this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.


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Aaaaah Friday!

What a blustery, cold, day… I spoke too soon on Wednesday when I mentioned drought. It’s been pouring it down almost non-stop. Lovely. I guess it’s recognisable weather for the British Isles at least 😛

After seeking solace in a hearty winter veggie soup for lunch, I’m thinking of turning a roast chicken dinner leftovers into a warming chicken and mushroom pie this evening, with either roast potatoes or mash – I haven’t decided yet. I hope you will have something tasty to warm up your stomach tonight.

booties2

…and it turns out that a very very sweet baby girl was born not long after I wrote on Wednesday, so the little booties are winging their way across to her. I also thought the card I found was quite adorable, so I took a little photo of it before scribbling in it and sending it away.

I wish you a cosy and warm weekend. Take care friends! Layer on all your woolly socks and jumpers, and dig out your scarves, hats and gloves. Winter is on its way brrr! I’m so glad to be back in your heart warming company 🙂


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Rain, rain go away…

Although there has been a fair bit of rain, with the occasional accompanying thunder and lightening, I refuse to accept that summer is over quite yet. We’ve only had about three weeks of sunshine and heat!

So, in an act of defiance I have been busy eating last night’s pasta as today’s cold pasta salad lunch with a purposeful addition of cool cucumber and cheering cherry tomatoes! What better accompaniment than a recent thirst-quenching pin!

Pasta salad

Here’s another leftovers makeover

I’m glad to see some blue skies and fluffy clouds now. A bit of rain does the garden good. The yellow-brown grass is happily reviving a little. Unusual climactic activities are doing unsettling things however here and here. And in the event that you encounter the latter, further advice can be found here.

Have a happy Tuesday evening! I hope you find some space to enjoy a bit of slow time 😉


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Leftovers and a little hello

Hello everyone! I’ve missed this space so much! I’ve been really busy though and in the bid to stay focused, am currently not writing very often as you may have noticed. I was busy in May relaxing at one wedding and then playing wedding planner/organiser for another. Things haven’t stopped since (except the sunshine)!

Even – or rather especially – when one is a little overwhelmed, it is very important to eat properly. I must concede that that’s easier said than done. I prefer a weekly (or even bi-weekly) shop when I’m busy. This has been a bit awkward lately, as my shoulder niggles have also resurfaced, making it unsafe for me to drive and unwise for me to carry heavy loads.

Back to eating well though – my favourite way to achieve this whether or not I’m busy, is with leftovers. Making the effort you’ve made, last that little bit longer. I’ve never thrown food away easily, and eating leftovers is in my blood. I do love changing things up a little though, so here are three recent variations on supper!

Potato Cake from left over roast dinner

Roast chicken dinner turned into cold chicken with potato cake. One of the foods that make me feel cosy, is simple roast chicken eaten straight from the fridge the next day. It’s always so delicious! For the potato cake, I added some wheat germ to the crushed roast potatoes for extra fibre that I can’t do without, diced all the veg and mixed it up. Then I cracked in an egg to bind it all together and squashed it into a cake and fried it in a little oil! Try adding some cumin or curry powder for a new flavour to your roast potatoes!

Potato Cake from left over roast dinner

I always cook too many potatoes when I make a roast dinner. It’s always accidental, but I do love my potatoes, I just can’t help it! I made another more hash-like potato cake when I’d run out of the roast veg, but needed a little something before I cooked supper again. I don’t know about you, but I can’t cook on an empty stomach. I end up eating junk and overfilling my stomach before the main meal!

