Recipe Shed - One pot wonders

Recipe Shed
I love one pot wonders. Less hassle, normally easy to prepare and importantly, less washing up!

I've decided to go with an old classic which must be one of the original one pot wonders, a beef stew. This is the way my mum taught me to cook it. May not be the right way, but it tastes good in our house and brings back memories!

Beef Stew
Serves 4 - 6 (depending on dumpling, bowl and appetite size)

Ingredients (all approximate)

500g of beef stewing steak, cut into cubes (amount of meat depends on my purse strings)
couple of onions, roughly chopped
couple of carrots, thickly sliced
2 or 3 parsnips, cut into chunks
small parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into big chunks
3 oxo cubes
couple of bay leaves
salt and pepper

In a big pan (I use the pressure cooker pan** as its the biggest one I own) I put a couple tablespoons of water with the cubed beef steak and brown. I then add the onions to soak up the flavour from the beef and to soften slightly.

The rest of the vegetables and bay leaves get added with the oxo cubes and enough water to cover completely. Lid is added to the pot and its brought to the boil and then simmered for at least 4 hours. The longer you can leave it the better. If you can cook it the day before, or give it chance to cool then reheat, you're onto a winner!

Remember to check on it regularly to stir and top up with water.

To help thicken I'll sometimes chop a potato very finely so it disintegrates and thickens in the stew as it cooks. Season to taste as you go and sorted!

We usually serve this with dumplings, which are very easy too.

4 big spoons of self raising flour (I have a special, to me, spoon I inherited from my Gran)
2 same sized spoons of suet
salt and pepper
(sometimes I add a handful of herbs or chopped garlic)

Mix until firm but still sticky with a little water and drop tablespoon sized 'pieces' into the stew, spaced regularly in the pan as they will expand (a lot) Put the lid back on and continue to cook for another 20 - 25 minutes.

Serve in a big bowl, with a crust of bread to wipe it clean!

** Maybe a thought for future recipe shed could be pressure cooking recipe, is it a dieing art?

Random stuff which makes me happy (part 2)

I was inspired to write 'part 1' in the summer by @ImSoBlogin and her post and as I have a tendancy to let my mind wander (especially when I have a lot to do, busy at work and tight deadlines!) it wandered back to that part of my brain and decided to compile a new list

So here is my happy list part 2

Wrapping up warm in my Slanket in front of the telly
A delicious casserole, especially from the slow cooker!
The colour of the leaves
Blue skies, enjoying them while I can
The slight bite in the air of the promised cold weather
Watching Fritz run around the house in unabashed joy and excitement, barking like a loon when I get home from work
Walking through fallen leaves and kicking them up like I'm seven again
Writing to do lists
Making winter vegetable soups
Listening to the sound of rain on my bedroom window at night
Comments left on my blog
5p off fuel voucher
Crossing stuff off my to do list
Christmas anticipation
Big mug of tea and a biscuit
Going to the gym
A big hug
A completed to do list
Adele albums

So, over to you! What makes you happy? Let me know by leaving a comment or maybe blogging and linking back to mine, whatever makes you happy!

Inspiration....doesn't matter the age

My niece Penelope, is a wonderfully inquisitive, intelligent, warm and caring young girl.

My sister (@joytust if you wish to follow on Twitter, although she is more a lurker than tweeter!) shared this with me. Joy went to bed on Monday and found the following note from Penny

A wonderfully inspirational quote, especially as my sister is working, looking after the kids and completing a degree fulltime to boot!

Did I mention Penny was 7!?

Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
It's Friday, so its Reasons to be Cheerful! A brilliant way to reflect back on your week and celebrate all things which are bright and beautiful

Bod for Tea is hosting this week, so get yourself over there to check it out! 

I'm going to do my usual and just blast it down on paper, find its better if I don't over analyse it! Just go with the flow!

