Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Have A Little Patience

I was bored. Bored out of my tiny mind. Why? I was in hospital - nothing too serious, just an operation that was scheduled a few weeks ago. I am a brutal patient because I have no patience and a very low boredom threshold. And I'm obviously far too used to staying in hotels because I got a shock when I saw my room. A single bed. And no private bathroom. I don't even share a bathroom at home with The Hubs for gods sake! And where was my robe, slippers, water & fruit basket?

The afternoon dragged on - why make me come in the day before when I could have been at home doing stuff? I could have got one more day out of my divine new Estee Lauder Ultra Violet nail polish - but no. So I hung around my room all day pootling on the laptop, nattering away to the lovely ladies on www.beaut.ie and taunting myself by reading trip reports in www.flyertalk.com, and at 5pm it was dinner time. Dinner at 5pm? I'd be lucky to get it on the table by 8pm at home. It was horrific - gammon steak and chips. No salad, no veg, no potatoes. The chips were cooked about 20 years ago from the look of them & kept warm on a hotplate, and as for the gammon steak, let's just say that if my FitFlops ever wear out I'd know where to find a replacement sole!!!

The nice nurse gave me a sleeping tablet which was as much use as a chocolate fireguard because there was a strip light directly outside the room which went on at 15 minute intervals - it was like bloody Guantanamo Bay without the orange jumpsuits. Waste of a sleeping tablet. And when I managed to get to sleep, they woke me at 5.30am for breakfast as my op was scheduled for the afternoon. It was a looooooong day hanging around, I can tell you. Eventually I was called up for the op which went well-ish although new stuff was found and a suspicious mole was removed... apparently it's nothing to worry about but I'll wait to hear to be 100% sure

The Hubs came to liberate me last night - they tried to make me have another sleepover but I graciously declined and hightailed it into the car claiming I was feeling great. That was a lie - I nearly threw up all over the nurse... I was never so happy to get into my own bed, complete with comfy pillows and subdued lighting. All I need now are more painkillers!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What A Load Of Balls

Meatballs to be precise. Yesterday myself and The Hubs took a road trip to Belfast to stock up on booze - it's not that we're alcoholics or anything, just that it's a hell of a lot cheaper and with friends who only go out when they can get a babysitter (as rare as winning the Lotto), we do like a few drinks at home of a weekend. I did my usual online research to see who had the best bargains : beer was cheaper in Tesco - and we get double Clubcard points which will help fund our annual trip to France, and spirits were 20% off in Sainsburys...

We must have looked like right winos clanking through the Sainsburys off-licence in Forestside with a trolley full of Vodka, Kahlua, Morgan Spiced and Stella, but when a litre of voddie is £12/less than €14, it's a sin not to take advantage of the bargains! Then it was time to head to Tesco for the beer. As usual, I wandered my way around the store bemoaning the crap stock we are stuck with down here compared to NI Tesco stores... the fruit & veg is much cheaper and the variety is just great - more M&S than Every Little Helps. I located the Reduced To Clear section (my favourite) and got some Finest beef mince and chicken mince for the princely sum of £3. I love this section as it's where I save a bomb and decide on the spot how I'm going to use the cheap meat.

This time, there was only one option... meatballs. I use a mix of beef and turkey mince normally (as it's nigh-on impossible to get chicken mince here) and it cuts the fat content hugely, which helps with my WW efforts. I had picked up some fresh chives & flat parsley in Sainsburys so a recipe was formulating in my teeny tiny brain.

Herby Meatballs in a Tomato & Vegetable Sauce

I started by making the tomato sauce in a large pot... well worth all the chopping. You'll never open a jar of Dolmio again!

2 big onions, roughly chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 aubergine & 1 courgette, diced
Large handful mushrooms, finely sliced
4 cartons chopped tomatoes (390g size)

Saute the onions in some olive oil until translucent & soft. Add the garlic & fry for another 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Add the rest of the vegetables & fry for another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, taste & re-season if necessary. Bring the sauce to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Once you've sauteed the veggies for the tomato sauce, make a start on the meatballs.