This is a simple little amalgamation of crushed roast potatoes, with some grated cheese mixed in and an egg cooked in pretty much the same way as above. It turned out crispier as I flattened it out more. I served this indulgent little pre-dinner feast with some nuts. When you know dinner is going to be late, having some proper food early evening means you don’t need to eat too much too late at night. I don’t know about you, but I don’t sleep well on a full stomach.

chicken avocado salad sandwich

And finally (I thought this post was going to be photo-heavy and light on words, but no, I’ve obviously been missing this bloggy lark too much!): the ever versatile sandwich. I’m a Brit after all! 🙂

This sandwich is delicious. It’s based on my favourite chicken salad that I shared with you some time ago. Did I mention I love cold roast chicken? Make that any cold chicken 🙂 And add avocado? Match made in heaven! And yes, in trying this combination, I discovered that coriander can go well with avocado 🙂 And squirt in a smidgen of mayonnaise just to bring the flavours together 🙂

I hope you enjoy these ideas. They are simple, but magical – making them doesn’t take much longer than it would to pierce the lid of a ready meal and stick it in the microwave. They are also satisfying, not just for the taste buds, but for the mind too. A rewarding way to exercise your creative muscles briefly and get near instant yummy results! And you will notice there aren’t that many veggies here. When I’m busy, I try to make sure I’m well stocked on fruit – now that’s real instant food!

What do you do with left overs? I’d be really interested to know 🙂


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Tasty Toasties: Colours of Spring ~ Quick Tortilla Wrap Pizza ~

I got some light protest in the comments under my first Tasty Toasties post. Some of you were of the opinion that the addition of cheese would have been in good order. I do not disagree. I usually have cheese on the brain, and this has been the case ever since I left the cheese out on my posh beans on toast. I have well and truly learned my lesson. This quick toastie has two cheeses: a cheddar from The Lake District Cheese Co. (I had to include a link because it’s such a cute site!) and a lovely crumbly and tangy Lancashire cheese.

Tortilla Wrap Pizza

I don’t know about the part of the world you are in, but London has been finally launched feet first into spring. It is as though the sun saw the calendar and was as surprised as me. What? It’s March already? Huh? I haven’t shone yet this year, hurry! And we’ve had five days of sunshine straight (or at least that’s how I remember it to be). It’s still cold, but there are signs of busy spring activity already. Green shoots poking through everywhere, and birds and squirrels getting all excited, suddenly full of life and bustling about.

I spent five minutes watching a squirrel running to and fro, checking up on its stash of snacks in the garden earlier. It happily polished one of them off, then proceeded to lick itself all over and stretch about in the sun before prancing off along the fence.

So that’s the backdrop to today’s uncomplicated toastie. I prefer thin crust pizzas so this is right up my street, but to be honest, it’s just as easy to roll it up and eat it like a wrap, I might do that next time.. I put it in the oven, ten minutes at 200°C or about 395°F – basically, until the cheese melts into that bubbly, oozy goodness we all love. After taking it out of the oven, I finished it off with some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then cracked some black pepper on top. Even if it rains tomorrow, I’ll be satisfied, because today I celebrated some lovely spring sunshine with a cheery toastie while it lasted.

Tortilla Wrap Pizza - tortilla wrap, tomato puree, anchovy paste, olive oil, grated cheddar, crumbled Lancashire cheese, sliced pomodorino tomatoes, sliced green olives, pea shoots, balsamic vinegar, freshly ground black pepper

On a separate note, here is my update on my February goals. Basically, it was more a success than a fail… I did the things that I wanted to do the most. I am behind schedule for getting in front of the post office counter to send my parcel off, but otherwise, I’ve completed some fun project there which I will hopefully share about soon. I have completely failed to fill one of the mini sketchbooks I made. I’m suffering still, from the blank page problem…

February Goals Update

Did you set yourself any goals for last month? If yes, how did you do? If you need any cheering up, I hope today’s little bite of spring helps – have a good week!


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Food Culture and Crispy Goodness

Hasselback Potatoes

I’ve always enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen, but lacked confidence to share it with others. My style is not sophisticated, neither is it unique. I just love feeding people and having them gather around my table. The culture of eating together, was something I was brought up with. Whenever I have lived with at least one other person, I have rarely eaten alone of an evening. And when I lived alone, I was always gathering friends round to share one pot wonders with. My food tends to be low-key and as low-fuss as possible. I have always cooked creatively but frugally. People will compliment me on my cooking from time to time, but more often than not they simply emit polite murmurs of appreciation as they tuck in. My food does not become the specific subject of conversation at the table, although we are a greedy lot – future meals or interesting ingredients are often discussed whilst we eat! For me, a shared meal is about providing nourishment for the body but more importantly, it is about togetherness and conversation – food for the soul.

