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Spinach pork pies

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A vegetarian version of this can be made with quorn pieces instead of pork mince. Take care to spray each of the filo pastry layers with olive oil to stop them getting too crispy.

Ingredients

 

  2 sheet(s) (large) Filo Pastry, each 50 x 24cm
  4 spray(s) Calorie controlled cooking spray
  200 g Extra Lean Pork Mince (5% fat), raw
  15 g Pine nuts
  75 g Spinach, baby leaves
  1/2 teaspoons (level) Dijon Mustard
  1/2 medium Lemon, zest of
  75 g Low Fat Soft Cheese
  60 g Light Feta Cheese, crumbled
  1 pinch Salt, and black pepper, freshly ground

Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C/fan oven 170°C. Stack the sheets of filo pastry and put on a clean board. Cut the stack in half to make four pieces. Stack all four pieces and cut into quarters. You should have four smaller stacks of four pieces of filo.
    • Spray a four-hole Yorkshire pudding tin with the cooking spray. Line each hole with one piece of filo pastry. Spray the pastry and arrange another piece of filo in each hole, offsetting the corners. Repeat with the remaining filo pieces. Each hole in the tin should be lined with four piece of filo. Spray once more and scrunch up the sides slightly. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool.
    • Meanwhile, heat a non stick frying pan to a medium-high heat and spray with the cooking spray. Fry the pork mince for 3-4 minutes, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked. Add the pine nut kernels and cook for 1 minute until lightly toasted. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until wilted. Season generously and transfer to a bowl.
    • Stir the mustard, lemon zest, soft cheese and Greek style cheese into the pork mixture until combined. Check the seasoning, reheat and then divide equally between the pastry cases to serve.

 

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Garlic and chilli king prawns

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 This is a fantastic recipe which can be made with mushrooms instead of king prawns if a vegetarian option is required. The quantity below serves 4 at 4 points per serving or 2 hungry people at 8. 

Ingredients

  1 1/2 teaspoons Olive Oil
  4 clove(s) Garlic, crushed
  2 individual Chilli, Green or Red, de-seeded, finely chopped
  3 medium Tomato, de-seeded, finely chopped
  24 individual (raw) King Prawns, Raw, without shell, tails intact
  1/2 cube(s) Vegetable Stock Cube, dissolved in 100ml hot water
  15 g Parsley, fresh, roughly chopped
  21 g Basil, fresh, roughly chopped (plus a few extra leaves to garnish)
  6 portion(s) (medium) Ricotta Cheese

 

Instructions



    • Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chillies and cook, stirring for 1 minute, or until garlic is golden.

 

    • Add prawns and cook for 1 minute each side, or until golden. Remove garlic, chilli and prawns from pan and set aside. Place pan back over medium-high heat and add tomatoes, stock and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until sauce has reduced. Add prawns back to pan and toss well to coat. Dot with ricotta and place under preheated grill for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

 

    • Serve prawns scattered with extra basil leaves and cracked black pepper.

 

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Thoughts on the ISIL destruction of Nimrud

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So ISIL are back in the news this morning although to be fair it seems that they are never far from the news these days. This time its because they are destroying or rather, have destroyed, the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

My first thoughts on reading this were initially shock which quickly morphed into pragmatism. Yes its terrible that these artifacts are being destroyed but lets face it, better this than destroying more human lives although sadly no doubt it will not be long before they're back in the news for doing that too.

I have to admit I hadnt even heard of Nimrud before today so any outrage I felt at its destruction was always going to be tempered by that however I wanted to look into things a little and see exactly what it was that was being destroyed.

Nimrud is the Arab name for an ancient Assyrian city once called Kalhu which sits just south of Mosul on the river Tigris in northern Mesopotamia. After Nimrud had existed for about 400 years, the city became the second capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire in 879 B.C.

nimrudIt remained as the Assyrian capital for about 170 years, until the capital was moved -- first to Dur Sharrukin and then to ancient Nineveh.

It continued to be a major Assyrian city and a royal residence until it was destroyed during the fall of the Assyrian Empire in the seventh century B.C. at the hands of an alliance between the ancient Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians.

The ruins of Nimrud had covered an area of about 360 hectares and were located about 1 kilometer from the modern-day village of Noomanea in Iraq’s Nineveh Province.

So by the looks of the pictures and description, this place was quite the big deal in archaeological and historical circles.

It is indisputably a tragedy and arguably a war crime however I think its important to bear in mind that everything that was valuable enough to be moved had been moved to the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

The sooner the cancer on humanity that is ISIL or, as they are known more commonly in the Arabic world, Da'ish is excised and destroyed the better. One hopes that Arabic powers and indeed more global powers are doing all they can to achieve. I fear the world will have to cry a lot more tears for human lives however before that is achieved and in that context, tragic though this story is, it represents a sideshow in the terrible story of the Middle East in the 21st century.
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My first jump

The overwhelming feeling during my first static line jump was that I had to resign myself to dying, if that was what was going to happen that day.

Sitting in the open side of an Cessna at 3200 ft and looking at the ground wheel of an aeroplane close enough to be able to touch it can do strange things to your mind when you've never done it before. It was cold because I was at altitude, because the side of the plane was missing and because I was terrified. I was sat on the floor of the plane with my right leg dangling in space and my left one kind of hooked up in front of me and I knew there was no way I wasnt going to jump. That may be why I was so terrified.

I could see the ground way below but I wasnt really able to focus on it. My heart rate and blood pressure were probably through the roof but I didnt notice it. I only noticed that I was terrified. So then came the shout, “Head up! Go!” I didnt think for a second and just launched myself out of the door. I immediately felt like I was going to flip over onto my back as I could see the plane directly above me and then moments later the static line snapped tight and pulled me forward as it pulled open my rig. I realised I had been holding my breath instead of counting and exhaled the word “parachute!” as I looked up and saw it open and above me. I felt like I’d just won the lottery. I was overjoyed for a second and once I’d done my checks I waited to hear the radio in my ear telling me what to do but nobody spoke. I thought I better start planning how I was going to land for myself. I felt OK I guess until I looked down past my feet at the distance between me and the ground then I decided only to look ahead. Thankfully the voice eventually talked to me and guided me down to earth.

Walking back to the hangar I felt overjoyed. I wanted to cry but I didnt. I talked to anybody that would listen to me as the adrenalin drained away and then somebody asked me if I wanted to go again. I did and so I did.  I was hooked. I’ve nearly done 500 jumps now and I cant ever imagine not being a skydiver now. It changed me forever.
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Vegetable Halloumi Burgers in Mini Pittas

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Ingredients





















































  300 g Carrots, raw, grated
  1 medium Courgette, grated
  1 small Onion(s), finely chopped
  50 g Sweetcorn, thawed if frozen
  150 g Plain Tofu, chopped
75 g Breadcrumbs, Fresh
  1 medium (raw) Egg, whole
100 g Halloumi, finely chopped
1 tablespoons (level) Coriander, Dried
1 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoons Black pepper
8 portion(s) Asda Organic Mini Pitta Pockets, (or similar brand)



Instructions



  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/fan oven 180°C. Mist a large baking sheet with low fat cooking spray.

  • Put the carrots into a large mixing bowl and add the courgette, onion, sweetcorn, tofu, breadcrumbs, egg, cheese and coriander. Season, adding just a little salt.

  • Form the mixture into 8 burgers and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

  • Warm the pitta breads and split them open. Fill each one with a burger and some salad, then serve at once.

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