19 February 2015

Grey Day Comfort Food

This week has been a bit grey. The lovely sunny weather we had last week has been replaced with grey skies and gloomy days and it's really been a week for comfort food. On days like these, my go-to food is either a wonderfully warming casserole or a deliciously hearty pie. In my weekly shop from Aldi this week, I bought a pork joint for &1.99. It was a decent sized joint which I knew would make a couple of lovely meals.

First of all, I popped the joint into my casserole dish, added a good squeeze of BBQ sauce, a beef stock cube and some water and I cooked it on a low-ish heat for about 3 hours until the pork was falling apart, stickey and tender. Half way through, while I was turning the meat, I took off the skin, put it on a baking sheet, sprinkled it with salt and turned it into golden crackling which I then broke into pieces to snack on while the pork finished cooking.

Once the pork was cooked, I tore it into pieces and my first supper was pork and refried bean tacos with sour cream and salad. Completely messy to eat but totally delicious. I used tinned refried beans but there are plenty of recipes out there if you wanted to make your own. I just happened to have a tin in the cupboard and I was feeling lazy and hungry and I couldn't be bothered to go to the shop to buy the ingredients! Sorry but I didn't take any photos because after smelling the delicious pork roasting away in the oven all afternoon, I was absolutely ravenous and I was too busy scoffing my tacos to think about my camera. 

My second meal from the pork was a pie. Into a pan I chopped a sweet potato, 3 carrots and about 1/3 of a butternut squash. A little tip I have discovered about butternut squashes, If you buy one that has a small round bit on the bottom and a long neck bit (if you know what I mean), you get more flesh and fewer seeds so there is less wastage ...... I'm sure most people have figured that out but I just thought I would mention it. As they cost the same no matter what shape you buy it makes sense to get as much out of them as you can :-)

So buy one like this                                                        not like this

Anyway, back to the pie, I added a beef stock cube to the pan containing the pork, squash, carrots and sweet potato, along with some water and I cooked everything together until the vegetables were tender and the gravy had thickened up and then I tipped it all into a pie dish, added a shortcrust pastry top and popped it in the oven until it was golden brown. 

I just added some veg and there you have it, a delicious supper for about £2.00 for the whole thing. 

17 February 2015

Fancy Schmancy v's Good Old Fashioned Real Life

I read lots of blogs. Lots and lots of blogs. Even more since I hurt my knee and have a lot of time on my hands when I'm resting it and I love reading them. I love having a peek into other people's lives, seeing how they live, what they sew and knit and create, how they make their houses and gardens look amazing and also, what they cook. I read all types of blogs but, the ones that seem to always catch my eye when I'm looking for new blogs to read are the ones that are slick and beautifully presented. Amazingly perfect pictures, mouthwatering food and the most exquisite hand-made items that could happily grace the pages of a high-end magazine. I love reading them and looking at the artfully composed and fabulously lit pictures. I love stepping into their lives for a short while and experiencing how they live and it's 100% pure escapism because a part of me, a very big part of me in fact, wonders how on earth these people find time to do all the stuff they do, lead these perfectly, beautifully, wonderfully photogenic lives and still have time to blog about it! They must have way more hours in a day than I do, they must all be fully qualified photographers, chefs, seamstresses and interior designers and the only logical conclusion I can come to is that they either have servants or a magic wand ....... possibly both! :-)

My blog is very much a way for me to write down all the stuff that is going on in my life, both good and not-so-good. My photographs are generally passable but not usually great and sometimes, when I read back through old blog posts I can't help but notice the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error, which the compulsive perfectionist in me always has to go back and correct. My blog, like my life isn't perfect and it isn't always photogenic. I never seem to have enough spare money to do all the things that I would like to my house and garden and there are never, ever enough hours in the day to get everything done that I would like to get done. But hey ..... that's life. Apart from a bit of extra cash every now and then and a less leaky roof, there isn't very much that I would change.

So, in the spirit of my not-so-perfect, lovely life, here are the cleaned out and organised cupboards that I have spent the last week sorting out. No out of date food, well ..... nothing more than a few months out of date anyway and now, there is no danger of a head injury from falling tins or bags of flour when the cupboards are opened. It's fabulous :-)

 And here is the car-full of junk that was taken to the tip this morning!!!

Now ...... what next?!!

