Wednesday, 24 June 2015

My Little Bucket Garden: Lush green leaves...

Rocket & Roses Garden Play List:

Beethoven Adagios

Indulge me a little please as I give you an update on my garden project. Kitchen time has been very little but hopefully that will change very in the meantime this is what I have been up to..

A little garden decor...

I just happened to have a couple of old nails in my garden wall and I found these hanging ornaments for £4. I like them very much. The yard is a little shabby right now but I have plans to brighten it up. And these ornaments are just the start...

This is the space in which I have to work...not tiny I know but just the perfect size for me

The five orange buckets along the back wall are all my courgettes and squashes. We are going to build a frame for them to grow up. They are thriving and can't wait to create some new spaghetti squash recipes. 

Flourishing bell pepper centre

I'm hoping that I can successfully grow some bell peppers. Some are doubtful because of the typical English weather we're having. But I remain hopeful as they seem to be growing despite the lack of heat..

Beetroot buckets...the two larger buckets have Rainbow Beets & Stripey varieties

We have a very boring selection of beetroot available here. So I knew I needed to try and grow some other beautifully coloured types...very excited about these as I am a beetroot fan. 

My first strawberries!

I made a choice not to grown fruits this year as I already have an established apple tree and cherry tree on the property. However I couldn't resist this hanging strawberry plant and the first fruits are already beginning to ripen. I know I won't have enough to cook they are going to be my gardening 'snack' treat...unless the birds beat me to it..

Marigold's make for good pest my french beans should be safe...

Years ago we found an old Irish sink at the bottom of the garden and we dragged it up to the yard. Now it is planted with some french beans and marigolds. The french beans will hopefully grow up to cover the wall...

Industrial shelving project...

We picked up these industrial shelving on sale and they have been fantastic. Our yard tends to be a wind tunnel so we needed something sturdy. It holds a grow bag with tumbling tomatoes and tumbling dwarf beans on the top. The other shelves are used for protecting seedlings until ready to be planted up and some of my herbs...

Two troughs of radish and some sunflower (Russian Giant) seedlings

As with beetroot we don't have a lot of choice when buying radishes. Recently we have been able to buy Mooli/Diakon as a weekly veg but rainbow coloured and anything more exciting just isn't an option. So I have two types growing and this one my Mum is eagerly awaiting to harvest. I am growing some Russian Giant sunflowers to give the yard some colour. I did have more than three pots...until my lovely nieces decided to liberate a pot each..

My herbs pt1

My first planted out herbs were fennel, parsley, lemon thyme, common thyme, oregano and chives....but that didn't quite satisfy my needs so...

...this happened. My herbs pt 2

A recently purchased washing up bowl (which turned out to be too big for our kitchen sink...) was filled and then Vietnamese coriander, dill, sage and tarragon were planted. And in my one remaining bucket I have a thriving common mint and a lemon mint. And now I also have an Apache chilli pepper plant on my kitchen windowsill..with an abundance of chilli buds.

It's been a very hospital dense time so I have been taking great comfort in my little garden. I take a moment in the afternoons when the sun is warm to sit out with a drink and soak in some much needed VitD. Happy moments can happen wherever you are if you allow them to happen...

Thanks for loyally stopping by everyday folks...I will be back with a recipe posting very soon. 


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Moosewood's Sweet and Sour Lentils (vegan and gluten-free)

Rocket & Roses Kitchen Play List:

Cole Porter ~ You Are So Nice To Come Home To
Keith Urban ~ You'll Think Of Me
Soul Asylum ~ Just Like Anyone
Black Stone Cherry ~ Fade Away
Uh Huh Her ~ Run
Shakira ~ Donde Estas Corazon
Evanescence ~ The Only One
Garbage ~ Queer
Count Basie ~ There Will Never Be Another You
Black Stone Cherry ~ Hell Or High Water
Eric Clapton ~ Wonderful Tonight
The Zutons ~ Remember Me
Don Williams ~ Love Me Over Again
Kevin Kline ~ La Mer

Finally...a recipe post...I hear you say. No I don't because you folks are endlessly patient with me and I cannot thank you all enough. I haven't been in the kitchen at all over the last few weeks...a break away and medical blah blah being the reasons. So this recipe is brought to you by the combined efforts of ML and myself. I sat at the dining table chopping and 'supervising' whilst ML run the kitchen side of things. Thankfully we work extremely well as a team...

