Tuesday, 30 April 2013

When Life is a Hassle - Hasselback Potatoes

Have you ever had 'one of those days'.  Of course you have.  We ALL have. Today has been one of those days at our house.  It start early, very early when Andy, being very kind, was bringing up two big mugs of tea for us to drink in bed.  He caught the sole of his slipper on the edge of the stair and tripped.  Two mugs of tea landed upside down on the stair carpet and thus the day began.  

Poor chap, he felt so bad. We pulled up the sodden carpet and mopped the tea off the walls.  Then he had to go to the dentist.  Then he had a long commute to work.  All of this took place before 8 am!

Let's hope the rest of the day goes more smoothly for poor Andy.  In the meantime,  I've just made myself a comforting lunch of Hasselback Potatoes. 

No, I didn't make that name up.  I understand Hasselback Potatoes are originally from Stockholm.  Have you noticed how popular Scandinavian food has become?  It's the latest foodie trend!

These are really easy to make, no recipe required, but if you really prefer one  click on this LINK for a proper recipe.  Here's how I made my Hasselback potatoes.  

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.  In an iron skillet or oven proof pan, melt a tablespoon of butter for each potato.

Peel the potatoes and place them in a bowl of cool water to keep them from turning brown.  

Place a potato in a large spoon and carefully cut the potato into thin-ish slices, about 1/8 inch thick.  DO NOT cut all the way through the potato. They are supposed be in one piece, a whole potato with a sliced top. The spoon should stop the knife should you cut too deeply.   Return the sliced potato to the bowl of water and repeat the process on the remaining potatoes.

Drain the cut potatoes and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.  Place the potatoes, cut side up, in the skillet or pan and spoon the melted butter over them.  Season well with salt and pepper.  

Bake the potatoes for about 40 - 45 minutes.  Take them out of the oven, spoon the butter in the bottom of the pan over the potatoes.  Sprinkle over some grated cheese, I used cheddar, and return the potatoes to the oven to cook until they are a light golden brown.  

Serve with salad for lunch or as a delicious side dish for dinner.   Today may have been a hassle but Hasselback Potatoes make it all a little easier to take! 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Slash, the Tulip

I spend a lot of time in my garden just wandering around, with a cup of tea and the little black cat, looking at the plants and flowers.  I study each bud and blossom very carefully and I watch how they progress.  Every once in a while you find a plant that is a real character, just a little different from the rest, like SLASH- the tulip.

In his youth, Slash was a yellow tulip.  One of several standing in a clump in the raised flowerbed.  But look closely, Slash wasn't just yellow.  He had a blood red gash of colour across one petal.  He looked like someone had sliced him with a razor.

As time went by, Slash began to change.  He still had his red gash but he was no longer a yellow tulip... he was... how do I put this... turning ORANGE!

Day by day, Slash got brighter and more orange.  Was the red gash oozing colour into his petals?  What else could cause such a transformation?  Slash is now almost fluorescent!

I spend a lot of time observing the plants in my garden.  Probably too much time considering I've named a tulip, Slash!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Newspaper Plant Pots

Like most people who do a little gardening, I've been sowing some seeds.  Seeds are funny little things.   Either they don't germinate or they explode and you have hundreds of tiny seedlings!  Each little seedling must have a pot of it's own to grow into a proper, productive plant! 

I have a problem,  I don't have nearly enough pots to accommodate this many seedlings.   And there are more seedlings to come!

Fortunately I've found a green solution, home made newspaper flower pots.  Click on this link to the London Vegetable Garden for easy instructions to help you make your own newspaper plant pots.  

I've used a bit of masking tape to secure the bottom and side seams.  Then I've turned down the top to make a little cuff.  This helps to reinforce the pot and makes it easier to fill with compost.  This would be a great, green, gardening project for kids.  And when your seedling is ready to be transplanted, you just plant the whole pot.  Simple!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Today we had a very early start.  Andy had a long commute to work so we were having breakfast at 5:30 am.  By 10 I was about to gnaw through my own arm, I was so hungry.  Time to bake something tasty and QUICK, muffins!

This recipe comes from a brilliant little book by Susan Reimer, MUFFINS Fast and Fantastic, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins.  As you can see, the ingredients are metric.  If you use measuring cups for baking, the conversions can be found at the bottom of this post. 

Here are the ingredients you will need:

2 ounces (60 grams) rolled oats*
9 fluid ounces  (260 ml) milk**
8 ounces (225 grams) plain flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces  (85 grams) chocolate chips
1 egg
4 ounces (110g)  soft brown sugar*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 fluid ounces (90 ml)  vegetable oil

The very first thing you must do is place the oats in a medium sized mixing bowl and pour the milk over them.   You want the oats to soak up the milk and soften before putting them in the batter.  

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and place 10 paper liners into your muffin tins. Now you are ready to make the muffin batter.  

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add the chocolate chips and give everything a quick stir.  Set this aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In the bowl with the oat/milk mixture, add the egg, brown sugar, oil  and vanilla.  Mix well to combine all the ingredients.  

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients.  Stir until all of the ingredients are JUST combined.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  

Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups.  An ice cream scoop is great for this job.  Bake for about 20 -25 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned on top.   If you are hungry like me, eat while warm!

Are you wondering what the **** are about?  These indicate cup measurements for the dry ingredients in the recipe. 

*3/4 cup rolled oats
*1 1/2 cups plain flour
*1/2 cup light brown sugar

** I substituted 2 fluid ounces of the milk with plain natural yogurt to make the muffins extra moist.  It's one of my best baking tips and works every time!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

More Tulips!

