Monday, 31 October 2011

Meal planning Monday: 31/10/11

Monday again! Didn't half-term pass quickly? My two were at holiday club for 3 days last week (they loved it!) and we've had 3 days of fun with hubs at home too (we have an inset day today).

Last week's meals went according to plan until Wednesday. I'd forgotten (again) about swimming, so I made cottage pie Wednesday instead of Thursday because it could be cooked while we were out. On Thursday we went to Milton Keynes and had a big late lunch out, so the scallop risotto from Wednesday (are you keeping up?) went on hold. Friday went to plan for the kids and hubs but I had the scallops with vegetable couscous, chilli, and lemon (Sog concoction). Very tasty :)

This week I'm building up to a half-marathon on Sunday, so I'll be upping my carbohydrate intake towards the end of the week.

Sticky soy salmon with egg-fried rice and vegetables

Sog concoction. Probably will include honey and soy (surprisingly).

Chicken, chips, and peas

Easy tea because it's Beavers tonight.

Pork and cider casserole

It's SWIMMING so something easy I can slow-cook in the oven. (Sog concoction)

Baked potatoes

Lamb burgers/koftas with pittas and greek salad

Steak pie with mash and veg

Leaving free because it's my race today.

Leave a comment to let me know if you'd like any recipes posting or just to say "Hi", and don't forget to check Mrs M's blog for more meal plans.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 4

May 6-7, 2003: Grand Canyon

The drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was short but stunning. Our route took us over the Hoover Dam, which we obviously stopped to admire (the dam was bypassed in 2010, the bypass was being built when we were there). No photos...

The scenery on the journey was bleak yet beautiful. Miles and miles of red sandy or rocky wastelands dotted with enormous cacti. Kind of weird really. Sadly, no photos; we shot hours and hours of video though...

We arrived at our hotel just after lunch and we were treated to buffalo burgers and chips. Very very tasty. (Here I discovered my napkin/serviette translation error, amusing.) The hotel was stunning, it had a fantastic pool too, which we had to ourselves.

Since we were only at the Grand Canyon for a one night stopover, we headed to the visitor centre in the afternoon. We DID take some photos :)

Slightly scared because a Native American was heading towards us with merchandise... (hurry up timer!)

If you're clever you can stick these last three together and make a lovely panoramic shot. I am not.

In the evening our hotel hosted a Native American evening, with traditional dancing and singing. Fairly entertaining. Based on how busy the restaurant was I think most of the tourist population of the Grand Canyon were in our hotel. We retreated to the peace and quiet of the hotel bar after our dinner and played cribbage at the bar with some locals. It was like Cheers and everything. The locals "helped" me play against hubs, which led to me losing quite badly :)

Part 5 sees me forgetting to take ANY photos. That's how good the next part was.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 3

Viva Las Vegas!

May 3-6, 2003: Las Vegas

I couldn't wait to set off on the drive to Las Vegas because the route took us through Death Valley. We were well-prepared for this trip. Advice was to take plenty of supplies in case of breakdown. We just about remembered to fill up with fuel; we had two bottles of water, a Babe Ruth, and some Reese's Peanut Cups. Excellent choices.

Our Vegas hotel was The Luxor and we stayed in the Pyramid (there is a boring square hotel adjoining). Oh, the excitement of the inclinators and the sloping walls!

I was overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of every casino we went into. The restaurants, with their all-you-can-eat buffets. The noise and excitement of the gaming floors (our vice was video poker, and boy did we win big on that!). And the cute little trams that took you between casinos.

Walking up the strip was so much fun, a landmark at every turn. And Strawberry Daiquiris you could buy on street corners! I love Strawberry Daiquiris... The shows at Treasure Island and Bellagio were well worth an evening walk to see. And the shopping centres that were so large you could get lost in them.

Looking good hubs :)
God bless Siegfried and Roy
Oh look, it's me :)
Gondolas :)
I was scared my husband would insist I go on this ride (I am a wuss)
The Excalibur had The Best buffets
One of our funniest experiences was meeting a "sailor" in a shop, who was excited were were from "Eng-er-land" because he'd once lived near London, "in Hull". Excellent geography. We also had a culture difference in Fatburger, when I asked a waitress for napkins (serviettes), not realising Americans call "ladies sanitary products" napkins. I got a bemused look from the waitress (no serviettes), and I only realised my mistake several days later...

