Hey readers, I know it has been a super long time since my last post. I have been adjusting to life in the real world now that I have a job and not as much free time anymore but I feel like I am about to get back into the swing of things. Makers meadow is attending a craft fair this Saturday 21st and I invite you to come join us for a peruse and a shop if you can make it to sheffield. There will be lots of other craft stalls from independent creators throughout sheffield and I am really looking forward to it. Stop off and say hi if your come by.
I have been meaning to do this little home task for a while and I finally got round to doing it this week. I changed my energy supplier from one of the big six energy companies to a small independent eco friendly supplier. This winter just gone has seen a great deal of focus in the media on the problems of the largest energy companies that dominate the market, known as the big six, and it has been niggling me for ages to get something done and change my supplier. So I am going to walk you through my reasons behind it and why I think you should do the same.
Personally I believe that the energy companies should be nationalised as we all need gas and electric to warm our homes, cook our food and keep the lights on and believe it is something our government should provide rather than private companies. Those are my political views but the reasons behind me switching is something I think everyone should hear no matter their political persuasion.
- The big six (British Gas, N-Power, EDF, Scottish Power, E-ON, SSE) owns 90% share of the energy market and have been subject to an inquire by the monopolies commission because this percentage means they can control the prices between them and thus have been accused making deals together to artificially inflate prices for their customers
- The high prices affect those with pre pay meters the most as the unit price and standing charge are often higher and the ones who often have pre pay meters are the poorest within society.
- They have blamed the rise in prices on green levies (see below) but if you look at their profits they are astronomical, if they cut their profits they wouldn’t need to charge people the amount they do.
- As profits are all these huge companies care about then why should I trust them with something that is an essential part of my life and a substantial amount of my bills. I place more trust in smaller companies that have time for their customers
As you probably are well aware if you read this blog often, I am very interested in protecting the environment through doing stuff in our own lives. It is part of humankind’s problem whether climate change is our fault or not and I think that positive steps towards a more environmentally friendly economy.
- Non of the big six have invested sufficiently in green energies and it is something I think we need to do as a country to help the environment. Green energies are very varied each with their own qualities and problems but with one uniting idea that we don’t need to burn away resources when their are other options. I am not going to discuss their merits here but some of the major ones include: Solar, wind, biofuels, hydro power, anaerobic digestion and several less known but equally important ones.
- Even though we are out of the recession there are still plenty of people in the UK and across the world without stable employment and investment in new green industries would provide thousands if not potentially millions of new jobs in just this country.
- We need to avoid carbon based energy and nuclear power not only for the environments health but also our own. We will run out of oil and natural gas eventually and messing with nuclear energy has already proved that it can go terribly wrong.
Maybe not everyone cares whether their energy is from a national or private company and i know many people doubt climate change but one thing I know most people will agree on is that they want to pay less for goods and services and want to save where they can
- Green energies are always accused of being too expensive for ‘normal’ people and I can understand these reservations. All energy industries are expensive to set up, so when we start investing in green energy to start the prices will be higher but after time they will pay for themselves resulting in cheaper prices for all (I say this for the major two as the sun and wind are free commodities ….currently)
- When I chose the company I wanted (Good Energy) I worked out the cost for both my current supplier and Good Energy on the average usage basis. In all fairness H and I probably use a lot less then most people but makes more sense for what the average is. Turns out that per year I would be £20 better off with Good Energy. Not a big difference but when you consider all the other factors why wouldn’t you switch.
I implore you to take a look at your current energy supplier and research the other independent ones to see if you could be making a difference to your bill and the environment at the same time. As a side note I am not affiliated with Good Energy they are the one I chose for their clear goals and straight talking about what everything costs (another problem I find with the Big Sixes websites). Take a look at the others too. Good Energy, Ecotricity, Green Energy UK
Considering it was one of my new years resolutions I have done really badly. My chef skills series was suppose to document my attempts at trying and practising professional kitchen techniques but I have so easily stumbled back into my usual healthy, big bowl based veg meals which although pack a punch of flavour don’t teach me anything new. I am quite use to creating these meals and know how to season and spice correctly but for me they don’t have the precision that I want to advance my cooking with. So to get back on the horse I thought I would attempt a relatively easy task with ingredients I already had, a classic hollandaise sauce, atop a poached egg, i.e. Eggs Benedict. And boy was it the best brunch I’ve made in a while (other then my classic eggy bread nom nom)
Ingredients Serves 2
2 or 4 Eggs , 1 tbsp White wine vinegar, 2 English Muffins
For the hollandaise
2 Egg yolks
1/2 tsp White wine vinegar
A splash of water
A pinch of salt
Juice of half a lemon
To make the Hollandaise
1. Gently heat the butter in a pan till melted. Scoop any white solids off the top and discard. Keep warm
2. Whisk the egg yolks, vinegar, salt and water till combined in a heat proof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.
