Pancakes

I’m bad at pancakes.  Like, really bad,  I’m sure I’ve mentioned several times, in fact, just how bad I am at making them!  The only time I’ve managed to make half-way decent ones was with wholemeal flour and those tasted great… until they cooled down.  Today however (or should that be yesterday, now?) I managed to make good pancakes and I have Coffee Muffins recipe to thank for it.

Thanks to her, I managed to make good pancakes.  Even when they cooled down.

They even looked good…

Yes, I did put sugar and lemon on them, even though they’re ‘Scotch’ or ‘American style’ pancakes.  It was good, too.

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Christmas Roundup

Oh dear, I’ve been slacking horribly on the blog front.  I don’t feel too bad about it, though – I’ve been having a pretty good time!

Christmas was wonderful this year.  I don’t know why, but I was more in the mood for it – making my own cards, making Christmas baking treats (including the iced biscuits I’d been meaning to do since the daring baker’s challenge!)  and with all of the snow outside it couldn’t have felt more festive.  Andy and I popped in to see Robbie and Beth as well as Scott and Kirsty on our way down to Andy’s parents which was really great – it’d been about… six or seven years since I saw any of my family on Christmas day.  Christmas itself, was never that big for me – it was always about the awesome dinner and company at Gran and Grandpas – relatives I only got to see a few times a year.   Andy’s family are wonderful people – welcoming and warm, but I did always miss seeing my own family at Christmas.

One thing I love about Christmas day at Andy’s parents is seeing him and his sister play together – they’re both really good musicians and Rachel usually brings her fiddle along.  This year it was fiddle + bass guitar / piano.  A mini-concert in the living room is not something most people can boast on Christmas day!

Anyway, sappiness aside,  this Christmas was a productive one.  We decided to make everyone treats rather than buying shop-bought boxes and whatnot – putting all the practice we’d done into confectionery and sweets throughout the year to good use.  In the end we made: two ‘types’ of macaroon balls, (Scottish) tablet, sugar icicles, iced biscuits,  shortbread (gluten free), and pfeffernusse.

For New Year we also added puff candy (also known as cinder toffee, puff toffee, honeycomb and others).  It took us three tries and only the last came close to ‘right’ but all of theme were tasty.  The second try, which simply didn’t ‘puff’ we crumbled up and ate in ice cream.  There was also an attempt at mince pies – which were ok but felt a wee bit to me like the mincemeat could do with a bit more time.  I’ve still got another jar of it, though, so I’ll give it a try at the end of January.

Not that people know me well or anything, but I did get quite a few cooking themed prezzies – A griddle pan, grater and Bakerella(!) book from Andy, and an apron from Andy’s mum with the motto: ‘Yes, it DOES take every pan in the kitchen!’.  I’ve been wanting a good apron for a while – the shops only tend to sell thin ‘pretty’ ones.  Not good, sturdy kitchen aprons made from similar material to chef’s whites.  The one Andy’s mum got me was that material but a snazzy black.  I’ve been using my griddle pan at every opportunity – something I’ve not used in years because it’s more ‘speciality’ cookware.  You don’t really need to have cool looking black lines on your food… but it tastes better if you do.  Really! ;)

New Year was, as always, great fun.  Andy and I headed over to Mishi n’ Mike’s place for games, dvds, board games food, too much sugar, and general geekery.  In true SURGe tradition we also spent all of New Years day celebrating too – with yet more of the above.  We had mad fun playing party games – both nights until almost 6-7am in the morning!

Over the holidays Andy had wanted to go out to a few restaurants he’d been with his work / music groups and thought I should try.  One of them was Sushiya in Edinburgh and oh man was that a treat.  The place is teeny-tiny and the seating is all tall bar-stool style but the food, oh man the food!  I’ve only been to a good sushi place once or twice – and neither time did I have more than a little sashimi (the raw fish type) as I was quite young and the idea squicked me.  This time, however, I was ready to have at it.  We ordered two mixed plates of sushi and sashimi as there is some non-fish sushi that I love – tamago and ‘inari’ or sweet tofu.  Large chunks of salmon, tuna, sea bass, clam, shrimp, and various veggies in or on rice wrapped in seaweed or rolled in crab roe.  Yum!  Then came the amazing soft-shelled crab rolls.  If you’re going to go there, try this.  Soft-shelled crabs are crabs which, just after they molt, can be cooked and eaten with their shell still on.  They are deep fried and crispy and Andy’s description of the rolls prior to us going turned out to be perfect:  “It’s like japanese fish and chips”.  Crude, maybe, but pretty much spot on in a deliciously tasty way.

