WWW. Chicken, Hazelnuts and Wine, Apple and Blackberry Crumble.

Two posts in one day? Why yes!

Baked Chicken in a Wine and Hazelnut Sauce.

Pictured also: swede chips and the bread in the recipe below.

Pictured also: swede chips and the bread in the recipe below.

Ingredients:

-2 chicken quarters

-2 small onions

-100g/3.5oz shelled fresh hazelnuts

-250ml/1 cup wine

-2tbsp vinegar

-2tsp dijon or english mustard

-6 leaves sage

-1tsp salt

-2tbsp olive oil

-50g/1.7oz butter or chicken skins

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-deep baking tray

-glass and spoon

Recipe:

1: Finely dice the onion.

2: Place the onion and chicken in a baking tray. Place in the oven at 200C/390F.

3: Mix the wine, vinegar and mustard. Chop the sage and add to the mix.

4: Add the hazelnuts and butter/chopped chicken skins to the chicken tray. Pour the wine mix over everything.

5: Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil.

6: Bake at 160C/320F for 40min.

Spiced Bread.

Ingredients:

-300g/10.5 flour

-raising agents

-1tbsp paprika

-1tsp salt

-1tsp pepper

-1tbsp green chilli sauce

-water as needed

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour and other ingredients.

2: Slowly add the water.

3: Pour into the tray.

4: Bake at 160C/320F for 25-35min.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble.

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Ingredients:

-100g/3.5oz plain flour

-30g/1oz oats (optional, amount for one serving)

-100g/3.5oz butter

-1 braeburn apple

-150g/5.3oz fresh blackberries-2tsp brown or palm sugar

-2tsp honey

-1tsp cinnamon

-100ml/40% cup tropical juice

-water as needed

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-terrines

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour and butter until crumbs are formed.

2: Slice the apples. Layer them with the raspberries in the terrine.

3: Mix the honey, juice and cinnamon. Pour over the fruit. Add water to cover.

4: Sprinkle the crumbs over the fruit. Add oats if wanted.

5: Bake at 160C/320F for 40min.

Stew of the Week and Cat Update.

First, a quick cat update. Meet Wallace/Wally:

Distracting him was the only way to photograph him, as the phone filled him with rage.

Distracting him was the only way to photograph him, as the phone filled him with rage.

He is now settled in the house. Still a little sneezy, but very comfortable in the kitchen. A bit cautious in the living-room and pantry/scullery, but that’s for the best, seeing as he isn’t allowed outdoors yet (scullery exits onto patio) and he’s only allowed in the living-room under supervision.

He’s also one of the tamest and most obedient cats I’ve met in my life. He understands the concept of “no” pretty well, in that it seems to mean “cease, desist and when in doubt hide under a table”. He has very good command of his hideously large teeth and claws and can play with our hands and feet and legs without injuring us. He’s only just getting the idea of toys and seemed confused when I told him off for playing with a computer wire. He will also look to us for permission before climbing on anything or scratching anything. The one thing we can’t get him to do is wait for food. Once he knows a certain smell is “cat food”, he will devour it the second it’s before him. Not enough patience to get him to wait.

Anyhow, now for this week’s stew: White Chicken Casserole.

Ingredients:

-5 chicken quarters

-6 small-medium potatoes

-2 stalks of celery

-1 small courgette

-1 cup of beans and peas

-400g cream cheese

-150ml double cream

-2tsp paprika

-2tsp pepper

-2tsp salt

Utensils:

-large cooking pot and wooden spoon

-chopping board and knife

-fork

Recipe:

1: Put some water with paprika in the bottom of the pot.

2: Bring it to a boil.

3: Skin the chicken quarters and add them to the water. Slice the potatoes and add them also.

4: Cover with water.

5: Once softened, remove the chicken and deflesh the bones.

6: Add the chicken meat, cream, cheese, chopped courgette and celery.

7: Salt and pepper the stew. Leave to boil.

Jon’s Birthday.

