Saturday, 26 February 2011

The tracks of my years...

I've been decluttering my whole life recently, and one of those areas that needed sorting was my CD collection of old, and boy did I sort it. It involved alphabetising and packing them all away in cardboard boxes as we now live in the digital age and get this - I don't even own a CD player!  

Anyhow, needless to say it was a trip down memory lane as many of the CDs were from the early 90s which were my "high school" years - the ages of 11-16 (1991-1995).  You know how you get all those "school disco" albums and TV countdown shows on VH1? Well they make me scream because they're always full of "Come on Eileen" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go".  Unless you were a teen in the 80s, they weren't what you were bopping around to whilst dressed in your silver babydoll dress tanked up on Strawberry 20/20.

No, what I was busting some moves to when I was trying to contain a McChicken sandwich meal and a blackcurrent Hooch in my stomach, were these little ditties that are going to follow in a moment.  As you will know from previous posts, I have an, erm, eclectic taste in music and always did have.  I could quite happily listen to Nirvana on my Discman before switching to a bit of Now who says 90's music was bad? Huh?


One of my all-time favourites (and I song I STILL love now).




Still listen to this - I'm going to be one of those embarrassing parents aren't I?




Aahh, reminds me of the love of my life (dramatic as ever...) and jumping around like an idiot




Boom!




Carolina! Wind yer body gal!




Who didn't love Ace of Base?




Much of my day was spent staring at pictures of Take That. Oh wait...it is still is!




Nearly 20 years later and I STILL don't know what this song is about.




Still a classic




Amazing song, amazing memories




Obviously there were the heart-breakers you had to smooch to at the end of the night, or in my case listen to over and over whilst lying in bed crying at night because so-and-so had resisted my advances....






And not a 2 Unlimited track amongst them!

So who's up for a 90's school disco? What were the tracks of your school years?


Just me then?

love & kisses
Mrs M x


PS I'm now going to go and wallow in a pit of my own self-pity after realising that these songs are coming up for nearly twenty years old! How did I get so aged so quickly?!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Who am I doing it for?

Taking the children out on trips that are meant to be treats I mean.  Who am I doing it for? It's certainly not for me that much is for sure. I get minimal pleasure out of it and I'd also question what the children get out of it.

I like to think I'm doing it because they're good children and the deserve a reward, or that they'll really enjoy it and be buzzing about it afterwards.

For instance, we just been to the cinema. This was meant to be a special treat for them.  After endless questions (all met with "because I said so" "because that's what we do" or "because we have to") and requests for sweets, popcorn and more sweets we settled down to watch the film. Sure they seemed to enjoy it (they've asked me enough times to take them) but every twenty minutes I was faced with "is it finished now?" "why are we still here?" or "I want to go home now".   We got through the film, went to the Disney Shop where I treated them to a little something each before heading back to the car. 

We hadn't even got out of the car park and they were fighting and whinging. The rest of the twenty minute drive home was set to the soundtrack of the boy wailing because I said he couldn't watch TV when we got home.  This was followed by a stand-off on the driveway, me threatening to leave him out there and him wailing some more before he was swiftly taken up the stairs and put in bed for an afternoon nap, still snivelling.  (I'm particularly enjoying the thought right now that he's got his MMR and pre-school booster this afternoon, ahh blessed just desserts!).


I'm questioning why I just spent the best part of £40 on an outing that was meant to be fun when clearly we would have all been far better sitting at home, playing games, doing drawing etc We would have had a far pleasant morning together.  Instead we've all come away tired, worn down, grumpy and barely talking to each other!  


And yet I know I'll do it again. They'll be endless trips to the pantomime, theatre shows, cinema and theme parks over the years which will all end in the same way - big fat tears.  For everyone. And my purse will be a whole lot lighter too.   So yes, I will put myself and them through the pain numerous times but I feel like the only people gaining from these excusions are the people who own the businesses that I am spending my hard earned cash at. 

Right now, I feel like my hair is about to drop out and I wish I'd never taken them. Boy is upstairs sulking (actually probably snoring now) and girly is back doing what she loves and wanted to do in the first place - glueing and sticking.  By teatime they'll have forgotten they've even been.

I remember avoiding parks when my daughter was about 16 months old because every trip ended up the same.  Her screaming and me wanting to drown my sorrows in a big vat of gin.  I avoided going as much as I could because it was like Chinese water torture. I'm wondering now if I should be taking the same stance now?

