Wednesday, 25 July 2012

There's nothing in the fridge!

Yesterday morning I realised I'd planned nothing for dinner and wouldn't have time to go shopping. I looked in the fridge for inspiration and found: 
  • a chicken carcass
  • a lump of dried up Parmesan
  • a similar sized lump of Cheddar
  • half a butternut squash
  • two cold boiled new potatoes
  • two cooked baby beetroot
  • one tomato
  • a dozen green beans, the first from the garden this year
  • half of a hazelnut salami
  • half a bag of carrots
  • a tiny wedge of  cabbage
  • a head of Chinese leaves
  • a scraping of red pesto in the bottom of a jar
  • half a head of chicory
There were also the "usual culprits" - milk, eggs, butter (well, butter-like-substance) and a collection of half used jars of this and that. Oh, and a lettuce from the veg box of two  weeks  ago, unused because the salad came on all at once in the garden. I can't bear to throw things away but I have reached a point where I really, really dare not look inside the bag holding that lettuce......

First of all I stripped the meat from the chicken carcass and set it aside, then put the bones to boil up in lots of water with a carrot, an onion, some herbs from the garden and some peppercorns, cloves and mace to make stock. Since I work at home I could leave that to simmer for a couple of hours and get on with other things. Once it was cooked and all the bits sieved out, I chilled it and removed the fat.

Next I raided the cupboards  and found a little bit of hazelnut oil which I combined with olive oil and made some ultra-easy mayonnaise. To do this, I use the small goblet on my food processor and break in the whole egg, white included, and add seasoning and a scant teaspoonful of white wine vinegar. I  whizz it up to blend it and then with the motor still running, drizzle in the oil slowly until the mayonnaise reaches the right texture. It never fails to puzzle me how the more liquid you add, the thicker it gets! Nut oils are pretty strong  so you need to mix  them with at least as much of a light olive oil, rapeseed oil or corn oil, or they overpower everything in the salad.

I made the mayo very thick this time as at that point I was thinking of using it as a dip.

Next I finely diced a carrot and cooked it, adding a handful of frozen peas at the end. Actually, I bunged the green beans into the same pan to save time and fished them out afterwards, but you wouldn't do that would you? Then I  cooled them all under running water and mixed the carrots and peas with the finely diced beetroot and potato and some of the mayonnaise to make a rough version of that 1960s favourite, Russian Salad (do you remember when they used to sell that in tins? And do you remember how horrible it was?)

Well, this tastes a LOT better than it looks. Frankly, it looks rather like something you'd see on the pavement outside the kebab shop on a Saturday morning.... but it tastes a lot better. (DISCLAIMER - I have never tasted anything from off the pavement outside the kebab shop)

I cut the tomato into wedges and mixed it with the green beans I'd cooked earlier (are you keeping up at the back?) and a few Kalamata olives.

Finally I diced the butternut squash and made a risotto using the chicken stock I'd made earlier and some fresh sage. 


We had all that lot (well, there IS still some left, we're not quite that greedy) with some salad from the garden and a few slices of salami.

So now I either need to go shopping or create tonight's dinner from some scraps of cold chicken, Cheddar cheese, a bit more salami, the rest of the mayo,  red pesto,  Chinese leaves, cabbage and  chicory. Oh, and that antique lettuce. 

Where did I put my car keys?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Too much stuff - another update

I've not had chance to post for several days - life is getting in the way! A mixture of holidays, visits to and from family and medical appointments  has left scant time for cooking or crafting; if I'm at home and awake, I'm probably working. I've just got home from a lovely trip to France to visit one of my daughters, and at the weekend I'm heading up to my Mother's to see how she is getting on and take her for a hospital appointment. After that therre are more family visits and another holiday coming up, but I expect to be more creative (and joining in challenges again) towards the end of August. Well, at least until my next holiday!

But I've still been very good and not bought any new craft stuff, so I'm feeling very proud of myself. As well as a few cards that have appeared in other posts, I've made some fun cards for children from a kit that came free with a craft magazine a few months ago.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pizza - with no tomatoes!

Here is an idea for a pizza that doesn't use any tomatoes, ideal if you have a tomato-hater to feed but also just an interesting variation on a theme.

You will need:
About 3 tbs pesto - I make my own and freeze it in ice cube trays. Each cube is about a tablespoonful which makes it easy to measure
One pizza base - raw or cooked, fresh or bought. Mine was a pre-cooked home made one, again from the freezer. When I'm making pizza dough, I make two bases  and cook one with no topping then freeze it to make a quick supper another day.
One ball of mozzarella cheese
A handful of pine nuts
A little freshly grated Parmesan

Spread the pesto over the base then tear the mozzarella roughly into small pieces and  scatter over the base. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and grate a thin layer of Parmesan over the top.

Cook in a very hot oven for around 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and the Parmesan golden, or if you are using a raw base cook according to your recipe.

