Lockdown Expansion

AKA baking frenzy! They were discussing one day on Loose Women (which I’m now watching daily as I’m furloughed!) the trend for women reverting to 1950s house wives during lockdown. Now, I’m certainly not doing that in all its glory – I haven’t touched the hoover any more than normal (never!) and as for ironing, well, I’m pretty sure we own one, but whether it works or not – who knows! However, I have felt an almost uncontrollable urge to bake!

This is not good for several reasons, most importantly, my waistline, but also because the rest of the world also seems to have decided to bake, so getting hold of self raising flour and caster sugar is not an easy feat! I managed to get caster sugar in our local shop but I still haven’t managed to get self raising flour.

This was my first cake of the lockdown which I made for our wedding anniversary on 16th April.

This is the king of cakes in my humble opinion. You can’t beat a simple Victoria sponge, filled with butter icing and strawberry jam and finished with a dusting of icing sugar and edible glitter. It didn’t last long!

The Victoria sponge used up all the self raising flour that I had in the house pre-lockdown so I had to be creative and make something flourless next, so I tried flapjacks. This was my first attempt at flapjacks and they tasted really good, but I think they had too much golden syrup in them so it was pretty much impossible to cut them into individual pieces. Better luck next time.

Next I realised I had plain flour in the cupboard so I searched for recipes using plain flour and stumbled upon a recipe for vintage chocolate chip cookies on the BBC Good Food website. I didn’t measure the salt and I think I probably put more in than I should have but they tasted amazing, so mental note – always put salt in cookie mix!

Ah, the classic Rice Krispie cake but made with Coco Pops instead. I still had no flour at this point, having used all the plain flour in the cookies. I did manageto get a click and collect slot from Asda, they didn’t have any flour of any kind! They did provide me with Coco Pops and marshmallows so these were the next to be made. I don’t know if these count as baking since the only cooking involves melting the butter and marshmallow. I’ve reminded myself that there are several of these left so that’s dessert sorted for later then!

I completely forgot to take a photo of this before I’d cut it! This was a lime drizzle cake made using my Aunt’s recipe and plain flour (with baking powder) that my brother-in-law managed to find for me. It should have been lemon drizzle, but I didn’t have lemons and did have a surplus of limes due to Asda giving me a pack of four in my click and collect instead of just the one I asked for. I think one of the good things to come out of the awful circumstances in which we find ourselves, is that I’m much more conscious of not wasting food. The shock of certain items not being readily available at the beginning of lockdown certainly had an impact on me, hence I didn’t want to waste the limes.

I spread the joy with this cake and dropped off slices to my best friend for her birthday and to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (only fair as they provided the flour). Fear not, social distancing was maintained at all times (in fact I didn’t actually see any of them) and I was legitimately out and about because I was dropping off food to my Dad (who also had a slice of cake).

Oooh, this one was gooooood (even if I do say so myself!) Basically a chocolate Victoria sponge filled and topped with chocolate butter icing. The raspberries needed eating so this saved wasting them, and the giant buttons, well, that’s just good sense!

Just looking at this one is making me want to make another, but I really mustn’t, for the sake of my circumference! Honestly I’ll be able to roll down the motorway when we can finally go back to work!

This doesn’t look very pretty, does it? Again this one was to use up food that was on its way out – in this case, very ripe bananas. It was another BBC Good Food recipe, this time for chocolate and banana cake. It was supposed to use self raising flour, which, as you know, I don’t have, so I substituted plain flour and baking powder, but it doesn’t seem to have worked and it collapsed in the middle! It tastes good though so I’m counting it as a success. It’s turned out as more of a pudding than a cake, if that makes sense.

The chocolate and banana cake called for two whole eggs and two egg whites, which meant I was left with two egg yolks, so, not wanting to waste them, I searched what I could do with egg yolks and lemon curd popped up. Coincidentally I love lemon curd and I ran out a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t replaced it, so I made some. It’s currently cooling in the fridge so I can’t tell you if it’s successful or not, but I really hope so because I used the last of our butter to make it which means we have no butter for our breakfast so we’ll have to have toast and lemon curd sans butter!

I was initially going to write a post about my lockdown achievements, after we were released from lockdown, but as it’s going on rather longer than I think any of us thought, I’m racking up the accomplishments so I decided to break them down into categories and go for it! So, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing my kitchen creations and I hope that having written about them will stop me making any more and save the groans on my bathroom scales!

It’s Chriiiiiistmas!

