Lately #16

Oh dear, its October and I haven’t blogged!

I know – I will do a quickie/bullet points/catch up type of post to dip my toes back into blogging and hopefully it will spur me on to write more posts soon!

Q – What have I been up to, then? A – Not much as usual, but here are a few mundane details, if you are interested….

  • We are cracking on with the house and garden to do list. Rob got the all clear from the hospital recently (although he was a bit upset that his Scarlet Johansson look-a-like physio dumped him told him that she did not want to see him anymore!) So now that he is fit enough for manual labour, he has built our garden path and assembled his new man cave, sorry I mean shed. I wouldn’t say that our garden is looking good, but its looking much, much better. I will share some pictures on here soon.
  • I finally found a free WordPress theme that I like! I was thinking of dropping £39 on a fancy Pipdig theme, all because I hated how my blog looked. Luckily I found the clean and simple Prana theme and saved my pennies. Its not perfect, but it will do for now. I just need to figure out how to add social media buttons to my blog now. Help!new bike
  • Talking of dropping a considerable amount of money… I have a new expensive, fancy pants, female specific road bike. And I have never spent so much money on myself! But, I have been working hard of late, and I did get some money back from the tax man as work screwed up my payments last year. Plus Rob contributed some money towards it (its my Xmas and future present combined from him), but blimey, if someone would have told me this time last year that I would own a £600+ bike, I would have told them ‘yeah right’! Its official – I am cycling nut now. What have I become!
Meme source via Google. Credit unknown.

True dat. Meme source via Google. Credit unknown.

  • We have been eating lots of crumbles recently, and I have been over sharing them on Instagram. Sorry about that, I just can’t help myself! This is our favourite topping recipe. Its a bit cakey, cobblery, hob-noby, and crumbley all at the same time. If you can imagine such a thing? Needless to say its good! Double the recipe to feed four. Oink oink!crumble

In Hel’s Kitchen #3

It seems that every time I talk about starting a new feature on here it is the kiss of death for it! Remember Design classics, Slow Cooking Sunday and In Hel’s kitchen anyone? Note to self – I must try harder!

This post has been in my drafts since May (!!) because I have not got my act together and managed to take any photos of our meals. So instead I will talk about food a bit randomly in bullet points, just because food is my favourite thing. Especially the kind of food that comes covered in chocolate!

    • Lately I have become addicted to eating fresh mangos. So good topped with natural yogurt and a little runny honey. Mmmm, mangos…Yes, she does like the mangos

  • Related – I made these Deliciously Ella lollies. They were good. I used normal cows milk because I could not be bothered to open a can of coconut milk for just five tablespoons BTW.
  • I work a lot of late shifts, so to make my life easier during the summer months, I would typically cook up a load of grains (usually quinoa), wash and chop up loads of lettuce and lots of peppers, carrots, celery etc, all in advance ready for me to chuck together on a plate, with maybe some feta, halloumi, a can of tuna or salad bean mix and whatever dressing I could be bothered to whip up when I get home. Easy peasy.
  • I am also eternally grateful for my slow cooker. I use it at least once a week. I am also thankful that I invested in a decent rice cooker five years ago. My rice cooker has a huge hole in the lid from where I dropped it, the inner bowl is dented out of shape from where I dropped it and will sometimes get stuck in the cooker (yeah, you could say that I am a bit on the clumsy side!) But somehow against all odds it still works!
    When I come home from work after a late shift, straight away I will bung some rice (or quinoa) in the rice cooker, and if I am heating up a defrosted-here’s-one-I-made-earlier-meal instead of using my slow cooker, I bung that in a saucepan and stick it on the stove to warm up at the same time, then go upstairs and get changed into my pj’s, and then by the time I come downstairs, dinner is usually ready. Boom!
  • We also eat a lot of cous cous these days because its so convenient. Chilli or curry with cous cous anyone? I like to break the food rules from time to time. And make my life easier.
  • You might be fooled into thinking that I have got my meal planning game sorted. That is not the case. I do try, but I am just not the organised/type A/super woman/homemaking machine that the internet (or rather a lot of lifestyle blogs and Pinterest) wants me to be. I love this post from Posy Gets Cosy about the pressure we put on ourselves to feed our families with nutritious meals all planned weeks in advance. The comments on the post are good too. There is a lot of wisdom on there.
  • I baked two successful (refined) sugar-free chocolate cakes. First this chocolate cake (not pictured) and these peanut butter brownies (pictured in the photo below). Both were very tasty, and chocolaty enough to kid myself that they were a naughty treat. I am not sure how healthy they are (as honey and dates are still sugar and I think cocoa powder is pretty fattening) but I am definitely going to make these again.
They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

They might not look pretty, but they tasted good!

