Category Archives: I love to cook

Can’t Buy Me Happiness

Monday 13th February was a happy day for me and one that made me appreciate all I have with no money spent.

After a very cold weekend, Monday was glorious. I walk 2 miles to work and sometimes I am faster than the traffic. It was surprisingly quiet on the walk in.

Work is something we have to do to earn the money to live. I would actually prefer to be home doing all the things I love to do but needs must, and I don’t actually mind it really. A few more holidays might be good though. The walk home was pretty amazing though. It was such a contrast to Friday which was freezing. It made me look forward to the summer.

I have to point out that I’m not one of those people who hate winter. I get a bit grumpy if I have to take the car to work because it’s raining but let’s face it, that can happen in June too. A dark, winter’s evening when all of the family are in is okay in my books. The sunshine on Monday did make me happy though and it did make the afternoon a bit longer enabling me to go out on a run. Exercise does release those endorphins that make you feel so good. Walking back to the house, I felt as if I was in a warm country when dusk falls. There were lots of people walking dogs. Winter was forgotten for a while.

The evening was spent with one of my favourite activities, baking. I had bought some happy faces biscuit cutters and decided to try jammy dodgers. Biscuits isn’t something I specialise in but I was keen to give them a try. As mad as it sounds, I got quite excited when pressing the shapes out. I was even more excited when I had put the layers together with butter cream and jam.


I went to bed feeling very happy and to make it even better, the bed had freshly laundered bedding on. Bliss.

I will share some of my happy days in February in the next week with contrasts in the weather.

Bake along if that’s what you wanna do

I am at my happiest when I am in my kitchen. My iPod plays my dance tracks playlist so I can bake, sing and dance. It is Tina’s special world. Saturdays is a particularly good day for this.  In our house it is turkey burger night. My family are spoilt here because I make my own healthy burgers. I used to make them fresh every week but now, because there might only be two of us for dinner, I prepare in bulk and freeze away.

If I can spend the afternoon baking too than life is wonderful. I have lots of favourite recipes but I am always keen to try new bakes so I was very pleased with my Christmas present from Kathryn’s boyfriend, Aaron –  The Great British Bake Off – Perfect Cakes & Bakes to Make at Home plus, a new spatula (a must for getting all that cake mixture out of the bowl)
 

Wanting to use the book straight away, I picked a very simple recipe – Greek lemon-yoghurt loaf cake. I love lemon cake and especially Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle traybake which is another easy cake to prepare and so yummy.

This cake was very easy to make and what makes the book so great is the baking tips section. The recipe has parts marked with an asterisk which means that you can refer to the baking tips page for advice. The recipe itself even gives tips about what you do with remaining ground almonds which won’t go through the sieve. At the age of 50, I do know that I can just tip it in my bowl but when I first started baking, I would have been puzzled with what to do with it. There wasn’t even Google then so I couldn’t look there!

The cake was a great success the first time. When I baked it on Saturday for the second time, it was even better. I think it is my January cake of the month! The recipe is the first one in the book. I might just turn the page and try the fresh mango loaf cake next.

Thank you, Aaron for a wonderful Christmas present which is going to make me very happy this year.

A Winter’s Bake

Challenge No 41

I do love baking and it is great when I bake with Kathryn or Jordan. Kathryn has such a busy lifestyle that it so hard fitting the time in plus it can be even more exhausting than Zumba! An example of this was making a cake for her boyfriend’s birthday. Kathryn was very busy studying at Cardiff so there was a very limited time when she was home; plus she wanted to do something with salted caramel icing. We found a recipe and planned to make a chocolate Victoria sandwich. The cake itself wasn’t hard but as we hadn’t read the recipe fully for the icing, we didn’t realise we needed some standing time. Kathryn didn’t really have standing time, time! She had to wrap presents and get ready to go out. We had to hurry and luckily Jordan came home to help us with the scientific function of dissolving sugar. I can say that thanks to him, Kathryn had a perfect salted caramel butter icing. It was very tight but we finished the cake before I had to taxi her to her next social event!

Lovely icing – quick decorating job by me!

Fitting time in to do our Christmas baking session was tough but 7 p.m. on Friday 23rd December, we started the challenge. Armed with Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection and an icing sugar packet, we began with mince pies. Now Kathryn is traditional and does like to make cakes with a wooden spoon; me, I prefer any electrical method available. Good old Mary had instructions for us to make pastry using the food processor. Memories came flooding back of my first food processor over 30 years ago and the joy of the pastry rolling together all by itself. Kathryn was impressed with this too. Surprisingly making and rolling the pastry out didn’t take long. We had decided to put star tops on the pies. Our cutter was a bit too big so most of the time was spent with Kathryn modifying the stars to fit. We were overjoyed with the finish product though.

