Friday, 31 May 2013

Horrible Histories Song - ROSA PARKS

Learn about the brave and brilliant Rosa Parks by listening to this great HORRIBLE HISTORIES SONG.   She was the driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

And it all started because she sat on the bus!

You can learn more  HERE.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Daisies for Almost Wordless Wednesday

I love daisies!  I've let them run riot in my garden.  This is the time of year they are at their best so I think they should be the stars of this week's Almost Wordless Wednesday!

If these cheerful little flowers don't make you smile then there is no hope for you.  

You might think 'If you've seen one daisy, you've seen them all' but this flower has spoon shaped petals!  

See the difference?

As you can tell, this part of the garden is slightly out of control....

But when it comes to daisies, the more the merrier!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Cooking With The Kids - Pizza!

It's Half Term here.  The children are out of school for a week.  That means there will be lots of hungry kids to feed and entertain.  I have an idea how you can do both at the same time.... make PIZZA!

I know you can have pizza delivered but it cost a fortune and pizza is really easy to make.  Honestly, it is!   You can even make the dough the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator while you sleep.  

All you need is this simple pizza dough, a little pasta sauce, and a few toppings.  It only takes a small amount of each ingredient to make a great pizza.  Here's your chance to use up that odd bit of bacon, the leftover sausage and any veggie that takes your fancy.  

You can use any cheese you have on hand.  I made my pizza with cheddar.  Fussy eaters can customize their pizza.  If Hector doesn't like tomato sauce he can leave it off.  You can use BBQ sauce to make a Sloppy Joe pizza.  The options are endless.  Have I convinced you? Good!  Let's make the dough.

This is all you will need to make pizza dough:

1 packet dried yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups of flour - strong bread flour is best 
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil 

In a large mixing bowl combine 1 packet of dried yeast,  a pinch of sugar, and 1 cup of warm water.  Let the mixture sit in a warm place until the yeast begins to foam and bubble.  

Then add 2 Tablespoons of oil and 2 cups of flour.  Stir with a wooden spoon until you have a rough dough.  Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on to your work surface and knead the dough, adding more flour as required to make a smooth, slightly springy dough.  It should take about 5 or 10 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil into the mixing bowl and grease the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Place the kneaded dough into the bowl and turning the dough ball around to cover it with the oil.  Place a bit of plastic wrap over the bowl and leave the dough to rise.  (You can put the dough in to the fridge now and use it the next day.  Let the dough come to room temperature before making the pizzas.)

The longer you let the dough rise, the better the crust will taste but you can use it once it has doubled in size.   I like to make individual pan pizzas in my smallest cast iron skillet.  You can make one big pizza if you like.  Use a large baking sheet to make thin crust pizza.  Just make sure to lightly oil any pan before putting the crust on it.  Make the crust as thick or as thin as you like.... it's all up to you!  

Start constructing the pizza by spreading on a bit of pasta sauce, then adding as many toppings as you like.  If you are using sausages, ground beef, bacon or veggie mince, you must cook them before adding them to your pizza.  Dice  or  thinly slice any vegetables you are using for toppings.  Cheese can be thinly sliced or grated but always sprinkle it on last.  It helps to keep the meat and vegetables moist and tender.

Bake the pizza at 200C/400F for 20 - 30 minutes.  Baking time will depend on the thickness of your crust and toppings.   The pizza crust should be golden brown and sound slightly hollow when tapped.  That's all there is to it.  Slice, eat and enjoy!   You've got great pizza and not a cardboard box in sight!  

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Blustery Blooms for Almost Wordless Wednesday

We are having very windy weather.  Every flower is being blown and tossed about, as a result my photos are a bit blurred.  But the daisies and columbines are so beautiful I wanted to share them with you for Almost Wordless Wednesday.

This lovely flower was a gift from my Mum-n-Law.  

The daisies are running riot in the front border.

This little flower was dancing in the breeze and refused to stop for a photo.

Someone thinks he is hidden.  Perhaps he is trying to hide from the wind!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Rhubarb Muffins

My allotment friend John, the dahlia expert, just gave me a lovely batch of Rhubarb from his patch.  Rhubarb is almost a religion in Britain, you have to love it to live here.  

Now this is where we have a slight problem.  I am learning to like rhubarb but I don't love it....yet!  