75g fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g each beef & chicken mince
1 egg Lea & Perrins
4 mushrooms, finely chopped
Chives & Parsley, finely chopped
1 red onion, very finely diced

Get a large bowl and soak the breadcrumbs in some milk until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. If the mixture is too wet, add some more breadcrumbs.

Heat a large frying pan and add a small amount of olive oil. Fry a teaspoon of the mix to test for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Using a tablespoon, form balls of the mixture and fry until brown on both sides (this quantity makes approx. 33 meatballs). When all the meatballs are browned, add to the tomato sauce, put a lid on the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce slightly. Add some more parsley & chives just before serving.
This freezes like a dream... so it's perfect for lazy dinners when all you have to do is cook some pasta, rice or couscous to soak up the gorgeous tomato sauce.
The meatball mixture before cooking

Frying away...

Meatballs & sauce having a little bath together

The finished product

Monday, April 19, 2010


Thanks to the lovely GeeGee, I have been making lots of her divine banana muffins which have been scoffed by all who are fortunate enough to sample them. A batch even went to my parents where my nephew turned his adorable 7 year old face to me and told me that "banana is my absolute favourite thing". Needless to say, I didn't crack and give him one! I was especially delighted I didn't share, given that himself & his little sister physically wrapped themselves around my legs yesterday as I was trying to leave the house. Have you ever tried to peel two kids off your ankles while not kicking either of them in the head? It's bloody difficult and I had to think creatively to make it to the car intact...

This morning, I wanted to make more muffins but I was getting a bit banana-ed out, so I decided to substitute them for apples. On a whim, I bought a can of apple slices from Tesco the other day and decided they would do the job.

I followed the recipe as usual

1/2 cup sugar
1 can apple slices - mashed
1 egg - lightly beaten
3oz butter - melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all of these together & add to the following

1.5 cups plain flour - sifted
1 tsp each Bicarbonate of Soda & Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt

Give it a good mix until everything is well combined & then use an ice cream scoop to fill 12 paper muffin cases (I get mine in Marks & Spencer) in a 12-hole muffin tin. This mix makes exactly 12 muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175/Gas 4 and then cool on a wire rack. They taste the best on the day they're made. And mine are nearly cool enough to scoff... time to put the kettle on!

Friday, April 16, 2010

And The Smell Of Fresh Cut Grass...

There's really nothing quite like it, is there? I've been behaving in the manner of a 1950's housewife today, getting all the boring stuff out of the way in the morning so I could sit out on my trusty sunlounger and read my head off this afternoon.

There is something quite magical about sitting out in the sun, covered from head to toe in Factor 50 to avoid a repetition of Tuesday's sunburn with a huge floppy hat on my head, and singing along with the radio. I have a little technique for this - I turn on Heart FM on the Sky+ box, turn on the surround sound, open the sitting room window and prop one of the speakers on the windowsill. Instant audio entertainment, and they play songs that I can (and do) sing along to.

I dozed off and was woken by The Hubs who decided to skive off early from work, proffering a Brunch. This man knows me well... It's such an artificial icepop, with the gaudy pink crumbs and the sugar crunch, but it does hit the spot. I lay there trying to eat it before it melted, while watching him carrying out the first cutting of the grass. First the strimmer emerged from the shed and neatly edged the grass. Then the new mower came out (the little brother broke the old one... and never replaced it) and made short shrift of the ankle length grass, and finally his favourite toy - the garden vacuum which makes enough noise to raise the dead... and hopefully piss off our charming neighbours!

I think it's time to fire up the BBQ for dinner as a reward for his hard graft today. Chicken kebabs should keep him happy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Summer Lunching (well kind of...)

Yes I know that it's not exactly the height of Summer outside but my millions and billions of freckles don't agree - I look as if I've been sunbathing through a sieve!

Warmer weather means lighter food and with that in mind, I scoured through my semi-well stocked fridge to see what was on offer. Seeing as I'm the only one who fills it, I should have known the answer to this already!

Let me take you through the contents from top to bottom, left to right...

