Thursday 29 January 2015


Good Morning to you,

'If more of us valued food and cheer and song,
above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.'

J.R.R. Tolkien

It's time that I owned up,

I am one of the many people who love the J.R.R. Tolkien books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so I was very excited to see the final part of the Hobbit when it was released at the cinema.

I know, these films are not to everyone's taste, but I love them. 

I remember reading The Hobbit in 1977 and I found it a real page turner, but of course with Natasha being a little girl and Danielle a baby, there was not much time to read..... but I did find snippets of time, and that was usually when Danielle fell asleep, which I seem to remember did not happen very often.  Of course she slept, but she was a baby who seemed to be awake more than she was asleep, especially at night time, but as she grew and became a teenager, that trend was reversed, she seemed to sleep more than she was awake. I know she won't mind me telling you this, as we often laugh about it ourselves.

During the quiet times, I would snatch the odd few minutes to read a chapter and even though I terrified myself with the description of the Orcs, (remember, it was a different time and I had never read anything like this book before) it didn't prevent me from finishing the book. I really do not like scary films, even comedy scary films, but there was something about the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which drew me in.  

..... so when I discovered that Peter Jackson was turning the books into films, well I was so very excited, if a little unsure, because I have often found when a book is turned into a film, the characters in the film don't fit my expectations, but with these films, I can honestly say, I was not disappointed.

Each year, I waited patiently for the next film to be released and if Natasha and Danielle were home, we would all go to the cinema together to watch the newly released film on Boxing Day.  It became quite a family tradition.

Mmm, I wonder, now that  the final Hobbit film has been released, what will be our  new Boxing Day tradition.

Talking of Danielle, it just flitted through my mind,  I really wish I had this recipe, I am making today of,

fruit and nut snack bars, when Danielle was a baby, as they really would have boosted my energy levels. There are many versions of these snack bars and to be honest you can add the nuts and dried fruits of your choice.  I tend to add whatever I have to hand.  The only thing I have never added before is an egg and baking powder, so I was interested to read Elizabeth Hutchinson's recipe which included both ingredients, so I decided to add  the extra ingredients this time and I was very pleased with the result.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,

the fabulous Michael Buble.  I know I have featured Michael before, but I really do enjoy his music.  What's not to love about,

It's A Beautiful Day
Who's Lovin' You
Close Your Eyes
Come Dance With Me

When Michael tours, here in England, his concerts are sold out in no time at all, which makes it very difficult to buy a ticket..... but maybe one day, yes, one day, I will be lucky enough to see him sing live, but until then, I will continue to enjoy his albums.

So with Michael dueting with Bryan Adams and singing 'After All' it is time to organise my ingredients.


3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
2 tablespoons of runny honey
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
300g rolled jumbo oats
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking powder
200g of mixed seeds
125g of de-stoned soft dates
150g of mixed dried berries
(eg dried cherries and dried cranberries)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C
You will need an 8" x 12" deep baking pan


Line the baking pan with
parchment paper.

Set aside until needed.

Using a large bowl,
mash the bananas,

peanut butter,


the egg,

(Whisk the egg before you add it to the bowl.)

vanilla extract

mix the
ingredients together.

add the cinnamon to the bowl,

baking powder,

rolled oats,

mixed seeds,

chop the dates into small pieces
add to the bowl

dried fruits.

all the ingredients together
until thoroughly combined.

Place the mixture
into the lined baking pan
and using the back of a spoon,
press the mixture firmly into the baking pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes

Remove the baking pan from the oven
and whilst still warm,
cut the bars into the size which suits you.

Allow the fruit and nut snack bars to cool in the pan,

when time is short 
you need to eat something which is healthy,
these fruit and nut snack bars will be ready and waiting
for you to

The reason these are so popular in my house is that George is, as I have mentioned to you before, a keen swimmer and walker.  Often when we return from our walks, George is ready to go to the swimming pool to swim his laps.  When time is short, he does not want to eat lunch, but he will eat one of these snack bars, which as well as being enjoyable,  are filled with ingredients which will give him energy to complete his 3 mile swim.

You will see that I cut 8 portions of the fruit and nut snack bars, this is because they are mainly for George, but if I want to eat a snack bar, they are too large and so I cut them in half, so actually, if you want smaller portions you will be able to cut 16 snack bars.

