Monday, 28 January 2013

Too Much Stuff - January update

Last week I sent  a big box of cards to a charity who will sell them to raise funds, and I'm already working on filling the next box. I'm  still working my way through my mountains of stash, and in  some places the mountain is actually starting to look noticeably smaller, but I still have a LOT of stuff to use before I can justify buying anything more apart from basics like white card and adhesives.

You've probably seen some of the cards I've made this month and entered into various challenges, but here are some more that I've made for the sheer pleasure of making them.


Meal Planning Monday - 28th January

Meal Planning Monday


Well, last week WAS the first week of the meat-and-veg boxes,  so now I know what's going to be delivered this Thursday it's a lot easier to plan ahead. As usual, the weekend meals may be switched around according to when Mark is free to cook and what he fancies making.

Monday pizza (I made double quantity of dough last time and froze some bases, so this will be a quick meal) topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, rocket and parmesan. Green salad and, since we have a celeriac the size of a beach ball, possibly a celeriac remoulade.
Tuesday Lancashire hotpot with braised red cabbage and carrot and swede mash
Wednesday a curry of some sort with the rest of the lamb - probably a dhansak so I can use more than half the lamb in the hot pot and boost tonight's protein with lentils. Not sure what we'll have left in the way of veg but I'll probably do carrots with cumin seed and mustard seed.
Thursday There's going to be a chicken in the box, so we'll have roast chicken with whichever veg look as if they need to be used first.
Friday pasta with creamed cavolo nero sauce This is loosely based on a recipe from one of the  River CafĂ© books and  will use up the last of the cavolo nero from the garden
Saturday there's going to be a squash in the box, so tonight we'll have it either as a risotto or in one of Mark's wonderful soups, maybe with some home made onion bread.
Sunday steamed steak pudding - it's still comfort food weather! If I'm fit to go shopping, I'll buy some Brussels Sprouts for with this, otherwise it will be veg from the box

I'm joining in with Meal Planning Monday  at At Home With Mrs M

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Less is More 104 - sketch

This  week's Less is More challenge is a sketch - this very simple sketch

Here is my take on it - I masked off the card to leave a strip  on which I stamped the dragonflies in Versamark then chalked over in shades of blue and green, then added the dragonfly  and sentiment to add a little more interest.

Potato Waffles

No, not those "waffley versatile" orange rectangles that live in the freezer,  these are home made potato waffles from real potato.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win an electric waffle maker and I've been trying to think of ways to make it earn its keep. We don't eat many sweet foods so savoury ones seem to be the way to go. And today there was some leftover potato-and-celeriac mash in  the fridge so I decided to see if I could make potato waffles.

The mash could equally well be all potato, but  I think all celeriac might make too runny a mixture. The  flavour of the potato and celeriac blend worked very well for us.

To make them you will need:

about 500g left over mashed potato or potato and celeriac
1 medium egg, beaten
40 g self raising flour
If the mash wasn't made with butter and seasoning, 25 g softened butter and some salt and pepper

Spray the waffle maker plates with release agent and set it to heat up while making the potato mixture.

Beat the potato with egg (and butter and seasoning, if used)  until smooth then gently stir in the flour.

Spread half the mixture in the waffle maker, coaxing it out from the middle but not right to the edges- closing the lid will finish the job for you.

Leave to cook for 10 minutes until golden. The waffles will rise and be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

If you don't have a waffle maker you could shallow fry spoonfuls a few at a time, but I'm rather taken with the pretty heart design of the waffles.


I am submitting this to the No Waste Food Challenge  from Turquoise Lemons which this month is being hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen with the theme Potatoes.

And as the waffles would make a scrummy breakfast especially with a poached egg on top I'm also submitting it to Breakfast Club from Fuss Free Flavours which is being hosted by Farmersgirl Kitchen

Emergency Crafters: New Year's Resolution

For some months now I've been trying hard to reduce the Mountain Of Stuff, and one of my New Year's Resolutions was to carry on with this and use  my stuff to enter more challenges with.

Well, the current challenge at Emergency Crafters fits in very well with my plan, because it is New Year's Resolution and  wants us to use stash that we've had for more than a year. So here is a card I have created with the challenge in mind.