Fatburger: the best burgers in town
On our last day we had a walk out to The Hilton, which is off The Strip. We wanted to go for Star Trek: The Experience. It really was an amazing experience, hubs and I nearly wept when we went from being in "the lift" to being on the bridge of The Enterprise. We are very sad sci-fi geeks but I make no apology. Sadly the show is no longer around.

Great casino too :)

Ah, part 4, what will you bring?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Meal-planning Monday: 24/10/11

I missed Meal-Planning Monday last week and as a result was stuck for what to give the family for tea; we ended up eating a lot of chips and freezer food. Bad Sog.

This week is half-term; I'm working 3 days and hubs is on holiday from Thursday, so the end of the week should be fun.

Sweet chilli chicken wraps with salad

Gammon steaks, baked potato, and cauliflower cheese

Scallop risotto

Cottage pie

Cod fishcakes, chips, and mushy peas

Garlic and dill chicken with spaghetti (adapted from this recipe)

Roast lamb

I've got the requisite one-pie-a-week in. Slight craving for mash and mince at the moment. Going for the scallop risotto again, kids liked it (hubs didn't), it's a good way to get fish into their diets though.

For other weekly meal plans don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Autumn breaker 10K: 23/10/11

Today I ran in Fylde Coast Running club's Autumn Breaker 10K. Just 151 runners turned up, which I was surprised at. The weather had been quite cold and wet to start with though, so maybe other runners decided to stay in bed. Probably wise. I didn't have the best pre-race prep, because I was at a family party the night before (late night and 'some' alcohol consumed, not excessive though!).

After a non-start, when the marshals sent us the wrong way and we ran for 0.5K, we finally got going. The route took us around Stanley Park on roads and footpaths. The paths were very muddy and slippery from leaves, and we had other obstacles to watch for (dogs, walkers, children, and BMXers). The council were officially opening the park's BMX track, which we had to run around (twice), so that was another well-planned aspect.

I tried to start a bit slower than I did for Standalone, because I didn't want to get too tired halfway round. I managed to maintain a good pace, and I got faster with every mile. Details from Garmin Connect are below.

All in all, I'm quite pleased. I shaved 30 secs off my PB and was the 6th (out of 48) woman to finish (59th out of 151).

Friday, 21 October 2011

Living the American Dream: part 2

Part 2 of our honeymoon involved our first road trip.

May 1-3, 2003: San Francisco to Mammoth Lakes

This part of the trip was the most difficult to plan. The itinerary we had been sent was a straightforward  drive through Yosemite National Park. However, there was a very small disclaimer, which mentioned the route might be closed during adverse weather. At the beginning of May, snow in the region is usually coming to an end, but the year we went it was unseasonable. So I had to plan a longer route that bypassed the area, through Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and then skirting Nevada down to Mammoth Lakes. We didn't see any substantial snowfall, but I was glad we had the Jeep and not the weeny sportscar we'd originally talked about! The drive itself was awesome, through cities, up and over mountains, through forests (with bears!), and ending in the mountains again.

Breakfast en route :)

Now, this part of the holiday was not my most favourite. I'm not a fan of cold weather. I hate snow because it's wet (yes, I have issues). I don't ski or anything like that. I was a little excited though because there was a festival that had finished the day before we arrived and Andrew WK was performing (Party Hard!). Not that we saw him of course...

In fact, when we arrived there was very little snow, so we hoped we might be able to hire bikes. It was the end of the ski season so we couldn't book skiing lessons (we tried but the instructor was a bit cagey: "it's supposed to snow tomorrow" he said. Surely snow would be a requirement...) And we were too early for the summer season. Kind of a fail really.

We arrived at the end of lunch service and rushed to the only restaurant still serving food. They were seemingly trying to offload all their remaining food, and we got the giggles over the mountains of chilli, fries, and hot dogs we were given ("Oh My God you're from En-ger-land!").

