Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Boo!!! Did I scare you, did I, did I??

'Tis All Hallows Eve.  Or Samhain.  Or Hallowe'en. Whatever.  There's a short article here on the names.  I'm not partaking overly, I have popped this sign on my door as the idea of hobbling to and fro all night answering it is fairly non-enticing.  I know that normally little chicks like that aren't overly season appropriate either but you will note that these are not in fact normal little easter type chicks at all but are in fact...Chicks  Of  Doooom!!  They eat brains.  No really.
I'm not particularly a believer in the whole trick or treating thing anyway.  Smacks a little of glorified begging with menaces for stuff kids today (in this country anyway) certainly don't need.  If there was a halloween equivalent to 'Bah Humbug' that is what I'd be uttering right now! 

I have my little 'autumn' themed vase of twig, interestingly curly grass and mini pine cone things that is suitably adorned and that'll do me.

This blog has an entertaining poem about Samhain based to 'the night before christmas' cadence / style. Do check it out.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Random Recipe - Store Cupboard Stuffing Bake

With all this time on my hands recently I've been blog surfing a lot more than I normally do and have stumbled across many new to me fab blogs.  Several of which have been inspiring me in different ways and one of those is the lovely Belleau Kitchen blog and the monthly challenge 'Random Recipes'.  
Now normally this involves picking a recipe at random from a cookbook; similarly picked at random, and having to make it. (Assuming I've understood that correctly, I have a feeling that there may be themes involved sometimes too.)  This month however is slightly different in that it's a store cupboard ingredient that must be picked, then you make something with that.  Now although I had more random items available than the stuffing mix I used, everything else needed me to visit the shops for additional ingredients which as I'm off my feet as much as poss at the mo didn't seem like the best of ideas ever.  It's not quite an 'essential' trip like the doctors is you know?
So - I decided to use up a couple of the 5 packs of stuffing mix I had in the upstairs store cupboard from a past Approved Foods order.
Right - next step - find a recipe - from your cookbooks. Hmmm - now surprisingly enough none of my cookbooks have any recipes listing 'packet mix stuffing' in the ingredients list, not even quasi healthy 'mixed seed wholemeal' stuffing.  I know - I'm as shocked as you right?
So I thought (in an admittedly slightly tortuous justification after the fact sort of way) that I could treat my blog as a recipe book too - as a load of the stuff on here I scribble down very roughly as I make it then transcribe to here which is then it's lasting format.  And enough people seem to search my slow cooker carrot and coriander soup for me to feel the reference aspect could at least be argued for, if not fully justified.  So - I'll go ahead and we'll see if I'm allowed in the challenge.  This is all quite apart from the fact that today is the deadline.  By which I'm not sure if it means submissions should be in by today or up to and including today.  Yes - I'm a pedant when it comes to language and that's just waaaay too open to interpretation for this virgo!  :-D
So - witteringly long intro / justification / obfuscation in the hope the host will give up and just allow my submission through out of pure boredom aside - here's my frugal, quick and simple 'store cupboard stuffing mix bake'.  As 'inspired' (ahem) by this one I previously made, with the added advantage of also using up some of my stocks of cheese, or 'dairy crack' as we now prefer to call it in our household, the need for which was highlighted in my last post.

Vaguely Italian themed Stuffing Mix Bake:
2 packets stuffing mix - or you can make this with one if you don't have a massive overstock of stuffing in your cupboard like me
0.5 tbsp dried basil
0.5 tbsp dried oregano
Boiling water - amount as per packet instructions
2 tbsp tomato puree
Black pepper
Cheese - I used about half to 2/3 of a 300g tub of soft cheese.  You could totally use a harder cheese grated here, whatever you need to use up really.  Some parmesan over the top would work too.
Little butter for greasing dish
 Put oven on to heat as per instructions on the pack of stuffing.  Put kettle on to boil.
Put stuffing, herbs and a few grinds of black pepper (to taste) in a large bowl and give them a quick mix.
Add water as per the stuffing packet instructions.
Add the tomato puree and stir really well.
Grease your ovenproof dish; I use a ceramic one, and spread half the mixture evenly over the base of the dish.
Evenly spread your cheese over - a little easier said than done using this soft cheese as it wanted to move the existing layer of stuffing about.  I found leaving it resting on top of the hot stuffing for a few seconds softened it a little and made it easier to spread out; as did placing it on in smaller amounts than the big dolloping spoonfuls I started out with!
Spread the second half of the stuffing over and place in the oven for the time specified on the stuffing packet.
Ta daa!!  Bit messy to serve and please bear in mind I'm not a professional food photographer but served with a little refreshing salad this was a nice wee snack.
Very cheap to make with items you're likely to have in the house already and taking little time this ticks both the £'s and time frugality boxes.  You can jazz it up as pleased - I'd perhaps add more tom puree next time.  Oh - and if you want to photograph it letting it cool and firm up for a few minutes would be a good idea.  Not one I had until after my messy photo efforts mind you...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cheese - the 'dairy crack' danger in our homes... ;-p

