Friday, 28 February 2014

Centre

Yesterday evening I went to my second flower class (I've signed up to do one a month for 4 months).
The subject was CentrePieces

The teacher, Janni, likes to use other materials, not just flowers.  It's really made me think about what I can use.

I made 2 centrepieces yesterday.  The first was in a fairly large round metal "bucket"

Finished Item:
 Building it up:
Start with the foliage...

 

Then add the large items (in the case bark and lemons)


Time for a second one:

This was a quick one I made at the end, using a standard small plastic tray.  I was originally only going to have one rose in the middle, and the feathers were gorgeous and floaty.  However, I needed to put a little more in the centre and ended up with 3 roses.  The roses look lovely, but they've completely crowded out my feathers.


It still looks OK. It's impossible to photograph it to show it off properly.

I'm happy, anyway.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sunshine!

What a gorgeous day!

Grasped the opportunity to take Tilda out for a dust bathe.  She has been out there rolling around in the bath for ages.  I have been keeping an eye on her thanks to the RunCam.

I tried to take a snapshot where she had her legs at some strange angle, but I missed it.

 The entrance into the run is down, so all the other Girls are kept outside. It's the only way Tilda can relax enough to have a good old rummage, and it means she only gets sole use of the run when the others don't need to have access.

She's getting to the end (of the dust bath) now.  She's sitting there, presumably trying to decide whether or not to get out. 


Yup. she's up now, just done an enormous shake, sending dust everywhere.  The greyness of the photo isn't a result of poor lighting, it's dustbath stuff particles in the air.
She's ready to come out now, so I'll go and release her.

As usual she will have the choice of coming in,  staying in the forbidden garden, or going in with the others for a bit.

No idea what she'll choose today.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Redemption

DH dug up the last of the parsnips yesterday so that I could make spicy parsnip soup.
 
I love slightly spicy parsnip soup, and we usually make an enormous amount and freeze portions to eat later.

In previous years we've had a bit of a parsnip fest, digging up all the parsnips in one go and then pigging out on parsnip soup, parsnip bread, parsnip crisps. 

DH doesn't eat vegetables (apart from potatoes),  but he will eat home grown parsnips.    It isn't just that he's grown them himself - he grows a wide array of vegetables for me, without eating them himself.  The thing about home grown parsnips is that they truly are different from anything you can buy.   Even if you buy from a farmers market where the farmer pulled the parsnip that morning,   it isn't the same.  Home grown parsnips really DO taste different.

As soon as a parsnip is wrenched from the ground, the sugars start converting to starch.  It only takes a few hours for this to happen.   Freshly dug parsnips are amazing because they are so sweet.      When we have roast parsnips, we delay picking the parsnips until just before we want to start cooking them.  We've had roast parsnips a few times lately,  and I cook extra because I also love to eat (home grown and therefore sweet) roast parsnips when they are cold. Yumm!

Anyway, we decided to make soup, and DH went and dug the parsnips.   We decided that he would dig up ALL the remaining parsnips and  I would to make a big vat of soup and freeze the extra.  I was also going to make some Parsnip Sage and Parmesan (Delia recipe) bread to go with it. Maybe even parsnip crisps.

There weren't that many parsnips!    We'd had them so often for roast dinners in the last couple of months that there were only just enough parsnips to make 4 large portions of soup.  So, we had soup for dinner, and I froze the rest.

Not even enough parsnips left to make the bread.    I made a completely different loaf, Irish Soda Bread, using some of the buttermilk from the recent butter making, and embellishing it by adding some grated Parmesan and some Parmesan pieces. I also crumbled some of my dried sage leaves into it,

When the bread had cooled slightly, but was still warm, I taste-tested it. I'd overdone it with the Parmesan.  I had another slice, just to make sure.

The soup was lovely. I didn't put the apple in, as the only apple I cold find was a mummified one from Christmas.       So, the soup was a little sweeter than perhaps it should be,   but it went really well with the parmesany soda bread.