1 Tuesday, my brain was saying 'eat chips' but my will power moved my hands to make a sensible choice. Had prawn salad and a melon pot instead! Was so proud of myself! One of the first times I have actually fought and won. Very happy! (we won't mention the chocolate bar I had on the way home, the point is I won at lunch time)

2 Amy called today and the permanent contract has been granted. She took a gamble and moved to London for a zero rated hours job. You are only young once and able to take a chance like that, and it paid off. Very proud and happy Mum. She blogs too!

3 Spent the evening with a work colleague who I knew vaguely many years ago, but are now in the same team. Spent a wonderful evening, chatting and gassing, felt like we'd been working together for years. 

Thank you Mark, I had a great time....and of course I will look after your admin requirements!

4 I'm seeing Amy on Sunday, business trip on Monday means we can spend some time together, putting the world to rights! 

5 My bargain cardigan made me very happy. It was £30 until I went to the check-out and realised it was only £10. Result! Not only that, I went back to buy a pair of trousers, but had to take them back; they were too big in the waist! Wa Hey! Brilliant feeling.

So all in all, a great week, roll on the next! And one question for you....what's the best bargain you've every nabbed?

Meal Planning Monday w/c 21st of November

Two weeks running I've managed to plan out menu's! Maybe the Virgo in me is back! Lost a pound this week with my Slimming World plan, lets see what I can manage this week!

I'm working away three nights (if you include Sunday) so the boys are going to have to fend for themselves. This will probably mean ice-cream, cereal or fried egg on toast. It's only 3 days out of 7, they will live.....yes, they will live?

So meals this week are:-

Cottage pie (frozen from last week) with potato and parsnip mash on the top (syn free)
Gammon & slimming world chips (Syn free) I am a little addicted to gammon at the moment!
Ranchero Pie (3 Syns) I will be blogging about it for @ReluctantHousedads #RecipeShed
Good old fashioned beef stew (Syn free if you don't have dumplings)

Made and froze 4 portions of vegetable soup this weekend, so that's my lunches covered. Plus left over roasted vegetables from today, will be a filling lunch in the morning. 

Well, that's it this week, check out my post on Wednesday/Thursday if you are interested in the Ranchero Pie recipe

Plus, get yourself over to At Home with Mrs M for more meal plans! 

Boring but true

I've been tagged for this post by @kateab over from The Five F's blog and I can't complain, because I volunteered, I'm a sucker for a meme. Reading through Katie's she says

All you have to do is answer the 10 questions, tag a few people, then return to the original post and comment so that the tagger knows you have completed your mission.
On I go!

Describe yourself in seven words
Optimistic, Nice, Friendly, Loyal, Approachable, Trustworthy, Bossy!

What keeps you up at night?
That's a leading question, do I go serious or light hearted? Lets see where just going with my gut answer takes me.

If I'm feeling particularly stressed all sorts of weird and wonderful minuscule details flow into my brain unbidden. When I say minuscule, I mean stuff which doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things like, 'did I turn the dishwasher on' or 'wonder what so and so had for their tea tonight and 'what am I going to have for my tea tomorrow' 

I'm of the glass half full school and think what's the point of worrying about the things you can't change or have influence over. But stress does things to a person and you end up acting in ways you don't like. So my answer has got to be all sorts of shit I shouldn't be worry about at 4 in the morning.

Who would I like to be?
I like me, I like who I am. I don't want to be anyone else

What are you wearing now?
Black trousers, black long sleeved t-shirt, sleeveless long black cardigan, blue chunky necklace and pink socks with dogs on them (I couldn't find my sensible socks this morning!) pink fluffy slippers (its cold!) What does this say about me I wonder?

What scares me?
The dark, and lack of control

What is the best and worst things of blogging?
I started this blog when I was diagnosed with cancer and used it through the hysterectomy to get my feelings and thoughts into a semblance of order. The best thing about blogging is sharing how I feel about things which are bothering me and getting support from virtual friends.

I have to be totally honest about my feelings, or else what would be the point. Which leads onto the worst things about blogging. Sometimes what I write will be read by my family and I don't always think about the impact on them. I have never written anything I wouldn't say to my family and it's never anything detrimental or private about them. But sharing your feelings will affect your family, especially if they didn't know you felt that way.

