Monday, 30 March 2020

Tasha's Thinkings 1000th Blog Post

1000th Blog Post - Confetti


Tasha's Thinkings 1000th Blog Post


So there I was preparing all my AtoZ posts when I realised that the number next to published posts said 999! Of course I had to come up with something special for my 1000th post.

My first through was fiction, so I have a little drabble to share below and I had a little more of a think, and I thought it might be fun to create a little introduction to some of the fun things posted here. In recent years I have tried to organise my tags somewhat, but I have to admit, there are a lot of them, so it an be difficult to find all the interesting things. So I have tried to organise my chaos and created something of a guide.

~*~

Drabble (story of exactly 100 words)

This is something that came into my head, probably because of everything that is going on at the moment.

1000 Years by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
They shut me away a thousand years ago, at least that's what it seems. But they have made one error. They thought to drive me mad by allowing me to see what I could no longer touch with a connection to the outside. It does not allow for spoken communication, I am only allowed to view that, but it does give me words.

I have become a blogger. To share, to read, to learn, these are the gifts they have inadvertently granted me. They may have denied me physical freedom, but I have found so much more. I am home.

~*~


My Favourite Tags


First of all a little information - some of my tags have * in the front - this is nothing sinister, it's just so they pop up at the top of the list πŸ˜‰. To see all my tags I have two pages - Blog Topics for everyone not on mobile and Blog Topics Mobile because, for some reason I cannot fathom, the first one does not work on both. The first is guaranteed to be right up to date because it uses the tag widget, and the mobile version is a copy and paste I have to manually update every now and then.

1. *Food

Cheese board with fruit and chutney - Food
Photo by Lindsay Moe on Unsplash
I love baking and cooking and this is my tag for everything to do with that. There are lots of sub tags to help find specific things and they all begin with *Food:, e.g.

These are all my current Food tags:
*Food (67), *Food: Anova (2), *Food: Bread (1), *Food: Chicken/Turkey (26), *Food: Chocolate (10). *Food: Duck (1). *Food: Easy Recipes (43), *Food: Gluten Free (23), *Food: Healthy (18), *Food: Ice Cream (2), *Food: Instant Pot (1), *Food: Low Calorie (6), *Food: Meat (2), *Food: Recipes (65), *Food: Savoury (46), *Food: Sous Vide (3), *Food: Sweet (20), *Food: Tips and Tricks (5), *Food: Vegan (3), *Food: vegetarian (13)

2. *Writing / *Publishing

Write Without Fear, Edit Without Mercy
Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash
I am first and foremost, a writer. I have always been a writer since the moment I realised I could create stories too and I have been a full time author for ten years now. These are my tags for everything to do with the art of writing and getting it to readers.

Much of the content for these is in the main tag, but there are a couple of significant sub tags too:

  • *Writing: Fiction - all the fiction I have posted directly to the blog, drabbles, flash fic etc
  • *Writing: eBooks - everything about eBooks including posts on how to format them etc

3. *Art

Statue
This tag is for all my posts to do with anything artistic or crafty, including everything I have learned to do with book cover. There are a few subtags which I think speak for themselves:


*Art: Book Covers (20), *Art: Craft (5), *Art: Designing (2), *Art: FanArt (4), *Art: Photos (4), *Art: Resources (1), *Art: Scramble Square (1), *Art: The Golden Ratio (1), *Art: The Rule of Thirds (1)

4. *Blogging: Guest Blogs

Lots of hands on a keyboard
These are the posts by all the lovely bloggers who have done me the honour of guest blogging here. So many interesting things - do check them out.

5. Themed Posts

A lightbulb floating over a hand.
For a while I was posting every day with a theme for each day. I have started to focus on other things now, but these do still pop up.

6. *Reviews

Person looking at a screen and talking about what they see
You may be shocked, but I have opinions - this tag is specifically for those in relation to all sorts of things, but mostly films. These should speak for themselves πŸ˜‰

7. *Vampires

Sun going down over trees
And last, but very not least of my favourites, I have a tag for all things vampire.

It is not a secret to anyone who pops in around here that I love vampires, so, of course, I have a tag for all posts that relate to them. You'll find fiction, reviews, information, just everything vampire related.

