Another Cooking Skillz Fail…

When my Dearest and I buy a chicken to eat, we tend to cook it on one day and eat half between us, then we eat the other half on the second day after re-heating the chicken for 45 minutes in a hot oven.

So this time it turned into another cooking disaster. I can’t actually take credit for this one… I mean, I did the right thing and ensconced the remaining half-chicken in cling film (saran wrap?) to make sure it didn’t go bad while it was in the fridge overnight.

However, I wasn’t the person who then put the chicken in the oven.
I was the one who came to take it out and discovered it was coated in melted plastic.

cling film chicken
This is what happens if you leave the cling film on the chicken when you put it in the oven and cook it for 45 minutes.
Chicken cling film
A close up of the chicken fresh from the oven. Above the breastbone that’s melted plastic.

I’d like to be classy and say we threw it away on the spot, but I really wanted to eat something and I’d just spent 45 minutes waiting for a chicken to cook that someone else had put in the oven. So I didn’t throw the chicken away.

Using mad surgical skillz, I very carefully dissected the chicken in such a way that the chicken coated in cling film or any chicken that might have absorbed plastic was all removed.

There was maybe 1/2 a cup of chicken left at the end of it all. I poured some soup over it and ate it.

It tasted funny.

I am not really sure what the lesson is here. Don’t let other people cook? Seems a bit of an overreaction. What do you think? I have learned nothing from this episode.

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Southern Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies

Has anyone tried this dish? I really want to make it, but I don’t know where to get catfish in the UK! It sounds very delicious.

And I could listen to this lady’s voice all day:

Grandma’s Blackberry Jam Recipe

So I made blackberry jam, and I canned it, which I’ll talk more about at the bottom of this post.

Blackberry jam.
Blackberry jam.

Here’s the recipe I used (it was very simple). This is a standard jam recipe but it’s vegan and gluten free:
1. Go pick some blackberries. I got 300g. Blackberries grow wild on brambles.
2. Weigh them (and wash them thoroughly, throw out any bad ones).
If you didn’t get many (you need at least 200g really – that does an 8oz jar of jam, when you subtract the stuff that will burn to the bottom, but for lots, preferably 500g-900g), freeze them and wait for more to ripen, then pick/wash more.
3. When you’re ready to make jam, weigh all your blackberries together.
4. Measure out the same amount of golden granulated sugar (it’s a 1:1 ratio blackberries to sugar). Maybe other sugar types also work, I used golden granulated.
5. Put the berries in a pan with a big tablespoon of lemon juice (this will help preserve the fruit) and about 1/4 cup of water, and bring to the boil.
6. Simmer straight away for 15 minutes.
7. Add the sugar. It will take a lot of stirring and a lot of waiting to get it all to dissolve.
8. Once it’s dissolved, turn the heat up as high as you can and boil for 10-12 minutes, until the blackberry gloop reaches 105 degrees C (220F) which is the setting point. Don’t stir, but if you smell burning, it’s done.

Blackberry jam.
This is what it looks like when its set after the white froth was scraped off.

9. Take off the heat, skim off any white froth from the top, and let it settle for a few minutes (you can put it straight in jars at this point but I wanted to check it had worked.
10. Put in (sterilized with HOT water) jars, seal them if you want to.

About canning, storage times and such:
I used these quattro stagioni jars in 8.5 ounce size, which I found for a good price on the shelf at Homesense (they’re one of those places that has different stuff each week), I liked them because they’re made to take the high temperature and they’re vacuum sealable for food safety (although one of mine didn’t seal) and they sell replacement lids (70mm or 2 3/4 inch is the size for the 8.5 oz jars, although that is NOT cheap for 2 jar lids, so I hope somewhere starts doing them cheaper). You can use any old jar for jam, but you should use a fresh lid each time because you can’t fully clean the lids, which is why I bought jars to use.
If you want to read about home canning in more depth to ensure you’re doing it safely, this free guide from the USDA is phenomenal (I’d start with this section). I highly recommend it for people thinking of canning (which means putting in jars – that confused me for a while) other garden produce, although I’m still undecided on what to do with my carrots when they’re fully grown.

If you vacuum seal the jar with the blackberry jam in it, and don’t open it again, it’s good for 1 year (the jars I linked to have specific instructions to seal them in hot water, I managed to follow them using a bucket as I didn’t have a big enough pot). If it doesn’t vacuum seal (the popper in the lid still pops up) it’s good for 1 month. When you open it, it’s good for 1 month.

