Tuesday, 11 December 2012

It's Beginning..

...to look a lot like Christmas. i feel like christmas properly gets under way when the wreath goes on the door. the outside of the house says it's Christmas and inside it's time to go in to full preparation mode! Sam has decided he "really wants to get in the Christmas spirit this year" so Christmas music has been filling the house from 8am, a favourite being Sufjan Stevens.

last year i put whole orange halves in the wreath
this year i used baked orange slices
making these lovely decorative oranges fills the house with lovely smells, especially if you add cinnamon

  • slice a few oranges thinly

  • place on a rack (not tray) and sprinkle half of them with cinnamon
  • bake in the bottom of the oven at 135C for 1 hour and 107C for 1.5 -2 hrs
  • keep an eye on them so they don't turn too brown

you can use these as decorations in the wreath, hang on string etc
my kids decimated most of mine so i put them in a bowl and they make lovely pot pourri
the kids loved cutting and breaking them in to pieces

i got some energy yesterday despite my flu setting in and made Christmas pudding. it was really easy and fun to make and i loved the brandy smells filling the house. the recipe is on my previous blog post.
this week i'm joining in with The Gallery. Head over there to see other posts with the theme It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas.

Monday, 10 December 2012

bah humbug

so i'm feeling a little overwhelmed by christmas and paralysed by my To Do list. i can't figure out where to start and how to prioritise my tasks. they are all fun christmasey tasks but they do need to get done. i foolishly agreed to bake 80 mince pies and 40 cookies for the local preschool because i'm on the committee and haven't done anything all year. we are having a christmas drinks party so i'll need lots of mince pies for that... plus extra for general consumption over the next few weeks. 
we are hosting christmas this year. i have never cooked a christmas lunch or christmas pudding so it's all a new adventure. with a huge list of ingredients, i did look longingly at the £5 christmas puddings in tesco today and think why not? why not just buy one? how easy would that be? why torture yourself with having to make one? but i couldn't do it. something in me said it HAD to be homemade. as with the pizzas for the kids at our house party... why not buy pizzas.. i couldn't bring myself to do it... and the granola and bread for the christmas period..... so now i'm left looking at mountains of ingredients and zero baking-labido... help!
i have a headache and sore throat and feel totally unmotivated to do anything other than sit on the sofa and watch tv... while maybe writing and re-writing the odd To Do list. i will get an early night and tackle it all afresh tomorrow. sorry for the bah humbug blog post.

to help me feel better (and more in control) i will at least start by recording here the recipes i have chosen for my first few baking exploits.

mince pies:

pastry (makes 12)
rub together with finger tips: 200g flour (sifted), 120g chilled unsalted butter and 40g caster sugar, (optional - 75g ground almonds) until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
gently stir in 1 large egg, then push together to make a pastry ball
add a few drops of water if micx is too dry to stick together
wrap pastry in cling film and put in fridge for at least 1 hour

to make the pies:
roll out the pastry and cut with a round cookie cutter
put the pastry rounds in a cupcake tin and add a large teaspoon of mincemeat
cover the top with a smaller round or a star shape
brush with a little milk on the lid of the pies and put in the fridge for 40mins
bake at 180C for 20mins

here are last year's pies. they were a hit. 
let's hope i can get some mince pie mojo tomorrow and start baking!

Here's is the BBC Rich Christmas Pudding i'm going to attempt:

Make this pudding a couple of months (2 weeks will have to do!) before Christmas day. Feed it with booze regulary for the flavours to develop.
  • Ingredients

    225g/8oz golden caster sugar
  • 225g/8oz vegetarian suet
  • 340g/12oz sultanas
  • 340g/12oz raisins
  • 225g/8oz currants
  • 110g/4oz candied peel, chopped
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 110g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 55g/2oz flaked almonds
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 level tsp mixed spice
  • 5g/1 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml/5fl oz brandy

Preparation method

  1. Lightly grease 4x600ml/1 pint or 2x1.2 litre/2 pint pudding basins.
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the eggs and brandy and mix well.
  4. Spoon the mix into basins. Put a circle of baking parchment and foil over the top of each basin and tie securely with string. Make a string handle from one side of the basin to the other so it is easier to pick the basin out of the pan after cooking.

