Lately #12

Dear blog,

It has been a while since I last wrote, so lets have a little catch up on what I have been up to (or rather my excuses why I have not blogged!) –

  • Working lots. But I am not complaining, its all good. I mainly work afternoons, evenings and weekends now, and I am trying to establish a routine (hard to do when you don’t have a regular shift pattern). Its a good job that I don’t have much of a social life these days!
  • Not cooking bloggable recipes. What am I like? I wrote a whole post about how I want to be an amateur food blogger etc, then radio silence! But due to my shift pattern, I am doing lots of batch cooking and freezing, using my slow cooker loads and creating meals where I do most of the prep in advance. I have upped my meal planning and organisational game a notch or two thats for sure! I might blog about this eventually (or probably not).
  • Falling for a new blog The other day I came across this lovely blog via The Wednesday Chef. I follow very few food blogs, but I just had to add this one to my Feedly feed. I will probably never cook any recipes from it, but the writing is so good. I love the story about the Italian grannies tutting at her housekeeping and washing habits. Funnily enough, I have a similar situation with our neighbour who lives opposite me. Although the same story is far less romantic set on a Kent council estate and with Barb opposite pegging out her sheets with a fag hanging out of her mouth!
  • Spending money I haven’t got on stuff I don’t need (thats a stupid expression, I have got it. I should just put it towards food and essentials). A wee side table from Habitat to put a plant on in the dining room in a 25% off flash event and two beautiful books from Phaidon at 50% off. Its my Xmas pressy to myself and the house, thats how I justify it!
  • Having luck in a charity shop! I found another great vintage cookbook for my collection in my local Oxfam bookshop for £2.49. It was published in 1955 and has some great photos, its not as kitschy as the American Betty Crocker books, but still glorious and retro.goodhousekeepinggoodHK
  • Talking of Xmas, its going to be an extra small affair this year. We need our roof repaired and a new fridge freezer as our 10 year old one keeps producing massive ice rinks on the bottom of it and then leaking. Its a good job that I have already bought Rob his present this year (his Kelly Kettle) and my books for me! I am already dreading Januarys credit card bill! Although to be fair, Xmas is always a small affair in our house anyway.
  • Acquiring another plant. This one used to belong to my nan who sadly passed away recently. (The basil next to it is from Morrisons). Its a lovely christmas cactus that she had in her room in her care home. I hope I don’t over water it!nans plant
  • Drafting and Planning lots of future blog posts. I aim to publish more posts in the run up to Xmas. I just need to get my act together and find time to edit them and take the photos. Its harder to blog in winter, as you tend to hibernate indoors and the days are darker and less photogenic. But life comes before blogging, so lets see how things pan out.
  • Editing my wardrobe. We all went out for a meal for my Mums Birthday at the beginning of November and I really did not have anything to wear. And I mean literally really did not have anything to wear! It was a poor show on my part! Ever since I started working part time, I have not really bought myself any new clothes, just replacing things when they fall apart. So my jeans were baggy and ill fitting, and I wore a top that was five years old and didn’t fit properly (and I no longer liked it). Thankfully my blazer and Converses saved the outfit and I looked semi respectful (I don’t do smart, only smart casual!) But the experience prompted me to have a major, much needed sort out of my clothing. Three bags were sent to the charity shop and I aim to have one of these grown up capsule/minimal/uniform type wardrobes filled with good quality mix and match basics that will last a long time (all from Primark, New Look and H&M thanks to my budget!) I am taking my inspiration from Reading My Tea Leaves Minimalist Wardrobe posts, telling myself “choose a colour palette and stick to it Hels” as I eye up another mustard colour cardi in the shops. Its gonna be a slow process, but one day I will be dressed like a woman in her thirties should be. Wish me luck!
  • Realising that I need a smart black coat for Nan’s funeral. Arrgh, I just sent one with funny pointy bits on the shoulders (that was about 8 years old) to the charity shop!! Shite, I had better get down the town and panic buy another coat that I hate and will only wear once or twice!

Rediscovering My Love Of Cooking

I have a confession to make – I lost my cooking mojo.

It was a strange and unexpected thing, as I always thought that I loved cooking and when I started my blog back in 2012, I hoped that a lot of my content would be recipe posts.

But like most things in life, it did not quite pan out as I hoped. So while my blog has evolved into more of a personal diary of sorts (which I am happy about), behind the scenes I had begun to dread the daily grind of trying to conjure up something tasty for dinner.

It was a gradual thing this losing my cooking mojo and were various reasons for it which I shall list in bullet points –

  • The change of routine when I left my full time job at the end of 2011 was a big contributing factor. I used to enjoy cooking dinner as my way of unwinding from the stresses of my day. Once my circumstances changed and I was at home more, cooking dinner became a chore rather than something to look forward to.
  • When we fitted our new kitchen in 2012 it took forever and ever. No exaggeration, I was without a kitchen for around five months! We survived on pre-made sandwiches, our local supermarkets salad bar and microwave meals. After living on convenience food for so long, it was hard to get back into cooking again.
  • I sound like such a spoilt brat when I say this, but when I started to use our newly decorated kitchen again, I found it hard to get used to. We had changed the layout around a bit and I hated twisting around to go from cupboard to cupboard and from the fridge to the sink to the cooker etc. The flow felt all wrong in our squareish kitchen which is not quite L or U shaped and has a bit of an odd lay out with its three doorways. I started to really miss the ease of use and generous work top space in the galley kitchen in our old house.
  • I had far too many recipes bookmarked and too many recipe books to choose from. I wanted to try all the latest fashionable cuisines and experiment with random spices (sumac anyone?) and unusual ingredients to expand my repertoire, but I was crushed with indecision every night trying to decide what to cook.
  • I tried a few of these challenging recipes. I remember one night I cooked a meal that took me about four hours, which had several different stages and I used nearly every utensil in my kitchen to make it. All for Rob to tell me he did not like it and push his food around his plate like a kid and just eat the meat. I was ready to kill him at this point and he nearly had his dinner poured over him! Plus I did not like it either, after all that bloody effort! Gah!
  • I was putting pressure on myself to make amazing, flavourful, complex meals each night, when really a simple salad or beans on toast would have been fine.