For example I recently wrote 'What I saw and Heard' and my sister rang me a couple of days after posting concerned about me. I was fine, I'd written it out, sorted things in my head and felt better but I had caused her to be worried about me, and I don't like that. 

What was the last website you looked at?
It would be, it helps me when I'm blogging and stuck on a word! Boring, but true.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I'd like to change my size, which technically I am doing (4 stone so far) but if I got a wish that would be it, because it would be instant with no hard work! Mind you, was it once said if something is worth having, its worth working for? If it's not been said, I am having that quote!

Slankets, yes or no?
Oh my god, yes! 

Tell us something about the person who tagged you.
I've never 'physically' met @kateab, however we 'virtually' met through twitter. Her blog is brilliant, with for me the right mix of reviews, thoughts and what I call on mine general ramblings. She isn't afraid to say what she thinks and doesn't go with what everyone else thinks or does. I like that. A lot.

Now onward to tag a few people. These guys didn't run away fast enough and I caught them! 

@Littlelightwork because he is a new follower and his blog fascinates me!
@breenster because I don't think he will, but would love it if he would
@amumonamission because she volunteered! (love you!)
@comedinewithrach  because I like her tweets!
@ovenuovenvalet because she is a wonderful person and says yes to most things
@daveboyfry because I asked him!

Recipe Shed - Slow cooker or casseroles

Recipe Shed
My slow cooker was dusted down and brought out from the back of the cupboard when I started Slimming World and I really have no idea why it was put there in the first place. I think its ideal for busy people who want to eat well, but without the fuss of preparing a meal at the end of the day. Okay, you've got to be organised and disciplined to plan that far ahead when the average cooking time is 8 hours, but the results are worth it.

Maybe its because we don't know what to cook? I know I just used to chuck a few ingredients in and see what happened, sometimes it worked, mostly it didn't. But I invested £5 on slow cooker recipe book and it gave me the confidence to try all sorts of different things, sweet and savoury, although I stay away from the sweet stuff now! 

Anyway, here is one of my favourites from 200 Slow Cooker Recipes from Hamlyn and it's works out at about 3 Syns a portion

Rancheros Pie

Takes about 20 minutes to prepare and 8 - 10 hours to cook
Serves 4

Low cal spray
500g of lean minced beef
1 chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon if cumin seeds, crushed
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed dried chillies
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
2 stems of oregano roughly chopped (I used a teaspoon of dried)
3 tablespoons of sultana's
tin of chopped tomatoes
2 beef stock cubes
8 fl oz of water
500 g of thinly sliced sweet potato

Spray a large frying pan with low cal spray and add the beef to brown, pour away any of the fat. Add the onions and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add all the other ingredients apart from the sweet potato and bring it to the boil stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon it into the slow cooker and cover with overlapping slices of sweet potato. Spray with the low cal spray, salt and pepper and sprinkle with some dried chillies.

Put the lid on and cook for 8 - 10 hours, until the potato is soft. It's the potato which takes the time! It can be browned under the grill if you want to.

I serve this with broccoli, carrots and cabbage and it's delicious! 

Websites I Visit The Most

The wonderful @TheBoyAndMe tagged me in this meme which was originally started by Mummy Musings. I love these type of meme's, because they are easy! How difficult can it be to talk about yourself? And, come on, lets be honest we all love to have a blog discussion with I in the title!

I was going to be all scientific (the Virgo in me) and check my Internet history, but realised because I browse on so many different devices (MrC's computer, my iPad and iPhone and work laptop) plus just upgraded to iPad 2, it was going to be very difficult! So decided to just go with my gut.

- Twitter
I am addicted to it, I miss it when I don't get chance to take a peek through the day and add my tuppence ha'penny to the stream. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, I find stuff out, it intrigues and entertains me. I've made new friends and connections, it inspires and keeps me going on the bad days. I'm @FayC if you want to follow!

