Tuesday 31 January 2017

Light Chicken and Vegetable Soup and a pudding

Still on my quest to serve frugal but less calorific soups for lunch/evening I made this today:

2 medium chicken thighs, skin and fat removed and simmered until cooked (about 30 mins). Sieve (but keep) chicken water to remove any bones and count out ladlefuls into a clean saucepan. Top up to 12 ladles with water. When cold, strip and dice chicken meat and put to one side.

To this clean pan, add 1 bay leaf, 495g diced leeks, 285g diced carrots and simmer until half cooked. Then add 25g red split lentils. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add 1 diced green bell pepper (not chilli), 10g oat bran (to help thicken) and 2 chicken stock cubes. Simmer until everything is cooked through. Add diced chicken and remove bay leaf.

Add herbs of choice. You could use tarragon, parsley, sage, thyme etc. Blitz if desired and divide mixture between 6 bowls, which should be about 3 ladles each bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on its own for 146 calories per bowlful. Obviously it will be far more if you add bread, crackers, mini poppadoms etc. We had ours with a shared packet of mini poppadoms bringing our total to 221 calories each for lunch.

I know thigh is slightly more calorific than breast, but they also have more flavour. You can use what you wish.

I also made a fruit jelly:

1lb of plums were thawed and stewed without sugar then strained. Just under 3/4 pint of black cherry jelly was made and the plums stirred in. Sweetner was added to taste. Poured into 4 small dishes, two of these were used as a pudding to go with the soup:
Weird colour, nice taste and 140 calories per bowl!

Monday 30 January 2017

Quiche - reduced calorie

1 medium onion, 1 bell pepper, 1 drained tin mushrooms or fresh, 4 medium eggs, 50g cream cheese, or crefee from lidl or yoghurt which will further reduce the calories and 100g grated cheddar.

Fry onion in oil spray or water until softened. Add pepper and mushrooms and cook to soften.

Put into a dish. Beat together the eggs, cream cheese or yoghurt and 50ml of milk if required to give a sauce that is not too thick.

Pour over the vegetables and top with the grated cheddar. Bake at 200C until nicely browned and slightly risen.

Having worked this out, a quarter portion of the quiche comes in at 200 to 246 calories depending on whether you used yoghurt and no milk or cream cheese milk. You could save a further 200 calories in total by halving the cheddar, but we like a cheesy quiche and this is less than we would normally use.

Ours was served with some mixed salad and a few tomatoes:
By trying to make breakfast and lunch around 200 calories each, having a milky coffee in the afternoon to keep us going until tea, we are left with 500 calories for an evening meal - less if we need some yoghurt in the evening.

Obviously we don't eat this low every day but by trying to do so for most days, it helps when our evening meal takes us over this amount, though usually not more than an extra 200 calories per day each. Onwards and upwards!

Friday 27 January 2017

Calorific Intake and light tomato and pepper soup

We normally don't have to diet as we eat quite healthily apart from the odd bit of cake and a pudding once a week. Even when I do bake a cake, half is always frozen in 2 quarters for future use and we always limit ourselves to one small slice once a day!

However, since being on beta-blockers my weight has increased quite a bit and the doctor has agreed for me to come off them for a while (only on the lowest dose) to see if it makes a difference. I have strict instructions to go back on them should my tachycardia become a nuisance again. DB now has a similar problem after starting on new medication so that has been stopped as well.

There is nothing more soul destroying than dieting in my opinion, especially in winter when all you want to do is eat stick to your ribs food but hey ho, needs must.

My breakfast consists of a fruit smoothie every morning calculated at 200 calories. It isn't just fruit that it contains, it also includes various amounts of linseed/psyllium husk, nuts, oats and milk, in varying combinations so I don't get bored.

Our home baked gluten free bread works out at 126 calories per slice:( so that has also been cut down somewhat. When we have soup, we now only have one slice of it or else share a bag of mini poppadoms. The other day, I decided to work out the calories of a basic vegetable soup for us, it was quite a lot, so I set to to reduce it and here is the resulting recipe:

1 400g can of tomatoes, 200g diced onion, 200g red bell pepper, 1 beef stock cube, 1 tablespoon tomato puree.

