Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thrifting Fun!

There was a brief half hour or so today when the teeming rain slackened off to a drizzle. Seizing the opportunity for some fresh air, we bundled the children up and ventured out to the shops. We are so blessed to have a high street that is not only interesting to look around but useful in terms of the practical everyday sort of shops it offers. And charity shops, six of them incredibly enough. One has recently opened opposite the supermarket we visit, making trips there much more fun and today we scooped up these treasures:

The Jungle Book and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling (unabridged too!)
Mr Little's Noisy Train by Richard Fowler
The Valley Palate & Second Helpings From The Valley Palate by The Long Valley Area Junior Women's Club

The recipe books are a wonderful find. How did recipe books from Hackettstown and Mt Olive New Jersey come to be in a charity shop in Kent? I want to know the story! They are beautifully bound and presented with old photographs and little articles about the history of the local area too. I googled the Long Valley Women's Club and they certainly seem a very active group of ladies.

Isaac picked up the train book and it really is a delight. It is a 'lift the flap' book with, miraculously all the flaps intact! It has wonderful illustrations of the inside of the engine and train with all the details labelled, to the great joy of my train obsessed little boy (Rob was pretty impressed too!). The back cover gives you an idea:

We couldn't leave without this addition to our family:

Elisha picked him up and could not be parted from him. We rarely find beautiful vintage treasures in our local charity shops but we have picked up some wonderful, useful, moneysaving items. Our wardrobes would be much the emptier without them. And thrifting is such fun. I do like that word 'thrifting' although sadly, as we call them 'charity' and not 'thrift' shops the use of it is usually met with a blank stare!

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Balti Bhuna
Lamb Korai
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream & Raspberries

My sweet husband is so easy going and accommodating when it comes to food. As I have said before, this is a legacy of a frugal and resourceful mother and missionary training (not to mention his good nature). So when tonight I told him what was for dinner (archaeological treasures from the back of the freezer) and saw a wistful glint in his eye I asked him what he would really, really like to eat. This was the answer. The weather here has been hideous, more like winter than summer, and he said he felt the need for large chunks of red meat in spicy sauces. We have a very nice Indian take-away a few doors from us and, praise God, this week we are able to indulge. I cooked the rice myself and I always feel so bad when placing the order and they ask if we want rice. Making a living running a restaurant is not the easiest of things and I know that there is more of a profit proportionally from side dishes but we have a budget of sorts for this kind of treat and buying the rice would take it over the limit. Ho hum. I was happy not to cook. We had spent the day 'sorting stuff' - not organising, that would be too grand a description for it! We both felt exhausted with very little to show for it on the surface so it was a lovely treat to have dinner made for me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Chicken
Green Salad & Cherry Tomatoes
Ice-Cream Sundaes

We spent a very happy day today with a dear home-schooling friend and her 3 girls who are visiting from the USA. We haven't seen each other for about 2 years so there was much to catch up on. A simple meal (thanks to chips from our local fish and chip shop) - who wants to be fussing in the kitchen when there's 2 years worth of news to share? The ice-cream sundaes were made with mini meringues, homemade vanilla ice-cream, raspberries and chocolate dipped strawberries. I'd never dipped strawberries in chocolate before - my goodness they could become quite addictive!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet & Sour Chicken
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream

Made from scratch? Ho, ho, ho. No. A frozen ready meal. Rob spent the evening at the allotment tidying up our plots ready for Saturday's inspection - it has been the only dry evening this week. I didn't know what time he would return and as I was tired anyway we opted for this easy solution. But they never look as good as the picture on the box, you know.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Butternut Squash & Red Onion Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream

A very autumnal meal for a summer's day but if you could see the weather here you would think it was November and not June! It briefly stopped raining this afternoon but now it is teeming down again. We are blessed not to be in a flood area - other parts of the country have been seriously affected. The soup could not have been more simple: frozen butternut squash puree from last year's harvest added to some red onions which were softened in butter and olive oil, let out with some vegetable stock. I was going to puree it again but decided against it and the ribbons of onion made a nice contrast with the velvety soup. I only had enough cream to make a half batch of ice-cream but I did have a lot of raspberry puree to add to it. I've never had raspberry ice-cream before and it's an unusual flavour. I don't think I would be able to identify it as raspberry in a blind tasting (in the way you could tell at a taste strawberry or blackcurrant, for example) but it is jolly nice to eat!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Wholewheat Spaghetti Bolognaise
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream with Raspberry Puree