The run up to Christmas has been a bit different this year, partly because I’ve had a much longer break before the big man pops down the chimney than usual. I’m normally still at work on Christmas Eve. We always get let go at noonish but have to take a full day’s holiday to book the day off, so it’s a no-brainer to work it really. This year though, the office closed on Friday and I had holiday left so I broke up on Wednesday – a full week before Christmas Day.

We have a tradition at work of having Christmas breakfast sandwiches on Christmas Eve picked up from a bakery near work called Wedges. This year, as we weren’t in, three of us made our way over to Wedges anyway to keep the tradition going. I live seventeen miles from the office, so you can see how much the tradition means to me!

Mmmmm mmmmmm! Lashford sausages on crusty white bread with LOTS of ketchup! Delicious. Lashfords are a Birmingham company who’ve made award winning sausages since 1889.

As you can tell, Slimming World has been slightly abandoned over Christmas! As well as my sausage buttie today, I’ve had two Christmas parties, but, you know what? It’s been totally worth any pounds that I might have put on (I don’t know yet!)

The steel industry isn’t particularly robust at present so work weren’t able to pay for a Christmas do for us this year, so I arranged our own mini party at Miller and Carter last Thursday. One massive pro of arranging our own party was that we could invite three ex-colleagues, two of whom retired this year and the other who left more recently to pursue other challenges. It was soooooo good to see them and catch up on their news.

Miller and Carter turned out to be a good choice. We had one long table for the ten of us (which turned out to be nine due to a chicken pox related issue). This meant that the people at either end couldn’t have a chat, but the restaurant didn’t kick us out when we finished eating so we were able to switch seats and have a chinwag with people at the other end. We were also able to choose from the festive menu or the regular a la carte menu. I went for the festive menu so I could have turkey because we’re having a chicken for Christmas lunch. It was really good value too at £22.99 for two courses.

It was quite dark so my pic doesn’t do it justice, but suffice it to say, there was nothing left on my plate, not even a sprout!

I don’t often have a dessert out but, well, it is Christmas! This was really rich, but I managed to force it down! Chocolate and salted caramel gold bar with orange sorbet or, alternatively, plate of deliciousness! It was all washed down with a couple of glasses of Sauvignon and great conversation and laughs. I work with, and have worked with, some fabulous people. You spend more waking time at work than you do at home so you can count yourself as very lucky if your colleagues are also friends.

The very next day I went on my gym Christmas party. This was an organised do at the NEC and it was a Moroccan Fire night. They’d taken up a whole hall and turned it into a Moroccan wonderland. It reminded me of the entrance to Islands of Adventure in Orlando, but with a champagne bar and a cocktail bar!

When we were seated we were lucky to be right in front of the show area so we had a really good view of the entertainment. There were a couple of performances of aerial ribbons where acrobats perform in the air wrapped up in ribbons of fabric and also some trapeze work – the strength that the acrobats have is really impressive.

These were performed while we had our starters (tomato and basil soup for me) and mains.

Dark photo again! I went for chicken with the usual seasonal trimmings.

The final show, after we’d had our dessert (chocolate pudding with ice cream) was really good but also slightly uncomfortable to watch! I didn’t take any photos, but essentially there was a big arm high up with a wheel on each end with a guy all dressed up in harem pants inside and then the whole thing started spinning. So the guys had to keep running or jumping so they didn’t fall out. For the finale they moved to the outside of the wheels while the whole thing was still spinning and this is about where I stopped watching in case they fell!

There were also fairground rides which was quite exciting. I went on the bumper cars and the flying carpet but, given the fact that rather more alcohol was consumed this evening than the previous one I decided that the waltzers would possibly not be a good idea!

My wine had this little octopus from my cracker on all night!

Yesterday I caught up with my best friend at a local garden centre. Amazingly we both managed to get parking spaces relatively easily. We had a wander round and a chat over a coffee and a cake in her case and a diet Dr. Pepper and some crisps in mine, and swapped our Christmas presents. I managed to restrain myself from buying plants and just picked up a couple of nibbly things which I took round to my friend’s house yesterday evening for another Christmas catch up and pressie swap.

We had some nibbles (see the lack of Slimming World continuing!) and more good conversation. My friend Jane had baked these cute little penguin biscuits.

Almost too cute to eat! Almost! My contribution was some sausage rolls which I’ve also made for Christmas Day. Does anyone else have to leave instructions like this for their husband?

And some banana bread which I’ve also made for Christmas Day …

… along with some blue fairy cakes!

I didn’t do red or green because everything seems to be red or green at this time of year, so blue it was!

