Domesticated ‘goddess’ / weight-lifter in training

Saturday. A day for lie-ins and laundry, brunch and baking, reading and relaxing, cleaning and more cleaning. On this particular Saturday I have even rearranged furniture. Yes – my living room has a new look.

(I decided my TV does not need, nor deserve, to be ‘pride of place’ since I don’t have a TV license and actually rarely even watch DVDs on it anymore. So it’s been relegated to another corner and I now have a nice reading “nook” next to my fireplace)

I have been very grown-up and domesticated today. I took things to the launderette (not my things, of course, but tablecloths from Matt and Laura’s wedding) and called up Window Cleaners to get quotes, and did lots of little grown-up type chores such as reviewing my finances and cleaning the fireplace.

Seriously. I’m like totally grown up, don’t you know.

The best thing about this Saturday is that it means last week is over, and I can look forward to starting again on Monday. I don’t know what was so particularly nasty but the days dragged, everything felt like a challenge, and it was just exhausting. I had a headache every day and I feel like I haven’t slept well the whole week. Unsurprisingly, last night I slept like a baby.

That might be, however, because yesterday I had a session with a personal trainer at the Gym (who happens to be an ex-Marine, ex-weightlifter, with a degree in sports science or physical science or something like that from what’s meant to be the best University for that kind of thing. Go figure.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. It seems I am now in training. Actual, set routine, “overload” / “pyramid” training with weights and everything.

I wanted to meet with the yogalates (yoga/pilates – of course) instructor, to find out if there was anything she could suggest to sort out my shoulders, since I have a condition called Winged Scapula (don’t Google it, it’s gross) but she was off sick, so Tony (I don’t know if that’s his name. He looks like a Tony) went through things with me. He’s never heard of Winged Scapula but could see right off that my upper back muscles, underneath my shoulder blades, are severely underdeveloped. In particular my left side. I’ve always said that I am incredibly right-handed, and my whole right side is stronger than the left, but no-one’s believed me until now!

Long story short, “Tony” has set me up with a weight lifting routine designed to build up and tone the muscles underneath my shoulder blades so that they can’t wing out as much. I have to do: bent over fly lifts with dumbbells, dumbbell rowing, and upright rowing, and lateral pull downs. (You can Google those, they’re not scary or gross)

I am really quite excited about this new regime. I feel like I have a goal and I will be able to see the results of my hard work. I have to do the routine 2 times a week, at least, which works out great because currently I’m there 5 times a week anyway. (Mon/Wed/Thurs evenings and Tue/Fri mornings, generally)

I know, it’s a little intense. But I’m making the most of my money, right?!

So I figured that if do my weights on Monday and Wednesday evenings I have the evenings off to recover – my arms felt like jelly afterwards but Tony promised that is normal.. On Thursdays I go to yogalates from 6.15 – 7pm, and on Tuesdays and Fridays I can do Cardio.

Perfect. Not bad for £30 per month.

Right then. I have to end it there, since my peasant bread should be done rising soon. Yes, you read right. I am in a little bit of a bread-making phase. Last week I tried a spelt loaf which turned out so heavy you could have throw it at someone and killed them dead.=”2013-08-10T15:34:50+00:00″>peasant bread which is supposed to be lovely. And you don’t have to knead it. Score. I’ll let you know how it turns out – if I like it!!

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Day 21: a recipe you love

Firstly can I just point out that today –  IT IS SPRING!!!! (Emotionally as well as calendar-wise)

Hip Hip Hooray!

Anyway. Back on topic…a recipe that I love. Well, this is a toughie because I like to cook and bake, but I think a recipe that fits this topic is the recipe I learned when I was very young. It was probably the first thing that I learned to make with my mum, and then with minimal supervision.

It’s just a basic cake! Often called a “Victoria Sponge” but who wants to be technical about it.

The recipe is just way too simple:

6 oz self raising flour, sifted with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking powder
6 oz butter or margarine
6 oz caster sugar
3 eggs

I think one of the reasons I love this is that I remember baking with my mum, all the time when I was growing up.