Everything about this card has  been in my stash for over a year, except the adhesives and the piece of white card I did the stamping on. The background paper came free in a magazine a couple of years ago, the scalloped card, die, gems  and punch are about the same age and the stamp is one I've had for several years and used many, many times. Here I stamped it with Versamark and then chalked with chalks that are about 12 year old and desperately in need of replacing! But the oldest item on the card is ribbon left over from a dress I knitted for my daughter's doll  - she was about 5 years old at the time and will shortly be 34. The motto is, never throw anything away, one day it will come in useful!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Corned Beef Scone

When I mentioned this dish in this week's meal plan, several people were interested in it so I thought I'd share the recipe.

The original idea came off a corned beef label back in the mid 1960s, and the dish has a very "retro" feel that makes it great winter comfort food.  As well as that, it is made almost entirely from store cupboard ingredients, handy for the recent snow  days we've been having in the UK.

Although the price of corned beef seems to have soared recently, it is still a pretty economical source of protein. It is also often on special offer and because it is canned, can be bought cheaply on a BOGOF deal and stored until needed, making it an ideal candidate for Credit Crunch Munch at Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All - especially as the photos have been kept "frugal" too,

This quantity is rather more than two greedy adults can manage - it would feed three with more normal appetites, or two adults and two children.

The ingredients don't look too promising do they? But the sum, as with so many recipes, is greater than the parts.


1 small tin of corned beef
1 tin of tomato-flavour condensed soup
2 tablespoons Branston pickle
200 grams self-raising flour
50 grams hard vegetable fat, butter, or margarine
1 egg
A small quantity of milk

Set oven to 170degrees C.
Cut the corned beef into small pieces, place it in a large bowl, along with the Branston pickle and 2 tablespoons of the soup. Mash the whole lot together.
Rub the fat into the flour, stir in the egg and a small quantity of milk, then form the mixture into a soft dough.
Tip the dough onto a greased baking sheet, and roll it out into a rough rectangle.
Spread the corned beef / Branston mixture over the dough base, leaving a decent margin all around the edges.
Bring the scone dough together to form a "sausage" shape, enclosing the meat / pickle mixture. Brush the surface with some milk, particularly around the edges, which will help to seal them. Score a few slashes in the top to allow some of the steam to escape.
Bake in the oven at 170C for approx 30 minutes, until the dough has risen and taken on a nice golden colour.
Shortly before the scone is due to be ready, make the sauce by heating the remaining soup with a little added milk.
The finished dish will look something like this. Don't worry if it cracks open -- this is not meant to be a pretty dish!

Being such a retro dish,  I like to serve it on a retro style plate. This is part of a set we bought when we first married, 35 years ago. Very few items are left now, having suffered from being shipped all around the world in Mark's Army days, but I still love them. The range was called Kalabar and made by Palissy, part of the Royal Worcester company. I think the design would be popular again today if it was still in production.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

LIM week 103 - Friends

This week's challenge at Less is More is a theme, and the theme is Friends. I really didn't think I had anything to make an entry with this week, until I saw Linby's beautiful creations and remembered that somewhere in a  drawer I had an Anna Griffin stamp that says "The best mirror is an old friend". I thought this would combine well with a mirror made from die cut ovals with metallic silver card for the glass and wood-effect card for the frame.

But oh dear, when I assembled the card, the result wasn't "clean and simple" it was "dull and boring" which is quite a different thing!

There was no  way I could submit that for the challenge, but rather than scrap it I decided to go for a more vintage look. The result is  no  use for Less is  More, but I think I've rescued what would otherwise have been a waste of card

So, back to the drawing board. A rummage through my stash produced a vellum "Best Friends" sentiment. Not being a dog person, I decided that a woman's  best friend is her cat! Here's my second-attempt card, totally different from the one above, not what I set out to make at all, but a much better candidate for Lass is More, and hence it is THIS card that I am entering into this week's  challenge.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Eating my books

I have a lot of recipe  books. A LOT of recipe books.

Big glossy books

Popular practical books

And the grubby, gravy-stained paperbacks I use almost every day.

The trouble is, I have so many that I never know where to find a particular recipe. So I start looking through my books and either see something completely different that tempts me, or can't find it at all and end up searching online for a similar recipe, even though I know I have it..... somewhere....

