Busy

I apologise for the lack of a proper post.

But I think this picture explains it all:

Happy Easter 🙂

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Friday

I know, it’s a rubbish title. But it is, indubitably, Friday. (Saturday tomorrow, fact fans).

Like any other week, it’s been a mixture of work-type shenanigans and horse-related malarkies. And like every other week this March, it’s been like this:

Literally not going to rise above freezing on Sunday – and see that lovely sleet tomorrow? And the fact it’s not going to warm up all next week? Coldest March for 60 years, apparently. How delightful.

Some slightly different things from this week include this:

Having had nothing but carrot porridge or carrot pancakes for breakfast since before the wheel was invented, I suddenly fancied something different, invested in a loaf of Sainsbury’s own brand GF seeded bread and had it toasted with my mum’s home-made raspberry jam, cream cheese and blueberries.

Delicious, like a cheesecake (in a toasty kind of way 🙂 ) and although I thought I’d be hungry, it was just as filling as porridge, plus easier to make and with less washing-up; winner all round.

Also unusual was the fact I got slightly concussed on Wendesday night – that’ll teach me for pulling hay down from the ground instead of climbing to the top of the stack… believe me when I say you don’t want a bale of that falling on your head!

I got baking too this week; first cake for a long time:

It was another caramel apple ring cake, for a colleague’s birthday, and though I says it as shouldn’t, it is delicious. The combination of apple, spice and buttery caramel is out of this world – there was none left by this afternoon.

Hopefully you can’t see the crack; I was impatient and took it out of the tin too soon so some of it decided to stay put – but that caramel’s perfect for sticking broken cakes together, it turns out…!

Have a good (and hopefully snow-free) weekend 🙂

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Caught out

I was caught out in a big way on Monday.

I woke up to a light dusting of snow, but even that had just about gone by the time I left for work. It did keep snowing all day but my boss, who lives near me, and I were lulled into a false sense of security, partly becasue his wife said the roads were fine near us and partly, I think, because there was an element of “It’s March, so how bad can the snow be?”

I got an inkling when, on the way back to my car at nearly 6pm, I slipped on compacted frozen snow and fell flat on my backside. And then realised the real extent when it took me three hours to get home 😦

Two of those were spent just getting out of town; crawling traffic, cars spinning and getting stuck, coaches slipping all over the shop – it wasn’t fun. The motorway was even worse as not as many people had used it and you couldn’t even see the tarmac. Still, even at 14 years old and with 179,000 miles on the clock, the trusty Golf did me proud; and I was a lot better off than people trying to go towards the coast as many ended up stuck all night… terrible.

Anyway. Even though it’s now cold, pouring and howling a gale, surely we’re safe from snow’s evil clutches now…!

On another note, I was sent this to try the other day:

I’m sure you’ve seen other products of this type. Slim Pasta is made from “a water-soluble vegetable fibre called Moyu (konjac).” It’s marketed at coeliacs, diabetics and people wanting to lose weight as an alternative to normal pasta and rice.

I had the pasta first, with a mixture of sauted mushrooms and garlic, red pepper pesto, spinach and cheese and it was delicious.

The pasta itself doesn’t actually taste of anything, so whatever you add to it is the flavour you get.

I had the “rice” next, with the same other ingredients:

And, of course, that was nice too. I preferred the “rice” because of its texture; the only thing I’d say about the pasta is, I wasn’t too keen on its slipperiness; I couldn’t really chew it! I’m sure they would make good alternatives to pasta for people trying to lose weight, although courgette noodles and cauliflower “rice” would also work.

The Slim Pasta does apparently keep you “fuller for longer” owing to the vegetable fibre… although I was slightly confused by the mention of “wheat-free rice” on one of the packets… 😉

Have you tried anything like this? If so, what do you think?

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A few things to mention

First of all, I spoke too soon in my last post. It’s fecking freezing, the Beast from the East wind is back and it’s snowing. So that’s nice.

