Sunday, 31 January 2010

Last message of the day!

Just to show off. Here's last week's batch of marmalade and today's - you can see how much darker it is after all the extra simmering and reducing and it tastes pretty good too.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo!

Sunday lunchtime

I rarely go into town on a Sunday morning. So I rushed around getting ready so I could be there just before ten and get a good parking slot. I was pleasantly surprised when the car park was pretty empty, not so much so when I realised that was because the shops didn't open until ten-thirty! Doh!

So I meandered around for a while, which was nice, then got all the things I needed. My friend, Al, will be pleased to hear that I went into Boots and stocked up with enough hearing aid batteries to last me for months and months on buy two, get the third free. I stocked up with tights in Wilkinsons and also got a new padlock for the garage. Then I went into Lakeland (bliss) and they had some freezeasy poly bags reduced so I got some in the sizes I use as well as some jars, lids and (naughty) some apple flavoured soft liquorice.

When I got home, the house was smelling wonderfully of a mixture of apple, cinnamon, baking bread and roasting lamb. The oatmeal apple loaf was done so I got it out. It has the most interesting shaped top as can be seen in the photo, but it feels OK, looks good and smells delicious and I hope the taste will match.

The lamb is still slowly roasting - maybe it will be ready for dinner soon, maybe not!

And the marmalade - well, I'm trying something I read about on the Cottage Smallholder site and letting it slowly reduce down to what I hope will be a rich, dark result. I cut the peel much more chunky than last week, to match. When it's reduced and dark, I will boil it to setting point.

What a very productive day so far!

Edited to add that I've had a slice of the bread with some butter and it's gorgeous! I'd never make the full amount as per the recipe though. I reduced it by a third and it's made a lovely big loaf. I might put a bit more apple in next time!

Sunday morning

It looks as if it is going to be a culinary day today. The marmalade is just resting between 'phases', there's a small lamb shoulder slowly cooking in the oven and there's an interesting (and already delicious smelling) oatmeal and apple loaf in the bread maker which I found here:

In-between times I'm off into town to get a few essentials. When I get back, the loaf should be nearly done so I can report back on it, the lamb should be smelling wonderful and I can get started on the marmalade!

I should have plenty to offer DD and DG when they come round to tea tonight.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

FMC 4 cont.

Sticky marmalade chicken.

Of course, I changed it! I cut the chicken into strips. I started by finely chopping s shallot and frying it in butter, then I added the chicken and then some finely sliced red pepper and chestnut mushrooms. Instead of just chicken stock, I used dry cider and added some chicken stock granules. When the pepper and mushrooms were hot, I added the cider, granules and marmalade (home made, of course) and boiled it all hard until the liquid was gooey and sticky. I'd made some yummy buttery mash to eat it with and it was absolutely delicious!

FMC 4: Sticky marmalade chicken

Maybe this one is a bit of a cheat. I've taken it not from a magazine but from one of those useful mini-recipe books that come free with food magazines. This one's called 80 best ever recipes and the one I will try is sticky marmalade chicken. I've chosen it because it looks tasty, easy (I don't have much spare time today) and I already have all the ingredients to hand. Quite a simple recipe, so we will see.
This seems to be the recipe:
I'm likely to jazz it up with some onion, finely chopped and softened, and also, possibly, some Dijon mustard. I think a good accompaniment would be some creamy mash and maybe some roasted peppers and mushrooms.

We will see!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Friday evening.

It's the weekend. Wonderful. Bliss. Time to rest and chill out. The planning is done, all bar some objectives because we changed a few bits today. There aren't too many resources to make for the coming week. Half term is just a couple of weeks away. What more could I ask for?

But my goodness, what a cold day. There was an icy wind all day and we had some snow/frosted hail in the afternoon, on and off. I wonder what tonight will bring.

It was non-uniform day today in return for a donation of £1.00 for Haiti. All the local schools have done the same thing today and if every child brought in a pound, we should be able to send of a very goodly sum to help those poor people to rebuild their shattered lives. If every school in the country did the same thing, it would be fantastic. One of the children in the other year 1 class, who definitely has the pen of a ready writer, wrote in her diary of her sadness and worry for the people of Haiti as well as her own personal gratitude that her life is so much safer. In no way was it an 'I'm all right, Jack' attitude, it signalled a growing awareness that she is very fortunate and it could so easily be different. A most mature attitude for a five year old to have. Well done, N., I was seriously impressed.

I need to decide on a FMC recipe. I think bedtime reading will be magazines! :0)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Thursday evening

. . . and the coughing is definitely much less now. In just the last few days it has moved from painful to merely uncomfortable and, while I fear I shocked the children with a particularly bad bout this afternoon, it's getting much less frequent too, thank goodness. I worked out that it's been going on for more or less seven weeks with a respite during the second week of the Christmas holidays when I actually didn't have to talk, being on my own most of the time.

So today was definitely a more positive day all round, even though there were a few ructions (not personal) at school. The children were lively but pleasant and some reasonable work was produced. I said goodbye to one of my little girls at the end of school. They moved away from the area and mum was driving her children in to school every day, which was a right pain for her, not to mention expensive! They have a place at a local school and today was M's last day. Such a shame . . . it always seems to be the lovely ones that go, never the more troublesome ones.

I finish with a round of applause, a virtual pop of the champagne cork and a huge bouquet of flowers for my wonderful parents who celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary today . . . congratulations, you lovely pair.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Wednesday evening

Hasn't it been cold today? It started with frost, transposed into rain, then along came a biting wind chased again by the rain. Unfortunately for us, although year 1 usually have outdoor games on Thursday afternoons, this week we swapped with year 3, because they need the playground on Thursday afternoon for a jeep (don't ask!!). So out we went, boldly going where no sensible teacher wants to go, to keep them running, chasing, marking and generally on the move for half an hour. They were warm. We were not!

It was my Key Stage Coordinator time today. One hour between play and lunch times. I've spent quite a lot of time with foundation stage one way and another and am aware of what goes on in year 1, so I meandered round to y2 and spend a most interesting half hour with each class.

Child: Mrs Clark, why are you here?
Me: I'm not Mrs Clark, I'm her twin sister!
I don't think she believed me.

Photo: Another sunset one. No chance of a colourful sunset today - it would have been nice to see the sun at any time!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Tuesday evening

. . . and things are looking up.

For several weeks now I've had a rotten cough. During the second week of term it was so bad I had a couple of days off school and coughed so badly I felt a side muscle 'go'. Since then, the coughing has remained and it's been pretty painful at times, to the extent that I was wondering whether I needed to see my GP about it. Last night was one cough after another, so I slept badly, but today it has really felt an awful lot better. Still uncomfortable, but just better all round. So I really think I'm on the mend now. Moan over!

Mind you, it was funny in Infant Hymn Practise today, trying to give them a tuneful lead between coughs and chokes! They did remarkably well, all things considered.