And so those are my favourite tags, but don't forget to check out all my others as well, because I have genre tags, fandom tags and many more. (Blog Topics, Blog Topics Mobile). Thank you so much for stopping by. Drop me a comment so we can chat, I love to talk to everyone.

What is your favourite tag on your blog if you have one?

Background banner Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Recipe: Fridge Raid Creamy Pasta

Recipe: Fridge Raid Creamy Pasta

Recipe: Fridge Raid Creamy Pasta


So if this crisis has made me do anything (other than worry), it's think about food waste very hard. I've been meaning to do it for ages, but, we all know how it is, good intentions, but never the time. I started easy.

I had milk that was about to go out of date and since it's Cravendale, that usually means it's right at the end of its life because that stuff has expiry dates way longer than normal milk. So I made my own cottage cheese, which is really easy to turn into homemade ricotta with a stick blender and a little extra milk. Then I wondered what to do with my triumph and came up with pasta. All ingredients were just in the fridge or store cupboard, nothing was bought specially, hence the name of the recipe.

If you don't fancy making your own cheese because you don't have any spare milk, actual ricotta or cream cheese would work just as well. As I mentioned this is about raiding the fridge.

Serves 2 (for more just scale up)

Ingredients

For the cheese

  • 1l / 4 1/4 cups/ 34 fl oz milk (mine was semi-skimmed)
  • juice of 1 lemon or white vinegar (2-3 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce

  • home-made cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • Italian herb mix to taste
  • 1 slice/ 18g smoked cheese (or any cheese you happen to have, just something with a bit of flavour - blue would probably work well too)
  • a little oil
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • ham cut into small chunks (other options include chicken, tofu, quorn, veggies etc - whatever may be lurking in the fridge)
Enough pasta for 2 people ~150g

Instructions

To make the cheese

  1. Put the milk in a heavy base saucepan and bring to a light boil.
  2. Take off the heat and add in the lemon and the salt - stir well and set aside.
  3. Wait for 10-20 mins for the curds and whey to separate.
  4. Strain off the whey from the curds using a sieve. (We can use the whey for other things, so if we can, we should keep it).
  5. Congrats, you've made cottage cheese - it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for days.

To make the sauce

  1. Using a stick blender, or a normal blender, blend the cottage cheese with a small amount of the reserved whey, or a little milk until smooth and creamy.
  2. Cook the pasta as instructed on the packet, drain and leave to sit in cold water.
  3. Put a kettle on to heat water.
  4. Put a little oil in the bottom of a small saucepan and heat gently.
  5. Add the garlic and fry for about a min until fragrant.
  6. Add the smoked cheese (or chosen cheese) and stir until it begins to melt.
  7. Add the homemade cream cheese to the saucepan with a couple of table spoons of milk and combine.
  8. Grind in the Italian herb mix, add the ham (or sauce carrier of choice) and stir.
  9. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk and heat gently until warmed all the way through.
  10. Refresh the pasta with the hot water from the kettle and drain again.
  11. Pour the sauce over the pasta, mix and serve in bowls with a grinding of pepper (optional).
This was absolutely yummy and finished up my left over milk and the ham that was going out of date tomorrow, so win/win.

Hope you are well and keeping safe. Love and hugs to all.

Monday, 16 March 2020

AtoZ2020 - Theme Reveal - #AtoZChallenge

Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZChallenge 2020 - Theme Reveal

AtoZChallenge 2020
Theme Reveal


Hello and welcome to my blog for the AtoZChallenge theme reveal.

Not familiar with the AtoZChallenge. This is a yearly event that happens throughout April. Every day bloggers post a new entry to their blog inspired by a letter of the alphabet, except Sundays which is our day off. If you would like to sign up, pop on over to this post at the AtoZ home page for details.

Some of us going the AtoZ also have themes as well as using the letters of the alphabet.

My theme this year is on old favourite - Vampires - or rather Vampire Drabbles.
drabble noun - a micro story of exactly 100 words

Every day I will post a drabble inspired by a vampire themed word beginning with the letter of that day.