Now when blogging the recipes tested from Other Peoples Kitchens I try to not consecutively post recipes from the same book unless I'm actually writing a review. However there are occasions where I make a dish and it is so good that I make an exception to that rule. Today's posting being one of those very recipes. It comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites cookbook. My recently bought extremely abused used copy of this book has been a marvel. Packed with really good, healthy recipes. A £1 well spent I'd say...

At the weekend I was craving lentils. I have these days where nothing else but a steaming bowl of lentils or cold/warm lentil salad will do. I feel intense guilt when I'm unable to cook meals for myself and therefore hate having to ask ML to make something labour intensive just for me. (ML suffers from an Auto-immune condition so we eat polar opposite foods. ML's being mainly white rice, potatoes, some fish, chicken and beef) A lot of the foods I crave can make ML very ill. So when I find a recipe that is simple in making and won't maim ML its a very happy find. 

For years my only experience of sweet and sour was of the MSG filled take out varieties. Gloopy, sticky, unbearably sweet and filled with artificial colourings. Not great. Until I made my own I considered this dish repugnant. Now I really like it as I can control what goes into the ingredients. So when I flipped the pages of the cookbook and found Moosewoods Sweet and Sour Lentils I knew it was the recipe for that particular craving. 

It couldn't be more simple to make. The brown lentils are cooked in a mixture of apple juice, water and fresh ginger. The additional veggies have a brief time in a skillet and then are mixed in with the lentils. The only changes we made was to sub soy sauce for Braggs but you could also use Tamari to keep it gluten-free. I cooked it for a little longer at the end after adding the Braggs and rice vinegar. There was a lot of liquid at the end but as we made ours in the morning and I didn't eat mine until the evening it had soaked up the juice and made the lentils plump and juicy whilst the veggies still had a crispness to them which delighted me. The flavour is subtle but very enjoyable. I served mine with sides of brown rice and fresh garden peas. This dish may not be a looker but what it lacks in appearance it sure does make up for in taste and textures. I know this will be a regular dish in my kitchen...

Moosewood's Sweet and Sour Lentils (vegan and gluten-free)

Moosewood's Sweet and Sour Lentils       Serves 4-6
(Recipe from Moosewood's Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups brown lentils
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cups water
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
2 tsps canola/rapeseed oil
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 courgette, diced
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce (I used Braggs)
2 tbsp rice vinegar 

chopped spring onions to garnish

Rinse the lentils. Combine them in a saucepan with the apple juice, water and fresh ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add a little more water towards the end of cooking if necessary to prevent sticking.

While the lentils cook, saute the onions, garlic, and carrots in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Add the pepper, courgette and tomato, cover, and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, until just tender. Stir in the soy sauce and rice vinegar.

When the lentils are ready, combine them with the vegetables. (Reds note: This is where I allowed mine to cook for another 5 minutes then removed them from the heat to mulch. ~R~)

Serve with rice and garnished with the chopped spring onion.


Thanks for stopping by and I hope your day is sunny as mine..


NB: This recipe is not my own and therefore take no credit for it whatsoever. It is the hardwork and creation of the folks at Moosewood Collective and theirs alone. I thank them for a great cookbook. ~R~


Thursday, 11 June 2015

My Little Bucket Garden: I have seedlings!