Everything above, except the onion, was placed in a blender and liquidised. The onion was lightly fried in spray oil (or could just use water) until soft and taking on a little colour. The tomato liquid was decanted onto the onion, by ladleful and water added to give 6 ladles of soup, then 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar was added.

Everything was heated and black pepper and herbs added for flavour. We had half each with half a 50g bag of mini poppadoms each. Total calories approximately 205 each. Not bad at all and it was hot and spicy and filled us up.

Whilst I don't plan on calorie counting, I am finding it useful to realise just how much is in things to get my eye in!

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Potato base pizza

I have seen many incarnations of this meal including mashed potato on top of a pizza base. We wanted to try something a little less calorific and found this recipe to try and adapt where necessary. As it turns out, it is gluten free due to the flours she uses.

We didn't have any sweet potato mash so used normal potato, mashing it with salt and pepper but no butter or margerine or milk - we call it dry mash!

I didn't have the spice additions to the mash she used so settled on a touch of dried tarragon - worked fine. Personally we think you would need one of these each but with little else. As it was, we got one 9" round base, which needs to be rolled reasonably thin, ours was about 1cm:
I lightly greased the paper before patting the mash into a disc as despite it being parchment paper, wasn't sure if it would stick.
We also didn't have any spray oil (which we now have) so baked the base for 20 minutes before using a paper towel with oil on it to smear some oil onto the top to help it brown. After 25 minutes we removed it and put on the toppings.

I used tomato puree watered down, followed by some sliced chilli, a little grated cheese (no mozzarella) and a few small slices of pancetta. It baked for another 10 minutes.

We ate it with grated carrot and apple (the apple provides enough of a dressing) and peas and sweetcorn.

Verdict: Very nice.

We made it again a few days later. I really must be patient and cook the base for the full 30 minutes. It has to be dry and slightly crisp or the topping makes it soggy. The pepper needed also to be cooked (and mushrooms if using) as they create too much moisture:
Still tasted nice though. I reckon it might be possible to bake the bases, interline and freeze them but haven't tried that.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Gluten Free Yorkshire Puddings - Homemade...

Welcome to Emily Lockett via Bloglovin.

The first time I made these, I used a non-stick, metal, deep muffin tin. They rose dramatically (and stayed there) but were a devil to get out. This time, I thought I would try a silicone muffin 6 hole tray.

I thought of using the oil spray but changed my mind just in case. Instead, just 1 teaspoon of oil was added and the tray heated in the 220C oven (my tray can go to 240C). I didn't leave it in there long enough for the fat to smoke, but poured in the batter mix anyway (using 1/3rd of the recipe on my GF recipe tab above).

After 20 minutes they had risen well though not as high as in a metal tin and were duly served. Here they are from the side:
And from the top:
They really do taste like normal ones and the texture is excellent. Thanks again Kate!

I think if I had let the oil get hot enough they might have risen more but still a good rise methinks!

Monday 23 January 2017

Sweet and hot easy pickles

Well done Johanna, keep on going.

We liked the look of this recipe and thought we would give it a go. Mind you, it seems to use an enormous amount of sugar which we were unsure of so reduced it greatly. Could have been a huge mistake.

We had one jar full of gherkins and used another empty jar of similar size to begin. In the bowl are the sliced gherkins and 2 chilli's with seeds removed. We also used one onion, three carrots 2 cloves of garlic whole (for one jar) and two cloves of sliced garlic for the other:
Sliced and ready to fill the jars:
A layer of vegetables followed by a small layer of sugar until full. We estimate that we used about 1 1/4 cup of sugar between the two jars, so like I said previously, could have been a disaster:

After a week (and decanting half of one jar into the other), it looked like this:
Crunchy, not overly sweet (would have been horrible if we had used the recommended full amount). The bowlful was eaten with our first potato pizza. The jar is still in the fridge. We didn't like the whole garlic so won't do that again either.

