Tuesday, 15 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Breakfast for Dinner

Hello lovelies! We were visited recently by a friend and her lovely granddaughters where we did some baking and then watched the film version of Watership Down. No, we're not crying..(sniff) there's just a bit of dust in our eyes...(sniff)

 We were gifted  with some smoked tofu from our friends (thanks Lizzie and Co!) Some of it was the kind you can eat straight from the package, so we did. but the other sort was quite soft, so we thought...tofu scramble! 

Since we don't really buy tofu these days, when we want to have Breakfast for Dinner we normally do {THIS} but because we had some yummy tofu to use up, we did it this way. If you are soy free then just use the above recipe.

We thought, what goes well with scramble? Cowboy Beans of course! I have talked previously about my feelings about British Baked Beans. That red, runny sauce just doesn't cut it with me. I have to "pimp" my beans. If you are British and grew up with flavourless beans and that is how you like them, then by all means just plunk them in a pan and heat them up. If you are American, then just buy something like Bush's vegetarian baked beans and save you the trouble. But if you are British like us, but need good ole smoky Southern style beans then go {HERE} to learn how.

So what goes with tofu scramble and cowboy beans? I know! GRITS! If you are from the American South you know what I am talking about here. If you are British, you are out of luck I am afraid. You cannot get grits here. Well, you can. If you are lucky enough to have family who take pity on you and pays to send you boxes once a year or fill their suitcase half full with boxes when they visit.

I have got one of those caring families. You probably do not. We ration our grits to make them last, but eventually there comes a time when they run out. *SOB*. When this happens, we substitute frozen hash browns. Nothing wrong with hash brows. you can get 750g for £1 at Tesco.

But they ain't grits.

Anyway, this came together super quick. I made it after work and wasn't at all HANGRY doing it.

Breakfast for Dinner
For the beans:
1 white onion, chopped (divided--3/4 to the beans, 1/4 to the scramble)
tin of baked beans
(optional) BBQ sauce, molasses, liquid smoke (see recipe link above)

for the scramble:
1 packet of soft tofu or the recipe above to make it soy free
onion from above
garlic to taste
6 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt flakes
Pepper, to taste

For the Grits or the hash browns:
Make according to package directions.

1. Cook 3/4 of your onion in a TB of water until soft and then add the beans and the pimped fixin's and simmer.
2. Meanwhile, in a drizzle of oil, cook the onion in  a skillet until softened, then throw in the mushrooms and garlic and sun dried tomatoes. When they are softened, crumble in the tofu and add everything else.
3. Keep stirring the scramble to get it coated and cook the tofu. When the tofu is hot, remove and serve.

That's it.

Quick and dirty.

A bit like the American South.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn (The Dubliners)

 Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. This week a version of this folk song entitled Molly Bawn. According to "The Fiddlers companion" website, the title "Molly Bawn" is an Anglicised corruption of the Gaelic "Mailí Bhán," or Fair Mary (Fairhaired Mary, White Haired Mary).
                  Image result for swan under tree
This version is more traditional and is by the Dubliners (as you would expect from them) from their album At It Again from 1968.  We have the explanation of why she had her apron about her (she was hiding under a green bush to avoid a sudden shower of rain) and her ghost does appear, not at Jimmy’s trial, but as her wake. We also have a hint of the mean girl attitude that we saw in the previous version with all the other girls secretly glad she’s dead as she was so beautiful, but as in the previous song—none could hold a candle to her beauty.

Interestingly, Molly is on her way to see her uncle when the tragedy occurs. Usually, the male character (unnamed or called Jim or Jimmy) goes to see his father or his uncle after the shooting, but here is the only version I know where she is visiting an uncle. 
He also goes to see his uncle in this version (there are a lot of uncles in this tale), but it interesting that she does too. It gives her a good reason to be out and about during a storm.