Anyone else done any canning or jam making? Got a different recipe/method? Let me know in the comments!

blackberry jam
Sterilized jars.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinner Time at Cafe Mango

Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
The main course at Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland. Taken August 2015.

For this week’s photo challenge, Dinnertime, I decided to share these pictures of the delightful Cafe Mango in Fort William.  If you’re climbing Ben Nevis, this Thai and Indian restaurant is well worth a visit.  It was the best restaurant we ate at on the West side of the Highlands, everything was simply delicious and the staff were friendly and made us feel very welcome even though it was 9pm, and we were the last customers (because we had just climbed Ben Nevis – everyone seems to eat early in the Highlands)!

Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Some of the stunning decoration inside Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland. Taken August 2015.
Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
A shot of the rest of the restaurant (I used the bannister near the top as the horizon line) including the beautiful emboidered elephants backdrop, in Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.
Fort William at night: The outside of Cafe Mango, Thai and Indian Restaurant Fort William, Highlands, Scotland.

My 7 Favourite Smoothie Recipes

We all know that vitamins and minerals are the key to being fit, healthy and beautiful (yep, there’s a bunch of other factors, nope, I’m not going into them).  What better way to get vitamins and minerals than to blend them into an easy-to-drink smoothie?  I’ve been collecting photos of my smoothies for this article for about 6 months (I never knew it was so hard to get a remotely interesting picture of a smoothie).  I’ve been drinking one smoothie a day (apart from during pregnancy) since I bought my Kenwood 2Go Smoothie Maker about half a year ago (it’s AMAZING and the plastic cup goes in the dishwasher.  Even when I left it a few days it was really easy to clean).  This is literally the best £12.99 I ever spent on a gadget!  Most days I just have blueberry and banana (see recipe 4, use water instead of coconut milk) or strawberry and banana (see recipe 1, omit lime), but in addition to those, here’s my favourite recipes that are a little bit more exciting for days when I’ve got lots of fruit in the house:

  1. Strawberry, banana and lime:
    Ingredients:  1 banana, about 100g of strawberries (or by volume, slightly more strawberry than banana) and 1tsp of lime.  I fill my pod blender with the fruit and lime juice, then take it to the tap and pour water in up to the top of the highest piece of fruit.  It’s not an exact science and the consistency varies.  Blend for about 40 seconds.

    Strawberry banana and lime smoothie invoke delight
    Strawberry banana and lime smoothie
  2. Banana, blueberry and cantaloupe:
    Ingredients:  1 banana, about 80g of blueberries (their flavor is stronger than the strawberries).  I put the fruit in, then I top up with water to the top of the highest piece of fruit.  Usually this comes out like a light smoothie.  Blend for about 60 seconds as the blueberries need lots of blending so you’re not just drinking huge pieces of blueberry skin.  Drink it fast or it separates!

    Blueberry, banana and cantaloupe. Invoke Delight.
    Blueberry, banana and cantaloupe.
  3. Blueberry, banana and coconut milk:
    Ingredients:  1 banana, about 80-90g of blueberries, pour coconut milk into the container to the top of the highest piece of fruit.  For a thinner smoothie, use 50% water and 50% coconut milk instead.  Blend about 60 seconds.  If you don’t use enough liquid this makes a very tasty yoghurt!!

    Blueberry, banana and coconut milk. invoke delight
    Blueberry, banana and coconut milk.
  4. Carrot and orange:
    Ingredients:  1 carrot, chopped finely.  About 200-300ml of orange juice (depending on size of carrot).  You can add ginger to this to make a really perky drink, but ever since I was pregnant I’ve been unable to stand the smell, sight or taste of ginger!

    Carrot and orange smoothie. invoke delight
    Carrot and orange smoothie.
  5.  Mango, papaya and orange:
    Ingredients: 1 mango, chopped into cubes, 1 papaya, chopped into cubes.  Add orange juice to the top of the highest piece of fruit.  Blend for about 60 seconds.  Optional: For a thicker smoothie with less mango/papaya flavour, add a banana.

    Mango, papaya and orange smoothie invoke delight
    Mango, papaya and orange smoothie.