Also you can make the snack bars deeper, by using a smaller pan, but remember you will need to bake them for another five minutes or so.

These bars are not very sweet, so if you prefer a sweeter flavour, add a little more honey.  The one thing I would say is, be sure to use ripe bananas as  this is a very good recipe for using up bananas which are left in the fruit bowl, which no one has eaten..... waste not want not.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

Thursday 22 January 2015


Good Afternoon to you,

I love where I live, as everyone is so friendly.

On most days, George and I go for a three mile walk  around the village and on our walks we meet all sorts of lovely people.

Yesterday, for instance, we met a lady with two of the most adorable 'Scottie' dogs, whose names were Millie and Rooney.  I immediately thought that Rooney was named after the football player, Wayne Rooney, but not so.  After talking to the owner, she said she had named her dog Rooney after Mickey Rooney, the actor. Who would of thought it.

When we first saw the lady approaching us in the distance, with her little dogs, both of us stopped talking to each other and broke out into a smile. We both knew we just had to stop and say hello. Both Millie and Rooney were so gorgeous, but the tale of their beginnings was not so rosy. I won't go into details, as it would be too distressing for you to hear, suffice it to say that both Millie and Rooney were found in a dog rescue shelter. Both dogs, who are brother and sister were there because they had been mistreated. The new owner had cared for the dogs for two years and it was so obvious that they were so well loved, but it was so sad to hear that it had taken Millie, who we could see was a nervous little dog, over a year to wag her tail.... how awful. The owner said the first time Millie wagged her tail was such a heartwarming experience that she cried with tears of joy.

We stayed to talk for a while and of course we fussed and stroked Millie and Rooney whilst we talked, but we knew after ten minutes that we had to let the lady carry on with her walk and we needed to be on our way.  As they left us, we watched them walking away and we could see that Rooney's tail was wagging beautifully, but little Millie's was less so. 

It is just so sad to think that a person or persons could be so cruel to these beautiful little dogs, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that both Millie and Rooney were now enjoying  a wonderful life, filled with love.  

Both George and I are hoping that in the near future, we will bump into these little dogs again, just so that we can give them a little more fuss, I'm sure both Millie and Rooney won't mind.

As we walked away, we turned back again to see that the lady had only managed to walk about 30 yards, before someone else had stopped to talk to her. We did wonder how long it would take her to complete her walk, if every few yards she was stopped by someone who wanted to talk to her and fuss Millie and Rooney.   I feel sure, that she would not mind, as she was a lovely lady and is probably very used to it by now. 

Talking of completing a task, it took me an age to cook this,

Brown Lentil Shepherd's Pie, not because it takes an age to make, but because the phone kept ringing and I had to keep stopping what I was doing, but,

I persevered and it was oh so worth it.  I have not made this dish for a year or so, and then I received this months edition of Good Housekeeping, a magazine I love. Inside was a recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and it reminded me that I had not shared with you my version.  So I thought it time to remedy that situation.

So, it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today, might surprise you.  The album is,

'X' by Ed Sheeran.  Whilst there are a couple of tracks that don't float my boat, the vast majority do and I feel it is always good to be open to new music. Listen to,

'Tenerife Sea'
'Thinking Out Loud'
'Afire Love'

which include the words,

'I would look into your eyes until the sun comes up
and we're wrapped in light and life and love.
Put your open lips on mine and slowly let them shut
for they're designed to be together.
With your body next to mine our hearts will beat as one
and we're set alight, we're Afire love'

They are such beautiful words.

So with 'Even My Dad Does Sometimes' playing, it is time to organise my ingredients.



1 large onion
1 large carrot
125g chestnut mushrooms
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 clove of garlic
60 ml red wine (optional)
1/2 pint chicken stock
400g tin of tomatoes
400g tin of brown lentils
200g of dried lentils
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


500g sweet potatoes
500g white potatoes
A knob of butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180C



the sweet potato
white potato
cut into chunks.

Pop into a pan of boiling, salted water
and cook until tender.

When tender, strain the water
mash the potato

a knob of butter.
Replace the lid on the saucepan
and set aside until needed.


Finely chop the onions.

Place the olive oil into a wide pan
add the onions.

Using a moderate heat
cook until golden brown.

Chop the mushrooms into small
add to the pan.

Crush the garlic
add to the pan
and cook for a minute or so.

Add the tomato paste
stir into the ingredients.
Cook for a further minute.

