Monday 10 June 2024

Getting my Batch on 👩‍🍳

Hi there everyone 😀

I’ve been following The Batch Lady, aka Suzanne Mullholland, on Facebook for a fair while now … certainly since before any of her cook books were actually released in print and she was doing cooking demonstrations on This Morning.

It’s not just about the recipes, though there have always been lots of free ones available on line, it’s about the batching mentality. About thinking ahead and getting organised. About taking the effort out of thinking about what to have for tea and having to start cooking from scratch at the end of a busy day.

It’s about how easy it is to cook up a big pot of minced beef and turn it into a cottage pie for tea, a chilli for tomorrow night and a spaghetti bolognaise for the freezer. Or to take a whole chicken and turn it into a chicken dinner, a chicken curry and enchiladas … getting the most for your money and avoiding any waste.

It’s also about how you can ‘batch’ other parts of your life … just to generally make things easier and to help keep on top of general day to day life stuff.

I can’t lie … I also love just seeing what Suzanne gets up in her daily life on the farm … how she is trying to build healthy habits into her daily routine and how she is making time for self care and personal wellbeing.

I think you can probably tell that I’m a bit of a fan 😜

Anyway Suzanne’s latest cook book Grab and Cook was released earlier this year and this sounded like it could be right up my street …
I pre-ordered it from Amazon and eagerly awaited delivery. I was not disappointed. At first glance there were quite a few recipes I fancied trying, which was great. I mean … how often do we buy a cook book and only ever end up cooking one or two things from it?

Not so with this one … I’ve already tried 12 of the recipes … some have become real favourites … and there are still plenty more I fancy having a go at.

The first recipe we tried was from the Weeknight section … Crunchy Tomato, Cod & Pea Parcels. It literally took me five minutes to make up four parcels for the freezer. When it came to having them for tea we cooked them from frozen and had them with crushed new potatoes and asparagus … so we literally just threw everything in the oven together. The parcels did take about 10 minutes longer to cook than expected, but they were absolutely delicious and we’ve had them several times since …
Also from the Weeknights section of the book we’ve tried both the Pizza and the Goats Cheese & Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breasts … again both really quick and easy to prepare for the freezer and very tasty. These need to be defrosted before cooking, but simple enough to just get out of the freezer in the morning. I did use cocktail sticks to just hold everything together whilst cooking … but otherwise cooked exactly as the recipe calls for. 

The Salmon & Noodle Parcels is another one we’ve tried from the Weeknight section. The first time did as per the recipe … parcelling everything up and freezing, then cooking in the oven from frozen. I wasn’t overkeen on the pak choi, so what we do now is just freeze the salmon portions in the marinade then when we come to cook we just make up our own stir fry veg and noodles. We then pan fry the salmon fillet and just serve it on top …
The last we’ve tried from this section so far is the Chicken Shawarma Traybake. We made up one for tea and one for the freezer, which took no time at all. It just got thrown into a tray and bunged in the oven. We had it with flatbreads, some microwave rice and tzatziki. It was very tasty but could definitely take more spice for us.

I still really want to try the Beef Ragu, the Pizza Pasta Sauce , the Romanesco Pasta and the Baked Honey & Mustard Pork Chops … so still plenty to go at.

When we had weekend guests at the lodge we had a go at two scrummy breakfasts from the Breakfast & Brunch section. Both were great as they could be prepared ahead and out in the freezer so was quite simple to put together at breakfast time.

First off we tried the Ham & Croissant Bake. I just threw all the ingredients into two freezer bags and in the freezer they went. I took the bags out the night before we were having them and they defrosted in the fridge overnight …
All that I needed to do in the morning was pop the oven on … tip the mixture into a baking dish … and stick it in the oven. 30 minutes later it was looking … and tasting … very good …
I did add mushrooms to mine … as we eat mushrooms with pretty much everything … and this worked out absolutely fine.

The other breakfast we opted for with our guests was the Brioche Cinnamon French Toast Sticks. Again I prepared ahead and froze. I was concerned that the brioche would go a bit soggy but it didn’t. I open froze on a tray before bagging up.

These can be cooked from frozen and didn’t take long to prepare at all … just have to be careful to keep an eye on them as they cook pretty quickly. We had ours with berries, Greek yoghurt and honey. Absolutely delicious 😋 
The other thing we’ve tried from this section is the Chilli Cheese & Chutney Naan Toasties. We’ve had them twice and both times we’ve had them for lunch and then popped another portion in the freezer. We had ours served with poached eggs as I’m not a fan of fried. Very tasty and … like with a lot of the other recipes … there is scope to change things around a bit … either add different spices or switch the fillings to suit what you fancy …
We will definitely be using all three of these recipes again and there are a fair few more in this section that we will definitely be giving a go.

There are lots of recipes that I want to try in the Light Bites & Lunches section of the book. It’s full of lovely bits and pieces that would be great for a ‘pick and mix’ lunch or buffet. So far we have only tried the Herby Cheese & Prosciutto Pinwheels.

Again the recipe was easy to follow and preparation didn’t take long. I open froze again before bagging and we’ve still got a load of these in the freezer. They cook from frozen and are great as a snack or a nice lunch with salad …
There is then a Fakeaway section in the book … full of lovely looking meals. So far we’ve just tried the Honey Sesame Chicken … which we cooked in the slow cooker. I decided to add mushrooms and some matchstick carrots and this was really tasty. I didn’t take a photo of this one and we’ve only had it the once. I didn’t ’double bubble’ on this one as I wanted to be sure we liked it first. I will definitely be doing it again.