Cheese is addictive!!!  Who knew??!  Well apparently quite a lot of people, just not me. 
Coincidentally I had been wondering yesterday why I had felt so dissatisfied after finishing my lunch and had been noticing this rather more often than normal recently.  I had put it down to the general sitting around I've been forced into for the last few weeks meaning I'm more bored and therefore wanting to eat more - always a danger with me. 
Later for my dinner I made a very simple dish of bulgar wheat; flavoured with a veggie stock cube in the soaking water with a handful of peas, sweetcorn and broad beans added then a generous portion of grated mature cheddar cheese stirred through.  Other than a grinding of black pepper that was it yet it was soooo much more satisfying to me.  I had figured it was the flavour and to a lesser extent, the fats from the cheese as it's not exactly the most inspiring looking of meals right? 
Well apparently dairy has trace amounts of morphine in, plus the casein protein when digested releases casomorphins which also have opiate effects!  Blimey!!  So in fact - you can be 'addicted to cheese', or as that article calls it 'dairy crack' - fantastic phrase. 
I feel I may be verging on a dairy crack addiction myself.  A quick scoot in the fridge has produced this lot; that's 17 different types of cheese.  That's normal right?
I just stumbled across this information this morning whilst bimbling around on the t'internet and once again, am in equal measures awed, impressed, humbled and slightly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of random factoids and ways to waste your time that are available.  Although I'm also thankful for it given my enforced house bound state recently. 
[Although it's truly silly this still made me smile; then I must admit, full on giggle out loud.]
Right - guess I better think up something to use up some of that cheese huh?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The vexedness of the feline species

Well I had intended to write a short post advocating the joys of pet ownership; how when you're down they know and give comfort, how they entertain us, how they keep you warm snuggling up on the sofa together, and how my Zeke cheers me up in the long dark hours insomnia brings on you.  (Woke up at 4am today- proper 'bing - full awake' styley too.  Pah.)
However, my little furry friend decided that instead of offering comfort and succour to a soul much in need of rest, he would lose the plot; tearing up and down the stairs repeatedly, attacking the kitchen door - no idea what it had done to him but it was a full on claws wide 'Banzai!' moment I can tell you.  Then finally have a go at me by jumping at me from the stairs when I came out of the kitchen door at the bottom - a favourite trick of his when he's in 'wide-eyes-mental' mode.  I now have a bleeding scratch on my knuckle which will be itchy as hell in a few minutes as technically I'm apparently allergic to cats.  Only when they break the skin though luckily.  Or not so luckily right this moment but I can at least breathe in the same room as them, which being a life long cat person is the lucky bit.
Just to remind us what a very sweet little thing he once was; here he is at a minuscule week and a half old.

Now here he is over 2 years later and a master at ruining photos of himself.  Tsk!

As the cat was not obliging on the 'comfort in the wee small hours' front I went to the default position of a hot chocolate.  Although I'm far more of a savoury girl there are only some things that seem right when it's 4am and hot chocolate with a biccie is one of them.  I did have a minor biscuit dunking disaster though.  I guess my motor functions were still waking up...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Stolen Saturday...