Surely this just doesn't happen to me? How can I make this more enjoyable? (By letting someone else take them whilst I got to a day spa?)

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Mexican Potatoes



Another recipe from BBC Good Food and I loved these so thought I must share them.  I cooked them to go with the Mexican Chicken Stew that I blogged yesterday.

The potatoes were really simple to knock together but really tasty.  My only two pointers would be that I would parboil them for longer because they took ALOT longer to cook than what the original recipe said so I have adjusted the timings here.  I thought they were never going to be ready!

A really nice side dish or tasty snack!  Recipe serves 4 (cough, cough)

Mexican Potatoes

Ingredients

800g potatoes, cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
soured cream, to serve

Method

Boil the potatoes for 7-8 mins.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for around 8 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and spices and fry for another 2 mins.

Drain the potatoes and add to the pan with the onion.  Turn the heat up and shake the potatoes around so they are covered by the onions and spices. 

Cook for 10-15mins until tender and serve with a good dollop of sourced cream!


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Book Review: Kitchen Garden Companion


I must admit that I was sent this book to review quite a while ago now but it's been sitting on my bookshelf and I'm only just getting round to it now.  It's quite an apt book to review right now as I am currently planning what I am going to grow in the garden this year.

The Kitchen Garden Companion by Stephanie Alexander is no lightweight book - in fact it's a monster! Nearly 750 pages! It's also a very lovely book - as you know good aesthetics please me and this is a very tactile book being covered in cloth over the hardback cover itself. That won me over from the start, along with the two bookmarks as it's practically impossible to keep your page in a book this big and the lovely photography.


Stephanie Alexander is described as a "cook, restaurateur, food writer and champion of the quality & diversity of Australian food" and she put this book together with the hope that families will garden together, cook together and eat together.  I support her wholeheartedly with that and am already trying to instill that into my own family, with my children helping to plant and harvest in the garden, assist me with cooking and kitchen tasks and of course, doing a sterling job at eating the results!  Stephanie certainly knows her stuff having established the Kitchen Garden Foundation to help provide kitchen gardens in primary schools.  



The book starts with an introduction, ideas on how to get started (am loving the worm farms!), advice on different types of garden, when to plant, what to plant and talks about basic gardening & kitchen equipment you might need before launching into the produce itself.  All the fruit, vegetables and herbs are listed alphabetically.  Being an Australian book initially there are a few things to trip you up like zucchini and silver beet but generally it's all pretty self-explanatory and there's nothing really out of the ordinary - it's all good stuff that is easily grown in your garden.

Each section starts with a page that talks about how to grow, watering requirements, when to harvest etc and what I really find useful, a section on how to prepare your produce.  I think something like that is invaluable as whilst we might all want to get adventurous in the garden, we don't all know what to do with it once it's grown! All this advice is followed by a nice selection of recipes.



The book finishes with a garden glossary, some advice on pest and weed control, a cooking glossary and the indexes.  

Is it a gardening book or a cookery book? Well it will frequent my shelves in the kitchen which tells me it's primarily a cookery book, or at least that is how I see it.  The instructions for growing are easy to follow but perhaps assume some prior knowledge so it's not necessarily a book for a complete novice but for someone who has dabbled and fiddled with growing before.




Summing up, I love it and I feel it will become a very well used book in my collection and based on it's presentation alone, it would make a gorgeous gift for a keen cook/gardener.


The Kitchen Garden Companion is published by Quadrille and has a RRP of £30.



love & kisses
Mrs M x

Mexican Chicken Stew



This recipe comes from BBC Good Food and was something I had bookmarked awhile ago.  I finally got around to making it this week.

The recipe uses chipotle paste which is not one of the easiest things in the world to find. I've never seen it in my local supermarkets and actually had to resort to ordering some direct from Discovery Foods a few months ago.  It is worth hunting some down if you can because the smoky flavour of the chipotle paste really does add something.

I wasn't completely overwhelmed by this. Sure it was tasty and actually really liked the chicken being shredded for a change but I feel like it was missing something, it needed a little something else in there perhaps?  I've read the comments on the BBC Good Food website and someone has suggested chopping up some chorizo which I agree would work well so next time I might do that.   

Other than that is was a satisfying meal which I served with some spiced potatoes.  Recipe serves 4.

Mexican Chicken Stew

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp chipotle paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
a few coriander leaves

Method

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add the onion and cook gently for 5mins until softened and starting to colour.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Stir in the sugar, chipotle paste and tomatoes.  Add the chicken to the pan and cover with the sauce.  Simmer gently for around 20mins until the chicken is cooked through.  Keep an eye on the pan and if the sauce is starting to get too dry, add a little water.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and shred with two forks.  Stir the chicken back into the sauce.  

