Category Archives: food

Happiness is…a mince pie

It might still be November, but I’ve already started on the mince pies. I blame our local supermarket cafe who are now offering discounted mince pies with any hot drink. Crikey. There goes my diet!

toa-heftiba-174051-unsplash“A mince pie is a sweet pie of British origin, filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called “mincemeat”, that is traditionally served during the Christmas season in much of the English-speaking world.” Wikipedia

According to a feature on the TV news, us Brits will consume over 200 million mince pies during the festive season. One of the country’s largest producers have to employ an additional 350 seasonal workers to keep up with the demand for 720 pies a minute at peak production. One look at the supermarket aisles and you can see the whole array of pies now offered, even some with added chocolate, but I admit to preferring the traditional recipe I grew up enjoying.

Apparently, in medieval times mince pies were filled with meat (thank goodness that’s no longer the case, or I’d be sunk – vegetarian here). Soon, cooks started adding sweeteners to the mix and the pies became a kind of status symbol. Spices and dried fruits, such as saffron, figs and dates, had to be imported and were therefore only available to the wealthy. By the twentieth century the meat had given way entirely to the spiced fillings.

The association of mince pies with Christmas seems to date from the 17th Century when the rich liked to demonstrate their wealth at their yuletide parties. Pies made in different shapes like stars and hearts added a further demonstration of wealth and status as it showed that these people were able to afford the best pastry cooks.

A custom from the Middle Ages says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night this will ensure happiness for the year to come. Well, that’s good enough for me. Oh, and tradition says you should make a wish on the first mince pie of the season.

Enjoy!

 

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Summer Squash

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It’s been awhile since we posted a recipe.  I was never good at posting them but every once in awhile I stumble on one I want to share.  Rick and Linda (Son and Daughter-in-law) have a very productive garden again this year.  Last year Rick gave me a summer squash. I don’t like them but he told me to try it with Pasta which I did and Oh My Gosh so good.  This year I asked for them.  Yummy, fresh out of the garden I made the dish in the picture. There actually are three ways to serve it. And, I’ve tried them all.

  1. With sour cream
  1. put in a casserole dish and top with cheese. Cook in oven until the cheese is melted and even browned if you like it that way.
  1. Just as is with no cream or cheese

I like them all.

Recipe:

Summer Squash – as many as you want

Pasta – I used the Tri-Colored Fusilli but I really like Penne too.

Bacon bits

Fry squash in oil. For this one I used avocado oil but I can’t tell the difference between it and olive oil.  Season with favorite seasoning.  I used  Island Spice we got in Jamaica.

Cook pasta in salt water.

Drain pasta and stir in a little oil. Mix with fried summer squash and put in bacon bits. I love bacon so put in quite a bit.

Enjoy it just way or embellish it with sour cream or cheese.

Cornish Pleasures

Peter and I went to Cornwall this month for a much needed break, we booked a cottage for a week.  In September Peter is planning a long cycle journey, 70th Birthday Challenge to himself, so part of the holiday was to test out various starting routes so the bike came too! I’ve put a link below so you can get an idea of the perfect place we based ourselves at for the week. Our cottage was called Spring Water Barn, formerly used as a pumping station for the natural spring water on the Bonython Estate.  Sadly a phone/washing machine incident has prevented me showing most of the photos I planned to show you from Peter’s phone!  No explanations required I am sure!!

Bonython Estate is a 20 acre estate with beautiful gardens which are being restored.  Set on The Lizard in Cornwall, the southerly most point in Britain, it proved to be the most relaxing place I have ever visited.  Our luxury cottage was surrounded by woods in a private garden with sun most of the day, perfect for evenings sipping wine and bird spotting.  In fact most of the time the only sounds we heard were birdsong as the other two nearby cottages were empty all week.  Although it was difficult to leave it we went out each day to visit the beautiful coves and small towns in the area.  The first day we did a 3 mile walk to a cove called Poldhu, great walking down but luckily regular local buses ensured I didn’t have to walk back up the very steep hill back.  We had lunch at a beach cafe watching families enjoying themselves on the beach. The sea sparkled and it was wonderful. Lunch finished with a scrumptious Cornish Cream ice cream cone – perfect.  We had intended to visit the Marconi Monument marking the spot of the first Morse code communication with America but the thought of another steep climb up and down made me change my mind.  I thought of how easily we “chat” with each other so quickly today which started from this small point.