Kathryn is very proud of our mince pies!

Next we prepared the cake for the chocolate log. We had found a simple recipe on the icing sugar box and quickly used that using my electric hand mixer. Swiss rolls don’t take too long to bake so I quickly read the instructions on how to roll it up.We were so pleased when that went well.

We did think we might make the biscuit mixture (manual method with these) but not bake them until the next day. Surprisingly,we had a lot more time than we thought. We actually decided to roll half the mixture out, make pretty Christmas shapes and bake the other half after Christmas.

3 and a half hours later, we had mince pies, a yummy looking chocolate log and un-iced (need some practice with that) but lovely biscuits. We made a great team.

A good evening’s work

Another challenge ticked and one which we will be repeating.

Don’t Stop Believing (Thanks for making me a Fighter)

Oh dear – only two weeks to the Great South Run. The last three weeks have been a mixture of emotions – some doubts but also a lot of positive thinking.

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It arrived this week

I have been very focused with eating better and my running plan. Well that is a bit of a fib about the eating better – tried a new cake recipe this week to take into work for MacMillan’s coffee morning and have made it my cake of the month and made it again. It is raspberry and assam tealoaf. Maybe raspberries in the cake count as one of my five a day.

So good - cake of the month
So good – cake of the month

I have joined the week work hustle on my fitbit with a group of other ladies. All I wanted to make sure I did was my 10,000 steps. I think I am quite active but the winner actually did 140,000 steps in the first week which made my 73,000 steps look very tame. I did come 4th out of 10 people though. Pleased to say that last week I improved and did 80,000 steps and came 3rd. I would have to give up work to win that challenge!

I did my second parkrun after my trip to Brighton. I nearly put it off as my legs ached so much from the walking the day before. Once again I felt quite exhausted but when I finished and actually saw that I had done my best times for each mile, it was understandable. I actually did the run in 34 mins 36 seconds which was 2 minutes faster than the first run. It felt great to see an improvement.

It did make me realise that as I am a bit of a plodder, I would not be able to do 10 miles at that pace so I plan to do the run slowly. As in my “It’s Now or Never” post, I have made sure that I run three times a week and because it is so dark in the mornings, I have even changed some of the times of running during the week. I was very pleased because I did manage to do 7.5 miles on Saturday.  I had a good start to the run because the first track that came on from my running playlist was the song “When the Going Get’s Tough”!

I will not be running for any charities for this run but if anyone wants to donate, please visit my lovely daughter’s page (I say lovely but she got me into this!). She is running for St George’s Hospital for looking after her pal, Lewis. Kathryn enjoys running these races for fun but also likes to help her friends. She has been very encouraging to me and really believes that I can do this challenge. She has even posted a letter to me on her blog with her words of wisdom.

One of her tips to me is to perhaps run a few miles and then walk before running again so I am going to have a go at that this week. Also told me Ab training is a must so out comes Jillian Michaels this week!

I must remember that this girl can.

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Ain’t No Sunshine So We Baked

I have always loved watching the Great British Bake Off. It was a lot more fun to watch when Jordan and Kathryn were both at home to watch it too – we would guess who would be going out and who would become star baker. Although I love baking, I would never be able to put myself through the pressures that the bakers go through. The technical challenge always looked very daunting to me and as for doing a show stopper – what is that about?!

Whilst preparing food for my picnic at the beach with Kathryn, I came across the recipe for jaffa cakes. I hadn’t realised it was the first technical challenge of the new series as I hadn’t caught up with the show. Although I changed the size of the baking tins so my jaffa cakes looked different to the bakers’ finished product, I was fairly happy with my effort. Even managed to have a shiny chocolate finish. It also inspired me to have a go at another challenge.

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The following week’s challenge was Viennese Whirls and I thought that would be great. One advantage of not being on the show is you do actually get the full recipe. On initial reading, I thought these might be a bit extravagant to make as I needed to buy jam sugar. I put that aside as it was going to be fun to make – somebody had said to me why make jaffa cakes when you can buy perfectly good ones. Why – because it is fun and a bit of a challenge.

Jordan might be 23 but he was keen to help too. So good that my children still want to do these things with me. It might have been August when we did attempt them but it was a baking the day – it was a dreary wet afternoon.