3. Gently whisk the egg mixture over the heat till it starts to thicken and becomes paler in colour
4. Take off the bowl off the heat and slowly whisk in the still warm butter. The most important thing here is to do this very slowly, like when making mayonnaise, add the butter in a little at a time and wait till combined before adding more butter.
5. Add the lemon juice in a little at a time to taste. I don’t like it too lemony but others like alot. Keep the sauce warm till your ready to plate.
There is no mystery with a poached egg, just a little bit of practice and then sometimes there are just eggs which are evil and won’t behave
1. Use your biggest pan and fill with at least 1.5 litres of boiling water and add the vinegar.
2. Once the pan is boiling, stir it in a clockwise direction (this will bring the water to just under boiling and allow the egg to wrap around it self.
3. Once you’ve got a whirlpool going, slowly slip an egg into the centre of it. ( I first break the egg into a little bowl to slip it into and always use eggs that have come to room temperature)
4. Allow the egg to cook for 2-3 minutes, the white will curl around the yolk to form a circular egg.
5. Lift out of the water with a slotted spoon and rest for a minute before putting it on toasted muffin slathered in your home made hollandaise. mmm tasty. Repeat with your remaining eggs.
The only problem with poached eggs is that you have to do them one at a time which renders them a bit cold if your trying to serve them all in one go. I would recommend maybe trying to keep them warm in a very low temp oven till your ready to serve but be careful about over cooking them. A poached egg is nothing without a gooey centre. I added some cooked salmon to one half of my muffin for a bit of decadence and a sprinkling of dill or parsley goes very well in the sauce as well as on the egg and any fish you might use. Don’t forget to season your egg before you put the sauce on, it makes all the difference.
This blog post has been inspired by A) I finally got a job last week (obligatory happy dance) and b) A reminder for myself on how to be happy. The first thing I want to say is that this post isn’t about money as the key to happiness but I completely understand that in order for us to live in this world and be happy we need a basic amount of income to remain sane and explore our own happiness. Having been unemployed for just over 6 months, until last week, was such a struggle both financially, emotionally and physically and it is a sad truth but a real one that we all need to pay our bills, buy food and spend our money on necessities whether we have the cash or not. So with this in mind the musings below are generally for when you have the ability to pay your bills and don’t have the pressure on as much but at the same time I believe lots of these ideas can be applied for when you don’t have any disposable income either. The part B of my inspiration is because naturally I am a very anxious person and when the chips are down my anxiety can knock me for six. Though I have come on leaps and bounds when it comes to dealing with my worries and fears I still feel like I need help along the way sometimes. Having a check list or a cheat sheet for happiness may seem like a strange thing but it can help you focus on positive rather then negative aspects of your life and even change the way you think about your individual life. I hope that by writing out how I try to be happy it may help some one else as it helps me.
If you know why you are unhappy you can fix or change it. Unhappiness can be bred from many things and with the exception of relationship problems/ loss of loved ones/serious mental health issues , which is totally understandable, I believe that changing our mind set is more important most of the time then what we are actually unhappy about.
Worry- I often worry when I am I get into bed probably because something is weighing on my mind and I can no longer do anything about it but these feelings can strike throughout the day at any time. I find that I worry more and more about something because I am putting off a task or need to chase someone else up to resolve the problem. Procrastination is the real problem here . As soon as I do the task I don’t want to do I feel so much better
Want- Once our bills and necessities are taken care of, any money is ours to spend on what we want but if you don’t have enough money to buy what you ‘want’ then maybe it is time to re-evaluate what we want and think more about what we need. Not living within your means is the real problem here.
Health- Now I am no way any kind of health professional but when we do not feel our best physically that can affect us mentally as well. Taking care of your health can make all the difference when It comes to illness relating to lifestyle choices and your environment which are minor but can have a bigger impact then you might realise.