- Gmail or Googlemail
When I got my iPhone, I decided to change my e-mail and gmail seemed to be the easiest one to get up and running. I check it most days and it keeps me up to date with blogs, twitter mentions and DM's, blogs I subscribe to. Not to mention the offers of two for one pizza's!

Been using this site for film information for what seems forever. If I'm watching a TV programme or film and the name of the actor is on the tip of my tongue or I think I've seen him/her in something else, this site is my go to. I can rarely get through a film without checking it out for something!

You can search by actor, film or TV programme, character name, director etc. Everything is crossed referenced, can see what else the actor's been in, their biography, trivia etc. Also has reviews of the films and where they were on location. You can see where I am going with this, keeps me amused for hours!

I use e-mail a lot at work, I write a lot of stuff for various things, plus I enjoy blogging. At times I get stuck for a word, or have used it too often in a paragraph and need a substitute. There aren't that many people physically sat in my work office and MrC sometimes just wants some peace and quiet. So instead of bouncing my word dilemma around them, I use the site. It really does work, giving me alternatives, but often it also helps me use words in a different way. Plus there's a handy tab at the top which takes you to it's sister site,! 

- Google
I know there are lots of different search engines out there, but this is my search engine of choice. I find it easy to use and I use it ....a lot! If I hear or read something and it piques my interest, I'm off learning a bit more about it. This leads me off to read articles on other subjects. It's just so effortless to get lost in the subject, clicking links, reading and learning, absorbing information, sifting through and deciding if I believe it or if it fits in with my belief systems. There is a lot of crap on the Internet, but its fun when you find the good stuff too!

So that's my list of five, just realised they are linked with a common theme, finding out information. Now what does that say about me!

If you want to be tagged, let me know and I'll add you on. And I apologise now for people on my list below, I've added without asking, feel free to ignore/delete if you wish, I won't be offended!

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
It's been a while, not that I haven't been cheerful, just the celebrating and recording it. But think its time to give it another go. Don't they say (whoever they are?!) if you want something to happen, write it down, a bit like a self fulfilling prophecy. And from Michelle's site she's writes we feel better when we ooze positivity and set ourselves up for the next week.

My week didn't start too well, with this 'What I saw and heard' but I'm not one for letting things get me down for long, so here goes;

1 My #gammyfoot is getting better, can see light at the end of the tunnel. I've been suffering with an infection for over a month, am on my third batch of antibiotics (which need to be taken on an empty stomach! How hard is that! See my weighty battle posts for info!!!!) However, I have a treatment plan, I know what the next steps will be and feel more in control. And just to warn you, I am thinking about blogging about it, WITH PICTURES! I love a bit of gore! You'll be fine about that ....won't you?

2 Again, another health one, my #brokenbum or coccyx is still causing me considerable pain. However, again, I have a treatment plan, which although it doesn't take the pain away, it makes me mentally feel prepared and in control. I fell in the bath over three months ago and although it doesn't stop me from moving around and doing things, it does stop me from sitting down and relaxing (one of my favourite pass times!)

The plan is to give it another month, with plenty of painkillers, give it more time to heal, and then x-rays to see whats going on. Not much of a plan, but amazing how something simple like this has made a difference.

3 Maybe not one for me per se, but goodness, makes me feel really warm and happy inside. Amy has found somewhere permanent to live, no more sofa surfing in that there London. She's sharing a flat with a couple in Canada Water, not far from where she works. She seems more settled and happier. With her new address, will come more opportunities to build a circle of friends and support, so things are coming together. The more settled she is, the happier I am!

So there you go, my reasons! Why not have a go yourself and leave a comment. No matter how crappy your week has been, there is always something, some small scrap of light and colour to grab onto in these cold and dark evenings, to keep yourself together and looking forward.

Meal Planning Monday...but on Tuesday

It's Tuesday, so its Meal Planning Monday. Errr....maybe not! Been a while since I've joined in, been a while since I've followed the Slimming World eating plan. Lots of reason, some good, some not so good! But no point beating myself up about it.

It's time to pick myself up and start the planning again. So here's to it

Monday was Chilli Con Carne (syn free) and left overs are for lunch!

