(Return of) the Swamp Thing

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen… IMG_0540 Spirulina. The Revenge. And now with added chia seeds image Because it was just lacking a certain, frogspawny je n’est sais quoi. Exciting going in. Even more exciting coming out Sorry. Yum.

Advertisements

Ay Caramba

Youngest child has a new topic to research for school.

Mexico and the Aztecs.

Unfortunately, the opportunities for field trips to bring this particular topic alive are somewhat limited here in the depths of the Midlands.

And after spending several hours with her doing ‘research’ on Google, -which seemed to involve looking at countless pictures of guinea pigs wearing sombreros (yes, really), something a bit more hands-on and rewarding was needed.

If only to stop me prising my own eyeballs out…

So what is Mexico famous for?

Chocolate

And what better educational thing to attempt on a blustery January Sunday afternoon that Mexican hot chocolate?

Pour 500ml of milk into a pan and add 100g of grated plain chocolate, 2 tsp of vanilla essence and 1 tsp of honey.

2015/01/img_0463.jpg

Heat the chocolatey, milky mixture – but do not boil.

Mix 1 tbsp of corn flour with 4tbsp cold water.

2015/01/img_0467.jpg

When the chocolate has melted into the milk add the cornflour mixture to the pan and stir vigorously

2015/01/img_0468.jpg

Once the chocolate has started to thicken, pour into mugs, sprinkle cinnamon on top and serve.

2015/01/img_0469.jpg

And if you happen to have a Flake handy to dunk in the thick, hot, chocolatey gloop, well then, even better πŸ™‚

2015/01/img_0471.jpg

Yummy and educational.

Well the Aztecs did believe that chocolate was a gift from the god of knowledge, and who are we to argue?

πŸ™‚

Party

We invited 35 friends to the grand kitchen unveiling at the weekend.

Only, the weekend before this one? the kitchen wasn’t actually quite ready to be unveiled.

And neither was the living room, which we decided to start redecorating a couple of weeks ago.

Because that’s a great thing to do when you’ve got masses of guests due to come to the house very soon.

So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of nailing, sawing, painting and papering over the last ten days.

But I think we made it.

Just.

Or at least we were able to strategically place furniture in front of the bits that weren’t quite finished.

I think we got away with it.

Maybe πŸ™‚

So Saturday was party day. A whirl of cooking and baking

20140908-165105.jpg
Triple layer Mississippi Mud Cake

20140908-165228.jpg
White chocolate and strawberry cheesecake.

And a lot more that I was too flappy to take photos of.

Squawk.

I make a very convincing headless chicken πŸ™‚

Butter and spice

A drizzly afternoon.

A houseful of children.

Tired children, after two days of kayaking.

The perfect excuse for some baking.

20140805-211056-76256831.jpg

Butter ‘n’ spice biscuits

Take 400g of plain flour and sift it together with a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

20140805-204723-74843205.jpg

In a separate bowl cream together 200g of caster sugar and 175g of butter

20140805-204826-74906564.jpg

Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sugar/butter mixture and mix in well.

Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine well

20140805-205006-75006123.jpg

Divide the dough up into the same number of pieces as you have children to occupy, cover with whatever covering method you favour -bowl, cling film, tea towel – and place in the fridge for about 30 mins.

I did this bit before the kayaking so I could be smugly organised for once in my life (really must try that more often)(the organised bit, rather than the making cookie dough at silly o’clock in the morning bit).

Then, whenever noise levels/fractiousness/boredom levels get too high, produce the cookie dough out of the fridge (The loud “taaaa daaaaa” is optional), hand out rolling pins and cookie cutters and let the small creatures roll and cut to their hearts content.

Place the splodges carefully cut out and arranged shapes on a lined baking tray

20140805-205811-75491787.jpg
And bake in an oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes till pale golden in colour.

Let cool.

Then let the small creatures loose with icing and assorted doodahs to decorate the biccies to their hearts content.

