A week of tasty grub.

(note my phone is being a pain at the moment so photos are delayed, for the moment!)

Well I have to say it has been a good week food wise. For my tea break today I have Twinnings salted caramel green tea and Abernethy biscuits. So a little bit good and a little bit naughty. Something I realised a long time ago is that I have a sweet tooth and trying to cut out all the naughty things I love always backfires. The Boyo sincerely hopes that any future children of ours do not inherit this, however it runs through the whole of my Mums family and I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be! When I was leaving school we had a yearbook made up and a wee blurb was written about all of, mine included ‘emergency dashes to the vending machine for chocolate’. Not much has changed!

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So this week as part of my attempts to become motivated and enthused again I decided to resume the challenge I set for myself in 2012. The challenge: I have to attempt one new recipe a week. It can be anything, cakes, treats, main meals etc. but I found it very enjoyable, it makes use of my large recipe book collection, I gain skills by experimenting and practicing and most of all I get to try new things. This included salmon and spinach as well as a lot of cake in 2012 so it isn’t all unwholesome.

So last week I tried out a recipe from BBC Good Food. It wasn’t the usual magazine; it was a Healthy Eating spin-off. I won’t copy the recipe here as that would be a breach of copyright (I am a librarian!). But it was a healthy chilli chicken recipe. If you do find the recipe then I found chipotle paste in tesco but I used a lot of the small jar they sell so I would look for a larger alternative so it would last longer. I made a slight alteration to the recipe; I used passata as both Boyo and I prefer that to chopped tomatoes and it worked out great. Follow BBC Good food on twitter @bbcgoodfood and find other tasty Mexican recipes on their website.

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I also cooked a semi healthy curry using the Hairy Bikers Eat For Life Book. I really like this book, it has so many tasty things in and I plan to use it a lot more. My curry was only semi healthy as I added a chicken pakora, an onion baji and a bit of naan bread. In our defence we have not had curry for ages (apart from one night when we were on holiday) I had a day I was working at home and really enjoyed preparing something properly. It was a Madras recipe, I used beef and I had two alterations, firstly I cooked it nice and slowly, over 7 hours in the slow cooker. I had discounted beef and I find that using the slow cooker gets the best result with the meat ending up lovely and tender. Not dry and chewy. The other alteration was that I added spinach towards the end of cooking time. Just trying to get some extra nutrients in. The only other suggestion I have is that if you cook it like me with a slow cooker you may want to use a little cornflour (mixed into a paste) at the end to thicken the curry if necessary.  The Hairy Bikers are also on twitter @hairybikers and their website has a nice selection of recipes (but not this one – get the book!)

On Friday we had a proper treat, I often make something a bit more naughty on a Friday, such as my smoked haddock pasta. This time it was enchiladas. Please note this is my version, I know it is in no-way authentic and it does contain cheats (oops!) BUT it is tasty and my sister demands I cook this every time she visits, in fact sometimes she visits not to see me but just to get fed, nice to know my food is loved.

M’s Chicken Enchiladas

For 4 People.

Ingredients

6 soft  flour or corn tortillas. (I get whichever is cheapest but for this it is often the corn tortillas)

1 500g tub of passata (very cheap in Lidl or Aldi)

3 Chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

Cheese grated up (however much you desire, but basically enough for a sprinkle in each tortilla and some for the top)

Mexican spices. (Buy when on special offer, I got a big tub of fajita spices in The Range)

1 packet of Uncle Bens Mexican style rice. (very often on special offer, this stuff is great!)

About 150ml of boiling water.

You will also need:

a large oven dish, one such as this. I have a big glass one I use. You basically want it big enough to fit the rolled tortillas in but small enough that they will be slightly squashed together as this stops them from unrolling.

A frying pan.

And 2 bowls.