Scatter with the red onion and coriander and serve with tortillas, rice or potatoes.

Recipe for the potatoes that I served with this will follow tomorrow.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

What a treat!

The best part of this post comes at the end, so keep reading...

I am hideously late with this blog post, hideously late.  The only apology that I can make is that due to the nasty bout of flu I had over Christmas my chocolate-eating went way off. I'm pleased to report that it has now arrived back with a vengeance (I'm rebuilding my tolerance up in time for Easter...)

Anyhow just before Christmas I commented on this post over at Rosie Scribble and shortly after an email arrived from my fairy godmother. Okay, I may be stretching the truth a little. It wasn't from a plumpcious lady in a tutu waving a sparkly wand, it was from Appliances Online. (Although who I am to judge if that's how they choose to spend their Saturday nights.)

Hurrah! They wanted to send me a gift and a chocolatey one at that and where better to send me something from than my very favourite Hotel Chocolat.  





I was able to make a choice so I chose two products that I have looked at longingly every Christmas in their festive selection but I have never been quite able to justify splurging on them for myself.  The Festive Dipping Adventure and some of the Liquid Hot Chocolate - gingerbread flavour.  Both incredibly luxurious and decadent.  

Thank you Appliances Online - they were just what I needed as a pick me up after having a pretty horrid Christmas!

And here is the good bit if you leave a comment below you might well get a treat of your own! I hope the fairy godmother is looking out for you right now!

I've just remembered I still have some of that hot chocolate left and it's perishing today so I'm off to make a rather large mugful!


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dirty Secret: Rom-coms, weepies & teenage flicks

It's been a while since I shared a dirty little secret with you, the first and last one being the horrifying truth that I like country music. (Spooky, just noticed that one was posted 21st Feb, must be something about this time of year that makes me want to share with you all...)  In this edition I admit to my terrible taste in films and I'm not going to apologise for it.

I love a rom-com.  I really do. I don't care how predictable, cheesy or naff it is, I am practically guaranteed to love it. Same goes for films that make me blub like a baby and teenage American high school movies.  Yes. I am the blogger that taste forgot.

I'd love to be all high-brow about films but really? I just don't care.  When I sit down to watch a film I want to be entertained, not educated.  It's no wonder then that some of these film clips coming up should come with a "cheese-warning" because some of them may seriously honk.

Please note, none of these films are actually my favourite film, in fact my favourite film doesn't come under any of the aforementioned genres but does contain a good soundtrack. In fact, as you will see here - music in a film definitely captures me and changes the way I feel about films.

Okay, here goes. Some of my favourite scenes from my favourite cheesy films. (Not all links will be work/kiddy safe!)

The Bennie & the Jets scene from 27 Dresses. Mainly because this is a kick-ass song.


Heath Ledger singing in 10 Things I Hate About You


The sycnronised dance at the prom in She's All That


The end of 50 First Dates (although the song is now over-played to death)


The last brownie in Notting Hill


It's not over in The Notebook...


Mean Girls, being erm, mean


The dance-off in American Pie: The Wedding. This is pure class.


The First Wives Club. Every time I watch this scene I look at Goldie Hawn's arse.


I still talk about the "chipper chicken" in Father of the Bride



Is that enough bad taste for you? 

Your turn to share, c'mon!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pancakes - how do you do yours?

I don't know if it is just me but does anyone else  only have pancakes once a year on Shrove Tuesday (and then do it to excess...)? I have been reminded today that the day will soon be upon us - 8th March 2011 and you soon won't be able to get a squeezy Jif lemon for love nor money (quick, stock up!). 

I don't why I do this but every year is the same. I love pancakes and each year I say "ooh why don't we do this more often" yet still we only seem to have them once a year.  We never miss the opportunity though, generally skipping tea in preparation for scoffing the great big pile of pancakes.  Yes, that's right, a pile. We generally make two lots of batter as one is never enough.  Especially as the first pancake is always a bit ropey and generally too thick.  I'm sure there is an art to making pancakes, I just haven't discovered it yet. (You can find some top tips from Betty Crocker for pancake making here).

Luckily, the good people at Betty Crocker can you show you (and me) just how to make the perfect pancake.




You can see in that clip that they are using the Betty Crocker Shake-to-Make pancake mix.  I've never tried this but I did notice it in the Co-op the other day.  I will admit to having bought  other mixes in the past. I know - there's no real reason to but well, I just do.  

When it comes to toppings for pancakes - what do you like? I'm a lemon and sugar girl - and that's it. Please don't contaminate my pancake with anything else.  Mr M likes jam which just seems like a really weird thing to do and girly would like ice-cream and choc sauce. I wouldn't even bother asking the boy who'd probably recoil at the mere thought of a pancake.

What's very clear in our house is that pancakes are a sweet affair and never, ever savoury.  I just can't compute savoury pancakes and the thought turns my stomach a bit. Sure, I'm probably missing out on something wonderful but I can cope with that, just leave me in my blissful ignorance with my soggy lemon-soaked pancake!



love & kisses
Mrs M x


*This is a sponsored post*

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Organising my recipe file

Once again, I have taken inspiration from A Bowl Full of Lemons. I'm never quick enough to take part in the weekly challenge but I am loving the ideas and reading what other people do.

I've always kept a recipe binder, in fact I have four. One is my "tried and tested" and the other three are recipes that have been pulled out of magazines and the internet etc that I haven't tried yet (and let's face it, 95% of them will probably never get out of the file...).

Whilst I refer to my tried and tested binder regularly I have to admit, I've not updated it in a long time so there were many recipes that had been shoved into a box in the kitchen and not made into the binder.  I took this virtual kick-up-the-behind as an opportunity to finally organise them and get myself up-to-date.

My recipe binder looks like this;


A bog-standard lever arch file from Emma Bridgewater as it happens to fit in with my kitchen colours and style.  I chose the dividers inside because they match the dots on the folder. What does that say about me? Obsessive?

I've neatly filed my recipes into the following categories, making the labels on my handy Dymo labelmaker;

  • Dinners
  • Light Bites
  • Salads
  • BBQ
  • Baking
  • Desserts
  • Party Food
  • Jams & Chutneys
  • Christmas 
  • Easter



Overtime I may need to split the "dinners" section into subsections (what a geek!) and at some point I may alphabetise them in the individual sections (!) but as I haven't yet got them all filed, I'll save that for another rainy day.


Some of the recipes have been printed off the internet, some are handwritten or copied from blogs, others are old pieces of paper from my school days!



I used to be a bit more obsessive about having all my recipes "match" and would spend time typing them up but I've become a little more relaxed about this now due to time constraints and actually love the higgledy-piggledyness of it!

I vow now to keep my file neat and up-to-date at all times instead of repeatedly printing the same recipe off the computer.

Do you keep recipe files?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 18 February 2011

Cheese and Potato Pie



I'm not going to apologise for the photo of the half-eaten pie, I was simply to hungry and to eager to stop and take a photo before it got dished up!

This is comfort food at it's very best - a plate of stodgy, cheesy potato. I'm really selling this to you aren't I?

But you should be sold, this was very good and extremely satisfying.  Sometimes I don't want a dinner that's a lot of effort. I want something I can just shovel in and this is perfect.  All it needs on the side is a good helping of peas and a rather large dollop of tomato ketchup.

It's a perfect dish for all the family. The kids loved it, I mean what's not to like?

I hadn't made this in years, heavens knows why! It's definitely something we will be having again.

This recipe serves about three adults, or two adults and two little mouths!

Cheese and Potato Pie


Ingredients

750g potatoes, peeled and quartered
40g butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
100ml milk
100g mature Cheddar cheese
100g Red Leicester cheese
1tsp English mustard
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 tomatoes, sliced


Method

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for around 20 mins until they are tender.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a pan and saute the onion for around 10 minutes until lightly golden.  Add the milk to the pan and heat until it is almost boiling.

When the potatoes are ready, drain them and return to the pan.  Mash them really well with a potato masher before beating in the onion and milk and three-quarters of the cheese.  Mix in the mustard and add some seasoning to taste.

Transfer the cheesy potato mash into a buttered ovenproof dish.  Scatter the remaining cheese over the pie and lay the tomato slices on top.

Bake for around 25mins until the top is bubbling and lightly golden.


Now the cheese quantities above are what I actually used. Of course you could change these cheeses to be anything you like - a nice Stilton, some Gruyere or just simply all Cheddar. The Red Leicester did make it glow a bit orange...

You could also leave the onion out if you wish although I think it adds some nice texture. Mr M might not agree as he's not a stringy onion fan but he still ate it up!


love & kisses
Mrs M x