You can listen to the Dubliners version here:

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.
Oh come all you young fellows
That follows the gun
Beware of night's rambling
By the setting of the sun
Beware of an accident
As happened of late
To young Molly Bawn
And sad was her fate

She'd been goin' to her uncle's
When a storm it came on
She drew under a green bush
The shower for to shun
With her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
Took aim and alas
It was his own Molly Bawn

Oh young Jimmy ran homewards
With his gun and his dog
Saying: 'Uncle, oh uncle
I have shot Molly Bawn
I have killed that fair female
The joy of my life
For I'd always intended
That she would be my wife'

Oh young Jimmy rambling
Do not run away
Stay in your old country
Till your trial it comes on
For you'll never be convicted
For the shooting of a swan
Well the night before Molly's funeral
Her ghost it did appear
Saying: 'Uncle, dearest uncle
Oh let young Jimmy run clear'

'It'd been late of an evening
Well he took me for a swan
Took aim and alas
He killed his own Molly Bawn'
Now all the girls of this country
They seem to be glad
Now the flower of Glen Arra
Molly Bawn she lies dead

Get all the girls of this country
And stand them into a row
Molly Bawn would shine among them
Like a mountain of snow

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version of Molly Bawn by Alison Kraus and the Chieftans.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

Hello lovelies! If you hang around social media long enough, eventually *someone* will be talking about One Pot Pasta. This idea is everywhere! You cook everything in one pot. One pot, people!

I put it to the test to see if this was too good to be true.

It is NOT too good to be true.

It is gorgeous and quick and easy. And did I mention delicious???

Most recipes I saw folks talking about used spaghetti and we just don’t roll that way. 

We like pasta shapes (shells in particular) and didn’t want a recipe that fed a crowd.

There are only two of us. Two’s company and three’s a crowd.

Although technically this recipe could have fed three people. Perhaps that should read Two greedy people are company and three people can sod off so there is more for the greedy pair.

So, I looked on google until I found recipes that fed 2-3 people and used pasta shapes so I would know how much liquid to add to make the ratio correct. Then I ignored their choice of ingredients and used vegan ones I know we like.

I also put it to the timed test. I had been on a video call with my daughter Monjae and we got off the phone late. I had 15 minutes before Spiderman would be home from work. Could I get it together by the time he got home?

Yes, I could!

Amazing One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

In a big pot put the following:
1 chopped onion
Half a chopped pepper
1 small carrot, diced small
3-4 cloves chopped garlic (or to taste)
5 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
Punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half (mine cost 69p and was 330g)
Splash of water to keep it from sticking

1.Start to heat the pan with everything in it whilst you boil your kettle.
2. In your kettle boil 2.5 cups water.
3. Add the following to the pot:

2 to 2.5 cups pasta shapes (we used 2 cups)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 crumbled stock cube (I used 2 tsp broth powder plus 1 tsp marmite to make the stock richer tasting)
Glug of olive oil (optional, but good)

4. Pour over the boiling water and bring to the boil. Boil as long as it takes for your pasta to cook (my Gluten Free pasta takes 8 minutes). Make sure you keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
5. When your pasta is cooked, the sauce will be done. The tomatoes will have burst and made a delicious sauce. Ours seemed a wee bit runny so I added a slurry of 1 TB starch (like corn starch/cornflour to my British peeps) whisked with ¼ cold water. I added this and kept stirring until the sauce thickened slightly.

How long did it take? Probably 15 minutes start to finish.

Was it tasty? Oh yeah. We topped ours with some vegan Parmesan. It was quite saucy (oo-er, Mrs!) so we ate it with a spoon. 

It could easily be doubled if you have more than two greedy people to feed.

This will definitely be in our rotation of meals we need super-duper quick because we have both just gotten in from work and are tired.

We were discussing that you could make variations on a theme. We were thinking of a Mexican version keeping the same veg and cherry tomatoes, but subbing Chili powder for the oregano and basil and adding black beans and sweetcorn and topping with a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of cashew cheese sauce.