Well I didn't get to post my sandwich for this months No Croutons Required yesterday which was the last day for entries.  :-( 
Having made the bread on Friday - a variation on my beer bread with added linseed and black pepper, I had then planned to griddle the halloumi for the filling yesterday morning then submit my post. 
First however the dressing on my leg was due for a change.
I'd noticed a little redness on my skin showing out from under the edge of the tape on the friday evening so I was extra cautious peeling the tape off.  Hmmm - not looking too good.  The area of redness had grown to a couple of inches in diameter overnight, it had been oozing a little and worst of all, a small amount of the top edge of the wound where my leg is still knitting together (4 weeks after the inital trauma) looked like it was breaking down again.  Eeeek!!!!  Having been through this before I shouted the Chap out of bed in a panic and we went *straight to the walk in centre.
(*After he had showered and breakfasted and generally faffed about for ages - or that's what it felt like to the slightly panicking me!)
Luckily enough the wonderful Kathleen the tissue viability specialist who had seen me before was in residence and after a surprisingly short wait, compared to the hour and 15 minutes we were quoted, she was ushering me into her room. After an inspection of the wound she agreed with my intial assessment that the infection was returning but due to the extensive nature of the problems I'd had with it decided to phone the plastics team at the hospital that had done my operations and consult with them.  They requested that I be sent to see them so we duly drove across town and booked in at the reception.  After an hour there I got taken through to a cubicle and issued with wristbands.  'It doesn't mean you're staying in' they attempted to reassure me as they fitted them.  They like to get them on me as I am allergic to a certain drug so the red band warns everyone to ask what it is that I can't be given. 
Another 30 minutes ticked by then a specialist appeared and explained they would do blood tests on me to see if my white cell count was up, which it should be if it was fighting infection, and if some other marker was also affected - I forget what it was called now.  He took the blood, uncharacteristically* gave me an idea of what was happening next by telling me it takes about 45 minutes for the results and vanished off again.  (*I am in no way belittling our wonderful hard working health professionals at all but what I found far and away the most frustrating thing during my recent stay in hospital was the lack of information when you were waiting for things, especially when I was getting admitted.  If you have some sort of end time / goal in sight it makes sitting there doing nowt for 2 hours rather more bearable.)
After nearly an hour I enquired gently as to my results and the lovely staff said they'd chase them for me.  Duly the same guy reappeared and told me that according to their blood test my leg isn't infected and he thinks the redness and accompanying 'icky' bits were just due to general healing processes and I was free to leave.  Which should have reassured me but I'm afraid to say, it hasn't.
I'm one of those people that as a general rule has the utmost faith in our health professionals and what they tell me.  Only this time...I think they're wrong.  Now I have no idea how long it takes your white blood cell count to go up in case of infection but as this only started coming on the previous evening I'm wondering if it would show up on a blood test the very next day.  Both Kathleen and the triage nurse who admitted me had taken one look and been convinced it was infected and after I got home from the hospital there was a definite few degrees temperature difference to that area of my leg compared to the rest of it.  Which is still the case today.  Anyway, I shall keep a very close eye on it today.  I am also taking the antibiotics I had left from the first time I
went into the hospital and they put me on IV ones instead.  It can't do me any harm and perhaps will keep this at bay until I can tell whether I need to go and see anyone further about it, or if it really is just the healing process.  Fingers crossed!
All this kerfuffle meant that I didn't get to make my proposed 'Griddled Halloumi on Black Pepper Seeded Bread – with lime and fresh coriander leaves' sandwich for the aforementioned NCR comp.  Tsk!  I did get the bread made though and used my dinky little mini loaf tins for the first time - aren't they great?!  I'm a sucker for miniaturised versions of stuff for some reason and purchased these in TKMax some time ago so was glad to have finally justified them.  So we had bread but not the final sandwich; and I had a Saturday but not the one planned.  Unfinished weekend - oh were did you go?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pre-loved beauties, some bargain foods and post #300!

Well I'm safely ensconced back home now after finally being allowed out from the hospital last Monday after getting into theatre on the Sunday for my second op in the late afternoon.  Not much to report since then as necessity has dictated I have done very little as standing about is on the banned list which means most cooking / baking activities are curtailed.  I have been falling back in love with bulgar wheat though having got 4 x 500g bags of it in my latest Approved Food order for the princely sum of 99p.  What a bargain!!  And as it only requires soaking in boiling water for 30 mins I don't have to stand there cooking it when I want something to eat in the daytime and the Chap is out at work.  Incidentally if you haven't come across Approved Food in your frugal wanderings then check them out.  They sell discontinued, end of lines, change of packaging and out dated stock which changes constantly.  The postage can sound a little steep as it starts at £5.25 but that covers up to 25kgs of goods so it's the kind of place to shop when they have a whole bunch of items you'd like.  If there are items you can get in the case deals; as I did with the bulgar wheat, then all the better.  I also picked up a load of pasta, various sauces and indian meals, cat food, tofu, 12 pack case of cous cous (also 99p!), crisps etc etc and my favourite; 1.9kg of Bisto veggie gravy granules for £1.49 - that should keep me going for a while as it makes 25 litres!!!  This is just some of the items I got as I've already started using various things and packed away others but it gives you an idea.  My order came to £29.74 in total including the postage - I got a little discount on that as certain items carry a P+P discount.  Full price for these items is £87.52 so that represented a saving of just under £62!.  Not too shoddy at all.  :-)
Anyway, the point of this post was to show you some other bargains I got from our local charity shops on one of the few forays out of the house I've been allowed. 
 Cast iron griddle pan - I'm especially pleased with this as I've wanted one for a few years now but as I wouldn't use it overly often I can't really justify spending £20 or £30 on one so when I saw this in perfect nick for a mere fiver I snapped it up.  Coincidentally I've also been running an idea for a sandwich with griddled halloumi through my head in the last few days (as a possible entry for this months 'No Croutons Required') so this was a truly serendipitous find.
The gorgeously coloured glass vase is for my mother, it's truly beautiful made of a mixture of blue and green glass fused together and blown into this sort of swirled bauble shape.  This was a whole £3 and is perfect with nary a scratch or mark of any kind, not even on the base.  I thought I might see what pre-loved items I can spy for chrimble pressies for the family this year, in addition to home made goodies.  For the last few years we've had more of a home made / token gifting theme as we're all of the age now that we have houses full of stuff pretty much.  That said this piece obviously does fall into the 'stuff' category but my ma loves glass pieces like this so I immediately thought of her when my eyes alit upon it.
Finally some wool - yarn - whatever it is.  And needles.  Knitting ones.  Though they're the wrong size I've since discovered.  Tsk!  Being of a somewhat ambulatory challenged nature at the moment I felt that perhaps the time had finally come to learn how to knit, even if only in the most basic fashion.  I want to make myself a hat and for the last year or so have been gently getting around to it.  I spied 2 balls of this rather pretty graduated grey soft wool/yarn malarkey and equipped myself with these and what I erroneously thought were the correct size '8' needles indicated on the label.  Apparently not.  That referred to the 8mm size not a UK size 8 which is in fact 4mm.  Obviously.  (There's 3 sizing conventions commonly in use for knitting needles I've discovered so as a newbie what chance did I stand?)  Anyway that charity shop had a whole box full of different needles so I plan to visit again on the morrow on my way home from the latest doctors appointment and have a rummage for a bigger set.
Finally - the more observant amongst you may have noticed a certain alluding to the fact that this will be the 300th post on my blog.  It should be rather more by now for a blog that's over two and a half years old but I have been somewhat slacker at posting this year.  As we enter autumn and the nights are drawing in again I feel hopeful that this may change and I can shake off the edge of general malaise I have felt around my spirits for the last few months now.  As one who has been dragged rather deeper by that before I have no wish to revisit it so am doing my utmost to be resolved to do more, make more, bake more, plant more and last but very definitely not least, keep trying to change job as to quote my beloved Firefly, my current one is 'damaging my calm.'  So - a small pat on the back for post #300, and thanks for joining me here whether you've flitted past by accident or are one of my small band of followers.  And a cheering image taken on Saturday during one of the many downpours we've been having.  Pretty huh?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

