Monday, 30 September 2013

Meal Planning Monday 30 September

This week's plan is very much subject to change- the meals will stay the same but the days may be shuffled around a bit. One day I plan to make chicken laksa, which needs beansprouts. I always  like to use beansprouts on the day I buy then - but I've not decided yet which day I'm going shopping. At the moment I'm revelling in the fact that it's the first end-of-month in almost 9 years that I've not had deadlines to meet and magazines to print and mail, so I'm enjoying having no routine at all and that extends to my shopping! Another day I'm making pizza but we have some of Mark's purple tomatoes earmarked for the topping and they are still a few days from being perfectly ripe, so the pizza may have to be held over until the weekend.

But here's the provisional menu:

Monday - thatched-cottage pie with runner beans

Tuesday - cauliflower and leek cheese with jacket potatoes and baked tomatoes

Wednesday - chicken laksa

Thursday - home made pizza with purple tomato topping

Friday - roast lamb with parsnips, cabbage and runner beans

Saturday - steak and chips

Sunday - Mark might be cooking, but if it's me, we'll have black bean chilli with brown and red rice. And of course runner beans!

Find more meal plans over at At Home With Mrs M

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Home Made Tomato Ketchup

Mark's home grown tomatoes this year have been amazing - I say "have been", that should be "are". They are still groaning with fruit and it's almost October. Our freezer is full of sauce, we've had baked tomatoes or a tomato salad with practically every meal, our granddaughters have left clutching bags of cherry tomatoes after every visit and still there are trays of tomatoes all over the dining room table.

This week I decided to have a go at making tomato ketchup. Much as we love the well-known-brand variety, with so many tomatoes available it really seemed a pity not to.

The recipe I used came from the River Cottage Meat book and can be found on the River Cottage website. I omitted the red peppers, as Mark can't eat them, and the celery seed as it's not something either of us is fond of so we don't keep it in.

At the start of the week, I made a half-quantity to see how it worked. That filled two jars - and one of them is already gone. The sauce is absolutely delicious - rich, sweet and tangy, and as a bonus it has far less added sugar and salt than the bought variety. So today I made a full quantity, four jars. That gives us five jars in the fridge, and once the initial novelty has worn off, I expect we will use it at about the same rate as the bought stuff so it will last us several months.

A tip - if you have no muslin (or, as in my case, know very well that you have, but can't find it), that sort-of-fabric like semi disposable cleaning cloth you can buy makes a great substitute. Make sure the kind you buy isn't impregnated with any chemicals and only use it fresh from the pack. You don't want a piece that's just been used for wiping the floor!
The tomatoes and onions, ready to cook

The seasonings and spices are added 

Christmas Shopping - Fifties Style!

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is "The 1950s" so naturally I went straight for my Joanna Sheen "Viva la Divas" CD. I love this CD for the selection of 50s style images brought bang into the 21st century with their witty captions.

There's lots of attention to detail - if you look carefully through the back window of the car you can see an authentic 1950s street scene, complete with a classic Morris Minor in the background. But what I love most about this image is that having been a little girl in the 1950s myself, I can remember having a coat exactly like the one the little girl is wearing.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Another Autumn card

Autumn is my favourite time of year, so I'm always tempted by stamps, dies and embossing folders with an autumn theme. This autumn leaf background is one of my newest toys, and I was delighted that this week's theme at ATCAS is Autumn

The falling leaves are made with an embossing die. The top and bottom ones are cut from the same piece of card - the colour and appearance seems to change according to the angle of the light - I've taken photos from two different angles to show you what I mean.

Less is More week 139 - sketch #10

This week it's a sketch challenge at Less is More and this is the very simple sketch

Despite it looking so simple, I now have abandoned half -made cards scattered all over my craft table.  They WILL be finished- but they won't be CAS!

I'm trying to get well ahead with my Christmas cards this year as I know that October is going to be very busy, so I had a play with my new snowflake dies (and in the process, discovered that the one I've used here, the largest, has 8 sides instead of six. Naughty! A snowflake always has 6 sides, it's a basic fact of chemistry!)

