Thursday, 22 November 2012

Puddings and Pies

More Christmas baking ...
I like to get ahead and freeze items ready for Christmas.
Mini Christmas Puddings -
Made using my usual recipe, but this time I made them smaller by filling the tins two thirds full only, as we mostly find eating a whole individual pudding too filling on Christmas Day.  It was a "why didn't I think of that before" moment!  This time the recipe made 10 mini puddings, which are all wrapped up and frozen.  Christmas Eve I will defrost them and reheat in the microwave the next day.
 Mince Pies -
I made my traditional orange pastry and using some more of my homemade mincemeat produced 55 mince pies.  I make them in a mini muffin tin, baked at 180'C for 10 minutes.  This pastry is very rich, so I have to be careful that the top doesn't "catch" when cooking.
These are also frozen ready for Christmas.  They can be defrosted and served at room temperature or slightly heated in a microwave - being careful not to get the filling too hot.
Next I will make an iced Christmas pudding and I have just found a new recipe for a white chocolate cheesecake that can also be popped into the freezer.  A favourite dessert of Fay's is an ice cream cake, so I will make one of those too.  After that I will make some savoury items to freeze and then the rest of the baking will be completed nearer to Christmas.
Sounds like I had better get back into that kitchen! :)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning to find that Jack Frost had been out and about during the night
painting the garden white.
 The birds are busy searching for food.  As well as the Robin, there are been Blackbirds, Great Tits and a Nuthatch in the garden.
This week the leaves have started to fall in earnest from the trees.  They have been particularly golden and long-lasting this autumn.
My Cyclamens are looking pretty on the patio, safe from Jack Frost!
 Indoors I am keeping warm with a pot of coffee
 and in the kitchen the mincemeat is in the oven.  I use Delia's recipe and prepared it last night so that the flavours can mingle before cooking.
 Whilst I was in the kitchen, Maurice and Jay were having a cuddle on the sofa.  My Husband said, "look at this".
 "I love you this much."  It was love at first sight for these two.  That is one chilled cat!
 I have been feeling very Christmassy this week with a shopping trip to Winchester.  I love Winchester at Christmas time.  The lights and decorated shop windows are so special; the only problem is that I forgot my camera!  Oh well, I will have to go back again! ;)
I treated myself to a new plate "Reindeer in Snowstorm" by Emma Bridgewater, ready for those mince pies.
 Some new tea-towels by Cath Kidston, for all that washing-up at Christmas time.
 And some beautiful, silvered-glass baubles from M&S.  All their decorations are on a 3 for 2 offer, so I might have to go back for the white ceramic baubles that I also liked!
 I managed to buy several Christmas presents on my trip and I picked up this dress for myself from White Stuff, a favourite shop of mine.  I am keeping this dress for when we go out for our pre-Christmas lunch with my Husband's family as it has no waistband!! :)
 Only 36 days to Christmas now!  I'm sort of half way between excitement and panic at the moment!  So much to do, so little time! 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Christmas Cake

It's that time of year again!  I usually bake our Christmas cake during the half term holiday, but with my Husband on holiday too, I was rather busy.  So this week I made the cake using my usual recipe - Delia's Classic Christmas Cake.  Breaking with tradition, this year I used Sherry instead of Brandy in the recipe.
 It is a 7.5" cake and I baked it at 130'C for 4 hours.
 Once cool I fed the cake.  One for the cake, one for me ... :)
 Each year I try to decorate my cake differently.  It is getting more and more difficult to think of something, but this year inspiration struck in the form of an advert in a cake magazine that I was flicking through in the supermarket.  This year our Christmas cake will have two tiers, so I baked a second cake.  This one is a 5" cake, made using half of the ingredients in the above mentioned recipe.  I baked it at 130'C for 2 hours.  Once cool I fed and wrapped it up.  Each week I will feed the cakes until I decorate them.
 While the cakes were cooling I kept a close eye on Maurice the cake-stealer!  But he and Ella were doing what cats do best -
snoozing in patches of sunlight!
Craft-wise I am trying to make items for some Christmas swaps, but I have been rather accident prone lately and I have hurt my left forearm so I can't crochet! :(  In the past few weeks I have been eaten alive whilst gardening and had an allergic reaction, some flat-packed furniture fell onto my right hand and I have a bruised fingernail and I have stood on some broken glass and cut my left foot (still hoping no glass is left in there!)!!  What I am most upset about is not being able to crochet!  Craft addict or what! :)  Hopefully it will improve soon - at least it is my left arm and I am right-handed.
Next up on my To-Do List is making Mincemeat and Christmas Puddings ... and still watching those cats!  ;)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Half Term Round-Up