View from a bed

To be precise; a hospital bed. Yep - that's right - my leg got progressively nastier with first the cut itself becoming infected followed by a haematoma developing that got itself to the size of a grapefruit then also became infected.  Eek!
The long and short of it is that I went for a dressing change on Wednesday, the 'tissue viability specialist' was none too happy with the state of my leg and called the hospital. They agreed I should be sent in and I was told they'd need to operate to get rid of the haematoma; which at this point we didn't realise was also infected.  I'd get done either weds evening or thurs morning, either way I'd be home thursday; having spent my first night since I was born in hospital and had my first ever operation.  My state of calm (or lack thereof) wasn't helped by the knowledge that the Chap was working away so would not be on hand for morale boosting hugs but at least it was just one night and I'd be home by the next day.
So we must ask ourselves why I'm writing this on an annoying touch screen pay as you go contraption hanging from the wall above my bed in the RD&E hospital on a sunny sunday morning?  Welllllllll... 
It took some time to get me admitted, even with them expecting me.  I got assigned my bed at 10pm weds having arrived at 4.30pm.  So no op weds. This was when they first concluded that the grapefruit sized lump in my leg was infected too and swiftly got a cannula - the thing in your hand for drips to attach to; fitted to my left hand and shunted some antibiotics straight into my system.
Thursday morning brought the news that although I was scheduled to be the final procedure of 4 booked in for that afternoon, there was a chance I'd be done in the morning as there was only 1 person booked in then, and of the afternoon's batch; I was the only person already physically on site.  Oh false hope thy crusher of the spirit - it was not to be. After being 'nil by mouth' (which includes water to my surprise - remember I never had an op before) since 7 thursday morning; so in effect since the 2 bits of toast I scrounged on getting to my bed at 10pm the night before, I was taken to theatre at 5.40pm and knocked out at 6.10.  Op went fine but on awakening I found I had a vacuum pump drain thing attached to my leg. It transpires that when the sugeon went in they found the damage was deeper and more extensive than anticipated so had to fit the drain. 
This had 2 knock on effects for me; firstly came the news that I'd have to have a second operation in 3 days time to remove it and close the wound. Secondly, although I was hopeful both friday and saturday mornings of being let home, the extent of the damage and the drain in my leg put the kibosh on that.
So, here I still am and I've just received the news that they have me on the list for theatre today at 12 noon.  Barring any emergency cases coming in hopefully this means I may be able to go home tomorrow.  I am crossing my fingers because no matter how lovely all the staff are that have been looking after me, it's not the same as being in your own home. I miss the Chap and Zeke and I'm looking forward to big hugs with them both.
(I'd also quite like a meal with a texture other than easily-masticated-with-no-teeth sludge but that's another post.)
So, all being well, I'll next post after op #2.
Oh - latest news is it could be earlier; 10/10.30 possibly.  Fingers firmly crossed now blog buddies!