Sunday, 18 April 2010

Moving into Spring

Is's birthday party was a great success, we will definitely consider a pool party in the

future! Food was made without too much trouble and 'sausage' rolls, cakes, birthday cake and fruit
kebabs all went down a treat!

We have moved on a fair amount with the garden in the last fortnight. The seeds have continued to grow and the broadbeans in particular have thrived (I think they were planted in the propagators about 4 weeks ago, they are now about
40 cms tall!)

And I really ought to mention rhubarb.... D thought it had died off over winter and all but gave up on it. But then we noticed it growing at last, about 10 days ago and look at it now!!!!

Away from the edible parts, the garden is looking less sparse. Large tree in the back garden is in full blossom and the Japanese Maple Tree is budding in rouge.

I know not the names of most the plants we have... previous owner was rather clever with how he planted and they come back each year with minimum effort from us. Few more weeks and we will have flowers blooming everywhere.

I am also reading into companionable planting.. more on this to come....

Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Is turns 6 in April and L turns 2, so a busy month in terms of buying presents, organising birthday cakes, and in Is's case, organising a party!

She wants to have a swimming party, so we have booked out the small pool with floats and things, then we have a room for an hour, and we will be responsible for the catering....

I have made her birthday cake tonight, using the same recipe I used when Io turned 3 in February... it was delicious. I made Easy Vanilla Cake from the BBC Good Food website, and I will use the vanilla butter-cream icing recipe on the same page, with the ingenious addition of melting Green&Blacks white chocolate into it. I intend to freeze it when cool, and will decorate it when the cake topper I have ordered, arrives, (a personalised Hello Kitty one).

I will be make Delia's vegetarian 'sausage' rolls too.. I did debate doing a real sausage roll and then a veggie alternative, but in the end decided these were good enough to cover all aspects of tasty sausage roll-eating.

Then there will be sandwiches (cheese, ham and tuna), plus popcorn, crisps, cheese-on-sticks, vegetable batons to dip in humus, pasta salad (not decided on recipe yet), fruit kebabs, fairy cakes and The Cake.

Party Bags. Hmmm. Hate the fact that they tend to be filled with tacky toys and sweets. Can't get away from the fact that children love them for that very reason. Still thinking on this.

Present-wise, she wants a new watch. I will also be buying her a (cheap) MP3 player, and some Sylvanian Family sets.

As for L, he already has a Playmobil pirate ship (bought in the sales at Xmas), and a Melissa & Doug wooden tool box. I plan to also order a sandpit, so he can be happy in the garden while I tend to my vegetables!

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Garden in 2010

Ok - this year we Do Stuff in our garden. We plan to plant a herb garden in this space (excuse the poor lighting against back of picture):

So this is the same area a few days later after I had cleared it and turned the soil... I left the bulbs in for now so they can flower as the seedlings won't be ready to transplant out for a few more weeks yet:

So still a fair bit to do here, but we have had a bit of rain and even some sleet today, so it might have to wait....

In the back garden we have installed Bessie the Composter. No idea why she is Bessie (or indeed a she), but this is only in my mind.. nothing to do with the children.

We have also installed a new plastic greenhouse inside the greenhouse (well the 'lean-to) to protect the seedlings a little better and it provides a good way of organising them on shelves. We have planted courgettes, squash, cucumber, tomato, leek, beetroot, broad beans, coriander, mint, thyme, basil to name a few. The back garden is being dug over to become two (small) veggie patches. The children have been very involved so far and helped with the planting, the digging, the clearing (and trampling!!).

I shall take a few pictures of our progress on the seedlings when the weather (and the light!) is a bit better.

Here are a few pictures from the front garden as Spring is arriving:

Catch Up Part Two

Having read back, I realised I never reported back on Wheat-free = Weight Loss?

Well for me, it did NOT equal weight loss - in fact I got bored of the whole wheat-free idea after a few weeks.

That said, still not at target weight (8st 8lb) but sat at 9st 9lb, which my body seems to quite like and I often gain, then easily return to here.. or lose and easily return to here....

I am keeping a close eye on my calorie intake at the moment, but have gone off the boil in terms of really aiming to shed the last stone.

I have just bought a lovely new mountain bike though (a Specialized Myka Sports) and the clocks went forward yesterday.. so when I manage to shift this cold, I will hopefully be out on my bike 4-5 times per week, and this will hopefully do the trick.

I am also now the proud owner of a digital SLR camera, although despite best intentions, I have yet to do anything about actually learning how to take a decent picture with it. That said, the pictures I do take are much better quality....

The idea is that I will take my camera out on my evening rides with my when the light is better as there are some beautiful things to take pictures of, not too far from here.

I will update with the cycling/photo experiment as and when...

Catch Up

Not sure how it got to March - nearly April, without a single post! In my defence, I do tend to use Facebook like a blog, so it kind of feels like I have been posting about my mundane life anyway... but time to update as I feel I have a whole load of things going on at the moment.....

Here's how my first home-cooked Christmas went, in pictures:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Perfect Shepherd's Pie (of the vegetarian variety).

I am not usually in the habit of creating cooking I do, but I prefer to let someone else do the hard work and create fabulous flavours by creating a recipe and then take all the credit by following it!

However, I have cooked a huge number of vegetarian shepherd's pies (gonna drop the word vegetarian from now on - you know I mean 'shepherd's pie with no meat in it, right?')... and I have made them with all kinds of veggie mince (Quorn, Realeat, TSP and supermarket own brands...) and meat substitutes, I have also made them with just vegetables in, I have made them with a lentil base, I have made them spicy, or just mildly seasoned. You get the idea.

Last week though, I perfected my shepherd's pie recipe... I can honestly say it is the very tastiest shepherd's pie I have ever eaten, including those that were meat based in my pre-veggie years. Including homemade ones made by others and including those made in restaurants.....

Best of all, the whole family like it, so it's a winner. Going down as recipe that I created....

Jo's Shepherd's Pie, suitable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike (though not vegan's as it does include Quorn...)

All ingredient amounts are approximate..

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 300g packet of Quorn mince
  • teaspoon of Marigold vegetable stock powder (or tsp of Marmite works well)
  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • a big splash of red wine
  • handful of torn basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Mashed potato (I used whatever old potato is available, and mash it with butter, big handful of grated cheddar and a bit splash of milk, beaten together too make 'cheesy mash'!)

  1. Cook the carrots and then either mash them or use a hand blender to make them smooth. Put to one side.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the tinned tomatoes and Quorn. Add about 200mls of water and cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine, stock and carrot puree. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste and add the basil.
  3. Pour into a dish (saving any extra - could be used as a bolognaise sauce.. or base of chilli - dependent of what you later add to it....) and top with mashed potato. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Longer if either the sauce or potato was cold.

The secret I believe is the pureed carrots and the wine. The carrots seem to make it a lovely consistency (yeah I tried it with chopped carrots, it's NOT the same!) and the wine gives it a fuller flavour.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

(Hoping she will be) Like Mother, Like Daughter

My eldest (age 5 and half) spent all afternoon sat on the work top in the kitchen when I made and cooked various foods for the week ahead. She is 5 and half and seemed really interested. I do hope all my children leave home with a good interest in food and a healthy knowledge of cooking from scratch. Enthusiasm should hopefully spiral from there....

We made a lentil loaf, some popcorn-covered chicken and the Christmas cake....