…….I guess you could say this post is a little round up on how we eat in my household in spring/summer. Now that the temperatures are cooling, I am looking forward to cooking and eating more soups, stews and lots and lots of stodge! Mmmmm, stodge!

In Hel’s Kitchen #2

Here is what we have been scofing down lately –

  • As I work until 8 pm on average four nights a week, We eat this meal quite often. Its a favourite in our house because its quick and easy to prepare, foolproof and super tasty. (I never bother adding the extra 1/4 cup of water BTW). We eat one meal of this with brown basmati rice and freeze the other portion to have on Tacos Tuesdays!!! Thank you Instagram for introducing me to this institution! Shove some lettuce then shredded salsa chicken mix into a taco shell and top with cheese, bite into it and then pick up the broken taco pieces off your top, the table, the floor and eat them up. Messy food on Tuesdays is the best!

    Wow, look at my food styling and photography skills. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on oven tray and bowl of un appetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

    Wow, look at my mad food styling and photography skillz. Salad still in the spinner, cheese in the box grater, taco shells still on the oven tray and a bowl of brown unappetising looking slop. Wow, just wow!

  • When I first left home, before I started worrying about processed foods, I cooked a lot of frozen things covered in breadcrumbs. The only thing that I really miss eating from those days is Spicy Bean Burgers (and maybe chicken Kiev’s, a guilty, trashy, food pleasure of mine!), so I have been on the hunt for a good homemade bean burger recipe for a long time. I have made a few duds over the years, let me tell you! I find that veggie burger recipes that involve breadcrumbs just taste bland with a horrible, overpowering soggy bread flavour. Yuck. Plus there are loads of over complex veggie burger recipes out there – like this one that involve hours in the kitchen and tons of washing up! I finally hit the bean burger recipe jackpot with this one from Moosewood Low Fat Favourites. Its so easy and tasty. Win, win! And wowzers, Rob does not complain about the lack of beef in his burger! I just fry up my onions etc, then bung all the ingredients (halved, using just one can of kidney beans) into my food processor, wiz it up, shape them and fry them, then enjoy them with salad for tea and the left overs for lunch the next day.beany babies
  • This recipe here from the Moosewood resturant (again) was very easy to cook and the most hippy chow type meal that I have made in a while. I felt some serious good vibes from all those greens, legumes and grains (I served ours with bulgar wheat) man. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo. I was too busy making peace signs and sticking it to the man, man.
  • This tamale bean pie recipe pictured below, that I tore out of the Sainsburys magazine ages ago, and now cannot find online or anything like it. Although this recipe here has similar ingredients and what not, but is done in the slow cooker with the cheese in the bottom, rather than the top like mine (so not at all like it then!). This is yummy, proper, stodgy comfort food that deserves its very own post. I will sort one out eventually. By eventually, I mean next year probably!

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

    Yet more of my award winning food photography

  • On my never ending quest to make the perfect sugar free oaty energy type bar, I made these healthy apple flapjacks. Which were not quite as good as this favourite bake of mine. I felt they were missing something. Maybe a little butter or marg and some sugar maybe? But still, it was an healthier acceptable alternative and I used up some apples that were about to turn.

Its Meat Free Week this week and Rob and I are taking part as I love a challenge! I always do dry January, Sober October and took part in the blog every day thing a few years back, and not forgetting my upcoming 35 mile bike ride (which I might have mentioned once or twice on here!) Are you taking part in meat free week? I will do a little blog post about our week and reveal if we have made it all the way. Or rather, if I make it all the way, as Rob has already cracked and eaten a ham and Philadelphia wrap for lunch!*

*Amendment – I stand corrected. Rob is not taking part. He didn’t crack at lunch time because he is not taking part.

Update 13/05/15 – I ate no meat for a week and a half in the end. I would have been happy to carry on indefinitely, but Rob wanted a chicken curry and I could not be bothered to cook two meals. We still have meat free meals 3-4 times a week though.

My Milk Glass Cake Stand

I thought to myself recently “my blogs got a bit show ‘n’ tell lately. I must stop going on about stuff I have bought“.

And I will do. Right after I share my indulgent purchase of the month with you, that is!

I justify this post because I think a lot of us bloggers and blog readers like stuff like pretty cakes, pretty nik-naks and a right good bargain.

Do read on if you are a fan of Vintage Pyrex, Hazel Atlas, Phoenix Opalware, Anchor Hocking Fire King, Jadeite and milk glass in general. And do read on if you have long admired the cake stands that they use as props on The Great British Bake Off and that seem to be in every photograph in every baking recipe book ever.

Look away now if you are concerned about the environmental problems with cheap consumer goods manufactured in China* and the copyright issues and ethics behind knock off goods….

