Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Menu planning monday (posted on wednesday)

I did plan my menus for the week but haven't got on the computer to post them up.

This week we are having:
Monday: Slow cooked Venison with chilli & chocolate casserole with rice
Tuesday: Spanish frittata and flatbread (made with leftover pizza dough)
Wednesday: Smoked haddock kedgeree
Thursday:Lemon & garlic roast chicken pieces, pasta & pesto & salad
Friday: Gammon steaks with red eye gravy, mashed sweet potato & black bean/tomato salad
Saturday: Whatever they want
Sunday: Roast Chicken dinner

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Welcome home Sicilian Seafood Stew

My husband has been away on business this week and was due home today. So because I try to be a domestic goddess and wonderful wife, I wanted to make him a lovely dinner to come home to. It had to be one of those " there's no place like home" type of dinners. I wanted him to walk through that door, be jumped upon by two excited kids and shouts of Daddy Daddy, be hit by the glorious smells coming from the kitchen and just be glad to be home. I had to pull out all the stops because he's been in Italy eating amazing Tuscan food so the usual home cooking wasn't going to cut it. I put my thinking cap on, went to the world famous Bury market with my friend to get inspired and came up with Sicilian Seafood Stew. From the market, I got salmon, smoked haddock, king prawns, green lipped mussels, crab claws, scotch bonnet chillies, garlic, lemons & ciabatta bread all for less than £15.
Well, what can I say it was a successful endeavour. It got all the responses I hoped it would achieve. This really was the most gorgeous dinner and I couldn't help smiling as I served it because it smelt so good and it tasted even better. Anyway if you want to impress without much effort, this is the dish for you.

Sicilian Seafood Stew

1 onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tsp crushed mixed spices ( I have a spice mix with coriander, cumin & fennel seeds)
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 x 500g jar of tomato sauce
1 whole scotch bonnet chilli
300ml chicken or fish stock (I used a chicken stock cube because I forgot to get some fish bones to make stock)
2 glasses of red wine
1 tsp crushed mixed spices (I have a spice mix with coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds)1 piece of salmon (£3 - £4 in money) skinned & diced
1 piece of smoked haddock (£3 - 4) in money skinned & diced
6 king prawns heads & shells on
6 green lipped mussel half shells
3 crab claws

Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Add the crushed spices, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, tomato sauce & scotch bonnet chilli (just add this whole and then fish!! it out at the end). Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the stock & the wine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the salmon & haddock and allow to cook fot about 10 minutes. Add the shellfish and leave to simmer for about 10 - 15 more minutes. Serve in a rustic bowl with toasted ciabatta drizzled with olive oil and chopped garden mint. Don't forget a bowl to put the shells in and a nut cracker for the crab claws.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Arts & Craft Disaster

It has not been a good week so far what with the awful haircut and yesterdays arts & crafts disaster. It was the first sunny day in ages so I wanted to do something fun & messy outside. I decided to do 'White Mud' with the kids. This is where you put ripped up toilet roll, grated soap and water in bowl, mush it all up and then play with the resultant slush which can be moulded and shaped like mud. Setting it up took a good hour. First I had to unravel 1.5 toilet rolls (sounds like it would be fun but it was actually very boring especially with little people constantly asking is it ready yet). Then I had to rip it up into 2-3 sheet size pieces (I thought my dughter could do this but she lost interest after about 5 minutes). Luckily when it came to grating a bar of soap I had the foresight not to use our main cheese grater or we'd have been tasting soap for the next 6 months. However, the only spare grater I had was a parmesan grater and you can imagine how long this took. Well, we were finally ready Add water and get mushing. We did have fun doing this. But then disaster struck.... within 5 minutes of playing soapy wet toilet paper was flung all round my patio, both kids had managed to get soap in their eyes and were crying, then they were so slippy from standing in it they started falling and crying more. Both covered kids were trying to get back into the kitchen thatr I'd just mopped that morning... I was standing with my head in hands shouting nooooooooooooooooooooo.... I said to myself I must get control of the situation. So I ran in and laid newspaper on the kitchen floor. I plopped my daughter on the newspaper with strict instructions to stay put while I grabbed my son and washed him in the kitchen sink to avoid getting the 'mud' all round the house. Then it was my daughters turn. I just shut the back door on the mess and left it for another day...... lets hope it rains!

Monday, 1 September 2008

The worst haircut in the world

I can't believe I did it. I've had my hair cut and.......yes it looks awful. I hate it and I want my old hair back. But it's such a severe change I'm going to have to wait months if not a year for it to grow out..... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.I didn't just have a bit too much cut off the bottom (just another half an inch!). No, I stupidly had a complete change of style and it really doesn't suit me at all.
I've been feeling particularly frumpish of late and since the birth of my son my hair has not behaved itself. It is as dry as a bone, frizzy rather than curly and no amount of conditioner was doing it's job. I decided the thing I needed was a complete change of style - do the celebrity thing, get a new haircut and a new me!!!
I have always had the same hairstyle for years. My hair is v. thick, long and naturally curly. So whenever I've gone to the hairdressers and suggested a change they've persuaded me not to do it (your hair looks nice, this style really suits you, why change, just straighten it for a change..). I have tried a few things over the years: v. short (really awful), long layers (awful).... I've always hated it and gone back to my old faithful style.
I went to stay with a v. chic friend of mine in London and she said she knew a fantastic hairdresser who would do a brilliant job and so I went. The hairdresser suggested a fringe, lots of layers to thin and give bounce and to move the parting from the middle to the side. I was that disenamoured with myself that day I agreed and off she went. Hacking here and hacking there until I was completely surrounded by my own curly locks. I felt the panic rising up inside me... oh god what have I done... but she blew dry it straight and it did look good. I swished out of the salon and felt good. Unfortunately as soon as it started raining (about five minutes after we left the salon) my curls came back and the hairstyle looked awful... the fringe no longer nicely framing my face but halfway up my forehead. All too much like a kevin keegan perm from the 80's....
So now I'm forced to use a thousand hairclips to stick all the layers back as I try and put my hair up each day. Nightmare. The moral of the story - be grateful for what you've got and the grass is not always greener.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Menu planning & the first of school

