Friday 31 July 2009

Honest and Hard Working . . .

A certain young man rushed into a service station one day and asked the manager if he had a pay telephone and would he be able to use it.

"Sure," the manager replied, "It's over there." He nodded towards a telephone on the wall over in the corner.

The boy walked over to the telephone, pushed in a few coins, and then waited for an answer as the telephone rung on the other end. Finally someone answered.

"Hello sir", he said in a rather deep voice. "Could you use an honest, hardworking young man to work for you?"

The station manager could not help but hear what was going on. After a moment or two, he heard the boy reply . . .

"Oh, you already have an honest and hardworking young man working for you . . . well, okay, thanks just the same!" And, with that, he hung up the phone.

As he turned to face the station manager, one couldn't help noticing that he had a wide grin plastered across his face. He started back to his car, humming a tune, quite obviously very happy.

"Hey, wait a minute!" the station manager called after him. "I couldn't help but over hear the conversation you just had. Why are you so happy??? It sounded to me like that man already had someone working for him who was honest and hardworking?"

"Well," said the young man as he smiled at the grizzly old station manager, " you see, I am the honest hardworking young man that works for him. I was just checking up to see how well I was doing my job!"

I hope that I am the kind of person what would be considered hardworking and honest in all my dealings with others. I try to be at any rate! I'm not about to phone and ask!!

I made us a lovely soup for our supper last night. It's been very cold these past few days. Much more like October than the end of July! Whatever has happened to our summer??? I had some courgettes that I needed to use up so I made some delicious courgette dinner muffins to go along with it. I ended up with enough to pop them into the freezer for another meal, as well as some soup to go along with it. It's always nice to have a meal or two stored in the freezer that you can take out when time is short and lacking in inspiration. For those of you who don't know, a courgette is a zucchini!

*Jumbo Courgette and Basil Dinner Muffins*
Makes 6 large muffins
Printable Recipe

I have used courgettes many times in sweet loaf breads and in casserole. It also makes an amazingly moist dinner muffin. I love the flavour that the basil and cheese gives to it. They go well with eggs, hot soups and salads.

2 1.2 cups plain flour
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
the grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup buttermilk (or sour milk)
2 large eggs
3 TBS olive oil
2 TBS Pernod Liqueur (Optional, if not using use 1 tsp of Anise extract in it's place)
1 1.4 cups of grated courgette, drained well
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese + more for sprinkling (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Grease six oversized (Texas) muffin tins. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

In another bowl beat together the eggs, buttermilk, olive oil and liqueur or anise. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients over top. Fold together with a rubber spatula just until moistened. Do not over mix. The mix will be lumpy. Fold in the courgette, cheese and basil.

Spoon into the prepared muffin cups until just level with the top of the pan. (Sprinkle some more cheese over top if desired.) Bake in the centre of the oven until the tops are lightly browned and they spring back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. This should take 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Serve warm. These are best on the day served, but can be frozen for up to 3 months for longer storage.

If you'd like to see the recipe for this delicious soup that I made to go along with these tantalizingly delicious muffins, pop on over to The English Kitchen.

Thursday 30 July 2009

Thursday morning thoughts . . .

"What a great delight is a day of sunshine,
A clear blue sky when the storm is over."

Those are the first two lines of that timeless piece of Italian Opera, "O Sole Mio." As I look at them, I think to myself . . . how rare it is that beautiful songs or poems are written about beautiful sunny days that follow . . . well . . . other beautiful sunny days . . .

It is the storm, after which the clear blue sky follows, which helps to make the blue sky so very enjoyable.

How very much like life this is . . .

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."
~ 2Nephi2:11

There is a reason for the storms in our lives. They help us to appreciate the good times, much in the same way as the trials and tribulations of life are sent to help prepare us for the "great delight" to come. We cannot ever truly begin to appreciate all that is good in our lives, until
we have first experienced the bad . . .

Just my thoughts on this early Thursday morning . . .

As you know, my Todd doesn't like pasta very much. I don't know why really. Perhaps it's the texture, or it could just be that it was not something his mother cooked very much when he was growing up. (read not at all here!)

He doesn't mind tinned Heinz spaghetti on toast from time to time, but that's where it stops. (ugh) Myself, I just love pasta, in any way shape or form. I've been known to sit down with nothing but a bowl of buttered spaghetti, festooned with salt, pepper and freshly grated parmesan . . . I am in heaven.