But also because it’s very flexible…add some lemon or orange juice/zest and you have lemon or orange cake. If you take out 1 oz of flour and add 1 oz of cocoa powder it’s chocolate. The mix makes 2 round cakes to sandwich together, or between 12 and 18 buns/fairy cakes/cupcakes – depending on their size.

Bake at 180 C for 20-30 minutes depending on the oven.

Simples

-x-

Genuis.

 

Day 19: favourite dessert

Hello again world

Today we are back to the impossible narrowing down of favourite things.

I am most certainly a dessert person – or as we call them in the UK, puddings. I really like fruity puddings, the fresher the better so things like my mum’s homemade peach and raspberry crumble is just great.

Ina Garten does something similar, except in her cookbook she calls it a peach and raspberry crisp.

When my mum makes hers she adds ground rice to the crumble, which gives it extra crunch. It’s really good with custard or ice cream.

Another favourite is key lime pie…which is totally bad for you and should only be eaten on special occasions. There’s almost nothing healthy in it. Seriously. Just look at the recipe!

375g/12oz plain or sweetmeal digestive biscuits, crushed
150g/5oz unsalted butter
grated zest and juice of 4 large limes
570ml/1 pint double cream
1 x 397g/14oz can sweetened condensed milk
crystalised lime zest, to decorate

To make the base, you crush the biscuits and add the melted butter. Press it firmly into a shallow dish. Put in the fridge to cool/set

Then to make the filling by whisking together the condensed milk, lime juice and zest and the cream. Pour this over chilled biscuit base and set in the fridge for several hours.

Try it 🙂

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Yummy Chicken Pie

I really like chicken pie. I don’t know whether it’s the pastry or the chicken or the extra bits like ham and vegetables, or the sauce…but either way, I really like it. This Wednesday I made a pie, and it was so yummy. Here’s how I did it…

Ingredients

Brown some chopped onion in hot oil. Chop the chicken into bitesize pieces, and add to the onions to cook. Chop the leeks into discs, and add these to the chicken to cook.

Add the ham or other cooked meat to the pan just to warm through. (I got 300g of offcuts from the counter at the supermarket, for just over £1. Such a good deal)

While the chicken, ham and leeks are cooking together, make a white sauce:

Melt a generous amount of butter in a pan, then add a few spoonfuls of flour. Mix them together to make a kind of paste. Then add milk and whisk them together. Keep this on the heat until the sauce thickens, and add salt & pepper to taste.

Divide the chicken/ham/leek mix into your chosen dishes. I made two dinky ones and one ‘family sized’ one. I put a couple of handfuls of frozen peas in the bottom of the dishes – they didn’t need to go in the pan because they would cook in the oven, and double-cooked peas are nasty (in my opinion!).

Top with pastry – I cheated and used shop-bought, which tasted almost as nice as home-made but made significantly less washing up!

Bake in the oven for approx 30 minutes at 180C, and serve. I served with mix-mash (sweet potato and regular white potatoes, mashed up)

Ta da!

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Chocolate Courgette Cake

Today I thought I’d try something different. Rosie (still) has chocolate left over from Christmas, and we had a courgette in the fridge. I’ve heard of people making cakes/breads combining the two, so thought “why not try it?”

It turns out, it’s quite a popular recipe and it’s also very simple. Just bung it all in, essentially!

Ingredients

Recipe

225g self raising flour (with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of sofa combined)

150g caster sugar

125ml vegetable oil (ick)

2 eggs

Grated courgette: I used 1 medium, but you could use two small.

Chocolate: about two handfuls. I only had 1 handful, since I just roughly chopped the leftovers from Rosie’s Christmas stash. You could use choc chips. My chocolate was plain, which I don’t usually like but it works well with the courgette

Method

Sift the flour, add the sugar. Grate your courgette(s) and chop your chocolate

Ready...set

Add the wet ingredients, and mix together to make a batter. (I didn’t photograph this because it was GROSS)

Then, add the courgette and chocolate. If there’s a lot of water in your courgette you might want to rest it in a sieve and gently push the water through. But mine was fine! Do you like how I managed to cover the disgusting looking batter with the yummy stuff?!