    Wrapping a pudding for steaming
    2:01 mins
  5. Put the basins in a large steamer of boiling water and cover with a lid. Boil for 5-6 hours, topping the boiling water up from time to time, if necessary. If you do not have a steamer, put the basins in a large pan on inverted saucers on the base. Pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. Cover and steam as before.
  6. Cool. Change the baking parchment and foil covers for fresh ones and tie up as before. Store in a cool cupboard until Christmas Day.
  7. To serve, steam for 2 hours and serve with brandy butter, rum sauce, cream or homemade custard.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

locked out again

sam currently has enormous bruises on his thighs from breaking in to our house. this has been the third time in the past few weeks of us both forgetting our keys! what is going on?! we have managed not tot get locked out for years and suddenly this run of dappiness! this particular time we had already used the spare-key-we-leave-with-neighbours and it was now inside out house, along with our keys. i arrived home at 3pm after being out all day and realised i was locked out. i called Sam and he said he'd make his way home (which would take an hour and a half). so i picked up Z from school and went to a neighbours house. Sam arrived back to realise he did not have his keys either! we used a friend's incredibly rickety and rusty old ladder to break in. i think we should leave keys with a lot more neighbours.
i love this picture.

so here's a quick yummy comforting rustle up dinner when you have been locked out. the kids love it because the coconut milk (with the help of some added honey!) make it slightly sweet.

simple, mild & sweet tuna curry

1. in a wok, saute 3 stalks of sliced celery
2. add 1 tbsp mild curry powder, 1 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp salt and stir well
3. add 1 tin of tuna chunks, 1 tin of chick peas and stir well
4. add 1 tin of coconut milk and bring to simmering but not boiling point
5. add 1 stalk of broccoli (chopped in to small pieces) and simmer for 4 minutes
optional - for more flavour and spice, add more curry powder, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp turmeric and a little chilli powder.
6. serve on basmati rice

Thursday, 6 December 2012

glitter overkill

so this was supposed to be a nice relaxing activity on a cold wet windy winter day. it wasn't hellish but glitter and strong-willed strong-handed toddlers can get a weee bit hellish. they want to cover every corner in thick glitter... as well as the table, chairs, floor, carpet, walls, ceiling, themselves, mummy.... however we ended up with some sweet decorations for the tree. and all feeling VERY very excited about christmas... in our glittery house!
i am hopeless at following, let alone remembering, recipes. that is why most of my food is made up. however the Salt Dough Recipe is hard to forget - half, half, whole. half a cup of salt, half a cup of water and a whole cup of flour mixed together. Add more flour or water for the desired consistency. 
roll and shape. remember to poke a little hole in the top so you can attach thread or ribbon.
 now you can leave these to dry overnight or bake them at a very low temperature for three hours.. or simply zap them in the microwave for three minutes! 
then paint and glitter to your hearts content.
Ta da! ... the oh so christmassy rocket ship and a very glittery yet shy-looking moose posing as a reindeer... bring on christmas!

Monday, 3 December 2012

meal plan

winter is well and truly setting in and i feel an enormous apetite creeping in - is that the cold? the short dark days? our primal instincts telling us to add layers of fat for the cold season?  i need to turn up the heating and get back on the salads! so it's monday and i have a meal plan. how much time in our lives do we spend thinking about, planning and shopping for our meals? what a weirdly huge part of our lives this fills!
on our weekly shop this week a tired Miss M consumed one kinder surprise egg, an entire punnet of blueberries and a huge bag of Kettle Chips (i may have helped out a little with the chips!), but at least she was happy and stayed in the trolley! i often overspend in the supermarket but we have been rubbish with money for too long and are now trying to stick to a strict budget. two things are helping me massively with this:
1. the iphone app EEBA which is brilliant - it creates envelopes (e.g. Groceries, Clothes, Presents, Travel, Personal etc) and enables you to easily track everything you spend and how you're doing at keeping to your monthly allowance for each category. having it right there on my phone and entering everything penny as soon as i spend it is so helpful. 
2. i am loving the new supermarket self-scanning systems. it enables me to see exactly how much my shop adds up to as i go around and then easily reevaluate and put back expensive or unnecessary items to bring down the total.
so here's our meal plan for this week (these always end up changing as the week goes by and my cooking inspirations change, ebb and flow). I have ended up with two huge cauliflowers in the fridge this week - any good recipes welcome!

Monday: egg fried rice (using left-over rice. we just ate it and it was deeelicious thanks to lots of crushed chilli. we watched the film The Blind Side which is very sweet and lovely)

Tuesday: chicken fajitas (after family outing to buy a christmas tree - woohoo - kids are very excited!)

Wednesday: polenta with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella (kids rejected this last time but it's been a while so i'll try them on it again - may end up doing boiled eggs for them!)

Thursday: good ol fashioned meat (pork spare rib steaks - in the freezer from when our budget stretched to Riverford Organic boxes), potatoes and veg.

Friday: salmon, spinach, tomatoes & cream cheese on pasta (salmon and veg. for kids - they're not so keen on things mixed together in sauces!)

Saturday: bean casserole (house will smell nice in the morning!)

Sunday:  vegetable soup or leftovers or jacket potatoes with baked beans and salad

Lunches: soups (with homemade bread - my new fad), pizza, lentils, salad, quinoa, saturday macaroni cheese, sunday roast(?)

Check out other people's meal plans over at At Home with Miss M for inspiration. It's quite handy when you're running low on ideas.