A little better today, both healthwise and foodwise. I made the sauce with some of last year's frozen tomato passata. I would like to try bottling (canning) the passata this year but the whole process makes me feel very nervous. All the modern recipe books I have that mention bottling have dire warnings about botulism (the vintage ones don't mention it at all - were they all immune?). The passata is great frozen, it just takes up a lot of freezer room.

I also added a 'secret ingredient' to the sauce: a couple of tablespoons of Lutenitsa. Lutenitsa is a sweet red pepper and tomato paste that has a multitude of kitchen uses. Added to a tomato sauce it gives instant 'depth' - as though the sauce has been simmering for hours in a rustic kitchen. The variety we use (brought with us in bulk when we moved from east London) is made in Bulgaria by a company called Deroni, but there are other manufacturers.

For Dinner Tonight:

Last night, actually

Homemade Malteaser Ice-Cream

Now, with a diet like this is it any wonder we are sick? And we are indeed sick. Some sort of virus making us ache and feel blah and thoroughly tired (Rob and I that is, praise God the children are fine). I should have made bread but was too tired for that. We should have been eating chicken, but I was too tired to make it. I should have made a carrot salad but ... well you get the picture. Feel marginally better this morning thanks to vitamins and a very early night.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fathers' Day (Belatedly)

As a family we have a tradition of celebrating things like birthdays and anniversaries at times other than the dates on which they actually fall. This needs explaining and it's a long story best kept for another time. This month it was the turn of Fathers' Day. Here the explanation is simple - it should have been last Sunday but we were travelling home the whole day and there wasn't time to do justice to the occasion. So we celebrated it today with presents, chocolate and a favourite ice-cream (there would have been cards too but I've put them away somewhere safe and can't for the life of me remember where!). If ever I were tempted to doubt the goodness, mercy and loving-kindness of God all would I have to do would be to take a look at the man who is my precious husband and the father of our children. My heart thrills when I ponder the reality that God brought us together and that this strong, quiet, kind and godly man is my husband.

Here is a picture of him doing something he loves to do. He spent much of his childhood in the countryside and studied forestry for his degree and his natural environment would be a small-holding in the woods. The boys had never seen him chop wood before our visit to the cottage and every time he split a log they both cheered and clapped!

For Dinner Tonight:

Mashed Potatoes
Homemade Malteaser Ice-Cream

A lazy dinner at the end of a trying day. It rained and rained and staying in all day is not good for little boys of 2 and 4. It was challenging for all of us. The ice-cream was a belated Fathers' Day treat for Rob. Malteasers are favourites of his and are very nice swirled into vanilla ice-cream.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Bulgar with Broad Beans & Red Onions
Strawberries & Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

I would like to be able to say that the beefburgers were made of organic and humanely raised beef or that they at least were from our local butchers and lovingly handmade by him (if not by me). I can't. The beefburgers were from our local freezer shop and supposedly from the kitchen of 'Aunt Bessie'. Call me cynical, but somehow I don't think she is a real person. They had the advantage of being a cheap buy at a hard time and they have lain forgotten in our freezer for a while. They aren't bad but generated so much fat in the frying pan that I wondered if there would be any burgers left by the time they were cooked.

We did better with the bulgar wheat. I added it to a mixture of red onions, garlic and our own broad beans from the freezer and cooked it in the pan with some vegetable stock. I have been musing on the broad beans. Does anyone else out there grow them? I think they must surely qualify as a luxury food in the sense that they require so much preparation (podding and then skinning the beans themselves unless they are really tiny) and produce so much inedible waste (pods and skins) for such a few delicious mouthfuls. I wondered whether it was really worth us growing them but Rob reassured me that the variety we grow, because it is grown over winter, doesn't take up space from other more 'useful' crops. Plus, broad beans with their nitrogen fixing root nodules are great for the soil quality and any waste is compostable. Hurrah! Isaac enjoys helping me prepare them too:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Will Your Anchor Hold

For some reason, I don't know why, this hymn has been buzzing around inside my head all day. I can't tell you how many years it has been since I last sung it in church. It would be considered very old fashioned at our present place of worship, but I think it's spendid. I've always thought of it as a Baptist hymn (if hymns can be said to have denominations) and British too, but it turns out that the writer, Priscilla J Owens, was a Methodist from Maryland. I pray that we may all know the assurance of being grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul

Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.


