Catching up with everything…


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Snickerdoodles for the coffee morning

Crikey, it’s been a good fortnight since I last posted anything – I’ve just been so busy!

I’ve bagged myself a bunch of new pen pals. so there has been letter writing and crafting going on there. I’ve also been in rehearsals for Sister Act, which is challenging, but highly enjoyable. It turns out Nun #11 (or Sister Sara of the Two Mules, as I have dubbed her) has a few tricky things to do, such as performing Latin tongue twisters, repeatedly, at speed, to a tune; or where other nuns have one note to sing, Sister Sara has eight of them, and has to sustain them. I am enjoying it immensely!

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Little white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails for the coffee morning

Then there was a fundraising coffee morning for the Beaconsfield Operatic Society, so I baked snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, and cheese scones, as well as making white chocolate mice with strawberry lace tails. Of course, I had to taste-test the goodies too, so several went into my own gob (naughty, I know, but so worth it!). We also had Grom round for Sunday dinner – she comes round every few weeks for that, and we always look forward to it. It means a flurry of activity in the kitchen, though, as when she comes, we eat our main meal at midday, instead of in the evening.

On top of all that, Choochie isn’t very well at the moment, so he requires extra hugs and kisses and general Mummy time.

And throughout all this, I have completed and added another row on my Sky Blanket. That’s thirteen rows now finished – one more and we’ll be at the half way mark!

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Thirteen rows of Sky Blanket completed!

20.06.16 - Brunette KellAnd then I dyed my hair brown in preparation for shaving it all off in August for Macmillan Cancer Support and sending to Little Princess Trust to be made into wigs for kids who have lost their hair to cancer treatment. My cousin’s fiance will be doing the honours, and to be honest, I can hardly wait to have it all taken off! For the record, I will be having my head SHAVED, not just having my hair cut short!

Incidentally, if you’d like to sponsor me in my Brave the Shave efforts, you can do so at my Brave the Shave page HERE. Every little helps! Thanks in advance. 🙂

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Sausage and Bean Hotpot


I am suffering with a horrid cold on top of it being my time of the month, so all I want to eat is good, old-fashioned comfort food. Is there anything more comforting than a nice sausage? This hearty meal will fill your belly right to your boots, and it is great for using up all the odds and ends of veg knocking about in your fridge and cupboards, looking a bit languid and forlorn, a day or two before you do your grocery shopping.

If you’re vegetarian, you can use vegetarian sausages or leave them out altogether, as it also makes a very nice bean and vegetable hot pot.

944098_10156311643150386_8876319933887294806_nSAUSAGE AND BEAN HOT POT
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Sausages – allow 2 per person
  • 1 ltr passata
  • 2 tins of beans in water (not in sauce!)
  • a good-sized handful of lentils
  • a good glug each of balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sweetener (to take away the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • whatever herbs and spices take your fancy
  • as much veg as you can cram in there

Directions:

  • Cook your sausages however you prefer – I grill mine, but you could oven cook or fry them if you like.
  • Cut your sausages into small chunks and chuck them in a pot with all the other ingredients, and let them all simmer away together till the veg is tender and the lentils are soft.

This time I used black eyed beans and butter beans, but other times I’ve used chickpeas and kidney beans, barlotti and cannelini beans – I just use whatever is in my cupboard at the time.

On this occasion, the veg I used was:

  • butternut squash (diced – I just cooked it in the sauce)
  • onions and garlic (which I sauteed lightly before putting in the rest of the ingredients)
  • baby corn
  • peppers
  • chillies
  • muchrooms
  • courgette
  • spinach

I tend to go with my old favourite combination of chilli powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and dried mixed herbs for flavour, but feel free to use whatever combination you like best.

It really is one of those dishes where I just see what’s looking a little limp or what’s rolling around in the bottom of the fridge that doesn’t look too suspect or like it’s about to grow legs and walk to the bin by itself. No matter what I’ve put in, it’s always turned out tasty.

I used a combination of four Asda Reduced Fat sausages and four Linda McCartney Rosemary and Red Onion sausages, and it made five very generous portions.