Finely dice the carrot
add to the pan.
stir the ingredients together.

Add the wine,
and turn up the heat to
allow the alcohol to evaporate.
This should take a couple of minutes.

Reduce the heat.
Chop the tinned tomatoes
and add to the pan
with the

chicken stock.
(Looking at this photo you would imagine
it was a cup of tea, but no, honestly,
it is chicken stock.) 

Place a lid on the pan 
bring the ingredients to the boil,
reduce the heat
simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the tin of brown lentils
and wash
under cold, running water.

Add to the pan
and cook for a further 15 minutes.

After 10 minutes,
firstly to make sure the carrots are cooked
if you find the mixture is getting a little too thick,
add a little water to loosen the mixture,
but not too loose
otherwise the mashed potato will 
sink into the filling.

season as necessary.

Give the ingredients a final stir.

Place the lentil mixture into a
relatively deep bowl
deep pie dish


place the
mashed sweet potato/white potato on top.
I find spooning it around the edges
first and then filling in the centre
guarantees that I have an even spread of

Place in a pre-heated oven
for 45 minutes
 or until the top is crispy.

Then all there is left to do

spoon yourself
couple of scoops of
Brown Lentil Shepherd's Pie



I have to tell you that usually when I make this Shepherd's pie I make it with dried green or brown lentils. I cook them first, which takes about 40 minutes and whilst they are cooking I start making the mash potato topping, but last week, I was in a supermarket which were selling tinned brown lentils for 29p a tin and it was such a bargain that I decided to try them.... and I am so pleased I did, because it turned this dish into quite a quick meal to prepare.  I actually bought two tins, so when time is of the essence, I can make this Shepherd's pie again, quite quickly.

Also, I added red wine, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  If we have a little bit of red wine hanging around which has not been drunk, then I usually add it to a dish, but don't worry, if you have none, as the dish does taste just as scrummy without the wine.

Oh and I thought I would mention that I realise this is another recipe with sweet potato, but I have to tell you, I love sweet potato, and also, they are very reasonably priced at the moment, so I am enjoying them before they become too expensive.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

Thursday 15 January 2015


Good Morning to you,

I was wondering,

are you in the habit of making New Year's resolutions?

I used to be.

Religiously, every New Year's Eve I would make a list of three or four resolutions, which at the time of writing, I really meant to keep.

They were never earth shattering resolutions, they tended to be,

I must exercise more.
I must eat more healthily.
I must cut down on my much loved  chocolate.
I must make more time for myself.

..... as I said, not very earth shattering New Year's resolutions,

but this year, I have decided, I am not going to make any New Year's resolutions.  No, not even one. 

Absolutely not, instead I have decided on something completely different.  

Well actually, thinking about it, I suppose this could be classed as a New Year's resolution, but I prefer to think of it as more of a, 'wake up and smell the coffee' moment.

So what is it.

I have decided,  that from now on, I am not going to allow negativity to seep it's way into my life anymore.

Interestingly, I read this quote, and I have to tell you it resonated with me.

'If you are part of the wrong group,
nothing you do is right'

I cannot attribute this quote to anyone, because I discovered it in an old notebook of mine, which believe it or not is 15 years old. I have so many notebooks, which include shopping lists, Christmas present lists, notes on plants I want to buy, plants I need to move, music I hear on the radio..... random information, but all the notes are part of my daily life, but back to the quote. I obviously liked the quote enough to write it down at the time, but I had forgotten about it.  So here I am, in the year 2015 having decided this will be the year that I heed this advice.

Now I am not saying that I am surrounded by negative people, because I am not, I have some really lovely friends, but as you know,  all it takes, is one person to be the fly in the ointment.

Just one person to make you feel that whatever you do is never right.

So, I have 'girded my loins' and had a talk with myself.... and after much soul searching, I have decided to gently cut the person out of my life..... it will not  be easy to do, as I never want to hurt the person concerned.... crazy isn't it, I have to cope with the negativity, but I do not want to hurt the person who is causing the negativity.  

But do you know something, after fighting with the decision for so long, having made the decision, I feel so much better within myself.

I'm not sure that the person I am talking about will feel the same once she realises, but hey ho, this is for my sanity.

How about you, do you struggle with negativity? 

How about New Year's resolutions?  

Do you manage to keep the resolutions you make?

