Friday, 27 May 2011

# 77 Fridays recipes: Homemade chicken and spinach pizza

The base was cooked on my new pizza mesh which makes it nice and crispy.

Dinner yesterday was a lovely pizza made from scratch. I used the bread meachine to make the dough as follows:

1/2 teaspoon fast action yeast
300g strong white flour (I mixed white and brown flour)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
170ml water
Dried oregano and basil (optional)
1/2 an onion finely chopped (optional)

Place the ingredients in the bread pan following the correct order, in my machine dry ingredients go in first and wet ingredients last.

Select the correct mode on your machine, mine has a pizza mode with a duration of 45 minutes.

When the dough is ready remove it from the bread pan onto a floured surface and press it out with your hands or use a rolling pin. Try to give it a circular shape, somehow I never manage this and as you can see above, my pizza looks more like a heart than a circle!

Transfer the pizza base to a greased baking tray or to a pizza mesh*.

Allow it to prove at 40 ÂșC for approx. 20 minutes and then blind bake in a pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the topping of your choice.

For this pizza I used some leftovers I had in the fridge from previous meals such as roast chicken and a mince mix of chorizo and smoked pork belly**. This is what I did.

I chopped half an onion and cooked it in a little olive oil, I then added the chorizo and pork belly mince and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then I added the shredded roast chicken and let if cook for a minute or 2. I then removed this mixture from the pan and added a couple of handfulls of spinach and let it cook until wilted.

Once the pizza base had been blind baked, I spread the onion, chorizo, pork belly and chicken mix followed by the spinach and finally topped with pieces of mozzarella.

This was then baked in the oven until the mozzarella had melted and the base had cooked through.

* Although I always blind bake the pizza base my huband would complain it was slightly soggy and he was right. A few weeks ago I bought this pizza mesh which has solved that problem, now I get a nice, crispy base everytime!

** The smoked pork belly I get from the Polish food section in Asda.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

# 76 In my garden

I'm a little disappointed with the result of my efforts to grow some vegetables and herbs for our own use.

Only the peas seem to be doing well, I expected to be having lovely lettuce salads by now but they seem to be taking forever, the tomatoes didn't grow at all and the same goes for the herbs which were sown from seed :-(

But I'm not giving up just yet, I spent sometime on Sunday filling some containers (meat tubs, plastic bottles, etc.) with soil and plating some lettuces, land cress, basil and rocket. I now have these on my kitchen windowsill to see if they do better inside then they did outside.

One idea I had for some of the pots outside was to cut a couple of fizzy drinks bottles in half and use them as cloches. I'm hoping this will protect them from the cold nights and also from the slugs and snails. let's see if it works!


Friday, 20 May 2011

# 75 Fridays recipes: Farmhouse sponge

This is a simple cake made without any fancy ingredients just flour, eggs and sugar if you follow the original recipe which came from one of these little recipe books.

These 3 books were given to me 12 years ago by a former friend and last year when we went on holiday I brought them back with me. I love the illustrated covers, the black and white drawings inside and how the pages are numbered using words instead of numbers, Sixteen instead of 16.

The recipes are written in imperial units but at the end of each book there's a page explaining how to convert these into their metric equivalents which is very useful.

Anyway, this is how I made my Farmhouse sponge.

3 large eggs separated
150g caster sugar
115 g self.raising flour or plain flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder
100g butter melted and at room temperature

Line a cake tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add sugar and yolks and whisk until thick and creamy.

Add butter a little at a time whilst whisking. Fold in the flour with a metal spoon

Pour into the tin and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

The image at the top is of my 2nd sponge cake and the one below of my 1st.

I cut this one in half and filled it with shop-bought vanilla buttercream.

They look so different, don't they? When I made the 1st cake I followed the recipe to the letter and didn't add any butter. The cake was still delicious although slightly heavier than the second cake made with butter and free range eggs, the reason for it's lovely yellowy colour.



Pssst!  If you'd like to buy or have a look at other books in the series you can visit the publishers website here.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

# 74 Recycling plastic tubs into pretty storage containers

For the last few weeks I've been tidying up and sorting out stuff: clothes, toiletries, cleaning products, contents of the kitchen cupboards, etc. and I realised that this would be a much easier task if like products were kept together in some sort of container.