I had my usual struggle to photograph the metallic card!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Batch-making Christmas Cards

The first few years I made Christmas cards, I tried to make all our cards -and we send about 80 - identical. And I got BORED. So then for a while I made cards throughout the year - two a week from New Year to November produced plenty to go round.

This year, however, I didn't start making Christmas cards until a couple of weeks ago. Inspired by the "One sheet wonders" I've seen on blogs and Pinterest, and by my ever-growing collection of bits and pieces, I decided to make small batches of about half a dozen cards "The same but different". That way I don't get bored, but don't have to spend half an hour choosing materials afresh for every card I make.

Here's how it's going so far.....

Easy bread machine naan bread

Over the years I must have tried dozens of recipes for naan bread, and gradually I've distilled the parts I like from each of them into a recipe of my own. You probably don't own a tandoor oven - I certainly don't - and if you are anything like me, you don't want to risk burning the house down by finishing them over an open flame, or clogging your arteries by smothering them  with ghee, so these will never turn out like the ones you get in restaurants. But what you WILL get is a delicious, soft bread ideal for mopping up the gravy of your favourite curry.

You can add flavourings to the dough - herbs, seeds or spices - but I think the plain ones are more versatile.  The recipe makes 6. We usually use two straight away and freeze the rest in pairs. The dough can, of course, be made without a bread machine, but if you have one, why have a dog and bark yourself?

500g white bread flour
1 sachet dried yeast, or if you buy it loose, ½ level tablespoon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp caster sugar
1 beaten egg
2 tbs sunflower oil
1 small carton natural yoghurt
milk (see below)

You will need two baking trays, dry not greased. If your oven has three shelves, you can use three trays, otherwise you'll need to cook the bread in batches.

Put the yoghurt into a measuring jug and make up to 250ml with milk. Add  the egg and oil and whisk together.
Mow load up your ingredients into the bread machine in the right order for your machine, keeping the baking powder well away from any liquid.
Set the machine to the dough setting and start it. Once finished, leave the dough to rise for at least another half hour, as the milk and yoghurt will have slowed down the rising process.

Turn out the dough on to a floured board, knock back and divide into 6 portions. Roll each into an oval  about 20cm by 12 cm, so that they will fit side by side on your baking trays, two to a tray. Leave the rolled out naans on the floured board, covered with a floured cloth, for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, place your baking trays in the oven and heat it to its very highest setting.

Take one tray out of the oven and quickly slap two naans onto it, put it back in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes until the breads are puffed up and have browned patches on them. Repeat with the other tray, and when the first tray is empty, re-use it for the final two breads.

As the breads  are cooked, remove them fro the oven and stack in a clean cotton cloth, wrapped around them to keep in the steam. This makes them very soft.

Serve immediately, or wrap in foil and reheat just before serving.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


Have you noticed that the Horse Chestnut trees always seem to be the first to show their autumn colours? And they seem to get earlier every year - this year they are way ahead of all the other trees.

I've used one of my oldest, most-loved stamps (a great favourite of my 4 year old granddaughter, too) on this simple autumn card, stamped over a panel brayered with Kaleidacolour Autumn Leaves.

I'm joining in these challenges:

Addicted to Stamps and More - #64 CAS

CAS-ual Fridays - CFC115 Fall Colours and a Leaf

CASology - Week 63 Autumn  

Less is More - Felt or Fabric

Challenge #138 at Less is More is "Felt or Fabric". I've been meaning to have  go at die cutting materials other than paper and card in the Cuttlebug, so this was the push I've needed for ages. However I was  a bit worried that felt wouldn't be stable enough to cut cleanly, especially where there were delicate areas, so I used felt that came with an adhesive paper backing and was delighted with how cleanly it cut.

Some metallic die cut stars and gems were all it took to make my odds and ends of felt into a CAS Christmas card.

A Christmas Post Box

A good friend collects anything to do with pillar boxes, and we always try to send him a Christmas card with one on it, so 4 or 5 ye4ars ago I was delights to spot this topper sheet while browsing ebay

I bid for it, and won the auction - at just over £2, I thought I'd paid quite a lot for one topper sheet, butt when "it" arrived I found that I'd actually got a real bargain because the lot I'd bid on had been a batch of TWENTY of them! That meant I could make cards for lots of my comping friends too - after all, we're all a little bit obsessed with the postal service.