Top Shelf : Dairygold, M and S Tomato Salsa & Sour Cream dip (reduced fat), skinny Philadelphia, sugar free jelly, Muller Lights, Tesco skinny Creme Fraiche, fresh Breadcrumbs & Laughing Cow Deli Light cheese, Boyijan Lemon, Lime & Orange oils

Middle Shelf 1 : homemade Curried Veg soup, Cornichons & Dill Pickles, Guinness (eh, not mine), Tesco Finest Apple Sauce, Aldi Tomato Chutney & real butter

Middle Shelf 2 : homemade Tuna Salad, homemade Coleslaw, Ham, Cheese, Tesco Finest Caesar dressing & Maille Balsalmic dressing

Bottom Shelf : M&S Pears, Courgettes, Vine tomatoes, Cucumber, tail end of a bottle of Pinot Grigio, more Tomatoes

Salad Drawers : Tesco Value salad, M&S Green Beans, M&S Tenderstem Broccoli, Carrots, WW Chocolate Mini Rolls, Romaine Lettuce, Aldi Specially Selected Parmesan, Scallions, Limes, Lemons, Celery, Curly Wurlys

Door : Connaught Gold skinny Butter, Eggs, Capers, Squeezy Branston Pickle, Tesco Garlic and Chili in tubes, Sundried Tomato Puree, Tesco Ingredients Anchovy Puree, Ballymaloe Relish, Aldi Specially Selected Green & Red Pesto, Tomato Puree, Garden Gourmet Mediterranean herb blend tube, Aldi Apple Juice (nicest in the world...), Skinny Milk, Semi-skinny Milk, Skinny Hellmans Mayo

So what fascinating insights do I reveal about myself? Not too much really except

(a) I like food and cooking - and eating

(b) I'm trying to be good in WW hence the skinny versions of loads of stuff. However there are some things i.e. real butter, wine, that will never be compromised upon!

And what did I end up having for my lunch? Flatbread stuffed with coleslaw & tuna salad. It was only gorgeous (well, I made it myself!)

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Nadventure Day

No, it's not a typo - it's what myself & my niece Lulu had the other day. She's on her Easter holidays and I had called up to see her as she was up in Norn Iron with the other side of the family for Easter and I missed her (godmother privileges...). We were having a natter about stuff in general and she was very taken by my nail polish so I promised for her birthday that I would let her have free rein of my box of nail polish and I would do her fingers and her smelly toes. She was thrilled.

Then I asked if she wanted to come out with me to see her Nuncle in work and then go to the Post Office. This was a gamble as she's very attached to her Mum, especially after being away from her for almost a week. She declined my offer initially, preferring to eat cheese on toast and watch some Disney crap on the telly. Then as I was waving goodbye, I heard a howl of "wait - I want to go tooooooo". So the fluffly haired maggot was sent upstairs to wash her face & get dressed. Down she came, semi-clean face visible, and a pair of bright purple wellies on her feet. No point in even asking, because god knows what answer you'd get. So we waved goodbye to Mum and went off on our Nadventure Day.

First stop was Nuncle's place of work - we rang him en-route as I had a feeling he was on lunch. Lulu roared at him to hurry up as we were coming. When we arrived, she demanded to go up to him in the canteen & was rightly peed off when this request was denied! So, she dragged me around all the tellys on display and then all the DVD's - possibly in the hope that I'd buy her one, but I'm not that soft. We concluded our business with the Hubs and set off down the town to attend to our other business.

I got given out to for parking too far away from the Post Office, the lazy article. So off we set with the promise of a visit to "the shop" when we were finished. I never told her which shop, so as we passed every store on the street, I told her it was that one. She gave me the dirtiest of looks when I started these antics... she gets that from her mother! Eventually she chose the newsagents where I was informed that Peppa Pig was stupid and smelly as she browsed through the mahoosive selection of kids magazines. I was astounded when she picked a packet of Hot & Spicy Monster Munch as her surprise - she's a cheap date, my niece! I was also very impressed by her not dropping or smearing them all over the back of my car so we had a race to see who could eat the crisps fastest on the way home, and I let her win...

Here's to many more Nadventure Days!