Menu planning
I cannot believe I've only just discovered menu planning, it's like a revelation. I seem to have spent the last year (since having a baby) running round like a headless chicken at 4.30pm wondering what the hell I'm going to cook for tea. Oh there's been the odd day where I've got it together and put the slow cooker on but this has only been the odd day. Then because I'm not organised, dinner is thrown together last minute and I have to admit not all that appetising. Now I consider myself to be a good cook and I was beginning to wonder what had happened to me and my apparent lost skill in the kitchen. Also, I seemed to be going to the supermarket at least 3 or 4 times a week, spending a fortune on what I don't know and still not having anything in to cook. So in order to rectify the situation and gain back my culinary flair, I've been doing some research on the web on menu planning and was actually surprised to find whole websites dedicated to inspiring and helping with the "What's for dinner" question. I decided that before I start planning allsorts of lovely dishes and going shopping for the stuff, I must make use of what I've got. I wrote a list of all the things I've got in my fridge, freezer and cupboard and wrote a weeks worth of dinners based on this. I was literally amazed that just by sitting down and doing this easy little exercise making the tea this week has been a doddle. I've known exactly what to get out the freezer every day, what little bits of prep I need to do and what odd bits of shopping I need to get while I'm out and about. Be prepared I am going to go menu planning mad..

List of stuff in freezer:
Chicken fillets
Lamb cutlets
Minced beef

List of stuff in cupboard (this is just the main stuff obviously I have loads of staple ingredients):
Pitta bread
Tinned tomatoes
Tinned chickpeas
Tinned tuna
Red pesto

List of stuff in fridge (again just the main stuff listed I have loads of jars, veg, beers in there):

So here's what I came up with for this weeks tea:
Tuesday: Falafels with salad in pitta bread with flavoured yoghurt(garlic, coriander, tabasco, lime juice)
Wednesday: Chicken in a pesto sauce with rice and vegetables
Thursday: Moroccan lamb cutlets with jewelled couscous(spring onions, sweetcorn, peppers & pomegranate seeds) & salad
Friday: Homemade pizza dough (made with beer) with chicken & sweetcorn topping for kids & chicken & gorgonzola topping for us.
Saturday: I've designated this fun tea night. They can have what they want within reason. Party food, frozen kids food. Whatever.. it's the one night I chill out about them eating a proper dinner.
Sunday: Chicken Pot pie, roast potatoes, veg & gravy. We usually have a roast dinner but as I say I'm determined to use up what I've got so I can get serious with the menu planning and being frugal with the food shopping (thus saving precious pennies for other things like books, nice lunches out & make up!!)

First day at school
It is my godson and nephew's first day at school in 2 weeks time. He has never been to nursery (neither have mine) but as his mum & grandparents were all teachers he couldn't have had a better preschool education. I can't believe it's here already, where have those five years gone... His mum is finding the letting go very hard indeed and I am crying right alongside her. Luckily I have another year before my little girl has to go to school however we do have to start applying in a few weeks time. I am not looking forward to that whole business I can tell you. Getting your kids into the good schools here is a real cut throat business, with every man and his dog volunteering to mop the church floors in order to secure a place. But I digress... I'll cover that when I get to it myself. On the subject of my nephew... I have been trying to think of a nice way to mark this important event. I've spent that last few months picking up bit and bobs for him
  • a first picture dictionary
  • a lovely collection of playground games such as hopscotch, scullies, sidewalk salom and grand prix complete with chalk
  • some magnetic reception year words (all the words they are expected to recognise by the end of the first year) to put on his fridge at home
  • a book called the "The Incredible Book Eating Boy" by Oliver Jeffers which is just gorgeous. It's all about this boy who ate books, got smart, ended up being unable to digest all the input he was taking in but in the end discovering that the best thing to do with books is to read them. I love the last page which says "Now Henry reads all the time although every now and then" and there's a big bite mark cut out of the last page.
  • 3 ready to read books of bible stories: The Good Samaritan, Noah & Jonah the moaner which combine reading with fun activities and lots of lovely stickers.

I plan to make him a fantastic pencil cake which I saw on the family fun website which looks just perfect and I'll present it to him the night before. I also think I'll write him a letter " To my godson on your first day at school" and just talk about the past five years, how privileged I feel to have been an active part up to this point, the fun we've had together and what my hopes are for him for the future: enjoyment from learning, good friends etc.