I have a confession. I rarely follow recipes. I get that from my mum. She is the ultimate in hosting random people who show up on the doorstep and accidentally stay on for dinner. Whatever is in the fridge, freezer or cupboard will be thrown together to create a hearty meal. So, I’ve also had some fun writing my own recipes in 2012, working out what quantities I used on a particular occasion, knowing that it will probably never happen in the same way again! (That is with the exception of baking, almost. I still can’t help throwing in some randoms just because I feel like it – a bit risky, seeing as baking can be a little like Chemistry lessons sometimes. Although I must admit, happy accidents do often occur.)

I often eat late now, I cook and then wait for my munching partner. And by the time we eat, the food has been kept warm to death. I am ravenous and food is food. A dinner is polished off in much less time than it took to prepare and cook it. However, as I blogged over the past year, I came to realise how much I enjoy cooking and eating my own food. I have my trusted favourites, my store cupboard staples, my preferences and routines, but discovering and exchanging lots of ideas with other bloggers has given me the impetus to explore further.

What a wonderful invention is the oven. And what a wonderful climate we have in the UK to use it. In recent years, I have not even broken sweat when using the oven in summer. One of my favourite things to do is to roast a chicken, together with potatoes and root veg. I marinade the chicken, or simply rub it in olive oil, salt and pepper. I then cube potatoes and root veg in similar sizes and toss those in the same. I’ll time it so that the veg gets about 45-60 minutes in the oven, so if the chicken needs longer, I will add the veg into the roasting tin later.

Even though I generally consider myself a healthy eater, I do have an addiction a soft spot for crisps. I’ll eat my potatoes made any way, but I love them fried or even double and triple fried (by a restaurant – I hate deep fat frying at home). So imagine my excitement when Pinterest kept throwing up these little beauties… a concertina of crispiness called  Hasselback Potatoes. I just had to experiment with them myself. They are baked, and the only difference I could tell between making these and my roasted easies was that you sliced them through (almost) whole first, before baking. Oh, and it’s best not to put them in with the chicken I imagine. The yummy chicken juices soaking into the potatoes will not be conducive to crispiness-making.

Well.. unusually, there are no photos with this post even though I took some. I just felt like having another go at drawing again. But I did stumble across a cute little article complete with videos, if you want to amuse yourself taking photos of food in a restaurant.

What are your cultural habits when it comes to food? Do you enjoy cooking and eating your own food? And, most quite importantly, do you like crisps/potato chips? 🙂

The Real Greek


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Restaurant Review: The Real Greek

I find when many people write reviews about places to eat out, they seek out interesting cuisines and wonderful décor and presentation. I love ogling the resulting photos showing amazing things that I would never think of doing with food. When I eat out however, it’s usually because I have been terrible at planning and I’m too tired to cook. It’s often also a bit later than the average supper time, so I’m not really looking for adventure, it’s more a question of having a night off from cooking in a comfortable setting.

So with that in mind, my top priority for places to eat are where I know I can relax, and trust the restaurant staff to be generally attentive and friendly. Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find the service in restaurants has not been all that great for a while? And I’m not talking about highbrow places where I could be accused of lowering the tone of the restaurant with my half asleep look. I hope you don’t think I’m asking for much – it’s just that someone who delivers the food or gives you the bill as though they were holding a grudge against you doesn’t usually do much to aid digestion. I wonder if perhaps the recent trend for restaurants to slap the 10-15% “service charge” automatically on the end of your bill doesn’t help. I’d like to think this isn’t the only reason. Perhaps diners have also become less polite in recent years.

