Friday 30 October 2009

Dear Mr. Squirrel...

Dear Mr. Squirrel,

The last time I checked you were supposed to be collecting seeds and nuts and building a nice cosy home for the winter. You are not, i repeat, NOT, supposed to be eating and hollowing out every pumpkin in the neighbourhood! I am sick and tired of seeing pumpkins ruined by your greediness in the run-up to Halloween.

I know I run the risk of upsetting animal rights activists, but seriously, if I catch you near my pumpkins again I won't be held responsible for my actions!




***disclaimer: I wouldn't actually ever be able to catch a squirrel, let alone be stupid enough to try to touch one...I promise***

Thursday 22 October 2009

The Soul of a Chef

My mum has been helping me fill my ample "housewife on hiatus" time by bringing me heaps of wonderful books to read. I love going to the library in Chelmsford and choosing books, but there is something nice about someone else suggesting books and really doing all the leg work for you (teehee).

A couple of days ago I got stuck into a wonderful non-fiction called The Soul of a Chef by author/journalist Michael Ruhlman. I'm only about 150 pages in but I am obsessed! In a previous book he did the research by actually training at the CIA in New York!!!

If you have ever been interested in chef training or anything about cooking and preparation I totally recommend this book! It has totally invaded my world already!

check it check it check it out!

Friday 16 October 2009

Plastic Bags BE GONE!!!

I've been visiting my parents in Toronto for the last week (hence the lack of postages). I haven't been back for just over a year and there are so many changes to take in and judge (I love judging!). Poor poor Toronto...under my scrutinising out!

Actually, to be honest, there aren't many changes that I have seen that have made me go hmmmmmmmm. Last week David was here with me, and it was really nice to sort of see Toronto through his eyes. While it was a whirlwind tour to the nth degree, it was so funny to see him try to take it all in....just the enormity of everything here was overwhelming for him. Poor English David.

One of the nicest things that has come about since I was last visiting is the introduction of the 5 cent charge on plastic bags....ACROSS THE CITY!! When I was living in London, the neighbourhood I lived in tried to do something similar...but it was at the store's discretion. Here it is city wide...every store...all plastic bags...5 cents! I really think that it is wonderful, and as a visitor it is kinda cool seeing everyone strut down the street with their reusable/cotton/jute/hemp/recycled/rope bags.

Now, in Chelmsford David and I rarely use plastic bags anyway, we have our bag for life bags and use them regularly. However, I do use plastic bags from the grocery stores as bin liners for our garbage. My parents in Toronto do the same. Now they are buying rolls of bags for their city regulated compostable waste, as well as for their regular garbage. Granted, these bags are meant to be bio-degradable but they are being forced to buy them over recycling older carrier bags from the supermarkets. I know that not everyone is as savvy (or lets face it-as budget) as my parents (I learnt that behaviour from them) and so there is a need to encourage people to bring their own bags and then BUY plastic (possibly regulated) liners for the waste bins...

What I do know is that charging people for bags definitely makes you think twice about whether you need a bag or not, and as the charge is minimal if you are, indeed, caught out sans sac, you can afford the bag cost.

Along these lines and as housewife (on hiatus) I am so excited about my new purchase. Just today I bought this fabbo folding cloth and metal shopping basket from the friendly neighbourhood grocery chain. It is collapsible (perfect for squeezing into my suitcase) and the cloth baskety bit can be removed and washed in the washing machine....woooooowwwweeeeeeeee



Can't wait to lug it back and forth from the market in Chelmsford! How chic! How stylish! How Eco! Not exactly Parisienne chic (think beautiful light wooden strip baskets for wandering in the market) but I think it is damn cute!

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Use it up Meal FINALE!

dum dum dum dum daaaaaaaa daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

It is finally over! Last night saw the end of the ridiculous Use it up Meals challenge. Man what a difficult, at sometimes uninspiring and boring, but satisfying thing to do. And, as if by coincidence, last night's finale meal was also out very first dinner party at our NEW dining table in our NEW home!!!

Cue fireworks!!!

