Christmas wishes

 

The tree is up and twinkling with lights. The presents wrapped beneath it. It will be a very quiet Christmas this year. There are no complaints about that!
I made an advent calendar inspired by so many on the Internet and Emily and I have been enjoying our Christmas baking. This is one of my favourite traditions at this time of year.
In the photo above are Salted Caramels. We’ll also make Peppermint Bark, peanut butter kiss cookies.
 I just wanted to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and thank you for reading and commenting here over the past year.
Warm wishes to you all,
Kim xxx

Summer in the Kitchen

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Blueberry Muffins

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. I have not been well and Jay has also been ill with a nasty flu bug and it is so nice to read your words. They really do cheer me up when I’m not feeling so great.

After writing that post about finding rhythm in routine, all of that got thrown out of the window this past week. Is it just me, or do you find that the minute you write about something, events arrive in your life to prove it all wrong?

Still, one place I always come back to is the kitchen. Preparing food is such an integral part of our lives, one I’ve not always accepted whole-heartedly. I do enjoy eating good food of course, who doesn’t? But I do sometimes resent having to spend so much time cooking. This then brings on the guilt. That little voice in my head that tells me how I ought to be grateful for having the means to buy and cook healthy delicious meals for me and my children.

Taking the time to pre-plan meals and to use fresh healthy ingredients goes some way to making the job of cooking every day more enjoyable. We are lucky to have a greengrocer’s in our nearby town and I am able to get lots of fresh fruit and vegetables at often very low prices.

I tend to buy what’s available from season to season, but to be honest our diet doesn’t change much from summer to winter. We like what we like. And I lean towards meals that are quick and inexpensive. Apart from the inclusion of more salads and uncooked meals in the summer, our diet is mostly fish/chicken and vegetables, frittatas, pasta, homemade pizza, wraps, risottos and casseroles/stews. My children love spicy mexican dishes and roast dinners so I cook them occasionally, and prepare something lighter for myself. I’ve been eating less meat, bread and pasta lately and feel much better for it.

In the pictures here are some blackcurrants and redcurrants picked from the garden and pepper and goat’s cheese frittata. My mum gave us a couple of bunches of magic purple runner beans from her garden which turn green when you cook them and taste just the same as ordinary ones. I found a recipe for Creamy Chicken and Green Bean Pesto Pasta, which everyone in the house loved. I think it may be the first time I’ve got Jay to eat green beans! There was pesto and vegetable pizza, juicy watermelon  (one of the very best things about this time of year) as well as Blueberry Muffins and Apple and Cinnamon loaf cake.

My neighbour generously gave me a large bag of rhubarb. I’ve never been that keen on rhubarb so have been searching for years for a recipe that I actually liked. I think I have found it in these Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble Muffins – a recipe I stumbled upon on the Quince Tree blog. Sue has some incredible recipes on her blog, which is where I found the above pictured Pineapple-Chilli Salsa – an easy and healthy addition to so many meals, and only takes a minute to make!

As I was writing this a baby thrush flew in my living room window and gave me such a fright. It flew around the room then straight back at the window. I flung it wide open and it flew straight out again! I am thinking it might be a sign that I need to spend more time out of doors 🙂

So, I’m glad to be feeling better and hope to catch up with all your blogs soon. Emily has gone away to Soul Survivor Camp today and I have secret plans to redecorate her bedroom as a surprise. Though I may have overestimated my ability to get it all done in 6 days! I’d better get to work 🙂

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

 

Zen Kitty

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Cats love to sit in the most peculiar places, don’t they? At least this one does.

Bo is absolutely adored in this house. It is hard to imagine that a cat could get more attention than this one. Jay, Emily and I dote on her every minute that she deigns to come home and grace us with her presence. She revels in all the attention she receives. We just love her funny behaviours. She sits sometimes and stares at the wall for several minutes, or jumps up randomly at nothing in particular.

She both hates and is fascinated by running water. Her favourite places to sit are in any kind of basket or vaguely round-shaped thing that she can squeeze herself into. Another favourite spot is on top of my computer. Then she’ll look up at me, as if daring me to move her, with that ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ kinda face. She knows very well she can get away with pretty much anything she likes. She does this especially when I have an assignment due – it’s as if she has a sixth sense about these things. Not only Zen kitty, but psychic kitty too 🙂

In The Kitchen

Blueberry ClafloutisVegetable PaellaRoasted Tomatoes

Kitchen WindowsillSauerkrautChelsea BunsTomato Soup

A couple of weeks ago I enrolled on an online course called Whole Food Kitchen. It is run by Heather of the beautiful blog that I have followed for many years called beautythatmoves. The course is an in-depth journey to transforming your kitchen and eating habits towards a largely whole food diet.

