Monday, 16 June 2014

Summer souper day!

Soups are not just for winter. Indeed a light soup on a summers day can be the perfect lunch. It is also such an economical way to use up all that wonderful  seasonal produce which is so cheap right now. 

When I think of soup in winter I think of hearty broths, thick with starchy vegetables and pulses, but when I think soup in summer the first to spring to mind is tomato soup. Not that thick orange gloup that comes in tins but a home made fragrant melange which captures the warmth and sweetness of summer sun. 

A summer soup should also be quick and simple to prepare,  after all you don't want to spend hours in a hot kitchen when our all too fleeting British summer is here.

A soup such as this Roast Tomato and Pepper Soup fits the bill so well.

This recipe is so easy to make; it practically makes itself.

Into a roasting tray bung some tomatoes (I used half a dozen, but you use however many you have.) One or two red peppers, deseeded and chopped into largish chunks. A medium onion peeled and cut into quarters. Two peeled cloves of garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Sprinkle with a little olive oil - a teaspoonful or so will do and then roast in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile pop the kettle on and make up about a pint of vegetable stock - I like the Marigold stock powder, but you can use good old stock cubes or better still any home made stock you might have.

When the veg are nicely roasted showing some lovely caremelised bits and one or two slightly charred edges, tip them into a saucepan. Add the stock and then blitz with a hand blender. Reheat gently and serve. I topped ours off with a little swirl of natural yogurt and a few fresh thyme leaves.

A perfect summer lunch!

P.S. Just edited to say that I have just signed up for Betty the Wood Fairy's- From My Home To Yours Swap. It's open till the 20th June for sign ups, so there's still time to pop on over and join in the fun.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Vintage Footstool a Makeover Production!

After staying at this gorgeous little cottage in February and cosying up on an evening with my feet propped on a footstool, I've been hankering after one all of my own. As you might realise, I'm not one for just popping out to the nearest overpriced, poor quality, new furniture emporium - oh no!
I prefer to wait and pop the desired item on the little list of desirables, which I keep in my head, to remind me to keep an eye out on forays to charity shops, car boot sales and their ilk.

Okay, you're not going to get instant gratification that way, but you will get something which is well made and generally different to the run of the mill offerings in the high street. Not only that but it will set you back a mere pittance in comparison. 

Besides I like the thrill of the chase. I love having a purpose when I trawl through the charity shops or wander round the car booty, it makes me happy. I think I get as much out of the search as I do from the purchase and any subsequent tinkering that is necessary - though maybe that's just me?

Back to the footstool.

I think my heart gave a little skip when I spied the item below tucked at the back of a charity shop on a day out to Whitby.

It looked as though it had been through a lot. It was scratched with lots of paint splashes on it's once pristine cover, but it was structurally sound and I have loved these little stools with their wooden turned legs since I was a child. (No idea why - I just do!) 
I knew I had found my footstool, but would it prove too costly? Well at £3.50 that would be a no!

So he was brought home, an unloved scraggy little thing, but with potential - oh yes - oodles of potential.

To realise that potential I took inspiration from an old Ebay purchase, the seemingly never ending Indian Wall Hanging, featured here and again here and then again here.

Yes! there is still some offcuts left.

The top just lifted off and after I'd removed it I sanded the wooden frame. I then refinished the frame with several coats of Danish Oil. While I like many of the painted finishes that I see around today, I still prefer a nice wood finish. Danish Oil is my finish of choice as it's fantastically easy to use, after sanding back the wood you simply rub it on using a soft cloth. Leave it to dry, when you will see that at first it appears to all sink into the wood. Repeat this several times until It no longer seems to sink in as it dries but leaves a lovely soft sheen on the surface. I used five coats on the footstool, but as I said because you just wipe it on with a cloth it's simple.
I then used an offcut of the aforementioned never ending Indian Wall Hanging, which I simply cut slightly larger than the top and wrapped it over pulling it tight to the rear of the pad and stapling it. Popped the top back on and...

...the finished article.

 The £3.50 footstool...

...I love it!

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Fakeaway! Low Fat, Slimming World Friendly, Chinese Curry.

Since my diagnosis with diabetes, I have had to make some permanent changes to my diet.