However with big toppers like this, there's not much scope for creativity, is there? Punch out the die cuts, stick them on a card, job done, Definitely a long way to the "craft" end of the art/craft scale - almost OFF the end. So eventually I lost interest in them and the last few sank to the bottom of my Christmas Crafty Bits box.

And the bottom of that box is where I delved to find the bits for the latest challenge at Use it Tuesdays - use TWO hoarded items where I also found the background paper I used, paper that I've had for so long I have absolutely no recollection where I got it or why I thought black background paper was a good idea for Christmas.

I decided to try to make it look more interesting than just a topper-stuck-on-a-card by adding a punched border and a die-cut branch for the robin to sit on. That sits nicely with Oldie But Goodie's Dies and Punches challenge.

Now I just need to motivate myself to use up the other three sheets! 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Meal Planning Monday 23 September

It's hard to plan at the moment isn't it? (At least, for those living in my part of the UK it is. Disclaimer: Other weather is available) The grey gloomy skies and drizzle tell my eyes that they want hot, warming comfort food, while the warm temperatures tell my body that light dishes, fruits and salads are what's needed. On top of that my gut problems flared up badly again at the weekend, so I'm still trying to stick to quite bland foods. Having said that, I'm missing curry terrible so I'm going to give it a try this week, to see how my body copes.

So here we go

Monday Sausages with onion gravy, celeriac and potato mash and runner beans. Also today I'm planning to try making home made tomato ketchup for the first time. if it's good, a dollop of that will be great with the sausages.

Tuesday Butternut squash risotto with Mark's "Gaucho salad"

Wednesday Butter chicken curry with home made naan bread, tomato and cucumber sambal and probably spiced runner beans.

Thursday Corned beef hash (absolutely HAD to do this after seeing it on so many meal plans last week) with baked tomatoes and ........ runner beans.

Friday Girls' night out for me - a friend's 60th birthday - so Mark will fend for himself. Depending on what kind of a week he's had, it could be anything from a plain omelette to a three course blowout. I expect he'll have runner beans with it (do you sense a theme here?)

Saturday and Sunday No firm plans yet as Fleet Farmers' Market in on Saturday and we're hoping to get a good selection of game, some to freeze and some to eat this weekend. Game will go beautifully with the Hedgerow Jelly that Mark made this week. We'll be looking for one thing to roast - maybe a  pheasant or a very small joint of venison, and one to casserole. I'm thinking of a venison casserole with mushrooms, shallots, orange and brandy. If the game stall isn't there, we'll get some steaks for Saturday and wing it for Sunday. Whatever we have, I'm sure there will be runner beans.....

Look for lots more meal plans - and share yours - on At Home With Mrs M

Sunday, 22 September 2013

There's no people like snow people....

..... they smile when they are low......

And this little chap really made me smile. Especially the little mouse in the corner, making its very own copycat snowman!

I'm sure that every time I look at my copy of the CD The Very Best of La Pashe 2012 I find something I hadn't seen before. I'd have used this image already if only I'd known I had it! The image and both  the snowman  and snow papers came from the CD.

I'm playing along with "Snow People" at CD Sundays

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Roast Tomato Sauce and Pesto Scones

If you've seen my Meal Planning Monday post for this week, you'll know that on Wednesday night we had left over gammon in tomato sauce with pasta.

I made the tomato sauce from a recipe in River Cottage Veg Every Day. You'll find more or less the same recipe on the Guardian website except that in the book, marjoram is added and mace omitted, and the sauce isn't reduced after sieving.

Our tomatoes are a delightful jumble of shapes, sizes and varieties, but all packed with flavour! After roasting, I put them through the mouli  - there was very little left behind to throw away and the sauce was rich and thick with a smokey, garlicky taste - the gammon I added was really unnecessary. I'm not going to show you a photo of the finished sauce because I forgot to take one  all tomato sauces look very much the same.

To serve with it, I made some pesto scones. They're not really a scone, more of a soda bread. But they are scone sized so I call them scones. There's logic in there somewhere.

