Friday, 22 February 2008


Sorry I should have written something before. I'm okay. I'm still waiting to speak with the consultant about the results of the MRI but it is the NHS and I can't expect things to happen immediately. I should know by the end of next week at the latest which will by then be two weeks after the scan.

I'm afraid I haven't really read done any blog reading. I feel a tiny bit spaced out most of the time. Not as much as I should considering how many tablets I'm popping but not enough to concentrate for long. I've also just wanted to be 100% with the boys as it's half term. They have been hilarious! My boys are really funny, I mean seriously funny, and I'm not just saying that because I love them and I'm biased because I'll admit they can also be a nightmare but they have such a great sense of fun. They have also been so kind and caring and considerate of everything that is going on. Typing that makes me want to cry because I wish they didn't have to be considerate of me. Anyway I wanted this post to be upbeat so here's a few alternative words for things that you should all use from now on. They make me smile.

These gems are from Small. When things have disappeared they've actually missappeared. I think that's quite clever, he started saying it when he was two and it's just stuck. Something was missing and he said it had missappeared ...and a trampoline is a bounceoline...

Food... we've have had some gorgeous food.... Haddock sprinkled with herbs then wrapped in pancetta, drizzled with olive oil, then roasted in the oven with tomatoes and kohl rabi which I have fallen in love with. It's absolutely gorgeous raw!

Pasta with spinach and enormous prawns, chilli, garlic and the tiniest amount of cream.

An experimental cake with bananas and marmalade which was so good I wish you could all pop round for a slice and a cup of really good coffee or tea or a vat of gin if that was your choosing.

We've also had some truly dreadful food including a McDonalds when we came out of hospital one day and we were all totally starving. Funnily enough and I'm ashamed to say it tasted good!

I do seriously wish you could pop round for coffee, it would be great to just chat with my lovely cyber friends. Besides you could cook me something marvellous and that would be truly splendid!

Take care
Amanda x

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

I'm going to be embracing my inner sloth for a few days...

...and in hindsight (such a wonderful thing) I maybe should have done it a bit earlier.

This is the inside of the moreish muffins....

'The back' is playing up a tad following my stupidity in bending down to pick something up. I had an x-ray on Monday which showed the vertebrae are too close together, definitely indicating a prolapsed disc. I was told that if my back hadn't settled down by the time I had an MRI then they would have to remove the disc. The MRI is tomorrow and at the moment I'm not able to put my right foot down for longer than a few seconds, despite taking enough meds to make the most hardened crack addict feel good it just isn't touching it. I realise I've been pretty stupid cooking and baking cakes, albeit in a very unnatural way, mostly sitting down and barking orders like some Sergeant Major to be passed this or that ingredient - but still... Anyway hopefully between now and tomorrow afternoon my back is going to play ball. Having had a caesarean where the anaesthetic failed and they cut my babies back when they cut into me, I'm not overly confident of the surgery option. Especially when it involves going anywhere near ones central nervous system.

I'm in definite danger of starting to blather on so I'll stop now. Hopefully see you soon. I mean obviously I'll be back soon, I mean back soon with some fabulous food that I've cooked, that's what I meant.

Oh and p.s. a personal note - to my fantastic husband and beautiful boys - I LOVE YOU, to the moon and back, around the earth a few billion times and you're still not even close to how much I love you. Thank you for putting up with me and I promise the moment this back is right - I'm going to work on my core strength, core stability, call it whatever you want , but I'm going to work on it, so WE don't have to go through this again....

Monday, 11 February 2008

Moreish Muffins.... Goodness Galore!

I made these earlier and tomorrow I will photograph them again when it's light. I just hope that I will be able to take a photograph that portrays how expletively delicious they are! They are the best muffins I have ever made. This isn't saying a lot really as muffins are a fairly new concept to me. I always made cupcakes until I started blogging and then I discovered that muffins are often easier to make than cupcakes. Inspired by a recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly book - food for fit and healthy kids. A great book with lots of lovely things in it, and for £6.99, it's only double the price of a magazine.