It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.


It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.


When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.


For more wonderful hymns, visit

Rob's Nana at 95

Our trip up to stay with Rob's parents coincided with several birthdays, most notably that of his grandmother, Enid, who is 95 this year. We praise God that she remains hale and hearty, full of life and good humour. Here are some pictures of her and of her garden which she maintains pretty much on her own. Her energy simply amazes me!

For Dinner Tonight:

It's Creamy Tomato Soup
Homemade Bread
Blackberry Coffee Cake & Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

I can't remember which blog I got the recipe for the soup from - I copied the recipe into Word and managed to leave out those details. Fortunately the original blogger (I wish I knew who- someone from Canada I think as the Amazon link is for there) included the details of where the recipe was originally from and it is so nice I wanted to share it:

'It's Creamy Tomato Soup' (adapted from "Gardeners' Community Cookbook," by Victoria Wise, Smith & Hawken 1999).

1 large onion, chopped
2- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
10- 12 fresh basil leaves, torn
One leafy sprig each fresh thyme and oregano, leaves stripped from stems
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Sour cream (optional)

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until fragrant and soft, 8- 10 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, potatoes and broth and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt, a pinch of sugar if desired and freshly ground black pepper. Add herbs to pot, simmer to combine flavors and puree either using a handheld immersion blender or pureeing in batches in a food processor or blender. Soup will be very thick and creamy. To serve, pour into warmed bowls with a swirl of sour cream on top, if desired.

I had to adapt it even more as we were out of onion, garlic, potatoes and fresh herbs. We had all of these things dried however. It did make a difference, but it was still very nice.

I saw this yummy recipe posted today on Pleasant View Schoolhouse and decided to try it with some of last year's frozen raspberries. Delicious! Very quick to make and suitable for endless variation. We need comfort food: it hasn't stopped raining all day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Spinach and Lamb Curry with Couscous
Aduki and Tofu Chilli Burgers
Homemade Bread
Mint and Carrot Salad
Mixed Berries with Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

Yet more gems from the darkest corners of the freezer. Have I ever mentioned what an understanding husband I have? Rob had the curry (frozen leftovers) and I had the burgers. The manufacturers will have to give me a lot more than the 59p I paid for them to induce me to ever eat them again. They were truly strange. The berries were the 'rejects', to squishy to be frozen or given away, but nonetheless delicious. I cannot imagine how much it would cost us to eat the quantity of fruit and vegetables we eat from the allotment - especially given the price of organic produce here. The Lord has truly blessed us when it comes to the allotment and I am thankful for all the hard work Rob puts into it. Now, if we could only keep a cow .......

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday: Thermos Flask

If you have one of those amazing wall mounted heaters that heats water to boiling in an instant or a coffee maker that does the same for you, all this won’t apply to you, but I use a kettle for boiling up water for tea and coffee. I have gone through two electric kettles in less than four years (a long and frustrating story – is nothing made to last anymore?) and so we have recently invested in the kind that sits on the gas ring and shrieks at you when the water is ready. It is enamelled steel, designed to last decades, red, glossy and to my mind a thing of domestic beauty. Its one drawback is that it takes an age to boil and we mothers have to grab our coffee when we can. Added to that it has no gauge and I find it hard to boil only the water I need for the purpose, wasting time and energy. So I adopted a trick from an elderly and very frugal friend. I fill up the kettle, let it boil, use what I want at the time and pour the rest into a large Thermos flask. I do it in the morning, for that last cup of tea before Rob leaves for work and the water sees me through the day. It is instantly available should I have need for a coffee or tea and I save on the fuel bill.