Method

1. Put the oven on to warm up at around 200c.  Cut the chicken into smallish chunks. Warm a little oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. Cook the chicken and sprinkle over the spices. Remember the more you use the spicier the final result. I often add a few chilli flakes as well and if you wish look at the ingredients on the packet of spice and add more of the individual spices to add more flavour if you have them (eg. Garlic, chilli powder, cumin etc.) As you cook the chicken break it into even small chunks. It is a good way of checking to see how cooked it is and for the wraps later you want small pieces.

2. Pour the passata into a bowl and add some hot water. You don’t want it too thin so add the water slowly, stirring until the sauce is a nice consistency. Then add spices, the same rule as the chicken. The tomatoes neutralise the spices a bit so I’d add a fair bit. I’d say the whole sachet if using one of the sachets of spices (Old El Paso for example) or the equivalent. I know this isn’t very exact but for this you have to go with instinct and play around until you get it right according to your tastes. It is kind of fun, just be confident and go with it. Stir away until spices are mixed throughout.

3. Once the chicken is cooked get a ladleful of the sauce and a sprinkle of the grated cheese. Pour this over the chicken and leave to simmer on a low heat as you prepare the rest – think sticky sort of consistency for the sauce and chicken. Most of the sauce is for the top later.

4. Cook the rice according to instructions (usually 2 min), once it has cooked swap and put the tortillas on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds. Meanwhile put the rice into a bowl.

5. Now we have all the components we are ready to construct. In a tortilla put a tablespoon of rice, then a spoonful of chicken, a sprinkle of cheese. Wrap then place into the dish, nice and firmly at the end. Repeat until the dish is full.

6. Pour over your sauce. Then as much cheese as you like over the top.

7. Place in the oven for 15-20 min, until the cheese has melted and you can’t wait to eat any longer! Everything has been cooked so it really is just about your patience at this point.

8. Serve. 2 tortillas each person. You will be stuffed at the end.

Other notes: This also makes super tasty leftovers. I always make one extra each for the Boyo and I and we have it next day for lunch. It feels like a real treat. You just microwave a portion for 2-3min.  For vegetables I usually quickly fry some onions, peppers and mushrooms in a bit of the fajita spice to have at the side. There is no room for them in the wraps. The Boyo really likes some jalapeno peppers with his.

 

Thinking about them makes me hungry! Enjoy.

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A weekend of wandering

I wrote the last time about my lack of motivation thanks to a big bad migraine but I am very pleased to report that a 3 day weekend has well and truly restored that motivation.

On Saturday we had some errands to run in our nearest town. Our car had not been cleaned properly for a very long time and we decided it was seriously overdue. So we opted to go for a bit of a cheat, we paid to have it valeted and washed. It was really worth it, it is like a brand new car. At the garage I also saw a lovely red mini. I can drive but only automatic so at some point in the next 6 months we hope to get a car that we can both drive but the Boyo is not convinced that a mini would be practical. L The funny thing is that although we live in the countryside and not a town anymore I can actually get to work and out and about by public transport easier than before so the car hunt isn’t as urgent. That afternoon we went wandering one of our nearby paths, a little bit in the woods and a little bit through the fields. We are lucky to live where we do.

Sunday was forecast to be a nice day but we didn’t expect it to be as nice as it was, it was a lovely sunny day. We went for a big wander around Crieff in Perthshire. The first half was around ‘The Hosh’, this was mostly a walk through woods and you go past the Glenturret distillery. Before attempting the second part we called in at Crieff Hydro for refreshments. We were very impressed with the hotel, so much so we’d like to save up and splurge on a weekend there. We were able to sit on a balcony and I enjoyed a delicious scone with cream and jam. One of things that impressed us was the amount of things going on in and around the hotel. On the lawn outside the bistro they had a trampoline, mini tennis, giant connect 4 and people were enjoying lunch outside and children were happily playing on the lawn. For a place that seemed rather posh it was wonderfully welcoming and friendly feeling. Around the hotel we saw big tennis courts, a horse riding centre, golf, a woodland treetops adventure course, and signs of lots of other activities. With the hotel being right on the edge of Crieff surrounded by beautiful Perthshire countryside it seemed like a terrific place to go on holiday. They had villas so perhaps it would be worth clubbing together with friends or family for a holiday. The second part of our walk was up and around ‘The Knock’. A short steep climb leads you to the top where you get magnificent views. I have problems with my knees so I can’t really do proper hill climbing, this was manageable and the walk was in splendid sunshine. It was such a lovely way to spend Sunday.