How it went, along with recipes and stuff, because I’m nice. :p

 

Around 6.30 I got up as usual, fed the chickens and the cat, cleaned the litter tray, washed last-night’s remaining dishes and tidied the hall.

By 7.30 I had made Jon a tea and returned to bed with it. We spent all morning watching random videos and cuddling.

At 9.30 we got up, I made a point of wearing some nicer, form-fitting clothes as opposed to my usual Sunday gardening attire. I then made him some Celt-fuel for breakfast.

Celt-fuel recipe:

Ingredients:

-1/4 chicken

-2 large eggs

-200g mixed vegetables (courgettes, carrots, cabbage; pre-cooked)

-butter

-salt

Utensils:

-frying pan

-poultry scissors

Recipe:

1: Cut up the meat from the chicken quarter and pan-fry it in butter.

2: Add the eggs and vegetables. Add salt and stir-fry.

After breakfast he played Diablo III for a while and had one of his favourite energy drinks.

We went to Sainsbury’s and got a load of sugar so as to jam our 12k of damson plums.

After that Jon did his weights whilst I started on the jam. Once the weights were done and Jon had washed, we went upstairs and I gave him a hot lather and shave.

Next it was some more games and a bit of a kung-fu film.

We then went for dinner at a local pub. Jon had a burger and I had a mixed grill. We had my cheesecake for pudding at Jon’s mother’s house.

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Cheesecake recipe:

Ingredients for the cheese:

-600g cream cheese

-100ml double cream

-5tbsp sugar

Ingredients for the base

-200g spelt flour

-100g white flour

-25g plain butter

-25g soft brown/palm sugar

-80g chocolate

Toppings:

-25-30 raspberries

-raspberry juice

Utensils:

-large mixing bowl and fork

-small mixing bowl and spoon

-1 baking tray (preferably loose-base)

Recipe:

1: Mix the cream and sugar in the large bowl until smooth.

2: Whisk until smooth.

3: Mix the two flours in the small bowl with the butter and brown/palm sugar.

4: Grease the tray. Push the flour mix into the base until the base is covered and it fills out to the edges.

5: Preheat the oven to 160C.

6: Keeping the chocolate wrapped in the foil, smash it with a rolling pin or heavy knife until the pieces are all 1cm or under.

7: Sprinkle the chocolate over the base so it’s fairly evenly spread.

8: Put the base in the oven until the biscuit is cooked and the chocolate is fluid.

9: Spread the chocolate evenly over the base. Place the base in the fridge.

10: Once cold, spoon the cheese onto the base and smooth the top.

11: Make any designs you would like on the surface of the cake.

12: Use the raspberries and juice to complete your design.

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After this Jon had to sort some work, so we missed out on movie night, but we’ll do that tonight!

Besides that, once Jon was home we had some wine and cuddled and talked before lights out.

WWW. Spicy Pizza. Also, we have a cat.

First of all, warm-blooded-rat-trap update 1: He’s home. Meet Wally/Wallace. He’s not good with adults, children, other cats or dogs. I accidentally scared him because the pheromone spray that’s supposed to be used in the corners of the room to soothe him actually sounds like a cat hissing. It’s taken a day to show him I am not hostile. However, now he’s settled he’s eating, fairly affectionate, not disturbed by my stinking of chickens and coffee and starting to get playful. We ended up with this fiend of a creature because the non stray/feral cats ran away from Jon, while Wallace wanted attention off him. He was also apparently supposed to take weeks to settle, yet 48h in he’s happy to go about his business in front of us and can’t get enough of being patted.

 

However, I did manage to find the time to make a pizza for dinner. There are far too many tarts and with Jon’s birthday coming up, there will soon be crumble and cheesecake, so I opted against making another pudding.

Ingredients for the dough:

-450g self-raising flour

-1tbsp olive oil

-1tbsp paprika

-1tsp ginger

-cold water as needed

Ingredients for the filling:

-300g tomatoes (crushed or paste equivalent)

-100g strong cheddar

-30-50 marjoram leaves

-40g chorizo

-50g ham

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased flat baking tray

-rolling pin

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, paprika, ginger and olive oil.

