Treated Like a Princess for the Night

Most days, I spend hours in the kitchen either cooking or cleaning. With four children, a husband, a dog, and various people popping in and out, there is always food to prepare and pots to wash.

This week, my children were away on a camping trip and my husband and I were in the house on our own. On our last night without the children, he locked me out of the kitchen and told me to have a nice bath and relax. 

When I got out of the bath and redressed, I couldn’t believe what he had done. He had prepared a steak, chips, mushrooms, tomatoes, and pepper sauce with a side salad. The table was set up with glasses of red wine and roses that he had bought for me. He had also lit candles all the way around the dining room. He even did the washing up and cleaned all the kitchen. 

My husband had decided I deserved a night off from the cooking and wanted to treat me like a princess. I felt well and truly spoiled. I am a very lucky woman to have a man like him who wants to give me a break and take care of me the way he does. 

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RECIPE: Spinach and Roasted Cauliflower Curry

Although not a vegetarian, I occasionally like to eat vegetarian food. I love to experiment with different variations of curry, including this spinach and roasted cauliflower curry which is entirely of my own creation. It’s easy to make and totally delicious. Here is a simple recipe for spinach and roasted cauliflower curry. 

Ingredients for Spinach and Roasted Cauliflower Curry

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 4 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 chillies
  • 2-inch piece of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 5 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp dried cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

How to Make Spinach and Roasted Cauliflower Curry

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and break into florets. Cut any larger florets in half.
  3. Put the florets on a baking tray, drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Put in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until cauliflower is beginning to turn golden.
  5. Roughly chop the chillies, ginger, garlic cloves and onion before putting in a food processor with the dried spices and a little water. 
  6. Blitz in the food processor until a paste is created.
  7. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. 
  8. Add the paste and cook for five minutes. 
  9. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.
  10. Stir and turn down the heat of the pan so the mixture simmers.
  11. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and add to the pan.
  12. Add the spinach and stir through to ensure the cauliflower is completely coated in the curry sauce and the spinach is wilted. 
  13. Serve with pilau rice, raita, and flatbreads.

Is An Allergy to E Numbers My Problem?

I think that I have finally uncovered the mystery of why I have been having strange symptoms for the last few years. I can go days without any symptoms and then suddenly get all the symptoms at one. My symptoms have include rashes covering large parts of my body, bowel problems, joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, and swelling. At one point I was seeing a rheumatologist, a dermatologist, an oncologist and a haematologist.

Nobody could find out what was wrong with me but they did find several other problems. For example, I had a severe vitamin D deficiency and moderate levels of lupus anticoagulant in my blood along with raised red and white blood cells. However, none of this explained my symptoms. 

I began to wonder if my diet was having any impact on the symptoms as several doctors said that my rash looked like an allergic reaction to something. I have racked my brains to think what I have eaten that has triggered the symptoms and was even keeping a food diary at one point. 

Over the past few weeks, I have not had many of the symptoms and then this week, I have had two bad flare-ups. The first was after visiting my local Indian restaurant (for which a review will follow). I have eaten take away food from there on several occasions and usually order the madras.  The night I visited the restaurant was a special promotional event where they were giving away free food on a set food menu. We had a selection of dishes including a tikka masala, a rogan josh, and a vegetable curry. When I got home, my skin was in a terrible state, covered in hives. My bottom lip was so swollen that it felt solid.

The second flare up was this morning. Over the past few weeks, I have made several diet and lifestyle changes and this may be why I have not had many of the symptoms. One thing I have given up is fizzy drinks. At the shop this morning, I decided to treat myself to a bottle of fizzy pop that was on offer. I am not sure if I should name the brand on my blog, but it is bright orange and associated with Scotland. I will let you guess. Within minutes of drinking a glass of this beverage, I was itching all over and had huge hives all up my arms. 

I Googled the name of the drink along with the word allergies and thousands of results came up stating that people are commonly allergic to this beverage because it contains a coloring called E214, also known as cochineal. This made me think about the tikka masala I had eaten. Food coloring is often used in this dish to achieve the bright red color. 