However, the restaurant I am about to tell you about still does it the old fashioned way. In fact, you aren’t even allowed to enter a tip on the card machine. If you have no change, you can’t tip at all – much to my disappointment, the first time I visited.

The Real GreekThis restaurant is not particularly spectacular in terms of credentials. It is not tucked away in some hidden alley, serving amazing fresh produce grown from a drainpipe. No amazing stories to tell there. In fact, it is one in a chain of six in London and I have no idea how authentic the food is because I have never been to Greece and I do not know anyone who is really clued up about real Greek food. It is in fact one of the food outlets at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, next to the now slumbering Olympic Park. Nothing at Westfield can be called a bargain, but this is one of the less expensive restaurants on that side of Stratford. I thought I would review it since it is a place I have been served well on three occasions. Incidentally, if you have a voucher for any chain store/restaurant, check before you try and use it at Westfield. You will notice that some offers are not valid there.

The Real Greek

On this occasion, we ordered the Tabouleh Salad, Loukaniko Country Sausage and Dolmades which came on a tiered sharing platter. We also had some saffron rice and Tiropitakia because I can never pass on cheese wrapped in delicate pastry. On other occasions I have tried the Greek Flatbread with Olive Oil & Dukkah, Htipiti, Gigandes Plaki, Lahanosalata and a set basket of wraps which I cannot find in the online menu. All of the offerings were very reasonable and in good sized portions. It is impossible to take good photos in the restaurant in most of the areas, because the evening lighting is not designed to aid food photography. My apologies to the restaurant as the one half-acceptable result may not look all that appetising to all, so here’s a link to the menu so that you can better imagine what I ate. I think you will agree however, that the lamp shades are rather nice and cheerful. As with all of the Westfield shops and restaurants, the design and layout is really nice. I especially like the pretty doors to the restaurant and I must also point out that they serve tap water in lovely cobalt blue enamel jugs.

The Real Greek

Bearing in mind the context of my requirements and limited experience of Greek cuisine, I have thrice been a happy customer. The staff have been cheerful and relaxed at all times (on this occasion, there was a rather rowdy lively birthday party going on) and I have been served in good time with tasty grub. This is one of the few restaurants where I can also leave after the meal without having to resort to performing a rain dance to attract somebody to take my money. And since my first experience, I have made sure that I have cash in my pocket before I sit down so as not to have to leave a few sad coppers languishing on the table after paying the bill.

I guess this is a post about one branch of a chain restaurant that seems to be doing things right on the service front. That does tend to go a long way to sending me home happy 🙂


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What are you looking forward to today?

I wasn’t brought up on McDonalds or any fast food options that are so readily available today. McDonalds was an extremely inefficient way to spend the family’s limited resources. In fact, it still is today in most European cities. A standard meal in London is definitely not cheap.

I do still treat McDonalds like a special treat now in adulthood. It always feels special to bite into their “French Fries” and I feel lazy and overindulgent if I eat there more than once in a while.

But let me not hide the fact that I am almost due another free tea…I guard my sticker cards as though they were real currency. Each time I get a cup of tea, I don’t relax until I have safely added the sticker to the collection in my purse. I’m not usually partial to fizzy drinks because they make me feel bloated (although I do always make an exception for a nice cloudy lemonade). However, eating a McDonalds meal with a cup of tea definitely feels very civilised and grown up.

McDo's

McDo's

 

McDo's

My favourite sauce. Not only do I like the taste, I love the recent update in packaging. The hot pink makes me happy!

So today, I am not sharing anything particularly creative with you (although I have something fun I can’t wait to show and tell soon). I am simply going to confess that I’m really looking forward to going window shopping and having a McDonalds meal of some sort after work tonight. And…if you see some girl standing in front of the menu for ages, unable to decide what to get, that could possibly be me. It often gets to the point where the staff behind the counter have given up calling out to me and are just looking at me funny. It is supposed to be fast food after all…except that it is never fast on my end. I am still that little girl for whom eating fast food counts as a special treat 🙂

What are your simple, special treats?