Wednesday, 25 March 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Lentil Dahl with Kale and Toasted Coconut

Hello lovelies! This was a quick and easy meal I made after work a few times but is perfect for quarantine.  I found the recipe HERE and adapted it slightly to what we had.

I picked this recipe because it said to sprinkle toasted coconut on top so when I toasted the coconut for German Chocolate Cake Treats a while back I just toasted a bit extra for the dahl. Total honesty here--I don't think it really added all that much to the dahl so I probably won't bother in the future, but feel free if you have time.

I also cheated by  using Korma curry paste I had in the fridge instead of measuring out five types of spices because I was lazy. I also upped the lentils to 3/4 cup as I wanted more lentil-y goodness. It's all good.

Lentil Dahl with Kale and Toasted Coconut

1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 TB ginger root, finely chopped
1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli flakes, turmeric and garam masala or just use 2 TB curry paste
1/2 to 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed in a sieve
450 ml vegetable stock
200 ml (half a can) coconut milk
100g (4-5 handfuls) kale
 2 TB toasted coconut for sprinkling (optional) 

1. Cook your onion, garlic and ginger in a splash of water/vegetable stock until softened. Add your spices or curry paste and stir to coat.
2. Add the lentils, stock and coconut milk and bring the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until lentils are soft and swollen.
3. Add the kale and cook for another few minutes until kale has softened.
4. Top with toasted coconut if you can be bothered.

I served it with Peshwari naan bread (flatbread with almonds, coconut, sugar, cinnamon and raisins) but it would be equally good over rice.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Caramelised Onion Hummus

Hello lovelies! I make my own hummus most of the time as it is more cost effective and you don't have that tiny plastic tub to get rid of.

The one exception is caramelised onion flavour. I buy that from the shops and Eat. It. All.

I figured there was a way to make it at home and I was right. It made 3 big cups which we put one in the fridge and two in the freezer for later.

Hummus itself is quick and easy to make. But the onion bit is what takes long on this one. My suggestion is cook your onion while you are cooking your tea. It can be just just browning away while you are doing other things on the hob otherwise you have to stand over the stove cooking an onion for 30 minutes while wishing you were doing something else. Just sayin'.

I also used soft white haricot beans instead of chickpeas, but use whatever beans you like.

Caramelised Onion Hummus

1 large or 2 small white onions, finely diced
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp marmite (or GF equivalent like Tesco brand--optional but gives it just a bit more umami taste)
2 tins of beans, drained and rinsed save the aquafaba liquid!(bean juice) 
6 TB lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini

1. Cook the onion in the 1/4 cup veg stock until softened. When the liquid has all been absorbed add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook until the onion starts to brown. Remove from heat.
2. Add everything but the aquafaba and blend like heck in a food processor until smooth. Add in the bean liquid a TB at a time until soft and creamy. I used about 1/4 cup.

This is a fat free hummus that I made without oil. Feel free to add 2 TB olive oil, but we honestly thought it was amazing without it.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Disney's Cinderella (1950 )

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

Beloved reader, we come to the last of the Fairy Tale Fridays. This series on Cinderella has run since November 2018 and has finally run its course. I will be withdrawing for a few weeks to do research and will resume in April.
Our last entry is about the one you probably know the best—the Disney animated film from 1950. It was clearly based on the version by Charles Perrault as it contains a fairy godmother, a pumpkin into a coach, a midnight curfew and lost and found glass slipper.

If I am honest, I was never a fan of this even as a child. Perhaps because I preferred my fairy tales with my blood and guts (no stepsister tries to slice off her toes or heel to fit into the shoe in this version), but perhaps because I felt that our protagonist was too passive for my liking. Those would not have been the words I would have used as a child, but it how I felt. At home she seemed so resigned to her situation. I was worried that she had no fight in her. She took abuse and just lived in a daydream. I wanted to see her say “I’m mad as heck and I’m not taking it anymore!” I realise now that it was not very easy for a single woman at this period in history (I mean the olden times when Perrault wrote it, but it could also apply to the 1950s) to do something without a man to support her. As a child I just really wanted her to have more spunk. In Variety’s review of the film, they describe Cinderella as being on the “colorless, doll-faced side.” I would agree with that description.

I was also really upset by the fact that she was willowy, graceful and blonde and he fell in love with her at first sight  just based on her appearance. He doesn’t even talk to her (there is no time after the dancing and the chimes of midnight) he just sees her and wants her. She’s the same. For her it is “Met a hot guy, danced with him, let’s get married.” I wanted more adventure out of my life. However, I think what really bothered me the most was the thought that I would never be a tall, graceful or blonde. I am like an elf crossed with a hobbit and no prince was going to fall in love in me at first sight without talking to me because my personality is where I shine.