Each time I try rhubarb, I like it more. I actually found myself nibbling away at the chopped rhubarb I prepared for today's recipe - Rhubarb Muffins!

The thing is, if you don't tell the fussy eaters at your house these muffins have rhubarb in them they will have munched their way through without ever suspecting you've hidden it in there.  Rhubarb at the ready? Let's make some muffins!

 Heat the oven to 200C/400F. Place six paper muffin liners into a muffin tin.  

Chop 150 grams of rhubarb and sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar over it.  Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.  Let the rhubarb cool while you prepare the ingredients for the muffin batter.

To make the batter you will need:

150 grams plain flour
50 grams sugar
1 egg
50 grams butter - melted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 ml milk

Sift all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Drain the rhubarb juices into a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 100 ml of liquid.   Crack the egg into the measuring cup and pour in the melted butter. Stir well to combine all of the liquid ingredients.  

Pour all of the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir until everything is JUST combined.  Add the cooked rhubarb and stir just enough to distribute it through the batter.  NEVER OVER MIX MUFFINS they will be tough.  

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for about 25 - 30 minutes.  OK, maybe you don't love rhubarb but I bet you will really like these rhubarb muffins!  I do. Thanks John!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Very Busy Days

The next few days are going to be very busy ones.  Busy days are bad for blogging. However, I do have a couple of new garden photos to share with you.  

Have you noticed how the colours progress with the seasons?  Early spring is all yellow, full of primroses and daffodils.  Now pink and blue have become the dominate colour scheme. It must have something to do with the insects that feed on the flowers.  

I am sure there is an explanation for it all and when I have a bit more time, I might do some research into it.  But for now I am just going to enjoy the garden's pink and blue phase before getting back to work.  Thanks for being patient with me.  I hope to have more for you soon.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Toad in the Hole - Vegetarian Style or Not

When it comes to British food, Toad in the Hole is as traditional as it gets. One of the earliest recipes for Toad in the Hole dates back to 1861 and doesn't mention sausages but pieces of meat.  Still, it's the same basic recipe, sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding batter.  

I am ashamed to say, I've never make Yorkshire Puddings or Toad in the Hole before today.  I thought it would be complicated or tricky but it's all very straight forward if you follow two simple rules:  

Make sure the oven and the oil in the pan are both very HOT and DO NOT open the oven door to look at the pudding!

If you follow these two simple rules and this TOAD IN THE HOLE RECIPE  you can make one of the best traditional British dishes ever! 

I used vegetarian sausages for our Toad in the Hole and served it with Mustard Mashed Potatoes , green garden peas and lots of onion gravy.  You can use any type of sausage you like, veggie or not.  Just remember, no peeking! 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Horrible Histories Song - The Plague

It's been a while since we've had a Horrible Histories Song so I think it's time for this toe tapping number all about the Plague! 

Click on this Link for THE PLAGUE SONG!  Pong! 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Sanding and Painting - DIY

This weekend is going to be a busy one, so there won't be any time to bake cookies or cakes for Sunday afternoon tea.  There probably won't be a Sunday afternoon tea. We are doing some DIY.  

So, until the sanding and painting are done and I have an opportunity to prepare the next post, I am leaving you with a few photos of the beautiful apple blossom in our garden.

The little espaliered apple trees are almost in full bloom.  

Did you know that apples are part of the rose family?  If you look closely you can see how similar the apple blossoms are to wild rose flowers.  

But this isn't getting the painting done.... so I must get busy.   

Hope to see you again SOON!  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Lost Family Recipe Found In Devon!

Regular readers will know that my childhood memories usually involve food; usually sweets, mostly chocolate.  My Mom did a lot of baking, most of it was from scratch but there were one or two things she used a mix to make.  Chocolate Pudding Cake was one of those things.  It was a sort of sponge cake that made it's own fudge sauce.  

It had been years since I'd had it...almost had forgotten about it.  One day I was looking at a little cookbook  Andy had bought me years ago.  It was a souvenir of our first day trip together.  And what did I see... a recipe for Chocolate Fudge Pudding!

I read the recipe carefully, the description matched the Chocolate Pudding Cake  Mom used to make exactly.  I had to bake it.  