DH finished the soda bread with some cheese later in the evening.

I feel I've redeemed myself after yesterday's KFC fail.

I used Delia's recipe from her Winter collection for the soup - a version here: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/curried-parsnip-and-apple-soup-with-parsnip-crisps.html

The bread I wanted to make, and have made before , it's delicious - is from her How To Cook series, and a copy is here: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/parsnip-parmesan-and-sage-bread.html

The bread I actually made was my mum's mum's recipe (although she used sour milk, and I use buttermilk). Margeuerite Patten has a very similar recipe in her Basic Basics Baking book, but I can't find an online link.  I just added some grated Parmesan, then some small cubes of Parmesan.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Unobservant

The other day I was filling the electric kettle, and I noticed that the spout wasn't pointed.  It was a trapezium shape.

As it filled, I wondered why I hadn't noticed it before. 

And I wondered what the design criteria was - was this straight edge shape somehow better than a pointed spout?  I supposed yhthat a kettle didn't need a pointy spout, it's not as if I was going to be pouring boiling water into a narrow necked receptacle.     Perhaps this shape enabled the water to pour faster?
 

I made the tea.

Later, as I was filling the kettle again,  DH said "Oh, I forgot to tell you. The kettle fell in the sink and bounced on it's spout.  I straightened it as I couldn't get it in to a point."



Fail

My home made KF did not turn out well.

I wish I'd shallow fried it on either side for a few minutes, then put it in the oven to bake.

Never mind, will know for next time.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Grind

The last of the dinner birds were culled on Monday.  Four for us, three for Other Chap.

We;ve never had so many chickens culled in one go before, so we decided to keep one whole, and to  make chicken "quarters" out of the rest.  This is something of a luxury.  In all the years we've been raising chickens for the table (and not buying chicken), we've never done this. usualy we have a whole chicken, roast it, and then make various meals out of the cooked meat for the subsequent 3 or 4 days.

So, our culinary world is full of opportunities.  And what did I choose for our first meal? 

Southern fried chicken.

Yes. Home made "KFC".   I haven't eaten KFC since I started keeping chickens.  I used to love the taste, but once I started keeping chickens.... well, let's not go there.

I have two thighs and two drumsticks ready.  I have my book, "The Takeaway Secret", to give me the ingredients.   Fortunately I read the recipe yesterday in case I needed anything.  Just as well, because we don't have  "Dried Onion Powder" and "Dried Garlic Powder".  I searched the ssupermarket websites.   I could buy dried onions in most of them,  and a form of dried garlic in others.    I guessed that an asian supermaket would probably have them.  If not, I could buy the fried stuff and grind it myself.

And then I realised that I could make my own. 

Ha!

I sliced a couple of red onions (I only had red), really, really, really thinly, I separated the semicircles, and spread them out over four layers of the dehydrator (I told you thin. There were a lot of them).  Then I peeled and sliced some garlic.  And some more.  I spread those on additional sheets.   I then peeled some garlic and chopped it, and spread that on a sheet (might as well try it while I'm at it).

My book gave different temperatures for onion and garlic.   Under the circumstances, I went for the higher onion temperature,  and set it off.

The smell was divine.

I then forgot about it completely, DH remembered as we were watching a film we'd recorded.  I've no idea what it was in Rambo II that made him think of my onions and garlic.

They were crispy. I sampled some of each - they were delicious! - and then I turned the dehystrator off and left everything inside.  

This morning, to my surprise, the bits were still crispy.  I gathered up the onion, and blitzed it. Then I gathered up the garlic, and blitzed that.    The red onion powder is a kind of lilac colour,

I only just managed to get the required 2 teaspoons of garlic powder.    All those cloves, so little powder.

From a taste point of view - yes, defintiely!  The dried pieces of both were delicious. I can see them being great in a salad, or added as texture to other things. mmmm mmm mmm.

