, strange. This week, I was handed these angels for the town's angel bombing nearer Christmas, shush a secret! I'd asked the ladies a while ago now if they'd like to knit or crochet some for me. There's more in the bag, so lovely that they took the time to do this. I wrote before and left the pattern links here on this post. I took my latest project that is small and portable, socks. I also bought a few more new balls of sock yarn too, well I thought they'd be good for presents.  

Preparing for the barbers and a duck walk at a local beauty spot this afternoon, I made up my duck food recipe. Some children made it for their sponsored walk last summer. People often tell you, 'don't give ducks bread', but they never say what to feed them. As I like things done properly, I thought I'd better find out what to feed them. Here is the official answer, so that's what I went with. This time I didn't have any peas, so mixed up - bird seed, oats, lettuce and sweetcorn.  

The ducks seemed to appreciate their meal and ventured onto the grass to eat. There's a definite pecking order, with the ladies very much in charge. We thought the male ducks looked quite young, their heads not fully sporting the gorgeous green colour that defines them. There were many families enjoying the last of the warm sunny days, playing frisbee and picnicking on the grass too.

Swallows And Amazons [DVD] [2016]

I borrowed this DVD from the library and hope to watch it tonight. The original was filmed in 1974 with the characters and events set in the summer of 1929. Here is the Wiki link if you want a trip down memory lane. Teen 2 has seen this already and I remember studying the book with the Open University Children's Literature course. It'll be interesting to see the changes that have been made in this updated version.

I'm off to knit some more of M sock and maybe watch a bit more of the film. I'm not sure if the teens really like it. Maybe if there had been aliens on the island.... If you've seen this new version of Swallows and Amazons, do let me know your thoughts. At the moment we're a bit confused as to why the beginning was made unnecessarily sinister.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Bank holiday weekend.

Hello, I hope you had a lovely weekend. It was really nice to feel the warm sun on my face as I sat knitting in the garden. Knitting? Yes, I've put my crochet blanket to one side in favour of some sock knitting. A while ago now I bought Christine - Winwick Mum's Super Socks book. I'd stocked up on needles, opting for the short circular and Dpns - needed for the heel. Do check out her blog here for more info.

I will admit to being sceptical about the short 2.5mm - 30cm length. I'd previously tried Dpns on my first pair of socks and knew I'd prefer another method. Next up was 2 circular needles which I thought sounded perfect. With one pair of needles knitting the front / top on the sock and the other the heel / back. I was never happy with the two gappy lines down the length of the socks where you switch needles.

The single circular needle is perfect. It's quick knitting as you're not constantly changing needles and though you use Dpns for the heel, so far it's not been an issue. For the yarn details I'm using see here.

On Saturday afternoon we had our last open home for the church, more Millionaire shortbread, recipe here. It's been good to do, the hosting requires me to make sure I clean the house. It's been nice to chat to people over a cuppa and cake, everyone seems to like cake. We'll probably do this again next year as even the teens liked it. It helped of course that their friends visited too.

So apart from knitting socks and eating cake in a garden warm enough to have me putting on my shorts, there's a few more things that I'm enjoying at the moment.

Should've started. This book is the current read for the bookclub. Though I've watched the film, I've not started it yet. I was pleased that teen 2 found this book entertaining enough for him to want to read it. Though he could read very well before he started school, he's remarkably uninterested in books now. He does have a full bookcase in his room and will often request a book for birthday etc presents. Teen 1 is the book worm of the family and loves to discuss the plot in detail.

Wanting to start. This latest book by Debbie Macomber, my favourite author. that I'm looking forward to starting. I know when I start reading it, it'll be finished in a few days. Macomber doesn't write complicated page turners, but she does write an entertaining feel good novel.

Present read. This Macomber book is part 4 of the cedar Cove series. I'm also reading Agatha Christie's The Clocks on the Kindle, which all seems vaguely familiar and I'm sure I've read it before years ago.

Watching on video. Last weekend we went to a car boot sale and I purchased 10 Agatha Christie's Miss Marple VHS tapes for £3. I handed over my money hoping the video player was still attached to the TV and working. Thankfully all is well and I'm enjoying the nostalgia of watching them again.

Wooden puzzles, I'd pulled these out the cupboard at the weekend, the tower of Hanoi is always popular with visitors. There's some rebuilding to do on one of them.

M surprised me a few weeks ago, bringing me home a covered candle holder. I'd bought the lavender candle last year and normally I'd say I love lavender, but there's something about this particular fragrance. No matter which room I light it in, including open and spacious places, it never fails to bring on a headache. I therefore decided I'd take it outside and light it so at least I could still enjoy the smell in a less confined space. Of course the strong winds of coastal Lincolnshire don't help keep my flame burning. Anyway, hopefully this should do the job nicely.

QT a bit of a fuzzy photo as I was using the zoom setting on the camera. I knew if I'd walked over to him he'd have stood up to see what I wanted.