20140805-210805-76085513.jpg

20140805-210827-76107016.jpg

20140805-211009-76209677.jpg

The biscuits themselves are rather moreish. Buttery with just a hint of warmth from the spices.

If you can taste them through all the creativity piled on top.

20 Days of Summer

Well, it’s traditional.

The schools break up for summer.

And so does the weather

20140719-070822-25702912.jpg

Six weeks stretch out ahead of us.

Full of possibilities.

Last year I tried to be uber mom. In a fit of misplaced enthusiasm I got the kids to each write ten things they wanted to do over the summer on to small slips of paper and put them in a jar. We could then take it in turns to pick things from their wish lists and do them all over the summer.

Super right?

Ha!

They moaned, they groaned.

Oldest child had one thing on his list, which was “play with x”

Youngest child included a trip to Paris on hers.

Which wasn’t such a mad idea given we were going to France on holiday…

only, we were down near the Spanish border.

So this year there is still a list of fun things to do

But I’m writing it.

Sod family cooperatives, I’m changing it into a dictatorship.

Anyway, as we all know, mums are always right and have the best ideas don’t they. πŸ™‚

Don’t they?

Twenty Fab Things We Will Try To Do This Summer

eat
Winkles.
I’ve tried oysters. We forced encouraged the kids to eat snails in France last year. I feel the whole foodstuff as bogey experience will not be complete without the addition of winkles to the canon.

Homemade sushi
Which will no doubt end up the size of giant sausage rolls, but I feel it must be done.

Grasmere Gingerbread.
We’ll be in the area for a week this summer, so it would be positively rude not to.
Every single day.

Caribbean

A new Caribbean restaurant has opened in Leamington. I’ve never eaten Caribbean food. Is this kismet?

Homemade Cherry Pie.
I will, yet again, face my arch-nemesis, pastry.
I will remember the televisual experience that was Twin Peaks

visit
Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.
I find the stories virtually unreadable, but the illustrations? Aaah.

Walsingham
during the candlelit procession to Our Lady of Walsingham. As someone who is slowly moving into agnosticism and possibly paganism, I will be out of my comfort zone here. A spiritual tourist?But I am in awe of people who have such faith, and I am always open to different routes to enlightenment.

The Tate Modern. Apparently, according to his Art teacher, oldest child needs to learn more about different schools of Art and different Artists. I did think that was one of the things they were supposed to teach them about in Art lessons at school – but what do I know? Anyway, we did visit the Tate Modern a few years ago, and did the obligatory “oh my god what is that?” . And, “ha! I could do better than that!”, so I think it could be time for a revisit. We will be cultured and appreciative this time. We will, honest.

The Leamington Gurdwara
is open for Heritage Open Weekend. I’ve been meaning to visit every year since it opened and failed miserably. This is the year I will do it.

English Heritage’s History Live festival of history.
A grand festival of reenactors and other historically minded people. And it’s today. And it’s raining.
Glastonbury for geeks intellectuals πŸ™‚

Do

Rock pooling.
It’s summer. It has to be done.

A headstand
That doesn’t involve me slamming into the wall and then slowly collapsing sideways like a felled tree trunk.

Lace making.
I bought the kit in a car boot sale over 15 years ago. This year I will actually have a go!

A picnic in the park.
In the rain if we have to.
And we might have to…

Leamington safari
There are so many bits of our town we haven’t explored.
Shamefully.
Foundry wood.
The canal.
All the mini parks.
We will know our town by the end of the summer.

read
Something old

20140719-080118-28878951.jpg
Mum’s favourite, and something I haven’t re-read for many years.

Something new

20140719-080225-28945424.jpg
Should be published in the next week or two. Very eagerly anticipated!

Something Borrowed
Well, it’s on the kindle, so not really borrowed, but this was on the recommendation of Tracey (hi Tracey!) so, sort of borrowed…:-)

20140719-080433-29073120.jpg

Something Blue
No not that kind of blue.

20140719-080511-29111042.jpg
A book about a silent retreat in the Himalayas.