There are so many things I could say about this film, but this Honest Trailers says it better than I could so I will let them do the talking.

And just as a bonus, this clip from Saturday Night Live. I loved the scenes of the mice sewing her a dress. I really wanted mice to sew my clothes for me, but this sketch is how it actually would have happened.

That’s all for Cinderella. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Stay tuned for April when we begin to explore other fairy tales.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Apple Juice Lemonade

Hello lovelies! Okay. Let me just be honest. This is not really a recipe. Not really. it's a cheat. A shortcut.

I am not ashamed of this.

A while back my wise friend Sage (see what I did there?) asked me if we had a juicer. I said no. She told me that they used to juice a few apples and throw in a lemon to make a naturally sweetened lemonade that was refreshing to drink and made great ice lollies.

So I started thinking...could I just do this with apple juice and a lemon? Yes. Yes I could.

I love lemonade, but don't really want to make up a sugar syrup to add to lemon water. I love naturally sweet  cloudy apple juice, but often wish it was a little more tart. This just works!

Basically, I buy a litre of cloudy pressed apple juice and pour off 3/4 of a cup of juice. Then I either drink the juice or freeze in in an ice lolly mould. Then I add 3/4 cup lemon juice back into the container the juice is in filling the juice back up to the top.

Now you have apple juice lemonade! It's sweet! It's tart! It comes in its own container. Sure, a juicer where you juice your own would be infinitely better. but I don't have one. Adapt, adopt and improve is my motto.

Now, I don't have a photo because I am just storing mine in the apple juice container and I don't have any of those lovely tall glasses that would photograph well on a picnic table in the sunshine. I don't even have a picnic table, we live in Wales so sunshine is rare and all my drinkware consists of mix-matched chipped mugs.
Lemons are a very handy cure all
So to recap:
Apple Juice Lemonade

1 litre of really nice cloudy apple juice minus 3/4 cup---roughly 3 and 1/4 cup apple juice
3/4 cup lemon juice (about 3 fresh lemons--I cheated and used 2 fresh lemons and 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice)

Mix the apple juice and lemon together. Drink and feel amazing.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Cinderella (Disney live action, 2015)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at the Disney version of Cinderella. It would make sense chronologically to do the animated film first, but I want to save it until last and so I will be discussing the live action today.

I remember when this film came out in 2015. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh and featured some impressive names-- Lily James as our heroine, Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother, Derek Jacobi as the old king, Richard Madden as the prince and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. I recall reading an article at the time about how Lily James had to eat a liquid diet to fit into her dress and how impossibly tiny her waist looked in the trailer. It seems that she did not need the liquid diet to fit into the dress, but once corseted could not eat solid food which if I am honest, is not much better. Branagh attributes her tiny waist in the dress to her naturally slim waist, but I still have visions of her internal organs being displaced while she sipped clear broth through a straw.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film. The costume design (despite the agonisingly tight corset on Lily James) was impressive.  The film received a nomination at the 88th Academy Awards, 21st Critics' Choice Awards and 69th British Academy Film Awards, all for costume design. I can see why. The choice was made not to have Cinderella in a dress with a ragged hem and contrasting patches but to be in a dress that had once been new and beautiful and had faded over time. There were also so inspired choices for the stepsisters played to perfection by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger as silly, talentless (but vain enough to believe they were genuine prodigies) who were constantly squabbling and disappointing their very cool (in every sense of the word) mother. Their costumes mimicked the clothing of the day bit with just an edge of wrongness—colours a little too bright, just a few too many shiny sequins, slightly too fussy. Cate Blanchett looked like she should have been in a 1940s film with her Veronica Lake wavy hair and icy flint like demeanour. The dress for Cinderella at the ball was made with layers of blue and purple gauzy silk which succeeds in giving her a look like a watercolour painting in motion. It was not just the women’s costumes with their extreme corsetry that were difficult to wear. I read that the prince’s trousers were so tight they kept showing an unsightly bulge that was unsuitable for a family film. They kept giving him tighter and tighter jock straps to press down the bulge—so tight that it made him nearly cry. But enough about the costumes.

If there was one thing I could say about this film that sets it apart from other versions it is this. This is the film of backstories. We see WHY characters are the way that they are. Cinderella is shown to have a happy “modest” upbringing with parents who love each other. Her parents teach her to revel in nature and look after animals. On her deathbed, her mother urges Ella to “have courage and be kind” which becomes her lifelong motto.

 Later when she meets Prince Kit in the woods while he is hunting a stag, she is angered by him hunting a defenceless creature. He replies “But we're hunting, you see. It's what's done.” She retorts,  “Just because it's what's done, doesn't mean it's what's should be done.” He later takes on this philosophy himself having seen her kindness and wisdom. When they meet he claims to be an apprentice (well, he is a prince in training) and she says she is a servant. When he asks if they treat her kindly she replies that they treat her as well as they are able.