It's Almost Wordless Wednesday and for once I think I am on time!  Last week I showed you the bright orange tulips that seemed to explode into full flower after a day of warm weather.

This week the yellow tulips have burst into bloom.  So here are a few snaps of the yellow tulips and their companion plants.  

And the orange tulips are still going strong!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Weymouth and the Crab House Cafe

This weekend, Andy and I celebrated our 11th Wedding Anniversary!  When I say celebrate, it means we had a slap-up meal at a special location.  This year we went to Weymouth in Dorset.

All of my British readers will be familiar with Weymouth and Chesil Beach.  But you may be thinking that you've seen this place before and have never been to Dorset.  

It looks very familiar.  There's a good reason.  If you watched the 2012 Summer Olympics you will recognise Weymouth and Portland as the venue for the sailing events.

We just had to stop and take a few photos of the bay on the way to our real destination, the Crab House Cafe.

Now this might look like a pretty wacky place, but they are serious about seafood.  

So serious they even have an oyster farm.   

I am not going to try to describe our lunch except to say it was beautifully prepared and the atmosphere was comfortable and quirky.  The staff was brilliant and the customers were friendly and chatty.  It was a lovely lunch.  Click on this Link to learn more about the Crab House Cafe.  I suggest you have a look at the menu section.  They are really serious about fish but everything else is for fun.  

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Up the Primrose Path

Do you ever wonder where certain phrases and quotations originate?  I was taking some photos of the primroses in the garden and the old saw 'Up the primrose path' came to mind.

So I 'Googled' it and up pops Ophelia in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet.

'But good my brother
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whilst like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own read.'

To be 'Up the primrose path'  means you are leading a life of leisure.  I often get it confused with 'being lead up the garden path', which sounds like a lovely thing to do, but it means you are being led astray!

So many common phrases we use every day are from Shakespeare.  We don't even realise we are quoting him.  I don't think he mentioned being led up the garden path.

But if the garden path is lined with primroses it can't be such a bad thing! 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Cappuccino Muffins for Mid-Morning Coffee Break

In America we call it a 'Coffee Break'.  In Britain, it's known as 'ELEVENSES'.  It seems like having a hot drink and a nibble in the middle of the morning is almost a universal practice.  

We start our day with a mug of hot tea by mid-morning we are ready for something a little stronger, coffee!  Nothing is nicer than something sweet with a strong coffee.  This recipe combines the two, Cappuccino Muffins.

I must warn you, these are seriously full of coffee, not suitable for the faint hearted or those of you who are caffeine free.    I suppose you could use caffeine free coffee granules for this recipe but I like that little flutter a good sugar+caffeine rush gives you.   Ready?  Here's how to make Cappuccino Muffins:

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  This recipe will make twelve muffins. 


250 grams plain flour
150 grams light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon  (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
110 ml milk*
225 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and coffee granules.  

In another bowl mix together all of the wet ingredients; egg, oil milk and vanilla.

Fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until JUST combined.   You can see the coffee granules in the batter!  Divide the batter equally among the paper liners.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  DO NOT OVER BAKE!  Let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

You can stop here and enjoy a lovely warm muffin with your coffee but I like a little coffee icing on my muffins:  

Mix 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules with 1 tablespoon boiling water.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.  When the coffee mixture is cool, beat in enough powdered sugar to make a thick glaze or frosting.  Spread icing over the cooled muffins, pour a cup of coffee and ENJOY!  

Get ready for the caffeine+sugar rush!  I love ELEVENSES!

*for extra fluffy muffins replace the milk with 50ml plain yogurt combined with enough water or milk to make 110 ml of liquid.  

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Orange Tulips and the Furry Head Gardener

I missed Almost Wordless Wednesday, AGAIN!  Better NEVER than late my dad used to say, but late it is.  Here is what should have been Almost Wordless Wednesday on Thursday:  Orange Tulips and the Furry Head Gardener.

I went out to fill the bird feeders this morning and was surprised to find the bright orange tulips had started opening.  

I think the little furry head gardener was surprised by them too!

Maybe it was just that mouse who likes to dine on the sunflower seeds chucked out by the birds.  

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Where Would We Be Without Tea?

Tea is magical!  It perks us up, calms us down, helps when we are sad and is lovely to share with we are happy.  Click on this LINK to hear the song, WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT TEA!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Beach Hut Project - Part II

In Britain, this Spring the temperature has been colder than most of the winter!  And it has rained almost continuously, not beach hut weather, really.  

But the British are a hardy lot and weather is no deterrent as long as there is a hot cup of tea available.   That's why Andy and I are so pleased to say we now have tea making facilities at the beach hut.

It's the first time I've ever used a camp stove so it's almost as exiting as Christmas for me!  No, I've NEVER been camping...EVER!

Andy assembled the little basket table, we've added a few more spotty accessories and we are ready for our first official cup of tea!

As  you can see from the umbrella, we are going to need that hot drink!  

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Pan Haggerty for Supper

Pan Haggerty, what a great name!  I must confess, it was the name that inspired me to give this RECIPE a try

Pan Haggerty is an old, traditional recipe from the Northern parts of England.  Some say it's specifically from Northumberland.  Made from just four basic ingredients and a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning, Pan Haggerty is the perfect comfort food.

All you need are finely sliced potatoes, an onion sauteed in a bit of butter...

Some grated Cheddar cheese, and a big oven proof frying pan.

Simply layer the potato, onion and cheese into the pan...

Top with another layer of potatoes, add a bit of seasoning, and you end up with this...

One of the tastiest dishes ever, Pan Haggerty!   Click on this link to find the
RECIPE for Pan Haggerty.  It's a great dish with a great name!