Verdict: Very nice! We did however wonder if a tablespoon of vinegar in each jar would help counter the sweet taste as well as add a bit extra protection for short time storage.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Last woman standing...

Andy, Dan and Dom Inglot lost and seemed to have played in a similar fashion. Just Johanna left!

I am not too disappointed as didn't think 'this would be the year' for Andy for some reason. Dan did very well though to get as far as he did. Let's hope he keeps up the good work. At least everyone should be well rested for the Davis Cup tie 3rd February.

We had our worst frost last night, -4.6C but the sun is out in a bright blue sky.

Friday 20 January 2017

The final chicken meal...

Congratulations to Andy, Dan and Johanna for their wins. Dan is now into the 4th round for the first time in a Grand Slam.

Welcome to Sunshine Lou via Bloglovin. Blogland never ceases to amaze me, you leave a comment on a blog, simply asking a question and all kinds of things get read into it.

Take 1lb of mashed potato, 4oz diced chicken, 1oz made up sage and onion stuffing and 1oz grated parmesan plus salt and pepper.

This could have been made into cakes and shallow fried but we just 'dry' fried it in a very small amount of oil to stop it sticking too much. It was served with coleslaw made with half mayo half natural yoghurt and some wholegrain mustard:
I'll admit it doesn't look too appetising but other than being a little dry (I didn't make the stuffing mix wet enough), it tasted fine.

That's it for now folks, have a good weekend.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Rice Pudding and tennis

So then, out of the British tennis players, only Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Johanna Konta are still in the Australian Open. Novak was knocked out today so who knows how the rest of the tournament will pan out.

I have never used my slow cooker to make rice pudding but yesterday I did. The rice was quite old but edible and I certainly wasn't going to throw it away.

Measurements were: 300g dry weight of pudding rice, 2 small cans of evaporated milk plus normal milk to make up 1.5 litres and 4 level tablespoons of sugar, plus a good grating of nutmeg. I think it was cooked on high for 3 - 4 hours (mainly because I forgot about it after stirring it twice!

The pudding was then decanted into bowls:
The 4 ramekins were covered and frozen for other days. We had one each of the two small bowls at room temperature for pudding last night. The 2 bigger cereal bowls we shall warm for tonight.

I did make a mistake and that was to stop cooking it whilst it still had enough milk. As it cooled, the rice absorbed the last of the milk turning it into a 'stick to the ribs' pudding but it was still enjoyed!

Wednesday 18 January 2017

New service from BT

We have just taken advantage of a new BT free service called Call Protect, see here.

I don't know if it works on all phones but we have a caller id type phone. We have had the same company phone us twice, using different numbers, both are now blocked hopefully. You can also block all withheld or unavailable numbers but our hospital uses witheld so might not use that aspect for now.

However when we get one of those, not from the hospital it will be interesting to see if we can block it.

Have a read, see if it is useful for you.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Take one medium chicken

From Lidl for around £3.50. For a change, I decided to simmer, rather than roast it, in a pan of water, it fell apart:
As it cooled, the meat was stripped from the bones, to give us enough for 4 normal and two mini roasts:
The mini roasts have gone into the freezer and when eaten, will also have a small pudding added to them to fill us up. This is how much stock we got:
Almost 2 litres. After being left to go cold in the fridge overnight, the fat was removed and discarded (trying to watch our calories) and the stock turned into a large pan full of tomato, pepper and chicken soup.

There is just enough chicken left for another meal or snack. So three main meals and soup for two days, plus another meal or snack - not too bad!

Monday 16 January 2017

Shopping budget

Our weekly shopping budget, for the last few years, including toiletries, has been around £30 per week, never more than £35. However, both food and toiletries have risen in price so this year, we have given ourselves a food payrise to £35 a week.

When shopping last week, it rather went out the window, coming to £50. However, that did include a £9 huge joint of pork from Lidl, reduced in their sale, weighing in at about 3.5kg! It has been cut into two and frozen for use in February!

DB treated himself to something for the car and I bought some candles which don't count. So overall, if I take the meat and the last two mentioned things away, that reduces it by £14 and brings it down to £36 - we can live with that. All in all though, throughout the year, it should average out.