First job was to make the jam. That was quite easy. Whilst I did that, Jordan prepared the baking trays, drawing 2 inch rounds onto greaseproof paper. It was at this point I realised that I had used the wrong biscuit cutter for my jelly for the jaffa cakes the week before. Nobody noticed so I didn’t make too much of a drama out of it.

Raspberry Jam
Raspberry Jam

Preparing the biscuit base was a funny affair. Jordan is still keen to impress so started “beating” the mixture. His version of beating is a bit different from mine – he did it very delicately. I had to take over to get the job done!

Next up was piping the mixture. Again a lot of laughs in the kitchen whilst doing that. We had to pipe swirled rounds not rosettes. Still don’t know what that actually meant but with Chris having a go at the piping too, the baked articles were still impressive.

Swirled round or rosette?
Swirled round or rosette?
Impressive though
Impressive though

Jordan had moaned about the fact we had to wash the piping bag to be used again for the butter icing but he still did a good job. We had to spoon jam onto one half of the biscuit then pipe the cream over then add the other side of the biscuit. It was a delicate job but we only had one casualty.

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We certainly had a lot of fun making the biscuits and next came the job of eating them. First day, they were nice – actual biscuit was lovely – but quite rich. A few days later, so delicious. Will make again.

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I haven’t attempted making the bread/batter challenges but the pastry challenge is one that I am going to try, probably enlisting the help of Jordan again. It is Bakewell Tart – a family favourite. I do have to purchase a new piping bag – second attempt of washing it last time, Jordan tore it! Will also get to use that jam sugar again.

Hot Stuff

My day in London had been exhausting. It was a good job I had changed my days of working this week so I had the luxury of having a lazy day on Monday.

The day was warm so I thought I would try another challenge.

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When the children were younger, I have made chocolate and banana cup cakes. I have tried to convince myself that they were healthy because of the bananas in them but with the addition of chocolate chips and syrup, I really don’t think that is the case. Four months ago, I rediscovered the recipe and made some in muffin tins instead of the small fairy cakes I used to make. Big mistake – I think we had demolished them in three hours – they are so delicious warm. This challenge gave me the excuse to made some more. They are so easy to make and whilst baking, I tackled the ginger beer.

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I used the recipe I found on my favourite cookshop, Lakeland. Chris had got me the ingredients on Sunday and I was a bit concerned about the colour of the unwaxed lemons – more of a green colour. I have put that down to the fact they were organic so haven’t been dyed. The ginger beer didn’t take long to put together and I left it for 20 minutes. At this point, I did a taste test on it – it was very hot and spicy. Added a little more sugar before straining it then added a bit more sparkling water.

Fermenting ginger beer
Fermenting ginger beer

Rather than a lunch time treat, I finally sat in the garden around 4pm to enjoy my bagel, muffin (okay cup cake) and ginger beer in my mason glass bought for me by Kathryn. It was all lovely.

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Enjoying in the sun
Enjoying in the sun

Another tick for me.

On the third month of the challenge

 I have

8 ticks ✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

for completed challenges and

6 ongoing/planning

I am 3 months through the challenge (that means I have only 9 months to go before I reach 51!) and I thought I would write a quick update on what I have achieved. My 50 things to do in my 50th year page has been updated – I have highlighted all that is done – in my favourite colour – purple and all that I have started or are ongoing are highlighted in orange.

Challenges Completed

Challenge No 1 –  Learn how to skip – harder than I remember!  I was allowed a tick when I managed 5 skips.  2 weeks after this I did 10 but by July I managed 19.  Skipping is very good for you so I will try to continue this.

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Challenge No 23 – Day trip with your daughter this summer – a lovely day out to the Isle of Wight.

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Challenge No 25 – Change your running route one day – a lovely run to the beach and beyond.  I love running to the beach now.  It does give a bit of purpose to the run.  I realised by doing this that my usual run of running “round the block” of the estate I live in is like my security blanket.  I knew that home wasn’t far away and that is why I stuck to it.  Since I completed, I have changed my run a few times to include some hills in too!

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Challenge No 27 – Buy yourself some flowers.  A very pretty challenge and one I have continued and even managed to bribe my son into buying me some by picking him up so he didn’t have to pay out for a taxi! Even got him to wash the car so not bad at all.
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Challenge No 37 – Buy a new lipstick – loved this challenge and even wearing it into work now.
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Challenge No 40 – On a perfect summer’s day, make a picnic and eat it down the beach with your daughter.  This was so enjoyable.  I loved making the food and even made jaffa cakes – which I hadn’t realised were the Great British Bake Off’s challenge.  That in turn has lead me to try some of the other challenges.  Will share later.

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Challenge No 46 – In Lanzarote, buy a “Lanzarote” frame and at home print and put picture of you, your son and your daughter in it – I can look at this and remember our lovely holiday.
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Challenge No 47 – Buy and use a nail varnish colour you wouldn’t normally – bright orange it was!

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Ongoing/Planning

Challenge No 5 – Read a book every month of a genre you don’t/don’t often read – I have read three different books so far.  Looking forward to choosing 9 different reads.

Challenge No 6 – Read your daughter’s 10 favourite books – in paperback.  Why don’t the young get down with it and get a kindle!! Nice to read my daughter’s favourite books though. One down, 9 more to read.

Challenge No 8 – Host a MacMillan Tea Party – always wanted to do this and it will be great to hold it for charity. Have signed up for the coffee morning – just got to arrange and bake.

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Challenge No 10 – Sign up and run the Great South Run.  Well, I am signed up but having a problem with the training especially when my alarm doesn’t go off!  It is in just under 7 weeks away so hopefully going to buy myself some new trainers and lose some weight.  I am not sure if I can run the 10 miles but the advert says you can walk if you want.  Hopefully I can do it.

Challenge No 29 – Start and complete a new sewing project – I am sew enjoying this!  I am hoping to have this finished long before my challenge comes to an end. I think that there are certain people who are doubtful I will – I will show them.

Stitching achieved in less than a month
Stitching achieved in less than a month

Challenge No 49 – Make blog – well this is something I am enjoying so much.  I am hoping that as time goes on, I will get better at my blog posts but I am having fun learning!

So at the end of 3 months, I think I am on target.  As the evenings get darker, I will hopefully start to do some of the language challenges and lots of the cooking challenges.

I am loving doing these challenges – not reading so much but finding so much to do that time just whizzes by. It is also helping me be a bit more organised.  I really don’t have time to work though!

It’s got to be perfect

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With the summer days getting shorter and Kathryn’s very long student’s holiday coming to the end, we were running out of time to get this challenge completed. We originally set aside last Sunday but weather forecasts did not look good. We rescheduled for this weekend and decided on the Friday. At least if the day hadn’t been good, we had three more days to choose as it was a long bank holiday weekend.

I kept an eye on the forecast and was very hopeful. The weather has certainly been beautiful all week on the south coast and the weather forecast was showing a big yellow blob for Friday. I now had to think about the food I was going to take. Kathryn is now a very health conscious eater so I wanted to incorporate some of this in too. I did have a desire to make some sausage rolls though which I know weren’t that healthy but would be an achievement for me to make. Updating my shopping order on Thursday evening meant I had to abandon that idea as there wasn’t any sausage meat but went for healthy mustard and honey sausages instead, one of our favourites. In the end, I went with quite a 70’s theme and put everything onto cocktail sticks. Friday morning was spent in the kitchen cooking sausages and balsamic chicken strips (Rosemary Conley recipe so healthy). I also put together my childhood favourite, cheese and pineapple. Does that count as being healthy because it has fruit and I used low fat cheese – I can hope!

Whilst putting in my shopping order, I found a recipe for Jaffa Cakes by Mary Berry from the latest Great British Bake Off episode (must catch up with that). I thought they looked quite fun to do so thought they would be perfect for our picnic. I have to say that the recipe lied – it said the only tricky part was getting the chocolate to look perfect – I had trouble getting the jelly to dissolve. As a child, my mum often made us jelly and she didn’t have this problem. Anyway 10 minutes later, I finally put it in the tin for it to set and made the base of the cakes. They were quick and easy to make and putting them together was quite fun and a bit messy but the result was good. I had made jaffa cakes!

Base of cake
Base of cake
With orange jelly on top
With orange jelly on top
The messy bit
The messy bit

I packed up the picnic and walked to the beach to meet Kathryn for our picnic. She added some beautiful ham and juicy sweet strawberries to the haul.

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It was the perfect weather and we found the perfect spot looking over to the Isle of Wight to enjoy the food.

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A very good challenge to tick off.

I Will Survive (If someone leaves the cake in the rain!)

Along with keeping fit, I do like to try to eat healthily too but I do love baking so it is hard to combine the two. I have decided that I will bake once a week as it makes me happy but try to be strict with myself. I will try to find some healthy bakes along the way too.

