Sunday Sevens #3

20160313_110739Last week, after a traumatic Saturday, in which my road witnessed a tragic, sad event. Sunday dawned bleakly. David and I decided it was time to sew the seeds I had bought. We planted sweet peppers, spring onions and green beans, in the hope that something will grow come summer. I am waiting for the frosts to end so I can plant maris bard potatoes and my dahlia tubers.

Now after a week of sitting in front of the window in the guest bedroom, we have shoots finally pushing through the soil! There is hope yet!

Mum decided to treat me on Tuesday with a little trip to Costa for a cappuccino and a toasted teacake. It was very restorative.

This was the final week of my Future Learn course: Literature and Mental Health. The six week course has been tremendous and I have loved reading an eclectic mix of poetry, novels and plays. The course has me reading again after a lull of some time and has inspired me to re-read Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.

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Aura by David Evans

It was decided that we should capture our elderly and much loved, Lady Gouldian Finch, Aura to clip his overgrowing beak. Last November Aura had the same problem and we don’t know if it was connected but he became very ill. He had fits and lay about the bottom of the cage looking exhausted. It was by fluke that his beak was sheered to its proper size and we started him on vitamin supplements. I put it down to David having healing hands and Aura was nursed back to life. Perhaps it was malnourishment due to an inability to eat with an over long beak? Either way I didn’t want a recurrence. So David captured Aura, not without some stress as the other finches were flying about the room! I held him and David clipped the tip of his beak. He seems much better now!

On Friday I didn’t have a clue what to make for the evening’s dinner. To be honest I am feeling a bit fed up with cooking. I find it exhausting looking for new recipes. So David defrosted the final serving of his curry base and made a vegetable karahi. It indeed had a kick to it!

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The weekend was spent doing the usual, shopping, cleaning, cooking. Artie was exhausted!

While Artie slept during the evening. I decided to dress up, even if it was just for a salad dinner at our house, Bistro No. 49!

What kind of foods do you enjoy? Have you read any good books recently?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #2

Today is Global Scouse Day! So to mark this celebration of the famous regional dish, I made a vegetarian/vegan version, Blind Scouse. I served it with some homemade wholemeal bread.

Monday, David as usual left for work at 7am. I found Artie, sitting by the front door waiting for him to come home. Midweek, Mum bought me some daffodils to cheer me up!

Thursday David had a day off work so we headed up to the Lake District. We got up at an ungodly hour, but saw the sunrise over Haweswater Reservoir and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater.

I’ll finish this post with our Saturday dinner. I made vegetarian bean burgers, using cannellini and borlotti beans. David helped sculpt them to fit the sesame buns. I served the burgers with bistro salad.

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Have you tried scouse? What did you think of the stew?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #1

I have wanted to try another blog challenge (after my 12 hours of Day), for a while now and recently Sunshine and Celandines posted a list of some inspiring challenges to do! So I thought today, I would give Sunday Sevens a try!

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At the moment I’m feeling ‘pumped!’ Seeing the late winter sunshine this morning has given me a much needed boost to my mood. I awoke on a lazy Sunday to bright blue skies!

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Winter sky

On Monday I cooked my Mum’s favourite meal from my repertoire. Quorn Swedish Meatballs and Spaghetti! The recipe is pretty straightforward and does for 3-4 people.

  • 10897834_10155104847620271_8473106121928313571_nCook 140g of spaghetti (for 2 people) or 280g (for 4)
  • In a pan fry 1 white onion (chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
  • When the onion is soft add a jar of Dolmio sauce for meatballs (or any tomato based sauce), 1 tbsp of brown sauce and handful of frozen peas
  • Crumble one low salt vegetable stock cube and add a bag of Quorn Swedish Meatballs, (or other vegetarian equivalent)
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stir occasionally. Serve on bed of spaghetti.

