Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cast Your Mince Pies On These Little Beauties

I'm STILL on a quest to make yet more Christmas crap to stuff down my cake hole so I sent Mr Right on a risky mission which involved a trudge through the snow and ice up and down our treacherous hill into town on a quest for a jar of mincemeat so I could make some mini mince pies. As the wonderful husband he is he dutifully obliged and I was able to fulfil my primal urge to bake.  Here are my little babies ready to go into the oven
and here are the wee ones after baking
as they're 'mini' mince pies that means I can eat double the amount, right?

Pudding Fun Into Marzipan

The Rights were inspired by Kirstie & Phil's Perfect Christmas on Channel 4 last week, so much so we blasted out some Christmas choons and decided to make the marzipan Christmas shapes that they tried their hand at.

Mr Right went for the penguins that they made on the show and I think he did a fantastic job, very cute, while Buster decided to wing it and create his own masterpieces with great results
I particularly love the snowman on skis
I, however, went old skool with some Christmas puddings made from dyed marzipan with some coloured icing for the brandy sauce and holly sprigs adding a light dusting of edible glitter for that snowy glitz
My little puddings
Well I think out attempts were better than the marzipan fruits I remember from my childhood and we had a great time as a family making them.

I've Done A Log

Still on my quest for crap to chomp during the cold snap I made a traditional Yule Log.  This was super-easy to make and only took 15 minutes to bake.  It has a Black Forest Gateaux twist as it's filled with cherry jam and cream.  I'm not sure my neighbour would be too impressed as I snipped the Holly sprig from the bush in her front garden (well only the branches that were overhanging my wall, so it's not technically stealing, is it?).

Mr Right returned from work and the first thing he said to me was, "ooh, you've done a log!"  I'm hoping he wasn't likening my cake to a poop, it certainly didn't taste like shit.

The Log Wot I Dun

It's A Rocky Road To Snacksville

This snowy weather has made me want to stuff my face and with the lack of ability to get out and about I have had to make crap to eat.  I started off with some Rocky Road.  This stuff is amazing!  You basically take anything sweet you have to hand (I used some digestive biscuits, mini marshmallows, Maltesers, sultanas and chopped up Mars Bars, Crunchies and glace cherries), cover them in melted chocolate, press the resulting mess into a lined baking tray, refrigerate and then chop into chunks.
I Heart Rocky!

The Gallery - Love

This week's Sticky Fingers Gallery subject is a toughy but I have decided not to over-think it and have gone literal with my fave photo of me and my old man in the snow walking in our local park - love you Mr Right!
Cold Hands, Warm Hearts
Check out the other lurved-up entries here:

It's Snow Wonder I Blogged Off

Hello!  I haven't blogged in almost a week!  I managed to get falling snow onto my blog and then life imitated art with horrendous snow fall in my area at the weekend.  This weather doesn't make me feel like doing anything apart from making food and eating it, hence the silence.  I'm so bored of the colour white now and all the reports of how rubbish the UK is at coping as soon as a snow flake touches down.  I finished all my Christmas shopping in November and I'm not travelling anywhere either so please news reporters and tweeters shut up moaning about parcel delivery and travel chaos.  

The lack of ability to keep our nation moving just compounds the feeling that our society is about to collapse at any moment especially with the economy the way it is at present and the fact that I currently associate all that with the snow and record-breaking sub-zero temperatures just depresses me no end - talk about the bleak mid-winter!
Saturday's total white-out
Mr Right and I spent about an hour on Sunday digging our cars out and clearing the pavement just to have to do it all again a couple of days later!  It's just the not knowing when it's all going to end and the fact that I feel a little house-bound, I haven't even been to the gym for the last two weeks!!!  Although I refuse to drive in the snow or ice, at least last year I managed to get out and about, Missy was small enough to ram in the sling and we could trudge wherever we needed to go but now Missy is only just walking and the buggy wheels won't go through the snow and she won't sit on a sledge.

The local kids don't even seem keen to go out and play in it, Buster has been out for a short snow-ball fight and a lack-lustre attempted to make a snowman in the garden but that's about it, he's preferring to play in his room next to the radiator or snuggle up under a blanket and watch Christmas movies, which isn't a bad idea, I think I may have to break out Elf early this year (usually a Christmas Eve tradition) to lift my spirits, that and some more food should cheer me up no end although with a lack of gym action you may have to roll me into 2011!
Buster's snow boy

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

There's Muffin Like Morning Glory

Mr Right and I had a discussion about my muffinadequacies this morning, he seemed to remember that in our dim and distant past I once made some breakfast muffins that he thought were really tasty so not to be beaten by muffins I had a go at some Morning Glory Breakfast Mufffins.

These are hearty beasts which are supposed to set you up for the whole day containing loads of oats, fruit, nuts and seeds they are great at fooling you into thinking you're not eating crap AND they actually worked for me!

I decided to go all coffee shop and lined my NEW (I was hoping my equipment was to blame for my previous failures) muffin pan with squares of baking parchment instead of traditional muffin cases and dolloped the thick mixture in, sprinkled on some more seeds for good measure and shoved them in the oven, not really having any expectations of success.
Muffins ready for the oven
Thirty minutes later I was greeted my the aroma of warm cinnamon and some well-risen golden brown baked goods that actually resembled muffins!  I was elated, here are my babies fresh from the oven.
My Morning Glory!
So, as far as breakfast muffins go, there's muffin to it!

The Gallery - Sparkle

I think this photo sums up Christmas sparkle for me, it's an action shot I took whilst Christmas shopping on a rainy evening on Oxford Street in London with my family, we had spent the afternoon skating on the rink at Somerset House and we were on our way to see the festive Selfridges window displays, it was freezing but days like that make me feel warm inside.
Bright Lights, Big City
Take a look at some of the other glitzy entries here...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ain't Muffin Doing

Muffins are the work of the devil.  I've never really been a fan, they're too big for a start and they're one of the few things that I can't cook.

As anyone that follows this blog will know I have been baking my way through the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook but I have been avoiding the Muffin section like the plague.  Today I decided to confront my fear and try muffins again.

Commercial muffins are light and fluffy, they're voluminous and have that lovely characteristic cracked top.  My muffins always end up like dry, leavened cupcakes and sadly today's attempt was no exception.
My muffins are always a car crash!
I really want to be able to bake muffins but I think the closest thing to a muffin top that I will achieve is the one my belly forms over my jeans so perhaps it's a good thing that I can't make them or that muffin top will soon become a spare tyre!

The Pies Have It

I love a pie, any pie (except a pork pie, they're just wrong).  Pies are one wonderful evolutionary step on from a casserole plus they have the all important pastry factor.  I love making pies.  Today I made a chicken and mushroom beauty.  I used Sunday's left over roast chicken, diced it up and slung it into a pan with some onions and mushrooms, added some salt and pepper and my special ingredient...a can of Heinz Cream of Chicken & Mushroom Soup.

I love the artistry of pie making.  Rolling out the pasty and using my knuckle to get it right into the corners of the pie tin without tearing it, slopping in the filling and the attempt to replicate my childhood memories of my mother trimming off the excess pastry with a knife.  Then re-rolling the left-over pastry to form the lid.  The crimping of the edge with a fork, the egg-wash and Buster's favourite part, using the remaining pastry for the decoration.  He loves to have a pie with his initials or star shapes or, like tonight's pie, chickens and mushrooms on the top.

There are so many pies that I love Chicken & Vegetable, Chicken & Mushroom, Beef & Onion, Steak & Ale...the list is endless and the great thing about a pie for dinner is the opportunity to have a pie for pudding too!

Sweet pies are pudding heaven, Apple Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Key Lime Pie, Mince Pies, Mississippi Mud Pie, Cherry Pie...

I have lots of asPIErations, these are pies that I have heard about but have yet to try.  Three that spring to mind are classic American diner pies, Banana Cream Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Blueberry Pie.  Thankfully there are recipes for these in 'Old Faithful' (The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook) and as I seem to be baking my way through that book it's only a matter of time before I get to them!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Mrs Yin To Win!

I've just watched the Sunday night Strictly Come Dancing results show and I just had to post about how pleased I am that Pamela Stephenson has made it to the final.

She attained a second and well-deserved perfect 40 score this weekend and did brilliantly in the Swing-A-Thon against other competitors half her age.

She's an inspiration and I hope she can go all the way and lift that glitterball trophy next weekend.

Mrs Yin to win!

On Your Marks, Get Set, Ho, Ho, Ho!

Buster and Mr Right took part in a 5K Santa Run in aid of the local hospice this morning.  Buster and I did the race two years ago but sadly none of us were in a fit state to do it last year as Missy had just joined our brood and we didn't have the energy so we were back this year with avengence.  
Buster before the race
The race takes place in the grounds of our local museum park and is a wonderful spectacle 300+ Santas and Elves (kids) and Santa's Little Helpers (dogs) running or walking 3 laps of the 3 mile track.
A sea of Santas
In 2008 Buster and I completed the course in 38 minutes (super respectable for a then 6 year old), he managed to carve 8 minutes off that time this year, finishing in around 30 minutes (beating lots of the adults!), he must take after Mr Right with his running abilities.
The Blues crossing the finish line
Anyway, I'm super proud of the Blues and I'm sure they'll be taking part again next year and you never know, maybe even Missy and I will have a bash.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Cakey, Cakey! - Hummingbird Bakery Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

Our wireless router decided to commit suicide this morning and my iPhone took it upon itself to go into a period of mourning by displaying the blue circle of death all day, needless to say I was unable to use the internet, it was as if I had lost the power of speech.  I needed a distraction and I found it in the form of the good old Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (one day I will actually have exhausted that book, then what will I do?!).

This time I tried my hand at the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie.  A brownie base with a baked cheesecake centre covered in an unctuous layer of raspberry cream.  The brownie and the cheesecake are baked at the same time which I was a little unconvinced about (I had to read the instructions two or three times to be sure!) but it worked a treat.

I found this recipe especially appealing, not only because it has that wonderful colour combination of pink and brown that I just love (my bedroom is decorated in the same colours), but also as it has that delicious juxtaposition of flavours, bitter dark chocolate and sharp fruit.

Anyway, here's the finished product...yum!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Gorgeous Gadgets - Slow Cooker

The other members of my family can usually bank on a hot meal to greet them when they walk through the door at the end of a hard day, but I never really have that to look forward to as I'm the one that's spent the day cooking said meal, that is until the winter weather takes hold and my slow cooker emerges from its summer hibernation in the dark recesses of the kitchen gadget cupboard.

My slow cooker (Slow Moe, as I have dubbed him) is like the chef I'll never have.  It's so wonderful to be welcomed home from a day out being part of civilisation by the smell of a stew or casserole that's been cooking all day.  I know I will have done the prep but he does all the hard graft, working his tenderising magic on all manner of scraggy cuts of meat that I wouldn't have a hope in hell of making edible.

It's like he's giving me a huge warm hug as I walk in the door, although his aftershave smells distinctly of gravy but hey if he's cooking for me I can forgive the odd beefy aroma.

My favourite foods for him to cook are sausage and honey mustard casserole with onion gravy, chicken stew with dumplings and steak and guinness casserole.  He's really good at keeping things warm too, chilli, soup and left-over casserole (always much better the day after).  I even use him to steam my Christmas pudding as he can be left on all night without the worry that the house will explode.

Moe has a metal pot so I can start everything off in that on the hob and then transfer the whole thing to the hotplate to complete the cooking with minimum washing up, sadly he's getting a little past it (he's over ten years old - 50 in slow cooker years) and I'm worried that he won't do me another winter and I haven't seen a suitable replacement, they all seem to have ceramic pots these days, no good for one dish wonders.  For now I will have to appreciate every meal he cooks me and not take him for granted as I know how it feels to be Moe.
Moe, doing his thang with tonight's dinner,
chicken stew and dumplings

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Gallery - White

My, very literal, photo for The Sticky Fingers Gallery depicting the theme 'White'.

Frost-covered Weeping Willow fronds with a dappled sunrise shining through them.  I had to capture this on my post school run walk with my daughter yesterday, never known a frost like it.

Cold Snap
Take a look at some of the other beautiful entries here...

Embroidery, The New Rock 'N' Roll

As my phobia of sewing machines prohibits me from attempting machine embroidery I decided to have another bash at the manual version.  I had an old pair of cream gloves that weren't doing much so I got the idea to embroider 'love' and 'hate' across the knuckles in a tattoo-style font using an inky navy thread.  Here's the result, what do you think?
Those Bayeux chicks were onto something, I think I might try my hand at a matching scarf with a swallow or a bobble hat with 'Made In England' across the front!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


We were just in from our walk in the Winter Wonderland when a catalogue dropped though my letterbox that made me feel like Alice in Wonderland.  It's from a company called Anthropologie and it's a work of art.  I don't know which items are for sale or which items are the props, but I love it!

There are weird and wonderful decoupage cut-outs depicting animal heads on human bodies akin to characters in the Lewis Carroll classic, there are models posed with giant chairs and scissors, piglets in scarves, sheep in boots and there's even a llama wearing necklaces!

I know there are coffee table books but if there were coffee table catalogues then this would certainly be mine!

Cold Snaps

This morning after the school run I took Missy for a brisk walk round our local park, it's a stone's throw from our house but today it was as if we had entered another world.  It only required a wardrobe full of fur coats for us to step through and we could have been in Narnia itself, words don't really do it justice so here's a few snaps of the hardest frost I can remember

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cupcapers - Hummingbird Bakery Hazelnut & Chocolate Cupcakes

Once again it's Monday and I find myself bereft of cake, my well-thumbed Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook came to the rescue as usual and I made the Hazelnut and Chocolate Cupcakes.  These are chocolate sponge cakes with a gooey centre achieved by hollowing them out (I used an apple corer which seemed to do the trick perfectly) and stuffing the crater with a dollop of Nutella, then smearing on a generous amount of chocolate butter cream icing.  Here's the result...
Sadly this pic makes the icing look as if it's pate :(
These cakes are great because nobody else in my family actually likes Nutella so I'm thinking I will get to eat them all myself.

UPDATE:  Turns out Buster likes these cakes despite the Nutella factor, I'm still clinging to the hope that Mr Right isn't a fan.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Buster ate his cake and halfway through his wobbly tooth came out, this is no reflection on the cakes but he is pleased as he's been worried about it coming out for a while now and not only can he eat more cake without worry of further tooth loss he will have the added financial benefit of a visit from the tooth fairy tonight!

Am I Blogging A Dead Horse?

I've currently been blogging for 6 months now and I'm officially loving it but I can't help thinking that sometimes I'm talking to myself.  I read an interview with Domestic Slut Miss Cay in Company Magazine last month and I'm using her top blogging tip as my mantra at the moment.  She said that It's really easy to give up cos you think no one's reading - but they area.  So I'm going to keep that comment in mind and use it as my inspiration to keep plugging away.

You don't get rid of me that easily!

How Do I Flocking Well Clean Them?!

I have two black flocked chandeliers, I bought them last year and they've been looking gorgeous in my hallway and on my landing ever since but I looked at them closely the other day and they're really dusty and I don't have the foggiest idea of how to clean them. 

I'm assuming I will have to take them down and brush every nook and cranny (there are lots) with a dry toothbrush but I hope that's not too harsh and doesn't rub the flocking away, what to do???

It's a flocking nightmare!
My flocking hell

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Stephenson's A Rocket

I don't really do reality TV, I hated Big Brother, can't stand X-Factor and I'm A Celebrity is usually filled with people that have less celebrity status than me!  I do, however, have a passion for Strictly Come Dancing and this year I'm firmly backing Pamela Stephenson.  I think she's amazing, so much vitality and joie de vivre.  She blatantly having a ball and doesn't care what anyone thinks and she's a great dance to boot.

She's an inspiration to sturdy girls like me, she's 61 and she can do this...!
She's funny (a comedienne), clever (has a PhD and is a published author) and beautiful (I hope I look as good as she does at 61...who am I trying to kid, I don't look that good now!).

I heard her on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour a few weeks back and she's just having the best time on the show, flirting with a partner that's almost half her age, stepping back into the spotlight again and doing something for herself having spent years counselling traumatised women in Tonga, Samoa and India.

I was elated to see that she was awarded a perfect 40 score in this week's show and that she will dance on into the semi-final next week with every chance of being in the final.  I, for one, hope she makes it!

Ho-Ho-Holy Shit, It's Christmas!

So this year I have decided that I quite like Christmas.  I'm usually bah humbug at this time of year, so much to do and so little time or inclination.  It's lovely to be the one with the ability to make it magical for the rest of the family but with that comes so much expectation and responsibility.

There are elements of Christmas that I do like if I have enough time during the build up to stop and smell the Roses (or Quality Street!), the following is a list of my likes...

Going to choose the tree
Sticking a huge pile of white envelopes in the post box
T Cards falling through the letterbox instead of the usual junk mail and bills
The cheeses, cold cuts and pickles that we seem to live on during Christmas week
Seeing my kids' faces on Christmas morning
Advent calendars
An extra excuse get dressed up in sparkles and go out with friends
Christmas songs
T Panto
Christmas pudding
Mince pies
Putting the mince pie, glass of milk and carrot out for Santa and Rudolf
Having no lamps on in the house and feeling cosy with just Christmas lights twinkling
Driving round at night looking at the lights
Going to see the Christmas lights and shop window displays in London
Ice-skating at Somerset House
Taking the kids to see Father Christmas
T Hanging stockings with the kids before bed on Christmas Eve
T Christmas films, Elf, Fred Claus and Home Alone are my particular favourites
T Salvation Army bands
T School Christmas performances
T The local Round Table Santa Sleigh that comes round with Christmas music blaring
T The post-lunch walk round the local park and wishing everyone you meet a Merry Christmas
T Crackers
T Tracking Santa with NORAD on Christmas Eve

With all these 'likes' is it actually possible that I don't hate Christmas after all?  Bah humbugger it, I'm gonna like it...just for this year.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Should I Grow Old Grey-cefully?

Hello, my name is Christy and I'm going grey.  There I said it.  I can't be in denial about it any longer.  I have had my hair coloured once in 12 months and for the first time in a long time I'm almost at my natural shade and I'm not sure if I like it.  I'm a bottle blonde and have been for a number of years but I always toy with the idea of going darker for a change or grey for a rest.  Question is which should it be?  

I only have a few grey hairs but there's enough that it's getting noticeable, especially at the sides when my hair is up and to add insult to injury they are coming through all thick and wiry like the fur of an Irish Wolf Hound. 
I may have to call on the services
of a dog groomer at this rate!
Is there an age that you shouldn't dye your hair any longer and if so, what age is that?  How much longer have I got left that I can get away with it?  I think I have a wee while yet, my Oma had treatment for cancer and sadly all her hair fell out but when it grew back I remember being totally shocked that it was grey, she had always had brown hair until that point and I had thought nothing of it.  

Perhaps it's the maintenance of the illusion that counts, in that case I've blown it and I need to get to a hairdresser asap but that still begs the question blonde or brunette?  Decisions, decisions.  Thankfully the current climate requires the wearing of a hat at all times so for the time being the grey is concealed and the decision doesn't need to be made quite yet.

I Sew Needle Be Hooked On Crochet Darn It!

Two years ago I tried knitting again (I say again because I have a terrible memory and have to be retaught things like knitting over and over for them to stick - thank god for YouTube!).  Buster requested a scarf so I decided to knit one.  It was just a plain knit stitch scarf in an oatmeal coloured wool with some tassels on each end, it was very 'home knit' but he seemed happy enough with the end result, I even made a mini matching one for his teddy.

Then Mr Right decided he wanted one too, so I thought I would try and add in a purl stitch to create a basket-style effect.  I chose, what is lovingly referred to in our house, a bell-end purple wool and clicked away with my Cath Kidston needle set (an ambitious Christmas request that year!).  It took me about 6 months on and off and two balls of wool but I eventually got it finished and Mr Right claims it's his favourite scarf (well he has to really!).

The thing that these scarves have in common, apart from being made with love, is that I didn't follow a pattern (as is evident when you see them!).  Knitting patterns baffle me.  I'm quite a logical thinking person but give me a knitting pattern, needles and a ball of wool and I wouldn't have a Scooby what to do, which is a real shame as I'd love to knit loads of wooly wonders.  I think it's just one of those crafts I won't ever get my head round.

I have toyed with the idea of crochet for a while now too, I even have a hook and everything, but every time I look into it my head starts spinning.  I can just about cope with a slipknot to start off and then I'm confused.

I think my needlework abilities are firmly in the hand stab-stitch realm.  I have a phobia of sewing machines too.  I have a wonderful machine that I inherited from my Oma but sewing machines and me just don't gel.  I always end up with a mass of threads that look like Amy Winehouse's pubes puckering up my material.  Threading, tensions and bobbins are my problem areas, i.e. everything.

I was watching Kirstie's Homemade Home this week and would really like to have a bash at the machine embroidery she tried but I don't want that to end up another needlecraft to add to my list of darning disasters.

I think I'll have another go at hand embroidery, my first attempt this week was fun, the end-result didn't look as amateurish as I had feared and it was well within my needlework comfort zone.

Chic Or Shit? - Heart Clock

I've been meaning to blog about THIS little beauty abomination for a while now.  My seldom seen father-in-law bestowed this 'gift' upon us as a house warming present about ten years ago, it's, understandably, never seen the light of day.  I'm just wondering whether in that time it has actually come full circle and gone from shit to chic.  I love a bit of kitsch but I think that this has missed the mark somewhat and is, as I suspect is the case, still shit and always will be.

'Time' for the trash?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Blog Logo-A-Go-Go!

I now have my own ChrisTea And Cakes blog logo!  I've spent the last two evenings blanket stitching felt shapes and I've even tried my hand at proper embroidery for the first time to make the 'C' on the teacup and I'm super chuffed with the result, so here it is...
My blogo!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...