Rocket & Roses Garden Play List:

Chopin Nocturnes 

It has been very heavy on the medical front here so I am taking solace in my new project...My Little Bucket Garden. I have a sizeable yard right outside my kitchen window and I have been thinking and plotting for some time about utilising the space to grow some of the vegetables that I find it hard to buy around here. Spaghetti squash, rainbow radish, chards and an array of kale for example. I am on a extremely tight budget so buying the suggested containers that all the specialists recommended was definitely not going to happen. Then just by chance we were visiting a local DIY store and in the front of the store were hundreds of bright orange 'container' sized buckets and they were being sold off at £1 each. Perfect! And I loved the bright orange which really cheered up the yard. I also picked up a large red box for my carrot experiment at a good price and then some smaller troughs at various budget stores. I have to confess when I first started pricing up the containers I nearly passed out...for a brand new trough in the smallest sizes...£5! I haven't spent that collectively on the troughs I needed. Geez. 

I have to say now that I know bucket/containers aren't ideal and in a perfect world I would 1. Be well enough to take over the substantial vegetable garden ML started a few years ago..although it's buried under a neighbours Willow tree now and therefore deadly to ML 2. Buy stoneware containers that are more eco friendly. But sadly that is not my buckets it is. 

I've been delighted with my make shift green house (in my bathroom window!!) and I have been extremely excited to watch my Fizz Kale seedlings grow from tiny little green specks into sun and water hungry shoots. This weekend they will be thinned out and planted out into buckets. I also have Shiso seedlings and oregano seeds in my 'green house'. I know, I know I did promise I wouldn't turn into a gardening bore but a little update now and then can't hurt, eh? Oh hush now...I'm happy..

My little babies seedlings....Fizz Kale....11/6/15
In the garden I now have various radish seedlings, other kale seedlings, yellow courgette seedlings, spaghetti squash seedlings, various beetroots and finally some signs of life from the carrots. My herb garden is coming along nicely with beautiful lush greenage from thyme, curly parsley, oregano, fennel, chives and mint. I hope to add some borage to that mix but I've never grown it before so I'll have to be patient and wait and see if the seeds take. I'm loving this project...

ML used to spend a lot of time down in the garden and I would try and understand the peace it used to provide in our chaotic world. But now I can say I understand completely...although the actual work is exhausting to me...I do enjoy every single second of being out there..soaking up some much needed VitD. I sit at the old table, that we rescued and stripped down and made good again, with my afternoon coffee and feel such a sense of relief. Although it's been very confusing for the four-legged fella who cannot understand why we have moved everything around and brought such stinky plants into his little world. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope that I can bring you a food based blog in the next couple of days...

~Red~ the green fingered...who knew? :-)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Catch Up Time: holidays, lurgys, food carvings and James Rhodes appreciation

Hello there folks...I cannot believe its been so long. That said I thought I would update you about recent goings on at R&R HQ. So here goes....

Kessington Sands (shingle), Lowestoft. Photo courtesy of Ann
Our break away by the beach was a peaceful time. We stayed in accommodation 2 minutes walk from the beach although it was one I was unable to do so Ann took a few photos for me. Isn't this one great? But it was nice to be near the beach and we enjoyed a couple of days out exploring. Our friend Bev suggested nearby Southwolds and it was just lovely.  We ate at a fab little cafe who were vegan friendly and I devoured delicately ate...ahem...a plateful of mixed salads. Roasted fennel, artichoke, pepper & asparagus being my favourite of the offerings. ML & Ann also had great meals and although it was extremely busy in No 51 the atmosphere was very relaxing. I just wish we had found it earlier in the week...ah well. Should you be visiting Southwolds any time soon..check it out. 

I found an almost zenlike moment of peace sat in the gardens of Framlingham Castle whist ML and Ann took the tower walk. Warm sunshine on my skin, peaceful surroundings and that feeling you get when you are sat somewhere drenched in history.

The week away was nice and ML and Ann both got the space and healing time they needed. I struggled though..the pain was bad so I slept little and by midweek I was bouncing off the walls with sleep deprivation and pain overload. But I was happy to be there and enjoyed sitting by the window watching the sky as the weather was extremely changeable and intensely beautiful. On the final day I started to feel odd and by the next morning as ML and Ann were packing up the car I was in full on lurgy mode. 