The rest of the week in no particular order
Slow cooker gammon with stir fry vegetables & rice (syn free)
Gammon in creamy sauce, pasta and green salad (2 syns for the sauce)
Fish, slimming world chips and mushy peas (6 syns for the processed fish, frozen portion)
Homemade burger in a roll, spicy wedges and coleslaw (2 syns with roll as HE)
Roast chicken, *roasted vegetable and gravy (2 syns for the gravy)
Cottage pie and vegetables (syn free)

So that will be my week! Wish me luck, I am going to need it.....

* left over vegetables will be made into a filling soup, portioned and frozen for lunches

Get yourself over to At Home with Mrs M and get your fill of other more dedicated meal planners (more dedicated than me I mean!)  for more inspiration! 

What I saw and heard......

Don't know what's come over me today, I've been welling up and crying (maybe even sobbing...) at the most ridiculous things!

For example the John Lewis Christmas advert was first, then (weirdly!) listening to Tim Minchin singing 'White Wine in the Sun' on the Scott Mills radio show on the way home.

 And don't get me started on The One Show, watching Mat Baker sob his heart out halfway through today's leg of his 'Rickshaw Challenge'

If I didn't know better I would have said I was hormonal, but as the important originators of those pesky things were removed at the same time as my uterus earlier in the year, it can't be that (I 'heart' HRT)

But who am I kidding, I know exactly why I'm crying at the drop of hat. It's got something to do with finding Mr C collapsed on the kitchen floor yesterday morning. It's got something to do with ringing 999, acting calm and collected, while I made him comfortable, locked away Fritz the dog and getting his medication together all the time thinking 'this is the worse I have ever seen him for a long time'

It's awful to say that we're all used to Mr C being ill, used to emergency admissions, which makes the unusual for most, common place for us. He had though, become very ill extremely quickly and even in A&E with pain medication administered, he didn't bounce back as usual. It was heart wrenching to see him in so much pain, obviously distressed, with a rising temperature and the imminent signs of peritonitis. You see I've seen this before, six years ago, when I was told his next 24 hours were crucial.

But I did my usual thing and planted the reassuring and calm face in place, with my painted on smile and soothing words. So maybe my tears today and obvious emotional over load is a delayed reaction to what I saw but maybe also to what I heard.

Let's face it, no-one is in A&E through choice.

The standard issue paper curtains don't protect anyone's privacy; don't stop you hearing about an 85 year old woman, who lives alone, found by her carer after taking a paracetamol overdose.

They don't stop you being drawn to the cheerful and charismatic voice of an elderly man. He sounded so together and calm, unflappable and accepting. However as he goes on to describe to the nurse, he's the only carer for his 92 year old wife, who suffers from dementia. His beloved wife who is now, home alone and unable to feed herself or even turn the TV over, until he returns after having treatment for a broken wrist following a fall. My calm mask nearly slipped when he was told he might not be home that night, he may need an operation to reset the bones.

So I think, I'm allowing myself to be a little self indulgent today. I managed to be stoic, dependable and unflappable when it was important. Today I can be flighty, jittery and unpredictable and get it out of my system! 

I'm thankful to everything which is good in this world, he is okay now. He did respond to treatment and is now at home smiling and working towards getting back to his old self.
I'm thankful we are not alone, that we've family and friends who are always there for us.

But also in the spirit of this blog, I'm choosing to reminder the highlights; Of nearly handing over Fritz's ear medication to the paramedics collating Mr C's prescription drugs (I'd never have lived that one down)

Of Fritz thinking Mr C being on the floor was his cue to play! 

Of spending the day in the same clothes as the day before (right down to the underwear) because I didn't have time to find clean. Even worse, not brushing my teeth! (never has a shower felt quite so refreshing!) You gotta laugh.....

And the icing on the cake? As we were walking out of the hospital overhearing a suspected visitor walking in saying 'the only trouble with this place is there are too many sick people' (and he wasn't joking!)

I wasn't the only one to giggle at that one!