My Words


  • A Attack
  • B Blood & Bat
  • C Cure
  • D Disease
  • E Energy
  • F Fang
  • G Grave
  • H Hunter
  • I Immortality
  • J Juvenile
  • K Killer
  • L Lair
  • M Mesmerism
  • N Nosferatu
  • O Old
  • P Photophobia
  • Q Quiet
  • R Revenge
  • S Stake
  • T Thirst
  • U Undead
  • V Victim
  • W Wolf
  • X Xenolith
  • Y Yesteryear
  • Z Zephyr
Check back in April to see what I come up with.πŸ˜„

I am also taking part as my alter-ego Virginia Waytes where I will be launching my new weekly paranormal fiction podcast as well as posting all sorts of other exciting things. Check out Virgina's Parlour for all the juicy details. Please be aware there will be adult themes, although any posts with explicit content will have extra warnings and be behind the read more option.

Please LMK if you are taking part as well and link me to your blogs in the comments.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

100% Off - Short Story Anthology - Half of Everything - #LookForTheJoy

100% Off - Free Book for All


Half of Everything Anthology - 100% Off

Short Stories - #Vampires #Fantasy #Dragons #YA #Adult #Horror


So it is bleak out there at the moment, people are self-isolating and worse, and I saw a tweet go past the other day saying 'look for the joy'.

It is all too easy to feel depressed in times like this, but there is still joy in the world. I'm having trouble writing because mostly I'm worried about my Papa, who is in his late 70s and had cancer a few years ago so had to rebuild his immune system from the ground up. He's tough and not ill, but I still worry.

And I thought to myself, I should πŸ’– #LookForTheJoy πŸ’–, because there is still plenty of it out there. And what can I do to help spread this joy.

I'm a writer and people are being forced to stay home, so my brain went: πŸ’–have a free eBookπŸ’–. I am fully aware it is only a small thing, but sometimes small things can lift someone's day.

This is my multi-genre anthology with 14 different stories in it. So hopefully there should be something for everyone. It's usually $2.99, but below is a coupon code which will make it free.

Half of Everything by Natasha Duncan-Drake


Half of Everything by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Coupon: MK73C
How to get the book:

  1. Go to Smashwords here.
  2. Click buy
  3. Put in the coupon code MK73C in the little box that says "Coupon Code" Book is now enrolled in Smashwords site wide promo, so shouldn't need the code anymore. Still 100 % OFF
  4. Click update cart, which will take 100% off.
  5. Then checkout.
You'll be able to download the eBook in any of the formats Smashwords offer (which is most of them) or read it online, if you want.

The book has dragons, vampires, ghosts, demons, aliens, romance, and more. I hope it brightens at least one person's day. πŸ’– Let's look for the joy.

The coupon is good for 100 downloads and is valid until April 13th, whichever is hit first. Site wide promo runs until April 20th

If you have any problems with the coupon, please LMK and I will do my best to fix it.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Recipe: Lentil & Jackfruit Hearty Soup #GlutenFree #Vegetarian #Vegan #InstantPot

Recipe: Lentil & Jackfruit Soup

Lentil & Jackfruit Hearty Soup
#GlutenFree #Vegetarian #Vegan


This recipe is based off of Best Instant Pot Lentil Soup Recipe by Olena from iFOODreal - yes the same lass who came up with the brownie recipe. However, I've changed lots of things, so this is my version πŸ˜Š. You can in fact adapt this recipe any way you like with any ingredients you like.

Now I made this in my Instant Pot , because I have one and I love it, but it would be easy enough to do it in a large saucepan on a stove. There is just the small matter of having to keep checking it while it's cooking rather than wandering away and doing whatever else we fancy doing. I've included instructions below for both methods.