Since then what I’ve mostly been doing is garden related and that’s relegated to a post of its own!   Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year =)  /hug

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Requisite Blog Post About Blogging

Purple Foodie celebrating her 3rd anniversary made me curious as to how long I’d been writing this blog.  As it turns out I’ve missed my first anniversary by a  mile… a 6month mile.  Whoops.  It got me to thinking about this blog, though, and what it means to me.  It’s not my first blog – that dubious honour goes to the livejournal I kept for the years up until Uni and it’s not even my second, with a couple of years dedicated to a gaming blog which really catapulted me into writing in a more mature way and for an audience which is not necessarily all close friends.

I always talk to an audience when I write my posts even though if I go by my google analytics there are a whole…8 of you? I wouldn’t have even bothered with analytics if I didn’t already have it set up for the now long-forgotten gaming blog.  It’s slightly disheartening in a way – when I was writing my other blog I had around 400 or so subscribers.   I guess that’s typical of a niche blog, though – like fanart or fanfiction it attracts a wider audience than original work because there’s an instant connection with the subject that one cannot expect from a personal blog.  To get ‘into’ what’s here you need to get ‘into’ me.  I’m not sure I even like the idea of being overly gawked at in my own persona, rather than cloaked in a gaming disguise.  I’m rather dull, I know, and I pootle about with gardening & cooking, too much of a follower of ideas to generate any interest from either groups in my own right.  It’s dull, but I’m not going to go out of my way to change that.  I didn’t really like the pressure to post that is inherent with a non-personal blog, a thematic one.  I wrote almost  entirely for an audience towards the end, there, and not always  entirely to my own interests and passions.

Still, I write to ‘you’ out there in this blog, of course.  Or even, possibly, I write to me.  Future me, who’ll read this post and think:  Whoa, what trippy arse mood were you in when you wrote this? I can’t imagine writing without imagining an invisible audience, truthfully.  It prompts me, for one thing, to actually bother trying to correct typos I notice, to try writing better, to try and make my photos better.  Peer pressure, even imagined, is powerful.

I like writing and sometimes I could do with taking more time over it.   I waver between sticking myself to a schedule and complaining internally that a schedule is what turns me off writing – the sense of being forced to write which, like when I’m ‘forced to draw’ sucks any and all creativity out like a literary or artistic leech nine times out of ten.  The other problem is that when I write something but then cannot be bothered to cajole, coax and edit photos or images for it.  I don’t know why, but if I have illustrative images they have to go in.  I don’t like letting my writing stand on its own, I guess: it needs camouflage.

This post, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of a ‘point’ per se.  Mainly a notation on how I feel about my blog and writing due to a chance reminiscence.  That’s two ‘about blogging’ posts in a week.  Erp.

Back to attempts at shiny pictures, baking fail and random soups shortly! ;)

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‘Shrooms of Dhoom!

Whilst busy all weekend I forgot to harvest the mushrooms we’ve been growing from a kit that Andy’s mum gave us and when I checked on Monday morning I got a bit of a surprise – what had been a small closed-cup mushroom on Friday had become a portobello!

We quickly arrested its growth by throwing it in a frying pan with some butter ;)

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Aubergine Spaghetti ‘Bolognaise’

Last night I set out to make Spaghetti Bolognaise and failed –  in a good way…!

As a way of getting more veg, I’d decided that I’d make spag bog, but use half aubergine, half mince.  I love aubergine and it goes so well with a tomato sauce that I figured it would work.  So, what failed?  What I thought was a small ball of mince in the freezer turned out to be slices of lamb, rolled up, and so I had all the ingredients of a bolognaise sans the important bit – meat!  Now, being conscientious of the fact that bolognaise requires meat (I don’t believe that sausage or haggis should have the label ‘vegetarian’ in any shape or form as part of their name) , what I really ended up making was, sortof  ‘marinara’ sauce. Sortofkinda.

Anyway.

It was damn tasty, so I’m going to write down how I made it as otherwise I’ll forget since I had to make a few changes to account of the lack of meat (which, I think,  gives  bolognaise it’s ‘depth’ of flavour).  Aubergine really soaks up flavour, so I added a little more stock than usual as well as black pepper.