I do torture him with some pasta from time to time however . . . I like to keep him on his toes! This is delicious, quick to make and quite economical!

*Skillet Tuna and Noodles*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

This is like an oven baked Tuna Casserole, except it's a lot easier and quicker to do. Everything cooks together in the same pan on top of the stove. Perfect for these warm summer nights. All you need to accompany it is a salad, and maybe some rolls.

2 TBS butter
10 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
3 cups raw egg noodles
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas
2 tins of solid white tuna, drained and flaked
2 TBS minced fresh parsley
Black pepper
a handful of Ritz crackers, crushed

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet with a lid. Once it is foaming, add the onions and the mushrooms. Season with 1/2 tsp of salt and cook, stirring occasionaly over medium heat until the mushrooms are browned. Scoop out into a bowl.

Sprinkle the noodles into the skillet. Pour over the broth and the cream. Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer, cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes, or until the noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.

Once the noodles are tender, stir in the peas, tuna and parsley. Season to taste with some black pepper and some salt if needed. Heat through completely. Serve hot and sprinkled with the crushed crackers. Delicious!

I did make him a delicious dessert however, to help make up for the pasta torture you know . . . Pop onto The English Kitchen to see what came next! (I don't know why that man isn't as big as a barn . . . it's just not fair!)

Wednesday 29 July 2009

What's in a smile . . .

Have you tried out your smile today?
To light your steps along the way?
It's mirrored in each face you meet
On byway, path, and city street.
Have you tried out your smile today?
A smile that's sunny, bright and gay,
That helps to lift somebody's grief,
And brings to pain some small relief?
Have you tried out your smile today?
If not, you should without delay.
You'll find your heart is gladdened, too,
When someone else smiles back at you.
~Verna Young

Noun - smile, smiling, grin, grinning - facial expression characterized by turning up the corners of the mouth; usually shows pleasure or amusement)
Verb - smile (change one's facial expression by spreading the lips, often to signal pleasure)
smile (express with a smile) "She smiled her thanks"

Smiling . . . the art of speaking without saying a word.

A smile is a universal language, which never goes out of style. It doesn't matter who you meet, or what language they speak, we all recognize a smile for what it is. It is something that can immediately brighten up someone's day. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give another, and one of the greatest gifts to receive.

It's one of the most natural movements the body makes, and a reflex we are all born with. Within a few weeks of it's birth a human baby learns to smile all on it's own, and then within a few months, it has learned to recognize when someone else smiles and is able to reciprocate in kind. Nothing warms the heart more than the beauty and innocence of a baby's smile.

Here's some eye opening statistics on smiles . . .

Babies smile on average, two hundred times a day.

Women smile on average, sixty two times a day.

Men smile, on average, eight times a day.

What does that say about us? Kind of sad, isn't it?

Smiling makes you beautiful. Just think of all the people you know, whose smiles you admire. Do they tilt their head or engage their eyes a bit when they do it?? These are natural characteristics that come about individually when someone smiles. Smiles create other natural characteristics as well . . . beautiful ones that form from years of . . . well . . . happiness!! Think of that little crinkle in the nose, the creases around the eyes, and the aptly named smile lines. These are all a part of a great natural smile, and we should all have them.

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."
~Mark Twain

There is no greater way to brighten another's day than to give them a smile. It's the one gift that just can't help giving back . . .

May your day today be filled to the brim and overflowing with them . . . both the given and the received!

I have wanted to make these tasty little treats for a very long time, but have never been able to find refrigerated Crescent rolls over here in the UK. I finally found some at the weekend at Morrisons and couldn't wait to get started on these delicious treats. I know it's cheating . . . using something ready made, but my goodness, these were well worth the cheat!

*Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls*
Makes 6
Printable Recipe

These are delicious . . . easy, and quick and quite unique. Kind of like an inside out cinnamon roll. The marshmallow melts to leave an inner pocket of tasty goo, and the buttery cinnamon outsides are just wonderful. Todd enjoyed these so much he ate two!

1 package of refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
(The ones over here contain six, but I know in North America, they contain 8, in which case you can make 8 of these)
6 large marshmallows (8)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
3 TBS melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and then spray them with some cooking spray. Set aside. Combine the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside. Place the melted butter in another bowl.

