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Category Archives: House and Home
It’s said that home is where the heart is, and my heart isn’t in this blog any more, so I’m moving to a new blog – a fresh start – and I hope you’ll join me there.
So, from now on, you can find me blogging at
Last year I was lucky enough to be able to make many jars of blackcurrant jam with the bountiful berries harvested from the bushes in my sister’s garden. Unfortunately, as my sister no longer lives at that house, my blackcurrant picking this summer was not to be. Not to be thwarted, I have been keeping my eyes open for berries growing wild. I have my eyes on a vacant lot with loads of blackberry bushes which I am hoping will bear loads of fruit, as blackberry is my favourite jam of all!
Last night, on my way to work, I spotted a tangle of wild raspberry bushes and decided to pick some on my way home. Unfortunately, it was quite dark and I had to pick what I could without being able to see much. I planned to make jam using them along with the pears and plums I had in the fridge.
Sadly, on seeing the raspberries in the light, they were pretty rank and couldn’t be used. Not to be deterred, I pressed ahead and made pear and plum jam (sans raspberries) instead. I was a little worried it wouldn’t set properly, as I don’t add pectin, instead relying on the pectin naturally present in the fruit.
Fortunately, the jam did set and although it’s a little sweet for my personal tastes (it could do with being just a touch more tart), it’s pretty tasty. As you can see from the photo, I got just shy of four jars filled. I look forward to trying some on a slice of toast, or perhaps a home-made scone!
Ever wondered what to do with that leftover roast chicken? Sick of sandwiches? Why not try this delicious recipe for a change…
Chicken, Spinach and Soft Cheese Stuffed Cannelloni with Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
OK, so it doesn’t look very appetizing, but I promise it tastes good!
- 1 small onion (roughly chopped)
- 2 large garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
- 1 medium carrot (finely grated)
- 100g courgette (finely grated)
- 50g mushrooms (roughly chopped)
- 1 x 400g can plum tomatoes
- 500g passata
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/4 tsp oil
- large pinch mixed dried herbs
- large pinch paprika
Stuffed Cannelloni Ingredients:
- 10 – 15 cannelloni tubes (depending on how big they are)
- 180g fresh spinach (wilted)
- 150g roast chicken (finely chopped)
- 1 small onion (finely diced)
- 200g extra light soft cheese
- To make the sauce, roughly chop one small onion, crush the garlic, and sautee in the oil till the garlic turns the colour of cappuccino.
- Add the tomatoes, passata, grated carrot and courgette, roughly chopped mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, herbs and paprika, and simmer till you reach the desired consistency and the carrot and courgette “melts” away into the sauce. You may like to add some water and then reduce it.
- To make the cannelloni stuffing, wilt the spinach, then set it aside to cool.
- Finely dice a small onion and the chicken, then stir into the soft cheese.
- Squeeze all the water out of the spinach and roughly chop it, then add to the mixture and stir through.
- Stuff the mixture into the cannelloni tubes allowing 2-3 per person depending on size. Use your fingers – it’s messy, but it’s easier, trust me! (And if your kids like helping in the kitchen, get them to do this bit – they’ll love it!)
- Place the cannelloni tubes in your baking dish, and cover with the tomato sauce.
- Pop it in the oven at 200C for around 30 minutes, till the pasta is cooked.
- Calories: 234
- Carbs: 26g
- Fat: 6g
- Sat Fat: 2g
- Protein: 18g
- Sodium: 249g
This nutritional information is based on the brands I used (Asda smart price passata and tinned tomatoes, Asda cannelloni tubes and tomato puree, Kraft Philadelphia Extra Light soft cheese). Using different brands may well result in different nutritional values.
I made this up in individual portions so I could freeze it (pre-cooking stage) and just defrost and pop it in the oven whenever I fancy some cannelloni. I allowed three cannelloni tubes per serving because the Asda ones are quite small. As you can see, I didn’t mention any cheese sprinkled on top, because I like to leave them without it in case I don’t have enough of my allowances left for the day to have that. It’s lovely with a sprinkling of cheddar melted on top, or even just a sprinkling of parmasan when you serve it. It’s great served with a green salad or some garlic bread, or just alone as a light meal.
We had a bunch of bananas that were getting a little over-ripe, so I was hunting for recipe ideas to use them up. I had a big smoothie for breakfast, but that only used one of them, so Xander and I experimented in the kitchen and came up with a lovely moist banana bread recipe that is surprisingly low in fat and calories.
Makes 1 small loaf yielding 12 slices
- 3 small bananas
- 40g honey
- 2 eggs
- 50g margerine/butter
- 200g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Mash the bananas till they’re all fluffy, then add the honey and eggs and mix well.
- Add the margerine/butter and mix well.
- Stir in the flour and mixed spice.
- Line or lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin and pour in the batter.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the banana loaf is golden and cooked through.
- Slice into 12 equal portions and keep in an air-tight container.