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines (I had one medium and one small)
  • 1 tub passata (500g)
  • tomato purée
  • 1 tin peeled plum tomatoes (400g)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion (medium sized)
  • 3  stock cubes (any meat flavour, pref a mix)
  • 2-3tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon each of  marjoram, parsley, oregano (or 1 and ½ tsp of mixed herbs)
  • pinch of ground coriander
  • pasta (would go ok with rice too, probably)
  • ~2 tbsp of sugar (really, you need to adjust this to taste)
  • black pepper / salt
  • parmesan (to serve)

Makes enough for four people with normal appetites or the two of us with enough left for Andy’s lunch the next

Method

  1. Cut the aubergine – this part was intuition but turned out to really help how the dish turned out.  I chopped the medium aubergine into roughly 2cm cubes and the smaller aubergine into ½-1cm cubes. The larger pieces gave the dish ‘bite’, and the smaller pieces almost fell apart, thickening the sauce and lending it another layer of texture.
  2. Cut the onion and garlic up finely and stick in a frying pan for a few minutes with a little of the oil until they start to change colour.
  3. Add the rest of the oil and turn the temperature down a bit, leaving it until the aubergine is lightly browned and softened.
  4. Whilst you’re waiting on that, stick on the kettle (you’ll need ~400ml of water) put the passata, purée, and tomatoes (making sure they’re well chopped) into a pot.  Stick in some salt and pepper as well as the small pieces of aubergine.
  5. I happened to have half a beef and half a chicken stock cube, so I made that up into 400ml of stock and added about half of it to the aubergine mix in the frying pan, letting it reduce a little, before adding the rest of the stock and contents of the frying pan into the pot of tomato-stuff.
  6. I let this cook for a bit on a medium heat, turning to low when it started to simmer, and then decided to add more stock (1 chicken and 1 pork) with no water, just crumbling it right into the sauce.
  7. Let this reduce for around 30 minutes, adding the sugar after ~15-20.
  8. Stick your pasta on.
  9. Taste at 30 mins and add a little sugar if it’s too sharp or salt / pepper if the flavour is a little lacking.

Although it was a good bit thinner than my bolognaise is (and a lot less sweet, since I figured aubergine + sweet = blech) it thickened up after a few minutes of standing (in the time it took me to serve and get it to the living room).

Blog Changes

On a complete tangent – I’ve changed the wordpress theme I’m using to accommodate a more dynamic sidebar.  I’m not entirely satisfied with this one yet (though it’s wonderfully made and more customisable in a basic way than many other built in ones), but I think I’m going to have a go at editing it to be wider, if possible, and change the colours / images around a bit.

The reason for the change was to accommodate my ‘Plant Feed’.  I have a lot of little random comments I want to ‘share’ about my plants (and have a note of) without making a whole blog post so I’ve been trying out various ways of getting that info into the sidebar.  My first thought was to stick my twitter right up there… but I tweet a lot of random stuff and don’t really want the spam, so I looked for some alternatives and found a plug-in which would post blog posts into the sidebar.  Awesome… except even if they were only 1-2 line sidebar updates, they’d post to my twitterfeed and livejournal if I didn’t go in and turn that off every time.  Oh and I needed to go right into the full editing mode on wordpress as it required setting a specific category, which quick posting doesn’t allow.

So, I turned back to twitter…  I’ve set up another account (an icky workaround) but, because I use twitterfox aka echofon, it means I can post directly from my browser to the sidebar of my blog.  So, twitter plugins for wordpress – I knew there were a good few and I found them and… they don’t work.  Blech.  One of the addons (TwitterWidgetPro) had a really helpful set of posts to help you figure out bugs and gave some tips on the issue I had – which seems to be common.  I checked out the common effects1 and… no dice.  Hmm.
After about 20-30 minutes, I realised that twitter doesn’t seem to, yet, have properly farmed out my new name even internally (can’t find it in user search etc.), so what I’m guessing is that when it finally propagates (pun not intended) my sidebar might start working.  If not, I’ll have to figure out another way to deal with it.   Here’s hoping.

