Deja vu I see you

 After a very long absence I have returned to blogging. When I opened this blog I was confronted by my last entry, made two years ago. It said pretty much what I was planning to say today. How sad that so little has changed. All those good intentions and I did not manage one post in two years. Yikes! Hopefully I will do better this year.

 

I am on holiday at the moment, staying with family so not doing much cooking myself 🙂  When I return to normal life in the middle of January Crystal’s Kitchen will be opened and cooking will occur. Watch this space.

 

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A New Look for a New Year to Cook

I have been a very bad blogger. Worse than that, I have been failing horribly at my own challenge, to try out new recipes and write about them.

But I have high hopes. Somehow January does that. There must be something in all those new year’s resolutions. Even if I resist making any myself, I find myself feeling the urge to do new things, or to improve on areas of my life.

I do hope that this will be a bright and cheerful year, filled with good food. Preferably made by me, from a recipe book. And then written about. In this spirit I have updated the blog theme, to go for something a bit more bright and colourful.

I’m still here

No, I have not starved to death. I have occasionally cooked over the last two months. But there were no recipe books involved, never mind new and interesting recipes to be blogged about.

I had a few health hassles, which left me really tired, and rather nauseous. My posts for September would have been rather boring – toast with bovril, toast with bovril, ooh – toast with cheese – exciting! Once I actually felt like eating again, I really didn’t feel like cooking. So more toast, too many take-aways and instant meals. It hardly seemed appropriate to use a cooking blog to talk about two-minute noodles and frozen lasagna.

But now I am back. And am hoping to get back into the routine of regular use of recipe books. Of course, I am also trying to write a novel this November, so any meals cooked will definitely be of the quick and easy variety, or will make enough food that I can live off left-overs for a few days.

Oh yes, I am also on diet! So sadly, do not expect to see chocolate brownies or cream cakes on these pages. Not for a while at least. Although I might be able to test some low-fat puddings to indulge my sweet tooth. Considering that my previous November novel challenges have been largely fueled by chocolate it is going to be an interesting month. I suspect that promising myself a treat of cottage cheese on rye bread is not going to be nearly as motivating as a cappuccino brownie or bar of chocolate.

But I shall persevere, and once I have written my daily quota of words will sit with some recipe books and see what promising healthy and easy recipes I can find. Watch this space. And if you want regular updates on the novel-writing progress, pop over to The Crystal Calligrapher.

Happy 100th visitor

To celebrate the 100th hit on my site I was going to try a new chocolate cake recipe. Sadly I found the cupboard a bit bare, with only a few spoons of flour or cocoa. But some sort of celebration seemed called for. And my heart had been set on chocolate.

So I dug out the recipe for brownie-in-a-mug which my good friend davidseven had given me. I have made it before, but it hadn’t worked very well. It tasted far nicer when he made it. Part of the problem is that my microwave  oven is not very powerful, so it is a case of trial and error to find the correct cooking time.

It is a very quick and easy recipe. The dry ingredients, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt are mixed into a coffee mug. Then oil and water are added. A quick stir then pop into the microwave. Heat for a few minutes. Allow to cool slightly, add ice-cream and enjoy.

I still haven’t got the timing quite right. The recipe says two minutes but that was a bit too short, leaving it doughy. Three minutes left me with a nice moist brownie, but with rather crunchy bits on the edges. Next time I will try for two and a half minutes. Oh yes, there will definitely be a next time. Probably several.

While not a new recipe, I considered that retrying one that I hadn’t got right before would qualify for this challenge.

A woman’s place…

is often seen to be in the kitchen. As this is a cooking blog I don’t totally disagree. But perhaps it should say that some women might find one of their places in the kitchen. Thankfully, for some of us, cooking is an option. But even those of us who actually like cooking, would not like to be confined to that one role.

August 9 is Women’s Day in South Africa. It commemorates a time when many women bravely took their place to protest injustice. In 1956 thousands of women marched to Parliament in Pretoria to demand an end to pass control. One of the phrases chanted was: You strike the woman, you strike a rock.