- Calories: 127
- Carbs: 22g
- Fat: 3g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 19g
These values are based on the brands I used (Asda Smart Price flour, honey and eggs, and Lurpack Lightest). If you use different brands, your nutritional values may differ slightly. The values offered here are merely a rough guide for you.
I think this would also be really good if sultanas/raisins were added, but you’d have to adjust the values for that.
A lovely moist banana bread that doesn’t really need anything on it! The honey lends an indulgent slight stickiness that is just gorgeous, and the banana flavour is light rather than overpowering. Just enough spice to give it a little extra flavour. Xan and I both enjoyed this and Xan LOVED mashing the bananas and stirring everything up.
I enjoyed mine with a glass of skimmed milk and I’ll be taking a couple of slices in to work with me this evening so my colleagues can try it out too!
Xander is really getting into making things in the kitchen, so when he begged me to make some cakes with him this afternoon, I couldn’t say no, and we headed through to experiment and make up a new recipe. Here’s what we came up with…
Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate On Top
Makes 6 cupcakes
- 90g banana
- 30g reduced fat peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 egg
- 40mls skimmed milk
- 100g self raising flour
- 30g sugar
- 18g chocolate buttons (3 buttons per cupcake)
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Mash the banana and mix well with the peanut butter, vanilla essence, egg and milk.
- Add the flour and sugar and mix well so that the cake batter is light and fluffy.
- Spoon into six cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.
- Remove from the oven and immediately place three chocolate buttons on top of each cupcake so that the chocolate melts, then spread it over the top of the cupcakes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Calories: 154
- Carbs: 25g
- Fat: 4g
- Sat Fat: 4g
- Protein: 4g
- Sodium: 1g
These values are based on the products I used (Asda reduced fat peanut butter; Asda Smart Price eggs and flour; Asda chocolate buttons), so if you use different brands, the values may differ slightly, but as a rough guideline, this will give you an idea.
These only have a very slightly peanut buttery taste, but the banana wasn’t so overpowering as to completely cover it – it was a very tasty combination. There was just enough chocolate on top to make it feel indulgent but without it being too much. Xander certainly enjoyed his! We had a lovely time making them together too!
You know how I’m terrified of spiders? And you know how I’m determined not to pass that phobia on to Xander? Well, there was a spider in the bath last week. I told Xander that he was just having a little wander around and then Daddy would rescue him when he got home. Xander then asked, “Why don’t YOU just rescue Insy Winsy, Mummy?”
So I got a piece of card and a plastic pot, and I guided that spider on to the card, trapped him with the pot, and released him on the veranda wall so he could “go home”.
Xander seemed impressed. He told me, “That was very kind of you, Mummy. Now Insy Winsy can go home to HIS Mummy and not be lost any more!”
Granted, the spider was only the size of my thumb nail, but this is a MAJOR step for me. My heart is beating so fast as I type this that it feels like it could burst as I was so scared. But I kept that smile on my face the whole time (thank Gods I’m a good actor!).
That day I was the bravest Mummy in the world, and my little boy doesn’t even know it!
This morning I had to remove yet another (significantly larger, this time!*) Insy Winsy from our bath. I did it without hesitation and without visibly wigging out. This, however, is not the reason I feel proud. No, the reason I feel so proud is that I’ve just realised it’s become so commonplace that I forgot to even mention it to Dale today. (Mental high-five to self!)
* By “significantly larger” I mean if was one of those where the body is about the size of the tip of my thumb and THEN there are the long legs. Not quite a fill-your-palm spider, but heading that way!
I’m proud of myself.
Today I Am Awesome!
Of course, that’s not to say that if another shows up and Dale is home, I won’t make HIM deal with it – they still make me feel sick with fear inside I’m just getting better at hiding that from Xan!
Xander and I love experimenting in the kitchen together, and sometimes I like a savoury snack rather than a sweet one, so I thought we’d play around with an idea for savoury muffins and this is what we came up with. It’s a very simple recipe and it turned out delicious! Xander even enjoyed licking the batter off the spoon before it was cooked (he likes to do that with cakes, but I didn’t expect it with savoury muffins!)
Cheese, Onion and Sweetcorn Savoury Muffins
Makes 4 muffins
- 30g onion
- 30g sweetcorn
- 30g cheese
- 60mls skimmed milk
- 60g self raising flour
- 1 egg
- pinch of mixed herbs
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Dice the onion as finely as you can, and grate the cheese on the finest grate setting.
- Lightly beat the egg and milk together, then add the onion, sweetcorn, cheese, herbs and flour, and mix well.
- Spoon into four cupcake cases.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden on top.
Info for your food diary (per serving):
- Calories: 120
- Carbs: 14g
- Fat: 5g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 6g
- Sodium: 8g
These values are based on the products I used – Asda Smart Price flour and Asda Mature Scottish Cheddar (the rest are generic) – please remember to adjust the values according to the products you use – these are only a basic indication. I think a touch of broccoli and/or carrot might work well. I also like using courgette in recipes like this, so I might try adding some of those next time. If you like extra cheesy, use an extra mature cheddar and perhaps a touch of parmesan, but remember to adjust your values!