I've already shown you some of the storage solutions I'm using in this post here but I need more without having to spend money so the solution was to recycle a few plastic fruit punnets, icre-cream and meat tubs, etc.

Also as I still have a lot of leftover yarn I thought it would be a good idea to beautify the tubs a little bit and this is the result.

This is a great way of using at least some of that packaging we all bring home after a trip to the supermarket and best of all is it costs nothing.

If you'd like to see the tutorial please click here to be taken to my crafty blog.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

# 73 Weekend outing: Wightwick Manor & Clent Hills

Last Sunday followed our usual pattern: get up early, make breakfast, pack a picnic, grab the camera, get in the car and drive to our chosen destination. What was different this time is that when  we were almost there we got lost! The Sat Nav lost signal and then kept calculating new routes every few seconds.

This was our 2nd visit to Wightwick and although there were a few places along the way we remembered from last time for the most part we had no idea where we were and which direction to take. Fortunately, after about 30 minutes of going round in circles the Sat Nav got signal again and gaves us the right instructions to get there. Phew!!

Weather wise it was much the same as last time, grey and cold but now the gardens looked lovely and lush.



In the kitchen garden.

After Wightwick we drove to Clent Hills. This is a range of hills on the edge of Birmingham and described in the National Trust handbook as a "green oasis with panoramic views" and the views were really amazing stretching in all directions as far as the eye could see.

A. had a great time exploring the woods and jumping over things.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

# 72 Fridays recipes: Meatballs

This is one of A's favourite dishes and when I make meatballs I always make 2 or 3 extra so he can take them to school the next day for lunch in a pitta bread.


Minced beef
1 thick slice of bread (remove the crust if too hard)
1 tablespoon milk + extra for the sauce
Pinch of paprika or chilli powder
1 small onion
Half a can of chopped tomatoes
A handfull of fresh coriander chopped or oregano and basil
Pinch of salt
Olive oil


Tear the bread and place in a bowl. Moisten with a tablespoon of milk.

Squeeze out the excess milk and crumble the bread over the meat in a larger bowl. Add a pinch of paprika or chilli powder and mix well.

Dust your hands with a little flour and sprinkle some over the meat.

Roll small portions of the meat between your palms to make small balls. Place on a tray lightly dusted with flour and cover with clingfilm. Place in the fridge to firm up, about 30 minutes is enough.

Pour some olive oil into a frying pan and cook the meatballs in batches until brown on all sides. Put them aside on a plate and add the chopped onion to the olive oil.

Allow to cook for a few minutes to soften and then add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and season with a pinch of salt.

Allow it to cook for a minute or two. Then pour this into a tall cup or container and blend.

Pour back into the frying pan, add some milk. Gently place the meatballs back in the pan, cover with the lid and allow to cook stirring carefully once in a while. Add  a little more milk if the sauce gets too thicks and don't forget to turn the meatballs so they cook evenly.

Serve with white rice, mash potato, chips or spaghetti.



Wednesday, 11 May 2011

# 71 Spring cleaning: storage solutions

My Spring cleaning continues and despite the distractions I think I'm making good progress.

The kitchen, although small, is being done in stages because some things are too heavy for me to move on my own so I need to wait until help is available. But the cupboards have been cleaned both inside and out and their contents sorted.

One of the things I did was rearrange some of the items in the cupboards so they are easier to find and reach, I'm using all sorts of baskets, containers and tins to keep like products together and contained in terms of the space they take.

Basket for storing all the lids for the food containers.

Plastic basket holding all the spices.

I also made a very easy kitchen organizer to make use of the space behind the kitchen door. This is where I now keep the roll of kitchen towels, the greaseproof paper, the aluminium foil, the cling film and the freezer bags.

I posted a little tutorial for this kitchen organizer on my other blog, to see it please just click here.


Monday, 9 May 2011

# 70 A lot of crochet

There's been a lot of crochet going on here as I have several projects on the go, one or two longer term and then a few smaller, quicker ones which I hope to be able to share with you very soon.

I always try to fit in some crochet time in my day and usually it happens in the afternoons when I take A. to the park after school and in the evenings.