Sadly, few people seem to even know about the historic event which is commemorated. August has become “women’s month”, a chance to celebrate women, yet this is often done in a condescending or sentimental fashion. I can almost hear the marketers “Oh good, a chance to sell more make-up, shoes, chocolate, etc”. Well, okay, I’ll allow the extra chocolate sales.

With all these thoughts in my mind I began to think about which recipe book to explore this month. The Mary and Martha Cookbook would have been appropriate, but I have already used it.  Cooking with the Housewives League is another possibility, but seemed somewhat contrary to the spirit of women’s day. Perhaps it is time to go with that book of chocolate recipes after all.

Or I could celebrate women’s month by not cooking at all.

Spud

As life starts to return to some sense of normality I am getting back into a routine of cooking on a regular basis. And even trying out a new recipe.

My microwave recipe book has several pages of potato recipes. Baked potatoes have been part of my regular routine since I got the microwave, but now it is time to expand my repertoire.

First up was potatoes in cream. Super easy and really nice. Simply cooking potatoes for five minutes, draining the water, then adding cream and cheese and baking on a low setting. Wow! It was so good. Definitely something I will make again.

My only concern was trying to figure out how to prepare the potatoes. In all the other recipes, they specify if the potatoes are peeled and cubed, sliced etc. For this recipe they just say 500g potatoes. Which left me wondering if I should leave the potatoes whole, or if a line was left out of the recipe. (This is not entirely unlikely as I have found a few other recipes which miss instructions or contain ingredients which are never used).

I decided to peel and quarter the potatoes. But I think that next time I make this dish I will slice the potatoes. I seem to recall that is how a similar dish baked in the oven is done. Or I could use baby potatoes with the skin on.  The possibilities are endless.

It was rather a rich dish, so not for every day. But wonderful for special occasions, when wanting to offer more than just simple spuds.

Crystal does not cook

I know, I haven’t posted anything here for a while. There is a reason for that. I haven’t cooked anything for a while.

Grahamstown hosts the National Arts Festival each year, and this year was a bumper festival, lasting 15 days. I had a wonderful time running around going to shows and seeing friends. But it did mean that I hardly ate at home for two weeks.  If I were blogging about restaurant reviews I would have had a lot of copy to file.

But the best I got with home cooking was to heat up some of the soup I had saved and frozen from previous sessions in the kitchen.

Fortunately the festival has now ended and life slowly starts to return to normal. I will continue to work with my South African Microwave cookbook as there are still a few interesting dishes I want to try.

Mielies !!

I really like mieles (known as maize in some countries, or sweet corn in others). But I seldom cook them myself. It is so much easier to buy the tinned or frozen versions.

While browsing through my microwave recipe book I found, added on as a note after a recipe, the instructions on how to cook one mielie in the microwave.

So simple, it hardly counts as a recipe: Clean mielie, wrap in cling-wrap. Microwave on full power for three minutes.

The original recipe was for a bowl of mielies, and included almost a cup of butter melted and poured over them. That seemed a bit much for me, so I just added a scoop of margarine to the hot mielie and let it melt, then sprinkled a little salt on top.

It tasted really good. And smelt so good while cooking. My first attempt was a little hard, so the next night I gave it 3 1/2 minutes, which worked better.  A hot, buttery and very yummy vegetable later, I now have a new favourite. Which is just as well as I had bought a pack of four mielies. So we all know what I will be having with my supper for the next few days.

Soup, Glorious Soup

June is off to a good start. Yesterday I made pumpkin soup. In the microwave. It took less than half an hour for the whole process, and that included chopping the onions. Although I did buy ready chopped pumpkin, which did help.

I was pleased with the result. A smooth, tasty soup which was quick and easy to make. I can live with that. Which is just as well, as I now have several cups of soup needing to be eaten. Some will be frozen so that I have instant meals ready and waiting for me for the next week or so.

I will make this again, and probably modify it as I go. I am thinking butternut might be nice instead of pumpkin the next time. It was a little bland. But the flavour in soup is often better the next day. If not, then I will add a bit more seasoning. I will probably use a little less stock, to make it a thicker soup.

But I am quite looking forward to tonight’s supper of pumpkin soup, accompanied by toast with cheese. Yum.