We shall report back if we give this one a go.

But seriously….one pot…minimal clean up…whole food….real food…nutritious food…cruelty free. Compassion tastes good. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Polly Vaughan (Martha Tilson)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. I continue my journey into various forms of the murder ballad Polly Von.

This version, entitled Polly Vaughan, is sung by English folk-based singer Martha Tilson on her 2006 CD Of Milkmaids and Architects. The only version I could find was of her singing it live in 2008.
                        Image result for swan illustration snow
I like the simplicity of it-- just her voice with a bit of simple percussion-- with parts of it a-cappella. There is a sinister quality to it (almost a slipperiness to it) that harks back to the version by the Oysterband. There is also a bit of a “mean girls” element to it. Polly was so beautiful and every girl in the country was after Jimmy, so they are all glad to see her laid so low, but even in death they pale in comparison to her.

You can listen to it here:

I have included the lyrics below if you would like to follow along.

Then home ran young Jimmy
With his dog and his gun
Crying uncle oh uncle
Have you heard what I've done
I met my own true love
Mistook her for a swan
And now I've shot her and killed her
By the setting of the sun

So out runs Jimmy's uncle
With his locks hanging gray
Crying Jimmy oh dear Jimmy
Don't you run away
Don't leave your own country
Till the trial do come on
Sure they never will hang you
For the shooting of a swan

All the girls of this country
Are glad we know
To see young Polly Vaughan
Brought down so low
And you can take all them cruel girls
And set them in a row
And her beauty would outshine 'em
Like a fountain of snow
And her beauty would outshine 'em
Like a fountain of snow

That’s all for this week, stay tuned next week for a version entitled Molly Bawn. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Dancing Queen

There is thing about me.

A weird thing.

Maybe it is a weird thing about you too.

I am musical and by that, I mean I have hundreds of CDs and listen to music nearly all the time. I *always* have my i-pod when I am on the go by myself. I like to listen to music while I work, sew, cook. I like to sing along (rather loudly) when I am at home. When there is not music playing, I am making music all on my own. I hum and sing to myself and often don’t know I am doing it until Spiderman points it out. I get this from my dad.

When we lived in the US, I was the sort of mad person you could see sitting behind the wheel of their car singing and possibly dancing to some private music that others could not hear. All they could do was sit at the traffic light and look over at the woman making a spectacle of herself.

Uh huh. That’s me.

When you are ensconced in your car or your home you can sing your heart out and no one can hear you. This does not work when you are wearing an i-pod.

It is considered bad manners to be singing along loudly out in public where everyone can hear you.

Ask me how I know this.

So, I have to work *really* hard to reign it in. I mean *really* hard.

In order to stop myself from singing, I have channel that energy elsewhere.
Which means that I am often dancing when I don’t know it. Out in public.
Certain music has that effect on me. I’m trying hard to just discreetly tap my foot or just drum my hand surreptitiously on my thigh….but suddenly I realise I am like Mary Tyler Moore spinning around all full of wonder in the big city while I throw my beret into the air like I’m going to make it after all.
                               The Mary Tyler Moore Show Intro (Hat Toss) by Jamesviayoutube
This seems to happen all the time. I don’t know I am doing it. It is only when a see stranger hold me at the corner of their eyes and snigger, that I realise I am at it again.

Certain songs have choreography that MUST be done as I listen. Do you know the song Tainted Love by Soft Cell? There is a THUMP THUMP at the end of several lines that is just *begging* for a sort of fist-raised-in defiance-pump to go with it. This has been a long-standing habit with me. I used to pound on the ceiling of my first car in time to the beat as I listened and eventually the light fixture fell off from repeated listening of Soft Cell.