So I was delighted to be offered a free trial subscription to Eat Your Books. This is a site where many thousands of recipe books have been indexed. You make up a personal library of the books you own, finding them by title, author or ISBN number,  and when  all your books are listed, you have a complete searchable index of all your books. Now you can type the name of  the recipe you want to find into the search box and you will be told which book you will find it in and shown a shopping list of ingredients.  If you are looking for inspiration for a certain ingredient, you can search for everything containing it, and if you want to exclude certain ingredients, that is easily done too. There are lots of invaluable tips in the "Tips and tricks" box on your home page.

I've had my subscription for a few weeks now and since Christmas have been listing all the recipe books in my study, around 180 of them (you can use the Eat Your Books widget in the right hand menu  to see a list)  ..... there's still a loft full to tackle, plus  piles of magazines which can also be listed. And I've just noticed that blogs can be added to your library too.

Listing the books was easy. Most of  the books in my collection were in their extensive library of around 110,000 books. I thought there would be a few that challenged it, like the bilingual "Chopsticks" books I bought in Hong Kong 35 years ago, "Kaikai Anianai" which is from Papua New Guinea and tells you how to cook flying foxes,  sago grubs and people, and a very old American paperback called "The  Erotic Baker"  which includes such delights as "Pecker Pudding" and "AC/DC Zucchini". But they were all there. The only ones I  couldn't find on the list were some of my "old but not historic" books from the early to mid  20th century and a few of the books I have from small South East Asian publishers.

I did  find the search engine a little unforgiving - I'm so used to being able to mis-type things into Google and be  asked  "did you mean.....?" that I was a bit surprised when, for instance, I typed "Nigle Slater" and was told there were no results. But once I realised  I had to type more carefully I pulled my socks up and got on with  it.

As well as the personal library, the site is a treasure trove of news, reviews, articles and inspiration that provides many hours of mouth-watering reading. But the library is the star attraction and I am already finding that I am cooking from a wider range of my books rather then turning back to old favourites time and time again.

So what does all this cost? Well, you can have FREE membership if you only list 5 books. And with the average cook book ownership per UK household at just 10 books, and people like  me helping to pull that average up, there must be a lot of people for whom this is plenty. It's  certainly a great way to try the site and see whether you want to go on and upgrade to full membership, which costs a very reasonable $2.50 a month or $25.00 a year.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Call for a plumber!

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is  Forever in  Blue Jeans. I really didn't think I would have anything suitable, but a search through the CD The Best of La Pashe 2012  produced this denim-bottomed plumber, complete with impressive "cleavage", and also a whitewashed brick backing paper which reminds me of my gran's outside loo back in the 1950s.

I seldom make humorous cards or use cartoon style decoupage, so it was fun to try something completely outside my comfort zone.

The two jeans pockets are made with peel offs and denim effect card from a kit I bought many, many years ago from QVC.  Thanks to all the tips that were commented and tweeted to me when I mentioned the other day that I had problems showing the depth in dimensional cards, I  lit it from the side and took the photo without flash. So at least there are some shadows to show  the depth. I need to practise a lot more,but at last I'm heading in the right direction.

Meal Planning Monday - the "Not Going Out" edition

Right, now I've got you all humming the song, WHY am I not going out? Well, it's a double whammy. We still have several inches of snow in our road - being a side road it's untreated, and being on a bend on the crest of a hill  the road outside our house is treacherous. So we're not taking the car out unless there's an emergency (Having checked the loo roll situation, we may be heading for one....)

But worse than that, because I have whooping cough the doctor has advised me to stay indoors for the next two weeks. so no shopping trips for me, not that I really feel up to battling round a supermarket. I suppose I could break the habit of a lifetime and do a grocery shop online, but I thought first of all I'd use it as an opportunity to clear out all the odds and ends in the fridge, cupboards and freezer.

Last week we stuck to the plan apart from, as I predicted, swapping Friday and Saturday around for Mark to cook. His Open Kibbeh was sensational! We weren't over keen on the Red Bean Risotto - it had mascarpone in it which doesn't really work in a risotto for me. But I think I was subconsciously determined not to like it, simply because I love the Caribbean combination of  Rice and Peas so much I feel hostile to combining the two any other way!