Yogurt, Berry & White Chocolate Muffins
225g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 eggs
280g fruit yogurt (they suggested low fat, we only had full fat)
150g frozen mixed berries (we had Autumn berries which included some cherries)
125g white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 180C, less if fan assisted (you know your oven). Line a 12 hole muffin tin with papers.
In a bowl mix the sugar and flour.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, add oil, yogurt and berries and mix well. The berries will start to leak colour and it should start to turn a beautiful purple colour (see above).
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Remember the rule not to over mix muffin batter or it ruins them!
Put a spoonful of mixture in each muffin case, Using half the chocolate sprinkle a little on each. Top with another spoonful of mixture until it's all used up. Sprinkle with the rest of the chocolate.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes. Ours didn't look ready after this time so I turned the oven down to 100C and continued to bake them for a further 8 minutes.
Take out and leave for 5-10 minutes and then place them on a rack to cool completely.
When cool you could sprinkle with a little icing sugar.

Note: The book suggested wholemeal self raising flour, which would have made them a bit healthier, but we didn't have any. It also said to mix the flour and sugar and then add all the other ingredients and mix. I don't think you'd get the beautiful purple colour if you did that as you're not supposed to over mix muffin batter. I like how we did it.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

I could sing and dance....

It's amazing what a little sun can do. I had intended to make Tana Ramsay's Bang Bang Chicken on Thursday evening. Best laid plans and all that, we ended up having pizzas delivered. Will it blow the budget out of the water? I haven't added up this week so who knows.

Earlier today outside in the glorious sunshine, just two days late, we had Tana's Bang Bang Chicken. Although by the time I'd finished it didn't much resemble Tana's recipe... It's t.shirt weather in the Surrey Hills today, jumpers and jackets left inside. Truly beautiful clear blue skies and skin warming sunshine... The sort of warm that makes you crave a nice chilled glass of white. I love days like this, warm enough to eat outside, and cold enough in the evening to light a log fire. Perfect, perfect, perfect...

Bang Bang Chicken

I roasted a whole free range chicken for this, Tana's recipe suggests 3 skinless and boneless chicken breasts. (There's plenty of chicken left over and some of the sauce, I might make a big Asian inspired soup with both.)

1 x 340g jar of smooth peanut butter (minus a heaped tablespoonful, used previously)
Half the jar filled with water
4 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 tablespoons of sweet mirin
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of sunflower oil

Put all of the above ingredients in a bowl suitable for heating over a pan of boiling water (see below). Set the bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir every minute or so. It will take about 10 minutes, by which time it should have come together and will be of a pouring consistency. If it's too thick, add a little more water and stir well.

Shred the chicken and pour over the sauce. I served this with thin slices of cucumber, carrots and fried rice, using the leftover rice from dinner last night. Small really loved this, Little said he didn't like it at first because I made the mistake of telling him it was made with peanut butter, something he doesn't like. Eventually he agreed that it was really good. Lesson I should have learned by now. Never admit something is made with an ingredient children say they don't like.

Can't have been that bad because this is all that was left.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Bang Bang Chicken and my husband has lost the plot

I love, seriously love my husband but I fear that he has completely and utterly lost the plot. He recently purchased an elliptical cross trainer, having cancelled his gym membership. We live in a bungalow with one attic room. Said attic room is currently the dumping ground. At the moment this cross trainer is sat in the lounge, alongside the very old and very beautiful church pew, and infront of my very old and beautiful linen cupboard. The short term plan is to clear the dump/attic room and put the cross trainer up there, long term plan is to extend upwards with bedrooms up there, possibly even room and space for exercise too...

So imagine my surprise when looking at my ebay account to see that we were bidding on a multigym, a very large, cumbersome, ugly multi gym. That was okay it was only .99p. Then I discovered that my husband had put in a maximum bid of £52.00. For the last few days we have watched eagerly, hoping that someone would outbid us. Great excitement yesterday when someone did start bidding (probably the owner of the multigym), the bidding went to £41.00 and stayed at £41.00 until 2pm this afternoon when the auction ended. We are now the not so proud and not so happy owners of a stupid dumb multigym that we have absolutely nowhere to put. (I love you darling, I really do but, honestly...!)