Yesterday we took advantage of an extra day off and after my hypnotherapy appointment we went to Inverkeithing where we walked a small part of the Fife Coastal path, over the Forth bridge and then down into South Queensferry. Walking over the Forth Bridge is something I have wanted to do for a while. I love the Forth Railway Bridge – to me it is such a magnificent icon of Scotland. As a teenager I kayaked under it, one of the great activities part of a Guide camp. From the road bride you get a brilliant view of the railway bridge. Walking over the bridge made me appreciate a little bit more the amazing architecture and volume that the bridge deals with everyday. Very clever people design these things! The new crossing is well underway and looks like it will be very big as well. I don’t know why I like bridges so much but I find something very interesting about them. It is probably because my brain is not mathematical in the slightest so comprehending how someone can actually design them is awe inducing then the feats of engineering as well.Forth

On Sunday it was also the final of the football – at long last! I am not interested in football in the slightest but I had said that I would make tea according to whatever two countries were in the final. So for Argentina we had a mixed meat grill including peppered beef steaks, chorizo and thin garlic rubbed minute steaks. For Germany we had some frankfurters and a cheese noodle baked dish. I had misgivings about the noodle dish but according to the Boyo it was just like the dish he had when he was in Germany last year. It actually tasted nice. All together a very random dinner!Football food

Now for the motivation, the theme of this blog is a Merry and healthy lifestyle so that is what I really am focusing on.

I have started taking my vitamins again.

I am working hard on eradicating my migraines and not taking painkillers unless absolutely essential.

I am consciously thinking about food again. This means not just cooking stuff on a whim but thinking about being good 5 out of 7 days. This means I will try to have 1 veggie day a week. I am reading about 5:2 and paleo diet principles again. I am unlikely to adopt either wholeheartedly but some of the principles are excellent.

I am working on tasks my hypnotherapist has given me.

And I am starting up a proper exercise routine combining walking, swimming, cross trainer and cycling.

And finally I am also thinking about what I am spending. For the future I need to save more and learn how to budget properly. There is an excellent post by blogger Still Being Molly that I’m using for inspiration with this.

So in short some sunshine and wandering can do wonders for your motivation!

Merry

 
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Busy Bees

My oh my it has been a while since I blogged. The Boyo and I have been busy bees. The end of term (we both work in FE/HE education) always arrives far quicker than you anticipate. I’m always filled with this idea that once the students have gone I’ll so much more time to get on with my huge to do list. The reality is my to-do list gets even bigger and meetings, training etc. is always hurriedly squeezed in before everyone goes into summer mode at the end of June. The annual CILIPS conference was on as well and I was luckily able to attend the Monday, so it really has been a busy couple of weeks work-wise. Many of our staff are term time only so I have to try and get as much information from them before they disperse and my aim is always to try and get everything magically done before they return in August. This never happens but it is good to have good intentions, yes?

We’ve also had Boyo’s family visiting, including their gorgeous dog who was actually staying with us for a week. I miss our walkies and her lovely velvety soft ears. I am definitely still broody for a dog of my own but I also know that with our work schedules it just wouldn’t be fair. Luckily the Boyo was able to take some time off whilst they were here and he got lots of walks with the dog – including 2 Munros, and I was able to join them at evenings and the weekend. So we’ve enjoyed some really lovely walks around our village, Dunkeld where the Boyo’s family were staying and Loch Leven. Unfortunately the weather was pretty mixed and the poor dog got drenched everyday of her stay.