Loneliness- Humans are sociable creatures and they need to interact. When I wasn’t working I found it incredibly lonely and isolating as I couldn’t visit friends and family or even go out to the pub to socialise in my new city. You cannot rely on even just the people you live with as you need interactions from different sources. Getting out there is hard but key.
How to combat unhappiness
Worry- For me when worry strikes it can disable me. It creates such an anxious feeling, my chest can tighten, I feel sick and I can get into such a state as my worry comes in cycles. I understand that I create worry cycles and often, as I said, it’s because I am not doing the right thing to resolve the issue that is worrying me. Recognising that I am in the middle of doing this is the first and biggest step because then I can speak my little mantra. ‘Can I do anything about it now?? ‘ if the answer is yes = do something, if the answer is no = forget it and stop worrying till you can do something about it. A simple phrase but it gives me the control to stop worrying and get on with what I need to do.
Want- We want lots and lots of things in life but it’s not always possible. As someone who does want this and want that but is really against the rampant consumerism which is encouraged in our society It can be challenging to balance these two sides of myself. I try and step back and think whether I really need the item, whether it will improve my life, improve my happiness and what it’s effect on others could be. I know not everyone thinks about these issues when it comes to consumer goods but for me it makes me really think about what I want in life. The second point I want to make is that if you can’t afford something that is a ‘want’ rather then a need you shouldn’t feel unhappy. Instead you should look to the things in your home and life that you really love, mean something to you or just make your life easier which you already own. The big French poster we have in our living room H gave to me when he lived in France, it is a beautiful poster which makes me smile everytime I look at it, it reminds me of H obviously a lovely person to be reminded of and links the great times we have in France when we visit.
Health- When I am stuck in a rut I find it hard to look after myself and will not make healthy choices. If you see yourself doing this you should try and stop it but as with all good health, preventative measures are better then the cure. We all know that exercise, good diet, sleep, water and de-stressing can prevent illness and improve our happiness but we seldom stick to it. Making a conscious effort to improve at least one aspect of your health is definitely the way to start. When I am really focusing on improving a part of my life I feel so much better and it makes it easier to implement the things you need to focus on. I love food and I believe this is the easiest way to improve our health and happiness because we all have to eat. Good food=Happy people. As an added note I think keeping your house in a clean and tidy order really helps to improve your mindset, plus housework counts as exercise ;)
Loneliness- Whether you are lacking money, feel too busy or out of touch with people, you need to get up and go. Simply having someone round for a cup of tea or coffee, lunch or dinner doesn’t have to cost alot as you will be enjoying a homemade meal anyway, and means you can really connect with someone by having a really good chin wag. Make your family and friends aware that you want to see them and are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Your loved ones will always do what they can to make you feel better but they won’t if they think everything is fine. There is no need for false pretence so let people into your inner circle and enjoy them. Sharing problems and joys is part of the human life so find people you can share them with. Finding people as crazy as you also helps ;)
I hope this has been an interesting read and has helped someone thing about happiness that we all deserve and can have. Please leave a comment of anything that helps you stay on the happy train.
Take care and smile
Being green isn’t simply about changing your own habits, your home or even your work place, it’s about encouraging others to do the same either actively by campaign or making others aware of the benefits your life has. One the biggest ways we can develop a greener and healthier society is by changing government policy that encourages or forces large businesses and public sector services to rethink the way they do things. A great example of this is the UK government’s ban on the use of Asbestos from 2001. Asbestos is a set of naturally occurring minerals which the building and construction industry having been using since the 19th century. They have lots of properties and different uses that can be applied in many ways throughout buildings but unfortunately it is an incredibly toxic substance that if inhaled can lead to an array of nasty illnesses including lung diseases and cancer. We had been aware of its risks for several decades, reducing the amount and types of asbestos we used until it’s complete ban for all use in new builds and all refurbishments. Britain is still full of asbestos and it now heavily regulated and controlled to maintain it in existing buildings without risk to the public. This is a brilliant thing and an effective foot forward for how government policy can really implement change. Unfortunately however we still have around 4500 deaths a year due to asbestos related illness and probably will continue to do so till the full effects of the ban are felt well into the 21st century benefiting future generations.
