Friday, 12 June 2015

Cheesy Garlic Potato Bake

What took me so long to include garlic into this potato bake still baffles me?! Nearly everything I cook has garlic in it! Anyway since the addition of garlic I have found that what used to be a side dish has now become our main course with the odd addition of  bacon, peppers or/and mushrooms added into it too. (basically whatever I have to use up).

So here is how I make the basic version (which really is filling and tasty just by itself)

Cooking time:  15min on the hob
                         30-40min in the oven

Serves 4

900g/2lb potatoes, peeled
450ml milk
large pinch of ground nutmeg
onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp of garlic powder (or 2 crushed garlic cloves)
450ml vegetable stock
2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
300g grated cheese

Lightly grease a 9x13inch shallow baking dish . Cut the potatoes into thin slices.

Preheat oven to 200C, 180C fan assisted, Gas Mark 6.

Put the potatoes in a medium sized pan with the milk. Season and sprinkle the ground nutmeg over the top. Simmer gently for 15, or until the potatoes are tender.  Do not boil as this may cause the milk to burn the potatoes at the bottom of the pan. Once tender put the pan to one side off the heat.

While the potatoes are simmering, melt the butter in a large pan over a medium/high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5mins until soft. Stir in the flour until evenly mixed and sauté for another 1min.
Pour in the stock, a little at a time (about 50ml each time), stirring until it is fully combined each time. (I find that adding it all at once can either make it lumpy, or stop it thickening as much)

Drain the milk from the potatoes into the stock pot and stir until combined. Add seasoning and the thyme too. Continue to cook for 1-2mins until the sauce starts to simmer (not boil) and thickens.  Take off the heat.

Add half the cheese to the sauce and mix until combined.

Spread half the potatoes in an even layer on the greased baking dish.  Cover with half the sauce.

 Spread the remaining potatoes, evenly again, and then finish by covering with the remaining sauce. Finally sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top. Place the dish in the middle of the preheated oven for 30-40mins, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned.

Once ready enjoy it hot, cold, as a side dish or a main dish. Entirely up to you. Enjoy :-)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Mummy Has A Hobby

I am always telling the boys the try new things but always seem to forget that this isn't an age related challenge. So in January, after years of saying I wanted to try and learn how to crochet, I did something about it. 2015 was going to be the year where I did more than just talk about it. I ordered some yarn and needles online and while I waited for them to come I started to trawl through YouTube tutorials to find the ones that would help me most (basically the dummies guide to how to crochet, the most simple, no technical names, walk me through it  guides).
With my yarn and needles delivered I then spent hours/days practising chains and the first row, undoing it and trying again.
Feeling pretty sure about how to start I wanted a project that I could just plod away at. Nothing specific, just something to work on while my left hand figured out the best/comfiest way to hold the yarn. And this is the end result - all done in single stitch:

And then I attempted my first proper project - cushion covers. Three different stitches and based on an American pattern so I had to check a few tutorials to make sure I was doing the right stitches.
This is where I am so far:

Sadly I have had to put this project on hold until I get more yarn. I need two more colours and will need to order them online. (We only have one shop locally that sells yarn and I didn't like any of the colours there)
So, in the meantime, I decided to make a baby blanket for a friend who's baby is due in June. It is now 95% finished, just need to tidy up the edges and press it.
I really do wish that I hadn't taken so long to try to crochet. It is so nice to have something that I do, for me, it's my thing. Oh and I could spend hours looking up all the possibilities of projects and stitches. Love it!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Note of Absence

Dear Blog

It has been far too long since my last blog post to just start again without any explanation of the lack of posts. So here it is:

What started off with a couple months of constant flu's and colds sweeping the house has now resulted in many months of silence and neglect.

There has been many a time where I did think of  writing up a post, but the action never came with it. I found that the longer I was away from writing the more I was evaluating my place in the blogging world.

Before I ventured into this blog I knew that I would be limited in many of the general categories eg:
1. My children have a very limited desire (and patience) to do anything crafty.
2. I love to cook and bake, but I am very basic in my skills.
3. I can count on two hands how many times I have worn make-up, or bought a new outfit, in the last five years.
But the biggest challenge that I have faced in establishing my blog is not any of these things, it's me.

When writing posts I tend to go with less words, more photos.  Writing is not one of my strong points.  Even after re-writing and editing posts I am never satisfied that I have projected what I mean to say.  This is probably the longest post I have written, and guaranteed I will have deleted, cut and pasted to the point where I have admitted defeat to just post it.

I knew I was an introvert, but a part of me thought that as there is no face-to-face interaction I would find it easier to strike up conversation in the blogging community or project my blog.  It's not. I have seen conversations on social media that I would have liked to take part in, but don't like to butt in.

I have missed blogging though.  But somewhere along the way I began to think that I should be doing more. I have come across so many blogs with defined identities that are beautifully written, have amazing photography and cooking/baking skills, humour, craft ideas and style.

This isn't, but the last few months I have learnt that that is ok. The main reason I started was to keep a journal of our little family life and all I have to do is find a way that I want to show this. So photo diaries will generally be my way of doing this.  I enjoy writing recipe posts, yes they are very basic but that is what I enjoy making. I have also started a new hobby that I will be posting about and this year we have a few things going on in the Little Hand household too. Plus a few projects that I might do myself.

So, to sum it up, I apologise for being absent, but believe that I needed the time to figure out the best way to enjoy my blogging experience :-)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Slow Cooker Ginger Cake

A really easy to make cake that reminds me of the steamed puddings I used to eat when I was younger, love it :-)

Cooking time: 6 - 7 hours

What you will need:
175g/6oz dark brown sugar
115g/4oz butter
175g/6oz honey
225g/8oz self-raising flour
3 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
120ml/4 fl oz milk
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

7inch round fixed based cake tin (or if like me - a saucepan!), grease the base with a little butter and then cover base with greaseproof paper.
Medium sized heatproof bowl.
Check that both will fit inside the slow cooker before you start!
Large mixing bowl
Measuring jug
Tin foil

How to make it:
Pour 2 inches of boiling water into the ceramic mixing pot. Switch it on to high.
Place the sugar, butter and honey into the heatproof bowl. Put bowl into the ceramic cooking pot, cover with the lid and leave until melted, about 15-20 minutes.
Sift the flour and ginger into the large mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in the beaten egg until well mixed.

With the milk in a jug stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Add to the cake mixture and stir until combined.
Place an upturned saucer, or metal pastry ring into the base if the ceramic pot.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, cover with tin foil and put into the cooking pot.

Pour boiling water around the tin until it comes halfway up the tin. Cover with the lid and cook for 6 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cake in the tin to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack to cool completely.
Enjoy :-)

Saturday, 27 September 2014


This week has been an accumulation of different things happening for the first time.
With this week seeing the first day of autumn it was time to stop putting it off and dig out the winter to-do list. You know the indoor jobs that you don't really want to be doing when the weather is nice. Well, we are in the middle of completing our first job - painting the kitchen. Not the most fun thing, and it is only the white coat we are doing just now, but it has already made a big difference.
This week has also been a milestone week for Chalk. At the tender age of 7 he has decided that he is old enough now ( and the fact that all his friends have been doing it for ages) to walk home from school by himself. I must admit I have been putting this off as long as possible, mainly because I didn't want to feel redundant! I have no worries whatsoever of him crossing roads. There are only three roads, one with the school janitor patrolling, second with the lollipop lady, and the third being a minor road that the lollipop lady can see him. We have been, over the last month, meeting him a little bit further away from the gates every week to get him drilled on where to go and what to do. So this week came with me sitting at our bottom hall window watching for him to come down our road, waving to him as soon as I seen him. Did he wave back? course not.
With only 2 weeks until the October holidays (already!) Thursday and Friday have been their first in-service days of the school year. Don't know why they don't just take them from the last two days of term. Anyway the boys have been lounging around and making the most of it while I have been painting.
Next week we also have a first that I am preparing for. I am going to be child free on a school night!! Not just one, but two!!! Daddy LittleHands has a Christmas expo in Edinburgh that I am tagging along to, then we are staying the night and spending the next day shopping before heading up the road while the boys will be staying with their Grandparents. :-)
The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cheese and Ham Potato Balls (Croquettes)

Makes 16 (approx)

8 medium sized potatoes, cut for boiling
1 tbsp milk
10 slices of wafer thin ham, finely chopped
Mozzarella ball, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
Breadcrumbs, from 2 slices of bread
Plain flour, approx. 4 tbsp
2 eggs, beaten

What you will need:
Deep-fat fryer
Medium sized saucepan
3 medium sized dishes
2 large sized chopping boards/dishes
Kitchen paper

Boil the potatoes in a middle sized pan until cooked. Drain water off in a colander and place potatoes back into the pan. Add the milk and mash until smooth. Leave to cool completely.
Once cooled add the ham, cheese and seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
Line up three medium sized dishes. One with flour, second with the egg and the last with the breadcrumbs. Place a large chopping board or plate at the end.
Put the deep-fat fryer on to heat up to 170(medium-high).
Spoon out a tablespoon of the potato mixture and roll into a ball with your hands. Cover the ball in flour, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. Place on the chopping board.
Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Taking the chopping board over to the prepared fryer carefully place three in at a time. They only take 3-4 minutes to cook.
Take them out of the fryer and place them on a clean chopping board lined with kitchen paper. Pat the excess oil off them with kitchen paper.
Repeat cooking in batches of three, and blotting with kitchen paper.

Serve with salad. Enjoy :-)

Friday, 19 September 2014


Last week the sickness bug swept over our house, a week of musical beds with days off school/nursery and work. I had hoped that I would get away with it, but on Thursday night I came down with it too and on Friday I spent the first time in years confined to my bed being physically sick.(hoping it will be a few years before it happens again too!)
Although I was feeling a bit better on Saturday I spent most the weekend on the couch, drained and a bit tender, but thankfully everyone else was over the worst of it by then.
With the health levels resumed all routines were back to normal on Monday and I was determined to get back on track.
The house had been kept on top of, but in all honesty it was the bare minimum. You know the cleaning you do by wiping worktops down, but not moving the kettle etc and doing it properly clean? The everyday washing was also starting to pile up due to the (numerous) extra bedding that had  been done earlier in the week when the boys were bed ridden.
So this week the house has had a deep clean, even the windows have had a wipe down! And I can see the bottom of the wash basket now! The house is officially detoxed and germ free :-)
So that has been my week, a lot of boring housework, but very rewarding. Always feel better when the house is organised :-)
The Reading Residence