I rarely jiggle shopping costs in this way but the joint was too good a bargain to miss.

Friday 13 January 2017

Congratulations and light ...

First of all, congratulations to Johanna Konta for her second WTA win of her career. Also to Dan Evans for getting into the final in Sidney.  Hopefully this will bode well for them both in the Australian Open.

After mentioning changing a broken light base into a candle stick, we now have candles. They are too thin at their base so DB has temporarily put a bit of copper tubing into the base upright (held in place at the bottom by blutack!). The candle fits:
We had snow between 8am and 10am this morning but it has all gone. The actual temperature outside is 1.8C but we currently have 45 knot winds so it feels way colder than that.

We had some nice hot vegetable soup for lunch which certainly helped warm DB as he had been out in the garage splitting logs:(

Drive carefully folks and have a nice, warm and comfy weekend.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Before we go food shopping ...

I check out the fridge the night before to create a 'use it up' meal. Tonight, I found 6 medium carrots, a 2" chunk of butternut squash. Elsewhere I had one onion, some chillies in a jar, a tin of tomatoes and a tin of red kidney beans, a pork and a lemb stockcube, tomato puree and some Quorn mince.

The carrots were cubed and par boiled and water saved. Onions and squash were gently fried until ready and carrots added. 1 level teaspoon of ground cumin, the tomatoes and carrot water and 1 tablespoon of chopped chillies from the jar were added and everything cooked for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, I added 1/2 a packet of Quorn mince from the freezer, both stock cubes and cooked everything for another 15 minutes. Finally, the stock cubes and 1/3rd tube of tomato puree were added:
After another 10 minutes it was ready. We have enough in the small saucepan for tea and another 3 portions (for 2) were served to go cold before putting into the freezer:
I love the challenge of a 'use it up' meal, which for us, is usually something vegetable based as that is usually what we have leftover.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Making do without mending ...

Where possible, we try to repair or rehash and this is a recent example. Until a few days ago, we had this lamp:
I went to touch it and it went bang with a blue flash - not good I thought. We changed the bulb, no difference. Checked the plug and its fuse - no difference. DB then inspected it underneath and one of the wires had worn through and blown its gubbins!

At first I couldn't think what to do with it and then asked DB to remove all the electrical bits, saw off the metal top lampshade holder and voila:
A candlestick! Just got to source a tall candle to fit and it will be in use on the mantlepiece.

We are left with these bits, the bowl on its own :
The metal fitment to attach the shade to the round decorative screw bit:
Said screw bit:
We might change it into some sort of bowl for holding something but need to find a nice base for it. DB was going to drill through the round screw bit and use it as a light pull but he found something else instead. All these items can wait until we sort out the bowl.

Monday 9 January 2017


Welcome to Bloglover via Bloglovin.

It seems yet again that hotel room cleanliness is in the firing line as far as bacterial contamination goes.

We rarely visit hotels, b & b's etc but if we really have to, the first thing we do is to put the loo seat down. Then I do a, sometimes forget b, but never forget c!

a) soap my hands and wash taps, toilet flushes, door handles, rinse and dry.
b) use a bacterial hand solution to wipe down remote controls.
c) put to one side glasses in the bathroom for rinsing teeth. If I need one for water at night, it gets washed.

The same applies in our own bathroom. I do a, quite often, we never have to do c, as I use my hand for rinsing my mouth.

I am lucky in that DB puts the toilet seat lid down. Have you any idea just how far the water droplets go when you flush? They completely fill an average sized bathroom, taking many minutes to float back down onto every possible surface including your uncovered toothbrushes!

Doesn't bear thinking about really.

Saturday 7 January 2017

A nest of vipers!

The amount of cables behind the tv cabinet look like a nest of vipers and enough is enough. DB has bought trunking to hide some of the main thick cables against the wall. The rest are being reduced in size where possible or coiled up as small as possible. Here is a picture before the start of work:

Just a few of the cables on the top of the unit, waiting to be dealt with:
Half the problem is the size of the transformers that reduce the mains current on certain things down to 12 volts. These are on the Wii, the internet hub and the recorder. The hub is the worst as its plug takes up the space of two! This means we need an extension lead coming off the extension lead.