This makes a lot of soup! Good news, it will keep in the fridge or in the freezer, ready to be reheated whenever we want it. This is great for batch cooking or those with a large family.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 400g/2 cups brown or green lentils (uncooked)
  • 500g (1 3/4 cups) Tomato Passata (or a tin of chopped tomatoes if preferred - I don't like the bits)
  • 150-250g/2-3cups chestnut mushrooms (add to taste)
  • 400g (14oz) can shredded jackfruit (if you can't get this or don't like it, just substitute something you do like - this is a very versatile recipe)
  • 400g can baby carrots and petite pois (frozen carrots and peas would do just as well and be just as easy - of fresh if you have them, or just peas - I simply happen to love baby carrots)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 bouillon cubes (I use low-sodium ones, can be veggie or chicken, depending on the dietary requirements of consumers)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oil (avocado or olive are good)

To Serve

  • sprinkling of cheese or vegan cheese - Parmesan (or veggie equiv) is good, so is a mature cheddar - purely optional, but adds a lot to the flavour profile
  • 1 clove garlic - also optional, but adds a zing - this is added with the onion in the stove top version
  • any fresh herbs like coriander (cilantro), or basil, or parsley - whatever you like, also optional

Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Chop onion finely and dice the carrot and the celery.
  2. Turn on the Instant Pot and press the saute button (normal setting).
  3. Add the tbsp oil to the cooking pot along with the onions. Saute until soft. 
  4. Add a little water to deglaze the pot and make sure no onion is stuck. Step 2 3 & 4 are optional, you can just add everything without sauteing (i.e. dump and go), but I really don't like lumps of onion in my soup, I like it to flavour and melt in.
  5. Add the carrots, celery, lentils, passata, mushrooms, carrots & peas, shredded jackfruit, spices and bouillon cubes (crumbled).
  6. Use boiling water from a kettle to fill the instant pot up to the max pressure fill line (2/3rds).
  7. Put on the lid.
  8. Cancel the saute.
  9. Press the pressure (or manual depending on model) button and choose a cook time of 18 min.
  10. If you are in a hurry, allow the Instant Pot to sit for at least 5 mins after the cooking time has ended before a QPR (quick pressure release), or it will spurt because of how full it is. When there is time, I like to do NPR (natural pressure release) for at least 15 mins before letting out the final pressure until the pin drops.
  11. Open the lid and grate in the raw clove of garlic and stir in your chosen fresh herbs.
  12. Stir and serve, with a sprinkling of cheese on top to taste.
  13. The keep warm function will keep it hot so everyone can return for seconds.

Stove Top Instructions

  1. Chop onion finely, mince the garlic, and dice the carrot and the celery.
  2. Heat a tbsp oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic and saute for 2 mins or so.
  3. Add the celery and carrot and cook for 7-10 mins until they are softened.
  4. Add the lentils, passata, mushrooms, carrots & peas, shredded jackfruit, spices and bouillon cubes (crumbled).
  5. Add 6 cups/1.5l boiling water from the kettle to the saucepan and stir everything together.
  6. Bring the soup to a simmer, place a lid on and turn down the heat. Simmer for 35-40 mins, or until the lentils are tender, checking every now and then. (There may be scum on the top from the cooking at times - ladle this off).
  7. Stir in fresh herbs if wanted.
  8. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese on top to taste.
Now the Instant Pot cooking time is shorter, but the make time can be similar because of the heat to pressure and pressure release times, however, it really is easier in that there is no standing around. This makes me very happy because if I stand too long I end up in severe pain. Hence one of the reasons I love my Instant Pot. I've only had it two weeks, but I never want to stop using it.

This soup is perfectly hearty enough to be eaten on its own, but for those who like their bread, a crusty loaf or roll would make a great accompaniment.

We had this Saturday and there was enough over (even after Rob had seconds) to fill two big (1litre) soup bags. I gave one to my dear Mama, and we're having the other for tea tomorrow, although it would freeze perfectly well too.

I really like the jackfruit in this because it is like shredded chicken as an underlying texture, and I really like that in a soup. If that is not to your taste or you can't get it or its really expensive where you are, you could easily take it out and sub in something else.

The truth behind this recipe is that its an add whatever you like kind of thing. Experiment and see what you like best. Don't like cumin, pick something different. Fancy it spicier - add some chilli. Love curry, add in some paste or powder.

This makes a really hearty meal that can be kept warm in the Instant Pot or on the hob for people on the go, or put in the centre of the table to let everyone help themselves at a family meal. It works for all occasions. And the big plus is that its good for us. Lots of fibre and vitamins and healthy veggies in a delicious package.

