52 weeks of happy: 24/52

IMG_7428Peonies are so beautifully frilly and vivid. They somehow seem too showy for the location in which they are often found – otherwise boring front gardens. They look as if they should be part of some tropical rainforest if you ask me. They remind me of my childhood when we had one growing in our slightly empty front garden border (my Mum will probably tell me that it wasn’t empty, but that peony is the only thing I can picture growing there). I remember being slightly amazed that such a big flower could just pop up each year with no help from us. I’m still slightly in awe of that now.

IMG_7440More flowers. I was a bit grumpy at the weekend, probably due to Babykins (and therefore me) having had a bad week of sleep. Bed times are becoming quite a battle, which I hate. I went out for coffee with a friend on Saturday afternoon and when I got back, The Husband and Babykins gave me a bunch of yellow roses to cheer me up. I thought they would look good with the big daisies that have suddenly sprouted in the allotment so I popped out on my bike to collect some. Obviously the gift of flowers made me happy but I also very much enjoyed using my bike, which has been stuck in the garage for far too long.

b78ca168d75f11e2b65722000a9e00be_6Babykins and I had an outing to RSPB Saltholme on Monday. Despite (or perhaps because of) being so close to industrial Teesside, there is something special about the landscape here. At the moment it seems to be teeming with swooping birds: particularly terns, black-headed gulls, swallows and sand martins. The latter two birds being part of the essence of summer in the UK.  We joined in with their ‘little explorers’ group, making a bird feeder from a juice carton, listening to a story and singing a song. That was fun, but actually, the bit I enjoyed the best was just wandering around the place by ourselves. I appreciate these days so much more because I know that as soon as school starts, trips out will be reserved for the weekends and holidays. Then you have to share with the rampaging hordes. Babykins and I had a fine time spotting minnows in the ponds, watching the birds on the feeders from the hide and exploring the play area. I think we will be visiting again soon.

IMG_7476Supper: Pork belly slices (sorry, not a vegetarian special this week) cooked in aromatic broth, served with noodles, steamed mangetout and stir fried red pepper and spring onion. Now for the happy part ALL THE FAMILY ENJOYED IT!!!!! It’s not often that happens. See the chopstick at the top? The older two children decided that noodles should be eaten with the culturally correct utensils. They had fun winding them around and around and slurping them up. Oh, and the meat was from the reduced to clear section of the supermarket so not only was it tasty, it was cheap too. Happy days.

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Mistake Marinated Chicken

As per usual when it comes to my food writing (get me – “food writing”), this post was inspired by some bargains. I picked up 12 chicken drumsticks/thighs for £2.68, reduced from £4. I wanted to bake them so that they would be coated in a nice, sticky, sweetish sauce so I looked online for a recipe. The one I liked the look of contained honey and soy can be found here. However, I became a little absent minded while I was making up the marinade. Instead of using honey, I discovered I had used golden syrup.

After that, the recipe became my own little bit of store cupboard, free-form cookery. I scribbled down what I was doing in case it turned out ok. It did, so here it is, in case you want something quick, easy (look below, you don’t even have to chop garlic), tasty and relatively cheap. No one ever said it was healthy though, especially when you serve it with chips like I did. In my defence, they were oven chips.


50ml soy sauce

30ml golden syrup

2tbs lemon juice (mine came out of a bottle)

3tbs tomato ketchup

a few grinds of pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp pureed garlic

12 x chicken thighs or drumsticks (you could probably add more if your dish was big enough)


Preheat the oven to 180C or get your barbecue ready.

Lay the chicken pieces in an oven proof dish/roasting tray. If you are feeling lazy, line it with foil to save washing up.

Mix up all the other ingredients in a suitable bowl or measuring jug.

Pour the well mixed marinade over the chicken and turn the pieces to coat them. If you were super organised you could chill everything at this point (or see my other top tip, below). I was in need of dinner relatively quickly so I went straight to the cooking stage…..

Cover the dish with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes, turning the chicken every 15 minutes to get an more even coating. Check that the juices from the chicken run clear at the end of baking. If not, give them longer. I think I took the lid off mine for the last 15 minutes to crisp things up a bit.

If you are planning to serve them to children, it helps to wrap the bony end of the drumsticks in a piece of foil or kitchen roll. Oh, and have plenty of flannels on hand too….

According to the recipe I started off using you can keep these in the fridge for a couple of days. Reheating them should take about 10 minutes at 140C (or a quick blast in the microwave – remember to cover them, they will spit). They are also good eaten cold in a packed lunch, although, apparently the Middle Miss’s school friends thought they looked horrible, and to be truthful, she preferred them warm. Pah, four year old food Philistines, what do they know.

Prepare ahead Top Tip….

I seem to remember watching Nigella Lawson do this so all credit to her…

Freeze your chicken pieces in the marinade and then they will get coated/infuse with flavour in the freezing/defrosting process. Haven’t tried it so don’t know if it works. Maybe someone can let me know. Do remember to check the chicken is fully defrosted before cooking. Overnight in the fridge should probably do it.