We also see backstory of the Stepmother. She does seem cold, but it could just be self- protection. As we have discussed with this story, there was not much a woman could do in this time when this story was written to better herself than marry well. The Stepmother was married before to a successful merchant. She is widowed. She has no means of her own as women cannot own property or run a business. She has two unmarried daughters and mounting debts. She remarries to keep a roof over her head and to have enough dowry for her two disappointing daughters. She is continually reminded that her husband loved and treasured someone before her and has a beautiful, accomplished kind daughter to prove it. She sees his warmth with Ella, and it reminds her of everything she has lost. Even though she went into the marriage as a business arrangement that has to hurt. Then Ella’s father dies, and she is saddled with a second man’s debt. She must harden herself like flint if she is to survive. 

She makes a speech to Ella late in the film after she has found the glass slipper about how her own happiness has been crushed. She says:
Very well, I shall tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a *beautiful* young girl who married for love. And she had two loving daughters. All was well. But, one day, her husband, the light of her life, died. The next time, she married for the sake of her daughters. But that man, too, was taken from her. And she was doomed to look every day upon his beloved child. She had hoped to marry off one of her beautiful, stupid daughters to the prince. But his head was turned by a girl with glass slippers. And so, I lived unhappily ever after. My story would appear to be ended.

The fairy godmother deserves a paragraph to herself despite her tiny screen time. Helena Bonham Carter does what she does best---ham it up with glee. She gets ten minutes of film time but gets top billing and it is no wonder. We first see her doing the standard Cinderella test where our heroine has to prove her worth by being kind to a helpless old lady in disguise (HBC in full age makeup.) Then she transforms herself into a slightly dippy (possibly tipsy?) fairy godmother who says things like "I'm your hairy dogfather!" 

Overall, I think it a decent adaptation of the Charles Perrault version with additional backstory. Stay tuned for the final version of Cinderella you have all been waiting for--the animated Disney version.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Za'atar and Lemon Roasted Vegetables with Chickpeas and Kale

Hello lovelies! A few weeks ago I showed you have to make the spice mix Za'atar. We have eaten it several times in a variety of ways and I have learned a few things.

It tastes better and brighter and fresher if you put it on at the end instead of roasting it on the veg.

It also goes really well with sweet potatoes and kale.

Za'atar and Lemon Roasted Vegetables with Chickpeas and Kale

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

In a large roasting tin put the following:
 a few sweet potato chopped into cubes (don't bother to peel) 
1 red onion, roughly chopped
half a red pepper, roughly chopped
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 TB olive oil

Roast for 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir, then roast 15 more minutes.

Then top with 2 TB Za'atar and juice of half a lemon. 

Serve over brown rice with sauteed kale.

Just a reminder how you make Za'atar:

Za'atar Spice Mix
2 TB dried oregano 
2 TB dried mixed herbs (mine contain oregano, parsley,rosemary, tarragon, basil, thyme and sage)
2 TB sesame seeds (toasting optional)
2 TB sumac
1 tsp fine grain salt

Mix and store in an airtight jar.

This was so bright and fresh. Thank you Za'atar!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Because I could not stop for Death

We are thrilled to share the newest addition to our art collection.

I came home from work one day last month and Spiderman was waiting impatiently for me.

"You HAVE to see this!"he cried and led me to our computer to look at the twitter page of artist Chris Mould. You might have seen some of Chris Mould's artwork in children's books. He is responsible for the illustrations in that gorgeous new version of Ted Hughes'The Iron Man. You can see his style of artwork here at his Etsy shop: ChrisMouldArtwork.

Anyway, I took one look and it took my breath away. It was so beautiful--something Victorian Gothic but full of symbolism.  Just the sort of things we love.  You might remember our DEATH AND THE MAIDEN that we bought from artist PJ Lynch.

Then Spiderman said "Look closely.  What Emily Dickinson poem is this?" I peered closer and started to hyperventilate and flap my hands. It was so obvious when you know Emily poems like I do.

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

Now, if you know me at all (especially from my Louisiana College days) you will know I once was in a one woman show about Emily Dickinson called The Belle of Amherst. I was directed by a great New York director named Bill Pomerantz and Spiderman was my stage manager. So Emily D is a HUGE part of me.

So are you ready for the reveal?
He kindly signed it to H and T and we had asked if he would not mind writing out the quote on something small so we could frame them together and he really outdid himself. He drew this amazing drawing to go with it for free. Isn't that stunning??

We are hanging it in the bedroom with the other Gothic skeletons because that's how we roll.

Happiness is being able to buy art from real artist especially ones that come from literature. Thank you so much to artist Chris Mould!