You may think my finished pizza looks a little overcooked, and might prefer it less well done, but Mark and I are big fans of the Brown Crispy Bits on bread of all kinds and I usually deliberately overcook breads and pizzas (and lamb chops, but that's another story)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

CASology - Sun

Phew, three posts from me in one day! Don't get used to it, I'm off on my travels again soon and you'll be lucky to get three in one week. But I suddenly remembered that submissions for the first challenge at CASology close tomorrow, my card is ready and waiting, but I still hadn't blogged about it.

The cue card for this week's challenge is SUN so I sponged my sun through a punched circle then stamped the silhouette of wild flowers over it. And here is the result:

Less is More week 76 - one layer

I was delighted to be picked for the showCASe at Less is More this week and am very proud to have added the badge to my blog.

This week is the One Layer challenge and the theme is three of anything. I chose to do three flowers, but ended up doing them in three colours and using three words - so that's THREE lots of three. I have a mathematical brain - I like making patterns with numbers!

The flower stamp is one I bought in the USA, made by Just for Fun, and the words also came from the USA, from Raindrops on Roses. I  stamped the flower three times,  masking each before stamping the next, then coloured them in with Marvys and a water brush. We have so many colouring techniques available to us now that I sometimes forget how effective the old  familiar ones can be! Finally I cut out the card from above the flowers to give a shaped edge.

This is the card I am submitting for the Less is More challenge

Last week lots of you commented on the second photo I showed, which hadn't worked out the way I intended, so following on from that I will 'fess up to this week's blooper. On my first attempt at the card, I left stamping the words until last and then accidentally stamped them at an angle, leaving the card unusable. I'm not used to the precision needed for one layer cards yet, and hadn't realised how essential it would be to use a stamp positioner. (Lesson learned!)

So I cut off the bottom of the card. There wasn't really enough white space left to call it clean and simple any more, so I treated the flowers completely differently, colouring them in with Promarkers for a vivid finish, then after cutting away the top of the front I added a die cut greeting.

Too Much Stuff - an update

I'm not going to publish regular updates on how I'm getting on with my personal challenge to use up lots of my stuff and not buy any more, as my amount of crafting time varies so much from week to week, but I'll let you know how I'm getting on every now and then - and I promise to tell you if I give in and go shopping.

I've been quite poorly with a chest infection this week, and normally I would have some "recovery time" sitting in front of craft shows on  the shopping channels, theoretically for inspiration.... and by the end of the week I would have placed several orders. This week I've been good and left the TV switched firmly off.  Here are a few more cards I've made.

So has my mountain of stashshown any signs of decreasing?

Well...... erm...... no. You see, I said when I set myself this challenge that although I wouldn't BUY anything new, it was OK to recieve it as a gift,  ot ro WIN it. And this week I won a lovely selection of card, papers and stickers from Making Cards magazine.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A super-easy loaf

I love baking bread. I have a lovely bread machine, but seldom use it for baking a loaf. More often I mix and rise the dough in it and then bake my loaf in the oven. Although I generally start from scratch, I do like to keep a packet of ciabatta mix in the cupboard for extra-lazy days because then home made bread is even easier than popping out to the corner shop for a large sliced!

However I don't follow the instructions on the ciabatta mix packet. I put the full amount of water into the bread maker, rather than the reduced amount they suggest for bread machines, add a tablespoon of olive oil and set the machine to the dough setting. The result is a very wet dough which rises a LOT.

Then I turn it all out onto a greased baking sheet. The dough is too wet to shape into loaves, so I just use slightly damp hands to coax it into a single large oval. Back to the pack instructions for proving and baking, remembering that the dough is too sticky to cover (it will stick to everything) so it needs to be left in a draught free place.

Here is the finished loaf, ready to serve with home made carrot soup, which you can see lurking in the saucepan behind it.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I got Pinspired!

I am totally in love with Pinspiration! I spend hours repinning images from other crafters,  and when I lose my crafting mojo I can just prop up my iPad on my craft table and look through the images I've pinned and all of a sudden I'm bursting with Pinspiration!

So I was delighted to discover the {Pin}spirational Challenge blog, where this week's challenge is to be inspired by this pretty image

If  you have read my "Too much stuff" post, you will know I am trying to make sense out of my mountains of stash, and I knew that when I'd been sorting through it I'd seen a sheet of fairy decoupage, and lo and behlod, the colours were very reminiscent of those in the image. So here is my entry for the challenge, Pinspired by the above picture

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Addicted to cook books?

I gave you a little glimpse of my recipe book addiction when I posted my life story, as told in cook books but now I'm going to give you some idea of the extent of my addiction. And please don't suggest therapy, I don't want to be cured!

I've been meaning to join in the Random Recipe challenge at Belleau Kitchen ever since I started this blog, and when I read that this month's challenge is to photograph your cook books I just couldn't resist!

I've been buying recipe book and magazines since my student days, in the 1970s, and have seldom parted with one. Well, that's a lie, I did take a huge pile to a secondhand shop once when we were clearing up to move house, but I missed them all so much that I've gradually bought them all again, either new or from charity shops. Our study is crammed with books, while the "temporarily out of favour" ones languish in the loft, waiting their turn to come back into use. So here, with no further explanation or apology, are some photos of my library.

and finally, the little  basket of ancient paperback books and leaflets that are used so often they never get chance to use the kitchen

I see a packet of  Colour Catcher sheets has found its way in among them, which probably gives you a clue about how tidy I am.....

