Thursday, 18 June 2015

Fresh Food

I was going to post something more thoughtful this week.  But... it's been a long day.  I got a grand send-off to work this morning; all three boys waving from the front door.  Which was very heartwarming - except that I leave at 6:30 am and really they should have all still been in bed!  Then I got back from work, and we had to run some errands and feed everyone and stop Toby and Theo from arguing and put them to bed and you know.  All that stuff.

I'm waaalkiiiing!

But at least dinner has been easy for the last three days.  Our latest impulse buy was a deal on a three-meal box from HelloFresh.  The idea is that they pack up the ingredients for three recipes, add in the cooking instructions, and deliver the whole lot to your door in a carefully insulated container.  Full price, as you might expect, it costs only a little less than our usual week's shopping bill, but with the offer it was relatively affordable.  About the price of a dinner out, for all three meals.

So.  Our box arrived, and we dug in.  All the food was fresh and in good condition.  The "exact quantities" of ingredients seemed a bit variable, though.  There were cute little tiny bottles of rice vinegar to add to the prawn stirfry, but then there was a 250g bag of spinach to put into the pitta breads with our Moroccan-style burgers.  Hmmm.  It's not as if fresh spinach keeps well, either.

The recipes were definitely tasty.  We are fairly adventurous eaters anyway, so they didn't strike us as being too out of the ordinary, but they had a good mix of flavours and were healthy and quick to prepare.  They also included a couple of ingredients that I'd heard of but wasn't sure I wanted to buy a whole packet: rose harissa paste and dukkah spice mix.  It was a bit of a treat for us to eat prawns, beef and chicken on consecutive days - all from highly-regarded suppliers, apparently - and the three-person quantities were more than adequate for two hungry adults and two picky little 'uns.

And I didn't cook a single one of those dinners!  Graham usually lets me get on with the cooking, but I think he found the step-by-step recipes and labelled ingredients very approachable.  He certainly had no trouble producing the desired result!  I got the impression that the company's target customers are people who never really learned how to cook, work fairly long hours, and have enough disposable income to grab a takeaway several times a week.  If that is the case, I think it works very well.  For us, it was far too expensive to consider doing every week, and the recipes were basically spruced-up versions of stirfry, burgers and chips, and chicken with (sweet) potatoes and veg.  Good, but not super-special.

For a one-off treat?  Definitely.  And thanks for the recipes.  As a regular part of our diet?  I think we're good enough cooks not to need such a tailored approach.  HelloFresh... and goodbye.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Gluttony (hopefully)

My ambition is to have a glut.

Maybe not quite the kind where you make a million jars of marrow jam and secretly leave tomatoes on your neighbours' doorsteps at midnight.  Just a little glut would be fine.  So far my vegetable gardening has tended to produce three tomatoes at a time, to be ceremonially and reverently   consumed.  Then you wait a week until the next three come along.  That is pretty much an anti-glut, I would say.

So, this year.  The Year of the Glut.  Well, I have tried courgettes (zucchini) for the first time, which are notorious for being prolific.  Four plants, looking pretty healthy so far.

Still in growbags.  Maybe one year I will get a permanent garden.
 I wasn't even going to attempt tomatoes again, because last year I got 10 ripe ones and about 100 unripe ones, and I have almost finished the green tomato chutney.  But then the garden centre had some interesting varieties, including a yellow one, and Toby informed me that tomatoes were the only thing I was growing that he would eat, so... we'll see how they go.

Tomatoes with mint behind

To be honest, I could probably count the mint and sage as gluttonous already, and I've been hacking down the coriander before it completely goes to seed.  Herbs are always a good bet.

Tomatoes with sage, and that spindly thing is dill

I'm also trying rocket (arugula); the first row came up really quickly, and I've just put in a second.  The spring onions took longer to germinate, and I was about to decide they were all duds, when I spotted some tiny green specks, too small to even photograph.

Rocket sprouts

And my three pots of strawberries are doing very well.  If all these turn red like they're supposed to, we could be in for a good crop.  Toby is keeping a close eye on them and letting me know when they have the tiniest hint of pink on.

Look at all those strawberries!

And in the non-edible part of the garden: The lavender I planted last year had doubled in size when we returned from America, and is almost out in bloom.  I just replanted the hanging basket, and we've got some nice colourful perennials to enjoy too.  Just don't ask me about those giant weeds.  I will dig them up soon, honest.

Good thing lavender likes poor soil, right?

I keep forgetting the name, but it's very pretty

I think the clematis is meant to climb up the trellis really

Monday, 1 June 2015

Monthly Munch: May 2015 - The USA Edition

It's not often that you get two Monthly Munches in a row, is it?  In fact, it's not ever that you've had two Monthly Munches in a row.  But this month has been entirely taken up with our two-week trip to America; the weeks either side somehow vanished without trace into the maelstrom of packing, planning, jetlag and sleepless nights.
We made it!  Newark Airport.

Let me start by saying the boys were brilliant.  They got through five flights, two houses, three pets, at least ten meals out, and too many friends, relatives and complete strangers to count, with humour, graciousness, and a lot more smiles than screams.  So I guess you'll want some photos to prove it...

Toby


- got very excited every time all the clocks at my grandparents' started striking (even in a one-bedroom apartment, they have six, most of which ding, dong or cuckoo.)

Dinner at Meemaw and Grampoo's

- liked playing on the rocks by the James River best in Virginia.


- could recognise most American makes of car within approximately five minutes of arrival.


- shared his frozen yoghurt with Theo without being asked to.


- had great fun dancing in the fountains in Sundance Square, Fort Worth.


- introduced his favourite toy penguin to the penguins at Fort Worth Zoo.  He got quite friendly with one - I'm sure it was smiling at him!


Theo


- crawled gleefully after my brother's two cats and dog, who didn't quite appreciate the attention!

Making friends with Juno

- charmed all the ladies he could smile at on every plane we boarded.

- pushed his pushchair around botanic gardens, airports, and the reptile house at the zoo.

He liked the fountains, too, except when they shot up and scared him!

- loved the ceiling fans in every room - not a common feature of British houses!

- enjoyed cream of crab soup at Colonial Beach, and Jello at my grandparents'.

Oh, and corn on the cob.

- is now a pro at climbing stairs.  He just doesn't know how to come down yet.

No stairs on this beach!

Thankful for:


Where do I start?  There seem to have been so many things this month!

- that Graham's dad happened to remind us about the visa waiver scheme just in time for us to fill in the forms.  We had completely forgotten.

- being upgraded to front row seats with lots of legroom on our first transatlantic flight

- getting to spend time with my brother, grandparents and other family in Virginia

With Uncle John and his truck

- dropping the rental car off at Washington Dulles airport: "Oh, we can drive you to the terminal in this car if you like, then you don't have to unload the kids and luggage."  Nice!

We'll go on these, thanks!

- a great rental house to stay in, right in central Fort Worth

- lots of good friends who entertained us, hosted us, and treated us to dinner.

The beach boys: Dave, Graham, Woody, Toby and Theo

- a wonderful family room to play in at the Kimbell Art Museum (it's hidden away in there, but it's worth finding, believe me!)

Giant fuzzy felts

- missing out on the worst of the Texas rain - which is not a phrase that normally comes to mind, but between thunderstorms and floods, they've been suffering pretty badly recently.

- a spectacular sunset over New York City.

- smooth and safe flights, except for just one delay.

Recipe of the Month:


Recipe?  Recipe?  You think I've been cooking?