Open your tin of crescent rolls. Unroll and separate into 6 (8) triangles. Dip each marshmallow into some butter, then roll it in the cinnamon sugar. Place one on each triangle of dough. Pinch the dough up around the marshmallow to totally encase it. Seal any seams thoroughly. Dip the tops into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar. Place in the muffin cups, cinnamon side up. Repeat until you have filled and coated all your triangles.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

If you're looking for a tasty burger, look no further. Check out my English Kitchen to see some tasty Stilton Burgers!!

Tuesday 28 July 2009

It doesn't always follow . . .

It Doesn't Always Follow

It isn't the man who knows the most
Who has the most to say;
Nor yet the one who's wealthiest
Who gives the most away.

It isn't the bird in the gilded cage
Who sings the sweetest song;
Nor yet the girl who's prettiest
That's faithful, true and strong.
~author unknown

I have no idea of who wrote the above verse, but it is one that I have kept in my scriptures for years, scribbled onto a small piece of line paper.

It may not be the most famous prose ever penned, but there is a great deal of wisdom in it's words.

When I am feeling a bit down, or disheartened . . . or even a bit un-appreciated, I like to take it out and read it. It reminds me that all people have worth, and that is it not necessarily the smartest, richest or even the prettiest of us that are the most useful or valuable. Whilst those are nice things to be or to have, there are other qualities and talents in a person that are to be treasured above all else.

Just my thoughts for this morning. I hope and pray that wherever you are on this day and that no matter what you are doing, or whatever you are going through, you are able to find a measure of joy and peace . . . and love.

I baked some really tasty cookies the other day. Incredibly moreish, these are simple and quick! I love simple and quick, especially when accompanied with tasty!

*Crisp Toffee Slices*
Makes about 25
Printable Recipe

Deliciously crisp cookies flavoured with golden syrup and spice, these are incredibly moreish!

1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 ounces caster sugar (white sugar)
2 TBS golden syrup (Can use corn syrup)
5 ounces plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground ginger

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Line a large baking sheet with some parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar,syrup and vanilla together until light and creamy. Sift together the flour, soda, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

Shape the dough into two long rolls on the baking sheet, leaving plenty of room between them for spreading. Flatten each roll slightly and score with a fork.

Bake in the centre of the heated oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before cutting into slices diagonally with a sharp knife. Leave to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in a tightly covered container.

For something else simple and quick, why not pop on over to The English Kitchen!

Monday 27 July 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .

FOR TODAY, July 27th, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

The rain is falling. I notice the days are now getting shorter again. It's not as light when I get up in the morning as it has been these past few weeks . . . I would imagine we'll soon see signs of the leaves turning. It's been quite cold these past few days. Summer doesn't seem to last any time at all anymore . . .

I am thinking...
We saw a very odd man peering into our chapel windows yesterday just as we were about to leave church to go home. We stopped and inquired of him did he need anything. He wanted to talk to the vicar. He was really strange and was going on about spiritual hauntings. It appeared he felt his home was haunted and he needed someone to exorcise it. We gave him our Bishop's phone number, but somehow I doubt he'll be able to help him with that . . . He was a very odd man and I expect he'll need a lot more than a spirit exorcism . . .

I am thankful for...
I am so thankful that I have the Lord in my life and that I have my faith in God and His promises. I am not tossed about by changing waves in the doctrines of men. I know where I came from, why I'm here and where I'm going when I leave this earth. I have security in my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that has been a huge blessing to me, and a strength.

From the kitchen...
Between going to visit Terry on Saturday and spending most of yesterday with church duties, there was not a lot of baking going on here this past weekend! The time seems to be passing by ever so quickly these days. I don't know where it goes. Besides, I am waiting until my oven is fixed before I really do anything special. The convection oven cooks beautiful single layer cakes, but it's not really practical for anything larger. I can't wait til the engineer comes today and sorts the other oven out! (I hope that he can!)

I am wearing...
Pink pajamas and my sandles. Comfy, warm and very homey. I love my jammies.

I am creating...

I have several sketches done for cards that people specifically asked for and hope to get them painted this week, plus two commissions I am working on. I still have plans to make some dolls of my characters, but have been sadly lacking in time to execute them!!