Next day we drove around the coast to Mousehole, where we stayed in November and unfortunately Peter had taken ill.  This time we managed to walk two miles back to Newlyn a centre for artists since the turn of the 18th Century.  A small gallery enabled me to view local art students’ graduate work with sea views through the windows providing Nature’s art work. Lunch in a local cafe of fresh crab provided a welcome break and revitalised we walk along the seawalk back to Mousehole.  It felt a bit emotional as Peter has recovered well and is dealing with his condition amazingly. My big pleasure was the next day when we went Park and Train to St. Ives and the Tate Gallery.  Traffic is so awful in the narrow streets of this popular seaside town that measures are being taken to restrict the volume of cars.  For a small charge it was possible to park all day at Lelant and catch the regular train to St Ives, this branch line is one of the most profitable routes in England.  £10.80 for two adults all day (not worked out dollars sorry) but cheap.  I had two hours of art whilst Peter searched out a lunch spot and explored the town. A Patrick Heron exhibition was interesting, but my favourite works are by Barbara Hepworth. Barbara worked and lived in St, Ives with her husband Ben Nicholson and their children.  Her house is a wonderful place to visit too but sadly I was too tired to climb the hill up to visit this time. I have seen it several times and love the mix of her works and plants in the garden outside her studio.  No room to talk more about her but please look her up.

A wonderful quote by her about her aim as an artist: “…to infuse the formal perfection of geometry with the vital grace of nature.” (Ref. Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden by Miranda Phillips & Chris Stephens).

The visit was completed with crab sandwiches and a glass of Rosado blush in a cafe on the Porthmeor Beach below the Tate.  As we walked back to the station Peter treated me to another gorgeous Cornish Cream ice cream, I couldn’t understand why he’d just bought one for me – but his chocolate cone had been snatched by a huge seagull before he even managed a lick! Gulls are a bigger problem for St. Ives than traffic, despite copious signs and warnings people will feed them titbits.  They are becoming a danger as they fly down and steal whatever they fancy.  I did share mine with him!

On our last day we visited Porthleven, a small fishing port where the catch is landed daily and then served in the many cafes surrounding the harbour.  Our lunch was in Amelies, next door to Rick Steins, where I had Crab Soup followed by Moules served with home-made bread.  Half a carafe of Provence Rose Blush – heaven. My photo doesn’t do justice but suffice to say one of the best meals I have had, do check out the website.  I hope to return to Porthleaven for a few days In October. The day ended with a walk around Bonython Gardens, one of the treats of staying there is free access and after the public leave it’s one’s own secret garden for a few hours. The highlight for me was the Yew Chapel shown at the start of my blog.  Yew Trees have been trained and trimmed to form a chapel complete with alter and pews with a cross above the altar.  I found it so spiritual, surrounded by beautiful woods and utterly peaceful. So many Cornish Pleasures.

 

 

http://www.bonythonmanor.co.uk/

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum-and-sculpture-garden

http://www.ameliesporthleven.co.uk/

 

Gallery

Cocoa

This gallery contains 3 photos.

During our cruise one of the ports of call was Limon Costa Rico. During a river tour we stopped and our tour guide came back on board the bus with what looked like a giant nut. He asked if we … Continue reading

Simple Pleasures

I love napkins/serviettes. Not just the crisp white linen varieties found in restaurants and at formal dinners, but the pretty paper versions. They make me happy. I know that sounds daft but sometimes it’s the small things scattered throughout the day that bring a smile. I tend to pick up packs of paper serviettes while out and about, and almost always bring them home from trips away, both home and abroad.

20180525_133724While at lunch last week, Jane (after looking at me sideways when I admitted my fetish for paper napkins) helped me demonstrate a particularly pretty variety used by our eating establishment. And no, we hadn’t imbibed too much wine 🙂

Napkins/serviettes have been around a long time. The first napkins were used by the ancient Romans who used pocket-sized pieces of fabric to mop their brows while eating. The Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands, a practice which morphed into sliced bread used by the ancient Greeks. Paper napkins came into use after the invention of paper in ancient China during the 2nd century BCE.

The practical soon became an art form, too. Elaborate napkin folding techniques date back to the time of Louis XIV of France and to 16th century Florence. Today, it is not uncommon to find intricate folding designs both in restaurants and at private functions.