From a cost point of view - hmmm. 
 
Garlic: We'd grown the garlic, so probably it was marginally cheaper for us to make our own.      Definitely worth doing again,   although next time I would do many more cloves at the same time.

Onion: dried onion powder is cheap. Dried onions, which I could blitz myself, are cheap.   However, if the dehydrator is on anyway, it's probably worth doing.   Yes, I think I would do it again.  

I haven't made my chicken seasoning yet, doing it later.   Hope it works out OK!



Thursday, 20 February 2014

Full of cold

I'm full of cold. My constantly bocked nose - sdespite decongestants - means I'm becoming a mouth-breather,  and the knock on effect of that is that I'm permanently thirsty.

I made butter yesterday, very carefully and wearing gloves.  The gloves meant my hands didn't come into contact with the butter (very important as I have a cold).    I bought double cream at Tesco, because they had an offer on. It was still much more expensive than Costco, but I didn't have to drive so far (petrol saving), I didn't sepnd on other bulk-buy-bargains (could be a cost or could be a saving),  and it didn't take as long to get there and back (time saving).

My butter production line went smoothly.  One of the chaps on a blog I follow has recently bought an Ankarsrum Assistent (http://johnnorman.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/ankarsrum-assistent/#comment-205) for making bread.  When I read his post, it occirred to me it might be a good machine for buttermaking.  I found myself thinking about it as I was buttermaking this time,  wondering if it would be even more efficient than my KitchenAid for churning the cream, or salting the finished product.  Or washing the butter maybe?  

I tried not to think about it too hard, as I don't have worktop room for another appliance anyway.






Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lull

Not only do we have a lull in the storm but today we have a really gorgeous day. It's like Spring has sprung.

Back windows are open to let some air in. 

The Girls were out eating some fresh grass, so I took the opportunity to put Tilda in the dust bath while I filled up the feeders, scrubbed and refilled the drinkers, etc.
video


Afterwards, she indicated that she wanted to go in with the others.  She stood, patiently, by the gate which goes into their free range area.    Feeling strongly that this was not in her best interests, I ignored her and went back into the house.

Later I saw that she had moved, but was now sitting by the netting.  This was another indicator that she really wanted to go in.   Against my better judgement, I picked her up and carrie dher to the gate, and then opened the gate.  She ran in.

I hope she'll be OK.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Matilda and Mrs, in felt.

I stumbled across a Facebook site where a lady makes little felt hens.    I asked the lady to make me two ginger girls, and they arrived today.

They are gorgeous.  The picture is from the maker's Facebook page, I couldn't take a better one.


https://www.facebook.com/onelittlebrownhen?ref=br_tf

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tilda

Still with us.

She's been wandering around downstairs, looking into the utility room, having a peek at the living room,  and also finding a spot to sit down between the bikes under the hall stairs.

Maybe she's looking for somewhere to slip away quietly?

But then again,  her appetite seems reasonable.  And she comes running (well, shuffling quickly) across the kitchen when I get the Yoghurt out.

All we can do is wait and see what happens.

Administering cat tablets

Izzy is currently on 1/4 of a minute tablet, twice a day.  She was starting to get wise to the "heres a treat, heres a treat, here's a tablet.." routine.

Fortunately I had an appointment with my Chiropracter, Tania, yesterday.   We were chatting about cats and chickens, and I mentioned Izzy and the tablets.   Tania told me what they do when their cats have tablets.

On the way home I popped into the supermarket to buy some prawns.  As we are on Flood Alert, I thought I'd better get some cat food as well, as we only have a week's worth in the house.   And some lemsip for DH, who has a cold.  And some Milton, as it was on special offer.  And some cabbage for the allotment chickens.

When I got home I realise I had forgotten to pick up prawns. 

I remembered that Izzy liked cheese. At least, I think she did. Or was that Maddie, our previous cat?  I wasn't sure because we don't give Izzy cheese because she has to watch her weight (or, rather, we do).