Probably quite short then? πŸ™‚

And finally, just so it makes the list up to 20, and I’m a bit OCD that way…

Something that’s been mouldering on my bookshelves unread for a while and I’d really like to stop it looking at me reproachfully every time I choose a different title to read.

20140719-080713-29233605.jpg

It’s good to have a plan πŸ™‚

Raaaaah

It’s been a little while since I updated the blog.

Busy at work, busy at home. Stuff generally happening all over and all the time.

Less than a week till the schools break up for summer.

So much to do, so little time.

And I’ve been trying to do the mad Finnish woman’s diet.

You know, the “all sugar is evil” diet.

Which means I’ve been veering wildly from wanting to bite people’s heads off…
To wanting to lick their faces in case any vestiges of previously consumed chocolate bars may still be lurking there.

Yes, as you can see, I feel so much better.

But I will be strong. I will.

We just won’t count the three glasses of wine and piece of cake I had at the barbecue at the weekend.

Well, It would have been positively rude not to…

And life is made a little easier with this turning up today

20140708-142811-52091799.jpg

Almost makes salad a pleasure πŸ™‚

And the hardest part about cooking is….

Much excitement in our local supermarket today.

The bald bloke sat at the table next to mine in Costa in Warwick Tesco today?

Turns out he’s the bald bloke from Masterchef.

In Tescos to do some filming.

Yep, that’s what I thought.

Tesco’s??.

But then as I was wandering the aisles a la “Dawn of the Dead” a horrid thought occurred to me.

“What if it’s not Masterchef related but some awful “let’s peer in the average persons shopping trolley and comment on what they’ve bought” sort of programme?”

My shopping trolley, as a result, was a rainbow of healthy fruit and vegetables.

20140701-205654-75414416.jpg

As long as you didn’t dig too deep. πŸ™‚

Time for tea

The last two mornings I have got up early and gone for a run.

That noise you can hear? Β That’s the sound of people who know me falling over in a dead faint.

I don’t do running.

And as I was running around the park this morning I thought to myself

Β 

“I don’t DO running”

and then “why am I here?”

Β 

and then “I want to go hoooooommmmeee”

But, I’ve been reading recently.

and that can be a dangerous thing.

so according toΒ this

20140629-133501-48901479.jpg
I (along with most of the western world) have a biological age that is 18 years older than my chronological age.

Which makes me over 60.

But given the effect that 90minutes of Ashtanga on Friday followed by two early morning runs on Saturday and Sunday has had on my body, 95 would be a positively flattering estimate.

This can’t be good for you!

And then, and then, of course, is the ‘news’ that all sugar is evil, the work of the devil, and responsible for everything that is wrong in the world today.

So what is a girl to do?

Lavender and Honey Scones

No sugar (ahem) and it contains plant matter so it can count as one of your five seven a day.

Take 375g self raising flour and sift it into a bowl. Take 2heaped teaspoons of culinary lavender flowers and grind in a pestle and mortar or blitz in a processor

20140629-134737-49657372.jpg

Add the lavender to the flour and mix well.

Now add 2 tablespoons of runny honey and mix well, and then to this slightly sticky mix add 80g of butter. Use your finger tips to mix in until it resembles breadcrumbs

20140629-134948-49788291.jpg
Add between 150-200ml of milk – add a bit at a time, you don’t want it too sticky, but also try not to overwork the dough or the scones will be heavy. Once the dough has come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and press down.

20140629-135301-49981216.jpg

Cut out your circles and place on a baking tray. Brush with milk if you like.

20140629-135523-50123678.jpg
Bake in an oven, preheated to 220C gas 7 (200c if fan assisted), for about 15 minutes until golden.

I remember having Lavender ice cream when we were in Provence many years ago.
Sounds lovely doesn’t it?
Imagine eating frozen perfume and you get close to the experience.

These scones are not like that. The lavender is subtle and adds just a hint of fragrance to the scone.

20140629-140251-50571280.jpg

They go very well with strawberry jam

20140629-140007-50407390.jpg
And that ups the score to 2 of your 7 a day!

Result!

πŸ™‚