Anyway, nearly time to go and pick up poor hubby who’s had to work today, and, according to plane finder, Santa is on his way …

…so I’d better do my last minute preparations.

Merry Christmas lovely readers. I hope you all have a magically festive time and I’ll see you on the other side.

Christmas has started

Hopefully just about time for a quick blog post whilst my blueberry, coconut and sultana baked oats are baking. There are six oaty muffins baking and I have two at a time for breakfast so that’s enough for my whole working week. Yep, I break up for Christmas on Wednesday! Woohoo for three day weeks.

So why, you ask, is this post entitled Christmas has started if I haven’t broken up yet? Well it’s because I’ve been in Surrey this weekend for the annual Christmas pressie swap with my Granny and my Mum. I don’t get to see them very often because there’s nearly a hundred and fifty miles between us so when I do get down there it’s always special. I listen to Christmas songs on the radio all the way there and back and it always makes me smile if Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas comes on because, whichever direction I’m going in, it feels like I am driving home for Christmas.

Granny’s had a rough couple of years! I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that she’s eighty eight but almost exactly two years ago she had a heart bypass and recovered from it quicker and with more aplomb than someone half her age would’ve done, and this year she’s had various medical issues and a couple of stays in hospital, the latest being just a couple of weeks ago when she lost a pint of blood after knocking a scab off which happened to be on an artery (her bedroom and hallway currently look like a scene out of a horror film!) Anyway, she’s bounced back from it all but it makes it all the more important to spend time with her. My hubby calls her Super Gran. She really is amazing!

Despite all of this, she’d still taken the trouble to get all my favourite things in to feed me! You wouldn’t believe how excited I was to see these sitting on top of the fridge when I arrived!

I LOVE crumpets! Especially Warburtons and I hadn’t had them since May when I started Slimming World! Of course, I could’ve rung her before I went and said I’d bring baked oats instead, but somehow, it completely slipped my mind to do so!

Ooooooh! What a treat! Hot toasted crumpets with Flora Buttery and, you either love it or hate it, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Marmite!

I devoured my crumpets whilst Granny popped to the shop to get her paper (a kind gentleman paid for it for her – Granny has an admirer (in my head at least!)) and while we were waiting for my Mum to arrive. Much excitement – hadn’t seen her since last Christmas!

Mum brought with her Christmas presents, a knitting stitch holder because I’d forgotten mine and news of my Great Aunt who’s unfortunately suffering from fairly advanced dementia. Mum initially moved away from Birmingham to help my Great Aunt when she was in the early stages of the disease but she’s now ably cared for in a home.

A home which apparently also caters for donkeys! She doesn’t look overly impressed, does she!

We had a lovely day together just chatting and catching up. Granny’s still catching up on sleep after losing all that blood and didn’t feel up to Scrabble so Mum and I had a game. My Mum is the Gyles Brandreth of Scrabble (or Suzy Dent for the younger amongst you) but somehow I managed to be winning, right up, that is, until she went and got ninety something points for one word! Honestly, I ask you! How does she do it? Anyway, she ended on something like three hundred and twenty nine and I managed two hundred and ninetyish so I don’t feel too beaten up.

I headed back up the M40 after the tea of kings! Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie! It deserves to be capitalised because it’s soooooo good! She makes it the day before and reheats it when needed. It’s some concoction of lamb mince, celery, carrot, onion salt and vegetable stock topped with potato, but believe me, even with the correct ingredients it is impossible to make it as well without the Granny magic!

It tastes a-ma-zing! Sets you right up for the rest of the day.

Today I’ve had a relatively lazy day chilling out with hubby and the gorgeous twosome …

… but, and I think I deserve a round of applause for this, I did go out in the garden, in the bucketing down rain, to harvest the remainder of my produce.

Now, if we can all just imagine that I intended to grow baby potatoes and baby leeks, then it will have all been worth it!

These are Musselburgh leeks which, according to the internet, should be ‘whoopers’ and reliable and easy to grow. Hmmmm! I sowed them in about April and this is what I got! They look like spring onions. I assure you they’re not! Oh well, they’ll be fine chopped up in a stir fry.

The potatoes are Charlottes and I planted them in bags about the end of September time. They were advertised as ready for Christmas, which I suppose they are, but I was rather hoping they’d be big enough for our roasties. They’re not!

They sprouted masses of leaves to start off with. This is how they looked halfway through November …

… but I noticed last week that all the foliage had died down so I thought I’d best check if any potatoes had actually grown.

Anyway, my baked oats are cooked and cooling …

… so I’m off to get some beauty sleep ready for my last three working days of 2019. Nighty night.