Friday, June 29, 2007

Sweet Tooth

This recipe is an alternative to the usual choice for those with a sweet tooth


You will need certain items from the following:
Whole rolled oats, porridge will just do (raw and uncooked)
Malted milk powder, like Horlicks
Cocoa powder
Marmalade or jam
Liquid in the form of milk, cream, yoghurt or fruit juice
Chocolate shot or chocolate chips

Some of us like to finish a meal with some sweet food. And sugary sweetness means fattening. And fattening is meant to be a bad thing.
So perhaps end a meal with fruit (sugar) or cheese (fat). All right, fruit is good for you, as is cheese.
Chocolate, or chocolates, fit the bill for that sweet tooth. Chocolate is meant to be good for you, but it is usually combined with sugar, milk, and that sweet gooey stuff in the middle of Belgian chocolates. So chocolates, although just a possibility, are fattening and expensive. Chocolate shot or chips are just passable.
But there is a real alternative – one that I enjoy if something sweet is not readily available. And it is relatively healthy.
The basis of this concoction is rolled oats – whole rolled oats. These, we are often told, are wonderful for your health and wellbeing. Good.
Put some in a bowl.
Now add sultanas. These will provide sweetness and fruit. They are, after all, just dried seedless grapes. And they are convenient to handle, and terrific value.
The next step is to add some Horlicks, or other malted milk powder. One has the feeling that this is a wholesome product, as it is meant to nourish the body and aid sleep. It will help the final mixture to coalesce. If adding cocoa powder, use only a very little. It will dry up the mixture.
You could now add some crushed nuts if you feel like it and if they do not prevent your body from functioning properly. I tend to skip them. Peanut butter is very fattening.
You might like to add another texture to the mix – like crumbled digestive biscuits or Scottish oatcakes. I don’t.
Stir the mix together.
Whatever you have chosen to add – and up to now it has been pretty healthy stuff – the mixture will need moisture.
A little runny honey won’t supply much liquid but will add health and sweetness. Don’t over do it. Much the same can be said for marmalade, which adds sugar and orange. Jam will also add sugar and fruit.
Yoghurt is an ideal semi-liquid, offsetting the sweetness of the sultanas. Stir it in to form a sort of paste.
Fruit juices, concentrated or otherwise, are other liquid possibilities. Milk is another.
Cream may well be the tastiest addition – though only for those unconcerned with their weight.
The result of all this will be a bowl of sweetish goodness, preferably in a sticky form that lends itself to consumption by spoon.
Now your sweet tooth will have been satisfied, leaving your health-consciousness happy or, at least, reasonably at ease.
There is scope here for your imagination. But start with just raw oats, Horlicks, sultanas, and yoghurt or cream.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Robins and Bumblebees

It took quite a bit of time to train our lady robin to come into our garden shed to eat morsels of Cheddar cheese from my knee. It became her habit to do so – so much so that when we put cheese on Margreet’s knee she declined it. But she did sometimes just sit on Margreet’s knee for a few minutes, so that they could look at each other in friendship.
When her mate re-appeared at the breeding season, having spent the latter part of the summer and the whole of the winter away, they built a nest in the camouflaged robin box that is screwed to the back of our house in London.
When the young had hatched out and were hungry, he would join her in taking cheese from my knee and crumbled oatcake from the floor beneath. With a bit of gout or something in one leg she would sometimes need a rest, and perch somewhere in the shed next to us, on some books or the back of a chair.
We never, ever, get tired of seeing or feeling these charming little creatures taking our presence for granted.
Two days ago we either saw a new robin appear or one of our old friends acting very strangely. It was the former.
This new robin looked and acted quite differently from the others, He was leaner, faster, stood more upright, stretched and moved his head around quicker.
He had clearly watched the resident pair of birds come into the shed for food. So why not him? Why be slowly trained like the others? Grab the opportunity. Grab the food.
He flew to the doorway and hovered there, like a hummingbird. Then he retreated, and came again to hover. After several attempts he dashed in from his hovering approach and grabbed cheese. This he took away, presumably to feed young. We rather took to him.
Unlike our regulars, who had learned to eat from my knee, the new one would take cheese from Margreet’s knee just as readily – after the hovering and deciding.
Today our Mr. Robin re-appeared, and the newcomer was chased away in no uncertain terms, though they never came to blows.
But even having been chased away, the interloper is back – dashing in after his hovering trick to smash and grab.
What will happen next?
What did happen next took us quite by surprise. And it took us a little time to realise what was happening. Hoverbird, though still chased off on occasion, started to take cheese bits from us in the shed to feed them to the second brood of robin chicks in our nest box. So our new young were being fed by both parents - and hoverbird.

I was writing in the garden shed when a very big bumblebee flew in, making that lovely loud noise that large bumblebees do in flight.
I wondered if I shouldn’t chase him out, so that he could find real bumblebee food outside among nectar-producing flowers. But I didn’t.
This fellow (or plump lady) stayed for a few minutes, buzzing around beneath the two chairs and around a trug of garden twine and labels, etc. Eventually he left. And all was silent once more.
Then he came back again. What could he possibly find to eat in a dry old garden shed?
So I moved, and bent down to watch. And he was running around – running, and quickly.
Who ever heard of a running bumblebee? Usually we see them gathering nectar from flowers, such as the trumpets of foxgloves (where they fall out backwards like drunken sailors). What he was after was anyone’s guess – but running?
Whatever next? Running bumblebee races?