The more I have looked into E numbers in food today, the more convinced I am that this may have caused my health problems. For the most part, I cook all the food in the house using fresh produce and use very little canned or pre-prepared food that is likely to contain additives, such as flavourings, preservatives, colourings and stabilisers. Anything that I have included in my diet in the past that would contain such things has been beverages, such as fizzy drinks and wine. As these are things I have avoided over the past few weeks, it makes sense that this is potentially the cause of the problems. 

I also found an interesting chart that identifies the most harmful E numbers, the alternative names for them, what they are used for, and the symptoms they are known to cause. If you are interested in this subject, you can read this here.

I think that it is also important that I add a DISCLAIMER at this point. This article is not intended as dietary or health advice. The information included is based on my personal experiences and not on any proven medical studies. My degree is in education and not in medicine or nutrition!

REVIEW: Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort

I recently enjoyed a short break with Mike and my boys at Pine Lake Resort in Carnforth. We stayed in a wooden lodge overlooking the lake. Although we ate breakfast and dinner in the lodge and spent the days out and about in the local area, we returned to the resort every evening for a quick swim and to eat dinner in the resort’s restaurant, Lakes Bistro. Initially, we had only planned to eat there once because we had a limited budget for our break. However, the food was so good we ate their both evenings. Here is a review of the Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort, Carnforth.

Children’s Menu at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lake Resort

My pet hate when I eat out with my children is terrible children’s menus and I even check out the children’s menus when I am eating out without the children. Thankfully, I was very pleased with the menu options at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lakes Resort. There were the usual options of burger, sausages, or pizza, but there were also other options, such as pasta dishes and salads. The children’s pizza was made on the premises in the pizza oven rather than the usual frozen option offered by many establishments. There was also a small eaters menu that had smaller versions of dishes from the adult menu. My youngest son opted for the pizza on both nights while my middle son had the battered fish and chips on the first night and the chicken nuggets on the second night.

Steaks at Lakes Bistro

Steaks are my go-to choice when eating out, so both my partner and I opted for the rump steak on the first night. This was served with chips in a trendy little basket, oven roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and a flat mushroom. The steaks were cooked a little more than we would have liked, but they were delicious and tender nonetheless. We also ordered a side of onion rings. I hate it when places serve frozen onion rings with a reformed onion centre, but that wasn’t a problem at Lakes Bistro as these were real onion rings made to order with a delicious, crisp batter. I also ordered a port and stilton sauce to accompany my steak. I usually opt for pepper sauce, but I thought I would try something new. The sauce was a little thin but absolutely gorgeous. My partner also had a steak on the second night and said it was just as good as the first. 

Pizza and Pasta Dishes at Lakes Bistro

After seeing my youngest son’s pizza on the first night, I decided to try a pizza on the second evening of our stay. This is not usually a dish that I would order as I am very fussy about the pizza dough being cooked correctly. I ordered the Americana pizza, which was topped with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers. It was oozing with cheese and very spicy, which is just how I like it. My oldest son ordered the spaghetti carbonara on both evenings as it is one of his favourite dishes. He described it as creamy, full of flavour, and cooked to perfection. 

Atmosphere

Lakes Bistro at Pine Lake Resort has a contemporary look with walls in a bold red color, wooden flooring, and wooden furniture. Despite this dark color choice, the restaurant is filled with light and is bright and airy. The tables are nicely spaced out so you do not feel like the people at the neighbouring table are sitting on your lap or listening to your conversation. A very relaxed and comfortable vibe.

Customer Service

The staff at Lakes Bistro, Pine Lake Resort, delivered an outstanding level of customer service. Really friendly and welcoming, quick service, and just the right level of attention. 

Price

Reasonably priced venue considering the quality of the food served. Some examples of the prices you can expect to pay are:

  • Steaks- £15-20 price range
  • Pizza and pasta dishes- Under £10
  • Children’s meals- £4.95 or £ 6.95 for small plates
  • Side orders- £2.95 for sauces, chips, onion rings, etc. 

Check out this restaurant for yourself at https://www.resortpinelake.co.uk/dining

Progress with My Healthier Lifestyle

scales 2

A few months ago I posted that I was embarking on a healthier lifestyle and I was hopeful that I would lose weight in the process. The great news is that I have already lost 16 pounds!