These turned out fluffy and light and just the right size to pop in a lunch box. Xan’s not keen on sweetcorn, but he only picked out a couple of pieces that he spotted in his muffin and ate the rest no bother. I’ll definitely be making these, and variations on this recipe, again – sometimes it’s nice to have a savoury snack instead of something sweet and these just hit the spot!
I very recently got into a new crafty hobby – crochet! I know, I know, it’s another “granny craft” – my hubby and sister are always joking that with my cross stitch, and now crochet too, people would be forgiven for thinking I’m in my 80s, not my 30s, but I reassure them that needlecrafts are the rock and roll of the crafting world! Yes, it’s now COOL to crochet, cross stitch, quilt, knit and do any number of other needlecrafts.
All the big celebrities are doing it. I kid you not – big stars who like to knit include Christina Hendricks, Felicity Huffman, Katherine Heigl, Kristen Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, and even David Arquette (yes, the guys are getting in on the action too!). And those are just some of the knitters! Crocheters include Madonna, Meryl Streep, Debra Messing and Bette Midler. That’s right – her Madgesty is hooked on the hook!
And with pioneering peeps such as Mr. Cross Stitch rocking the world of cross stitch, being into needlecrafts has never been so cool!
Anyway, back to my own early attempts at crochet. I did a few practice squares of a few stitches last year, but it was only a couple of months ago that I decided to seriously give it a try and I’ve now completed two afghans (the first of which I can’t show yet, because it’s a gift for someone and they don’t have it yet!), and have started work on a third!
Here’s the colourful blanket I very recently completed for my lovely son, Xander. Look at his little face! He was so excited to see it finished and on his bed (which is completely covers, by the way!) that he actually squealed! He doesn’t often agree to pose for photographs, but he was more than happy to sit with Mr. Wuffles and let me snap this picture of him sitting on his newly covered bed. He snuggles down under it watching the television as well as in bed at night. He loves it!
I also made a cushion to match his blanket. He was a bit unsure at first because he liked the old red faux leather cushion covers we had before, but since then he’s decided he rather likes it after all (phew!) and has it on his bed to lean against when he’s looking at his books. They’re both just a simple granny square design, so the project grew very quickly.
Then I decided to make a cover for my Cyclone tablet computer. I didn’t follow a pattern at all – It’s just single crochet till the pieces were large enough to cover the tablet, then crocheted together in single crochet. I made two little crochet buttons to fasten it.
The front is in lime green, the back is tangerine, and the flap and buttons are lemon yellow, so it’s a very fruity-coloured case!
Now I’ve begun work on an afghan for my own bed. It will be in very muted tones of white, light grey and dark grey, and will feature a circle-in-a-square motif. I’ve actually designed my own pattern for this quilt, which is a big step for me! Watch this space for progress pictures as it grows!
I love the summer – not because of the sunny weather, but because of all the summer berries that come into season! (I’m not a warm weather person – I think I was supposed to be born in the Arctic Circle, but the stork missed his mark and dropped me in the UK instead!).
Xander (my three-year-old son) is having a phase of “I don’t like that” with most fruit and veg, so I have to come up with ways of getting him to eat them without realising it. I based this recipe on the Celebration Cornet Cakes on the CBeebies website, but wanted to cut a few calories here and there to make it a treat I could also enjoy now and then. Here’s what I did:
- 1 egg white
- 30 mls oil
- 30 mls skimmed milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 20g caster sugar
- 60g self raising flour
- 60g fresh raspberries
- a few drops of pink food colouring (optional)
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Lightly whisk the egg white, and add the oil, milk and vanilla.
- Add the raspberries to the mixture and break them up to make the mixture go pink (you can add a few drops of pink food colouring if you wish).
- Add the flour and sugar and mix well. The mixture will be very sloppy.
- Divide into four cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy with a glass of milk or a cup of iced tea!
Info for your food diary (per serving):
- Calories: 146
- Carbs: 17g
- Fat: 7g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 18g
Values are based on the products I used – they may vary slightly from brand to brand. As you can see, it’s a very simple recipe, and you could easily swap out the raspberries for other soft fruit – blueberries or blackberries, or even cherries might be nice, but remember to change your nutritional values to correct them.
I have to say, I’m very pleased with how these turned out. They weren’t particularly pink, but then I didn’t use any food colouring in mine – if you want your cupcakes more rosy, you can add a little extra colour if you wish. These are very light little cupcakes and have a pleasantly fruity flavour which is complemented by the vanilla, but neither overpowers the other. The verdict from my 3-year-old son is that they are yummy, so I’m happy with that!
If you try this recipe, or a variation on it, please do let me know what you think of it!