To celebrate, not this but Chinese New Year, I have made a menu change. I'm going to make wife of Gordon Ramsay, Tana's Bang Bang Chicken and serve it with Noodles of some sort - click here for Tana Ramsay's recipe on the UKTV Food website. (I'll post how it turns out later with pics).

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Wooohooooo - it's pancake day! (now with pics)

Who needs a balanced meal when it's pancake day?! We eat pancakes often, they're not a once a year special occasion feast for us. Though I have got into the habit of making American style pancakes with maple syrup more often than the crepe style pancakes that I had as a child, which were always served with golden syrup or lemon juice and sugar, and always rolled. I remember when I lived with my Nan I used to make pancakes for tea most Sunday afternoons. I loved the whole ritual of it and have fond memories from doing so. They were always appreciated and I felt proud of myself for making them.

Little is in London as I type, his first school trip. All day my thoughts have alarmingly darted back to him. We live in a world gone crazy and I've caught myself a few times imagining the worst. He was so excited, mainly at the thought of going on a double decker bus. We had to remind him to say goodbye. Small gets furious if Little doesn't hug and kiss him goodbye before going into class. The teacher had to hold the whole class up one day when Little had forgotten. Small was running after him screaming and shouting 'You forgot to kiss and hug me!' It's very sweet but could get a little embarrassing when they're older!

Anyway I can't wait until he gets home and then we can start our PANCAKE FEST. I can't decide what type of pancakes, might live dangerously and do both. It's the one day of the year where I don't care if the children have the right balance of nutrients on their plate and I don't stand over them watching to make sure they're not putting too much sugar or syrup on. Poor Hubs will have to re-heat his. What's the best way to re-heat them, I wonder? I'll post pics later.

Edited to add pics and some dialogue between Little and Small...
Little having arrived back to the village safe, sound, and full of his day in the old smoke...
Little ' it feels like we're eating a really special feast'
Small ' yes parasite feast'
Little 'you mean paradise feast'
Small ' I mean parastite feast'
Little ' you don't'
Small 'I don't mean that'
Little 'You mean you do mean that'
Mummy 'Okay boys should we just enjoy the Pancake Fest, and could you please pass the syrup'

Table laid with golden syrup, maple syrup, lavender honey, oranges, lemons, sugar
last of the Christmas chocolates, sliced banana, grapes and blueberries...

Decided to do both American style and..

Crepe style

Small hitting the grapes and blueberries first

Little insisted I make the above for him.
'I want the grapes and blueberries cut in half and the chocolate crumbled on top so that it starts to melt and then fold it over, so that I can squirt honey over it.'
Me - 'Do you mean drizzle the honey, darling?'
Little - 'No, I mean squirt.'
Me - 'Did you have a slave in your former life?'
Little - 'I think so, when will it be ready?'
Me -'Harumph!'

Little - 'See Mummy like this.'

Little - 'This is the best, you should do one like this for yourself.'

'Would you like to photograph this one for your blog Mummy?'

All washed down with our own fruit cocktails, complete with 'fancy' straws.
Do we know how to party?! I promise these were the boys idea!

Happy Shrove Tuesday!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Little Foodies latest article for the Daily Tiffin

This isn't food related but I just posted an article over at The Daily Tiffin with tips and thoughts on coping with family life when you're temporarily unwell or incapacitated. If you want to take a look then click here.

Little Foodies Meal Plan - Week 3

This is easy peasy. Can't believe we're into week three already. The fact I may have spent all of the money saved so far on some on-line shopping purchases is neither here, nor there. They are all valuable things for the kitchen or household - slow/rice cooker steamer combo, blender to make smoothies for breakfast, ceramic bread pans, books, Roald Dahl collection of children's stories on CD. Like I said, all valuable things for the household!!