If anyone has any sock related tips or recommendations on yarns or patterns, please do leave a comment. Thank you. When I've finished this particular pair, I thought I'd knit a few pairs in the WYS yarn. In particular I like the bird variants shown here.

Have a good week
Cathy x

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Crochet in the pink

My beautiful pink Orchid flowering again, a birthday present from last summer. It sits in the front porch soaking up the morning sun rays. 

Dahlia flowering in a raised bed, this bed was originally put together ready for growing potatoes. They didn't fair too well so we abandoned the idea, they're next to a hedge that probably takes all the water, leaving any plants very dry. We tried growing potatoes in the border (very wide) on the other side of the garden but the trees drank any water there too.  

Fuchsias growing amongst other plants and weeds in the side border. Their bright jewel like petals provide a burst of colour in the border. 

This prolific flowering cactus sits on the back porch window sill. My Brother has a cutting from this plant too. I've recently de-headed the old flowers, care is needed as the fur can be itchy. I'm not usually a lover of the colour orange, for a very long time now I've avoided the colour but really it is quite beautiful on flowers. 

I've finished my pink chevron crochet scarf, though I ran out of wool with this particular one and joined it into a circle to make a cowl. I originally found the pattern on this blog. Jennifer has made several of these and they do look elegant when they're finished. She made hers as gifts for teachers at the end of the school year, which I think is a lovely idea. I loved the pattern with its steady waves up and down.
I've been crocheting it as I travel around and about in the car (not whilst driving), at youth group, craft circle and hospital appointments. The yarn is pale rose aran by Stylecraft. I chose to make the medium width and have already bought more yarn to make another but I will go up a size in crochet hook and use a 5.5mm for the next one. I have had a comparison with both sizes and the bigger hook size has a noticeable open, lacey look which is more pleasing. If you'd like to crochet your own scarf, the pattern is here.  

The scarf in its entirety, as a cowl, I think it works well joined in a circle. I'm still undecided at this stage as to whether I'll keep it, or pass it on as a present. People in blog land have already been mentioning the Christmas word regards buying and making presents. This got me thinking about making some gifts this year too. With my track record for 'finishing things' being 'still not finished' we'll see.

In keeping with the pink theme to finish, one of my pink RHS rose prints, 
this was a birthday present one year from M. The other one (not photographed) is Rose Chinensis- shown on the link. The pair of rose prints hang in the dining room. 

QT x

Do leave a comment about what you are making and whether you're making presents for Christmas. Cathy x

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Summer at the weekend.

Hello, hope you had a good weekend. Mine was a strange one really. After lots of spring cleaning and making cakes ready for Saturday, I then froze some including the 2 cakes that people kindly donated. This weekend I'm planning on making millionaires shortbread and defrosting the others. The lemon curd cake is an All-in-One cake recipe, see here is really easy. The topping is simple too, made with sifted (crucial for speed) icing sugar combined with 3 or 4 tablespoons of lemon curd.

I love this dahlia, it brings back fond memories of cutting fresh flowers for customers in my parents florist and nursery shop, many years ago. They sold plants, shrubs, tomatoes and cucumber from the greenhouse and bags of soil etc.

My brother brought this cat garden ornament for me. He could probably do with a wash now, he's so old.

Another of my brothers presents. He was holding a green stick, a fishing rod type thing. We used to have a fish pond when living in Hampshire and after a long day at work in the summer months I'd sit by the pond sipping Pimms. Those were the days.

Delicate Gladioli petals, reminding me of candy floss at the seaside.

M is pleased his tomato plants are doing well this year. These ones were small plug plants from Aldi.

Sunday, time to relax in the garden. Armed with some crochet and a cuppa I set about doing a few more rows. It was such a lovely afternoon that I will confess to falling asleep in the garden. The cushions on the garden chairs are filled with tiny pieces of sponge which move about leaving areas without filling, most uncomfortable.

QT, enjoying some peace and quiet in the garden. The robin often shouts at him, making a dreadful racket. The robin is obviously protecting his own but mostly QT isn't interested in the birds. He has caught a few in the past, so he's not totally innocent, bless him.

I meant to post this blog yesterday, it's not been a happy home this weekend in our household. This was all completely out of our control and unfortunately can not be resolved. On a positive note, teen 1 despite the drama, has passed his theory test today. We are of course delighted as this is a requirement before moving onto the practical driving test. I'm particularly pleased as it was a struggle to find exactly where we should be within the complex and we went on quite a detour got lost to go shopping afterwards.

The teens and I visited the cafe in Tesco and had a mocha, hot chocolate and a summer mango crush. Then home to feed QT and cook dinner which was belly pork rashers and some roasted roots. I roasted carrots, red potatoes, onion, parsnips, with courgette and garlic, lemon and lime quarters all seasoned with black pepper and paprika and tossed in oil.

I made it to Craft Circle this week and took my blanket in to do another row or 2. Today I managed some more crochet on my scarf whilst waiting outside the test centre.
I'm off to catch up on some more crochet.

Hope you have a good week, thank you for visiting.