Weight Loss Wednesday


Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Do you like my postcards? They are Moo cards. I read about them on Jane Brocket's blog. A fantastic way to show off your photographs.
I ordered 20 cards of 5 different designs, they cost £15 including p&p. No idea what I shall do with them but I'm very pleased with them.

And what about my sweet peas, do you like them? They smell delicious. I'm picking quite a few each day at the moment from my two pots of sweet pea plants. The more you pick them, the more flowers you get. Thanks mum for bringing me the plants (and for planting them :o))

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OK, enough prevaricating. Weight Loss Wednesday has unfortunately become Weight Gain Wednesday. Not too much, one lb on. I'm afraid I haven't stopped baking, in fact I've just polished off the last two brownies which I made for yesterday's dessert. I made them because son number 2 had a guest, but that was just an excuse, I made them because I wanted to eat brownies. The kids would have been happy with the strawberry lollies in the freezer.

 When did foods that were once thought of as treats become part of our daily diet? What happened to a simple wholesome diet? I've been reading a fascinating little book called The Good Scots Diet by Maisie Steven. The Scots were once regarded as one of the healthiest nations in the world, strong and hearty folk fed on a diet of oats, barley, fish, whole dairy produce, not much meat, vegetables and berries. Unfortunately this traditional diet has all but disappeared.

Here's my take on a diet of traditional, simple whole foods made up of what I had available when I took the photo. It's basic, there are no frills but I can make some darn tasty meals from that lot. The kids can have flapjacks, scones and fruit muffins for their extras none of which I find particularly tempting and C and I can manage without extras, we certainly don't need them.

June Sampler


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

June is nearly over and summer is well and truly upon us. June has been a month of colour; scarlet poppies, yellow roses, pink pinks and blue skies. A month too of refreshing summer drinks; elderflower cordial with its heady scent, chilled rosé wine and citrussy barley water. Luscious English berries have been made into ice cream, scattered over cakes and enjoyed straight from the punnet at a picnic. I hope summer lasts into July and August but you never know with the British weather.
Here's my sampler for June, I hope you like it. I'm afraid there's no crochet in it this time. I've been neglecting my hook rather. I need a new project and more yarn! 

There were a few comments about my bread recipe. I have a bread-making tutorial on Flickr here. The loaf in my previous post was made in exactly the same way but using half quantities- 2¼lb (1kg) strong grain and seed flour (Allinson's), just over 1 pint (20 fl oz) water, 1½ tsp of quick yeast which you add straight to the flour and 1½ tsp salt. I formed the dough into a large round loaf and cut a diamond pattern on the surface before baking.

I use this basic recipe for nearly all my bread; pizza, focaccia, fruit breads, savoury rolled breads. Sometimes I use half milk and half water and sometimes I add some butter rubbed into the flour for special sweet breads. I hope that helps.

Simple Saturday Pleasures


Saturday, 26 June 2010

Flowers from my garden.

A handmade loaf

A new pudding idea - coconut creams inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe. Equal quantities of double cream and thick creamy yogurt, some desiccated coconut and a bit of sugar. Whip together, pour into little pots, sprinkle with muscovado sugar and refrigerate. Make them well ahead so that the coconut softens. A roaring success.

Barley Water


Friday, 25 June 2010

Did you know how easy it is to make barley water? Forget Robinson's, it's probably full of rubbish. Not only is barley water easy to make it is nourishing, cheap and just the thing on a hot summer's day.
I adapted a recipe from Rose Prince's book The New English Table which I recommend along with her earlier book The New English Kitchen. This recipe will provide you with a big jug of barley water and a by-product of a bowl of cooked barley more of which later.


8 oz pearl barley
4 pints of water (North American readers note that a pint in the UK is 20fl oz)
3 oranges
5 lemons
2-3 tbsp sugar

Wash the barley in a sieve, put it in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-30 mins or until the barley is cooked. Strain the water into a jug or bowl and put the cooked barley in a bowl to cool down. Don't whatever you do throw it away as I have seen some recipes instruct. The barley can be used in a salad just as you would rice. I shall dress mine with a vinaigrette and add mint, chopped shallot and cucumber. We will eat it with grilled meatballs tomorrow.

Squeeze the juice from all the citrus fruit, which could also include limes or be all lemons or all oranges. Add the juice (and some of the zest if you like) to the barley water.

Stir in sugar to taste. Stir well to dissolve it.
Chill and enjoy while you watch Wimbledon :o) Actually I don't enjoy mine with Wimbledon, tennis being one of the few sports I dislike watching particularly when matches go on and on and on....

Store the barley water in the fridge and use within a couple of days. I'm sure it would freeze if you can't use it all and of course you can easily halve the recipe.

By the way, you don't have to stick to citrus fruit. I've made it with syrups made of rhubarb and redcurrants which if you have growing in your garden make this even cheaper.

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Today is Quince Tree day again. Here she is in June.

And here are the baby quinces.

They are about as big as plums at the moment.

Ingredients is Robinson's Lemon Barley Water (thanks to Ocado)

Water, Sugar, Lemon Juice from Concentrate (17%), Barley Flour (2.5%), Citric Acid, Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Metabisulphite), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Sweetener (Saccharin), Natural Flavouring

Looks like I was right.

Midsummer Birthday


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

First fruits from my garden. Raspberries grow like weeds in my little garden. They pop up all over the place.

I used them to decorate C's birthday cake.

This recipe is from Nigel Slater's Appetite which he calls 'a simple cake to serve with summer fruit'. It has finely chopped dried apricots and ground almonds in it and is deliciously moist. I followed Nigel's suggestion of birthdayfying it with a little lemon glacé icing and a candle. I've made all the cakes in this book and they are all excellent.