     

  6. Raspberry, cantaloupe and banana:
    Ingredients:  Raspberries, cantaloupe (melon) and banana.  Blend for 30-40 seconds.  The only thing I don’t like about this one is the ridiculous amount of raspberry seeds.  But it tastes sooooo gooood!!

    Raspberry, cantaloupe banana smoothie invoke delight
    Raspberry, cantaloupe banana smoothie.
    Raspberry, cantaloupe banana smoothie invoke delight
    Raspberry, cantaloupe banana smoothie.  This is another one to drink fast!

     

  7. Banana, black grape and almond milk:
    Ingredients:  1 banana, a generous handful (maybe 2 hands if you don’t have freakishly large man hands like me) of black grapes (take them off the vine thingy and if they’re not seedless, you’ll have to de-seed them too), put in blender and top up with almond milk (coconut milk also does a nice job).  60 seconds usually does it but expect to chew some grape skins anyway.

    The black grape, banana and almond milk smoothie invoke delight
    The black grape, banana and almond milk smoothie (looks a lot like the blueberry, banana and coconut milk smoothie). It’s very thick so I drink it with a glass of water.

     

    If you want or need added protein and minerals from any of these smoothies, why not make it crunchy and drop a table spoon of chia seeds or poppy seeds into your smoothie (poppy seeds are MUCH cheaper to buy, and they have similar nutritional content to chia seeds). Other nuts blend but the result is a crunchy yoghurt-type foodstuff.  A yoothie??

    What are your favourite smoothie recipes?  Let me know in the comments!

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil as tested by me.

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil, as tested by me.

After seeing a lot of articles about 101 uses of coconut oil (or more) I decided to write a list of what I’ve used coconut oil for. All of the things I mention here are things I’ve actually used coconut oil for, because there’s a lot of embellished “uses” for coconut oil floating around the internet that aren’t quite verifiable (I wrote about this yesterday in my article 10 Myths About Coconut Oil That Just Need To Die).

1. To cook food. It’s especially good to fry stir fry if you’re having Thai food. I tried spreading it on toast but I didn’t like it. I’ve never tried it in coffee, but in tea, it just sits on the surface as an oily blob even if you use a blender.  People say it’s flavourless in cooking – I disagree, I think it tastes like coconut.

2. As a moisturiser / lotion. Just rub it on your skin. Too much can cause breakouts on sensitive skin (e.g. my cheeks). Bear in mind it sits on the surface a bit, so it will cause grease stains on your clothing, sofa or sheets unless you want to stand upright for several hours after using it. Coconut oil and silky fabrics REALLY don’t mix.

3. As the base for homemade cosmetics, such as DIY lipbalm. Actually that’s the only one I’ve used it for but it was really easy to add some rosewater. I’ll make a video of how to do this real soon.

4. To clean and possibly whiten your teeth via the oil pulling method, which is an Ancient Ayurvedic technique (i.e. they use it in India and have done for a while). I’ve made a video where I investigated the claim that coconut oil can whiten your teeth. Watch the video here.

5. To moisturize dry hair as an intensive conditioning treatment: Melt, slather over hair, leave on for at least 30 minutes and wash out with normal shampoo and conditioner.

6. As a home-made dandruff prevention and scalp soother. Melt a small amount in your hand, rub between your fingers and rub it over your scalp. I found this sped up hair growth as well.

7. To smooth frizz/flyaway hair. Using a small amount regularly prevents split ends so hair appears to grow faster.

8. For hayfever and seasonal pollen allergies. Rub it on the inside of your nose instead of Vaseline to soothe allergies.  This isn’t going to be as effective as Benadryl; it catches the pollen before it gets a chance to get up your nose where it would usually wreak havoc, but of course it’s not going to catch all of it.  When I worked at a pharmacy we used to recommend this to pregnant women as they were unable to take allergy tablets.

9. To make natural home-made tea light candles instead of using beeswax. Melt it, mix with the scents or colorants you feel like, add a wick, set it on fire.  I only did this once and I found the coconut oil melts too quickly unless you do this in a tea-light foil dish thingy.  Do those things have a name??

10. To make natural home-made soap instead of using glycerin. Melt it, mix with the scents and colorants you feel like, and rub it on you in the tub (but remember it’s still going to melt at relatively low temperatures).

Please consult a healthcare provider before using coconut oil if you feel ill.

What have you used coconut oil for?  Did it work as you expected?  Let me know in the comments!