Meal Planning Monday
Another complication this week is that a couple of weeks  ago I cancelled  our weekly veg boxes. Well, how was I to know I'd be confined to barracks for two reasons? However I've just won a month's worth of weekly veg and meat boxes, to be delivered on Thursdays. But I'm not sure when it's due to start. I've planned for it to start this week, as we happen to have all the same items of meat in the freezer as are due to be in this week's box, so only the veg are liable to change. Because we had no veg box last week, and the veg in the garden is under snow, we'll just be using what there is - there's a cabbage and a few carrots in the fridge but the freezer still has about 20 two-person portions of home grown beans from last summer in it, as well as fresh tomato sauce,  Patty Pan Cakes and red cabbage.
Monday Mark is cooking again. It's going to be a surprise, but he's promised a vegetarian meal that will probably include lentils and polenta.
Tuesday Corned Beef and Branston Scone  - a very surprisingly tasty combination of unpromising looking ingredients. The recipe is on Mark's blog.
Wednesday Red Cabbage with Frankfurters  I usually use a smoked sausage ring for this, but this week it will have to be a tin of hot dog sausages!
Thursday Macaroni Cheese
Friday Chilli Con Carne with brown and wild rice. If the box doesn't come this week, I might raid the freezer for mince or do a Chilli Sin Carne instead, using a mixture of red and black beans.
Weekend I expect Mark will cook again on Saturday or Sunday. The other day we'll  probably have roast pork, however I think there's a Farmer's Market in Fleet on Saturday  so our plans may change.
If you'd like to join in with Meal Planning Monday, pop over to At Home With Mrs M  - and for my comping friends who are reading this,she has  a lovely competition  running at the moment!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Feeling Blue

Why am I feeling blue? Because I'm stuck indoors with - of all things - whooping cough? Or because I appear to have lost my car under a mountain of snow?

No, because my first attempt at a card for this week's challenge at CAS-ology was such a complete and utter disaster that I'm not even going to share it as one of my where-I-went-wrong photos. When I read that this week's cue card is BLUE I immediately thought "Oriental!". I'm a big fan of the Willow Pattern. I have been ever since I was a small child and my parents had a beautiful dimensional Willow Pattern plate hanging above the fireplace. So I stamped an oriental scene in outline on one corner of my card. It looked stark, so I watercoloured it in shades of blue. Now the corner looked too heavy so I thought I'd balance it with an Oriental corner design diagonally opposite. And it ended up looking a complete and utter mess! I don't know if  I'll even be able to salvage the elements to use in a future design, but I'm going to give it a darn good  try.

So I had a browse through Pinterest for inspiration and came across this beautiful card  and thought something similar would lend itself well to the lovely Stampin' Up Just believe stamp set. However by the time I'd stamped the large image from the set a couple of times complete with shadows, the result was really too cluttered to be clean and simple, although I liked it and set it aside to use later.

So I tried again, this time without the shadows and using the large image just once, flanked by the smaller one each side. Result! At last I had something that I was happy with. At this point, I thought it would look good as a panel on a DL card,and that would also fit in with this week's theme at CAS-ual Fridays which is  CFC86 "Long and Short"

Once I'd mounted the panel on the card though, it looked rather unbalanced. Once again I felt it needed something in the diagonally opposite corner, but I wanted to avoid the disaster of my first attempt. What it really needed was a few dark blue pearls - but I only had cream ones. Then I remembered the peel-off  pens which I'd bought in about 535 BC and hardly used since. Miraculously, they hadn't dried out and they coloured the pearls perfectly so at last I had a card that i was happy with - even though it bears no resemblance to my original inspiration.

So I'm submitting this card into two challenges:

CAS-ology Week 27 Blue
CASual Fridays CFC86 Long and Short

As for the piece of stamping that came out too cluttered, I rescued the stamped panel and made a card from it - I'm not putting it into any challenges but I thought I'd share it

Friday, 18 January 2013

Vintage Vogue

I think this must be the first time I have ever joined in with the CD Sunday Challenge Blog, because all though I have lots of lovely CDs I tend to forget to use them! I really must make more of an effort, and learn to be more creative with them. I have to confess that once I've printed off the papers, I generally can't think of anything to do but straightforward matting and layering, so I'm hoping that by joining in and visiting some of the other blogs taking part I will learn to become as creative with my CDs as I am with the rest of my stash.