The next day it did indeed snow, a lot (several feet). We had a stomp in the forest, made snow angels, and eventually drove to the town to look at the shops, eat fantastic food in a locals' cafe, and watch X-Men at the cinema. Most fun doing things wot the locals do yanno.

The only photo we took, through the snowscreen on our hotel window
Fortunately, we were only here for 2 days... Part 3 coming soon.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Living the American dream: part 1

The best holiday I've ever had is my American Road Trip, which was organised by my husband for our honeymoon. Anyone who's known me a long time will appreciate how well-planned this holiday was. There was an itinerary and everything.

Before I get too old and forgetful, I wanted to blog what we did, what we saw, and where we went. Here's Part 1: San Francisco.

April 28 to May 1, 2003: San Francisco

We flew from London with Virgin Atlantic (we actually saw Richard Branson in his pilot uniform) and arrived at a very windy San Francisco Airport slightly sideways and almost on the grass (I hadn't much experience of flying so I just thought it was a pretty cool landing).

To stave off jet-lag (the flight departed at lunchtime in London and we arrived at San Francisco in the early afternoon), we headed straight to a Denny's for food. If you've never been to a Denny's you really should do (hold on to your heart though!). We then had a bit of a walk around Fisherman's Wharf to get our bearings.

Pier 39

The Fire Engine tour that I wanted to go on but wasn't allowed *still sulking*
Day 1: don't we look happy?!
We hired a Jeep Cherokee for the holiday, I got to drive it too! We did the 49-mile Scenic Drive, which took us around San Francisco, up the Pacific coast (we had a paddle!), back through Twin Peaks, and through Chinatown. We also drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, through Richmond and Berkeley, and back across the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Palace of Fine Arts
Lombard Street, very cool to drive down
And of course, we had to take a trip to Alcatraz.

View of SF on the ferry to Alcatraz

Got to have a comedy photo...
...or two!
Aww, don't we look happy?! (mk II)

On our last day in San Francisco we took a ride on a cable car from Aquatic Park at Fisherman's Wharf ending at the Powell-Market turntable. Very exhilarating hanging off the side of the car. And much fun was had shopping :)

Part 2 coming soon.... where will we go?!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Meal planning Monday: 10/10/11

Hello. It's Sunday night so I'm sitting down to plan another week of meals. Last week's plan went fairly well. The kids loved the sausage meatballs on Monday, and they both ate the scallop risotto. I'm chuffed they tried something new. And I didn't lie and say it was chicken (well, not much).

My husband did the weekly food shop while I was at Church this morning (I only sent him out for eggs and bread), so this week I have a random selection of foods to plan around.

Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and SPROUTS!

Yeah, first sprouts of the season! And we didn't have a roast yesterday, so this is compensation for my uselessness as a wife and mother.

Bacon, brie, and mushroom baps

Lovely cheesy baps ;)

Chicken, broccoli, and pasta bake

Hubs is out tonight and he hates pasta bake. And this will use up Monday's leftover chicken.

Salmon fishcakes with peas

Loads of peas in my garden at the moment. Fresh peas, yum.

Sausages, Yorkshire puddings, peas, and homemade onion gravy

Can't beat peas and gravy.


Slow-cooked pork

Meant to cook this last weekend after watching that Lorraine Pascale programme, but forgot to buy pork (fail).

Don't forget to check out Mrs M's blog for other meal plan ideas.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pie: a personal history

With autumn here my foodie thoughts are starting to move from salads back to homemade soups, casseroles, and pies. I love making pie, either mash-covered fish or cottage pie, or puff pastry lids on chickeny or beefy goodies. I don't make my own pastry (my mother-in-law tuts loudly when I get the Jus-Rol out), but I do like to decorate the lid (with "PIE" or the kids' names). I never use a pastry base either because I think it makes the pie too dense.

It's a pie, of course

I'm from the North (Lancashire), and pie is a big thing where I'm from! Holland's Pies are based in Baxenden, a few miles from where I grew up. When we used to drive past the factory the smell was so good!

