Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I had to pop in to share with you the 100 cupcakes I made the other day; cupcakes need to be share with the world, even if all that can be seen at the end is a few crumbs and a photograph or two.


Making the toppings and flowers.....

What else have I been cooking.....

Welsh Cakes for Karen....

Salmon nuggets rolled in crisps!

Chocolate loaf

Sesame marinated chicken stir fry with noodles and rice...

My favourite roasted artichoke salad with Parmesan....

Sesame chicken salad

Scallops and pan fried greens with an artichoke heart

Still on budget, still sticking to the plan!   Uh...except for those cupcakes of course.....

Be back soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thank Goodness it's Friday.

Random photos today; i've been looking at them with the kids and thought I'd share.   Giveaway details below.


The family McGinn; daddy took the picture

 Lulu walking but only just!

Kelly's first day at school

 Contented Fraser

 Lucy at Niagara

Kelly at Niagara

Graduation, Glasgow University

 Very tired!

Put that camera down and give me a hug!

 Pirate party; one happy, one not so happy....

There is a giveaway of one of my handmade dollies, boy or girl or a painting of choice, again, boy or girl drawing on Wednesday 17th April.  There is also a travelling dolly.   See the bottom of this post here for details!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blog Chucking and Giveaway Date!!

I feel I have been remiss; I have had very little time to read blogs lately and it's just not good.   I love reading them and I'm itching to catch up on what has been happening but alas, sometimes kids, work, house and social lives take over.   I always stop first at those people who come to visit and then manage another few each day, sometimes a lot more, if I take a morning off.   It's always lovely to know the blogs I read are all there waiting for when time is easier.

Bearing that in mind, I was rather surprised to get an email from a bloggy follower telling me I was chucked.  Yes.   Chucked for not spending enough quality time with her/him.   She/he had left me.   Sob.   Having only ever been chucked once in my life before I've led a semi sheltered life...., I started to ponder what this bloggy chuck meant and what is the correct decorum in these situations?   Should I cry into my keyboard or should I go on the hunt for five bloggers in one night, aggressively pursuing them and hoping they'll love me in the morning?

All joking aside, I felt bad that I'd upset someone enough to get such a strong reaction from them and was all set to albeit confusedly profusely apologise.   Now of course you're wondering why I would be so public about it.  Well, y'see, I started to get a deja vu feeling.   Something didn't seem quite right....

Feeling a wee bit ashamed and guilty after the eyeball rolling at my  "Dear Helen" letter, I went to the blog in question and looked round.    Something wasn't quite right, right enough!   It was puzzling me.  I looked at the last ten posts, posts which seemed......strangely familiar.   Wait.   Hadn't I actually read these?   There was the post on...oh, and then there was that post......   Yes.   Yes I had.

Not only that, I'd commented.   I'd commented rather a lot.   Had the blogger failed to read the comments?   Was the blogger a bloggard?   I looked round the site and found responses from the actual person in question, responses directed at me.   What was wrong with this picture?

And then it hit me; the posts were old my friends, OLD.   The blogiot hadn't posted for over 9 months.   NINE MONTHS! What the...?  I chuckled with barely contained glee and flexed my fingers before typing a reply.   I waited for a response and none came.   Email silence.


I sent one final response and eventually I got a reply.   The blogger had started a new blog without closing down the old.   She/he had assumed that I was still on their list as I am on their email address book under bloggy love of course!   She hadn't thought to tell anyone that she had moved to a completely different format and many not just me eventually, obviously stopped coming by.   The blogger was very contrite and I shall refrain from calling her/him anymore bloggy names because it was a mistake and we're all allowed at least one.....

Bloggy friend, you know I'm posting this as I said I would, I'm only partially joking, I'm sorry and I forgive you at the same time!

You know that giveaway I've mentioned every now and then?   Well, it's happening next Wednesday, 17th March in honour of St. Patricks Day and my niece's birthday.    The more comments you leave, the more chances you have with every follower automatically entered.   The 'prize' will be one of my homemade dollies or one of my paintings.   You get to choose and even customise!.   Here are a few samples....
 Just tell me once what you'd like to win and why you would customise it, i.e. a little boy painting with a blue shirt or a dolly with a pink ribbon etc. and thereafter, for every other comment, just mention the word 'giveaway' at the end.

Edited to add, as per comments: open to all, worldwide.  No discrimination here. ;O)

There will also be a travelling dolly, a wee tartan minx who will wind her way from blogger to blogger with a little journal so that her adventures can be noted.   If you are interested in taking part, mark 'travelling dolly' on your comment too.  More details to follow.

I would like to leave you with the cake of the year!   My lovely friend Pauline had a request from her son to make him an eyeball birthday cake; once she stopped pondering why, she rose to the challenge and then some.  