Cos I got me one of these!milk glass cake stand

As Wayne and Garth would say “schwing!!”milk glass cakey

Thanks to a heads up from French for Cupcake on Instagram, I am the proud owner of a 10″ fake milk glass cake (that is actually glass not ceramic) for £9.99! They had loads at my local branch. I ummed and ahhed about what size and colour to get, and I did consider buying a few more to maybe sell on Ebay. But I would feel a right **** doing that. Its all very well selling vintage bits and bobs, as they tend to be one of a kind, but I could never rip people off with something that they could buy in a shop around the corner from themselves. Note to self – this is why I will never be rich. I am not ruthless enough!

Dodgy camera phone pic

Dodgy camera phone pic

I have long admired these cake stands and I am so pleased to own one now, and so chuffed that I saved loads of money with a much cheaper identical version!

I think to celebrate, instead of baking my usual healthy-sugar free-bananary-oaty-peanut buttery-type of slice, I need to bake something photogenic involving lots of layers, food colouring and a shed load of butter cream!

Image from Click on picture for source.

Image from Click on picture for source.

* It had a sticker on the bottom saying ‘made in China’. The real deal cake stands are made (by hand) by Mosser Glass in America.

In Hel’s Kitchen #1

I love food, cooking and eating.

Maybe, just maybe, I love the eating part a little bit too much for my own good!

Never mind eh! Even though I love talking about food, I don’t really like blogging about food. I find typing up the ingredients and method really tedious. And, if Im honest, my posts are dull, too long and my food photography is lacking good lighting, pretty props and all the rest of the stuff that passes as good blogging!

But I still want to share the best of the wholesome, cheap ‘n’ easy recipes that I cook on here. So I thought I would start a new series similar to my Lately# posts where I just round up my thoughts and share a link and a picture or two.

I know plenty of other bloggers do these type of posts (thanks for the inspiration gals) and I really like them. I always click on the links to see if I fancy trying out the recipes and I love having a nosey at other peoples meal planning and daily eating habits. So its only fair that I share mine in return!

Plus, this is a quicker, lazy way of food blogging and I have been dying to drop Hel’s Kitchen as a blog post title (snortle!). Win win!

I don’t know how frequent these posts will be, time will tell. But for now here are some of the highlights of what we have been stuffing our faces with in late Jan/early Feb –

  • This vegetarian chilli from Whats Gaby Cooking. Very tasty. Next time I make it I will use less stock though. I actually had some fresh limes for once (Mum sent them over) and the freshly squeezed lime juice definitely adds an extra something to the dish.
  • Another healthy oaty snack bar to satisfy my sweet tooth from Ellie Krieger. Don’t bother making these if you do not have a food processor.snack tretch
  • Another veggie chilli from Bessie’s Veggie Food. I messed mine up by adding too much chilli powder. (Whoopsie! Think runny noses and tears while eating, not a good look!) But I will make this again. Its quick, cheap and filling. And it makes a huge amount. You will be eating this for days.chili
  • This two ingredient pizza dough. I was intrigued to see how it works, and sure enough it does make a nice enough pizza dough, thats great for days when you have no time to let a dough rise etc. I made mine with Lidl’s Greek style yogurt (as its cheaper than the traditional Fage Greek yogurt) so my dough was very heavy and dense (still tasty though). Next time I will try it with the real deal strained Greek yogurt to see if it makes any difference.
  • Yet another chilli recipe! This chicken barley chilli from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. One meal eaten and two meals frozen, for when I am working lates, all from two chicken breasts. Boom!
  • And finally as a little treat, just to maintain our podgy figures in order to keep warm during Februarys big freeze, these cocoa powder brownies from Smitten Kitchen found via The Wednesday Chef. Mine were a little crunchy on the top, but still very moreish!

I promise you that we do not just eat chilli’s, pizza and brownies! These were just my favourite new recipes that I have cooked recently. Honest!

Although, to be fair, I would be quite happy existing on a diet of chilli, pizza and brownies!

Some Festive Treats

I was spoilt rotten for Xmas this year. The boy did good, Rob got me exactly what I wanted – three lovely books!good books

Well it was a no brainer for him really, as the first two books I bought myself for cheaps in TK Maxx and then told him to pay me back! And the third mahoosive book at the bottom of the pile I asked him to get for me!

Ok, so lets forget the fact that I have just recently downsized my cookery book collection. So much for my new minimal approach to cooking, opps! There will always be room for another book by Jane Hornby as I love her recipes and the design concept in her books.

The Retro Furniture Classics is another book about my favourite subject to geek out on. And as for the Mid Century Modern Complete, well lets just say that I did not think another book could manage to surpass the wonderfulness of last Xmas’s present Orla Keily’s book Home, but I think this book has!

It is a beautifully laid out book with great photos on everything possible subject from the era. I love the chapter with the house tours and the cover designed by Jenn Ski. And its going to take me blooming ages to read – yay!