This and That


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Well, thank you everybody who left a comment on my last post :o) I am so glad you enjoyed the wonderful poppy field. Isn't it marvellous to know that such a glorious spectacle can still be found ?

Today I have a few snippets from my weekend to share.

All from my garden, soooo much cheaper than buying cut flowers.

Elderflower bellini -elderflower cordial and prosecco. It doesn't have to be rosé but it was £2 cheaper than the white. Lovely summery drink.

The Red Arrows of course. We went to an air show today. It was perfect weather for an airshow but six hours of staring into the sky has resulted in my face, neck, arms and feet being the same colour as our picnic lunch.

The red parts of it anyway. I absolutely never remember to take sunscreen. Those are little bacon and egg pies. Chopped hard-boiled egg and chopped cooked bacon in pastry cases. Beaten egg, milk and chives poured over and baked. They also make good lunch box fillers.

It's so much easier to photograph food than speeding aircraft.

And here's me by way of son number two's mirror sunglasses.



Thursday, 17 June 2010

These pictures were taken just outside Stourport in Worcestershire on the Bewdley road, about 14 miles from Worcester. They were featured on the BBC Midlands Today programme yesterday so as soon as I'd dropped my daughter off at school this morning I grabbed my camera and jumped in the car in search of this marvellous spectacle. I wasn't really sure where I was going but I needn't have worried, a hillside field of scarlet poppies is hard to miss!

BBC link here

Weight Loss Wednesday


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Slightly downcast this weigh-in. I made the mistake of weighing myself a day early. Yesterday my scales said 14st 2lb, but today they say 14st 4lb.  I know one's weight fluctuates quite a bit throughout the day and week but I was a bit disappointed. However it is a loss of a 1lb and my goal was to lose between ½ -1 lb a week, I am on track so it's Good News :o))

 Although I did a post a few days ago where I mentioned cutting fat from recipes I haven't actually been doing that. We've been eating the same sort of things we usually eat but I have been snacking much less. I am saving puddings (desserts for readers in the US) for weekends only and have been trying to make them in smaller quantities so that there are no tempting leftovers.

The problem is that I love baking too much. These are the sort of things that I find very hard not to eat if they are around.

Sugar and spice and all things nice.

I think I need to rethink the kind of things I provide for the kids to snack on. Of course there's always fruit which they love, or just plain old bread and jam. Sometimes I make popcorn for them. I might do that today actually. They also like plain crackers like Ryvitas and oatcakes, slices of cheese, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, seeds, nuts, dried fruit. In fact there are loads of things they'd be happy to eat instead of cakes and biscuits. You know what? I'm not baking for them, I'm baking for me. When I decide to make a batch of brownies or cinnamon rolls it is not because I want to see my little darlings' (actually quite big darlings these days) faces light up and have them say 'you're awesome mum!', no, it is solely because I want to eat brownies or cinnamon rolls. And yes, I am the one who eats most of whatever I've baked. Greed you see.

Weekend Colour Supplement


Monday, 14 June 2010

Some colourful bits and bobs from my weekend. Above, my garden looking green and leafy in the sun.

A burnished roast chicken. Best meal in the world. This was the last thing from my Riverford meat box and very delicious it was too. Not finished yet though. Another meal will be made from the leftovers tonight and a big bowlful of stock has already been made. I also saved the golden fat for frying croutons to have with our soup last night.

My French folder. Homework was to read a newspaper article and be ready to talk about it in the lesson this evening. Je suis prête ;o)

My daughter was off to a 'Shopping Spree' birthday party yesterday and what fun she had. She chose the card with the sweets on to give to her friend.

This little corner of my garden is where my herbs grow just by the back door. I have currant bushes and a crab apple tree there too.

My elder son paints Warhammer figures. They are tiny but he paints them with such detail and precision. The paints have names like vomit, bleached bone, red gore and chaos black. Nice.

I squeezed in a spot of crochet between watching football matches (sorry, I'm a bit of a World Cup bore at the moment). I'm still hooking away at my blue ripple blanket.

The napkin drawer. Much in demand by my two youngest who both have new clothes to protect from gravy spills.

Colourful teabreak .

Elderflower Cordial


Friday, 11 June 2010

It's elderflower time. Elder is rampant in the hedges around my house. Yesterday I filled my bike basket with elderflowers and brought them home to begin making elderflower cordial. I've been making it for at least five years now and it couldn't be easier or more rewarding.
I use the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with a little simplification of my own.

Elderflower Cordial
20-30 elderflower heads
5 lemons

Put the flowers (shake any insects off first) in a large bowl with the zest of the lemons.

Pour over about 2 litres of just-boiled water and leave to infuse overnight. The flowers will turn brown, this is fine.

The next day pour the flowers and water into a jelly-bag or sieve lined with a bit of muslin. Let all the liquid drain out, squeeze it to get it all. Measure the liquid and for every 500 ml add 350 gm of sugar and 50 ml of lemon juice- 5 lemons should do it. The original recipe adds tartaric acid at this point. This is to enable it to keep for a long time in bottles. I never bother with it preferring to freeze what I can't use immediately.

Put everything in a large pan and stir over a low heat to dissolve all the sugar. Then bring to a gentle simmer -don't boil it. Leave to cool. Strain again and pour into sterilised bottles. I do this by pouring boiling water into them. A funnel is useful for bottling. I still managed to get an awful lot of cordial over my worktop, floor and feet. It is very sticky.

I filled two of these bottles-they used to hold passata.

It will keep for several weeks in the fridge. I froze the rest of mine. I'm using plastic bags inside tubs here because all my tubs smell of onions.

Dilute it about 1 part cordial with 5 parts water. We like sparkling.

Serve with ice and hand to teenaged boys as soon as they get in from school.

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