Anyway. I pushed the tablet into a tiny bit of cheese, rolled it into a small ball, and rolled it in front of Izzy.

CHOMP.

Job done.  Repeated that evening and the following morning.

Thank you Tania.

I think I'll have to find something other than cheese though. The amount is tiny, but it is going to be 14 times a week.



Floods

Parts of our village have been badly flooded, and some parts (like us, luckily) have not.  The Parish Council and the flood wardens have been working non stop.

The community spirit has - mostly - been great. Facebook (which I dislike immensly) has been a great help.

We've had a couple of not-so-supportive things occur,  such as sandbag deliveries being stolen (by people passing through the village, in vans) before they could be moved to safety.    Now we have to post watchers when we have a delivery. Bit sad, isn't it?





Friday, 7 February 2014

Will to live.

Matilda, our house chook, took a turn for the worse today.

She had been her normal self this morning, and had been walking round the kitchen.  We went out for a while (cats to vet). When we got back, she was looking a bit sorry for herself.  She'd done a poo, or rather, she'd done a water.  It wasn't watery poo, it was a lot of water.  I wondered for a moment if she'd passed the white of an egg, but it wasn't gloopy enough.

I put her in her apartment while I cleaned up.   Then, without warning, she tipped forward, with her bottom in the air.  Her head and neck went dowm and her eyes closed.  She was on her way out.   I sat beside her, talking to her - telling her how much she was loved, what she meant to me, talking about the sunshine blah blah..

I've had several "this is it" moments with Tilda over the last 14 months,   so there was part of me that didn't really believe she was going to go.    As the seconds dragged by, she stayed in that  position, and eventually I could feel myself believing this really was it. I wondered whether to ask DH to "do the deed".  I decided to wait for a bit.  I didn't want her to suffer, but I didn't want to do something so final unless I was sure.

Then her eyes opened a bit.  Then she moved so she wasn't lying on her face.   And then she just looked a bit miserable.    Instead, I fetched water and a dropper.  She drank.  She drank a bit more. And more. SHe moved back into a more normal (ish) position



A few minutes later, I offered her some food. She looked, put her beak in, but rejected it. She looked like she was falling asleep, so I got up off the floor and went about my business. I checked on her every few minutes.


A little later, I tried some yoghurt.  She managed to eat some of that.  Then some more water.

Now, she's almost back to "normal".   Normal for 'Tilda anyway.    Almost.

Her will to live is very strong. 

Cat fits - starting preventative medicine

The cats had their annual checkup and vaccination boosters today.    We'd also managed (finally!) to record one of Izzy's fits, so we could have a good discussion with the Vet about what to do.

She's had 13 fits since we saw the Vet on 1st August.   The bloods then were clear, meaning there was nothing physically causing the fits.   The video helped the Vet confirm, as we already knew, that she was having full Grand Mal seizures.

Because she's now having them about every 3 weeks,  the Vet recommended we start her on Phenobarbitone.  She's starting on a low dose, twice a day;  we need to take her back to the Vet for blood tests in a month to check that it's not causing problems with her liver etc.

It'll take a couple of weeks to have any effect, so she may well have seizures in between.  And there may also be some side effects, although the low starting dose will itigate that as much as possible.

Let's see how it goes.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

QUeing to use the Facilities

Rain, yet again, so the Girls are choosing to stay in the covered run.

Here are three of them in a queue for the dust bath

And then two..

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Mucking up mince

On Sunday we had slow roasted topside of beef.  It was a large joint, and low-temp- roasted topside is one of  favourites.  Delicious tender beef, tastes amazing hot or cold, and not an expensive roasting cut.

My low-and-slow book told me to sear it for 10 mins first (which I did, perfectly), then to slow roast it at 80 degreees (non fan) for 2.5 to 3 hours for a medium rare finish.  The roasting tray was put in the oven while it heated up.

