Saturday, 29 October 2011
Monday, 24 October 2011
I've definitely been in need of sugar to get me through the last few days and so todays Tuesday post, traditionally a baking one, has three bakes to share.
When I asked Mr W what he wanted me to bake next he said "those stripey chocolate things". We had seen a recipe for Nanaimo bars in the Boy that bakes cookbook which he liked the look of. In fact, I had a slightly plainer (no double cream!) recipe from a Woman's Weekly magazine which I had been meaning to bake for a while, so I was happy to oblige. The Nanaimo bar originated in the town of Nanaimo in Canada. It has a cocoa and coconut flavoured biscuit base, a layer of custard flavoured buttercream and then a layer of chocolate icing. By coincidence, it was a Canadian colleague's birthday at the weekend and she brought some of these in for us to try - she used a slightly different recipe from here. It was similar to mine, except that the custard buttercream and chocolate layers were thicker. Frustratingly this all got eaten before the camera came out.
Chocolate orange cookies
I had a craving for something chocolately and orangey so consulted my recipe books. I chose a recipe for cookies from my Baking magic book which I haven't had out for a while. The cookie is flavoured with cocoa and orange zest, the chocolate chunks are Terry's chocolate orange. I made them with gluten free flour.
Lemon curd cakes
My friend Geraldine mentioned making lemon curd cakes the other day and I asked for the recipe as I had half a jar of lemon curd lurking in the fridge that wasn't nice enough for spreading but was perfectly good for baking. Geraldine's husband has coeliac disease so she is used to doing gluten free baking and so I was able to enjoy these too. Yummy!
I took the second two bakes into work this Sunday and they were much appreciated.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
So without further ado, here are the instructions from Claire:
1. Email Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org on or before November 6th (two weeks today) with your name, address (all personal information will be destroyed after completion of gift exchange), a list of Persephone titles you have read and/or own/wish for and specify whether or not you are willing to ship your gift internationally.
2. In the following week, names will be randomly drawn and participants will be notified as to who they are playing Santa to (do please look out for this email from Verity - it may possibly go to your junk mail).
3. Using the list of Persephone titles provided by your recipient, go back through your assigned blogger’s posts looking for favored authors or subject matter and choose a title you know the blogger will enjoy.
4. At this point, it is up to you as Santa how creative you wish to be in the workshop. You can order the book, have it gift wrapped and sent straight on to the recipient…or you can have the book sent to you first and go a step further by including a small gift that is homemade, bookish in nature or related to how you celebrate Christmas, then wrap it all up and send it on its way. Either way make sure you include a card revealing your identity. (Please indicate in your email if you will be including an additional gift.)
5. With the increase of packages being sent during the holidays, please aim to have your package delivered before or during the first week of December. Take into account the extra time needed if shipping internationally or if you are going on holiday/to see family over the holidays.
6. On December 16th, have a festive get together by revealing your Secret Santa is in a blog post and sharing what he (or she) brought you.
7. Spread the word … the more the merrier! Please feel free to use the image above and post about the event on your own blogs.
If after signing up, something comes up to where you cannot participate, let me know as soon as possible so that I can make other arrangements. Please consider all costs involved before participating (for the book, for any shipping, the additional gift, etc.). This is meant to be fun, not stressful, and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel overwhelmed by the commitment. Do please note that Persephone Books have recently raised their prices.
If you have any questions, you can leave a comment or email Claire.
Thank you Claire for writing the instructions and I hope lots of people will participate this year!
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy - another reread, but I think one of my favourite of her books. Lovely story.
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
This is a mini post today, as I’ve been very busy. I have things that I want to write about on the blog – whole books even – but my days are hectic and brain consuming at the moment and I feel a bit more like sitting quietly doing some cross stitch (I must share soon the little Christmassy designs and the very unChristmassy design that I’ve been working on since the mumps) or possibly reading a little. Last night I went out for a run even though I was very tired and when I came back I was so tired that Mr W had to make me dinner or I would have just eaten cheesy wotsits and M and S gluten free chocolate cake for dinner.
But I do have a bake to share from one of my new cookery books and it is a surprisingly super easy bake that I am likely to make again very soon. The cookbook is The boy who bakes by the winner of last year’s Great British Bake Off Ed Kimber, and the bake is PB and J bars aka shortbread base with a layer of peanut butter with a layer of raspberry jam and topped off with shortbread crumble. I made it with gluten free flour and it was literally melt in the mouth – the saltiness of the PB married up beautifully with the jammy sweetness and I just love crumble toppings. Beautiful (obviously the taste rather than this rubbish picture which was taken at night and doesn’t even get a sense of the layers in it!)