I served mine with chips, but it’s also delicious if you top it with mashed potato (or a mixture of potato and root veg all mashed together) and whack it under the grill to brown. If you fancy it, top that with cheese, and serve with even more veg, steamed to perfection.

You can cook this in your slow cooker if you like – just brown the sausages, cut them up, and chuck everything in the pot. Whack it on low in the morning, and it’ll be ready for dinner when you get home from work. Equally, you can do it in a casserole dish – I reckon it’d take anything between 30-45 minutes, but I don’t tend to cook that way, so I couldn’t say for sure.

This recipe freezes well, so if you have an extra portion or two, pop them in freezable containers, label them, and whack them in the freezer to enjoy another time.

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Pulled Pork with Spicy Onion Gravy


Be prepared to fall in love with your food, people, because this is the most delicious syn-free pulled pork you will ever taste, and when it’s coupled with the thick, rich onion gravy, it is out of this world! This is the dish slow cookers were created for, so if you don’t already have one, go out and buy a basic model slow cooker immediately – they cost as little as a tenner, so you have no excuse not to have one, and I guarantee you’ll thank me for it once you have tried this pulled pork It’s one of my favourite recipes!

12509569_10156299358645386_5555115970830740673_nPULLED PORK WITH SPICY ONION GRAVY

Ingredients:

  • One pork loin joint (large enough to feed however many people you’re feeding) (P)
  • 2 small/medium onions per person (S)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed (S)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed (F)
  • 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika (F)
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (F)
  • 1 tsp jerk seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning (F)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (F)
  • Stock cube(s) (F)
  • Boiling water (F)

Directions:

  • Mix together the garlic, herbs and spices for the rub.
  • Coat the pork in the spice rub, pressing it into the meat, then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably overnight, to really get those flavours into the meat).
  • Roughly quarter the onions and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Place the meat on top of the onions, and pop any remaining spice rub on top of it.
  • DO NOT ADD WATER TO THE SLOW COOKER!
  • Switch on the slow cooker – I usually leave a 4-person joint in there for a good 4-5 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.
  • When you’re ready to serve, remove the pork loin from the slow cooker and put it in t a large bowl. Attack it with a couple of forks – it will pull apart very easily.
  • Remove half the onions from the slow cooker and add them to the pork (I cut mine up with scissors for ease and speed), mixing them all in nicely.
  • Pop the stock cube and a little boiling water in a large jug and whisk together, then add the remaining onions and any juices or scraped up “gubbins” from the bottom of the slow cooker, and blend till smooth to make a thick gravy.
  • Serve the pulled pork and onions with the gravy and bask in the golden glow of compliments from your family as they dig in.

For my gravy, I use a Knorr ham stock cube and an Oxo beef stock cube – the beef one is simply to give the gravy a deeper colour and a little extra “oomph” to the flavour. The onions have been soaking up flavour from the meat and the spice rub, and they add a lovely juiciness to the meat.

You can serve this with veg, or it is equally delicious served on a wholemeal bread bun (your HEB choice). If you have any leftovers, it’s very nice chilled with a salad too.

Pork loin can be a bit expensive, so do what I do and look for a nice piece that’s been reduced because it’s on it’s short dated – you’ll save yourself money and it’s just as good!

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know what you think of it, so please do leave a comment below!

Carrot and Lentil Soup with Fennel Seeds


It’s cold and wintery outside, and I like nothing better than a hearty, warming bowl of soup for lunch, to heat me up from the inside. This is one of my favourite recipes to enjoy on such blustery days as I want to stay cozy and warm in the house!

12359957_10156221728995386_7391187767704627159_nCarrot and Lentil Soup with Fennel Seeds
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A little oil
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 100g red lentils
  • 1 ham stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1.5 ltr water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Lightly saute the onion and garlic till just starting to go golden, then add all the other ingredients to the pan, and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils and carrot are tender.
  • Serve and add salt and pepper to suit your preferences.

It’s so easy to make, and the crushed fennel seeds add a delicious flavour to the soup that works really well.

I hope you’ll enjoy this lovely, warming soup. If you try it, let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below!