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I was overjoyed when I got home from work last Friday to find this package waiting for me.

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Kathryn’s boyfriend, Aaron has subscribed to this for me for my birthday and as I had already received three boxes, I had thought the subscription was finished.

I opened up the box and liked what I saw – a recipe and ingredients for white chocolate & cranberry squares. I checked the ingredients that I needed to add – butter, eggs and milk; all items that were coming in my food shop on Saturday so I knew I could make them on Sunday.

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Each card does contain the skill level, preparation time and baking time on. The skill level was two chef’s hat so I was confident this would be easy. I decided that I wouldn’t use my kitchen gadgets but use the good old fashioned kitchen bowl and a wooden spoon. I did actually have it prepared in the 10 minutes that it said and I soon had it baking in the oven. The mixture actually contained melted white chocolate and cranberries. The smell was incredible.

Mixing with a wooden spoon
Mixing with a wooden spoon

Whilst I didn’t use my kitchen gadgets, I did use this nifty container from my food processor to measure the small amount of milk I needed. My normal jug was just too big.

Very useful for small measurements
Very useful for small measurements

I took it out of the oven and whilst it was cooling I made the butter icing and bashed the pistachios with a rolling pin to go over the top (okay it said roughly chop but this worked well) . Once again I was adding melted white chocolate to the butter cream and I have to say I was a little concerned. I thought that all the white chocolate would make it too sweet. With this in mind, I cut the cake into 16 pieces.

Delicious!!
Delicious!!

I could not wait to try it so was very keen to have a cup of tea after my dinner so I could try a piece. I should not have worried about the sweetness at all. It was delicious. I am not ashamed to say I was not strict with myself and enjoyed every piece I ate.

I am enjoying baking with these kits as the ingredients are ready for you to bake with so I plan to keep up the subscription for another year.

I Bake the Cakes – Help Yourself

I love cooking and I have a few challenges to do with cooking.  Host a MacMillan Tea Party, bake a cake you have never tried before, buy some kind of baking machine, make and document something with it and many more.

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I never enjoyed cooking at school but once I had my own kitchen to cook in and a copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course (well used as you can see), I was on my way to making wonderful roasts, quick pasta dishes, Monday night curries with leftovers and beautiful cakes.  I discovered Mary Berry and when the children came along, I made traybakes to put in their lunch boxes.

My favourite cake for birthdays is still the good old Victoria sponge which my daughter also makes a mean one too.  Baking with the children was always a favourite thing and my son does experiment now and again.

Birthday Cake
Kathryn baking
Kathryn baking
Jordan's homemade battenburg, swiss roll and shortbread
Jordan’s homemade battenburg, swiss roll and shortbread

Nothing beats a homemade meal or cake and it is also very therapeutic.  It certainly can calm me down after a stressful day at work although sometimes I might just go for the good old fish and chips from the local chippie! I really think cooking lessons should be prescribed by Doctors!

I had friends who always insisted that Birthday and Christmas presents should never be a household item including cooking equipment.  I might object to a vacuum cleaner but I never minded to some new piece that I could bake with.  A few years ago I did say I did not want another thing for the kitchen.  However this turned up and I  happily accepted it!

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My daughter’s boyfriend, Aaron treated me to some wonderful birthday presents for my 50th birthday.  One of them was a subscription to the Bakedin Baking Club.  It has been wonderful.  I have now received three boxes which have a recipe inside with step by step instructions to cook.

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There is also bags of ingredients weighed out in numbered bags.

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All you need to do is add a few ingredients which are normally in my cupboard, a baking tin and bake.  Cherry Crumble Squares were today’s delight.  I quickly whizzed up the cake mixture in my processor, poured into the prepared tin, added the cherries and put in the oven for 10 minutes whilst I made the crumble.  The crumble was then added to the top of the cake mixture and returned to the oven for a further 30 minutes.

The cooking smells were delicious and I couldn’t wait to try.   When cut the cherries had sunk to the bottom and I did wonder if I should have washed and dried before I put on top of the sponge mixture but overall it didn’t take make any difference to the taste which had a lovely spicy taste from the cinnamon.  This had been included in bag 4 with the self raising flour.

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We served it with custard and cream as a dessert and it was a big hit. The instruction card comes with all the ingredients and weights that is included in the kit so I will definitely be baking this again.

My next box has arrived and I can’t wait to bake this.

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Happy baking.