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer

For Dinner Tonight:

Corn Tortillas Filled With Chicken Curry
Corn Tortillas Filled With Bolognaise Sauce
Sliced Courgettes
Loganberries and Strawberries and Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

Yes, more clear out the freezer food. The leftover chicken curry and bolognaise sauce were in plastic containers, hidden in the dark recesses and I wasn’t entirely sure what they were until they had thawed a bit. The courgettes were from last year’s harvest too, fried up with butter and olive oil. The corn tortillas were from an excellent recipe posted by the Headmistress at The Common Room and made a little go a long and tasty way.

The Perfect Displacement Activity

My home looks like a landfill site, I have a week's worth of ironing to do and my children, who have spent the last week happily playing with a mere half a dozen toys, have pulled every toy they own out of the cupboard and all over the floor. So what do I decide to do? I decide the best use of my time is to rearrange the books in the landing bookcase ..... according to colour.

Just call it summer madness but it seemed like the only thing to do at the time. In her book of essays Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman tells the cautionary tale of friends of friends who

"... had rented their house for several months to an interior decorator. When they returned, they discovered that their entire library had been reorganized by color and size. Shortly thereafter, the decorator met with a fatal automobile accident. I confess that when this story was told, everyone around the dinner table concurred that justice had been served."

In my defence I have to say that the bookcase was only a small one and serves as a sort of a holding pen for books waiting to be shelved elsewhere and I wouldn't try it elsewhere with any of the other bookcases, honest truly. It does look nice though.



Now, off to alphabetise my pantry...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Vegetable Samosas
Vegetable Pakoras
Yoghurt & Mint Sauce
Raspberries & Strawberries with Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

It's berry season again, praise God! While we have been away the soft fruit has begun to ripen in earnest. We need the freezer space to store it, hence tonight's 'global' menu. Yes, it's clean out the freezer time and eat what we can. The samosas and pakoras were actually quite delicious - from Lidl and half the price they are in other supermarkets. The raspberries and strawberries were sublime and no credit to us - they just grow with very little effort on our part. Rob gathered some tonight and was very glad he did. Less than 10 minutes after his return we had the most astonishing thunder storm and torrential rain which would have reduced them to puree!

Monday, June 18, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet and Sour Pork
Egg Fried Rice
Loganberries and Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream

Ah, a Chinese take-away: the traditional fare of returning holidaymakers.

Home again, home again ......

Without a fat pig, but with at least twice as much as we went with or so it seems! It is good to go away but so good to be home again. We have had a whirlwind of a week and are most grateful to Rob's mum and dad who ferried us about. We spent some of the time with them in Wirral (Cheshire) and some of the time with them at the little cabin they have in the woods in Wales. It was a time of family celebration - nearly everyone in my husband's family have June birthdays, most notably his uncle who was 70 and his grandmother who was 95. I am now in that shell-shocked post-holiday state and up to my ears in laundry and 'putting away'. Photos will follow soon I hope.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet & Sour Pork Hong Kong Style
Shanghai Chicken

A treat tonight from our local Chinese take-away, as I was busy packing and didn't want to cook. The rice was leftover from yesterday. Tomorrow we leave to travel up to Cheshire with Rob's parents. We'll be staying with them and having a family celebration in honour of Rob's grandmother's 95th birthday and his uncle's 70th. We are praying for safe journeys and fine weather. Back around the 17th. God bless you all.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken & Vegetable Korma
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream
Stewed Rhubarb

It is rhubarb season again - and I still have loads in the freezer from last year. It goes very well with the ice-cream - I might even be tempted to make ice-cream from it. The korma was from a jar, for quickness. Bland.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Bratwurst Rolls
Sweetcorn Salad
Homemade Crunchie Ice-Cream

Recovering from the migraine and trying to catch up with housework today (Rob's parents are coming), so an easy dinner tonight. The boys enjoyed the sausage, as always, but just a little while ago poor Elisha was violently sick. He had been asleep, then woke tossing and turning. We are praying that there will not be a repeat later tonight.