So now its time for a little festive treat for my blog readers. If you want a chuckle and then to think WTF how did she manage that? Then watch this video of me falling off my bike at Bedgebury Park last weekend!

Rob has recently treated himself to a sports camera thingy (basically a cheaper version of a GoPro) and managed to record my eldest nephew and himself falling off their bikes on the red route (a totally respectable thing to do – even the pros do it) and then me somehow managing to fall off my bike at the end of the family trail (totally not respectable) just before the car park. Don’t ask!

Its my nephews little hahahahahah laugh at the end of the clip that cracks me up!

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!

Lately #11

OMG I have not blogged at all this month! How rubbish am I!

I will spare you from all my reasons and excuses and quickly bash out a (lazy) what I have been up to lately type of post. Just so that I can keep up my momentum of blogging at least once a month since I started my lil ol’ blog back in January 2012.

  • So yeah, what have I been up to in August? The truth is not that much. Just working, working and more working. I am pretty much burnt out right now. Three jobs is hard man. I plan to write another post about my balancing act at some point soon. Just as soon as I get some time.
  • Thankfully, I am off on our annual family holiday next week. Whoo hoo! We are all sailing off to the Isle of Wight tomorrow. Look out islanders here we come! Make sure you have your chip, ice-cream and gin supplies all well stocked, as we plan on gorging ourselves silly and completely overdoing it!
  • We are taking an extra person with us this year. Last month I became an aunty again for the third time. My sister had another boy! He weighed 9lb11oz and is absolutely gigantic and has so much hair.
  • I camped at a VW show in Essex recently and had a laugh with our VW friends.
  • Recently I had a major freak out and spent over £45 on Kilner Jars because I had some flour/pantrymites/weavils. Shudder! It was awful, I did not realise I had them at first. I was mid baking a cake and had weighed out my flour and was sifting it into my mixer bowl when I noticed something crawling in it. Eww! The little bleeders got everywhere (I am a messy baker), they were all over the work top and crawling in the bowl. Yuck! They had spread from their original home the value bag of plain flour (I know that was the source, trust me) to all the other bags of flour in the cupboard. So cue me frantically throwing away all my flours, bleaching inside every cupboard and putting every kind of dried good I own into an airtight container. As soon as I was brave enough to step back into the kitchen and had stopped feeling itchy, that is. On the plus side of this experience, my kitchen has now become even more organised! Organised to the point were I proudly gave a tour of my kitchen cupboards to one of our friends, when he came round recently. Yes, I am sad!
  • I have my cooking mojo back, so I might be posting more recipes on here soon. Although one of my main reasons for not blogging is I CBA to take any photo’s. I really need to find my photography mojo again. It disappeared around 15 years ago, when I finished my photography A level. Oh dear.
  • Rob and I hope to squeeze in one or two more camping trips in September. Its such a shame that I have been working every weekend since May. But on a crappy contract I have to take what I can get. And its typical that the available overtime drys up at the end of summer. Such is life.

Parsnip and Banana Cake

My parents gave me a big bag full of parsnips recently that they had grown on their allotment. Thanks to their generosity and green fingered skills we have been eating well lately. I have made the obligatory parsnip soup, a sunday roast with lots of roast parsnips and yet more parsnip soup (I love homemade soup!)

The other day I still had a few left over parsnips, plus a few sad manky brown bananas in my fruit bowl waiting for me to take them to the compost bin, when I suddenly had one of those hey presto moments and thought to myself – boom! Lets make a parsnip and banana cake!

I did a quick Google and found a few recipes online, but in the end I made my own version based on the recipe for carrot cake from my favourite vintage cookbook The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.cake1We both enjoyed this cake, and despite the burnt looking edges it was a very moist and moreish cake. This cake would be lovely with a nice cream cheese frosting on top. I didn’t bother to ice it as I wanted to save a few calories for our eternal (half arsed) dieting quest. Plus the only cream cheese I had in my fridge was the low fat kind with garlic and herbs.

Its really annoying, I find that my oven makes all my cakes have a brown and sometimes dry crust. I have tried using both the fan and conventional settings, but I still get brown edges. I want to bake more photogenic looking cakes for my blog! Maybe I should clean the oven! A word of warning – if you ever come around my house for tea, my cakes taste better than they look, honest!

225g Self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g light brown sugar
75g sultanas (or nuts or choc chips etc. Its up to you, go crazy!)
100g grated parsnip (about 3-4 medium parsnips)
2 ripe bananas
2 medium eggs
150ml oil


  • Grease and line a 20.5cm (8 inch) round baking tin
  • Sift flour and baking powder into your bowl or mixer bowl
  • Add the sugar, sultanas, parsnips, broken up bananas, eggs and oil.
  • Turn on you mixer or beat by hand or with a hand whisk until mixed together nicely.
  • Pour into tin.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for about 1 hour.
  • Cool, ice if you want, slice and enjoy.