Secondly, and something better, is the belated announcing of the winner of my Get Fit Feel Epic competition and it is… *drum roll*… Catherine! With this post. Email me with your address Catherine, and I’ll pass it on so you can get your prizes 🙂

Thirdly, and most importantly…

Happy Mothering Sunday to all mums, and especially mine; in my humble opinion the best mum ever.

I made her another raw carrot cake (with almonds, pecans and cashews instead of walnuts and some lemon zest added), from this recipe, as she really liked the one I made for her birthday…

And I thought she’d find this entertaining:

And she did 🙂

Thank you for everything you’ve done – and still do – for me… I love you very much xx

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Spring?

It felt like spring a couple of weeks ago.

On the weekend of February 16 and 17, it was beautiful sunshine, with real warmth in it… then we had two weeks of winter with a vengeance. It wasn’t just cold, it was the evil, hideously bitter wind that made just being outside so miserable.

Then last Sunday, the sun poked its head out and we had three lovely warm, sunny days; daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses are poking their own heads out; it’s light till just-about 6pm… happy days.

It’s p*ssing down now of course – but it feels like spring rain rather than winter rain – and there’s definitely a difference 🙂

It’s still not warm enough for me to want anything other than porridge for breakfast though and I’ve found the best way of doing it.

I used to leave the oats, water, flax seed and mixed spice in water overnight, then cook it on the hob in the morning but then on my mum’s suggestion, I tried starting to cook it the night before; just bringing it to the boil, then adding a bit more water and cooking properly the next day. It makes it much creamier – and a bigger bowlful, so definitely a winner!

My mum’s also been doing some serious baking (she keeps ordering me to test things, it’s a hard life…) including these:

I don’t think I’d ever had Welshcakes before; they’re made from normal biscuit ingredients but you get a batter, rather than a dough, which you cook in dollops on a hotplate or frying pan. The result is somewhere between a biscuit and a cake, with crisp edges and lots of currants and spice… so delicious, I didn’t get round to taking a picture till there were only two left… 🙂 I’m tempted to try other versions; a carrot cake one has to be the way forward.

They helped me resist some serious temptation too. In November last year, I won a giveaway on Ffion’s blog for a Hotel Chocolat Advent calendar, which I then heard they’d run out of. And to cut a long story short, Hotel Chocolat sent me this instead this week:

And if you can think of anything more tortuous than getting that through the post when you’ve given up chocolate for Lent – I won’t believe you. It’s firmly in the back of a cupboard but fear not, in three weeks’ time, I’ll be doing it full justice… 🙂

Have a lovely weekend.

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Please help

I doubt that many people reading this come from or are in Kent. I think most of my readers aren’t even in this country.

But if you are in Kent and you happen to see a five-month-old red-brown miniature pinscher puppy, wearing a pale blue collar with hearts on it… please let me know.

That little girl – and her parents – would be overjoyed if he came home.

Thank you.

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Horsegate

I suppose the only surprising thing about this post is that I haven’t done it sooner.

For anyone who’s abroad and hasn’t heard about the horsemeat scandal, it started last month, when own-brand value burgers sold by some supermarkets, contained horse DNA. Everyone went mad, Tesco took out full-page ads in national newspapers to apologise and the media really got the bit between its teeth. Sorry.

Things were just starting to quieten down; the papers had done all the features on old nags in Romania which are sold to the slaughterhouse when they’re too old to work, tracing the journey of the meat from there, round the outskirts of Europe and eventually to the Tesco freezer… and then Findus also admitted there was horse in some of its ready meals.

And now horse is turning up in all sorts of funny places. Even Waitrose told customers it was frightfully sorry, but there were traces of pork in its value beef meatballs… 🙂

But although I would never personally eat it, I don’t think the fact it’s horse meat is the real problem. Firstly, as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s horse DNA that’s been found and DNA isn’t just in an animal’s meat, it’s in its hide, hair, hoofs and everything.