2: Add water, continually mixing until the dough is dry to touch but elastic and soft.

3: Roll it out with a rolling pin into the shape you want it, then throw or spin it a little to stretch it fully.

4: Place on the tray and allow to rest.

5: Roll up the crust. You can add a crust filling if you like.

6: Spread the tomato over the centre. Add the marjoram leaves.

7: Grate or slice the cheese and cover the centre.

8: Add the toppings.

9: Bake at 160C for 1h.

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Return and Recipes! [Stew of the week and jam tarts.]

So, with all that has been going on, I’ve hardly had time to think of blogging! The baking, wok and reading continued, but no time to write about it all and I daresay it would be more dull than usual if it were just a basic, typo-riddled recipe every two days.

On the plus side, we’re getting a cat to deal with our variety of garden rodents (mice and rabbits and rats, oh dear!), so I’ll update you on him weekly, starting Thursday after he’s had a day to settle. I’ve also had time to finish a few books, made £250-ish a week instead of the usual £50-100, been doing some painting, had another meatfeast, tidied the garden, etc.

On the minus side, two of the hens fell ill and had to be put to sleep, I apparently can’t drive any vehicles on-road at all (for now) as my attention-span is too short and my attention to details is too broad, so I’m an accident liability and the therapist stressed and confused me so much she made my depression worse, so I’m back to my usual coping mechanisms and almost recovered.

The pluses of the minus side? I can now save my bike-money for babies, am away from that therapist and the other two hens are doing well and getting tubby for Winter.

Everything is looking up again from here and I’ve adjusted enough to my new schedule to reintegrate weight training and blogging.

 

We have also concluded that making one big stew a week out of cheaper ingredients is helpful to the budget, so I’m aiming to make at least one a week. Here’s this week’s:

Stew of the Week: Smoky Hellmince, Carrot and Bacon Surprise.

Accidentally burned the base of this, but once transferred to another pot it actually has a kind of nice smoky flavour.

Ingredients:

-1kg carrots

-400g swede

-300g rice

-600g frozen beef and pork mince

-300g bacon

-300g mixed frozen vegetables

-4tbsp paprika

-2tbsp pepper

-water to cover

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-large pot

Recipe:

1: Wash and chop the carrots and swede.

2: Add all the ingredients to the pot in this order: water, vegetables, meat, rice, seasonings.

3: Boil until cooked-through.

The next recipe is for jam tarts from scratch. We collected so many elderberries and were given a load of plums, so it was definitely worthwhile to make some jam!

Ingredients:

(Makes 24 small tarts and one large flat stripy one.)

-600g fruit

-500g sugar

-500g plain flour

-500g butter

-cold water as needed

Utensils:

-one pot, stirring spoon, jar and funnel for every fruit variety you want to jam separately

-chopping board and knife

-mixing bowl and rolling pin

-24 tarts worth of cookie trays and one large baking tray

Recipe:

1: Boil the kettle and fill the jar with boiling water. Close tightly and put to one side.

2: Wash your fruit. Slice any larger fruit into 2″ segments, leave berries whole.

3: Place the fruit in its pot. You shouldn’t need extra water yet.

4: Heat them through, stirring all the time. They should start bubbling away nicely. DON’T LEAVE THEM FROM THIS POINT. I’ll say when it’s safe to turn your back again! :)

5: When the fruit has basically dissolved into lumps of fruit and fruit paste, gradually add the sugar. Keep stirring. The fruit should release more fluid. Now is the time to boil it down until it’s thick.

6: Take it off the heat. It no longer requires 100% of your attention!

7: Check your jar. It should still be so hot you can’t touch it without a glove or teatowel. Pour the water away.

8: Once the fruit is thick but pourable, place the funnel into the jar and spoon it all in. Tighten the lid ASAP and place in the fridge to ensure it seals and is sterile. Check the pop-tab on the lid of the jar once cool. Once it is locked in like they are at the store, your jar is sealed.

9: Mix the flour and butter until crumbs form. Add water until your dough is soft but not sticky.

10: Grease your trays.

11: Use half the dough to line the 24 cookie spots and roll out half to fill the baking tray.

12: Spoon your jam/s into the tart bases. Maybe do something creative with the huge one!

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13: Bake at 170 for 20min for the small tarts and 25 for the huge one.

14: Leave to cool before removing from trays.

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WWW. Meatballs and Ratatouille.

Sadly the pudding didn’t turn out quite as I wanted it to, so it won’t be featured. :(

Meatballs and ratatouille.

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This recipe should yield even if the ingredients aren’t very high quality. We used reduced-price courgettes and peppers, boxed tomatoes, carrots past their prime and cheap frozen mince and it was still delicious.

Ingredients:

-500g mince

-2 eggs

-400g chopped tomatoes

-2 small carrots

-1 small courgette

-1 small onion

-1/2 yellow pepper

-1/2 green pepper

-1 clove garlic

-1tsp hot chilli powder

-2tsp salt

-some oil

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-frying pan

-small pot

Recipe:

1: Finely dice the pepper and garlic, roughly chop the onion, carrots and courgette. Boil until tender.

2: Mix the meat, eggs, chilli powder and 1tsp of the salt. Roll into 6-24 meatballs, depending on how large you want them.

3: Heat the oil in the pan. Add the meatballs in small groups, ensure they are sealed on all sides before adding the next group.

4: Once all the meatballs are sealed, add the veg and the tomatoes, followed by the remaining salt.

5: Simmer until everything is well-done.

Degrees: Advantages, Disadvantages and Possible Outcomes.

A combination of reading Captain Cappy, looking into DELE and DELF certificates and pondering the OU has left me thinking about degrees, their worth and their dumbing down. Therefore, I have composed an explanation as to which degrees, in my humble opinion and based on observation, have merit and which do not. This list is far from exhaustive and based on a combination of personal opinion (bias most likely included) and averages, not your individual case or someone else’s opinion.

Now, firstly I would like to say that this list excludes any degree from an elite university. Be it Oxbridge, Ivy League or simply very well known and respected for your particular subject, it is unlikely that your choice of career would be massively restricted by such a degree and almost impossible that a degree from one of these universities wouldn’t get you anywhere. You are studying at one of the few remaining places where higher education is still worthwhile and, as such, are not forced to join the dogpile of dumbing down that most courses in most universities are subject to. That out of the way, let us explore degrees.

There are two types of degrees in terms of motivation: vanity degrees and work degrees. If you plan on getting a degree exclusively because you enjoy the subject, that’s vanity. If you plan on getting a degree and have realistically considered employment prospects, that’s work. If you’re getting a degree to use for maybe a year before you become a housekeeper and parent and live off your husband (or wife), then that’s vanity. If you’re getting a degree to insure you in case something goes wrong with your relationship plan, that’s work. If you’re getting a degree just because you can and your friends are getting one, that’s vanity. If you’re getting a degree because you plan on putting hard work in and see the value of a degree in your life, then that’s work.

In short, if at any point you have considered employment prospects, economics, enjoyability and time investment required, you probably need this degree for work.

However many people who need a degree for work often fall for vanity degrees anyway. And, whilst this is a far more dangerous problem in the USA than the UK, British youth are still making a mistake when we pursue a vanity degree over a work one. Our first degree may be covered by a “no job, no repayments” loan, but this only happens once. We’re basically taking our one and only free pass to a Bachelor’s, where we don’t have to even pay the loan back if we don’t get good work, and wasting it on something useless. And then, if we end up working as wait-staff in a coffee shop, we wonder what we did wrong, why our friends have good work and are saving for children, homes, a round-the-world trip or more, whilst we’re not even making enough to pay our loan back. Where it isn’t as bad as what US students could face, it’s still a raw deal.

So how do we avoid vanity degrees? Let’s have a look at some common degree courses and categories and see what we can learn about their real world applications.