Now, I am not going to stun you all by flaunting a three course meal on a ZERO don't roll your eyes. I had bought some minced beef during the weekend for this very meal and used it up by making a yum yum yumma cottage pie (I don't even want to bother getting into the shepherd/cottage pie debate)! And to accompany the deeeeeelish salad, cold cooked beetroot (both from my allotment), peas and corn (freezer staple) and red cabbage coleslaw (David's new favourite). It was so nice to round off the Use it up Meal week with a celebration with lovely company and an equally as lovely meal.

Now...time to come clean...the MAIN course stayed within the ends of my budget. If you will remember I actually spent the LAST pennies the day before...David, however, bring the fantabulous host that he is, spent his own "going out money" on drinks and dessert for the night! What a sweetheart! While I shudder at the admission that my dessert wasn't homemade, store bought custard and apple turnovers served warm is a great treat on a cold and drizzly evening. So...let's make this clear...I am not the one who over was David doing it out of the goodness of his heart!

having proved to myself that I can spend well within my means I suppose I will have to try to make this lesson stick...really? Do I have to?

Monday 5 October 2009

Use it up Meal #6

Wow...three days ago I couldn't believe how long and drawn out this Use it up Meals challenge felt, and is almost OVER! woop woop wooooooop!!! Thank goodness for that!!! I have totally spent the £10.00, the last little bit going on a loaf of bread and a tin of chopped tomatoes...and even then it was tight...counting every single penny! ugh. I hope that doesn't come across as too snobby or pretentious, I feel like I have really struggled to come up with interesting and nutritious meals for me and David over the last week, but I DO recognize that perhaps £10.00 a week could be normal for some families (not even just two people, or one person...a family)...

Ok, so last night (Sunday) David and I had a lovely vegetable madras curry for dinner, with really nice basmati rice. Seriously, it was so nice! cauliflower, leeks, potato, carrot, celery and pak so so nice! But....totally not photo-worthy!

I guess, in the end really, the best ways to use up all those odd ends in the fridge and cupboards is to make some sort of stew or soup or curry or stir fry and have it with rice or another starch. Pasta, risotto, curry, soup, stir fry....chop chop chop, fry fry fry, stir stir stir, add sauce and serve...easy peasy!

Sunday 4 October 2009

Use it up Meals #4 and 5

Who thought that this challenge would be so difficult? hmmmm??

Fridays after work or class David usually meets some friends in the pub so I never know exactly when he is going to show up or what state he will be in. Because of that I rarely make anything exciting for Friday night dinner. Once I made really yummy baked salmon fillets and then ended up eating alone in the TV room with two cats pressing their noses up against the window. Since then I haven't gone to much effort. This past Friday night was no different, and with the Use it up Meals project in full swing I defrosted an ice cream container of Leek and Potato Soup.

I am not sure if defrosting is cheating, or not. Technically I am using up what I have in the house, so I guess it is ok? I did, however, also make blanched Swiss Chard dressed with lemon and olive oil (yum yum yum) to accompany with a baguette and soft butter. I can report that David did not like the Swiss Chard, he tried it and didn't want it. He usually will eat it, when I flash fry it...the bad news is that I have about 14 plants in full production at the allotment at the moment!! Next year I will know to only plant 5 or 6...hahaha.

In the end Use it up Meal #4: Leek and Potato Soup with dressed greens on the side was satisfying.

We went to the market early(ish) yesterday and bought some supplies for a nice meal for the weekend and for our Monday night supper (we are having guests...way to streeeeeetch the budget and challenge)! Leaving £1.30 for the remaining meals. As the money leaves my hot little hands my enthusiasm is lessening, but I am happy to say that I pulled out all the stops for Use it up Meal #5. It is amazing how two gorgeous pork chops can get the creative juices flowing!

Having moved to the UK from Canada it boggles my mind that people here rarely BBQ except during the summer months. During the winter months in my parents' backyard there is always a neatly shovelled pathway from the backdoor to the BBQ. But alas, I have no BBQ (it will be at the top of my list once we are settled) and so I happily use this Le Creuset grill pan to cook chops, steaks and sausages.

My wonderful and extremely thoughtful Aunt Sandi lugged this gorgeous (and seriously heavy) cast iron grill pan all the way from Toronto to London when she came to visit in the Spring. I love love love love it and think that it is an invaluable piece of kitchen kit. Seriously, I can't survive without BBQ-style cooking!