This week, the theme  is Vintage Vogue and I think Debbie Moore's  designs are perfect for this theme. I chose the "Black and White Chic Boutique" CD, which if I remember correctly came free with one of her others, and used it for the background paper, topper, border and greeting with black and pink card and black peel offs added.  As the image was purley black and white, I highlighted the floral design on the robe with metallic pencils.

Now I'm off to go and look around some of the other blogs  for inspiration

Chickpea fritters, beetroot tzatsiki

One of my New Year's resolutions was to have at least one vegetarian dinner a week, and so far we are comfortably averaging two a week.

About a fortnight ago, I  saw a recipe I really wanted to try - chickpea burgers with sweet potato wedges. I thought it had been in a magazine, which prompted me to spend part of last week searching through - and tidying - all my old magazines. No joy.

OK then, it must have been in a book. I've been meaning for ages to tidy up my cook books and add them all to Eat Your Books, so I had a massive blitz, added the whole lot (I'll say more about that in another post) and then searched the recipe index.


That means  I must have seen it on a website or  a blog - please let me know  if  it was YOUR blog. I've tried googling for it but nothing matches the picture in my head. Maybe  I dreamed it and the picture was only ever in my head, I don't know.

But I'd got my heart set on some kind of chickpea burger, so I searched my Eat Your Books library to see what other chickpea recipes there were, and it told me that I would find Chickpea fritters, beetroot tzatsiki in Nigel Slater's Tender, Volume 1. And yes, I had all the ingredients  in the house - I was good to go.

The fritter mixture is, as Nigel warns, very soft. Even after standing, it had a tendency to break up and crumble in the pan. Next time I make them, and there will be a next time as they were delicious, I think I will add some bread crumbs to firm them up and make them more like the burgers I am fantasising about.
We are warned not to over mix the tzatsiki, so that the beetroot doesn't colour all the yoghurt. However my husband has an aversion to plain natural yoghurt and will only eat it when it is disguised, so I have it a good thorough mixing and loved the bright red result!
However just in case he didn't like it, I also made some chipotle mayonnaise. This is very simple - just put two heaped tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise in a bowl - use bought mayo, not your lovely home made stuff for this as the chipotle will fight the flavour of good olive oil - then stir in a rounded teaspoonful of chipotle paste. Job done.
I served sweet potato wedges and salad  with this and the result was a vibrant, colourful meal packed with zingy flavours. And I didn't need to worry about Mark not liking the tzatsiki after all!

I'm adding this post to Dish of the Month at Farmersgirl Kitchen


Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Random Recipe from my Mum's bookshelf

 This month at Belleau Kitchen, Dom has challenged us to make a random recipe from a borrowed book.  I borrowed this Kenneth Lo book from my Mother. Published in 1979, it cost £2.50 when it was new. Actually it only has 80 pages and few of the recipes are illustrated, the photo plates being scattered rather sparsely through the book, so I think recipe books now represent better value for money!

The recipe the book fell open at was one I know she has cooked several times (but never for me!) - Red Cooked Beef with Star Anise. I love the combination of beef and star anise so was  very happy with this choice.

The recipe used  a whopping 4lb of braising steak - as there are only two of us, I used less  than a quarter of that amount, but just halved the  quantities of carrots and sauce ingredients or the slow cooking could have left it dry. The only other change I made was out of necessity - I was shopping on a Monday when the local butcher is closed,  so instead of buying my beef in a single piece I  had to get diced beef from the supermarket.

It's a very simple dish and can be prepared well in advance and left to cook slowly. That's  quite unfamiliar territory for me when it comes to Chinese cooking. Having lived in Hong Kong, I'm used to a  frenzy of last minute activity as I stir fry everything. I did introduce a bit of stir frying though, as I made a side dish of stir fried Chinese leaves with onion and ginger, with a few peanuts added for crunch.