In our home, we probably eat about 60/40 home cooked food and easy packaged food from the supermarket. I would like to increase the amount of whole food we eat, and Heather’s course is inspiring me to do just that. I like the way she gently encourages small changes and a slow thoughtful approach.

While I can cook fairly well when I put my mind to it, I am often tempted to slip back to old habits and just throw something easy in the oven or buy packaged cereal and baked goods rather than make them myself. It is the process of immersing myself in Heather’s kitchen, her ideas and recipes and those of other course members that inspires me to do better in my own life. Cooking can be a grind and a chore or it can be a meditative soulful experience, it is this latter attitude that I hope to cultivate more in my own kitchen.

Above are a few pictures from my kitchen taken over the last few months before the course started. There is blueberry clafloutisvegetable paella, roasted plum cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, and thick tomato soup. The lovely chelsea buns were made by Emily in her school cookery class. They were delicious, and I’m trying to talk her into making them again 🙂

Lately…

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I feel like I’ve got out of the rhythm of blogging. Sometimes I think my time would be better spent doing other things, but when I stop for a while I miss it. I’ve seen these kind of  ‘currently I’m…’ posts on other blogs from time to time, so thought I’d try it to get back into the swing of things.

So lately I’m…

Reading… My course textbooks – my current module is interdisciplinary so we’ve been learning a real soup -mix of interesting things with a focus on the study of material culture: including museum and heritage studies, Greek vases, Pompeii, and the early modern book.

Browsing… A few Slow Cooking books from the library, looking for some good Autumnal recipes that I can set going in the morning to be ready later in the day without too much bother. Because when it comes to cooking, I am lazy 🙂

Cooking… This recipe for lentil and cauliflower curry today… that should warm us up!

Baking… Mince pie tart to use the mincemeat jars leftover in the cupboard.

Watching… the wonderful BBC series The Secret Life of Books (some episodes are available on i-player).

Gazing… out the window at the leaden skies, the rain, the messy sodden garden that really needs tidying up if only it would dry up for a while.

Disappointed… at not getting a job I interviewed for last week at the local history centre.

Considering… getting the paints out later and having a doodle while listening to Chris Evans breakfast show on playback to cheer myself up.

Wondering… whether I have time in my days to fit in any knitting or crochet, and whether it’s worth starting something that may take me months to finish. So many inspiring blog posts lately, like Melissa, Jennifer and Christina’s lovely creations, I only wish I had more time. I’m still very new to crochet so might try something simple like maybe this blanket?

Loving… this format to write a blog post. Sometimes I find it so difficult to start, but when I have a structure to work around it makes it so much easier.

It’s supposed to get down to minus degrees here at the weekend, and I have a trip to Bristol for a day-school planned… better dig out my scarf and gloves! Wishing you all a peaceful weekend.

Kim x

Catching Up

Sorry for my absence from blogland, dear readers. My computer died and I have been learning to find my way around a brand new one… it’s super fast and purple… I like it!

What have we been up to? Well, enjoying the grand entrance of Autumn in all its glory. The crisp leaves and crisper temperatures (although today is quite balmy). The scent of bonfires on the breeze, and a garden full of rotting plants, overgrown bushes, and dry stems that need cutting back and clearing up. I have been studying hard, trying to get a little ahead with my course in anticipation of Christmas. Emily carved the pumpkins pictured above. And on Saturday, we had a little Halloween tea, and listened to a creepy-classics playlist.

Over tea, we had a long discussion about horror films and fear. Emily loves to watch scary movies (though she doesn’t watch 18-rated films). I do not much like to watch horror films at all. I used to watch them when I was younger – the likes of The Shining, Salem’s Lot and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Back then I enjoyed the rush of adrenalin, the dark subject matter, and all-round spooky creepiness. But the films were never really realistic enough to truly scare.

Later films were not so enjoyable for me to watch though. Occasionally, after watching one of these films, images would haunt me for months. Take Se7en for example – there are scenes which I simply could not get out of my head. It was as if they were burned into my brain in full technicolour.

These days, in order to keep my sanity, I find I need to stick to subjects that mostly bring a positive state of mind. I am so thankful for the space to be less afraid and more aware of what is going on around me, rather than having all those imaginary fears whirling inside my head. So, boring though it may be, I am more than happy to stick to pleasant uplifting music and films these days.

I have much blog-reading to catch up on and I’m looking forward to reading what you’ve all been up to lately. I also just wanted to end today by thanking you for visiting my blog and to say I really do appreciate all your lovely, kind and interesting comments. Now I have my new zippy purple laptop I hope to be blogging more regularly.

Wishing you all a great week!