I haven’t started a strict fitness regime or started a restricted diet; I have simply made a few changes to my lifestyle and eating habits. Here are the changes I have made to achieve this weight loss:

  • Cut out fizzy drinks
  • Cut down on wine intake
  • Walk back from the school run every morning
  • Stopped eating snacks in bed

Something that has helped is the sugar tax being implemented in the UK. I disagreed with this initially but it has prompted me to stop buying fizzy drinks and to drink water instead. 

If I continue with these few simple lifestyle changes, I am hoping that I will continue to lose weight and lose another 16 pounds before my birthday in November. Wish me luck!

10 Ways to Transform Mayonnaise

blue cheese dip

Mayonnaise is one of the most common accompaniments that people serve with their food. While it is possible to make this yourself at home, most people simply buy this sauce in a jar or squeezy bottle. Even if you buy the premade version, there are many ways that you can make this sauce more exciting and transform it to better suit the dish with which it is served. Here are 10 ways to transform mayonnaise.

Mustard Mayonnaise

Just add a teaspoon of your preferred variety of mustard to the mayonnaise. This is delicious with ham or beef dishes. 

Garlic Mayonnaise

To add extra flavour to the mayonnaise, simply grate one clove of garlic and add. 

Chilli Mayonnaise

For those who like a little spice, try adding one chopped fresh chilli to the mayonnaise. Add a little less for a lightly spiced mayonnaise and more if you are a fan of spicy food. 

Sweet Chilli Mayonnaise

If you like lots of flavor but a little less spice, add one teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce.

Curried Mayonnaise

Another way of adding extra flavor is to add half a teaspoon of curry powder to the mayonnaise. 

Lemon Mayonnaise

Lemon mayonnaise is delicious with seafood and chicken. Simply squeeze in a little lemon juice and stir. 

Horseradish Mayonnaise

As an accompaniment to a beef salad, spoon some horseradish into the mayonnaise to add both flavour and heat.

Seafood Sauce 

Traditionally served with prawn cocktail but equally good with any seafood, it is easy to create your own seafood sauce using mayonnaise as a base. Just add tomato sauce, black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Smoky mayonnaise

Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika creates an unusual alternative. 

Blue Cheese Dip

see recipe

 

Side Dishes to Make with Mayonnaise

Waldorf Saladsee recipe

Coronation Chicken– combine curried mayonnaise with cooked chicken and sultanas. 

Coleslaw– stir mayonnaise into grated carrots, onion, and white cabbage.

Funky Red Cabbage Slaw see recipe

 

 

RECIPE: Oven-Baked Salmon with Lemon Butter

salmon with lemon

When it comes to fish dishes, salmon is the most popular choice in my household. While I often like to cook with lots of herbs and spices, I prefer to keep things simple when cooking with fish so that the delicate flavour of fish is complemented rather than overpowered with other flavours. One of the simplest and most delicious options is oven-baked salmon with lemon butter. Fish and lemon is a classic combination and even a novice in the kitchen can make this dish. Here is a simple recipe for oven-baked salmon with lemon butter.

ServesPrep Time 10 minutes Cooking Time 20 Minutes

Ingredients for Oven-Baked Salmon with Lemon Butter

4 skinless and boned salmon fillets

  • 1 lemon
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Oven-Baked Salmon with Lemon Butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Tear off a strip of baking foil and divide into four sections that are large enough to create a parcel around each salmon fillet.
  3. Lie one salmon fillet on each piece of baking foil. 
  4. Season each fillet with salt and black pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the parsley equally over the salmon fillets.
  6. Cut the lemon in half and cut two slices from each half.
  7. Add one slice of lemon to the top of each salmon fillet.
  8. Take the remaining lemon pieces and squeeze the juice over the salmon. 
  9. Cut the butter into small pieces and sprinkle over the salmon.
  10. Create a parcel around the salmon with foil. Scrunch the foil over the top of the salmon to prevent the juices from leaking.
  11. Put the salmon parcels on a baking tray and put in the oven.
  12. Cook for 20 minutes and remove from the oven. WARNING: When unfastening the salmon from their foil parcels, hot steam is released.
  13. Serve with fresh vegetables, new potatoes, or salad.