PS..... maybe if I tuck my confession out of the way down here you won't notice it..... as well as all the books in the photos, there are several piles on the floor, as I've run out of shelf space. And several box files full of recipe mags. And a couple of dozen cardboard wallets full of recipes torn out of mags. And 10 photo albums full of recipes rather more neatly cut out of mags.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Scones for tea

I seldom bake since finding out that I am diabetic, so I was delighted to see a recipe for Vanilla Bean Scones over on the scrumptious blog Lavender and Lovage which uses the new plant-based sweetener Truvia in place of sugar.

The scones turned out to be delicious - they looked pretty yummy too!

Pop over to the Lavender and Lovage blog if you would like the recipe. There is even a nifty "Print this recipe" tool which means you can have a nice no-frills version to take into the kitchen with you. (Yes, I know you can use an iPad as a recipe book  - if anyone has any tips about removing turmeric stains from a beige auede iPad cover I would be delighted to hear them....... for the time being I'm going back to good old paper. )

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Less is more - Gold

This week the challenge over at Less is More is GOLD so I decided to use my current favourite stamps, the "Just Believe" set from Stampin' Up, which lend themselves so well to simple cards.

I stamped in gold and embossed with a gold ep that has a slightly holographic sparkle to it, then used Nesties to cut and mount the image. The background is a classic Cuttlebug one (is this the most useful embossing folder ever created?) and the ribbon part of my "Too Much Stuff" collection

I've noticed several people commenting on how hard their cards were to photograph this week and mine was no exception.  It's such a gloomy weekend, it's impossible to do anything without flash, but the gold reflects the flash. My little automatic camera was no good at all - I took about 20 photos and had to delete them all. With the flash on the glare hid the card, but with it off the exposure was so long that the camera shake ruined the image. So I got my husband to use his snazzy camera and superior photography skills, but even he took several attempts to produce a decent image. One of his shots made a glorious hologram effect on the mirri card mat - not what I was aiming for at all, and it doesn't exist on the card in real life, but it's such a pretty optical illusion I thought I would share it.

I am entering this for the Less is More week 75 challenge

Friday, 6 July 2012

Too much stuff!

This week I looked at my craft stash and decided I have Too Much Stuff. It has reached a stage where I spend longer looking for the right embellishment, stamp or paper than I do actually creating the project. I have boxes full of part-used paper and card,  and even a box full of half-finished projects, embossed card,  die cuts and stamped images from times I have come up with a better idea partway through making something, but the bits I'd already made were too good to throw away.

I have boxes of half-finished kits,  packs of free papers from magazines,  RAKs from other crafters and even a couple of DVDs still sealed in their cellophane. I have enough stash to make THOUSANDS of cards.

So am I going to have a   clear out? What to you think? Part with my precious stash? NO WAY. What I am going to do is knuckle down and USE it. I've set myself a personal challenge - to see just how much I can create without buying anything new. Obviously I will still need to replace essentials as they run out. I think these are
  • adhesives
  • white, black, silver and gold card
  • black inks of several types
  • Versamark ink
  • clear embossing powder
Also I have a Christmas kit on back order from QVC, that doesn't count as it's already ordered. And I'm happy to still win craft goodies (I won some lovely papers and card from Making Cards magazine just yesterday) and *hint hint* to receive them as gifts from friends and family  for my birthday next month, but for the time being, other craft shopping is off limits to me.

So this week I sifted through my part-finished projects box and made a start on tidying up some of the loose ends. This is what I made.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Venison for a summer day

We tend to think of venison as a rich, hearty meat suitable for winter  casseroles, but the venison  steaks which many supermarkets sell all year round can make a light, summery dish too.

For this dish, I beat the steaks flat with a meat mallet (great stress  relief!) and marinated them for a couple of hours with some chopped thyme, crushed juniper berries and a splash each of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

I  fried some chopped onion and diced pancetta in a little more olive oil until almost cooked, then  pushed them to the edge of the pan while searing the venison in the remaining fat. I poured in about a teacupful of stock and let it bubble gently until the venison was tender and the sauce reduced. This can take as little as 5 minutes, depending on how thinly you have beaten the meat.

You could replace some or all of the stock with red wine, or ring the changes by adding some redcurrant jelly or fresh redcurrants.

I served this with the last of our home grown asparagus, new potatoes and steamed leeks to make a very summery meal of a traditionally wintery meat.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Ruby anniversary card

Yesterday, July 1st, was the Ruby wedding anniversary of Beth and Mark, and Beth asked me to make a card for her to send to Mark.

Now when you see Ruby wedding cards in shops, they are full of red roses and romantic sentiments - but really, most men don't like that sort  of thing do they? And when you've been married to each other for 40 years, the romantic sentiments really don't need expressing - the fact you are still together after all that time says more than any words can! So Beth was looking for a card that would mean something special to Mark without being at all soppy.

After discussing the design with her, based on Mark's interests,  and the words (which she supplied) here is the card I came up with. I hope Mark liked it and that they have many more happy years together.