Monday, June 04, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb & Spinach Curry
Homemade Crunchie Ice-Cream

Bad day. Migraine. So tired. Sleep.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Happy Sunday

Well it has been a strange but very enjoyable day, by way of the Sabbath. We have hardly spent a moment indoors (weather glorious), so not exactly a day of rest - but we have spent lots of time as a family, enjoying all that God has blessed us with. Sundays are sometimes difficult for me (something for another post) but this was not one of them.

It started bad. I had intended to go to the 8am service, but battling a migraine decided to catch the bus. I got to the top of the road to see it sailing past. The next one would have got me to the church too late, so I came back to the house, took more pain relief and slept for a while. When I awoke we set out for the 10.30 service together. Our church has been running a 'Tent Event' in a local park for the last week. Lots of activities for the children and evening meetings for adults. Not exactly evangelistic in an explicit way, but a very low key 'Christians don't bite and are just like you' approach. My thoughts on this sort of thing would fill a page, but would not be worth reading. Church this morning was a sort of grand finale to the week, very exuberant and good fun, with an excellent Gospel presentation from our vicar. We had an encounter while there which left me reeling as to how people perceive home-schooling (definitely something for another post) but we were able to laugh it off. On the way home we encountered a dead badger: a cub that had been hit by a car. Rob moved it over onto the grass verge out of the way of traffic. That certainly prompted some discussion with our 4 year old. One only ever sees these shy creatures close up when they are dead, sadly. They are so beautiful and so large, even when young.

Home for a very quick sandwich and a cup of tea, then off to pick this year's supply of elderflowers and a happy afternoon rummaging around in the woods. Saw a beautiful oak tree which we had never spotted before. My husband, who studied forestry at university, reckons it is at least 300 years old. Astonishing. Then home with our harvest, another quick cuppa and out again to do the recycling. The boys rescued some unwanted toys that had been dumped and I 'liberated' a food magazine from one of the bins. Then off to the allotments to water and weep over the luxuriant growth of weeds. Finally, home for dinner, storytime and bed. We are counting the minutes until the boys fall asleep and we can join them!

For Dinner Tonight:

Spaghetti with Sweet Pepper Sauce & Ham
Homemade Crunchie Bar Ice-Cream

It has been a busy day, so this was thrown together very quickly - thanks to a jar of pasta sauce and some left-over ham. The ice-cream was a special treat for Rob who has been asking for it ever since we brought the ice-cream maker out of storage. Basically it is vanilla ice-cream with chopped up Crunchie bar folded into it. I'm not sure how international the Crunchie Bar is - it's a chocolate covered honeycomb/cinder toffee bar that is utterly delicious, incredibly sweet and my husband's favourite. The meal was a big hit with the boys. I think all the exercise and fresh air had given them an appetite. Spaghetti is always popular but it is the first time that I have ever known our 4 year old to eat something with a tomato based sauce on it. "Thank you mummy for making this meal" he said. Given the struggles we often have with him over food, I feel very encouraged.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Grilled Bratwurst
Potato Salad
Green Salad
Chocolate Chip Cake

A very easy dinner for a very hot day. Our weather is quite crazy here - pouring with rain and chilly one day, blazing sunshine the next. We all seem to be battling some sort of germ, so even this simple affair seemed like too much of an effort. The bratwurst were from Lidl and very nice (91% meat too). The cake was also a Lidl creation. I try to avoid buying 'shop cake' (usually all looks and no taste) but this was tempting, a bundt cake topped with icing sugar. What sold it to me (apart from the shape) was the description on the label that said it was made with quark. It was very moist indeed and a bargain at 99p.

Friday, June 01, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Curry 'Surprise'
Roast Potatoes with Cumin
Homemade Strawberry Ice-Cream

The surprise element in the curry is that I didn't intend to make it, it just sort of 'happened'. I had planned to make a warm salad affair with (you guessed it) left-over lamb, onions, mushrooms etc with probably a minty dressing but as I stirred up the onions and the lamb it sort of spoke to me and said 'curry'. So I added more vegetables, some spices and fresh ginger, yoghurt and coconut milk powder and it all cooked together very quickly. The potatoes were already in the oven (cut up small, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper) and I added the cumin half way through. I do like potatoes with curry, inauthentic as it is - but then I don't think anyone visiting from India would recognise what passes for curry in our house to begin with!