I am going...
We're having some kind of outdoor games at YW's mutual activity this Thursday night. It should be a lot of fun! Lots of running around I expect . . . and getting dirty.

I am reading...

I am still reading Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See. This is the story of two sisters, Pearl and May. Beautiful, young and carefree, they are living a life of luxury until their father gambles away his fortune and they are sold to pay off his debts . . . sent to America to be married to two strangers. I have only been managing to read about 2 or 3 pages each night as I am falling asleep by then. It's really good though!

I am hoping...
To get those cards finished this week, plus a few more things. Is it just me, or does time seem to be speeding up. It seems like the day no sooner starts and it is finishing!!!

I am hearing...
It's very quiet in here this morning. Except for the tinkle of rain on the windows, Jess snoring and the clock ticking there is no noise . . . I can hear the refrigerator humming as well. Very peaceful . . .

Around the house...
I got my new curtains all hung up at the weekend, and they look lovely. Very French Country. We got the small bathroom painted last week and at the weekend we managed to buy some new fixtures to put in it . . . new towel rails etc. It should look quite nice when it's done. It had never actually been finished when we moved in here, with just a primary coat of immulsion on the walls. Now it is looking much, much better! I went with a Lavender coloured shower curtain and aubergine coloured mats. The walls are pale yellow. I think I will look for a picture to hang on the walls of Lavender or something quite similar. That sounds pretty!!

I saw this picture the other day that said "Family is Forever." I want to get it and then put it on the wall in our upstairs lounge and surround it with pictures of our children and family. I think that will look really nice!

One of my favorite things...
Is drawing and painting. I miss it when I don't have time to do it. It has always been an important part of my life. For the first 7 years that I lived over here I didn't do any of it at all. I'm so glad that I was inspired to pick up my brushes again a few years ago. I hadn't realized just how very much I had missed painting. I love it very much and it fulfills a creative need in me that's very important!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Of course there is Young Women's on Thursday evening and work. I haven't made any plans beyond that so far this week, but we'll see how it goes. Something is bound to crop up!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

It's a thistle. I love thistles. I think they are beautiful! Every year I say I am going to try to press one between the pages of a book, just like the one Mel Gibson has in the Film "Braveheart," but, I always forget to do so . . .

And that's my day book for today! Why not hop on over to Grandmother Wren's to see some of the other daybooks that have been posted. I am sure there will be some really good ones to read and some new friends to make!

I made some really tasty chicken for us the other night. It is loosely based on a recipe for an oven roasted chicken from the Bill Granger cookbook entitled "Every Day." I don't have the use of an oven though and so I adapted it for cooking on top of the stove. His also used lime instead of lemon and I didn't have a lime . . . my lemon stovetop version turned out to be delicious!

*Lemon and Honey Glazed Chicken*
serves 4

Printable Recipe

Deliciously tender chicken covered in a scrumptious lemon and honey glaze. This uses chicken legs and thighs which are cheaper than breasts and also more flavourful. Serve with some steamed rice and Chinese greens for a tasty supper.

2 TBS plain flour
2 tsp paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 chicken legs
4 chicken thighs
2 TBS oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger-root
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 TBS honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 fat un-waxed lemon, cut into wedges

Place the flour, paprika, salt and pepper into a plastic baggie. Shake to combine. Add the chicken pieces one at a time and coat them with the flour mixture. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken pieces and lightly brown them, turning to make sure they are browned on all sides. Squeeze the lemon wedges over all and toss them into the pan. Mix together the ginger, garlic, honey and chicken stock. Pour over the chicken. Lower the heat and then cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook, turning the heat up until the sauce is bubbling. Cook, turning the chicken pieces frequently, until they are all glazed and the sauce is thickened. Serve hot with some of the lemon wedges and sauce spooned over top.

For some hearty breakfast goodness, pop on over to The English Kitchen to see what's cooking there!

Sunday 26 July 2009

Marie's Sunday Six . . .

It's been a few weeks since I have done a Sunday Six post! I've had ever so many smile makers during that time. My days are packed with blessings every day and I could go on and on forever telling you about them, but I promise to narrow it down to just six . . . and that is a hard thing to do!