Walks

We also have had some nice opportunities for tasty treats – cake and tea at Spill the Beans in Dunkeld, scones at Scone Palace – excellent, very good indeed, almost as good as my Granny made them, lunch at House of Bruar one day and a tasty takeaway from our local Chinese takeaway. I did some cooking at home as well, I made enchiladas one night – I’ll post my recipe/method in my next post. It is a bit of a cheat but a huge hit whenever I make them, especially with my sister who visits me regularly just to get fed these. I also made chocolate and vanilla loaf cake and one night we had 3 course with everything made by scratch by me. Vegetable and Coriander soup with homemade bread, Roasted Chicken breast with garlic mushrooms, roast peppers, steamed potatoes and a peppercorn sauce and then strawberries with cream and a homemade chocolate sauce to finish. So we have been well walked and well fed! The foodie post will be up soon – most likely Monday as I’m away this weekend.

 

What else? I attended my first hypnotherapy session last night. I’ve spoken before about how I really want to be Merry and healthy. A big barrier in this is my food aversions. I haven’t eaten fruit and vegetables as far back as I can remember. Mum claims I used to eat brussel sprouts when I was 3 but I cannot remember. It is something that I really want to change but I just find myself unable to swallow when I try to eat these foods. So I’ve decided to get some extra help. Whether it will actually work or not is still unclear but I really think it is worth a try. I’m worried this post is already a long post so I’ll finish up for now and save the details of my hypnotherapy experience for later.

 

I hope everyone has a jolly weekend, I’m off to visit family on a flying visit which will be nice. Cheerio for now!

 

Merry

 

 

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Foodie Friday

Foodie Friday

Another fishy Friday – sorry to those who aren’t fans of fish! I am trying as I have mentioned before to become a healthier person and one of the things I am trying to do is to eat more fish. As a child the only fish I ever ate was haddock in breadcrumbs or ‘yellow fish’ made by my Granny. Yellow fish is smoked haddock baked in milk and butter – hence the name yellow – and the fillet was served with the wonderful buttery sauce and a slice of bread and butter. Delicious! So I really feel that I need to expand my menu where fish is concerned. So today’s meal is Smoked River Cobbler with roasted herby potatoes and courgettes with a herby white sauce.

On another note regarding my food eating I am embarking on a whole new daunting challenge. I am what is known as a ‘picky eater’. Over the past few years I have become much more adventurous (I only tried curry when studying for my postgrad. Thank you to my friend from Bristol for introducing me to this wonder, I will forever be thankful). Living in China and Hong Kong forced me to try some new and exotic foods and developing a serious cooking hobby over the past two years (and having a boyo who is willing to try EVERYTHING) has meant that slowly but surely I am eating a much wider variety of food.

But I have a major stumbling block-

I don’t eat vegetables or fruit.

(I am Scottish so I do love potatoes, does that count as a vegetable?… I’m joking)

I’ve had a major problem with fruit & veg for as long as I can remember. I am happy to eat a wide variety of vegetables in soup format as long as they are blended. I will cook with vegetables and enjoy the flavour they give to my meals – but I pick all the actual vegetables out. I literally gag and can’t swallow when I feel the texture of vegetables in my mouth. As for fruit, I don’t even go near it. The closest I will get is a puff pastry apple puff thing where the apple inside is basically pureed and the whole thing is covered in custard. This my friends (if anyone reads my ramblings) is ridiculous.

I enjoy cooking, I love looking at all the wonderful variety of food, I want to be able to cook and eat away to my hearts content. I want to give up my sugar crazy tendencies. In the past I didn’t mind so much but now that I enjoy cooking so much I am seeing so many tasty things that I am missing out on. Another big factor is my Boyo. I’m not just responsible for myself now – don’t worry he can look after himself- Boyo and I decided to live together, one day we hope to start a family together and we intend to spend our lives together (we aren’t married but the same objectives really!). I worry about him and want to look after him and he does the same for me. Although I am trying to improve my health I can’t really claim to be healthy unless I eat a balanced diet. I am 30 later this year. The question of us starting a family gets closer and bigger all the time, how can I grow a little person if I am not properly nourished and how can I raise a child if I do not try to be healthy and show good behaviours to them? It is important to me and it is important to the Boyo.