It contains the most basic baking ingredients, I am sure you already have them in your store cupboard:

Please note:  1/2 UK pint = 1 1/4 cups US    I found that 375F was too hot in my oven so I turned the temperature down to 350F/180C and baked the pudding cake for about 30-35 minutes.  

Simply spread the cake batter into a baking dish and pour over the sauce mixture. DO NOT MIX the two together.  Baking will make the sauce for you.

Be sure to place the baking dish on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper to catch any sauce that may bubble over the side of the dish.  

I love to eat this while it's still warm, but you must let it cool a little before serving. The pudding is like lava when it comes out of the oven and letting it cool thickens the sauce.  Of course, folks in Devon will tell you to serve this pudding with clotted cream.  I think a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be good too..but I like it just as it is...just like Mom used to make, in Missouri!  

*Recipe from Favourite Devonshire Recipes  compiled by Amanda Persey, published by J. Salmon LTD.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Tiny Tigers in Our Gardens

I've heard it said that the only difference between Tigers and Tabby Cats are their size.  If that's true then I have a tiny black panther in my garden.

He stalks the bugs in the back garden and pretends the day lily leaves are a jungle.  

The thinks he roaring and snarling as he attacks the plants in the flowerbeds, but it just sounds like purring and squeaks to me.

It's so funny, but  you mustn't laugh.  You must never laugh at a jungle cat no matter what size he is, large or small.

Inside your cat is a majestic beast, regal as a lion, stealthy as a tiger...

And just the perfect size for a cuddle.  

Friday, 3 May 2013

Picnic Pudding

I love picnics, actually, I love picnic baskets.  The last time I  counted, I had six different picnic baskets.  You can't have that many baskets and not think about how to fill them.   

When I was a kid, I loved chocolate pudding*.   My mom made gallons of the stuff for us.  She loved it too.  So, I was thinking why not pack individual servings of chocolate pudding in jars for a picnic treat?  

This recipe will made four individual servings of Chocolate Picnic Pudding.  Here's what you will need:

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (cornflour)
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Place the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, flour, and salt into a large saucepan.  Using a wire whisk, stir the dry ingredients until they are well combined.  

Add the egg to the milk and lightly beat with a fork to combine. Gradually add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, whisking all the time to make sure there are no lumps of cocoa powder.

Place the saucepan over a medium heat and gently bring the pudding mixture up to a boil, stirring constantly until the pudding thickens.  

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the pudding into individual jars and let it cool before screwing on the lids.  

You can make this pudding the day before your picnic and refrigerate it overnight.  I love chocolate pudding, picnics and picnic baskets!  

*In the US, custard is called pudding.  In Britain, pudding is what Americans call dessert.  Fortunately, picnic means the same thing on both sides of the Pond!

Hippy Chick Soup - Peace, Love and Lentils

It's well known that I am a bit of a hippy at heart.  I am a self-confessed  tree hugger who listens to James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young while making newspaper flower pots and throwing wonky bowls on a potter's wheel.

So I've named this next recipe Hippy Chick Soup*.  I must warn you it's not going to be for everybody.  You have to love lentils and sweet potatoes and not be afraid to embrace your inner hippy.  

Here's what you need:

1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried coriander 
1 onion - peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic - crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or you can use fresh ginger if you've got it
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 vegetable stock cube
1 sweet potato - peeled and chopped into chunks
50 grams red lentils - rinse them in cold water before using

In a large sauce pot, heat the oil and add the curry powder.  Stir together until the oil is infused with the curry powder, then add the chopped onion stirring to coat the onion in the oil.  Cook for a few minutes over a low heat.  You want the onions to become slightly translucent, not browned.  

Add the garlic, sweet potato, stock cube, and lentils to the pot.  Pour in enough  water to cover all of the vegetables and stir in the dried coriander.  Cover and let simmer for about 20 - 25 minutes.  You may have to add a splash or two of water as the lentils will absorb a lot of liquid in the cooking process.  

When the lentils have almost melted away and the sweet potato is very soft, remove the pot from the heat and blend the contents into a smooth, thick soup.   Serve in a bowl you've thrown on the potter's wheel with a hunk of crusty bread, preferably home made and stone ground, and freshly churned butter.  OK, I am kidding about that last part, you don't have to churn the butter.  It would be great if we could!  

*this recipe makes two lunch size servings for one medium size hippy chick.