Midweek breakfasts - cereal with milk, fruit smoothies
Weekend breakfasts - American style pancakes with maple syrup , poached eggs on wholemeal toast

soft flour tortilla, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, chorizo, chunks of cheese, mandarin, apple juice
focaccia with cheese salad, apple, apple juice
couscous salad, banana, apple juice
prawn sandwich, salad, mandarin, apple juice
tuna salad, mandarin, apple juice
Sat: soup and homemade bread
Sun: roast of some sort will depend what I feel like in the butchers

chicken casserole and herb dumplings, cooked in the new slow cooker
PANCAKE DAY - yipppeeeeee!
prawn, pea and coconut curry with basmati rice
coley fillets with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes
vegetable stir fry with noodles and peanut sauce
Sat:Chinese Food to celebrate Chinese New Year, need to plan this, friend coming for dinner too.
Sun: Sandwiches or soup as we will have had a big roast earlier in the day.

Afterschool Snacks: I'll make some fruity flapjacks and possibly some lemon drizzle cakes.

So, that's this weeks plan...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

What we ate... Week Two

I didn't do a meal plan as such. I wanted to see if I could stick to the £70.00 or under without a meal plan. I think we need a meal plan this week so I'm working on it now.

Midweek Breakfast : cereal with milk, fruit, water. Weekend Breakfast: cereal on Saturday, bacon and eggs on Sunday.

Midweek Lunches :
tuna wraps with salad, fruit, apple juice
2 days X cheese and chorizo sandwich, salad and fruit, apple juice
pasta salad with cheese, fruit, lemon meringue pie, apple juice
cheese and marmite sandwich, salad, fruit, apple juice

Afterschool Snacks : quesadillas, lemon meringue pie, apples, bananas,

Midweek Dinners :
Monday: Little went to Pizza Express for a pizza making party. Small picked at food, cheese, carrot, cucumber, bread, banana, mandarin. Hubs and I had pasta with tomato and clam sauce.
Tuesday: Boys had pasta with garlicky tomato sauce, cheese, salad and lemon meringue pie. Hubs and I had vegetable stir fry with noodles. (I made a great sauce for this with soy sauce, sweet mirin, rice vinegar, brown rice vinegar, honey and smooth peanut butter - it was A+)
Wednesday: Boys had dinner at a friend's house. Organic sausages with chips and raw carrot. We took, lemon meringue pie for dessert. Hubs made himself a quick pasta dish. I had dinner at my friend's house too, her husband was away for a few days so we had a girlie chat and amazing food, duck with lime and ginger sauce. (Thanks K, it was absolutely delicious!)
By now we were running out of food I'd wanted due to the Sainsbury's mess up so the boys had pasta with cheese and salad. Hubs had a work problem so no sooner had he got home he needed to go out again. He made himself a quick bacon sandwich. I couldn't be bothered to cook so had the same.
Friday: Roast chicken, roast potatoes, broccoli and onion gravy

Weekend :
Saturday - Lunch: Quesadillas, followed by carrot cake and baklava which friends turned up with by surprise - I love surprises like that! Any friends can turn up at ours unannounced so long as they bring cake!
Dinner: fishfingers and oven chips, no veg smothered in sauce. I don't feel it was a good week for food! Thank goodness we had roast lamb to look forward to on Sunday!

Sunday - Lunch: At cousin's house Roast Lamb and a ton of lovely fresh vegetables with gorgeous gravy and lashings of mint sauce. Followed by homemade apple pie and custard. My cousin used to be a chef many moons ago and I love his simple country style of cooking... Delicious! We all fell on the food as if we hadn't eaten decent grub in weeks!
Dinner: marmite on toast - too full after such a big lunch for anything else.

TOTAL COST FOR THE WEEK: £52.83!!! What a result, but that was with a few meals eaten elsewhere, and we had a lot of lemon meringue pie this week! By the time I've finished with Sainsbury's it might end up that this week cost us nothing!

A huge moan about Sainsbury's on-line shopping!

This week has been a total pain in the you know what, for more reasons than one... I've been in serious pain for most of it and do not feel like I've been coping well. To top it all when Sainsbury's decided to give the most rubbish service I have ever experienced it was blood boiling time.

During the first week of trying to change our food budget from an average of £140.00 to £70.00 a week (Click here for more details) we had trialed Abel and Cole. I was a little disappointed with a couple of things so thought we would probably go back to using Riverford, but I was too late to get a delivery from them. Anyway I needed to do the monthly on-line shop and decided I would do our weekly shop included in this. I used, it was easy to navigate and it chose Sainsbury's as the cheapest supermarket for the things we wanted. I was staggered by the saving compared to my usual option of Ocado.