And any song with a bell means I have to shake my booty in time with the chimes. Maria by Blondie springs to mind. There is a lovely BONG BONG BONG on the line Maria, you’ve got to see her (bong bong bong) go insane and out of your mind. She also has this slippery way have making the oo sound like in lines like Fool for love and full of fire that makes me do this slippery hip slide.  Don't even get me started about listening to Shakira.

A few months ago, I was in the queue at Lidl and listening to Love at the Disco  by Tom and Olly and I am not only drumming, but clapping. Listen to it here and you will see what I mean. There is a clapping bit right at the start. It was only when the lady in front of me turned around, did I realise I had done it.

Last month, I was coming out of Tesco listening to the theme from the cartoon Hong Kong Phooey (I have rather eclectic tastes) when I realised I was doing a karate kick. A karate kick with a chop! I only realised it because a group of men were laughing.
I cannot allow myself to listen to the theme from H.R Pufinstuf (off the same CD as Hong Kong Phooey—all Saturday morning cartoons covered by cool punk bands) because there is a bit at the end where they sound like a cheerleader and I find I unexpectedly have invisible pompoms.
Listen here and you’ll see what I mean:

Last Wednesday, I was meeting Spiderman at the library when he got off the bus from work so we could walk home together and I was listening to Why Can’t I be You? By The Cure. I could see him coming down the street towards me and I thought I had it under control, but clearly not because he said, “Why are you bopping up and down like you need to wee?” Some music makes me do a wee-wee dance. FACT.

Yesterday, I was standing in the rain by the green man crossing waiting for a signal to cross while listening to Fight (for your right to party) by The Beastie Boys. Only when a cyclist nearly fell off her bike laughing did I realise I was throwing rapper hand shapes. /oh the shame/

Some songs have a spiral effect on me. They make me want to spin. I don’t realise I am doing it until my bag flies off my shoulder as I pirouette on the pavement. Many songs have this effect on me, but this one in particular has a strong effect on me. It’s a cover of London Calling by The Clash sung by the amazing folk band The Bad Shepherds who folk up this punk song. The urge to spin is especially powerful on the last word of the line London is drowning and I live by the river. It is followed by a compelling violin solo that just increases the likelihood of me spinning like a top.  
Listen and enjoy and see if you don’t want to twirl too.

I have tried to not embarrass myself in public, but clearly, this isn’t working. The only alternative is to not listen to music when I am out and about, but this is just not an option.

I think I will just have to go on being my exuberant self by letting the music sweep me away while pretending not to notice the way other people are laughing. 

Does this ever happen to you?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Umami Pizza and Greekish Salad

Hello Lovelies! This week (and next week!) will feature some of the best umami recipes out there.

Umami? You-mommy? What are you talking about, Spidergrrl?

Umami (in case you don’t know) is a Japanese word describing one of the five basic tastes along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. It is described as a “meaty or brothy” taste. It is definitely a savoury taste. It is the thing that makes a dish have that extra *wow* factor. It is found in foods that are high in glutamates. This is why  MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often added to food to give it that umami factor.

People think that you can only get that wow factor from aged meats or cheeses, but there are lots of vegan ways to get that yum factor.

Foods that naturally high in glutamates are
·        Caramelised food (like onions)
·        Fermented foods (balsamic vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, miso, wine, beer, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc)
·        Marmite or vegemite
·        Nutritional yeast flakes
·        Sea vegetables like kombu, kelp and nori (good news for sushi lovers)
·        Mushrooms (especially porcini and shitake) and tomatoes
·        Smoked spices or condiments like Liquid Smoke and smoked paprika
·        Dried foods that concentrate flavour (like sun dried tomatoes or olives in brine)

This dish was FULL of umami.

Caramelised onion hummus
Balsamic vinegar
Nutritional yeast flakes
Mushrooms and tomatoes
Sun dried tomatoes

Now, I make my own pizza crust (it is super easy to do and you can freeze it) but you can do what you like. Buy a premade pizza crust to make this easy or make your own. I don’t care. Just do it.