Tomato and Red Pepper Chutney

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I have to admit to not being the world’s most enthusiastic cook. Cooking for adults and children, two or three meals a day every day for decades has taken a lot of the magic out of it for me. Except that is for a few things: I love baking bread and making preserves – jam, chutney, marmalade, curd, relish, pickle, that kind of thing.

The simple act of turning a few ingredients – often straight from the land, or at a reduced price from the greengrocer – into several jars packed full of glistening flavour that will brighten up dull winter dishes never ceases to delight me. I love to see them lined up on the kitchen counter in their autumnal colours of deep red, yellows and browns, knowing that we’ll be enjoying them throughout the cold months to come.

I usually make them later in the year, but as I managed to get several bags of tomatoes at a very low price, I had to make use of them.

This recipe is based on one from the back of a label of Sarson’s pickling vinegar from about fifteen years ago. I’ve made it many times, it is subtly sweet and spicy and we love it with bread and cheese or mash potato.

Tomato and Red Pepper Chutney

2.7kg (6 lb) ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped

675g (1½ lb) onions,  chopped

3 red peppers, deseeded and chopped

1.14 Ltr (2 pt) Sarson’s pickling malt vinegar

300g (11 oz) demerara sugar

15 ml (1 tbsp) salt

15 ml (1 tbsp) chilli powder or I use chopped fresh chilli from a jar

  • To skin the tomatoes: cut a small cross with a sharp knife in the bottom, then immerse small batches in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and the skins will peel of easily.
  • Place all ingredients in a preserving pan or large saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
  • Bring to the boil and boil gently, uncovered, for approximately 2 hours, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables are soft and the mixture is thick and pulpy.
  • Spoon into warm sterilised jars, seal, label and store.
  • Makes about 2.3 kg (5 lb)

We started eating ours straight away, but the flavour definitely improves with time.

I may have to make another batch later in the year as we’ve already finished almost two small jars since I made it a couple of weeks ago. This is a definite favourite in our house along with piccalilli, which I’ve also recently made and will post about soon. There is an enticing selection of recipes on my Pinterest preserves board if you are looking for more inspiration. What about you, dear reader, do you have a favourite preserve recipe to share?

For the Love of Kale

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Picking a bunch of flat-leafed kale from the garden and cooking and eating it the same day. I just don’t think I’ll ever get fed up of this seed to plate ritual.

Last Autumn I sowed the seed in shallow drills, watered, and here it is a few months later ripe for harvesting. I’m slowly learning this patience thing.

I know kale is super fashionable right now, with everyone in the cookery blog crowd making kale this and kale that, with a hundred varieties of kale chips in between. Still, I think it’s a band wagon worth jumping on. Kale has been in and out of favour throughout the centuries, maybe now it’s here to stay.

I was reading Lindylit’s blog post yesterday, and she reviews the book Mariana by Monica Dickens written in 1940. There is a lovely quote in the introduction:

“Mary realises she could never consider living in France. England, ‘looked so right and so comfortably unexotic, like a cabbage.'”

It is one of those perfectly English things to say, I think. And very true… though I would include the rest of the British Isles too.

Here are a couple of my favourite useful Kale-ish web pages:

How to grow kale in your garden

Spaghetti with kale and lemon

Summery kale, tomato and corn salad

Garlicky kale with red beans and rice

Or throw it into a goat’s cheese frittata, blend with lemon juice, garlic and cream cheese for a kale dip, or use in just about any recipe that calls for cabbage.

The day I picked the kale I simply sautéed it in butter and garlic. Delicious. A little slice of England on my plate. 🙂

Black and White Photo Challenge ~ Day 5

Final day of the 5 Day Black and White Photo Challenge. I have enjoyed doing this so much. It really makes you look more closely at the photographs you take when you take part in a challenge such as this. I usually just snap and go. But here, especially with the black and white you have to consider carefully the contrast of light and dark in the picture. Thanks again to Katie for inviting me to take part.

DSCF4778This is a picture of a vintage tractor that is tucked in a corner of a field in our village. You can just catch sight of it through the knots and thorns of the bramble hedge. Its colour is actually red. But in black and white I am taken back to its history and wonder how many ploughs it pulled in its time, or what other use it had on the farm before it became the old relic of the past it is today.

Today I would like to invite Wild Daffodil to take part in the 5 day Challenge (info here). There is no pressure to join in – only if you have the time, and would like to, of course.

x

Black and White Photo Challenge ~ Day 4

Day 4 of the 5 Day Black and White Photo Challenge.

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This is a photograph of our much beloved kitten Baudelaire. She has grown so much in the few months that we’ve had her and is a never-ending source of entertainment for me and my children. Here she is mesmerised by the sleet falling outside the window.

Today I would like to invite Jamie of Needle at Sea Bottom to take part in the 5 day challenge (info here). There is no pressure to join in, only if you have time and you would like to, of course.

x