Recently I finished 2 blankets, the one below was a birthday gift for a friend.

Spring Meadow blanket

And this one was began to use up leftover yarn.

Circle in a square blanket

I love how colourful they both are although my favourite is the Spring Meadow blanket. Which one is your favourite?


Friday, 6 May 2011

# 69 Fridays recipes: Mediterranean tomato salad

With the temperature outside getting warmer, a nice salad is the perfect accompaniment to many dishes and this tomato salad is no exception.

This is how you make it.

Cut your tomatoes any way you like. I prefer thin slices or wedges.

Place in a deep salad bowl and add finely chopped or sliced onion. I usually add the equivalent of a tablespoon of onion but that's up to your personal taste and how many people you're making this for.

Season with a pinch of salt, sprinkle some oregano and basil and drizzle with good quality olive oil. Mix and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. This resting time allows the juices from the tomatoes to mix with the other ingredients creating a lovely sauce for dipping bread or if you're having boiled potatoes or grilled fish drain some of it over them. It's delicious.


If at the end of your meal you have some of the salac sauce left or even some of the onion, don't throw it away. Keep it in a plastic container in the fridge (it'll keep for a few days) and add it to your homemade pizza dough next time you knead some or just spread it over your shop bought pizza base.



Thursday, 5 May 2011

# 68 Spring cleaning: organizing the wardrobes

With A. back to school after 3 weeks off and with the house all to myself again it's time to start my Spring cleaning.

The first thing to tackle was the wardrobe in our bedroom. I took everything out and made 2 piles, one for the clothes we wear and one for the clothes we haven't worn for a year or more or that are no longer in good condition. These were then sorted into 2 plastic bags, one to donate to the charity shop and the other for the bin but not before removing all the bits I can still use such as buttons, zippers, etc.

Here's a good tip, when sorting out your wardrobe make sure the hooks on the hangers are all facing in as this makes it so much easier to get stuff in and out.

While in the bedroom I also got all the storage boxes from under the bed and had a good clear out. Again things we no longer need, use or want were donated if in good condition and those that were not were disposed of.

Do you have any good Spring cleaning tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them :-)


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

# 67 Weekend outing to Snowshill Manor

Last Sunday was another lovely, sunshine filled day with not a cloud in sight. After packing our picnic we set off to revisit Snowshill Manor in the beautiful Cotswold village of Snowshill.

Snowshill Manor

The village of Snowshill
The manor belonged to Charles Wade who restored  it to house his huge collection of handcrafted items and when I say huge I'm talking about over 22.000 items but only a third of that is actually on display.

After a tour of the house we followed a public footpath that took us on a circular walk with fantastic views of the village and surrounding countryside.

View of Snowshill

Sheep, can you spot the odd ones out?

On the way home we made a detour to visit Chipping Campden, a Cotswold town apparently considered to be one of the most beautiful destinations in the UK.

Traditional houses made of Cotswold stone.

Market Hall built in 1627 for the sale of local produce.

Market Hall, inside.

Dove Tree, also known as Handkerchief Tree, in the Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden dedicated to the memory of Ernest Wilson a plant collector born in the town.

The trees and plants in this garden were brought from China.

Siebold's Magnolia


Sunday, 1 May 2011

# 66 The colours of Spring

It seems to me that as I get older I notice things I didn't before or maybe that's because when you've lived in a city all your life like I have they are much harder to spot or come across.

I'm amazed by and delighted with the display of colour in the surrounding countryside. It just looks so beautiful and the colours so intense, almost like something out of a magazine.

Last Friday we went for a walk in Woodchester Park. We've walked there many times before but this was the 1st time we went from one end of the park to the other and then back again and it was amazing to see the ground covered by wild garlic. It was almost like it had snowed.

And then, among all the white there patches of bluebells. So, so beautiful.

We also caught sight of several little rabbits hopping about the woods and I managed to get a few shots of this cute bunny standing by a timber stack.

Then on the way home N. made a detour to show us some rapeseed fields he sees everyday on the way to work. Just look at that bright yellow.

Hope you enjoy the remaining of your Sunday and if you're in the UK have a great Bank Holiday tomorrow :-)