Tuesday was the Christian celebration of light, Candlemas. Once again, Sunshine and Celandines wrote a lovely blog post on the subject. I find it fascinating that most religions of the world have some kind of festival of light! Apparently Snowdrops are also called Candlemas Bells and symbolise the ending of winter. My perusal of the garden at the weekend brought the wondrous sight that I have Snowdrops growing!

On Friday I met up with a work colleague I had not seen in almost three years! We caught up over a Costa coffee and buttered toasted teacakes! 20160205_112255

At the start of 2016, I suggested to David that he should cook at least one meal every month, to give me a bit of a break! Saturday’s have become the day when we try cooking something different. So this Saturday he planned the evening meal.

Last month David made a curry, and again this February he decided to make another one. He is determined to find a recipe that tastes like our favourite take-away, Saffron! For almost three hours he took over the kitchen! The curry turned out to be one of David’s best! He served it with rice, and sides of naan and vegetable samosas!

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David’s Pasanda 

While David sweated in the kitchen, I sat with Artie and relaxed while listening to John William’s soundtracks on Classic FM!

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Artie

Have you undertaken any blog challenges?

Christine x

The Beginning…

This new year has begun in much the same vein as the parting year ended. It sees me re-evaluating my life. (You don’t know how fed up I am of doing that!)

January 2014 saw me working in an ecstatic frenzy! While listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus, from the Batman Begins film soundtrack, my impassioned imagination took the idea of a historical romance and ran with it. I wrote until the summer. Then I took a job that saw me sitting inanely on a bus for three hours a day, commuting, which killed my soul and subsequently my characters.

Now, with all this wasted time on my hands, it makes me think that maybe 2016 is a year when I should publish a novel? Where I should stop being a lazy writer and work for my living?! Maybe I should not only re-evaluate on the job front but the latest novel to hit the scrapheap? What do you think?


I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while now and yet each time I have planned a post the meal has fallen decidedly flat. Like tonight.

Yesterday, I felt the nervous excitement of finding a recipe I looked forward to making, (I need to get a life) but come this afternoon, I found I had no green lentils and only half a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway, which I found in the Asda Good Living magazine. I do like trying out new recipes, so I decided on the Lentil and Chickpea Curry, as I had no spinach.

I used what I had in, meaning half a red onion, half a carrot and half a yellow pepper as well as 100g of red lentils and a can of chickpeas, plus spices. The meal looked and tasted like every other vegetable stew/curry I have ever made. I can’t complain as it was eaten by everyone so it must have been ok?! I served it with brown rice which apparently ages you, according to a report David had recently read. However the health benefits are better than white rice, so a few wrinkles have to be better than being in an early grave?

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed, (also used pepper and carrot… I hate waste)
  • 2tbsp of medium curry powder
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can of green lentils, drained. (I didn’t have enough so used 100g of red lentils, dried)
  • 400g of chickpeas, drained.
  • Baby spinach (I never had any)
  • salt for seasoning
  • Naan or rice to serve

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan, cook the onion, slowly and then add the garlic.
  • (I added the onion, garlic and pepper together and simmered in a lidded pan until soft)
  • Then add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute
  • (I also added a squirt of tomato paste just to add taste)
  • Add the tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas and simmer for eight minutes, or until thickened.
  • Add the spinach at the last minute to wilt it
  • I also used brown rice which took 25 minutes to cook, adjust cooking times accordingly

The finished recipe if following the above should look like this:

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30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!

Ye Olde Valentine.

I’d like to think that I am quite romantic. Indeed more romantic than David.

I think the culmination of reading Charlotte Bronte’s Villette and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea while listening to Gustav Mahler and Sergi Rachmaninov symphonies when younger has effected my sensibilities.

This years Valentine’s Day was spent in our new home. It was supposed to be David who was to cook (to make me feel special) but it ended up being me cooking.

With little time to plan I opted to make a three course meal.

1) Carrot and Cumin soup

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2) Honey and mustard trout for main

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3) Chocolate strawberries for desert

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I started preparing at 1pm as I had a day off work. I slowly melted the chocolate and then dipped in the strawberries

After 5pm I cooked the vegetables for the soup (which I had peeled and chopped earlier) and the fish. All went well and we were well and truly satisfied.