Recipe: Off-the-chart tasty good-for-you burger with side salad and peanut dressing


Most people love a good burger, but the fast-food versions are full of cr@p and not particularly good for you. What if I told you, you could have your burger, have it be off-the-chart tasty, and totally good-for-you? And to top it all off, it’s so simple to make you’ll wonder why you ever bought ready-made burgers? Look no further – your entirely healthy, delicious dinner recipe is right here!

Burger
This really IS a tasty burger!

Ingredients:

For the burger (per burger):

  • 4oz low fat beef mince (20% or lower) or turkey mince
  • 1 tsp of your favourite sauce (I use Levi Roots’ Reggae Regaae Sauce)
  • 1/2 eschalion shallot or 1/4 small onion
  • pinch each of black pepper and cayenne pepper
  • Wholewheat or 50/50 English muffin

For the salad:

  • Green salad leaves
  • Small chunk of cucumber, sliced
  • One apple, cut into chunks

For the peanut dressing:

  • 1 tsp peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
  • Small dash of sesame oil (or peanut oil)
  • Small dash of lemon juice
  • Pinch each of salt and smoked paprika

Directions:

  • Put all your burger ingredients (apart from the muffin) into a small bowl and mush them all together with your hands, then form into a patty. Whack it on the BBQ or under the grill to cook through.
  • Arrange your salad ingredients on a plate.
  • Put all the dressing ingredients into a small bowl and mix to form a runny sauce (play with the quantities till you find a combination that suits you best).
  • Cut our English muffin in half and lightly toast.
  • Serve your burger on the muffin, and drizzle your peanut dressing over the salad, reserving a little to put on your burger.
  • Enjoy!

It’s quick and so simple as to require virtually no effort at all, and it really is off-the-chart tasty and good-for-you stuff! I’ve not tried this particular burger on the kids yet, but I’m willing to bet that even my fusspot, Tadpole, would eat this with minimal tweaking of the recipe.

Reasons to be Cheerful – Thursday


ThursdayDay four of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Thursday:

  1. New Foods
    Chochie was sitting in his highchair, picking at his ham sandwich (which he usually loves), while I ate my hot-smoked salmon with a green salad. I then started following up with half a pink grapefruit, and Choochie put down his now limp sarnie and motioned that he wanted some of my grapefruit. Expecting a reaction like the one he had with lemon back at Easter (because although it’s sweet, my pink grapefruit is still quite zingy!), I scooped a little onto my spoon, checked it had no pip fragments, and popped it in his mouth. His little face lit up! He asked for more, so I gave him more, and he ended up eating about a third of my half grapefruit! When it comes to fruit, my youngest is a bit of a greedy guts. I love watching him experience new flavours for the first time.
  2. School Fayre
    This afternoon was Tadpole’s school fayre. There was plenty to see and do, and Tadpole and I won several prizes – loads of lovely toiletries and, best of all (in his eyes), a single-use camera, which he will use to document some of our summer holiday adventures. It made him incredibly happy to win it. 🙂
  3. Scorchio!
    Today is so sunny and hot and summery, it was absolutely glorious. It really feels like summer today, and I hope we get some more weather like this once school is finished!

Reasons to be Cheerful – Tuesday


TUESDAYDay two of my positivity project – here are my three reasons to be cheerful for Tuesday:

  1. Achievement
    Tadpole came home from school today with two awards – a medal for sporting achievement and a plaque for academic achievement. He is one of only eight children in his class to get the plaque for exceeding expectations. As you can see from the photograph, he’s very proud of himself – and we’re incredibly proud of him too!
  2. Sweet, Blessed Sleep
    It seems like Choochie may be turning the corner on the subject of sleep. Till now, he’s barely slept, day or night, which has resulted me being a total Mombie for nine months. The last week or so, however, he has improved greatly, meaning that I am looking and feeling a little less like an extra in a George A Romero film. Long may it continue to improve, because I’ve actually forgotten what it feels like to sleep for more than a couple of hours straight.
  3. A Good, Home-Cooked Meal
    Meatballs in my own, home-made awesome sauce with some pasta and a little cheese sprinkled on top. It’s delicious, if I say so myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The truth is, I love cooking, and I love sitting down to enjoy a home-cooked meal with my family – it is one of my joys in life.