Do you have a favourite soup that you absolutely love?

I have to admit, I am really fond of a good mushroom soup, although I think my fav is probably Stilton and broccoli.

Header Background Photo by Jeeray TANG on Unsplash

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Recipe Recommendation: Black Bean Brownies (The Delicious Healthy Option) #GlutenFree

Recipe Rec - Black Bean Brownies (The Delicious Healthy Option)

Recipe Recommendation: Black Bean Brownies 

(The Delicious Healthy Option) #GlutenFree

So I have been making a conscious effort to improve my diet, because, frankly I used to eat far too much crap. One of the big things I am doing is reducing the amount of refined sugar I eat.

Now I have to admit, this was really hard for the first week. They are right that sugar is more addictive than cocaine - however, it seems withdrawal doesn't last that long πŸ˜‚. I've been doing this since New Year and I find that I don't really crave the sweet things that often anymore.

However, I cannot live without chocolate. Sorry - never going to happen. And also, research says that dark chocolate has some great properties, so I have moved on to having some dark chocolate every day - the 72% or 85%, which are supposed to have all the good stuff in them.



I miss cake, though, so have been looking for alternatives. Now I have a new Instant Pot (which I will talk about more in later posts) and while looking for recipes for that I came across a website called iFOODreal run by a lovely lady called Olena Osipov which has some fabulous recipes on it. She also has a great Youtube channel.



One of these recipes is Black Bean Brownies - yes that is brownies made from black beans.

Good news for my gluten intolerant friends too - this recipe is gluten free.

Now I know what you're thinking, probably the same as I did - black beans? Really?

Well I made this recipe the other day and everyone loves it. They are delicious.


Word of warning - this is a very dark chocolate recipe, so if you're not into dark chocolate, this will not be for you. All the sweetness comes from fruit and there is no added refined sugar, so the brownies are dense, squidgy and wonderful with a cup of tea or coffee. They also get better with time IMHO, so if you can leave some overnight they improve even more.


If you want to see the whole recipe, and all the advice Olena gives, than check out her original post:
Black Bean Brownies.

I'm going to include the ingredients here because all the measurements are in North American style on iFOODreal, so here are the UK/Metric equivalents.

Ingredients

  • 400g tin of Black Beans
  • 2 large eggs
  • 155g unsweetened apple sauce (I looked up 1/2 cup and is said 125g, but I had a small 155g jar and it just about filled my 1/2 cup measure, so that's what I'm going with) - I think next time I will use the over-ripe banana idea though, because it's easier to get.
  • 15 small or 10-12 Medjool dates (I used the small ones)
  • the original recipe has 2 tbsp brewed coffee, but I threw in a tsp of instant coffee for a similar effect, since I didn't have brewed coffee on hand.
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 50g cacao or cocoa powder (cacao is better for you, but is not as easy to get)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100g bag of extra dark chocolate chips (I used Dr Oetkers 72% choc chips) - 50g for inside, 50g for the top (this may not be quite the right amounts, but it made it easy for meπŸ˜‚).

Tips

  • A stick blender works well to blend the batter - my food processor is not overly great and I don't have a normal blender, so I used the stick one and it came out brilliantly.
  • Oven temp conversion (350F) - 180C or Gas Mark 4
  • I didn't have an 8x8 brownie tin so I used a 20cm/8inch sponge tin instead and just cut the brownies into cake style slices.
  • Cutting it into 16 might make the pieces look small, but they aren't - trust me - each piece is just enough.
  • I checked my brownies after 25min not 30 and they were perfect so I didn't use the final 5min of cooking time. It will depend on your oven.
  • Do not, and I repeat, do not skip the baking parchment lining. Because these don't use flour, they are not as robust as brownies can be, so getting them out of the tin was ... well ... entertaining. Without the baking paper I would have been sunk.
πŸ’–Yummy brownies that have things in them that are actually good for us - win/win! Don't forget to check out Olena's other delicious recipes and tips for hearty, healthy eating.πŸ’–

Do you have any favourite recipes that taste decadent, but are, in fact, surprisingly healthy? I would love to hear what they are.

Banner BG Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash