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Archive for the ‘Cooking and Baking’ Category

pointed-cabbageI spend a lot of my life trying to come up with new ways to cook and prepare vegetables.  We eat an awful lot of veg and very little meat.  Today I thought I’d try stir-fry cabbage with garlic and lemon.  No idea where that idea came from.

I used the following: ~

One de-stalked, very finely shredded sweetheart cabbage, ‘cos that’s what I had  growing in our garden, but your favourite cabbage will work fine I’m sure.  I don’t have a food processor so I just used a knife and cut it across the leaves to make thin shreds. 

One clove of garlic, crushed.

Good slug of extra virgin olive oil.

1 oz butter.

Juice of half a lemon or a good slug if you have the concentrated bottle variety.

Black pepper to taste.

Shake of garlic salt.

Place the oil and butter in a large wok or heavy based frying pan and heat until it starts to foam.  Add the crushed garlic but lift it straight off the heat to avoid the garlic burning [never nice] and just swirl it around for a few seconds to incorporate the flavour of the garlic into the hot oil and butter.  Place the pan back on the heat and straight in with the cabbage.  Stir immediately and keep stirring until it starts to soften.  At this point add your lemon juice, pepper and garlic salt to taste.  Serve immediately. 

I have to say this is now probably my favourite way to eat cabbage, truly delish.  I think you could also add a pinch of chilli flakes or finely sliced fresh chilli if you like a bit of heat.

It would go very nicely with fish due to the lemon.  We had it with chicken breast that I’d marinated in Thai sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, chilli flakes and black pepper.  Potato dish was crushed, roasted garlic new potatoes.  It was an absolutely lovely supper and very light and easy to eat given the heat of the day.

Apologies for no photo but it really wasn’t much to look at,  just a shredded cabbage 😀 .

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Today I managed to take some photo’s of my roasted vegetable ratatouille which I made another batch of this morning.  Beneath that are a few shots of my Chocolate Sundae blanket which has come on a little over the last week or so.  Enjoy!!

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Raw veg prepped and chopped. Used some button mushrooms this time.

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Dry seasonings and a stray onion lol

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Veg after the first 45 minutes of cooking

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Time to add the tabasco and chopped tomatoes

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Ready to go back into the oven for another 20 minutes

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Finished product just waiting for our supper later

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Chocolate Sundae blanket with some fragrant Sweet Peas from the garden

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Really starting to come together now

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Reuben loves smelling the flowers, sooo helpful Reu lol…

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Today has been just lovely.  One of those days that are hugely productive but in a truly enjoyable way; doing things I love doing especially when I’ve got the time to do them. 😀

I ran the gauntlet of Mr Tesco this morning as soon as I’d dropped Ethan off at school.  I was in the store before 9am 🙂 .  Along with the usual fayre I bought a HUGE chicken for £3.75 [half price as sell-by today].  Also got some lovely liquid hand soap for 45p, it was cheap due to clearance and large bottles so I bought two of those.

I put the chicken in the oven the minute I got home as it was at the end of its shelf life, so the house has been full of lovely smells all day.

I harvested some of our rhubarb, after I’d unpacked the shopping, as it’s starting to take over the tub it grows in and needs thinning out.

I love rhubarb, it’s one of my favourite fruits and not one that’s in the shops all year round.  It’s also very expensive even when it is in season, hence we grow our own.

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Rhubarb tub, thinned out

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The ‘crop’

I chopped it up. . .

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Such vibrant pink [and a cuppa lol]

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Little half-moon discs

washed it. . .

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Good job the sink was clean lol

stewed it. . .

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So pretty

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Mmmmmmmmmmm

and turned half of it into a lovely crumble, the other half is in the freezer for another day.

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Double mmmmmmmmmm

While I had the oven on [again] I threw in a batch of mini rock buns. . .

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Lovely moist mini rock buns, not a rock in sight

one of which I had [buttered 😉 ] with a cup of tea.

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Best part of the day

There’s still half-an-hour left of the afternoon for me to sit and do a bit of Choccy crochet before I fetch my gorgeous boy from karate. See? I told you it was a perfect day.

 

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1940's wifeToday I heard on the news that a group called ‘Action on Sugar’ has suggested that our government consider putting a tax on sugar to force encourage us to eat less of it.   Sigh!!  Don’t get me wrong, in principle I actually do agree with some of the points they’ve raised but really?  Making our food bills even bigger?  That’ll stop people reaching for a chocolate digestive with their cuppa won’t it?  Or will it actually make them reach for the biccy box even quicker? 

I’m getting slightly fed up with being given a constant guilt trip about what we should or shouldn’t be eating.  Maybe if these ‘health groups’ spent a bit more time promoting common sense and healthy living in general, rather than targeting individual food groups, people wouldn’t become quite so defensive and cross.  I feel like eating a biscuit in protest. 

My other fear is that, like with alcohol and cigarettes, putting the prices of sugar laden foods and drinks up will just result in people still buying them but then having less money for the important things such as meat, veg and utilities.  It’s the children who suffer when this happens.  Not everyone is prepared to go without a cigarette or a drink in order to feed their child.  Not everyone has their priorities quite right, but that’s a choice they’re making and taxing sugar won’t change that.  Educating people in finances, nutrition and common sense would be far more sensible.

Also, there are those of us who are constantly trying to keep our family diet healthy.  Cook all meals from scratch; easy when I’m off work for two months, more of a challenge when I’m working full-time and exhausted, even with the best will in the world.  Watching the sugar and fat intake.  Trying to keep up with the FIVE a day, or is it SEVEN a day now?  I’m struggling to remember it changes so often.  So when I hear these things on the news I find myself scrutinising what we’ve eaten this week.  I find myself feeling guilty for that packet of sweets Ethan had after school yesterday.  It’s ridiculous!  I bet those who don’t care, still don’t care and those, like me, who try hard will try even harder. 

The way I see it we’ll be back on WWII rations within ten years.  That won’t be a bad thing either, we’re nearly there already, they’re just using TAX to ration us instead of Ration Books.  We were never as healthy as a nation than during the second world war.  Admittedly things were different then [no imported foods and a very scary German man] but ultimately we’re going to end up with a similar scenario by way of a world food shortage if we don’t eat less, waste less and generally take some level of responsiblity for our space here on this Earth.

It is our job as parents to educate our children to eat healthily and sensibly.  Not to scare the pants off them about fats, salt, sugar, cigarettes and alcohol.  We need ALL our food groups in order to be healthy.  Your body would make it’s own cholesterol if you didn’t eat any, interesting huh?  Your body will also make sugar out of the carbohydrates you eat, TAX THAT Mr Health Group.  It’s about all things in moderation.  It’s about avoiding huge amounts of processed foods but the occasional Mac D’s to celebrate an achievement or child’s birthday should not become a huge guilt trip.

The tricky part is who is going to educate the parents whose parents did not or could not educate them?  Who is going to share the right information with the young mother/father who was raised in care without a parent to love and guide?   Schools now focus some of the curriculum on nutrition and exercise which is great but ultimately this has to be lived out at home to create a long-term habit.  I don’t know the answers but then that’s why I’m not Prime Minister [and we’re all grateful for that 😉 ].  However, I still think that a general common sense approach would work best.  Once the majority are on board and it becomes ‘cool’ to drink water not coke, ‘cool’ to bake like your Nan did and ‘cool’ to eat fresh produce then maybe the rest will follow.

Finally, going back to what I said about cooking from scratch being more of a challenge when I’m working full-time.  I wonder if this is a contributing factor as well?  The pressure to be all things to all people is huge for working women.  Work all day, spend ‘quality’ time with the children [homework, play, cuddles, bedtime], produce a healthy meal, keep uptodate with the domestics AND stay sane?  It’s a big ask and I can quite understand why you’d shove a pasty in the oven and break open a tin of [salt and sugar laden] beans when you’re on your knees with exhaustion on a Thursday night.   Make the cost of living cheaper Mr Prime Minister, and maybe more women would be able to afford to stay at home and produce this amazing diet the government and other well intentioned ‘health’ groups are telling us we should be eating.  Miracles take just that bit longer I’m afraid and we’re doing our best, we really are but quite obviously it’s still not good enough. 

Found these rules from the war years and they’re actually still applicable today. . . if we all lived by these we’d not go far wrong.

1940's rules

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Today has been one of my baking days.  I woke up with that urge to create good, wholesome food and use up some leftovers and bits that have been lurking in the freezer and fridge for a while.  So we have a fish pie; using a tin of pink salmon, some smoked haddock that had been in the freezer for a few months and some potatoes [for the topping] that had got tired of waiting and started growing to amuse themselves. 

Fish pie. . .

Fish pie. . .

We also have a fruit pie and fruit crumble.  I like crumble, but Si likes pie hence the pudding ensemble.  They are both filled with plum and apple, the plums were the last of a batch I bought at the back end of last year.  If I remember rightly they were incredibly good value in Tesco if you bought large boxes, so I did, then stewed and froze them.  The cooking apples were uber cheap in Aldi last week so I couldn’t resist a fruity pudding opportunity.  I’ve already used a couple of them in some Apple and Cinammon muffins I made last week so they really are the gift that keeps on giving.

Plum and apple pie

Plum and apple pie

Plum and apple crumble

Plum and apple crumble

I hope you’re all having a very blessed and peace-filled holy week in this lead up to Easter Sunday.  For me it’s a time of reconcilliation to my faith and a drawing closer to God.  May you all experience renewal during this most important and exciting week in the Christian calendar.

Pax

Sharon xx

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SuccessAs the sudden influx of posts is testimony I am off work today because my son is a bit poorly.  I have to admit that once the guilt at not being at work subsides [why do we feel guilty about having to be off work even if it’s totally justifiable??] I really relish and enjoy an expected day at home.  I often spend a lot of time wondering how to spend these gifted hours, and usually resort to housework [yawn] but today has been different.  My house is actually pretty clean and tidy due to it only being Tuesday, [we spend most of Sunday trying to achieve domestic perfection :/ in the cleaning department] so instead I’ve opted to cook, and boy have I cooked!! 

With one small boy ensconced on the sofa, loaded up with pain relief, a blanket, the TV remote and some juice I headed for the kitchen.  So far we have; a chicken roasted and resting in the fridge, an apricot and raisin flapjack cut and stored away for snack-times, a loaf of my Artisan bread proving in the microwave [safest place with five cats always on the prowl for an unexpected snack], a Victoria sponge baking in the oven as I type and last, but not in any way least, there’s quite a substantial amount of vegetable soup in tubs in the freezer.  Impressed??  Or just peeved and daunted by so much domestic activity 😆 ?   I often read about such heights of domestic perfection on other blogs and just feel totally exasperated at that Domestic Goddess having so much motivation and spare time to achieve the impossible.  However, today I am that ‘Goddess’.  It probably won’t happen again any time soon [well, not until we break-up for Easter anyway] but it feels very good just now. 

I often wonder if it’s healthy to look at what others achieve and feel jealous, daunted or just plain fed-up?  For me it usually highlights my own perceived inadequacies, and instead of making me want to do more, I often just feel like giving up in the face of such unattainable domestic ‘perfection’.  I purposely use the term ‘domestic’ because I never feel this way about any other type of success in those around me, i.e. work achievements or academic qualifications.  Everything else just passes me by and I celebrate with that person and feel only joy for them with no desire to replicate that for myself. 

I suppose that really we [I] should be inspired by other people’s success’, whilst always maintaining a sense of self.  Keeping a realistic outlook that should remind us that no two people are alike, we all have different calls on our time and lives, different skills and talents.  God makes us all different for a very good reason.  We’re all called to enjoy and succeed at different things or we’d have gaps in our society that no one would ever fill.   So next time someone shares their, ‘I’ve had a successful day,’ post just read, be inspired if it applies to your life-style, be glad for them and move on!!  As the image at the top suggests, it’s not a reflection on you.  Cake anyone?  😉

 

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Today has been just perfect.  Full of colour.  First I woke up to golden, dappled sunshine.

Golden sunlight

Golden sunlight in my dining room.

Which in turn gave rise to rainbow washing, drying beneath an unblemished, blue sky.  First line-dried laundry of 2014 ~ yayyy!!

Blue sky through the washing..

Blue sky through the washing..

I decided to colour my hair….way overdue as the badger gray stripe at the front was starting to wave at people.  Not my best look 😆 .

Good bye gray, hello 'iced latte' [really??]

Good-bye gray stripe, hello ‘iced latte‘ [really??]

Midmorning cuppa in one of our pretty rainbow mugs.

Beautiful rainbow mugs. .

Beautiful rainbow mug.

Wonderful smells of golden brown scones. . .which we had warm with strawberry jam and extra thick double cream.  

Freshly baked scones.

Freshly baked scones.

All topped off with a huge tidy up of my craft area.  I decided to sort through my wool ‘stash’ and erm well, I appear to have my very own wool shop right here in the house.  [Shhhhhh, don’t tell Simon 😉 ]  A lovely array of multi-coloured gorgeousness. The wool is two balls deep [one behind the other] plus, if you look closely, there is a shelf-full just under the desk too.  It’s just about visible at the bottom right of the photo’. 