All that green has to make this healthy...right?

And then, mix well enough that all the courgette and chocolate is mixed into the batter. It seems to loosen it up a bit, which is good because it was quite stodgy.

Pour into a lined loaf tin (you could use a round sandwich tin, if you don’t have a loaf) and bake at 180C for 30 minutes (until golden brown)

It looks a bit weird...but I think that's ok

30 minutes later…hey presto!

Yummy!

I let mine cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then transferred it to a wire rack. I’m excited to eat it!! I’m thinking it will be good warm, with vanilla ice cream. Will let you know!

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Christmas Cake

Yes, I know it’s February, but if you read the previous post you’ll see that I’m clearing my backlog of images. Bear with me!

Back in October I had a big of a Christmas moment in the supermarket and decided I wanted to bake a Christmas cake. We just happened to be at the baking aisle, staring at the various Christmas baking necessities…but that’s beside the point.

I didn’t fancy all the faff of soaking the fruit (let alone the expense) so we bought a pack of 2oog ready-soaked fruit for about £2. A fraction of the cost of buying all the dried fruit individually, and also saving the cost of buying a bottle of alcohol which we’d never use up. Ours was pre-soaked in rum and I nearly got drunk on the fumes alone when I opened the packet!!

I spent a little while searching for the ‘right’ recipe, because I realised after buying the fruit, marzipan, and icing, that I don’t actually like Christmas cake that much…usually because the alcohol is overwhelming/it’s dry/heavy. So I specifically wanted to find a recipe that would make a light and moist cake.  (By the way, how hideous is the word moist)

I found the recipe here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/christmascake_2359     and apart from exchanging all the dried fruit/brandy for our ready-bought fruit, and using ready-made icing instead of playing about with egg whites, I followed the instructions exactly. That in itself is unheard of for me, I’m much more of a “chuck it all together and who cares if you left the sugar out, it might still be ok” type person.

Anyway…on the afternoon of 24th October (two months before Christmas…eve) I spent the whole afternoon in my kitchen, baking up a storm. Some friends and I were hosting a Clothes Swap on the 25th, so I was baking for that too, and the Christmas Cake was the last thing I made as I didn’t want to put anything else in the oven with the cake.

Here’s the yummy looking batter:

I used my best mixing bowl especially for the photo.

I lined the tin (something I never normally do, but I was going by the book, remember) and I got a little worried the mix wouldn’t all fit in, but it did…

3 hours at 150 Celsius and it looked like this………

Ignore that little burnt-looking bit. It’s not burnt, it’s extra flavourful ;p

My friend came round whilst the cake was cooking and said that it was like Christmas already. She was also pretty shocked at all the other baked goodies I’d made that afternoon. Bear in mind all this took only 3 hours prep time:

That would be several dozen jam tarts, several dozen oat biscuits,  several dozen cupcakes and also 2 rounds of chocolate orange shortbread with orange icing!

When my cake had cooled I wrapped it in cling film and foil, then chucked it in a Celebrations Tub (airtight) until December 20th, when I marzipanned it. I didn’t take photos of this because I don’t like marzipan and didn’t want to put it on, but my mum made me. Seems I’m still not old enough to ignore direct instructions! The marzipan needed 1 day to set, before I put the white icing on, so I did it ahead of time since I wanted to serve the cake at Small Group on Dec 22nd. Cue mad, frantic times trying to get it iced before everyone arrived!

But, I did get it iced and if I do say so myself, it looked pretty good. (And it tasted good too!!!!)

The little decorations were from the supermarket, £1 for  12, and the ribbon was from my Ribbon Box.

And there you have it, Christmas Cake in February

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