 Aren't they delightfully gruesome?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shopping List Week 10-12 and Menu

It's been a while since I've done a proper shop as we've been using leftovers and buying basic ingredients as we needed them.   Today, I purchased enough food for three weeks worth of meals, possibly more as there was quite a lot of special deals on, particularly with the chicken and the salmon.   The total cost came to £105.34 so that's £35 per week so far.   The remaining £45 will be used for bread, milk, fresh fruit and veg and the occasional treat.   This should take us up to the Easter holidays, which is brilliant timing as I get to shop for lovely Easter type foods.
The Menu

Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, roast and mashed potatoes and veg 
Chicken Kebabs with homemade pitta and salad
Cheese and spring onion Omelettes
Chargrilled Artichoke Hearts with Parmesan and pine nuts
Curried Parsnip soup and homemade seeded loaf
Marinaded Chicken salad
Chicken Stew with green olives
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Chickpea and leek soup
Chicken and rice soup
Homemade pizza with mozarella and potato wedges
Salmon and tuna patties
Vegetable and lentil soup and sandwiches
Baked tomatoes with basil, feta cheese, olives and hearthbread
Lemon Roast Chicken
Chicken and Garlic Ginger  Noodle soup
Fragrant Green Curry
Marinaded Chicken stir fry with noodles and rice
Mince and Tatties
Quick Chicken stew with dumplings
Chinese style salmon

Baked potatoes
French toast
Scrambled eggs

Snacks, desserts, breakfast:
Danish pastries
Madeira cupcakes
Maple pecan bread
Lemon cake
French toast
Boiled eggs

Weekend scones


Sometimes, only a ham and cheese toastie will do


Chilli & Broccoli Spaghetti

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harmony was a Hairspray

I was a mod once. It lasted about 6 weeks. I had the jacket, the make-up, the glaiket expression.  I listened to The Jam, The Who and early reggae. I wore badges with Quadraphenia and bullseyes, curled my lip and looked downwards at all times.   I cut my hair to resemble a chipmunk.   Smiling was out, sulking was in.   My twin sister decided, at the same time, to become punk-like.  She cut of her hair except for the huge spike that fell over her eyeballs, vision being secondary to fashion and trend.   Who knows what she listened to, I sure wasn't interested.   She donned a deliberately dumb stare and I a glazed one. 

We shared a room.  

Harmony was a hairspray; it only existed as a fine mist, making tangled angles out of hair teased to stick straight out or flattened to your skull, the cloud of residue leaving you with a persistent cough and damage to the ozone layer.  

 Channelling my inner mod.....maybe a little young still.

We ate stovies with corned beef, mince and tatties, beanfeast.   My mum was progressive; she liked to experiment.   The main success was mince curry, using leftover mince, spices and rice.   We felt sophisticated, eating noodles or pasta before every household had them as staples.   I tried to experiment and would spend hours in the kitchen, determined to make a nice meal for everyone and coming up with a bowlful of mush, not fit for the poor, poor cat.   I was a terrible cook.

Back then, I thought the more ingredients you put into a dish, the better.   It never really worked out that well.   To this day, I see a recipe with three ingredients and my first thought is "how could that taste as delicious as they say?".   Luckily, experience is a wonderful thing.   I realise that simplicity, in all it's form, is usually the most effective way of getting a wonderful plate of something scrumptious.   And it's cheap too.   What more could a tight, Scottish, thrifty shopper ask for?   Free food?  Free booze  World peace?  

So, in honour of that, here are a few recipes I made last week that are limited in ingredients, time and cost but bursting with taste.   Or so I / we think anyway.

Pasta Fromage with Ă©crimage croustillant....aye, hen, we know it's mac n' cheese!
 Macaroni Cheese
Ingredients for 6:
Approx.  50g of pasta per person or more if you prefer
A large knob of butter
Tablespoon of plain flour
Grated cheddar cheese, four big handfuls

Actual measurements really don't matter in this recipe, don't be alarmed!   

Boil a large pan of boiling, salted water and thrown in your macaroni or pasta of choice.   The only pasta that doesn't go with this, in my opinion, is spaghetti or strand type pastas.   Leave to boil for the recommended time, usually around 10 minutes.   The sauce will take no more than this to make.

Place the butter into a pan and melt over a medium heat.   Once completely melted and starting to froth, add the tablespoon of flour and start to stir.   It will froth and change colour.   Keep stirring for a minute then, with your free hand, add a splash of milk.   Don't stop with the wooden spoon though.   If you have to use your free hand to hold the handle of the pot, don't worry.   Stop stirring, add the milk and then start stirring again.   The roux (lumpy mixture) will feel thicker as it all comes together in a lumpy paste.   This is fine.   Add another wee drop of milk and stir vigorously.  It will stay lumpy until about the fourth or fifth drop of milk and start to resemble a sauce.   Just keep stirring, stirring, stirring......   