But also, I think what’s legally allowed to go in an economy burger is worse: they’re allowed to call it a beefburger it it contains 47 per cent meat. So more than half one of those delicacies can be – what? Onion, wheat flour, water, beef fat, soya protein isolate, salt, onion powder, yeast, sugar, barley malt extract, garlic powder, white pepper extract, celery extract and onion extract, if it’s a Tesco value one.

But when you’re paying about 20p a burger, as Giles Coren said in the Times, “What on earth did you think they put in them? Prime cuts of delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged and hand-ground by fairies…?” He’s right. I’m happy to buy value fruit and veg but would never touch value meat with a bargepole.

I think part of the problem here is that food is too cheap. Farmers, by definition, should be rich. But thanks to the supermarkets’ stranglehold, they work all hours and make little if any profit. The supermarkets should pay them a decent profit for the food they produce and if they have to pass that on in price (which they shouldn’t have to; just look at their profits) then that’s how it has to be.

There should be tougher, strictly enforced laws on food labelling, so people know exactly what they’re eating and the supermarkets don’t get away with misleading people. Hopefully, this might steer people away from supermarkets’ meat, to the butchers and farm shops, where you know what you’re getting and you’re supporting local producers.

Talking of horses (and I’ve made sure I’ve signed the “not for human consumption page in THWNN’s passport”) something funny happened the other day.

I’d had the vet to take out his wolf tooth, which was really sharp and pointing forward so probably causing pain. She took it out and put it on the feed bin while we went to get the passport. We were only away a couple of seconds – but when we got back, my mate the robin was flying off with the tooth in its beak! I don’t know what he thought it was; maybe a Tesco burger… 🙂

What do you think about the whole horsemeat thing?

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Tyred out

When I got on my bike last Tuesday morning, I realised the back tyre was completely flat. Being disorganised, it took me till Friday to put it in the car and take it to a shop near work. They said it needed a full service, which set me back £38 but it was worth it; I cycled to the yard on Friday evening and it felt brilliant.

Unfortunately, just as I got on the bike to come home, I realised the tyre was flat again. That was a nice walk , especially as the tyre came off the rim half way back and I had to carry the back wheel about a mile 😦

So on Saturday, I took it to the local bike shop. New inner tube, £6.50, job done. Except as I was nearly home from the yard that afternoon, guess what? Flat as a fecking pancake again!

I can tell you, apart from anything else, getting a man’s frame bike into a Golf is not fun and by Sunday, when I tried to take it to the local bike shop again, I’d done it three days in a row. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

But of course, the bike shop now doesn’t open on Sundays so I had to take it to the one near work on Monday. They found bits of flint in the tyre and put a new one on (another £20, thanks) and the bloke said it must have been coincidence… really??

But whatever it was, I’ve now ridden it to do the horses twice since and it’s stayed up; although I don’t necessarily recommend cycling with your head between your knees because you’re continually checking the tyre’s still inflated… 🙂

On a different note, I’ve been enjoying non-chocolate and non-ice creamy type things this week, including this:

I don’t know why that picture came out that size, it looks like a bath of yoghurt! But to be honest, a bathful of Collective Dairy Russian fudge yoghurt would be no bad thing; I did think it might be too sweet, even for me, but it’s plain yoghurt with the caramel swirled through and probably because the yoghurt’s probiotic, it’s got a tang which goes perfectly with the sweetness – very addictive!

And at least I’m sticking to what I’m giving up – my colleague, who’s also “given up chocolate”, apparently asked his girlfriend to put chocolate drops in a cake she made – and then had chocolate cheesecake! Apparently, he’s decided he’s only giving up “bars of chocolate”… so Mini Eggs, Creme Eggs and every other sort of egg is apparently fine, not to mention chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, chocolate ice cream… as I said to him, I’m not angry – I’m just disappointed. 🙂

Is it just me – or is that a massive cop-out?!