We've done this many times now, and we know that it always takes longer than the book says.  I allowed 3.5 hours.  It had 3.75 hours, and still wasn't quite done (it wasn't medium rare) in the middle. I know, because I use a proper probe thing..

This isn itself wasn't a problem. We just had the beef off the ends - which were cooked -  for our meal,  and this left us with some lovely beef for "second hand meat" (as the son of a colleague once called it). 

Usually we slice some leftover beef for the freezer, for future quick-roasts or cow-in-the-hole.   I thought that this time I'd make an enormous pot of mince, which could then be used as filling for either cottage pie or or teviot pie (suet crust pastry), or whatever.

We bought a dedicated mincer recently. Our Kitchen Aid mincer worked OK, but this one is much faster, and does a better job.      We minced the whole of the remaining joint using a coarse blade, and had an enormous bowlful. It was rather more than I had been expecting.

I got out a big saucepan, and started to prepare it.    I fried some chopped carrot, onion, celery and garlic.  I added the meat. It didn't really need browning.

 I added a little stock.  The stock disappeared. It got sucked into the mince!

I added more.

It disappeared.

I added a little more, this time it wasn't absorbed.  I added the herbs and other bits.  I left it to simmer.

About 15 minutes later,  my lovely coarse mince had reduced to half its' volume, and looked like it had been very finely ground. It was like gravy with tiny bits in!

Not only that, but all the stock had now come back out of the mince, and was sitting on the top.

I stirred.  I simmered rapidly to evaporate off some of the liquid.

I got out my pie tin, and some freezer tubs.  I used a slotted spoon to spoon the "mince" out of the liquid into the receptacles, topping the freezer tubs up with some of the gravy.  I made my pie.

Pie tasted  fine - although the texture of the mince wasn't at all what I wanted.

The leftover gravy was also decanted into feezer tubs and frozen.  We always need gravy for -in-the-hole dishes, so leftover good gravy is always frozen.

I've no idea what went wrong with the mince.   Maybe I shouldn't have added the stock when I did?
Having seen all the stock come bback out o fthe mice,  I now know I cerrtainly shouldn't have added so much!

I do wish I'd only used half of it for mince.  Lesson learned.

I'd tested the oven before and it had been accurate - although I realise now I had only tested it on the fan setting.      I've now tested it on the non fan setting and found that it's 5 to 10 degrees out.  I tested the probe, and that was accurate.   I've tested the other oven as well, and that was also out by about 10 degrees. 

Again, I'll know for next time.





Monday, 3 February 2014

Strange addictions

I'm addicted to pickled cucumber spears. Mrs Elwood's, specifically.




Some years ago a dietician advised me to try having a tabespoon of cider vinegar about 15 minutes before my evening meal.  The acid would get my digestive juices going, and it would help me digest my meal.

It wasn't as unpleasant as I expected.  Despite this, I didn't keep it up. She gave me several pieces of advice, and this is probably the only one I didn't stick to.

I've always liked vinegar on my chips,  and vinegar on my tuna. I love Tyrrells Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar crisps.  In the old days, when I still ate McDonalds, I had BigMac because of the gherkins. I remember that the sister of an old boyfriend used to like vinegar sandwiches, but that was too much for me.

Sometimes, when I'm thirsty, I crave something a bit vinegary.  I guess I miist have had one of those cravings while doing an online supermarket shop. They must have popped up as being on special offer or something when I was browsing the shop. 

The jar sat in the cupboard. And sat there. And sat there.

Just after Christmas I was having a bit of a vinegar craving, and I opened the jar and tried one, closing the jar as I ate it.  I opened the jar and had another. And another.

After a couple of days the jar was empty.

Since then, I always have a jar on the go in the fridge and a spare in the cupboard.  I try and limit myself to eating one (or two) a bit before a meal.   Kinda in the spirit of having the vinegar before I eat.

Or at least that's what I tell myself.
 

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