Sunday Sevens #4

Saturday 19th March 2016 was Earth Hour, so I plunged David and I into darkness for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm. Did you partake in the hour?

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Earlier that evening, after a busy day of ‘spring’ cleaning, I made a One Pan Mexican Quinoa. I tweaked the recipe a little, omitting the avocado and lime but added a red onion and small pepper. I also 20160319_180028 (2)changed the sweetcorn to peas as David doesn’t like corn!

The meal was simple, just cut the vegetables and measure the quinoa and then pop them all into a pan with beans, stock and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa releases its tails! The outcome was a fresh, tasting meal. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

On Thursday the postman delivered some lovely news. My tickets for the Hans Zimmer concert in April at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena arrived!! I was so happy!

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That same day while making a cup of tea, I peered out of the kitchen window towards the back garden and my eyes spied a small bird flitting about the tree branches. It was a little Wren! He stayed long enough for me to video him!

The beginning of the week saw lovely blue skies and spring-like temperatures hit the NW of England. David, Artie and I spent some much needed time in the garden, cleaning away old foliage and soaking up the warm rays of the sun. I noticed that there are lots of tulips growing again this season and there are some plants I don’t even know what they are! Perhaps you recognise them?

20160317_175108It’s been two weeks since I planted my seeds of french beans, spring onions and peppers. I have hundreds of beans and onions growing! I don’t know where in the garden I will put them once they are ready to be planted outside! After some studying I read that french beans grow up to a meter in height! I am also going to need some bamboo sticks for support! How do you think my seedlings are coming along?

Do you have any spring projects on the go?

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

Quorn Sausage Frittata

This was a Saturday meal a few weekends back. I’m not much of an egg lover, but it was surprisingly filling! The recipe made four decent sized servings, but we shared it between three! Sadly it’s not vegan.

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Photo by David Evans

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Quorn Sausages, or any other vegetarian sausage
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced. (I used a large white onion.)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pepper sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and roughly diced into 1cm cubes (optional)
  • 50g button mushrooms, halved. (I left these out as don’t like mushrooms.)
  • 4 plum or cherry tomatoes, halved. (I used about 10 cherry tomatoes halved and roasted before hand.)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • good pinch paprika (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Method:

1. I oven cooked the sausages for 20 – 25 minutes, at the same time I oven roasted the halved cherry tomatoes for the same time.

2. While the sausages were in the oven I boiled the diced potato on a medium hob for 20 minutes.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan (approx. 26 cm diameter). I fried the onion, garlic and pepper on a medium to low heat, until softened. Then add the cooked sausages which were sliced into chunks.

2. I then added the tomatoes and potato and slowly cooked for a minute. This is where you can add the mushrooms if using.

3. Lightly whisk the eggs, water, paprika and seasoning together in a bowl. Stir in the parsley (optional).

4. Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and lightly shake the pan to distribute the mixture. Reduce the heat a little and cook the bottom of the frittata for 2-3 minutes until lightly set. We had to cook a little longer due to the amount of eggs we used.

5. Place the pan under a hot grill and finish off the cooking for about 2-3 minutes until the egg mixture is just set.

6. Leave to stand for 1-2 minutes before serving. If liked, dust the top with a little extra paprika.

7. I served with a wilted watercress salad (100g of watercress), with sliced garlic (6 cloves of garlic).

I found the frittata recipe from the Quorn website. I adapted it a little for our preference and so can you!

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

One-pot Curried Quinoa with Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

I had recently seen a recipe on the blog Oh My Veggies that looked absolutely delicious. Oh My Veggies is a blog based on vegetarian/vegan recipes using fresh, seasonal vegetables.

I have been wanting to try butternut squash for some time and decided that the time was perfect!

David was not so sure, but he ate the final result!

One-pot Curried Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas

Ingredients: makes 4

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 300-400ml of light coconut milk, (I just used skimmed milk)
  • 150 ml of water
  • 100g of quinoa, rinsed well
  • Salt, plus more to taste
  • 450-500g of  butternut squash
  • 2 mixed peppers (I used red and yellow)
  • 150g of frozen vegetables, I used peas and green beans
  • 1 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Method:

  1. Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and saute until translucent and tender, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom. Sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the coconut milk, water, quinoa, butternut swuash and peppers, and 1 teaspoon salt, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck bits. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the frozen vegetables and chickpeas. Return the lid to the pot and cook for 5-15 minutes more, or until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. After the quinoa is done, turn off the heat and let sit, covered, until the vegetables and chickpeas are warmed through, 5-6 minutes.
  6. Taste and add additional lemon juice and salt if desired. Garnish with parsley and serve (optional). I missed this part altogether
One pot curried quinoa and butternut squash

One pot curried quinoa with butternut squash and chickpeas

I am thankful for David and my mum for attempting to eat my creations, though a few days later, mum said that she would not eat the butternut squash stew again. 😮

David’s Cooking…

On Saturday David chose the recipe for the evening meal. Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers. I am not keen on moulding food into shapes so come 4pm when we started the preparation in earnest, David took the lead. I was left to trim the salad leaves! The ingredients made 4 but David managed to make three large burgers from them.

Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers

Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  •  1 red onion, finely chopped
  •  3 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Cajun spice
  • 2 x 300g tins mixed beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 large free-range egg, beaten
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs (50g)
  • Below are optional: we never used them
  • Small handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 150g feta, crumbled
  • 8 slices Monterey Jack cheese
  • Toasted burger buns, guacamole, rocket, chopped tomatoes and sour cream to serve

Method:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the onion and spring onion and fry over a gentle heat until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the garlic, chilli and Cajun spice, then fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Tip into a bowl, add the beans and roughly mash.
  4. Leave to cool slightly, then add the egg, breadcrumbs, coriander and lime juice (if using). Season, then mix well to combine. Gently stir in the crumbled feta (if using). Wet your hands slightly, then shape into 4 large burgers. Double the ingredients if want to make 8!
  5. Chill 4 of them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  6. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the burgers and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  7. (For surplus, freeze until solid, then pack into a plastic container, seal and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook from frozen, heat oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.)
Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers

Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers

We served the burgers on toasted sesame topped buns with low fat cheese slices and lots of salad. The meal was rich and filling, though ultimately healthy!

David can cook again, it was a great success!! 😀

The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. 😦

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

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On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup. The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick. I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!

Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew(serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx

A Typical Saturday!

Most of my Saturday’s start with a trip to the shops. There is only two of us and Artie (the cat), living in the house, but every weekend the shopping bill nears or exceeds £100!! 😮

Today’s shopping consisted of buying lots of fruit and vegetables and cat treats! 🙂 People say I spoil Artie, but with a face like this, how can I not?! 😀

Artie

Artie

Usually by noon we are home, the shopping is put away and I have attempted some kind of flower display with a new bouquet I have bought!

Recent flower display

Recent flower display

We occasionally have lunch in the living room. David lets the finches come out of their aviary to stretch their wings and fly around the room. Today, Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches sat on the sofa with me!

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

Chocolate and Romeo the Society Finches

After lunch, it is all about cleaning the house. It can take up to two hours! If I am alone, it can take more! David helps by vaccuming while I do the dusting, dining room and bathroom.

If it is sunny outside then I forego doing the floors until Sunday and go out into the garden and enjoy the flowers, birds and insects.

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Today though, it was cold and cloudy so after doing the chores I listened to Classic FM and noticed a House Sparrow visiting the feeders.

After 5pm I turn my attention to the kitchen. I listen to Saturday Night at the Movies while making a start on the evenings meal. Tonight’s meal was my version of a Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with home-made Wholemeal mini loaves. I got the recipe from the Change for Life website/recipe app, though I adapted it.

Recipe for Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil for pan
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed/chopped
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 1 pepper chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 850ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can mixed beans
  • 1 can sweetcorn or frozen
  • Handful of red lentils (it was a last minute addition)
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (I got ours from the garden!)
  • Pinch of ground black pepper and salt to taste
Coriander

Coriander

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion until softened.
  • Then add the celery, pepper, chilli and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes (use your discretion as to when to stop cooking.)
  • Add the chilli powder and the tomatoes and bring to the boil.
  • Pour in the stock and add the tomato puree, mixed beans, sweetcorn (drained if tinned) and lentils (if using). Heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the coriander (if using) and season with some salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and serve with a slice of wholemeal bread
Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup

Mexican Bean and Vegetable Soup with Wholemeal Mini Loaves

For the wholemeal mini loaves I followed the recipe I use for easy white bread. I just changed the strong white flour for Allinson Wholemeal Seed & Grain Bread Flour. It’s delicious, I don’t think I will ever go back to baking with just white flour again!

Saturday evenings tend to be a mixture of wine and music while David often plays on GTA5 with his brother and cousin. At the moment I am reminiscing about playing Final Fantasy VII in the 90’s. The story was engaging, had a baddie that you love to hate (Sephiroth) and the music written by Nobuo Uematsu was out of this world too! You can listen to Final Symphony on Spotify, though I actually bought the mp3 from Amazon!

I shall sign off now and enjoy the last remaining light of day.

Goodnight!

© 2015 Christine Lucas

Trying to Keep the Black Dog at Bay!

I have been rather depressed this week with one thing and another. It has left me feeling rather headachey and stressed out about money. Work at the University finished on Friday, nice for a three week break but I don’t know whether I have any hours after that. I really need to find another job to cover me for over the summer, otherwise the trip to Scotland, Aberdeen’s Wild Dolphins and The Kelipes, with a quick visit to Edinburgh will not go ahead and I will be bereft. 😦

This weekend has all been about keeping the Black Dog at bay. If you feel down, ‘do something that you are good at’ I say, ‘something you enjoy.’ So on Saturday after shopping, cleaning the house, and exercising for 30 minutes I cooked David and I a meal of honey glazed mustard trout, (called Jack) with salad, vegetables and new potatoes.

For the glaze I mixed two tablespoons of lemon juice with two teaspoons of mustard and a tablespoon of honey. Then I smeared it over two fillets of Trout. Cooked it in a 180 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Boiled the potatoes and made the salad.

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I ordained the table with napkins in the shape of peacocks, (well what I tried to look like peacocks anyway), had a nice glass of wine and poured David a cool glass of Pepsi.

I even dressed up! I bought the dress from Jane Norman years ago and had it taken up, (as I am short) but thought it was taken up too much. I found that it fitted me well. I felt very glamorous and sexy!

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Sunday and it was the birthday of my favourite actor 🙂 David went to help his brother with his house and I relaxed home alone. I had a nice soak in the bath, with Classic FM playing and a glass of wine in hand. Afterwards I made a loaf of bread. My finest yet! Then chopped up many vegetables and made Blind Scouse! It was very filling!

 

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Re: Gardening. I was distressed to see a black ‘plague’ on my newly bought poppy. All the heads were eaten from it! Flowers are very expensive, especially if they die within weeks of purchase! But I am happy to see the Magnolia tree I bought has started to bloom. I just hope the weather changes for the better and we get some nice warm weather, and a bit of sun. So the flowers and myself can feel more ‘alive’ again!

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Christine xx