With all these factors combined, it had got to the stage where at the beginning of this year we were eating takeaways about three times a month (which is a lot for us) and eating far too many fish finger sandwiches! I finally admitted to myself that I did not like cooking as much as I thought I did, and set about making peace with this.

So how did I remedy all my shitty thoughts listed above and rediscover my love of cooking? Lets have some more bullet points!

  • I got used to my new routine and then started working more hours at my second job which gave me more structure. I also got over the upset and trauma of leaving my old job, stopped dwelling on it and got in a better place mentally which helped with my motivation.
  • I accepted that my kitchen was not the perfect layout and size. After all size doesn’t matter, its what you do with it that counts! I focused on all the good things about it, like the fact that I am really lucky to be on the property ladder rather than pay a fortune for a substandard kitchen in a rental place, it is decorated nice and how I want it to be, I have lots of storage and I have a great oven and some lovely equipment to use in it. I am amazed that I fell for what the home style magazines and media feed us – that I need a huge showy kitchen/family room thats bigger than my lounge with a large range style cooker and thousands of recipe books for inspiration in order to cook anything, as I am usually immune to this kind of stuff! The next time you are in a cafe or restaurant have a look at the size of their kitchen if you can, its amazing how cramped they can be but the food produced in it does not suffer for it. This puts things into perspective.
  • I became the proud owner of some Le Creuset pieces. Seriously, this is the good shit. The big Daddy of cast iron casserole bowls. It is good as they say. Do yourself a favour, save all your pennies (starve yourself if you have to) and buy some asap! Its so, so nice to cook with.
  • I decluttered the kitchen and rearranged the insides of the cupboards a couple of times so things worked for me better.
  • I dropped my old Macbook on the floor and smashed the screen at the beginning of this year (fortunately it was 8 years old on on its way out) losing all my bookmarks. And you know what, it was a relief to lose all those saved recipes that I would have never got around to trying! But not to lose the Macbook obvs!
  • I started to organise all the recipes I that had clipped out of magazines and printed from the internet over the years, throwing away lots that were too complicated and actually trying out some of them instead of having bundled in a drawer for years.
  • I sold, traded in and donated all of the recipe books that I did not use and instead of inspiring me, were making me indecisive and feel guilty for not using them. I now have a collection of just 6 books that I actually use and love. My favourite recipe books are my personal handmade ones of course!
  • The biggest contributing factor to finding my cooking mojo again was to go easy on myself. I decided that the Ottolenghi type recipes with unusual expensive ingredients are not for me. Who was I trying to impress anyway with my cooking repertoire and skills anyway? I was kidding myself trying to be a foodie. I am never going to produce meals that involve pomegranate seeds, spelt grains and kale every night. I admitted that I prefer to cook easy one pot meals that usually involve basic ingredients like tinned tomatoes and cheap vegetables like onions, peppers, carrots etc that you can easily find in your supermarket. My cooking is traditional comfort food that is not clever or fashionable, but is nutritious, tasty and filling.

So the point of this post is to say that although I am not a foodie and I am cool with that fact, I want to start to sharing more recipes on here! I cannot promise that they will become a regular feature on here (remember Slow Cooking Sunday and Tuesday Tune anyone? Whatever happened to them?!!) or that my photos will be much cop, although hopefully they will be a bit better than when I first started blogging! As we eat our dinners at around 8-9pm, flash photography is my only option I am afraid (which is a big no-no in food blogging). So please try to overlook my bad photos! I will share some cheap and easy (and mainly vegetarian) recipes that we enjoy and that I hope you will like.

Side note – When I was adding the links from my archive, I could not believe how bad my writing was in my early days of blogging! I am not exactly great now, nor will I ever be, but is good to see that I have improved slightly over the years!

Another side note – I gave this post its final proof read and published it just after eating a bowl of pinhead/steel cut oats with manuka honey and chia seeds! Aka the internets favourite breakfast! Opps! What can I say, I like wholemeal, oldfashioned, unprocessed, hearty food and I like to try out the lastest superfood wonder! I guess there will always be a part of me that is a wanna be and has a slight FOMO. Still, it beats eating Ready Brek!

Madam Mix-a-Lot

It has been a while since any new (to me) Pyrex has entered my life.

There are many reasons why this is the case. Mainly because my local charity shops are rubbish, the prices are sky high on Ebay right now (to the point where I have been tempted to sell a few of my pieces for a tidy profit) and I have been on another decluttering mission.

Because of my ongoing decluttering, I always think long and hard before buying anything new. Do I need it? Will I use it? Have I got one already?

So many questions that I chose to ignore when I bought this little number below!mix it upIts another Cinderella style JAJ mixing bowl. Yes, I know I need one of these like I need a hole in the head. But when it comes to Pyrex, my weakness is the mixing bowls! They are just so nice to bake with and the pourers on the side are such a great design feature.

It cost me £4.99. Not exactly the charity shop bargain of the year, but as I have said before there is no such thing as a bargain in my local chazzas! I justified the spend by walking home instead of spending £2.70 on my bus fare. Oh yeah, and the money going to a good cause bit!

I have no idea what the name of this pattern is though, or how old it is. My guess is its from the late 60’s, early 70’s. Does anyone out there know?

*Edit 01/03/15* I have found more info on the pattern via Flickr here!