1. The basic issue is that, to stop overloading (it seems), twitter only allows 150 api calls per hour.  This includes things like echofon, tweetdeck and sidebar widgets.  If you overstretch this limit (easy to do if you’re, say, checking out a new plugin and spam refreshing the page, have a lot of hits on the page or share an ip with someone else who does / has the aforementioned).  I checked for this based on instructions here and found that I hadn’t hit the limit, so it shouldn’t be that.  I also set slow refresh rates and enabled wordpress super cache too (not sure why it wasn’t enabled anyway…).

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This was going to be an email…

…but it got too long!

Plus I wanted to add pictures.  So if it seems a little rambling / random, that’s why – e-mail is a terrible format to write a ‘letter’ in, which is why I like blogs – you can write something as though it was a letter and put photos in the ‘envelope’ and more besides.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree ~♫♬

xmastree

I’ve just put up the xmas decorations – still got all of Mum’s old ‘music’ themed ones – parchment paper with printed christmas carols, hymns and tiny instrument models, red and silver drums, and those random tartan ribbons.   Every year we lose some of the ribbons though – not intentionally, I swear!  We started out with the tartan, a light red and a wine coloured set and now have only 2/3 of each.  I also would like to know what in the world ate all of the tinsel – I’m sure we had more than three short pieces!  Also still have the 12 days of christmas baubles  and those glittery snowflakes – they always remind me of granny and grandpa –  it’s a nice way to remember them at this time of year since Christmas as theirs was always the best.

Presents Before Christmas?

tvndecorations


We got a new tv!   The big old one (from way back in WK!) was starting to go – you could barely hear it for the tube buzzing unless you had it up really loud, so when Andy’s bonus came through we decided to get a 32″ LCD. I know they’re old news, now, but we’re always so slow to upgrade.  It’s such a difference – It’s HEEUGGGGEEEE.  I can  now watch  the tv without my glasses on and the sound is amazing :)  It only just fits on the unit we have, though, as it’s not a proper tv stand but one of those chunky, 4-slot ikea bookcases –  Can plug the laptops into it, too, and watch DVDs from them so we didn’t have to go buy a player.

We got a new hoover, too (bit more boring, but just as useful) – a dyson.  Totally amazing after having what used to be a carpet vacuumer for the last two and a bit years – the old one from WK never recovered in Dundee once it stopped working.  No excuse to not hoover more often now :( oh no!

Plant Conundrums

The Chilli plants we planted almost exactly 2 months ago are about an inch and a half tall, now – I think I’m going to leave them in the propogator until I really have to re-pot them – we’ve been dipping into negatives at night and that seems to have killed almost all the salad leaves I had outside the propogator, even though they were in the kitchen.

Any tips? Could they maybe not be getting enough light? Some of the ‘winter’ lettuces are just about hanging on, but 95% of the mixed leaf died and the spinach just wasted away completely… Window is west facing, I think – but we’ve got windows on all sides except south so I can try to move them to another if that would benefit them at all.

There’s a sheltered corner in the garden, too,which gets the sun most of the day and is protected against the wind on two sides, – was thinking of maybe trying the winter lettuces tucked in there, in one of the containers Mum sent us*, to see if that maybe would suit them better?  Could they be suffering from being too warm inside, if they’re winter lettuce? They’re a bit spindly and pale and barely seem to be able to hold their own leaves up… though they’ve all put out at least 4-6 now after 2-3 months  (which is more than can be said for the mixed salad leaves, the few still living seem to be stuck at 2 baby leaves and about 1/2 an inch in height until they inevitably die off).

Not much I can do in the garden in this weather – miserable rain then cold and rain again.   I had just gotten Andy into trying a bit of planting for fun after weaning him onto planting with the chilli / lettuce seeds, but he hates being out in the wet, so now I’ve no chance until spring again ;)

* I mentioned in the last post that mum had sent us some planters, seeds and a cool gardening book but a few days later a very, very large box arrived and divulged a weather-proof container for the garden!

If You’re Going to Do Something, Might as Well Do It Right!

Had a bad athsma attack whilst (haha) sitting in the docs surgery and got put on the nebuliser for 10 minutes – first time I’d ever had to use one, but normal inhalers just weren’t kicking in.   Apparently I had a bad chest infection but I hadn’t noticed because I hadn’t started coughing…  Means they’ve put me on all sorts though – 9 pills at once in the morning!   One annoying side affect of the tablets to calm my chest is insomnia.  Given how badly I sleep normally you can imagine how this might be affecting me *zombie stare*.

Only one more day and they’re all done, thank goodness.

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