Shutdown 2011 – Week 1

Well it’s already Friday which means the first week of the shutdown is almost over! I have no idea where this week has gone as I haven’t done anything that I had planned.

The week seems to have been dominated by catching up with Neighbours, Homes Under The Hammer, CSI, swimming and cooking! I have also done some sunbathing, some napping, some shopping and taken up cross stitching, which I suspect is the time drain that has stopped all my other plans.

My Gran will be 84 on Sunday and is very hard to buy for. She has everything she needs and won’t use things she doesn’t need, so its pointless buying her something like a new bag or purse as she’ll only say she already has one! My sister found a lovely tablecloth in Cath Kidston that we decided to get as it was flowery but when I went to pick it up it had little blue flowers on – and blue is a major no go. After wandering around the shop what felt like a million times, I decided that the best plan of action was a new address book as Gran’s has fallen apart and some rose scented soap. Hopefully she likes it!

I have spent the week cross stitching after coming across Hobbycraft in the Home & Garden centre on the outskirts of Bicester. Ideally I wanted a cross stitch card (as I couldn’t find a birthday card with Gran on it) but had it was too late to get one from the internet. As I haven’t done any cross stitching for about 10-15 years I thought it best to stick with one of the easy sets that have everything you need provided, so when they didn’t have much choice of cards I didn’t want to design my own. I did find a bookmark though so bought that. I have spent so much time on it, its far harder than I remember and I’ve made a few mistakes when counting and put the wrong colour stitches in the wrong place! So long as I throw away the picture of what its supposed to look like I don’t think it will matter though 🙂

To continue with the housewifey type pastimes, I also spent some time doing proper cooking – one night making a Jamie Oliver 30 minute meal & homemade lasagne another night.

J has made a 30 minute meal a couple of times before and doesn’t do too badly, usually taking about 45 minutes from start to finish. On the other hand, my attempt took about double that but turned out very tasty!

I went for scallops with egg (boiled) rice, green veg & brownies for pudding. The worst thing to these kind of meals is all the ingredients! To buy everything all at once costs a fortune, I’m glad that J had bought alot previously so I only had the fresh ingredients to buy.

In the recipe Jamie cooks the rice in a casserole type pot in the oven – which is totally opposite to how I cook rice! Despite having a fan oven and often needing to reduce cooking times this took longer to cook than recommended & was still quite sticky and gloopy, more like rice pudding! It was nice with eggs, spring onions and sweet chilli sauce, although I think there was slightly too much egg in there.

The green veg I was amazed with, I slightly amended purple sprouting broccoli for frozen and only used pak choi rather than putting asparagus in too. This was quite a success, I normally over cook veg as I like it soft but I managed not to this time. Also I was worried about over cooking the scallops but they were perfect! I’ve never had them before so wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but really enjoyed scallops with the sticky sauce.

The brownies on the other hand didn’t go nearly as well! I didn’t like the recipe used as part of the meal so used another recipe (it also happened to be by Jamie Oliver). Although quite similar, this recipe used self raising flour instead of plain – this should have been a bit of warning to me! Firstly the mixture – I don’t think I broke chocolate into small enough lumps so the entire time I made the rest of the meal, it was blending in the food processor. So as we were sitting down to eat the main, I put the brownies in the oven. Quite normal for a meal, but not really in keeping with the 30 minute ethos! This is where I should have realised about self raising flour….the tin I put the mixture in wasn’t quite deep enough so some of the mixture escaped!

And then I cooked it for about an hour despite the cooking time being about 15 minutes. Still it didn’t solidify, so I ended up scooping some out and having it like a chocolate pudding with ice cream and raspberries (thanks to the suggestion from twitter!). It tasted gorgeous anyway so wasn’t the end of the world. After a night in the fridge, they turned into brownies 🙂

The lasagne was a mixture of recommendation by people on twitter and making it up on the spot – I did a bolognese type sauce for the mince and then white sauce with milk, butter and flour for the, um, white sauce (I don’t like cheese in my lasagne). I decided the amount of milk recommended was too much as the consistency of the sauce was about right with only two-thirds but once cooked it was like a pancake on the top so maybe I should I have put the full amount of milk in! Still, we liked it better than the Dolmio sauces. Next to try is Lloyd Grossman sauces I think, but I will still be trying to find somewhere selling the Ragu sauce I prefer!

To combat all the food, I took out a membership for swimming at the local pool this week & have been swimming everyday so far. Last night my knees were aching (probably due to always swimming the same stroke and doing more exercise than my body is used to) so I’m not going to go today, but will hopefully go once next week and once or twice a week after that.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week, next up is a visiting the family in York 🙂

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