I was sitting in my bay this evening, marking some work, when I looked up out of the window to see a beautiful pink sky glowing through the trees around the school. I nipped outside to take some photos, so here's one of them. Cheered me up no end, it did!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Monday morning

. . . and I feel so very tired. I slept well but just don't seem to have all that much energy at the moment. So a short blog this morning

Photo: More of Indie and her babies

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Just photos

Ava is not a happy moggy and that's a fact! Rarely have I seen her so cross. Photo taken by DD - thanks!

Sofia is not much happier.

Two days down, eight to go!!

And here they are - Indie and her babies. Aaaahhhhhh

Sunday afternoon

And it's done, made, potted, labelled and cooling nicely. Fifteen jars of golden sunshine, two of which are queueing at the front door waiting to go to DD's house soon. She has made a fresh loaf of bread so we are having home made bread with butter and warm marmalade for tea. Mmmmmmm

While in Tesco getting the value mint sauce, I saw they still had some Seville oranges so guess what - I got some more, silly me. I want to try out something I read on The Cottage Smallholder, which is to simmer the mixture for ages until it is dark and gorgeous. This time I cut the peel quite thin - next time I will be more chunky and see how it goes, using half quantities. Those I don't use, I will freeze.

Photo: Proof!


'Jam jars', of course, is something of a misnomer nowadays. They can be anything from mayo jars via jars that used to contain curry or bolognaise sauce, especially those nice little Seeds of Change jars, all the way to salsa jars that sit snugly next to those tubes of Pringles!

Anyone who makes pickles and preserves knows the feeling. Each time you visit the supermarket, you weigh up the jars you are going to buy, not only for their content but also for their size, shape and general appropriateness for housing your made-with-love preserves. Another worry is the label: does it look as if it will come off easily or are you going to have to attack it viciously with the scourer? And, practically, will the funnel fit inside the top so that the jam or whatever goes into the jar without mess?
It's not just a question of the food inside, you know - oh, dear me, no!

When you clear out the fridge and get rid of all the remains of out of date stuff, instead of recycling the jars via the nearest recycling point, you carefully scoop out the remains, thoroughly wash the jars and lids and store them in the shed or attic.

Last summer, DD got the urge to make jams with some fruit she had acquired free one way and another. Very nice it was too. However, she didn't have jars, so she raided my store and removed the most useful sized ones - to be fair, she did ask and I said yes, but I didn't quite realise how many she would want! I didn't have enough for her needs so she had a think and came up with something so simple I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. It involves waste, unfortunately.

We are lucky enough to have a Lakeland in town. Lakeland sells jam jars and lids; very nice they are too, but on the expensive side. Sainsbury's and Tesco's sell value mint sauce; horrid stuff, the only merit being that it's very cheap - only 15p per jar. That's £1.80 for a dozen jars and I defy anyone to find better value jars locally. Of course, the sauce itself goes down the sink but it probably clears out your pipes a treat at a fraction of the price that Mr Muscle demands! And the jars need a good hot run through the dishwasher, but I'd do that anyway before putting my culinary creations inside. OK, they're not huge jars, but they're an ideal size for one who lives on her own and also for nice little gifts, all done up with pretty paper and ribbon.

So when it gets a bit lighter, I'm off down the garden to the shed to see how many jam jars I have. If I don't have enough, I'm off to get some value mint sauce from one of the Big Two. If I do have enough, I'm off round the corner to Morrison's anyway to get some cointreau and some gin (sounds good, that, doesn't it!). I want to try adding some cointreau to a bit of the mixture, once it has reached setting point, just to see what it's like. I don't care for whisky or brandy but have heard that a bit of alcohol is lovely in marmalade. The gin is for the Seville orange gin. Honest!!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

More on marmalade

What a restful experience it is, preparing everything. Cutting the fruit in half and warming in the microwave definitely helps, both in getting more juice out and in making the peel easier to deal with. None of it is hard, it just takes time and can't really be rushed. Now I've done this, I'm going to be OK with the rest and I can see my way through the process.
I was mighty grateful for the efficient knife sharpener I was given for Christmas. I'd have hated to have to do all the cutting and shredding with a knife that had lost its edge in any way.
My wooden reamer did a grand job of extracting all the juice from the fruit.
And now I have the fun of designing some labels for the jars.

At the moment, the juice, water and shred is soaking in one bowl and all the gunk is soaking in another. Photo evidence attached!

Saturday morning

. . . and I'm trying to find the energy to get going. The house has been sadly neglected this week, what with one thing and another, and I need to get the kitchen in order before starting the Most Important Thing of the weekend - the marmalade.
Never having made it before, I didn't know amounts and got two nets of Seville oranges - way too much. One has gone off in the week (one orange, not one net) but I still have too many. So I was chuffed to read, just half an hour ago, a recipe for Seville Orange Gin. It is on the Cottage Smallholder site just here:
I will need to get some gin, it not being on my list of Things-I-Must-Have-In, but I have the rest including, of course, the oranges. But what do I do with the rest of the orange. If I add it to the marmalade will the proportions be wrong and if I include them as part of the existing recipe, will there be enough shred? Does it matter? Being a total novice, I have no idea. I think it would be best to do a search and see what the juice could be used for - maybe a citrus cordial or something of the kind.
However, the most distressing thing about this recipe is that one has to leave it to maturee for three years. Yes, that's right - THREE YEARS! Will I have the self control? I have no idea!

Yesterday I bought some nice Pink Lady apples which I am going to peel, core, slice, soak in lemon water and then dehydrate. Here's hoping it works OK - the mushrooms from last weekend seem fine.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Friday evening

Phew, what a day. PPA first, when we managed to get very little done, despite some extremely hard work. I blame myself - usually I get the planning more or less done during the week and then Liz tweaks it. For various reasonable reasons this week (like not feeling 100%, needing early nights, etc) I hadn't done what I usually do and this was the result! Ho hum - guilt all round!

And then it was literacy and I was very pleased to see that after some pretty severe talking-tos at times this week they all (well, almost all) really tried hard and managed to produce something quite respectable, taking into account age, ability and previous experience. I was pleased!

The afternoon was swimming, with which I am not directly involved. Last week (when I was off, poorly) was, I hear, utter and absolute chaos - well, it was the first week and there were only three parents helping and the children were thoroughly unsettled after a very uneven start to the term.
We very much rely on parents helping as I have to stay in the classroom with the second swimming group and ideally we need two per changing room, although as my class is over-loaded with boys, two and three would be better.
Anyway, after some 'talking' (I talked and they listened - lol) and the appearance of two more wonderful CRB checked mums, it all went a lot better this afternoon, thank goodness.

After school I helped to sort the 0 to 100 cards. Imagine about 20 sets of number cards, 0 to 100, all horribly muddled up. Yup, that's what we sorted out. Three of us and it took until just after five, but it was a necessary job well done!

And then it was off to DG's wraparound care club to pick him up as both Sofia and Ava had been 'done' at the vets and DD would need to be there to pick them up. However, this was the day dear Indigo (DD's beautiful Tonkinese pedigree cat) decided to have her kittens - all six of them - so DD was stuck at home looking after her and generally acting as moggy midwife. So no sooner had I arrived at DD's, than I was dispatched to the vet's to pick up Ava and Sofia, who were very cross about the collars they will have to wear for the next ten days and thought that by running backward very fast they could leave them behind! When I left DD's, they were both in furious sulks because it hadn't worked. Bless . . .