Yep...I went on holiday and came home poorly! Go

The drive home was long and hot and I was an incubator for the germs I'd picked up. I managed a quick visit with my sister and little ones (all gifts loved and approved..Auntie points 10/10 lol) and then I crawled into my bed...and never made it out for a whole week. The lurgy completely floored me and it was nasty. But made bearable because of ML's TLC. Who when not making nutritious homemade soups for me to eat was found on the bed next to me administering hugs and playings games to keep me rested. And luckily didn't catch the lurgy from me...bonus. I was determined to get through it without medications and I am proud to say I did. Took some time to feel even remotely human but I stuck it out and now my body doesn't have to recover from a serious dose of anti-bios. I'm still a little shaky but I'm lurgy free...wehoooo. 

Cucumber carvings...hush..they were my first attempt...I will keep practising lol

So what does a person on rest, do on holiday? Well take up the practise of Japanese food carvings of course. I picked up a bargain copy of The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carvings by Hiroshi Nagashima shortly before we left for our holiday. It is a great book with clear instructions and inspirational photos...I say inspirational because they make the art of food carving look easy. It isn't...believe me. 

And now for the radishes and carrot needs practice...
Sorry about the quality of the photos...oh and the crude carvings...but I am committed to keeping up the practice. I found it to be challenging at times...but all consuming and it took my mind away from the pain and frustrations that come with it. It was this space...

My little garden....
We recently made the decision the take our house off of the market and stay for a while. The reasons are many...but the outcome has brought us some peace of mind. We are happy with our decision and therefore making plans based around it. We are taking up some home maintenance jobs around the house that we will work on ourselves and I am very much up for that challenge even if I only manage 30 minutes a day. I love doing 'jobs' around the house and have missed doing them greatly so I can't wait to get started but obviously my body isn't keeping up with my heart/mind. But I am determined and so is ML so it's all good. One of the main things I wanted to get started was a reorganisation of the gardens. Our property has a substantial garden area. Thankfully divided up into sections...the majority of the garden which ML was responsible in the past (no longer due to major reactions to anything green and natural..) we are going to offer up for someone to make into a fully functioning allotment. But the large yard directly outside my kitchen window we have cleared and I have made a 'container' vegetable garden. I have no idea if it will work but I have researched everything I needed to and I'm very enthusiastic that it will. With the helpful advice from ML I am hoping to have an abundance of veggies in a short while. Planted as follows:

Spaghetti squash
F'Atena Yellow courgettes
Junona squash
Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes
Orinoco Dwarf Beans
Bell Boy Bell Peppers
Californian Wonder Bell Peppers
Marconi Pointy Peppers
Rainbow Beetroot
Chioggia Beetroot
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Black Magic Kale
Fizz Kale 
Rhubarb Beet Leaf Beet
Dragon F1 Hybrid Radishes
Rainbow Mixed Radishes

Still to come shiso leave seeds. And an abundance of herbs...

I have chosen many veggies for the simple reason that I can't buy them in my area of England. So I am very happy to be starting this project. Once there is something to see I shall post some photos but I promise not to turn into a garden bore. Hopefully... I have a new addiction. Although I am and will always be an espresso gal. I have to admit that caffeine doesn't suit my body anymore. I have my adored machine waiting for the days when I allow myself the espresso hit. I have unsuccessfully been trying to find a good decaf coffee for years. I have tried many...some worse than others but always a let down. Its frustrating because sometimes I just need a black coffee instead of my beloved green teas and the like. 