So I hear you ask what am I doing about it? Well I am trying to improve what I eat all the time – sneaking spinach into curry, using more wholesome ingredients, varying our carbs – cous cous, rice, pasta, potatoes and limiting our portion size of carbs and instead of having massive meals I am trying to just use sensible portions. I am also trying to reduce my dairy intake by eating less cheese, just the equivalent of 1 glass of milk a day and a yoghurt, I try to eat no more than 2 slices of bread a day and I make my own bread (I try to make nearly everything from scratch) and I only drink fizzy drinks if we are out for a meal or at the weekend and still not a crazy amount. I’m trying to up my peppermint tea consumption, experiment with green tea and drink more water.

But this isn’t enough – so time for the major step. Next week I will attend my first hypnotherapy session. I am actually quite nervous about it. I have a lot of questions but the two main questions are:

What if it doesn’t work?

And

What if it does?

I’ll update you on my healthy eating quest soon.

So back to Foodie Friday

Smoked River Cobbler with herby roasted potatoes & courgettes with a herby white sauce

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Ingredients

    Fish

2 x skinless and boneless smoked River Cobbler fillets
Dash of Olive Oil
Seasoning – I used a lemon pepper seasoning mix

    Potatoes & Courgettes

Glug of Olive oil
White everyday potatoes peeled & cut into small chunks (A great way to use up old potatoes that need cooked quickly)
Half a Courgette sliced.
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Seasoning – again I used the lemon Pepper mixture

    White Sauce

About 150ml-200ml of Milk (I used semi-skimmed)
Knob of Butter
300ml of Crème Fraiche (I would usually use half fat)
Knorr mixed herb flavour pot
Black pepper
Garlic (I used a pinch of garlic granules instead of fresh this time)
Tablespoon of Philadelphia
2 teaspoons of grated Parmesan

    Method

1. Put your oven on to warm up, I had mine at 200c. Put a good glug of the olive oil into a large roasting dish. I used a large oval le creuset one but I also have a big glass one that is ideal for roasting the potatoes. Place the dish with the olive oil into the oven to warm up whilst you peel & chop the potatoes and slice up the courgettes.

2. On the chopping board mix up your courgettes and potatoes using your hands then cover in the seasoning and a good sprinkle of sea salt and a little black pepper. Mix up again so all the potatoes and veg are covered in the herbs and spices.

3. Lift the now hot dish out the oven and put your potato and veg mix in. Give a good mix then put in the oven. Depending on the size of your potatoes and how well spread out they are in the dish it could take between 30 – 40 minutes for them to cook. Every so often you want to lift them out and give them a good mix so all the sides turn golden and a little crispy.

4. Now to prepare the fish. Place them in another roasting dish. Sprinkle your seasoning over them and gently rub it in. Sprinkle a little dash of olive oil over the fillets and cover in tin foil. The fillets will cook in the oven in 20 minutes so time putting them in on how your potatoes are looking.

5. The sauce isn’t necessary but adds a little more flavour to the dish. Put the milk and butter in a pot and place over a medium heat on the hob. When the butter has melted add the flavour pot and mix thoroughly. Add the crème fraiche and Philadelphia. Keep mixing until it starts to resemble a nice consistency, add the garlic, parmesan and a little black pepper. If you have the sauce ready before the rest of the meal just leave it off the heat to warm up again when you are ready to serve. If it is a little thick then just add splashes of milk whilst stirring until the desired consistency is reached.

6. Check to see if your potatoes are cooked through by cutting one in half and eating it! If they are cooked then you are all ready to go and serve it up. Enjoy!

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