Many people think that a diabetic just needs to avoid sugar, but it's not that simple. All carbs are converted to glucose by the body, so I need to limit all carbs. Through trial and error I have confirmed that, for me at least, carbs in their whole food form affect my blood glucose levels less. So for example I have no longer use white pasta choosing wholemeal pasta instead, similarly I now choose brown rice. 

One of the best things you can do to help control diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight.

Admission Time!!!

My weight had steadily increased with my years to the point that when I was diagnosed with diabetes I was officially classed as obese. Since then I have been steadily changing the way I eat. I don't like to call it a diet, that implies that there will be a point when I go back to the way I ate before, I can't do that. The changes need to become a way of life if I want to slow down the progress of this disease. I turned back to Slimming World as I have lost weight using their food optimising method in the past and I knew it worked. I also knew that this is meant to be a lifetime eating plan, not some quick fix and as such no food is actually banned. (As soon as I know a food is banned I tend to crave it! Psychological I know, but a problem nonetheless.) 

I am getting there slowly, things are improving and I am learning all the time. I am managing to keep my blood glucose under control with only one or two blips, but each blip is a learning experience where I think: "Ooops better not eat that again!"

I am now merely "overweight", out of the obese category, but still a way to go.

I love Chinese takeaways, especially the House Special Curry - but it doesn't fit on a couple of counts. 
  • It contains monosodium glutamate - an additive that I have long tried to avoid.
  • It is high in fat, so not conducive to losing weight.
  • It is served with white rice, this makes my blood glucose level soar!
Well not to be beaten I have formulated my own recipe. It is free of MSG, low fat, and at only 3 syns for the whole recipe on Extra Easy will fit in with a Slimming World eating plan. 

Low Fat, Slimming World friendly, Chinese House Special Curry with Diabetic Friendly Fried Rice.

Excuse the quality of the picture, I've just got a new (to me) camera and I'm not sure of it yet!

For the curry sauce:
A non stick pan (important - this lets you "fry" off the curry paste without it burning.)
Fry Light Spray
1 heaped tablespoon curry powder
A clove of garlic finely chopped.
2 teaspoons grated ginger.
300 ml chicken stock (I just used an organic stock cube to make this).
3 teaspoons cornflour (3 syns).

In a small bowl combine the  curry powder, garlic and ginger and mix to a smooth paste with a tablespoon of cold water. Spray your pan with the fry light then add the paste. Keep stirring and moving the paste around the pan so that it toasts nicely, continue for about 2 minutes. Now add a splash of your stock and stir furiously until it is incorporated into the paste without lumps. Repeat with another splash of stock, then add the whole of the rest of the stock. Stir well to disperse and lumps and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, mix the cornflour with a little cold water until smooth. Making sure that you stir constantly add the cornflour mixture to the simmering curry and keep stirring till it thickens. Once it has thickened take it from the heat. At this point I generally pop it into a clean saucepan so I can use my non stick frying pan for the next stage.

The "House Special" bit.

Here's where you make it your own!

Fry light
1 Onion chopped into large pieces
Any other ingredients of your choice prepared how you like them, today I used:
1/2 an uncooked chicken breast finely sliced.
A handful of frozen prawns defrosted.
1/2 a bag of stir fry veg mix comprising carrot, pepper and cabbage.

Spray your frying pan with fry light and place on the heat. Add the onion and any uncooked meat or prawns. Stir fry quickly until the meat is cooked. Throw in any additional veg and continue to stir fry for 3-4  minutes. Add in any cooked meat or prawns and stir fry for another minute. Tip the whole lot into your curry sauce and heat up together. Wipe out the pan to make the fried rice.

"Fried" Rice

Cooked white or brown rice if you are cooking for a diabetic.
1 - 2 eggs depending how much rice you are using.
Fry light
Soy sauce

Spray the pan with fry light and put on the heat. Break the egg/s directly into the pan and immediately break the yolks and begin to stir fry them. You don't want to make scrambled egg here, the aim is just to give the eggs a bit of a stir so that they end up as small cooked pieces. Add the rice and stir fry with the eggs till warmed through. Sprinkle with a little soy sauce and mix thoroughly to distribute it throughout the rice.


As you can see my "House Special" contains a lot more veg than your average takeaway curry so it's also healthier for you in that respect and I really love the added crunchy texture that the veg adds to the curry.

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