So why asbestos awareness week? Well it’s not for us Brits, it’s for our friends across the pond. The US government still has not banned it’s use, and it is estimated 30 million pounds are used each year. It is the biggest cause of occupational cancer in the US and if the continue to use it the problem could easily get worse. It seems ridiculous to me that they still haven’t banned it but I was equally shocked that the UK hadn’t till 2001 even though the health problems had been clearly visible for decades. We need awareness to be spread so the American people can understand the danger their construction workers and the wider public are in by it’s continued use throughout all types of buildings. If it was raised to the top of the political agenda if only throughout the awareness week it might encourage politicians to act upon the overwhelming evidence against asbestos and ban it’s further use and enhance the regulations surrounding it’s maintenance. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as a figure head for the current campaign, Heather Von St James (pictured in the top) was diagnosed with mesothelioma (A exclusively asbestos related cancer) and given 15 months to live, she and her husband Cameron fought the odds and with treatment beat the cancer! It always makes me so happy when people survive cancer and so pleased that Heather and Cameron can continue enjoying life together with their daughter. They now spend their time raising awareness about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.
Please spread the word to others to educate them and encourage those in the US government to take notice of a practice that must be stopped for the goodness of society and the world as a whole (only 55 countries have banned it’s production and use)Find Heather and Cameron’s wonderful website here, along with websites relating to asbestos in the US. For more info about asbestos and the law surrounding it’s use visit HSE and how to manage it here.
p.s. Up yours cancer!
I wanted to share with you the sad news that too brilliant activists died this week and how much I respected them for their beliefs and their determination to act upon those ideas. On Tuesday 11th Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, died of an apparent heart attack. He defended the workers in his union and encourage other unions to do so in fighting against those who refused to pay a decent living wage especially in difficult and unsafe working conditions. He was untiring in his quest to uphold workers right and dedicated to attack the cuts that have damaged our country. He was never afraid to say what he thought and never faulted I his conviction to support his men and women.
Today it was also announced that Tony Benn, an ex MP and political campaigner died at home surrounded by his family. I have always respected him having learnt during my a-levels how he successfully campaigned to remove the hereditary peerage for the House of Lords he had gained upon his father’s death in order to re stand for election to the House of Commons (you can not be a member of both houses and he wanted to be elected by his constituents rather then automatically be part of the lords where no vote is needed for a hereditary peer. He too was dedicated to the workers, supporting the strikes of the 80s and called for parliamentary and policy reform often and vocally. He retired as an MP in 2001 saying he was leaving “parliament in order to spend more time on politics” and focused on fighting the cuts and the stop the war coalition. He will be truly missed but always remembered.
I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!
Ingredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.
1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas
Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder
Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger
Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino
3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)
You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.
Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly
Mixed into potato salad
On top of a baked potato
A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)
A salad dressing, mixed with some more oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar
A crust or rub for fish or meats
I am really enjoying keeping a wishlist on a regular basis. There are so many things that I would love to have but can’t ( just yet) normally because of lack of funds and then there are also items I want which I want to get to replace something I already have ( but obviously I wouldn’t throw something away before it needed to be, that would be wasteful) I find it great to have an idealistic wishlist as it allows me to think about what I really need, what I really want and what I really can live without. As always all these items come from an ethical back ground that I support whether eco friendly, from an independent business or fairly traded. Number 1 is a bit of a cheat as I have just bought it, It’s a blusher from BM Beauty that uses all natural ingredients. I don’t use a lot of make up so I think it’s pretty reasonable that I could slowly replace all my make up and I would be happy to with BM Beauty as I’ve found the blusher amazing. I have started to gain some temp work through an agency and would like to have some neater tops and jewellery for interviews and work plus I would like a backpack that’s good lucking but can fit more in it then my handbag so I can shop while out an about (bonus points for not using plastic bags) I would love this horseradish vodka from Godminster as I really enjoy a good bloody mary and want to make some really tasty spicey ones for friends and family the morning after the night before. Lastly I would love this piece of art
This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?
Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp of dried rosemary
1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.
3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.
4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.
There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?
p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom
Though I don’t particularly want to advertise freely for a big company like Swartz, their flavour shot advert is amazing and It makes me want to cook with only those fresh ingredients and not the artificial flavoured things they sell. Which I guess is the opposite of what they are trying to do with this ad but hey ho.
I also wanted to include their making of video which is just as amazing and great to see the actions behind it. The only shame is all that wasted food! Hope the crew took it all home.
So although this is an advertisement for fake flavour I implore you all to use the fresh, natural ingredients that are naturally given to us by Mother Nature, cos hell they are tasty!