Who knew the simple napkin/serviette could have such an interesting history?

Laziness or Good Time Management?

January started a bit differently to how I anticipated with a referral back to the Breast Care Unit.  Everything has worked out well and yesterday I had the All Clear. During waiting times I began to think of how I use my use my time, do I fill it up with things to do or am I enjoying my time? Probably a mixture of both but I want to enjoy this next decade of my life.

Large chunks of our days are spent planning, shopping and cooking meals which mostly we enjoy but do any of you sometimes get bored of this activity?  I do so have decided to cut some corners and have a delivery from a company called Hello Fresh which was recommended by a friend.  I await my first delivery next week of three meals to tempt Peter and my taste buds, all the ingredients except oil, salt and pepper are provided.  Meals are packed in a box with icepacks in case we are out so food remains fresh.  Monday 29th marks a change of routine as the only decision I need to make is which meal to cook first. On offer is Balsamic Steak with Red Cabbage and Potato Wedges; Tray-Bake Chicken with Roasted Vegetables, Tomato Salad and Minty Salsa; Thai Pork Stir Fry with Green Beans, Holy Basil and Rice (not sure of Holy Basil as it looks like Basil in the photo!). There is an option to choose different recipes but initially I have taken the easy route by choosing a Classic Box.  Directions are included with glossy pictures to make the process error free so I will report back on progress.

The question is am I being lazy or is this good time management?  By taking the drudge out of the meals I am free to enjoy cooking them but also freeing up time to do other things.  My life is full and active but increasingly I am allowing myself to stop, relax and just be.  In an early blog I mentioned a W H Davies poem Leisure which remains a favourite and a reminder:

“What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare …”

First published in 1911 it is so relevant today. So my aim for 2018 is to stop, stand and stare at times and my goodness what I see.  Sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, robins, tits, pigeons and crows come daily to our garden with their various rituals.  The sparrows inhabit our big green hedge and are a constant source of pleasure to people passing by with their constant chatter.  We live in the centre of town, opposite a fire station and garage but are so lucky with our feathered friends.  Some of our human friends who live in the middle of countryside rarely have birds due to changes in farming techniques.

One more question for all of you – what motivates you to start writing? Please don’t say start!!

A Silly Little Story

Jillian here. Welcome to November. I have been reading about everyone’s travels and wishing I’d been winging away to somewhere fun. Alas, I am working, working, working. I actually have to have another surgery (appreciate some prayers on the 14th) and so I’m trying to work hard to clear my decks before being out for a bit. I am also doing NaNoWriMo- yes, I am crazy.  Just lock me up!

Since it’s been dullsville here in the Florida panhandle, I thought I’d share a silly little piece of flash fiction I did about a year ago. The writing prompt was a picture of breakfast so I wrote this little ditty called Bacon and Eggs:

Bacon and eggs

The bell over the door of the diner tinkled announcing a customer. Tom, the short-order cook, didn’t look up. He was tired of glancing at the door and being disappointed. If only she’d come. Desperate to see her again, he forced himself to focus on the pancakes on the griddle and the sausages in the pan. Keeping everything going at the same time was a challenge when he first came to work at the hole in the wall joint. It wasn’t what he was used to but it was honest work.

“Tom?”

He couldn’t believe it. It must be his imagination. Was it really her voice? One word—his name—and he recognized it?

Afraid to turn around and have his hopes dashed, he ignored the sound and kept his attention on the food orders.

“Tom?”

There it was again. His broken heart must be working overtime to taunt him. He could swear it was her but she was gone. She’d left him long ago. He’d even moved and gotten a job in a place she’d never think to search for him. It wouldn’t be her if he looked. He was sure of it.

“Tom. Please.”

Inhaling deeply, he turned to face the person who relentlessly spoke his name.

Stunned to see the woman he loved and lost, he couldn’t find words. He stared in amazement.

“I’ve found you at last.” She smiled and held her hand out. “Won’t you come home?”

“But you said you couldn’t love me.”

“I was wrong. I see that now.” She stared at the griddle. “What you’ve done is beautiful.”

“I have learned not to burn the bacon and scald the eggs.”

“Please come home. I never meant you to leave. I only wanted you to learn to cook.”