We’ve also only tried the one recipe so far from the Family & Friends section … the Tarragon Chicken with Dumplings. I slow cooked a huge batch of this, with added mushrooms, and made enough to have it six times for the two of us. I didn’t batch the dumplings though … so when we’ve had it again we’ve opted for either a puff pastry pie top or a Yorkie pudding …
The last recipe we’ve tried is from the Easy Bakes section and this didn’t turn out too well … though it did get eaten.

I made the Chocolate Malt Slice and it just didn’t set. There just didn’t seem to be enough liquid at all. I did mention my experience on The Batch Lady Facebook group and it seems that a number of people have had the same problem.

Having tried the Caramel Crunch Speculoos Traybake from a previous book I was really disappointed … as this always turns out really well and sets just right … as you can see …
I might give it another go … adding more condensed milk to see if that helps.

And that’s it so far. I love the book … would definitely recommend it … and am looking forward to trying a fair few more of the recipes.

As I said at the beginning … it’s not just about the recipes in the book … it’s about applying the batching process to other recipes and other parts of life in general.

For me … it helps to be organised and it’s good to know that, when we don’t really fancy cooking from scratch at teatime, there is something nice and home made just sitting there in the freezer.

I think it’s the most used cookbook I’ve ever had … thank you Batch Lady 😀

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Tuesday 4 June 2024

Lodge Life :: May 2024

Hi there everyone 😀

After having to cut short our early May break at the lodge because of car trouble … we managed to sneak in a long weekend later in the month, which just happened to tie in nicely with a forecast for glorious weather

After a week of appointments and jobs needing to be done at home we managed to get away on the Thursday afternoon and, after a good drive over, we were soon settled in.

Friday morning and the weather was perfect. We didn’t go far … just Llanbedrog, where we ended up at The Beach Bar for lunch with the most fabulous of views …
… followed by a short walk along the most beautiful beach …
It was good to see the beach huts all back in situ …
… and to remind ourselves of the time we took the steps from the beach with mum and dad to visit the tin man. We certainly have no plans to repeat that climb …
We finished our visit with a very welcome ice cream before heading back for a relaxing afternoon just reading and generally chilling out …
On Saturday the weather was looking good again so we decided to head a bit further afield … to Penmaenmawr. It’s about an hour’s drive and the plan was for a walk on the beach, maybe a paddle, a pit stop at the cafe along the prom and a picnic lunch.

It started well. We were up, sandwiches made, and out reasonably early. The sun was shining the skies were blue … that’s until we got about two miles up the road … where we hit thick fog. 

It will burn off we thought … or we will drive through it. But no … this was the view of the beach at Penmaenmawr. We decided to just do an about turn and try it again another day …
It wasn’t a totally wasted drive … we ended up calling in at the Treborth Botanical Gardens in Bangor … just by the Menai Bridge, where we were quite surprised with what we found. We had a nice walk …
… and found a nice spot for our picnic lunch …
It’s definitely worth a visit … it’s not a massive garden but there is a fair bit to see and plenty of nice walking to be had. On certain days the glasshouses are open for viewing too …
On Sunday we woke up to more blue skies and sunshine and we decided we would give Penmaenmawr another go.

Well … at exactly the same spot as on Saturday we hit low cloud and fog again. This time we decided not to risk it and did an about turn to head south. 

As we were driving back in the opposite direction I noticed the view in the wing mirror and got Martin to stop so I could take photos. The cloud inversion was amazing something that neither of us have ever seen before …
We ended up heading south … but it was a long old way before we got through the fog. We had a quick stop at Aberdaron …
… making our way back, via the pretty green lanes …just bursting with wildflowers …
… towards Abersoch where we had another bit of a wander …
We ended up back in Pwllheli … pretty much just down the road from where we started out … where we had lunch at Plas Heli with a clear view of the sea …
It was then another afternoon lazing around the lodge enjoying the sunshine. 

Monday was our last full day and we were determined to get to Penmaenmawr. This time we decided we would not be deterred, no matter what, and although it was not as bright and sunny as it had been, the weather was still good … be it a little cloudy. 

Our visit was only really taking in the promenade, which is really just a little strip of land between the beach and the carriageway of the A55 … with the village on the other side of the carriageway. 

There is plenty of parking very close to the beach and, when the tide is out, on a warm and sunny day, it would be a lovely spot for a paddle and a wander along the beach …
I took this photo as we arrived and you can see the tide is quite well in and it all looks very pebbly. By the time we walked back to the car you can see the tide was a lot further out and the shoreline is lovely and sandy …
It’s a decent walk along the promenade … passing the remains of the old pier …
… and high up in the hills above … if you zoom in close … you can see the old Penmaemawr quarry clock …
The end of the prom that we parked at was looking a little forlorn, with a closed toilet block and lots of flower beds looking very sorry for themselves. There were plenty of bright spots though …
Towards the cafe end of the prom things are very different and there was plenty to draw the eye … including these beach huts built into the side of the A55 …
… plenty of well worn groynes …
… the children’s paddling pool, with its colourful mural …
… the ‘shoal’ beach sculpture …
… and our final destination … the Penmaenmawr Beach Cafe …
After a very nice lunch we had a slow wander back … glad that we had finally managed to visit. We’d had a lovely couple of hours just having a wander. 

Is it somewhere we would go back to? I’m not sure that it is … but if we happened to be just passing, then we may well call in again. 

The following day we were heading for home but there was still one more thing I really wanted to see before we headed off …
I think this just might be my favourite Criccieth post box topper yet … hot sausage rolls in the sunshine went down well too …
Three hours or so later we were back home and it was pouring with rain. It was hard to believe we’d been soaking up the sunshine such a short time ago ☔️☀️☔️☀️

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