What I do love about a new year, is the idea, that we have a fresh canvas which we can paint any way which way we like.

... and this new year, brought me something new. Do you remember, last week I showed you a strange contraption  and I asked you if you knew what it was?  Well just incase you did not know, it is a Spiralizer.  It was a Christmas gift and I love it.  

With my new Spiralizer this is what  we are going to make today.

sweet potato spaghetti..... it is delicious.  We enjoyed the sweet potato spaghetti with salmon which I marinated in soy sauce, ginger and chilli.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to today is another Christmas present.... I am very lucky indeed.

I have played this album over and over again and I absolutely love it.  If you love Barbara Streisand you will just adore this album.  I had never heard of Blake Shelton, but his voice is fabulous.  If I were really pushed to choose a favourite track, then I think it would have to be Barbara's duet with Blake..... but it only slightly nudged itself to be top of the pops, because I really love this whole album.

So with Barbara and Blake singing 'I'd Want It To Be You', it is time  to organise my ingredients.


700g sweet potato
1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil

You will also need,
a Spiralizer
with a Chipper attachment

Pre-heat the oven to 180C


Peel the sweet potato
cut it in half.

Attach one half
of the sweet potato
to the spiralizer


turn the handle
you have sweet potato
which looks like spaghetti.

Place the second half
of the sweet potato
on to the Spiralizer
repeat the process.

At this point, you are going to feel that this
is much too much sweet potato spaghetti,
but trust me it isn't.

Oh and you will be left with
little pieces of sweet potato.
I just pop them into a zip lock
bag and use them when I am making

Brush a large baking tray
olive oil

place the 
sweet potato spaghetti
onto the baking tray
pop the tray into the oven for 10 minutes.

Whilst the sweet potato spaghetti
is in the oven,

make the dressing.

Add the toasted sesame oil,
dark soy sauce,

the fish sauce
and the
sweet chilli sauce

into a small bowl
mix the ingredients together.

After 10 minutes,
remove the sweet potato spaghetti
from the oven
and toss.
You will notice a few strands
have become a little
brown, but don't worry
this does not spoil the dish.

Return to the oven for a further
5 minutes or until the sweet potato spaghetti
is cooked.

When cooked,
place the sweet potato spaghetti
into a dish.
Here you can see how the sweet potato spaghetti
has reduced, so what seemed like
far too much sweet potato in it's raw state,
turns out to be enough for 2 when it
has been cooked.

Sprinkle over the sesame seeds


drizzle over the dressing.
Toss all the ingredients together.

Believe me when I say,
 if you are a lover of
sweet potato,
you will add this recipe to
your repertoire
 make it 
over and over again.

We enjoyed the
sweet potato spaghetti
with some Scottish Lochmuir salmon fillets.
I cannot stress enough
how much
we loved this recipe.

Now I have to tell you, the sweet potatoes which are available here at the moment are huge, so I found it difficult to Spiralize.  So I decided to cut the sweet potato in half. You might find that your sweet potatoes are smaller, so there will be no need to cut them in half.

As far as the dressing goes, please do not be put off by the smell of the fish sauce, it isn't the nicest of smells, but added to a dressing it works perfectly.  I add 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce, to the dressing, but perhaps your preference is 1.  I would say, play around with the dressing and taste as you make it, then you will find the right flavour to suit you.  

Also you could toast the sesame seeds, but I find as I include toasted sesame oil, this imparts a lovely sesame flavour, but again, if you wish to you could toast the sesame seeds.

Now then, as for the price of a Spiralizer, I did not want to look up the price as it was a gift, but the Lakeland booklet popped through my letterbox yesterday and inside I saw a Spiralizer for £29.99p. Now as you know, gadgets do not impress me, and if I were to be honest, if I had seen a Spiralizer at an Ideal Home Exhibition, I would have passed it by and just thought of it as another gadget which if bought, would be popped into the cupboard, never to see the light of day again, but I cannot stress enough how impressed I am with this Spiralizer.  I feel for George and I, this is a unique way for us to enjoy vegetables. My Spiralizer sits on the shelf, so that I can pick it up and use it as and when needed, and I have to tell you, it has been needed quite a few times since I received it as a Christmas gift.

This week I am going to use another attachment to see how I can use a spiralized cucumber..... this is so much fun..... I am loving it.

So take care of yourself and I will see you next Thursday.

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