The verdict? The recipe may be an Oldie, but it's definitely a Goodie. Fragrant, delicious and simple enough for a midweek supper. And I hope my Mum isn't in  a hurry to get her book back, I have lots more dishes to try first! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A round of applause!

This week's challenge at CAS-ual Fridays is "A round  of applause" - a project incorporating at least one circle ans celebrates  an accomplishment.

Here is my card - I really MUST learn more about lighting. There's actually a lot of depth to it, so the star is set back behind the aperture, but even with the card turned partly sideways it doesn't show properly. I know I need to sort out a way of lighting it from the side to cast a shadow and give it depth, but I've just not had enough practise at this card photography lark to understand the techniques yet!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Less is More #102 - sport and exercise

This week it's a One Layer Challenge at Less is More and when I saw that the theme was sport and exercise I thought I wouldn't be joining in. I have nothing in my collection that fits the theme, and although I can see several great submissions  that use digis,  I'm not really into using them.

Then I remembered a box of unmounted rubber gathering dust in the spare room. It was a grab bag I bought from an American website about 10 years ago, and the contents are just plain weird! A few of them are X-rated, and over the years I've made jokey cards for friends with them, but most of them are just thrown in the box and ignored. Maybe there would be something sport or exercise related in there?

I had a good rummage and the nearest I could find was this quirky image of the Mona Lisa practising her yoga. Well, yoga's a form of exercise, isn't it? I wanted some words that implied relaxing. I thought about "Leonardo says..... relax" but decided it was too obscure, then  about something based in the "Keep calm and......" poster, but felt that was done to death last year, so finally came up with

Calm down,dear, it's only a birthday.

Which UK readers will know is  a parody of a famous car insurance advert from a few years ago.

I used the computer to generate the message on the card, then stamped and coloured the image. I thought she really HAD to be wearing bright red slippers ...... so now you all know the secret of  why the Mona Lisa is smiling - until now, only SHE knew about those red slippers!

Meal Planning Monday 14th January

I've been planning to join in with Meal Planning Monday since FOREVER. Well, since I started this blog last spring, which is much the same thing. And today there is a shiny new badge and everything over at At Home With Mrs M so it seem the perfect day to get started.

We're trying to eat at least one vegetarian  main meal a week as one of our New Year Resolutions, and so  far we are averaging two a week, so I've included two in my plan. My husband likes cooking but doesn't get much chance during the week - by the time he gets home from work he is far too tired, as one of the symptoms of his fibromyalgia is extreme exhaustion. So I've left one meal unplanned, for him to decide what he feels like cooking on the day. I've put it into Saturday's slot, but the weekend meals may get switched around at short notice.

As I'm diabetic, I don't plan desserts. There are always fruit and cheese in the house, and my husband is still finishing the Christmas choccies, but there were some oranges in the fruit box this week so I might make an orange sugar-free jelly with orange segments in it for a refreshing change to eat after a couple of dinners.

So here we go with my first Meal Planning Monday:

Monday  red  bean and rosemary risotto adapted from a recipe on Taste the Goode Life  - the blog of the lovely Shirley Goode who some of you might remember from her superb budget-stretching books and TV shows in the 1980s.  Adapted because the tin I thought contained Borlotti beans actually is yet another tin of red kidney beans. I seem to buy them obsessively! Anyway, with this we'll have some salad from the garden and a fennel, orange and chicory salad.

Tuesday roast lamb - I have a piece of butterflied  leg in the fridge - with roast potatoes, glazed (using Sweet Success syrup) turnips and brussels tops if there are any left in the garden, otherwise cabbage.

Wednesday red cooked beef with star anise from an ancient Kenneth Lo book, with a stir fry of Chinese leaves and carrots.

Thursday Chickpea patties with beetroot raita from Nigel Slater's Tender volume 1 served with sweet potato wedges and any salads we have left.

Friday Beef Rendang with Sayur Lodeh and rice. Two favourite dishes from our years of living in Asia. I'll tell you more about them after the event.

Saturday left open for Mark to decide what to cook

Sunday  it depends what we have left in the fridge and whether we've been shopping, but I have some chorizo in the freezer that's earmarked for a sort-of-paella, so unless there's a change of plan, that's what we'll have.