I often find the more baking books I have, the fewer things there are I want to bake from them. It can get a little repetitive. The nice thing is about this book is that it has a good assortment of slightly off centre bakes, and what is particularly good is that there aren’t too many cupcake recipes and those that are included are nice and innovative – chai tea and milk chocolate or tiramisu. It’s nice that this is a book written by a man; I have a number of male friends who bake, and plenty more who should be encouraged to, and I think that having a book of cake recipes by a man is more likely to inspire them than some of the more obviously girly books on the market.
I’m going to have a play around with that recipe, as I think it would be a nice way to use up some of my mincemeat. Not with the peanut butter – I’m not convinced that that would be a winning combination, but the idea of a shortbread base, filling and crumbly topping.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
As I've said before, Emily was a great reader and a great baker, and traditionally I try to bake something in her memory. I have many memories of her drinking earl grey tea in our favourite coffee shop in Exeter, and us sharing muffins. I have made a couple of earl grey bakes in the last couple of years, so as soon as I spotted the Earl Grey Cupcakes in Fiona Cairn's The birthday cake book, I knew that this was a recipe that I would save for this weekend.
Too bad I couldn't find my piping bag - still the appearance of the icing gave me the excuse I needed for a good cry.
Also this week I found this book of muffins which Emily gave me along with a giant muffin tin after her stay in hospital. I've not made that many things from it, but decided to make the salmon and sour cream scones to go with soup.
It's nice to do something else as well if I can. Last year I went to a John Rutter singing day. This year I was feeling uninspired until I had a text from Emily's Mum on Friday who was on holiday in the Trossachs. She'd had a pedicure and now had "Outrageous Pink Toes" in honour of Emily. I remembered how Mr W and I painted our toes pink for our first Great Swim raising money for Mind and decided to book a mini pedicure at the spa that I visited before our wedding.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
This week in reading.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Here's what I got!
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
I picked up The vintage tea party book by Angel Adoree when I spotted it in the library, partly because I can't resist a baking book, but also because I knew that a couple of friends had raved about it.
What a lovely book it is! Divided into three main sections to cover brunch tea parties, afternoon tea parties, and evening tea parties with appropriate recipes (e.g. tea related cocktails for the evening), there were a wealth of recipes that I wanted to make immediately. But it is more than a recipe book - there is advice on hunting for vintage china, instructions on how to make decorations and vintage style aprons to wear whilst serving, illustrated descriptions of vintage hair styles such as the victory roll and make-up suggestions. The book is beautifully presented, and somehow both modern and retro.
I've already made two things from it:
Here are the spinach and parmesan muffins which I served for lunch with soup:
I also made the chocolate and coconut granola. I've made granola several times before and Mr W really likes it for breakfast, far more than muesli, but I've never made a chocolate version before.
I am planning to make two more recipes from the book in the next week or so, so I'll show those in due course.
Monday, 10 October 2011
Simon at Stuck in a Book recommended Red Pottage on his blog a couple of weeks ago.
Jane at Fleur Fisher recommended Woman in the wall on her blog last week. It's good to have recommendations for the VMCs that I haven't yet read as it helps me through my challenge.
Campfire, a commenter on my blog, recommended the Madeleine books and found a cheap copy of the first one, The little Madeleine on ebay for me.
Finally, a dance biography, The everyday dancer by Deborah Bull. We are approaching ballet going season - in fact, Mr W and I went to see Strictly Gershwin yesterday, and we have tickets for Nutcracker (traditional), Nutcracker (Matthew Bourne), and Sleeping Beauty over the next 6 months - so this will make a nice accompaniment.
There are also an embarassing number of cookbooks that I've purchased in the last few weeks (I blame the mumps and having too much time to peruse Amazon).
I've already blogged about the Great British Bakeoff book, and I'll be blogging about the other ones as I bake things from them (I still have 3 of them to even open!). With the possible exception of the Beas at Bloomsbury book which I found really disappointing - I wasn't enticed to make anything when I read it!