16 February 2015

8 Cupboards Down ...... Only 4 More To Go!!!!

Well, I am totally into all this de-cluttering malarkey. I have now completely emptied most of kitchen cupboards and I have dumped maybe 70% of the stuff that was in there. A good 20% of what was left has gone either to charity shops or is being saved to make a bit of money in the summer when the car boot sales start and what is left has been put through the dishwasher or thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed and has been put back into the lovely spotlessly clean cupboards. It's heaven! I still have some of the food cupboards left to sort out and then I intend to paint anything that doesn't move with brilliant white paint. After that, I can start the fun bit of putting everything back in and making it look pretty. My knee also seems to be behaving itself at the moment too so I am getting a fair amount done before I have to stop and give it a rest.

The sun has made an appearance again which is also nice. It makes me feel so much happier when the sun is out, even if it's not particularly warm. There are signs of life all over the place. 

The snowdrops are starting to flower. 

The daffodils are starting to come through although for some reason this year they are looking very small and stunted, almost like mini-daffodils.

The plant in the next picture, believe it or not, is a sweet pea plant, kind of an everlasting variety. It was given to me by one of my lovely friends when it was past its best and could no longer be sold at the market and I am ashamed to say I dumped it in a bag and left it on the table outside my house. Miraculously, it survived the dry weather last year, it survived being soaked and blown around during the wet and windy Autumn and it has survived the bitterly cold spell we have just had. I think the least it deserves is planting nice and deep in a big pot or maybe next to my wooden arch so it can clamber over it and make it look fabulous. So, as soon as I have finished blitzing the kitchen, I will make sure it's sorted out and find a nice permanent place for it to go. 

And, last but by no means least, my chickens are starting to lay again which is fabulous. My two girls are now laying me an egg every couple of days. They do sterling work keeping me in delicious eggs during the lighter months and I usually get two eggs each day from them from about April 'til the clocks go back in October but, during the shorter days and chilly weather, they take a break from their egg laying duties and concentrate on keeping warm and cosy. They tend to get a bit spoilt in the winter and they love it when I make them some nice warm porridge for breakfast when it's cold. This year, they will be getting a really really big walk-in run so I can open the door during the day when I'm home to keep an eye on them and they can free range around the garden and when I'm not home to look out for them, they will have a really big area to run around in. I have already bought it and it's standing in my hallway waiting for the weather to improve a bit more and my knee to get a bit better then I will be putting it together for them.  

Right, back to the kitchen to finish off the last of the cupboard clearing !

15 February 2015

Beware ...... Spring Cleaning Maniac on the Loose

I don't know if it's the recent bout of spring-like, sunny weather, the inactivity of spending most of my time sat on the sofa resting my knee or the fact I have no sewing to do because I have had to give up my market stall but, I'm really bored and lately, I have felt the urge to spring clean. To de-clutter not only my house but my life too. Next Friday, I will be reaching a milestone birthday (50 .... eeeek!) and I have to be honest, I think I might be having a bit of a mini-mid-life-crisis!! Too much time on my hands to sit and think about things. About where my life is taking me and about whether or not that direction is somewhere I want to go. I feel like I need a change. Maybe a really big change but a change nevertheless so, while I am pondering what this change might be, I am going to sort out my house in the hope that the rest might fall into place or at least become a little clearer and ..... if all else fails, at least I will have a clutter-free house :-)

Kitchen stuff from one of the cupboards waiting to be sorted and broken electrical stuff waiting to be taken to the recycling place.

So, after what feels like a million trips to the tip with junk, several trips to the charity shops to drop off things I think other people might be able to use and a big box tucked away in the spare room for the summer car boot sales, I now have kitchen cupboards that are empty of junk. I have cupboards that hold only the things I use all the time and I have to say, it feels very good. I found things in my cupboards that I haven't used for years. I'm terrible, I never throw anything away, just in case, but I am slowly realising that if things don't work or if I find I don't use them any more, I should either throw them out or pass them on. Something I am going to try and do from now on. My kitchen is still a mess. It's going to a take a bit of time to get things put away and back to normal and I really want to re-paint the kitchen as it's only been done once since we moved here so I still have a way to go before I move on to the next room, probably the living room. I fully intend, over the next few weeks, to go through every drawer and every cupboard in every room and de-clutter. I'm going to free up as much space as I can and simplify the way I live and when I'm finished, I'm going to stand back and take a look and see what's next.