To make about 8, you will need

250g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
about 200ml buttermilk
4-5 tbs pesto

Heat the oven to 230 C, Gas 8. Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper. Sieve together the flour, salt and baking powder. Quickly stir in the buttermilk, starting with about three quarters of it - you are looking for a dough that is just firm enough to roll out, yet as soft as you feel you can handle.

Roll it out on a floured surface to a rough rectangle about 25 x 15 cm. Spread the pesto over, roll up from the long edge and cut into approx. 8 slices. Place well apart on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until well risen.

You can ring the changes by using  sun dried tomato paste or one of the different varieties of pesto available now, although I usually use home made traditional basil, pine nut and Parmesan pesto because we always have a supply of that in the freezer. Frozen in ice cube trays then tipped out into plastic bags, it's very convenient. One cube in my ice tray is one tablespoonful, so it's ready measured. It defrosts quickly, or can be dropped straight into soups and sauces.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A Get Well Card

This week at Less is  More  it's the dreaded One Layer Challenge with a theme of Get Well,  while at ATCAS the code word is Get Well. This  is my (rather feeble) attempt at both challenges. I don't think the old brain cell is working too well this week.....
I do tend to struggle with  one layer cards, never being quite confident in my own judgement over where the borderline between "not enough" and "too much" lies. I stamped the flowers and greeting  in the corner of the card, and it looked rather TOO simple, so I dry embossed a diagonal line and a double row of scallops. However I simply could NOT get the lighting right so it's almost impossible to see my embossing.

The embossing shows up a little better with the card laid flat

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Eve's Pudding - a not-very-random recipe

The current Random Recipes Challenge at Belleau Kitchen is Puddings, Cakes and Bakes. Now being diabetic, I don't generally eat puddings  and cakes, so it was going to have to be either a savoury bake or a specialist diabetic recipe. I decided to square up to the challenge and attempt the latter.

The snag is, I only possess three recipe books for diabetics, because after being diagnosed I soon realised that as long as I kept to a low fat, high fibre diet  and mostly avoided refined sugar, my blood sugar levels were well controlled.

So I picked one of the three books at random. And there wasn't a single baking recipe in it!

I tossed a coin between the other two. The book that won had just ONE baking recipe in it - carrot cake, which we both detest.

So I ended up with a not-so-random selection of just ONE book, one I hadn't really looked at closely before. "Diabetes" by Azmina Govindji and Jill Myers.

This book has a whole chapter of cakes, bakes and desserts, adapted to suit the diabetic diet by  reducing sugar, using low fat spread where possible and wholemeal flour for fibre.

The Eve's Pudding recipe has no sugar added to the Bramley apples. Instead, they are mixed with the rind and juice of a lemon and an orange, and chopped hazelnuts are added. Except that I appear to have run out of hazelnuts (must be something to do with the vat of muesli I made last week) so I added toasted flaked almonds.

The topping is almost a normal 2-egg creamed sponge, with 100g of wholemeal self raising flour plus a tiny bit of baking powder and cinnamon, 100g low fat spread, 2 eggs and only 50g of sugar. Being used to my granny's aide-memoire "The weight of the eggs in sugar, fat and flour" I really didn't think that would work, and it certainly looked like a stingy amount of topping before it went into the oven.

But to my surprise, it rose beautifully and behaved just as an Eve's Pudding should. With the reduced fat and sugar,  plus wholemeal flour (my last attempt with wholemeal self raising flour was about 30 years ago, when it gave me a very "this must be good for you, it's so horrible" result - maybe they've improved it since then) I have to say it exceeded my expectations.

Surprisingly enough,  the apple mixture didn't turn out to be too sharp and the topping was very light and tasty. I really don't miss desserts now, but I'd certainly make this again or try one of the other recipes  from the book if  a dessert or cake eating occasion arose. In fact I've already stuck Post-Its in the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding pages!


Thank heaven for little boys.....

This week's challenge at The CD Sunday Challenge Blog is Little Boys, so once again I turned to my trusty Rachelle Anne Miller Collection CD - I think every granny should have it in her collection!

It's a very simple card - but when the image is so much fun, I think simplicity is the best policy. That way I can save my lovely embellishments for when a card needs that little bit of extra help.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Meal Planning Monday - I'm back!

It seems like months since I said I was going to take a few weeks out of meal planning..... hang on, it IS months! I knew that during May, June and  early July we had several trips planned, and would only be home for part-weeks during which we'd be just using up whatever was around. The last of those trips was to be a visit to my mother in mid July, after which things would be back to normal.

Life doesn't work like that. On the way home from my visit to Mum's, I was taken ill and ended up in hospital with an e.coli infection. When I got home, I didn't even want to think about meals, let alone meal planning, for several weeks.

At last my appetite and interest in food are starting to come back. I still can't eat raw veg or spicy food - I've not had a curry for two months!!!! But at least I can start to plan again! So here we go..... This week's menu relies heavily on the huge amounts of beans and tomatoes there are in the garden at the moment. There are also lots of cucumbers and  chillies, but my tummy won't let me eat them at the moment.

Monday. baked gammon, runner beans, baked tomatoes, parsley sauce and pink fir apple potatoes. All the veg and herbs from the garden. I've also got a bag of cooking apples, so I might try a recipe I've just found for a diabetic friendly version of Eve's Pudding.

Tuesday.  Our wedding anniversary, so we're having one of our favourite meals - rack of lamb, gratin dauphinoise and endive salad followed by pears and Roquefort pate on toasted fruit bread. We have so many beans from the garden I'll probably do some with the main course, perhaps with toasted almonds and a red onion relish.

Wednesday.  If there's any gammon left from Monday I'll use it, along with lots of tomatoes, to make a pasta sauce. I have some pancetta in the fridge to use if we've been piggy and finished the gammon.

Thursday.  Tomato and pesto puff pastry tart.

Friday.  Slow roast belly pork, roast potatoes and yet more beans. If I go to any shops I'll get some mushrooms and make the beans  into a green bean, carrot and mushroom braise with thyme.

Saturday.  I'll be out all day so Mark will be cooking up a surprise for me.

Sunday.  Sausages - I've not decided yet whether they will be made into toad in the hole or served with mash and gravy. But beans and tomatoes will appear with them in one form or another!

I'm linking up to Meal Planning Monday over on At Home With Mrs M - if they'll have me back after so long!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

My First Cookery Book

I'm really enjoying reading about everyone's first cook books, thanks to Foodie Quine, and since mine is still in regular use I thought I'd share it with you.

I was given this for my 13th birthday, in 1968 (there, I've given my age away now!) when it cost 4/6d, or 22½p. I'd never really cooked before, apart from jacket potatoes and blancmange in school cookery lessons, and my Mum thought it was about time I started to learn. We didn't really have much interest in food as a family,  in fact I think becoming passionate about food was my act of teenage rebellion, so Mum learned as much as I did from the book, and we often cooked dishes from it together.

The recipes range from very basic to quite advanced, and as well as the usual list of ingredients, they have  list of equipment - very helpful to a beginner who can't predict just from glancing at a recipe what they will need.

I still use the book quite regularly, as you can see from the state of it. The Stewed Beef with Sweet-Sour Beans is my go-to recipe when we have a glut of runner beans in the garden.

Recently I revisited the book's tomato soup recipe, which had been one of the first things I'd cooked from it all those years ago. I've made dozens of versions of tomato soup since (and looking at the tomato plants  right now, I think I'll be making dozens more this week!) but we both agreed that this old recipe had the best taste and texture of any I've ever made.

There's a linky over at Foodie Quine where you can share your own first cookery book love

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Challenges for Days - find lotsof craft challenges to enter and WIN candy!

Challenges for Days is a great new blog that collects together craft challenges from all over the web and lists them all in daily posts. If your mojo is flagging - and let's face it, it happens to us all from time to time - browsing the challenges is a fantastic source of inspiration, and if you are looking for more places to showcase your latest creation, you are bound to find a challenge to suit.

If you have regular favourites, it takes the pressure off remembering  which blogs to check on certain days, and acts as a timely reminder of what deadlines you have to meet. No more scrawled scraps of paper on the desk (my previous reminder system!).

And what's more, at the moment they have this great candy up for grabs

Head  over to the blog to see how to take part - and why not check out the latest challenge list at the same time?