The kittens are just gorgeous. Two boys and four girls. One of the boys (I think it's one of the boys) looks as if he is a lilac point and the other look as if they will be blue point although DD's not sure about one of them. They're not pure bred as Theo is a Birman, but they should be very pretty and very sellable too, in due time. I call them Theo's final fling, as he was 'done' shortly after he did his part in conceiving them!

I finally got home just after eight and am now trying very hard to stay awake for another half hour or so in the hopes that I won't wake at some unearthly time tomorrow morning.

And, of course, this weekend is marmalade weekend! Yay! I also intend to try to dehydrate apple slices and tomato.
And finally, welcome to a new 'follower', a very dear friend of mine, Songbird. Love you!!!

Photo: Understandably, DD wouldn't let me take flash photography so this photo of Indie and little bits of a few kittens has been edited and is of incredibly poor quality - so sorry. Hopefully better ones will follow shortly!

Friday morning

And the end of the first complete week of the term for me. I don't count the loss of 45 minutes at the end of yesterday.

In yesterday's blog I mentioned a clamp down with the children's behaviour and working habits and that I expected the day to be better - and I was right, it did go very well indeed, in that they worked hard, listened and tried to remember and do what I said. It did underline for me quite what lovely children they are and highlighted the few who have huge, enormous, genuine difficulties (as opposed to just not bothering to listen properly) in remembering verbal instructions. I've started adding little signs to my instructions, such as making snipping finger movements for 'cut out', and that seems to be helping, as does a visual prompt sheet. The latter takes so long to make though, so I must put together some cards that I can order to illustrate the instructions.

I always like Fridays! For a start, it's PPA until playtime. Then there's an hour of what might be called 'formal teaching' (maths or literacy) and then, in the afternoon, it's swimming and Golden Time. A pleasant way to end the week, definitely! And then we're a quarter of the way through the term - only three weeks until half term - where is the time going?

Photo: another clivia edit, called glowing edges.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Thursday and a recipe

Yesterday's staff training went OK, thank goodness. People listened, nodded at relevant points, seemed to take on board what was said and generally the whole thing worked! Now we look for an improvement in the quality of the next round of IEPs - they're not all that bad anyway, but some bits need working on. Also, the changes that we have made to the actual form went by without argument. We tried to make things easier for everyone, as well as adding clarity to the recording of information and it seems to have worked.

I'm afraid my class are showing the effects of not having had their regular teacher with much consistency this term. I had a 'clamp down' day yesterday and it was none too happy at times, but after a little talk at the very end of the day, I hope they understood just why I wasn't a happy teacher!! They're a good bunch of children and it just shows how quickly little ones can start to be derailed. I'm expecting today to be much better.

This afternoon will be most exciting (not)! It's the next three yearly boob squashing session and I get off school at 2:30 in order to attend. It means I miss our 'Meet The Teacher' meeting, which is unfortunate but the dates have been changed more than once and Susannah didn't feel she could change it again. So poor Liz will have to lead it for both of us!

And in my last bit of exciting news, I've decided not to do a FMC this weekend as it's Seville Orange Marmalade weekend and that will be enough for anyone, especially as I've never made it before. I promised Anne I would post the recipe. I have no idea where it comes from, but my mum has changed and adapted it over the years. It's no secret recipe so here it is, complete with maternal comments. Warning - it takes some knowledge for granted, e.g. stuff about sterile, heated jars . . .

Seville orange marmalade

3 lbs Seville oranges
2 lemons
5 pints water
6 lbs granulated sugar

2 large bowls
Put 3 pints water in one bowl and 2 in the other.

Cut the fruit (oranges and lemons) in half and squeeze the juice out. It helps to warm it a little (in microwave)
Place sieve over first bowl and pour the juice into it.
Scrape out some of the pith from the peel (about half) and put it, with all pips and ‘skin’, into second bowl. Use every scrap of pith, inner skin and pips in the second bowl, it will all help the set.
Then slice the peel into whatever size you like and put that into the juice in the first bowl.
Cover and soak overnight.

Next day, put contents of first bowl (3 pints water, juice and peel) into the preserving pan and boil gently, uncovered, until the peel is tender, about 1 and a half hours. After the sugar has been added (later) the peel will not soften any more, so make sure it will break easily when pinched, before adding sugar.

Meanwhile, boil contents of the second bowl (water, pith and pips) in a large saucepan, uncovered. Keep crushing the contents with a potato masher and don’t let more than about 1/3 of the liquid evaporate.
Then sieve contents into the preserving pan (push it through to get every drop). It is a good idea to sieve through once, then add about half a pint of water to the residue, boil and sieve again.

Add the sugar and slowly heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, boil to setting point in the usual way.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Wednesday morning

Well, yesterday went, finally. A tremendously busy day, lots done, loads of interruptions, one important meeting and everything ready for the staff session Sheila and I are going to lead after school today as a result of our IEP health check. I hate leading staff sessions, I get all tongue tied and muddled, even when I know what I'm talking about! Roll on five o'clock!

Apart from that, today is just a 'normal' day! In class all day, long afternoon so nice art activity, family assembly in the morning (must remember to practise the hymn when I get to school)! And, hopefully, an early night when I can get straight to sleep instead of tossing and turning for several very long hours! I can hope . . .

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tuesday morning

Just a very quick hi as I must get going very soon. I was so busy yesterday evening, I didn't manage to get in here and post, but I didn't have a lot to say anyway!! (do I ever?)

I just wish people could be kinder to each other. In online communication it's so easy to say things that one would normally never ever say to someone face to face. It can all blow up so easily and take so long to sort out. I'm wishing for a quieter day today!

Have a good one yourself!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Monday morning

. . . and it's delightful out there. Freezing fog - well, freezing mist anyway. The ten day weather forecast I use says that the current temperature in Chelmsford is 3 degrees - well, not here it ain't - and with a chance of sleet showers today! It makes me shiver just thinking about it!

I've just checked over the planning before going back up to wash my hair, etc, and all seems prepared and ready. I feel strangely 'disassociated' from school at the moment. Of the two weeks of this term, I've only taught for less than half of it, snow, illness and SEN responsibilities taking me out of the classroom the rest of the time, and it's a very strange feeling indeed. I've just worked it out and I've been with my class for three and a half days. Not good, not good at all.

As far as cooking is concerned, I finally have managed to make pastry worthy of the name. I used my mini chopper, butter and as little water as I could get away from and it was actually quite nice. This is possibly the first time in my life that I have produced 'quite nice' shortcrust pastry: in the past you could have used it for the foundations of a house, it was so solid! Thank you to all the lovely people on the Food and Drink conference on FirstClass for their advice in this most serious of culinary issues!