What then ensued is absolutely farcical. The Sainsbury's driver turned up with the delivery, he seemed grumpy that he had to walk down some steps to get to our front door. I said he could drive round to the back where there are less steps, he chose to stay where he was.
There was a note to say 18 items were not available to deliver, I wasn't charged for these items.
When the driver left I discovered that he hadn't left any of the frozen things, which I had been charged for.
I then discovered that all of the bananas were bruised (I'd bought three lots), the cucumber had a big hole in it where something had pierced it, some of the parsnips chosen were woody and disgusting, and the organic red potatoes had black bits growing on them and were generally disgusting too.

I called the call centre to be told their systems were down. She took my name and telephone number, details of what happened and said she would call back. Nobody called back.
The next day I looked up the number on the internet and called again. A lady answered who was in the foulest of moods I eventually asked if she was okay because she sounded very peeved about something and I felt as though I had done something wrong. Her attitude then changed. She said they would deliver the goods that afternoon. That she would refund the items which had been damaged or weren't good enough and that she would credit me with a £10.00 voucher. I said okay, thank you very much blah blah blah. Waited in, no delivery.

I called back and then spoke to a really lovely man who was very apologetic. I told him that his colleague sounded like she was in a bad mood. He admitted that the manager had spoken to his colleague about her attitude that day. He also said there was no record of me calling. He asked when they could re-deliver. It was agreed between 10 and 11 the following morning. Again, no delivery.

I called again and spoke to the same man who was again very apologetic, but then explained that they were a branch in Warrington and that after he'd spoken to me when he tried to bring up our booking he couldn't, but that he had spoken to the main Central Customer Services and they were supposed to call me back to sort it all out. You can guess that nobody from Customer Services had called me.

So, I rang customer services. I asked to speak to a manager and then had a few minutes talk with a man trying to persuade me that I didn't need to speak to a manager that I could tell him and that he would be able to deal with it. I spoke politely and didn't raise my voice but by now my blood was boiling. I said that he shouldn't take it personally and that I would not explain it all to him only to have to explain it again to a manager and it was definitely a manager that I needed and wanted to speak to.

Eventually he got a manager. I explained the situation so far. She said that she had been working on the evening that the systems had been down (this was now 3 days later) and that they had over 400 people that they were trying to call back but unfortunately their system was again down. She promised to sort it out and that she would call me back with an update. She was professional and friendly at the same time. She did call back but had been unable to resolve it properly as the on-line manager of the branch that would do the delivery was not in and the person she'd spoken to hadn't totally understood the situation. She asked if I could give her until the following morning, which I agreed. She also said she would e-mail an evoucher for £25.00, £5.00 refund for delivery and £20.00 as a gesture of goodwill. I just felt like giving up and saying forget it, I'll just chalk it down to bad luck and never use you again.

The following day I got a call from the same Call Centre manager who told me the on-line manager in the branch would be calling me to arrange delivery of everything. Eventually, some hours later the on-line branch manager did call. She was professional, apologetic and very good at handling the whole situation, explaining everything clearly about what would happen from then on. It was agreed that they would deliver that evening. I asked if we could go through the list to make sure there would be no further problems. She said that some things might not be available in the store but would I be happy if they substituted them. I agreed so long as I could decline them on delivery if they were a substitute I didn't want. She also gave me her number and said to call her the following morning if there were any problems.

The driver turned up and low and behold several things were missing again, no substitutes made. No cucumber, or bananas. They can't tell me they didn't have one cucumber or one bunch of bananas in the store. No salmon, parsnips or organic red potatoes. These are all things that they would have had substitutes for. I haven't bothered calling back. I will probably call on Monday. Anyway moan over, it was just a rubbish and very frustrating week, more so because when Sainsbury's messed up I couldn't go and get the shopping myself.

I'll post later what we ate this week and how much it cost. Just needed to get that off my chest and make sure I had it noted down for when I can muster up the energy to call or write.


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