Exercise is very important at any age but sometimes injuries can develop, try a specialist sports clinic to help with recovery. There are a number of local private hospitals in Edinburgh where you can receive treatment.

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Shrove Tuesday

I’m only four days late posting this!

I did have pancakes on Tuesday but only because when I saw my mum, when I was back from work late, she had batter mixed and the hob hot to make some lovely gluten-free Scotch pancakes… lemon juice + sugar = delicious.

Back in the day, the crepe-style with lemon and sugar was the only way I’d ever had pancakes – I never thought of having them for breakfast till I went to America in 2006. Now though, I love them in the mornings, my current favourites being these:

I originally made carrot and blueberry pancakes but I prefer having the blueberries, and some maple syrup, on top of the carrot pancakes.

50g buckwheat pancake mix (or just buckwheat/wholemeal flour and about 1/4tsp baking powder, as that’s all that’s in the mix)

60-70g carrot, finely grated

2tbsp egg white (or one egg white)

1tbsp milk

1/2tbsp water

1/4-1/2tsp lemon zest (optional but it’s good… you can freeze lemon zest, wrapped in a piece of kitchen paper, and just use it straight frmo the freezer)

1/4tsp ground mixed spice.

(Optional, handful of blueberries for the batter)

Mix everything together really well then cook in a preheated frying pan over a low-medium heat till golden both sides. Serve with a handful of blueberries and maple syrup.

They’re delicious – and they’re also my entry to the Confused.com pancake challenge.

The Confused.com energy team found that pancakes were the most energy efficient meal to cook so they launched a competition to find the most creative.

The prize is a Philips airfryer, which looks great, so I’m going to make another entry, these mango and coconut pancakes with raspberry sauce:

Mmm, haven’t made those for far too long! The competition’s open till February 28 so if you fancy winning an airfryer, go and have a look 🙂

Did you have pancakes this week? What’s your favourite way to eat them?

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A last hurrah

Well today’s been pleasant.

The bitter wind we’ve been blessed with all week, accompanied by icy rain, which got sleetier and sleetier throughout the day – it felt like gravel in your face by this evening – and which made having a lesson on THWNN a real joy this morning 🙂

But when the sun made a brief appearance yesterday, it really had some warmth in it. Spring’s on the way – and so’s Easter, which means so is Lent.

Last year, I gave up chocolate and as I said afterwards, it made me realise how much I like ice cream. As I don’t think that’s quite in the Lenten spirit, this year I’m giving up both.

So as a final chocolatey feast, I made these:

White chocolate hazelnut brownies, inspired by some of the same name made by my sister, and some flourless chocolate ones made by my mum, last weekend.

Preheat oven to 160C and line a 30x20cm roasting tin with baking powder. It would probably be a good idea to grease the paper slightly too as my brownies stuck a bit.

150g (51/2oz) white chocolate

100g (1/4 standard tin) haricot (Navy) beans

100g (2/3 cup) ground almonds

1tsp baking powder

3 eggs

180g (3/4 cup) caster sugar

1tsp vanilla

80g (<1/2 cup) hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Melt the chocolate and blend in a food processor with the beans until completely smooth. Stir together the almonds and baking powder and, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla (you don’t need an electric mixer, just whisk till combined).

Make a well in the almond mix and add the egg and chocolate mixtures (they’ll overflow the well but fear not). Stir together from the middle till well combined, then fold in the hazelnuts. Pour into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes, till the top’s set and pale gold all over.

Delicious. I love the combination of hazelnut and white chocolate – if I’d had more hazelnuts, I’d have used them ground instead of the almonds but as I didn’t, I didn’t. I know I’m far from the first to use beans like this either but they work perfectly – the fat from the almonds is plenty to keep the texture lovely and brownie-like.

Now the only thing I’ve got to do is get them out of here by the end of Tuesday… it’s a hard life 🙂

Are you giving anything up for Lent?

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