I still have the last portion of pork fillet to use up. I suppose I could freeze it, but it's so long since I had pork that I've rather enjoyed it. Seeing as the last two days have both resulted in fruity, although different, creations, I think tonight I will make an old favourite. Fry sliced onion and a little garlic in a bit of butter, add sliced chestnut mushrooms and cook until soft. Remove from the pan, add the pieces of pork and fry until just cooked through. Then it's decision time - do I use low fat creme fraiche or Philly light for the sauce. At the moment the Philly is winning but I'll see how I feel when it come to making the dish. And a little bit of grain mustard or maybe some smoked paprika. This is one of those concoctions where you can add all sorts of different vegetables - I might add some chopped red or orange peppers for colour and flavour when I cook the onion/mushrooms. Decisions, decisions!

Photo: Another messed about clivia! Something mosaic-y but I can't remember exactly what the effect is called.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sunday evening

. . . and I now have a Tupperware container half filled with dehydrated mushroom. It's rather nice to eat just like that so I've put it away in the cupboard out of temptation's reach. I've also ordered a book about dehydrating as all sorts of questions come to mind - if I dry peppers, do I have to remove the skins first, will drying onions stink the place out, do I blanch carrots before starting to dry them. All these questions plus those I don't yet know I will need to ask will, hopefully, be answered soon. I gather that in the book there's a recipe for a vegetable bouillon like Marigold, but without the palm oil. Useful!

Come the summer I can dry the chives that I don't use fresh, also the parsley and the thyme. No point drying the rosemary or the bay as they're all year round herbs. I might have a go at leaf coriander though. A little selection of herbs might make a good thank you present for my parent helpers at the end of the school year and will be different. Also, I could dry the lavender in it, and some rose petals, to make pot pourri. Exciting!

Apart from that, it's back to school tomorrow. I feel so disjointed where school is concerned. Two and a half days the first week back, three days the second week back - not very consistent. Here's hoping this week will go as it should.

Photo: The mushrooms, before they were dehydrated!

Sunday morning

. . . and I'm about to learn a new skill!

When I was out shopping yesterday, I noticed that Morrison's had Seville oranges and, on impulse, bought some. I've never made marmalade, although jam and chutney hold no fears and I'm a mean hand with a jelly bag!! However, as my mother is brilliant with marmalade, I've always acquired jars of wonderful bitter sweet stuff from her!
No more! I'm about to learn. And when you want to learn, you sit at the feet of the experts, right? So yesterday dear mum wrote out her method, acquired over years and years of experience, and dad scanned it over to me. And, three cheers, it doesn't involve wrapping stuff in muslin bags and squeezing until every drop of whatever is out. It does involve pushing stuff through a sieve, but I can live with that!
Guess what next weekend is devoted to!! Must check my jars and get some more value mint, if necessary. I wonder if one could add cointreau to some of the mixture - after setting point has been reached, I mean.

It other news, I had a rotten night's sleep after some fun and frolics on one of the FC conferences I help to moderate. I was approving and unapproving messages all night long, in my dreams. Not terribly restful. I hope R, who took the lion's share of the work, slept a little better - a lot better, really!

Today I think I am going to try another of the fruity pork recipes, the one I posted a link to yesterday - Clementine pork steak. I have some of the tenderloin fillet to use up and this one has mushrooms (yum) as well as the pork and orange sauce. It's not a FMC but it is new to me.

Photo: I played around with the photos of the amaryllis (which I now know is called a Clivia, thanks to Annabeth). This one is called 'chrome' and was made using Photoshop Elements 6.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

F M C no. 3: Fruity Pork Steak

Well, what can I say? What a taste sensation! Amazing for something so very straightforward and easy on the old kitchen utensils. The only things I changed were that I added a little more redcurrant jelly and I used tenderloin fillet rather than pork steak. I prepared some rice to have with it but, in fact, didn't eat it. It tasted complete on its own and didn't need rice, noodles, etc. It would have been nice with some creamy mash, perhaps
The onion and the apple provided two of the five a day and I didn't need that much oil for the cooking, so I reckon it was pretty healthy!

Onion and apple have a natural affinity, as do pork and apple. The three, with the five spice and the sauce make a wonderful combination. I wanted to lick the plate afterwards. Did I? Not telling!!

As I thought, it reduced to one portion well and I have enough pork left for two more meals. It's going to be a porky week!

Saturday morning and FMC no. 3

Remember I had to pick up a parcel yesterday? To my great delight, it was the food dehydrator I had ordered a few weeks ago. Just a very, very basic one, but it was most exciting to open the parcel! I think I'll start with mushroom slices as I use mushrooms an awful lot one way and another and they look easy enough to dry. I also rather fancy drying tomatoes and then storing them in oil. Not exactly sun dried, but second best. I have a lot to learn but there is advice out there, all I have to do is find it!

For the first time in a while, I slept through the night without the coughing waking me up. I'm sure it's down to having had a few days of not needing to talk very much and I'm deeply grateful to Susannah (head) for being understanding about it. I'm feeling so much better after a good sleep, thank goodness.

The FMC recipe today is going to be taken from the February edition of BBC Good Food (on p.22). It's called Fruity Pork Steaks.
On searching the Good Food site for a link, I found this:
which looks to be very similar in some ways and I've downloaded it for the future.
You have to dust lean pork steaks with five spice powder, fry till cooked, then fry onion and apple wedges. The sauce is made from redcurrant jelly, red wine vinegar and chicken stock.
There's an alternative which turns it into Sticky Pineapple Pork, where you replace the apple with pineapple chunks and the sauce is red wine vinegar with honey and soy sauce.
I think I will do the apple one this time but maybe try the pineapple one later on in the week. They're both reducible to a single portion, which is great!
I noticed that Morrison's had some nice looking pork tenderloin fillet on Wednesday. Hopefully there will still be some left. If not, they'll probably have something suitable on the fresh meat counter. I have all the other ingredients already, which makes it a good one in my book!

I have a major miracle in my home at present. I'm terribly with indoor flowering plants - well, any indoor plants, to be honest. They have to be very tough to survive my version of T L C. I'm OK with the indestructible sort. If they can survive weeks without water, they're my sort of plant!
Last birthday, DS gave me two plants, a sort of lily and an amaryllis. They were both pretty, the amaryllis particularly so. Once the flowering was over, I asked Dad for advice - he's a keen gardener and house plant man! As always, I sort of followed it, but over the winter the poor thing has been sadly neglected, not that it seems to have minded because it has just produced flowers again, much to my amazement. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even realise it was waking up until I noticed the colour. because of this, unfortunately, it lost several heads because I hadn't watered it, but the others seem happy enough now.
So that's the photo today - the Chelmsford Miracle! Excuse the fuzziness; I was messing about with some editing!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Not a FMC recipe after all

I thought it was parsnip and apple soup and it wasn't, it was celeriac and apple soup. As celeriac isn't a staple in my veg box, I made curried parsnip and apple soup from the good food site.
Of course, I had to change a few bits. I didn't have curry powder so I used one tsp tandoori masala and two tsp garam masala. I didn't have cream so I adopted one of the comments below and used low fat coconut milk instead. After the blending it tasted a little 'thin' so I simmered it for a while to reduce it a bit, then added the coconut milk. It tasted quite nice, although not really parsnippy enough for me, so I added two small parsnip and boiled it up again. It was lucky I hadn't used cream!
And it really is very tasty. There's enough for lunch tomorrow and Sunday, possibly more. I need to measure it out and freeze what I won't need now.

I wonder if you can freeze left-over low fat coconut milk . . .

Friday morning

. . . and not going into work does not equal a lie in, unfortunately! Up at five, coughing and spluttering but definitely wide awake. Such a pain, in more senses than the obvious. However, no temperature - the aches are all coughing strain, so that's OK.

I've just tweaked next week's planning to send to Liz and it struck me that if this week's planning hasn't been done properly, I'll be up a gum tree next week! So fingers crossed.

I have a feeling today is going to be so boring unless I have some plans. So I think I might do some kitchen stuff - not sure what but I'll look through my fridge and see what could be/needs to be used up. There's a fair bit of fruit which needs to be dealt with - maybe stewed and frozen - and there's vegetables which need to be turned into soup. I could perhaps make parsnip and apple soup: it's one of the FMC recipes I have marked as a possible and I think I have all the ingredients needed.
I do have to pick up a parcel from the local post office, which might be awkward if a parent sees me. However, I'm worried they might send it back if I don't pick it up soon so I'll have to take the risk, wrap up warmly and hope.
And I suppose there's always the endless washing and the ironing. Sigh . . .

Photo: Maggie made the comment that one of the sunset edits looked like a weather forecast so I thought I'd go further and make it look like a climate map!! So this is dedicated to you, Maggie!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Crumpets (again)

. . . of the Hairy Bikers' variety, as mentioned earlier. You know, I hate to say is but I think it's a better recipe even than Delia's one. And you rarely catch me saying that!
Here is it . . .
I wondered whether they would have that soda-ish taste that bought crumpets have, as Delia's recipe didn't have bicarb and theirs does, but it really doesn't and they rose beautifully while being cooked. The Morrison's egg rings did the job perfectly, giving them a nice shape without any sticking whatsoever. Excellent!
They're now nestling in the freezer as they're far too nice to have hanging around. And I know what to do next time my parents come round - they love crumpets.

The other thing I've been doing is playing around again with my photo editing programmes . . . so the photo at the top is of one of the crumpets and the one down here is one of the results of my playing.

Made me laugh.

Being off work and not up to much, I've just caught up with the first episode of Delia Through The Decades, which, being an out and out Delia fan, I enjoyed tremendously. I enjoyed the nostalgia of the decade I started at the age of 8, I enjoyed learning how she started off in her career and some of those old film clips were great.

I had a little giggle at her head's comment about if she'd worked a little harder she could have been a secretary (gee, how wonderful), but the bit that made me laugh, really laugh (and cough rather a lot too) was this:
'I can't comment on Delia's work this term because she hasn't done any'.
Genius, sheer genius. I shall remember that one for April/May/June time when I write my own reports!
I wonder if I dare . . .

Photo: More playing with Photoshop Elements 6. Not a finished thing, just interesting (I think). It might make a nice backing for a card, perhaps with black (or other) silhouette lettering in front.

Thursday morning

. . . and I'm off school with a rotten cough and aches all over. Such a nuisance all round as there's so much to do and so little time to get it all done.

Apart from the cough and increasing unwell-ness, yesterday went OK. I had my performance management at last and that went OK. It snowed on and off for most of the day, which kept the children happy, but it was wet fine snow that occasionally became sleet and only settled late afternoon, shortly before it stopped. I had a clamp down on wasting time in class, which meant the the little dears worked very hard and produced work that was OK (most of them anyway). I have a lovely class, but they're a bit happy-go-lucky and anything-will-do at times.

And so to today - indoors, hopefully resting and trying to feel better. I can't, just can't, take another day off, not with all that has to be done. I didn't have the common sense to bring home the box of things that need sorting and sticking in yesterday evening and I'm cross with myself.

If I feel better later on, I might try the other crumpet recipe and test out my new crumpet rings. They were in Morrison's, non-stick, high sided egg rings, ideal!! It was the non stick bit that did it and, how strange, suddenly they just jumped off the shelf into my trolley. Can't think how it happened. Very odd!!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Tuesday morning

. . . and the snow is still vanishing gently. We are forecast more snow tomorrow but I can't see it happening. Rain, more like . . .

Today is my SEN day as, much to my relief, I don't have to cope with the welly/hat/scarf/gloves routine. Faith can do that (evil cackle).
What I (with Sheila) do have to cope with is finishing off the IEP health check and then . . . well, last week we went to feed back on our findings to head and deputy who were just putting together the staff meeting list. So they thought it would be a brilliant idea for us to lead a part of one of the staff meetings. Ho hum! So we have to plan that and get everything prepared - handouts and the like. Oh, what fun!

Photo: Yet another play with the sunset photo.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Monday evening

Sorry about this morning's lack of blog! It was all go, as I decided that my hair really did need washing before I went to work.
Yes - school was open. I can't say it was particularly safe underfoot within the school grounds - nasty and icy, it was - but manageable. They were all allowed out to play on the understanding that no snowballs were to be thrown, the snow compacting into hard ice as it did. They were pretty good about it too and there were no accidents, just plenty of damp feet.
I was just glad that it's my half term off playground duty.

I have trained my little dears to turn one glove around/inside the other to keep them together and then put them inside their hat before putting them in the special box for hats, gloves and scarves. It's saved a lot of time one way and another.
I had to laugh today thought. Scatty Little Boy came up to me in a bit of a tizz.

SLB: Mrs Clark, Mrs Clark, I can't find my hat anywhere.
Me: Have you tried . . .
SLB: Yes, I've looked in the box . . .
Me: But have you tried . . .
SLB: I've looked and looked and someone's stolen it. I can't find it.
Me: (getting a bit impatient) But look . . .
SLB: I've looked everywhere, Mrs Clark. Mum will be very cross . . .
Me: (raising my voice, something I do only rarely) Have you tried on your HEAD!

Silence . . .

More silence . . .

Noises from a teacher trying hard not to giggle. . .

SLB: Oh . . . yes . . . there it is. Someone must have put it there . . .

You just have to laugh, don't you?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunday morning and it's thawing.

Last night there were severe weather warnings out for Essex and it did snow hard in the evening, so it was a little surprising to look out this morning to a world that was significantly less white than yesterday with icicles that are shorter and need their noses wiped regularly! It's now raw, damp, windy and with little snow flurries that do nothing at all, just come and go.

At least one good thing is that school is certain to be open again tomorrow. It sounds nice, having extra 'snow days' but it's not really: there's work to do and it's not getting done, it plays merry hell with the planning and we were only two days back from the Christmas break anyway.

So, today! There's a loaf in the bread maker which will start making the house smell wonderful in a couple of hours, just in time to whet my appetite for lunch. The chicken has to be eaten today, and I got some fresh noodles yesterday to have with it. I think I will chop some mushrooms, betters and green beans up small and stir fry them in with the noodles, the chicken can reheat in the microwave and it should all make a filling Sunday dinner.
Before then, this morning, I want to try another crumpet recipe, the 'Hairy Bikers' one which has bicarb added. If I hadn't gone shopping yesterday I couldn't have done it as I was very short of milk, but as it is I have some whole milk which is what the recipe asks for. Normally I get organic semi-skimmed, but they only had that in huge cartons, more than half of which would be wasted.

There's some washing and ironing which I think I will do this afternoon, when there might possibly be something to watch on the telly at the same time. One can hope.

All the planning is done, which is good, so no worries about that. I'm glad I re-wrote it all because it proved to be not quite as simple as I thought it would be, particularly the literacy and theme planning. I'd have got seriously muddled if I had decided to use the old planning

Better go and start the crumpet mixture now.

Photo: More fun with the sunset photo.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Saturday early evening.

Another cold day with more snow, especially later on this afternoon. I'm afraid the lemon chicken just won't do and I have some slices of square sausage frying at the moment, to make sausage sarnies for tea. Hardly supreme gastronomy but brilliant cold weather food. I might even fry a few eggs to go on the top and make them open sarnies. Mmmmm.

I did manage to get our, the roads being not too bad this morning. No signs of shortages in Morrisons: the only thing I needed that they didn't have was leeks. I daresay I will manage to survive without leeks for a few days if I try. What they did have was five plastic boxes with lids for £10 - big plastic boxes. I need some lidded boxes for school so I got some.

Why do I need boxes for school, do I hear you ask? yes, I thought I did. Well, the children are supposed to have PE kit in school: T shirt, shorts, plimmies and, in this weather, a track suit. Some don't. So I have started a collection of old, outgrown PE kit items so that those without their own can borrow. At the moment it's all in carrier bags. By Monday evening, it will all be sorted into boxes for much easier access.

And then I skidded on to the chemist and managed to get some hearing aid batteries, so that's the pressure off for about six weeks. Time to order some from the internet or slink into Boots once the roads clear properly.

Photo: Another edit of the sunset photo. I love the colours.

Saturday morning

On Saturday morning a teacher's thoughts turn to . . . planning and evaluation!

I have two weeks' worth of planning before me, for both theme and maths. I have delivered two days of it all. Both common sense and experience tells me that I can easily stretch it out to last for the next fortnight, assuming that we don't get any more snow dumped here and that school opens on Monday.
My 'problem' (and if that's the worst problem I ever have I shall be a lucky lady) is this: Do I leave the planning in its current format and scribble the changed days on it or do I copy and paste into a new template.
The former sounds easier, but I know me! It's easy to get confused at the best of times. Planning isn't tablets of stone and things get changed around. The less confusion I have to cope with, the better! So I think it's the latter option. More work now but less confusion later. Unless school remains closed, of course, but I'm not waiting until Monday morning before starting to reorganise the planning!

Stay safe, everyone.

Photo: I've been playing with the sunset photo. Here's one of the results!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Finally . . .

Just a photo I took earlier. Sunset from an upstairs window.

FMC 2: Lemon chicken

Despite a few hitches with the actual recipe, this was an easy recipe to put together and to cook. The egg white and cornflour batter stuck to the pan a little bit: more an issue with an old wok and not heating the oil enough than anything else, I think. I had to add more oil, which wasn't the idea of a recipe in a 'light and easy' magazine. Next time I won't bother with the wok but will use my best non stick pan instead.
The lemon sauce really was lemony and most delicious and went with the chicken and the green beans a real treat. Unfortunately, the glass of wine I had with it didn't go and I had to set it aside for later on. I thickened the sauce a little with some thickening granules, which took a slightly too salty flavour away (blame the chicken stock granules) and it coated the chicken pieces nicely
It was filling - I suppose there's a lot of protein in a chicken breast and this took two - so there's a generous portion left to either freeze or re-heat tomorrow. I was going to cook some rice or noodles to have with it. I'm glad now that I didn't.

Definitely one to do again!

FMC 2: Lemon chicken

Taken from Light and Easy which is, I think, sold only in Tescos. I can't find a link to it, unfortunately.
The idea is that you make a light batter with egg white and cornflour and add chicken breast chunks, coat them and chill for 30 mins. The sauce is chicken stock, lemon juice, sugar, soy sauce and sherry or rice wine. You just fry the coated chicken, add the stock mixture and simmer for a few mins until the liquid has reduced and, presumably, thickened. It's served with steamed vegetables which you then tip into the mixture, stir and serve.
I can.t decide whether to have green beans, broccoli or go for more colour and stir fry some pepper and mushroom, a combination I dearly love and which I think will go well with the chicken.
I'll decide later!

Edited later to add - not a terribly precise recipe - there's two things which are in the list of ingredients but not in the method. Ooops! I'm assuming they are sauce ingredients.

Friday morning: Crumpets

And crumpets to you too, do I hear you say? Why not, they're delicious and everyone should have some in this cold weather. Proper comfort food, that's what they are. I was inspired by Diane's blog where she said she was making some.

I followed Delia's recipe which involves strong flour, milk and water, yeast, sugar and salt. No bicarb.
They were actually jolly easy to make until it came to the cooking part. First I tried using my dessert rings but the mixture stuck to the side - obviously I didn't grease them enough. So then I use my egg ring and that worked fine. However, it would probably be fine to just ladle out straight into the pan. The batter is so thick it wouldn't spread all that much.
As for the taste - yum yum yum!

Someone posted a different recipe into the Food and Drink conference on FirstClass, one from the Hairy Bikers. It contains bicarb as well as the other ingredients. I though I would have a go at that today, if I have time, tomorrow if not.

No school again - and looking at the condition of the roads, I'm not surprised. However, I do have to get out and about today. I only have one more hearing aid battery left and must locate some more. I really ought to have taken my mum up on her offer of lending me some last weekend, but, of course, I didn't know about the snow coming than. Also, I was going round to see a friend after school and will phone her to see what her road is like and if it would be OK to go round earlier.
So - if I manage to get the car up the slope of the cul de sac, when I get back I will leave it on the road rather than outside the house. I gather there's more snow on the way!

Photo: The crumpets - I made six but ate one straight away, as one does! The two at the top were the two that stuck.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

This was delicious

You can tell I'm at a bit of a loose end - all these blogs today!

Anyway, as said earlier, I planned to do jacket potato with cheese and bacon topping for dinner. But then I got thinking and this was what I did in the end.

I put the potato in to bake.
I thinly sliced an onion and put it in a saucepan with butter to simmer and soften slowly. Half way through I added a dash of balsamic vinegar and continued simmering it, stirring occasionally.
I then chopped some streaky bacon and fried it until the fat ran and the bacon was getting crispy. Then I added some sliced chestnut mushrooms and fried them together for a couple of minutes. Finally, I tipped the balsamic onion mixture into the bacon and mushroom and continued simmering for another five mins or so. It was absolutely scrummy on top of the potato.
What would have been nice is if I had added some apple as well, but I didn't think of it until I tasted it. Next time I'll do that!

Thursday late afternoon

. . . and the phone message has just come - school is closed again tomorrow. I can't say I'm surprised. It's bitterly cold in an increasingly strong wind and the roads are treacherous, despite gritting and salting. The pavements are untreated and I'd be most unhappy about walking to school on my dodgy ankles. I certainly wouldn't drive! There's been fresh falls of snow that have settled on the ice and altogether it's very unpleasant.

So - another day off school and all that planning I did early morning will possibly carry us through to the end of the third week. Liz and I have to decide whether we want to compress it or extend it and personally I think extending will be the better solution.

I've put off the lemony chicken recipe until tomorrow. My gastronomic soul calls out for jacket potatoes with cheese and bacon and that's exactly what I will be preparing for myself later on. Long, slow baked spuds with a fluffy interior and a crunchy skin . . . mmmmm.

Photo: Icicles on the shed roof.

Thursday a bit later on

I was starting to feel very guilty about being at home. Clear skies, very cold, but fine - and then it started snowing! It's now tipping it down again, settling in places where it didn't really settle yesterday, close to the house, and generally looking as if it is here to stay for some time. It's the same situation as yesterday - the children could get in, most of them anyway, and some staff would have no problems (me, for example, living as close to the school as I do), but there would not be enough staff to legally keep the school open, health and safety being the over-riding consideration nowadays.

So it's home, sweet home, and all I can say is bring on that ironing!! It will be good to get it done before the weekend!

Thursday morning

. . . and it's an unexpected day free from responsibility, thanks to yesterday's snow and some dire weather forecasts. Of course, once the decision had been made, it hasn't snowed overnight and, while very, very cold, it is probably possible that the roads are open and more or less clear. However, we (the school) were pushed to make a decision so we did.

I decided yesterday that as today is now clear of responsibility I would make it a FMC day. I've decided to do the Lovely Lemony Chicken from Tesco's 'Light and Easy'. More about that later!

As for today, well, I have plenty of ironing to catch up on, next week's planning needs adjusting as two days-worth of work hasn't been done this week (yesterday morning was devoted to snow based poetry and playing in the snow) and as I'm awake early again, there's probably some sleep to make up too. I have a vague memory in my head regarding a meeting after school too - that will need to be rescheduled at some point.

Stay warm, everyone!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Wednesday afternoon

. . . and down it came in bucket-loads this morning. A wonderful playtime in the falling snow, making snowmen and throwing snowballs! And then the decision was made to close the school after lunch - quite rightly, I think. Some members of staff have quite a distance to travel and they were worried about the journey. Some of us who live locally hung around until every child had been picked up but now we're all home. And the decision has been made to keep the school closed tomorrow.

You can't win though, can you. When we closed the school last year, after snow had fallen, we were criticised for not waiting to see if it cleared up later. When we kept the school open to see if it cleared later, we were criticised for not making a decision this morning! Oh, well, can't win them all, can you?

And playtime was wonderful!

Photos: some views of the snow at school.

Wednesday morning

Haven woken stupidly early yet again today, I set to and used the time gainfully in preparing the planning for next week. As a result, I now have a satisfied inner glow which, hopefully, will take me through the energy crash I feel coming on.

Snow? Well, yes, a very little bit (see photo). I gather there's more to come though and some areas have had loads.

Take care today, wherever you are.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Red sky in the morning . . .

Shepherds warning.
So the weather wise saying goes.

These are photos of the skies around school earlyish this morning (around 7:40). Lovely pink clouds promising something in the way of interesting weather to come during the day. So did it snow? Did it heck!! Lovely sun all day - hardly warm, but no snow whatsoever. Having watched the news, it seems that everywhere in England has had snow apart from Chelmsford.

So - will we get anything interesting overnight? Time alone will tell! I'm preparing lessons for tomorrow! I bet our school will be the only school open in the whole country!

Tuesday morning

I am so glad I will be in school today. Matt, the plumber, comes round today to service the boiler and has asked me to turn it off at 7:30 when I leave for school. Yes, I know it should have been done before, it was supposed to be done much earlier, but it had to be cancelled a couple of times for one reason or another. It had better come back on again afterwards, that's all I can say!!

I'm starting to think about my next FMC recipe. I've marked a few in the recent mags: there's some interesting ones in Tesco's Light and Easy - Lemony Carroty Dhal, Baked Citrus Cod with Fresh Herbs, Sticky Five Spice Pork (doesn't the very word 'sticky' make ones mouth water?) and Lovely Lemon Chicken which is a sort of Chinese type stirfry using a batter made from egg white and cornflour, not one to do when I'm tired or fed up, I suspect. January's Delicious has Smoked Salmon Vichyssoise (which is freezable, always a Good Thing) and Celeriac and Apple Soup (also freezable). February's Delicious has Puy Lentil Salad with Feta, Mint and Semi Dried Tomatoes, which looks nice as a lunch, although I might leave that until my dehydrator arrives and I can (hopefully) semi-dry the tomatoes myself. It also has Beef and Guinness Stew, which might be too similar to the last FMC recipe. It also has Letchworth Salad with Tomato Dressing and Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Walnut Oil which is also a salad (albeit a 'winter' salad, whatever that may signify!).
So, you see, I am spoilt for choice here. The Lemon Chicken has instant appeal; I love all things lemony; but I will have to buy some chicken, rice wine or sherry and, possible, some cornflour. The Smoked Salmon Vichyssoise also appeals and I do have some smoked salmon in the freezer, but not single cream, which I would have to buy for just one portion, as the rest would have to be be frozen. Stingy? Moi??

I'm not good at making decisions!! Eeek!

Photo: Another of the frost at night, as I haven't taken much else in the last few days.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Monday evening

And what a lovely first day it has been. So nice to see my little friends again after a fortnight off.

I had to laugh after playtime. Any KS1 teacher will know that there is a government incentive to provide every child in KS1 and Foundation Stage with fruit or vegetable each day. Today it was carrots; lovely, cold, crunchy carrots . . . but so very difficult to bite into if, like most of the children, you either have a missing or wobbly front tooth/teeth. So there they all sat in a circle, nibbling at their carrots using their side teeth - it looked very funny.

It's an early night for me tonight. Before four is a ridiculously early time to wake, school or no school. Here's to a good sleep!

Monday morning

. . . and the holiday is most definitely over now. Waking up at 3:30 is a school day problem!

It's so cold outside, there's a very heavy frost and I'm mighty glad I am not on playground duty this half term!

All is ready for the return of the mob - I mean children. Plenty of work awaits them and the expectations have been raised, poor little dears! Back to real life with a bump, for all of us!

Yesterday, I finally got round to making the sprouts with bacon and chestnuts. All I did was boil some sprouts to just soft with a bit of a texture still, then drained and halved them. I dry fried some chopped streaky bacon, added some chopped chestnuts (from the freezer) and then added the sprouts. They all cooked together for about a minute or so, then I added just a little bit of butter. It was really scrummy and one to do again. I'll have to think about seasoning - maybe nutmeg would be nice, or perhaps a splash of lemon. It certainly didn't need salt.

Photo: Next door's car in the frost. It doesn't quite show how heavy the frost is but it gives some idea.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sunday evening

Back to work tomorrow. Very sad; it's been a most pleasant holiday and another week or so would have been super! Still, no complaints.

So - am I ready for tomorrow. Nope. Is the planning all done and dusted and up to date. Nope. Do I know what I'm going to do? Well, of course I do.

Here's to school again, a regular routine and early mornings! Cheers!

Sunday morning and the last day of the holidays

I suppose, officially, the last day was Friday, but never mind - today will do just as well!

Last night I was wittering on about breadmakers, mine in particular, and how it doesn't make a good loaf on the smallest size setting. Wholemeals have been worse than whites - brick like doesn't begin to describe them, although the medium setting and the medium amount of ingredients works fine - it just makes a loaf that is too big and the slices of which don't comfortably fit in the toaster. A minor problem in the overall scheme of things but annoying, especially as the old machine baked perfect small loaves until it decided to start playing up!

So yesterday I tried a white loaf using the smallest sized ingredients but the middle sized settings and it worked, much to my delight. The only thing I changed in the recipe is that I cut the salt down: I've tried that before and it didn't help with the quality of the loaf, but we're all supposed to cut down on our salt intake and this seemed to be an easy way to leave a little bit out.
So I tried a 100% wholemeal overnight, to see if it would work with that too. The proof is underneath, much to my delight. So that seems to have solved that one!

There's nothing nicer than waking up to the smell of fresh baked bread, is there?
And as I am now overloaded with bread, DD will have to take some home with her after tea today - oh, the hardships I inflict on my long suffering daughter!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

One more note . . .

Anyone who has a Panasonic breadmaker will have noticed that it's not as reliable as the older models, specifically with the 'smallest' sized loaf (called 'medium' - the others are large and extra large). The other two sizes are fine. The smallest size doesn't rise properly, the texture is not good and it comes out uneven across the top. Yes, I check all the measurements very carefully and have tried it with more/less yeast, more/less water, to no avail.

It's annoyed me since I got it that I have to make a bigger loaf than I really want or need. My parents have found the same thing and we were talking about it over breakfast this morning as the large loaf makes a slice that is just too big to fit in their toaster.
As a result, I wondered if the setting for the large loaf, with the ingredients for the medium sized loaf might work better.

So this afternoon I did just that. measured out the ingredients for the smallest of the three sized loaves but set it for the large size. And, you know, it came out perfect, the best it's ever done. I'm going to try a wholemeal overnight and see if it works for that as well. Fingers crossed.

FMC: balsamic beef and red pepper stew.

FMC+Foody Magazine Challenge

First of all, as soon as I had all the ingredients assembled I realised that I'd need a larger pot than the one shown in the mag which, when I looked properly, was a serving dish anyway, not a pot. No problem.

I had less beef than it suggested, one onion instead of two (but a large one), sweet potato instead of butternut squash (because that's what was in the shed) and more of it as I wasn't about to waste a little bit of sweet potato, dried thyme instead of fresh (no problem) and the balsamic vinegar I used was an apple vinegar (and simply delicious). I used sun dried tomato puree and a nice red wine. The beef stock, I fear, was powdered stock. I had a few leftover slices of chestnut mushroom which I tossed in almost at the end of the cooking time and I scattered a few black olives over the top as a sort of garnish.

Given those differences, it cooked beautifully, wasn't too tricky, as it followed the traditional technique of tossing chunks of beef in seasoned flour and then frying in olive oil (oh - it needed more oil than the recipe said so I added some butter), then frying the onions and veg before adding the liquids and meat and simmering all together. It wasn't a fussy recipe in any way.
It says to have it with garlic mash, but I made a loaf and had the stew in a bowl with lots of warm crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

The olives definitely didn't work. After one, I picked the others out. The mushrooms definitely did work and I'll be adding a note on the recipe to that effect. The sweet potatoes made a great substitute for the squash. It was very filling and absolutely delicious. Real cold weather comfort food. And there are three more portions in the freezer.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. . .

Photos: The one at the top is what it looked like at the start of the simmering time and the one below was my dinner!

Saturday lunchtime

Back from Letchworth now and, thank goodness, the roads were a lot better than yesterday. There was a lot of ice on the road yesterday, some obvious and some not so obvious, so it was a go slow and drive steady sort of journey.

Tonight I am having my first mag recipe meal It's from the February edition of Delicious and is balsamic beef and pepper stew. I've looked for an online link but haven't found one - I suppose they're not going to give away their recipes for free!
It won't be made exactly as written; they never are. I'll feed back (apolgies for the pun) later.

Photo: the bit of snow yesterday!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Pizza pate

I had some stuff left over from the pizzas - some ham, some chicken tikka, a very little bit of mozzarella, some olives and some ref and yellow peppers.

I put the ham and the chicken into my mini chopper, together with the mozzarella and some softened butter and zizzed it to a smooth-ish paste. Then I added the olives and some peppers, both finely chopped, some dijon mustard because it needed some bite, and some ground black pepper. I stirred it all well together and it's made quite a pleasant pate. It will be going into the freezer, of course, in single portions and will be used for school lunches.

I'm now running a bit short of my tiny single portion pots. Ooops.

Happy New Year

Just a quick one because I've been playing with Elements, Paintshop and Word and here's my card to you.

New Year's Morning

. . . and yes, we did have a little bit of snow, just a light sprinkling, which will all be gone by about 10:00, I have no doubt and which hasn't properly settled on the roads and pathways. It looks very pretty, sparkling in the light of the street lamps.

As predicted, I didn't manage to see the New Year in and I'm not sure any of the house party did, although I saw that DG had set up the bedroom for a celebration with selected soft toys, one of which had a label with 2010 around its neck. I wonder how quickly DD managed to get to sleep, as she was sharing a room with him. All is quiet now, and all was quiet and dark at around 2:00 when I meandered down the landing to the loo.

So, on into the New Year. I've selected my first foody mag recipe but won't be able to make it until tomorrow at the earliest, more likely Sunday. I can see that this challenge is going to live up to its name. I found several potential recipes in the latest edition of Delicious. I get it yesterday, still in December, and the date on the cover is February. I think it's perfectly daft, the way they date these magazines and it can be confusing too.

Anyway, end of rant - as I was saying, it's going to be a challenge because in most of the recipes I found there was at least one unfamiliar or 'not-sure-of' ingredient. Also, most of them are for 4 or 6 and not all of them had the sort of ingredients that could be quartered or halved without waste. Maybe I will get more adventurous as the year progresses, who knows?

I did discover something though, which will amuse the family - there's actually a salad called the Letchworth salad. Invented by a resident of Letchworth. I will HAVE to make that at some point, whether the weather is right or not.

And talking of Letchworth, that's where I'm bound this afternoon, bearing with me Mum's share of the remains of the turkey - some pots of meat and some stock. And then all I have left is the two frozen wings and one frozen drumstick. Oh, and a lot of single portion meals - yay!

Photo: I've been playing around with the frost on the tiles photo. Here's one of the results! I think I spiralled it in Elements 6, then moved across to Paintshop Pro to give it a sandstone texture and play with the colouring. It looks gold on screen and would make a super background to a Christmas card, perhaps with a wise man or angel silhouette on top, although I doubt it will look quite as good when printed. Wish I had a printer that did shiny stuff. I know you can get them but they're expensive.