Keep adding milk until you have a white sauce of a fairly thick, creamy consistency, like double cream.   It shouldn't be too much though as the simmering will thicken it up as will the cheese.   Once you are happy with your consistency, turn the heat down and let it simmer very gently  for a minute.   Then add the cheese a handful at a time and stir until it has melted into the sauce.   You can turn the heat up a bit if it is taking too long.   Once all the cheese has been incorporated, simmer gently for another minute and that is your basic cheese sauce.
Below are the optional ingredients including seasoning:
Freshly grated nutmeg
White ground pepper
Pinch of salt
1-2 slices of bread blended with a handful of cheddar cheese to make breadcrumbs
Tablespoon Parmesan grated (optional)
A sprig of thyme (optional)
I always add a good grating of nutmeg and a few shakes of the white pepper to my sauce.   Taste it first before adding salt as different cheeses have different salt levels.   I always use unsalted butter so tend to need a pinch.   Drain pasta and pour into cheese sauce, not the other way around.   If your cheese sauce pot is too small then add some of the pasta to the cheese sauce then pour that back into the rest of the pasta and mix well.
If making a crusty topping, I blend bread slices with a handful of cheddar.   I mix in a few leaves from a sprig of thyme which is probably entirely unnecessary but I love the taste nonetheless and sprinkle it on top of the mac and cheese which has been placed into an ovenproof dish.   I sometimes add a tablespoon of Parmesan but since I'm advocating less is more, forget about it!   Bake in a medium to hot oven until top is golden brown.   Watch happy faces devour the entire tray.
Use the sauce to cover cauliflower, potatoes...great if thinly sliced, covered in the cheese sauce and topped with the crust and baked in a hot oven....nachos, bread or dough balls.

Chicken Cous Cous
Ingredients for 6:
Cooked chicken, leftover or breast/thigh etc.  Approx. 1oz per person.
Cous Cous
Chicken stock
Spring Onion x 2

Cook the cous cous as per requirement on packet: I place a knob of butter into a pan, add 5oz cous cous, stir and cook over a gentle heat for a minute and then add 5oz chicken stock, stir and take off heat.   Leave it for five minutes to soak up the stock and then place back on heat, stirring for a minute or two.   Take back off the heat.   I like to add a squeeze of lemon and a little freshly ground black pepper.

Chop the chicken, season and add to the cous cous.   Chop the spring onions finely and dice the cucumber, adding both to the cous cous.   You could add a few, thin slices of red chilli if you like it with a bit of heat; I like to add this to the chicken stock to infuse and soften.

Serve up hot or cold.

Spaghetti with smoked salmon

Creamy Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon
Ingredients for 2 or one greedy person like me:
Small onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced (optional)
Handful chopped smoked salmon
Tablespoon cream

Boil spaghetti as per normal.   Cook onion in olive oil; do not brown, stir gently from time to time, adding a tiny drop of water if the onions are cooking too fast.   Add garlic when onions are almost soft.   Cook for a further minute over a low heat and add the tablespoon of cream and smoked salmon.   immediately take of the heat.   Add cooked and drained spaghetti to sauce pan and if you happen to have a handy lemon quarter, squeeze it all over and then mix/toss well.   If you prefer it a bit richer, add a few cubes of cold, unsalted butter and leave to melt.   Grind a lot of black pepper over dish.   Place in bowl and, safe in the knowledge that no-one will want any because they don't like smoked salmon, eat in front of the tv until gone.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

I was surprised recently to be asked to give a reference for a girl who used to work with me many years ago; I didn't mind in the least of course but it turned out that the person asking for the reference was an old friend of mine; he hadn’t realised it was the same Helen he’d had shots with in Curlers or the same Helen he had sang duets with at Hogmanay in Tennents Bar or the same Helen....let's leave it there.   I gladly sent a reference and it read like this:

Katie McGill killed my dog.   She hid my shoes and sold my clothes.   But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.   She shot my brother, my best friend and my cat.   She burned my flat down.   She even put the H1N1 virus in my tea.   She downloaded offensive material onto my computer that resulted in me being sacked from my job.  I’ve not been able to find employment since.   She put a banana in the exhaust pipe of my car, the subsequent crash leaving me unable to wear high heels ever again.   Just as well really, as I have no shoes.   Ever since then, she’s  kept me locked up in this house, unable to leave and brings me out only to cook dinner for her and her evil friends who tell me my cooking stinks or to write her blowhard blog.   However as far as operation management goes, she’s talented, reliable, professional, timely and great value for money.   I wouldn’t hesitate recommending her for the job.

I signed it with my maiden name and emailed it.

Twenty minutes later I got a phone call and was rather relieved to hear a loud, hearty laugh; apparently the whole office was amused but aghast until the man in charge realised who had sent it.

She got the job.  

Shona's very tasty Sticky McGintys

For Colin

Pancakes in a back to front jumper

Uh...where's MY pancakes??



Friday's table roses have opened out

White rose by my fireplace