Sharon's Wool Shop

“Sharon’s Wool Shop”

That’s my technicolour day.  Just delightful.  I also managed to bless someone else today by Freecycling my double guinea pig hutch along with some accessories.  My last piggie died just a few weeks ago bringing to a sad end forty years of keeping guinea pigs.  Time to call it a day, but I was so pleased the hutch could be of use to someone else, a lady who has obviously hit a tough time and is now able to give her piggies a better home for free.   So many blessings.  So much emotional and material luxury in abundance.  Must always remember how lucky we are.

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For those on FB and here who have asked, here is the recipe for the Artisan loaf.

400g strong white bread flour

1/2 teaspoon of instant dried yeast [the dry granules that you add straight to the flour, as opposed to ‘active dried yeast’ that you usually mix with warm water first].  I bought some sachets in Aldi and just used half a teaspoon from one of them.  I sealed up the packet for next time, I’m sure it’ll keep if I don’t leave it too long.

1 tsp sea salt

300 ml of tepid water

**[see below for sourced ingredients]

Mix everything together in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warmish place for 12-18 hours.   I left mine for 12 hours, in the microwave as my kitchen is warm and the cats haven’t learnt to open the microwave [yet 🙂 ].  It tripled in size and turned into a big gloopy, soggy mass.  Perfect!!  [Yes, honestly.] xx

You now need a large oven proof pot with a lid.  As you can see in my photo’s below I used a cast iron casserole pot but a pyrex or any decent sized casserole will do equally well.  Anything that will withstand the heat. 

Heat the oven to 450F ~ 230C [I did 210C for my fan oven] ~ or Gas 8.

Put the empty pot in the hot oven to warm 30 minutes before the bread goes in.

Flour your work-top.  BE GENEROUS, IT’S A VERY STICKY DOUGH.  Tip the dough out and shape it into a large ball.  No kneading remember, you’re just shaping it.  Cover with more cling film and leave it for 30 mins while that pot warms through.

Take a large piece of baking parchment and fold it into a strip.  This will go under your bread while it’s cooking to enable you to lift it out of the pot when it’s all still very hot. [See photo below for help.]

Fresh out of the oven and piping hot.

Baking parchment ‘handles’ still in place.

Once the pot is warm, put the parchment and bread in [this is where you’ll be glad you floured the work-top well as mine stuck a bit, but it made no difference to the final outcome even though I kinda dumped it into the pot lol], lid on and bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes to brown the crust. 

Lift it out using those clever little handles you made earlier and cool on a wire rack.  Eat as soon as you can cut it, if you can wait that long.  It’s delicious toasted with butter and keeps well.  A homemade loaf is never going to keep fresh for as long as a shop bought one, but then that’s because it’s not full of preservatives and other unknown rubbish.  Surely this is the point of homemade; part of the charm?  However, let’s be honest, it’s that tasty that it won’t be around for long enough to go stale 😉 .

I’ve seen people add all sorts, poppy seeds, cheese and onion, herbs…all the usual things that you find flavouring bread.  So far I’ve only made it plain, but it’s delicious, a really nice flavour and a fantastic aerated texture. 

Enjoy!! xx

**ETA the prices/source of the ingredients I used: ~

Aldi Pantry strong white flour 1.5kg is 75p = you can make three loaves with this, with a bit to spare for dusting.

Aldi Pantry 8 sachets of fast action dried yeast is 59p = I reckon you can get at least 16 loaves out of one box of 8, maybe more [I’ll know after I make my next loaf.]

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Artisan [no knead] bread. . .

I found a recipe on another ‘crafty’ blog for Artisan [no knead] bread and, as it’s Saturday today [no work, Yayyyy], I thought I’d give it a go.  It really is ‘no knead’ and it turns into a lovely rustic style loaf.  Totally foolproof so far as my first effort has turned out amazingly well. 

Below are some step-by-step photo’s.  I started it at 7pm last night as it has to be left to ‘do it’s own thing’ for twelve hours or so.  Then I finished it off and baked it this morning…

After twelve hours 'doing it's own thing' it more than tripled in size.

After twelve hours ‘doing it’s own thing’ it more than tripled in size.

Shaped and 'resting' before the big bake.

Shaped and ‘resting’ before the big bake.

Fresh out of the oven and piping hot.

Fresh out of the oven and piping hot.

On the cooling wrack and looking rather good.

On the cooling rack and looking rather good.

I was very impressed with this recipe, it really was extremely simple and very little effort.  The only part that I had to give any thought too was the twelve hours rising time which obviously has to be factored in.  Making it on a work day could be a challenge unless I was very on-the-ball in the mornings, but at the weekends or during holiday times I could easily knock out a loaf every day if I had a mind to. 

Happy to share the recipe with anyone who’d like it.  Just ask in the comments section.

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