Holland's Pie vans were a familiar sight (Photo: Paul Anderson)

When I was younger, my favourite pie was my mum's potato pie. She would make it with sliced onions, little cubes of potato, and small pieces of steak cooked for hours. And mum would make her own shortcrust pastry (me and my sister used to help, possibly why I don't make my own now!), but the pastry was cooked separately as little circles. These were delicious soaked underneath the pie filling. And of course, we had pickled red cabbage on the side (or my favourite, massive strong pickled onions). I was always torn about which pickle to have, because I could only have one type :(

I remember mum putting mini meat pies in our lunchbox (they were called party pies). We bought our pies from the Palatine Cafe in Great Harwood, classic. These little pies had a hard crust, a tiny mouthful of spicy pork or beef filling inside, surrounded by salty oozy jelly. Delicious.

Mmm, party pie

As I got older and spent Saturdays or school holidays traipsing around my home town, we'd usually end up at a pie shop for lunch. You couldn't beat a meat and potato pie from Hopkins Bakery, and my friend loved butter (potato) pies (very Northern!). In my late teens I discovered the joy that is steak pudding, lovely squishy, suety, beefy pies. Served best with chips, mushy peas, gravy and lots of vinegar (from Clayton St Chip Shop). These aren't available down south, I miss them so much *sob*

At University, my boyfriend (now my husband!) introduced me to tinned Fray Bentos pies. I think the least said about those the better.


Hope you've enjoyed my pie history, it's very Northern but that's me! My meal plans will start to include a pie a week from now on, until the spring returns at least (this week's was a beef and vegetable, very tasty). Not all pies need to be unhealthy though. I'll be looking for healthy varieties to try and share.

Hope you're not too hungry now xx

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sausages: a rant

I'm sometimes a bit dense. Or perhaps the word is unimaginative. I buy sausages and grill them and that's usually it. Forgetting what's actually inside, surrounded by not much.

So, I had sausages in the fridge, but my son was seemingly desperate for "bolognaise with spaghetti". And then I remembered BBC Good Food website and a recipe I'd seen once for sausage meatballs. "Oh yeah, you can take the skin off" *d'oh*

So, last night I made sausage meatballs with tomato sauce. The recipe:

Serves 4

Pack of 8 sausages, skin removed.

Squish the sausage meat together then form into olive-size balls. I got 40 from my pack. Fry them gently until golden then drain and reserve for later.

2 tins of chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 veg Oxo cube
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice

Fry the onion and garlic in a little spray oil until golden, add the herbs and the crushed Oxo cube, salt and pepper, stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce, stir, and simmer gently for about 30 mins. 15 mins in, add the sausage meatballs to warm through.

After about 30 mins taste the sauce to check for seasoning. I found the sauce to be very oily tasting and claggy (technical term) so I added some lemon juice, which helped break up that oil and freshen the sauce. Add that if you like, it's OPTIONAL!!

Cook some spaghetti, and if you've forgotten about your calorie intake, cook some garlic bread too. Yay! Tasty dinner.

My kids LOVED this recipe. And hubs did too, which is always a bonus.

About 300 cals per serving (just the meatballs and sauce).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Standalone 10K

Yesterday I ran the Standalone 10K with friends from Stotfold Runners. The weather was unseasonably hot, which just added extra pain to the event! Here's my race summary.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Meal planning Monday: 03/10/11

I seem to only blog meal plans at the moment. Hopefully I'll get some inspiration this week for something else.

Last week's plan went swimmingly, apart from Friday when we had a meal out (impromptu) and Saturday when it was so hot we just had chicken wraps. Sunday we had another meal out after my 10k race, and dinner was freezer finery.

So this week:

Sausage meatballs with tomato sauce and spaghetti [recipe]
Using up defrosted sausages from Friday... Hope they're still OK :/

Chicken with lemon and tarragon sauce, roast potatoes, and veg
Son requested roast spuds last week and he never got them, bless him.

Pea risotto with scallops
I'm going to tell the kids this is chicken risotto. Is that mean?

Salmon, noodles, and veg
Easy tea because I'm out at a school meeting later. #yawn

Beef casserole
Hoping the weather changes so I can make a casserole. No one fancies casserole when it's warm outside. Might turn it into a pie if it gets really cool.

Gammon, pineapple, and homemade wedges

Roast of some description

Don't forget to check Mrs M's blog for more meal ideas and plans.
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