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Having had a large bag of apples from a colleague in exchange for a bag of our pears, I decided to make mincemeat again - it's always good to get ahead for Christmas, even though I still have a jar left from last year! I used Nigella's no suet recipe, and as I could only buy a 500ml bottle of cider (and the recipe calls for 250ml), I decided to make a double quantity. It only just fitted into my Mum's pressure cooker (I don't use the pressure bit - I wouldn't know how - but it is the most cauldron like receptacle that I have). I've somehow ended up with 13 jars of the stuff! As I ran out of jam jars, I had to use an old Nutella jar and an old coffee jar which obviously don't seal properly - I'm keeping them in the fridge for now. But this is where my readers come in - please share with me your favourite things to do with mincemeat apart from mince pies as I'm going to have to try to use it up in the next couple of weeks. I'm thinking about an apple and mincemeat sponge pudding or maybe crumble, but does anyone have any other ideas?
Saturday, 8 October 2011
This week in reading
Last weekend I enjoyed reading The Easter Party by Vita Sackville-West, one of her novels that hadn't made it into the Virago Modern Classics series and which I had been inspired to seek out after my visit to Knole at the August Bank Holiday weekend.
I also reread my favourite Famous Five Book - Five go on a hike together - which bore rereading. I love that book!
I reread Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy as part of my rereading her oevre - I think this is one of her best ones.
I read a memoir of a man who moved to Tenerife to run a bar (having been unable to find a book about Tenerife to read ahead of my trip there in February), called More ketchup than salsa, which was really quite tedious and told me next to nothing about Tenerife.
I read A sense of an ending by Julian Barnes which Claire had lent me when I was poorly with mumps. I find Julian Barnes work very variable - I loved Metroland, lent to me by Mr W's predecessor, and Talking it over, and also Nothing to be frightened of, but most of the rest of his work has left me cold. I liked the story in this but found it quite pretentious.
I also read The vintage tea party book by Angel Adoree which I will post about separately in the coming week.
This week in training
Since getting my running shoes, I have been back on the Couch to 5k programme and been out 3 times. I am now up to running for 16 minutes during the half hour session.
I have cycled 57 miles (2 x 6 mile round trip to the pool, 5 x 9 mile round trip to work) and am astonished to find that my legs are 50% less flabby than they were a week ago. Seriously! I'm still trying to learn to love my bike, it's helped that the weather has been ok, but I find it hard going cycling back with my panniers.
I have swum about 21km, and even made it to a Tri Club swim session (hadn't been for over 2 months). I'm being given access to special training sessions to do on my own ahead of my swim camp in Tenerife, so have got to do the first one tomorrow!
This week in cooking
I've made my Christmas mincemeat (post to follow), and a couple of recipes from the Vintage Tea Party book (also post to follow!), but otherwise I have been defrosting things from the freezer to feed Mr W and I in the evenings.
This week in the house
We are now fully double glazed following new windows in the bathroom, hall and kitchen. Annoyingly they are far nicer than the already double glazed windows in the rest of the house which we see more often. We opted not to have frosted glass in the kitchen like the window it replaced, and it has made the kitchen so much lighter.
As I type Mr W is putting a light fitting into the bathroom light, so no more light bulb dangling from the ceiling, and if he has any time left this afternoon he's going to get on with painting the walls in the hall.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
It's an apple, pecan, gingerbread cake, and I spotted the recipe here.
I have a strong belief in the healing properties of cake. Today has been far better, I managed coffee and tea breaks, had lunch with a friend (and bought her flowers to cheer her up), I've eaten healthily and got in my 5 a day (although I know I really should have had 10), and I fleetingly met Yvann from Reading Fuelled By Tea. It's also the final of the Great British Bake Off tonight - I have sent Mr W out to his cycling training session so that I can concentrate on it properly. It is a busy week though, so please bear with me on the posting front!
Sunday, 2 October 2011
But I am determined that October will be better! I bought some running shoes yesterday and today I made it out for a 30 min run/walk. I then cycled down to the swimming pool (3 miles) and swam 3km before cycling back again. (Isn't it funny that I cycle and run in miles and swim in km?). I hope my legs will be ok tomorrow - the swim stretched them out - and although I was worried that my foot would start hurting again, it didn't seem to. I hope to go out running again on Wednesday evening.
Tomorrow will be a chore free evening! I am going round to make Christmas cards with my wedding lunch photographer. If I'm honest, the hot weather has made me lose some interest in Christmas - I'm cross stitching a mini beach hut at the moment.
Otherwise in October I'm looking forward to a trip to the theatre, a trip to London and a singalonga Faure Requiem!
With regard to reading, I have no especial plans. I would love to get back on track with the Virago Modern Classics books but it is a bit of a struggle to be honest. I am hoping to write a post once a week mentioning all of the books that I have read each week - I think it would be nice to share what I am reading a bit more, even though I lack time and brain function to write "reviews" this time.