After the pudding we listened to Classic FM and the concert recorded from the Liverpool Philharmonic, on romantic Spanish music. I loved it! Whether David liked it is another matter.

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Happy Valentines to all you lovers out there!!!

I don’t usually like…

…flowers. I prefer them to be growing in the ground and I am terrible gardener. However my spirits have been low of late and David kindly has seen that.

This Saturday, we were in Asda doing our weekly shop, when we passed the fruit and vegetable section. I gasped in exclamation at how lovely a bouquet of flowers was. They were a collection of lovely cream roses set amongst deep red ones, a kind of red berry type foliage and green leaves. They were expensive so we walked quickly past! I don’t usually notice flowers in the shop but these were a lovely combination of colours.

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Later on that evening I set about to cook up a mess in the kitchen! I followed a recipe in the January Asda magazine. Mexican Bean Wraps. (Serves 4)

The ingredients were:

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 3 mixed peppers
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic
  • 2 tsp of ground chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • Tin of mixed beans in tomato sauce
  • Tortilla wraps

Method:

  • Fry the onion and celery until soft in some oil
  • Then take from the heat and cook the peppers until brown at the edges
  • Return the onion and celery to the peppers and add the tinned tomatoes, beans, chilli and cumin powder
  • Cook all for 5 minutes in simmer
  • Warm up the wraps and serve

It only took me 40 minutes to complete the meal. In that time I had lain the table, poured the drinks and was waiting for David to return from his brothers. I told him to be home for six o’ clock and he was late! I was getting worried! I needn’t have as he came in soon after wielding the bouquet of flowers I had coveted earlier.

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Even though at times I get disheartened and feel like I am unloved, I should be truly blessed for what I have in my life. It could be so much worse!

The meal was nice, different from my usual ‘made up’ Mexican Bean with Soya concoction. I like cooking and following a recipe to see the end result. Even David ate which is one reason why I cook fresh foods, to try and get him to have a more balanced diet.

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Now, listening to Classic FM, watching David fiddle about with his bird aviary in the making and a glass of Chardonnay in my hand. I wonder can life get any better?

Christine x

Quorn Madras…made the Christine way!

Today David and I both had a day off work. After getting David’s car from the mechanic all bandaged up and fixed (for now!), we headed out to my two favourite shops, Dunelm and B&M. I got a lovely set of egg blue curtains for the bedroom, a change from the teal ones from Dunelm at £30.

Come the afternoon, David worked on his aviary for the finches and I cooked up a mess in the kitchen. The house smells of Indian spices now.

I thought with having a day off, that I should do some more cooking. At least then I know that David is eating a proper meal! He can be so fussy!

So I decided to make a Vegetarian Madras taken from a recipe I saw in an Asda magazine. The recipe was much simpler to the one recipe I have also tried.

The ingredients were as follows. Serves 4 (though I halved everything as it was only for two.)

  • 1 large onion
  • 75g of Asda Madras Curry Paste
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Handful (per person) of Quorn chicken style pieces
  • 390g of Asda Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml of water (reduced if for two people)
  • Rice for the amount of people served.
  • 200g of frozen peas
  • Naan bread (to serve)

Method:

  • I fried the onion and the garlic in some sunflower oil.
  • Once golden added the curry paste and cooked for a couple of minutes.
  • I then added the Quorn chicken style pieces and cooked for 5 minutes
  • Add the water and tomatoes to the pan and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking, put on the rice and cook for 15 minutes
  • After the rice is cooked add the peas
  • Put the naan bread in the oven for 6 minutes.
  • Serve with your favourite beverage and radio station.
  • Share with the important people in your life 🙂

The result was a curry that was not too spicy but warm enough to make the nose run! lol I was amazed that even David enjoyed the meal. He even cleared his plate! 🙂

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