We don't worry about overloading the wall socket as usually no more than 2 items, occasionally 3 are on at the same time, all well within parameters indicated. Besides DB knows about such things as that was his job.

Halfway through, it is looking better. The light cable is still not done as this is a temporary light until we get organised:
The adaptors are both on the wall, the normal white one on the top, comes off the larger grey one which has surge protection on it. Most of the transformers are tucked inside the cabinet behind their corresponding pieces of equipment.

Just a larger cable cover and it is done:
So much better, nest of vipers dealth with! Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Fixing a squeak

First of all, welcome to Trish Perry via Bloglovin.

When we bought the Maxiclimber, one of the negative comments from some people is that it develops a very loud and irritating squeak after a time. Just under 3 weeks as it happened!

No one seemed to be able to tackle it effectively and said machine seems to have been returned. DB was not to be thwarted.

We listened and thought we realised where it was coming from. Pulley was taken apart, cleaned, greased and put back together again - nope!

Each joint was also sprayed with WD40 - nope!

Eventually, we thought it was coming from somewhere near the pedals you stand on. Here, at the top of where one part of the right lower leg slides inside the other part of it, we saw a plastic roller at the top, near the handles, which had some scruff marks on it. This was cleaned - nope!

Oh dear, neither of us wanted to be defeated so we checked the actual pole that slides inside - bingo. Dark dust everywhere. We didn't want to clean and add grease here as it would get onto clothing. Instead, it was cleaned with sugar soap until all residue was removed. On I hopped - squeak gone.

Obviously a slight design fault but we reckon this is the problem and it will reoccur so have decided on a fortnightly/monthly bit of housekeeping cleaning it with either sugar soap or a bit of WD 40/Swarfega on a cloth to remove the residue.

When we bought the machine, we got it with free extra warranty which gives us peace of mind!

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Rice Cutlets

For tea last night, we tried one of two recipes for Indian Rice Cutlets:
We used 1 1/2 times the recipe from this site. As you can see, we only got 4 each, which we served with grated carrot and apple in a small amount of mayonnaise. We found them quite nice if a little hot as I think I overdid the chilli!

I have just found another version here, which we will try sometime.

As it turns out, by using either gram flour in the recipe we tried, or corn flour (starch) in the next recipe, they are both naturally gluten free.

Monday 2 January 2017

Its that time again...

Welcome to Deborah Louise via Bloglovin.

Although we still have 3 months left on our fixed tariff electricity plan, this is the time of year when we begin searching for a new tariff and possibly a new supplier.

We tend to switch between 2 energy companies, mainly because they usually offer us the best deals with having an economy 7 meter.

Since changing our tumble dryer, it will no longer let us use it on a timer overnight, it refuses to switch on, we have tried:(

We now use it sparingly during the day, drying only half the time and finishing off in the front room. It is only for items that need a rapid dry, otherwise it is not required.

This has meant that it shouldn't be viable for us to keep our economy 7 meter but checking online this morning, that is still not the case. We still heat our hot water overnight and still get the early morning bulk of our heating done cheaply as well.

Obviously, winter has still not fully arrived even though the nights are getting colder, so who knows how much electricity we will use in the coming weeks.

Still, it pays to check and maybe even to change early, as we always chose an plan that has no exit fee!

Sunday 1 January 2017


To 2017 and also Janet Fawcett via Bloglovin.

Due to family circumstances Christmas was not a good time for my nearest and dearest although we did enjoy a brief visit from DS and DDiL.

Unfortunately the first part of 2017 is going to be a sad time, there is no getting away from it, but we must try to remain as upbeat as possible, tackle events head first and just knuckle down.

We are in fine fettle health wise, looking forward to getting our weekly walks going again. We have been walking each day weather permitting and generally feel better for it. Not today though as it will be raining hard all day.

Enjoy your day and may this year be kind to you.