This picture of my youngest grandson, Joshua, made me smile. He's so tiny and adorable, with his red hair and blue as a button eyes, not to mention his dimply cheeks. I fall in love with him over and over again, every time I see a picture of him. I cannot wait to get my hands on him and his older brother Jonathan, not to mention my other grandson, Gabriel!! We are hoping to be able to take a trip to Canada next summer and that's when I'll have my chance to spoil them in person! I can't wait and I hope that they won't be afraid of me. I'll have a new grandchild by then as well. My oldest son and his wife are expecting another baby in February. Please pray for my oldest son's family. His mother in law has lymphoma and is not doing very well at the moment. That's Anthony, Anne and Anne's mother. I am sorry I cannot remember her name, but God will know who you mean.

Having Jess back home after her holiday away. She always goes to stay with friends of ours who have a whole house full of children. She loves to spend time with them and they love to have her. It helps Todd and I to feel a lot better about leaving her when we know she is with someone who cares for her. She has a ball with the kids and I am sure she is quite bored with us when she has to come home again. She huffs at us with disgust and boredom for a few days. Thankfully we have little Zac next door to come and play with her from time to time. He kept her quite busy most of yesterday afternoon playing ball and bubbles with her! (She loves to catch bubbles. It's so funny to watch!)

All of you and your lovely comments that you leave. You always make my heart smile when I see them. I love blogging so very much. A huge part of that is hearing back from you all. Because of where I live and work, I am quite isolated from the general population and don't have a lot of opportunity to make friends in the real world, other than at church, which is about the only time I get away from here. I have made ever so many good and valued friends here on line and from blogging and I treasure each one of you dearly. You are just the best! I'm going to be having another giveaway soon just to show you how much I value each and every one of you!

Blue and white checked gingham curtains. We finally have the kitchen completely painted and some new pictures hanging on the walls, and we got some pretty blue and white checked gingham curtains to hang on our kitchen windows. I just love gingham! It bespeaks home to me and makes me feel all warm inside. It really makes me smile!

Getting to see Terri and Pip yesterday made me smile. Terri is doing ever so well! She still has a lot of pain in her arm when she goes to move it. That is to be expected and I told her she mustn't favour it and must try to move it a little bit more each day, or she shall lose the use of it completely and that would be a tragedy. Without that arm she won't be able to drive or to do a lot of things. I brought her cake and some of the rhubarb bread pudding from the other day and we had a very enjoyable couple of hours with her. Todd made her some tea and we just sat and chatted away. She wouldn't let me hoover or anything, although I really wanted to so that I could help her out. She really just wanted the company. I know she finds the hours long without having anyone there or being able to go out to her jobs like she used to.

With all the rain and sun we have had, the garden is just bursting with colour! Everything is blooming and so very pretty to look at. Every step brings a new scent. It's so very, very lovely.

And just because I can't help but share with you and it's my Sunday Six and I can make it Seven if I want to . . .

I could hear a tap-tap-tapping on the kitchen window above the sink yesterday. When I looked there was a little bird sitting there. I am not sure what he was doing or what he was trying to say. I know my mom would have an answer and be able to tell me exactly what it means. I'll have a chance to ask her later today as it is my day to call her. I can't wait to speak to her!

And there you have it, my Sunday Six for today, oops . . . err . . . Seven!!

I made us some delicious chicken for our supper yesterday (recipe to come soon) and to go with is I made this scrumptious Rice Pilaf! It was lip smacking tasty and we both really enjoyed it. I can't ever remember having rice when I was a child. It was not until I was an adult that I got to enjoy it. It's so very versatile and goes with just about anything, don't you think? Well, except for fish at the seaside . . . you definitely need chips to go with that!

*Basamati Rice Pilaf*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking basamati rice. It goes wonderfully with a curry, if you are so inclined. I could eat a whole plate of this and nothing else! If you use vegetable broth it becomes a vegetarian dish.

4 TBS butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups raw basamati rice
1/2 cup of sultana raisins
2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and black pepper to taste
1 TBS chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)

Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and the almonds. Cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions are tender and the nuts are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook and stir for about a minute longer. Stir in the rice, and stir to coat well with the butter. Add the tumeric, cinnamon, broth and raisins. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve.

Then for dessert, I made something scrumdiddlyumptious. You know the drill, hop on over to The English Kitchen to check it out!