A really good Fair Trade decaf instant coffee

I don't know what dragged me down the coffee aisle of the supermarket whilst away on our holiday. But before I knew it was scanning the instant coffee offerings. I am by no means a purest when it comes to regular coffee. Espresso...oh yes but regular cuppa joe...oh no. Yes I prefer the filtered kind...but if I can find an instant than I am happy. Percol have never even blipped on my radar until that day. Something drew me in and I had stashed a jar of this decaf coffee in my trolley. And I couldn't be happier about it. ML made me a cup when we got back from the shopping trip and from the moment the jar was opened I knew it was going to be a good one. The aroma assaulted my senses and brought me back to all my most loved coffee drinking memories. I almost didn't want to take a sip and face the disappointment but the swirling blackness worked its magic and I took my first taste. Smooth, strong and a great depth of flavour...aside from the jolt you get with regular just wouldn't know it was a decaf coffee. I now look forward to my afternoon coffee moment...and its Fair Trade too! Thank you Percol! If you have to have decaf or just simply choose to drink decaf...try this coffee I beg you. After all there are worse addictions to be had, eh? 

And lastly...and by no means least...Mr James Rhodes. I confess I had never heard of the chap until very recently. I was checking in with the Hay Festival via iPlayer and happened upon an interview between Stephen Fry and James. From the first answer to Fry's question I was taken. James Rhodes life story is at times brutal but not in a 'misery for money' way. He is honest which above all else I respect. And found myself ordering his autobiography for my Kindle a few days later. The impression he made stayed with me. 

The autobiography that almost never happened....

You only need to Google his name to read about the battle he has been through to get to publish his book. It was long, tortuous battle but despite this he remains loyal to his truth. Where lesser people would have given up and limped away..he with the support of his wife, family and good friends kept going. And I for one am so happy that he did because I have been so emotionally touched by this book...his life...his words and the way he looks at the world. I hate that the man who hurt him as a child got away with it and it would eat me alive but he has managed to move on. It still has an effect on him but he deals with it. I have a huge amount of respect for this man and should I ever have the chance to meet him I would tell him so although he would probably light a cigarette and tell me to hush. This book isn't doom and gloom and woe is me. This book is an honest account about one mans childhood and adult life so far. And filled with far more positivity and honesty than anything I've read in a long time. To quote an old cliche...I am forever changed by reading this.

I enjoyed the play list that comes with each new chapter and I added the Instrumental suggested play list by James onto our Spotify account. Each chapter starts with a suggested piece of music and a short paragraph about the composer. Did I forget to mention that James Rhodes is a fantastic piano player and tours the world doing so. I've listened to some of his CD offerings and being the classical music fan I think I am..I am ashamed that his work has slipped by me. That is now rectified. I recently watched his documentary on Channel 4...Notes From The Inside: James Rhodes. Having had some time in a locked ward himself..he takes a Steinway piano into a hospital and personally selects 4 pieces of music for four patients to try and make a connection with them as music has been a safe haven for him. It is a good documentary and at times raw. But to have the chance to listen to him play and see the emotion he pours into every note and know all of the hidden struggles he faces as he sits there playing...I was humbled. 

Mr James Rhodes: Brief clip from the Hay Festival talking about Chopin then performing
I have respect for this man. Not in the seedy groupie way..for goodness sake. But respect for his words, notes and the way he has survived the ordeals of his life. His love for his wife, son and his family and friends. But mainly his honesty...the fact that he admits he can to quote " such an asshole..." but then can wax lyrical about real love. He is flawed but then who isn't. He is honest...not that many people are so for me it was a refreshing change. And he is close mates with Ben Cumberbatch...whats not to love about that. I look forward to many hours listening to James music and hopefully a book or two alongside. Thank you Mr Rhodes for leaving an impression...

Anything else...well our much loved 'road tripping' car finally died. It was a very sad day in R & R HQ but we have many fantastic memories of travels in Carmen to enjoy.

Right that is us all caught up. I am feeling stronger each day so hope to be back in the kitchen very soon. But in the meantime don't forget the extensive archive of recipes on offer. Just please forgive the photos if you go..way back. I was an absolute beginner back then but the recipes are good. 

I hope you are surrounded by sunshine and happiness folks...and thank you for stopping by.