Umami pizza and Greekish Salad
Make your Greekish salad first to let it be marinating and increasing its yum factor.

Greekish Salad
*normally* Greek Salad has feta cheese to give it that salty, umami taste. There are lots of recipes on line for making tofu feta but I wanted to use a similar marinade, but with button mushrooms.
Mushroom feta
4 button mushrooms, diced small
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB apple cider vinegar
1.5 TB nutritional yeast flakes
¼ tsp marmite
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp (smoked) sea salt
1 tsp oregano
Marinate together in a small dish. Then make the rest.

The Rest
Half a cucumber, diced
8 small on-the-vine tomatoes, chopped
1 TB sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup olives
1 tsp olive oil
1 TB red wine vinegar

Right before you eat, pour the mushrooms and their marinade over The Rest and stir to combine. If you have any caramelised red onions that don't fit on the pizza, throw them in the salad. 

While that’s marinating, make the pizza.

Cook the crust as the directions tell you to. Mine is cooked for 5 minutes then add the toppings, then cook 12 more minutes.

The Toppings
Caramelised onion hummus
Oil packed sun dried tomatoes
Red onion cooked down in balsamic vinegar until caramelised

This was *AMAZING*. And the next day (see next week!) I used up the rest of these umami ingredients in an amazing pasta recipe with my favourite garlic alfredo. Double yum!!

When food is this good, you don’t need to eat animals! Now that you know you can get that umami flavour without animal cruelty, then go vegan and eat with compassion. 


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bond (Betty Rutherford)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. In my quest to research various murder ballads that interested me, I had only intended to do Peter, Paul and Mary’s Polly Von and the Molly Bond by the Oysterband. 

However, a search on youtube revealed to me several new versions that I had not heard. They all had elements in common, but were different enough from the two sources that I knew, so I thought it was worth a look at these in more depth.

The first one was recorded by Betty Rutherford who was a performer of traditional music from the Appalachian Mountains who was known for her powerful, authentic singing voice. This a-cappella version was recorded in 1974 at a concert in Baltimore, Maryland.
                         Image result for swan illustration
I like the simplicity of this version as well as the authenticity of the recording with a baby grizzling in the background. It is another version that explains what Molly was doing with her apron over her head (something that always bothered me about the Peter, Paul and Mary version). This version says she was sheltering under a beech tree after an unexpected rain shower came upon her. It mentions that Jim Randle was hunting in the dark, which is another clear indicator of poaching (in my opinion) that I had not understood from the Peter,  Paul and Mary version.  It also features the supernatural element of the Oysterband version where the ghost of the murdered girl appears at the trial and exonerates him.

You can listen a version here:

I have written the lyrics below if you would like to follow along.

Come all ye young who follow the gun
He wandered out shooting after the setting sun.

I've a story to tell you, it happened of late,
Concerning Molly Bond whose beauty was great.

Molly Bond was out walking when a shower came on,
She ran under a beech tree the shower to shun.

Jim Randle was hunting, a-hunting in the dark,
He shot at his true love and he missed not his mark

With her white apron pinned 'round her, he took her for a swan,
He shot and he killed her, his own Molly Bond.
He ran down to her, these words he said
And a thousand of tears on her bosom shed.

"Oh Molly dear Molly you're the joy of my life,
I've always intended to make you my wife."

With your white apron pinned 'round you, I took you for a swan,
I shot and he killed you, my own Molly Bond.

He ran to his uncle, his gun in his hand,
Saying "Uncle, oh uncle I've killed Molly Bond."

Up stepped his dear uncle with his lock all so gray,
Saying, "Stay at home Jimmy and do not run away."

"Stay in your own country till your trial comes on,
You won't be molested, if it cost me my farm."

The day of Jim's trial Molly's ghost did appear
And to this jury Jim Randle is clear.
With my white apron pinned 'round me he took me for a swan
He shot and killed me and now I am gone.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week where I look at a version entitled Polly Vaughan.