The half term holidays whizzed by and I'm only just now getting the chance to blog about our visit to see Fay.  She is very happy living with her friends and is really enjoying her course.
She took us to see some of the sights that she has been looking at as part of her coursework.  This church had the most amazing carvings.
Father and Daughter in the court house.
Unfortunately this church was closed, so we will have to wait for another visit.
In addition to buildings, Fay has been concentrating on drawing trees.  This is her latest digital artwork:-
Her talent never ceases to amaze me.
Back home we have had our first frost.
These Roses seem to have survived the frost.  (Whilst gardening I found the label for this and it is called The Fairy, not Ballerina as I had thought.)
The star of the garden has to be this Sedum.  I have split the main plant up and spread it around the garden for some good autumn colour.  Also in the back garden I have planted some more bulbs.  I am worried that I may have lost my Snakeshead Fritillaries whilst digging so I have planted some more.
I have also potted up some Paperwhites for indoors.  Hopefully they will be in flower for Christmas.
Whilst the sun was out and the sky so blue,
I took a trip to the allotment to plant some fruit bushes - two Blackcurrant and two Gooseberry.
Maurice was having none of this outside lark and stayed on the sofa, cosy under his blankets.  That eye opened up, as I approached with the camera, as if to say "you are not moving me".  :)
During the holidays we went back to Ikea and bought the table to match our living-room furniture.  It looks so much better than the old pine table.
I also treated myself to a new book.  I have their other cook book and love the recipes, so I'm looking forward to using this one.
In the kitchen there were a few undecorated cake-pops leftover from Halloween, so I turned them into "toffee apples" as a bonfire night dessert.  These were inspired by the Fiona Cairns TV series that I have been watching.
I have also watched The Great British Bake-Off and it prompted me to have another go at bread-making.  I have always been a little hit and miss at this, but taking tips from Paul Hollywood on TGBBO I think I may have cracked it!  Lovely, soft and tasty Onion Bread (even if I say so myself)!
Last night it was served with Butternut Squash Soup and today the other half of the loaf will accompany some Cauliflower Cheese.  It must be winter if I am making soup again!  Well, there are only 44 days left until Christmas! ;) Best wishes, Pj x

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween fell in the middle of the half term holidays again this year.  We were so busy that I chose not to decorate the front of our house this year and it turned out to have been the right decision, as it was so wet and windy that the Trick or Treaters didn't venture out this year.
I still carved our two homegrown pumpkins for the patio.

In the kitchen I tested my new cake pop tin.  I am happy to say that it worked.
 I decorated the cake pops as pumpkins and ghosts
 for a "graveyard" cake!
The cake is chocolate and pumpkin.  I used this beetroot and chocolate cake recipe and simply replaced the beetroot with pumpkin and added some cinnamon and a little more cocoa powder.  Definitely an improvement.
I used my new cookie cutter too.
 They didn't all turn out so well - I need to practise this.
 I stamped out skulls with the scraps of gingerbread! :)
The skeletons are supposed to be fulled with royal icing,
 but I cheated and used fondant icing to cover up the badly stamped ones!
Two of these went missing - the cake thief struck again!!!!

This week I also knitted a beret to match the wrist warmers for Fay.
 I altered the batty design slightly to fit the beret.

And a treat for me - I took part in a Halloween swap and these are the treats that were generously sent to me.  Thank you sender.
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween.
Best wishes, Pj x