I present Use it up Meal #5
Grilled Pork Chops with squash puree, braised red cabbage and HOMEMADE Braeburn Apple Sauce
(sorry for the blurry pic. I need to invest in a new digital camera)

Friday 2 October 2009

I am sorry, I am just so PROUD of my GREEN FINGERS!

I apologise for all these posts over the last few days. I just can't seem to help myself...I feel the need to share...apparently share everything!!!

You'll know from an earlier post this week that some little monkey has been nibbling at my radishes at the allotment....grrrrr....well today I dragged myself up there to plant my rhubarb plant and saw that there were two little red heads just poking out of the soil. I think that it might have been a few days too early, they could have grown a bit bigger...but I just couldn't wait at all!!!

And then, to my surprise...some of the spring onions were ready too!!!! I can't apologise enough, I am just so excited about it! Everything was VERY yummy in my tuna sandwich this afternoon.

Use it up Meal #3

- 1.95
If I didn't serve some sort of protein/meat dish last night I feared that David would start wilting! I can eat vegetable dishes for ages before craving some meat, but I don't think that David really can. And so yesterday I took a trip to the market and (sticking to my list) I bought ONE chicken breast and some butter...that's it, that's all, that's that!

Like risotto, a stir fry is an easy way to use up spare bits of veg and it is also an easy way to make a small bit of meat go a long way. For me there is something soothing about all the chopping and preparation that goes before the quick fry, and I absolutely LOVE a stir fry! Hardly fine dining, I know, but so easy and so tasty!

Last night's plat du jour was chicken and vegetable stir fry with honey and soy dressing with steamed pak choi on the side. Yum yum yum!!!

Snuggle Rug

Knitting is supposed to be relaxing, right? So I haven't exactly been sticking to my one square every two days regime...but I have had a go at it! Thought that an update was due so here it is:

short but sweet, I hope! I started a new square in GREY last night, thought that it was time to change up the colour scheme! Stay tuned!!!

Thursday 1 October 2009

Use it up Meal #2

Last night's meal was L-A-M-E. Lame lame lame. Not a total disaster, but still...Lame. Due to the limited ingredients in my fridge and cupboard and a complete lack of creativity poor David was faced with booooooring old pasta with tomato sauce for supper. Poor him and poor me!

Now credit where credit is due...I did make the sauce from scratch (fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, tomato paste, a bit of hot water, spices and balsamic vinegar) wasn't too terrible,but I definitely have no shame in admitting that there is a reason why jarred pasta sauce comes in so many varieties, it tastes so much better!!! I am not talking run-of-the-mill Dolmilo sauce to add to mince....I am talking proper Llyod Grossman or Bertolli....they have the experts to work out the proper flavour and spice combinations (something that my limited supply and knowledge can't offer), they have the right consistency, and they are FABULOUS to add to sauteed vegetables or your own base...but alas....I had to settle for a few ALMOST ripe tomatoes.

To make matters worse the remnants of the pastas in the cupboard were spaghetti and fiorelli (like little flowers or trumpets...i would call them trumpetti)!!! I could have sworn that there was another SHAPE in there, but there wasn't! SACRE BLEU! Needless to say, supper last night was a bit of a hodgepodge of ingredients! David's reaction made it worthwhile though. He thought that the shaped pasta was like the MEAT in the spaghetti dish...not sure if I agree, but sweet regardless!!

In the end, while a LAME attempt, all was made better by the arrival earlier in the day of our dining table!!! No more eating off our laps/coffee table in front of the TV! Proper grown-up dining from now on!!! And so, hopefully you can sympathize, I felt like I was letting David down in some way by serving such a lame-o meal on what was an exciting event (our first proper meal together). But in reality he didn't mind, he enjoyed the sauce and thought the mixture of pastas pretty funny.

The pasta wasn't photo-worthy....a splodge of red stained, miss-matched pastas....ugh, no thank you. I did, however, spend some time during the afternoon baking (with all the supplies already available to me I proooooomise)

I adapted the recipe from Jamie Oliver's new American Road Trip cookbook and my Canadian Classics cookbook, using Jamie's dough (which doesn't need egg or butter) and the Canadian Classics method for the filling. The sweet dough from Jamie's recipe wasn't as nice as I know the Canadian Classics to be, but when filled with brown sugar, cinnamon and chocolate chips I couldn't really complain!!!