STEM: Yay! Well done you clever maths-y person! Apart from a few very niche or theoretical courses, chances are you’ve picked well. And even these have employment prospects, even if only 1/100 get them, so you’re far, far from getting a vanity degree. Put the hard work in, get a 1st or a 2.1 and reap the rewards.

Languages: Depends on the language and your level of fluency. Let’s assume you knuckle down, take that year abroad seriously, get a foreign pen-pal and learn one language. You now have the option of getting a teaching qualification and teaching it, of becoming a private tutor, of specializing in translation or interpreting. Basically, anywhere where you speaking two languages gives you an advantage, there’s work. You probably even have a better shot at international journalism than most journalism graduates. If you learn two or more languages, assuming fluency, your work pool does nothing but increase. But beware: anything short of full fluency massively limits your employment prospects and curbs your paycheck. A fluent French speaker may work internationally dealing with French business, as a journalist in Cote D’Ivoire or Algiers, as a lecturer at a major university, as a translator for a publishing house, as a legal interpreter. A high-level, but not fluent French speaker may be looking at translating emails and doing phonecalls for a cut price, translating things from other newspapers, working at a primary school, translating for individuals and teaching adult learners. Not rubbish work by any stretch of the imagination, but a step down.

Literature: This one is problematic. As someone who considered studying English Literature and French, it quickly dawned on me that it was useless. What I was learning was not real-world-applicable and, were it not for the French, I would have been looking at 0 employment prospects. Unless you plan on becoming a literature teacher, investing in an MA and a PhD to become a lecturer, trying your luck as a writer or an editor or using other skills to get into niche journalism, there isn’t work for you. Most companies and businesses have zero use for a Lit graduate. Your degree is worthless in any career that doesn’t directly use literature. And, to boot, there are thousands of you, possibly tens or hundreds of thousands of you. And you’re not just up against each other, no. You’re up against the people who spent decades working in those fields, against people who’ve specialized in that area, against people with your same degree who are coming from elite universities. Who do you think will get the job? In short, unless you’re combining it with a more solid degree, studying at a good university and doing a lot of work experience and extracurricular stuff on the side, you will end up in a dead-end.

Classics, History: Sort of like Literature, but with a larger exception. Good classicists, speakers of dead languages and specialized historians are in demand and someone with enough expertise to write books and lecture could easily make a good living off their degree. Likewise, someone specialist enough could get work at museums, galleries and antique auctions. Anywhere your specific expertise is required, being the most expert you can be can land you a job, sometimes one with a very plump paycheck. However, whilst the openings are more available and better paid than those for Literature, should you fail to enter a niche, make a name for yourself or study very, very hard, you still run the risk of being jobless. A bank, a company office or a magazine may have little need for someone with a 2.2 BA in Classics from some small university well-known for its Chemistry and Medicine degrees.

Archeology, Paleontology, Egyptology, etc: When you get the work, it will be marvelous. However the number of jobs available is small and the likelihood of ending up as a writer, researcher or intern for a long time seems likely. Perhaps map out your career plan and gauge what your actual chances of success are. Remember that you will need a higher quality degree, more years of education and more years of experience to find employment and that this employment may not be necessarily in your first choice of job.

Social Sciences: Accounting, Finance and Economics and Statistics are very likely to hold their own. People who are good with numbers and money are in high demand in most businesses, so a high qualification in any of those subjects could get you work. Business, Education, International Relations, Politics and Sociology, when combined with another degree or appropriate experience can help you get a job, but you are likely to need something extra on the side. You will also be up against large numbers of others with your degree or a more specific degree who may also have more qualifications or more years of experience than you. Pretty much everything else, unless you go to a university that is known for its excellence in that department, will need to be undertaken as a minor or a second degree, because they will be worthless on their own. And yes, that includes Law, especially so in the States.

Psychology: A bit like history and classics, if you hit your niche and get a good grade, you will do amazingly well. However, you will always run the risk of not being one of the best. And when you’re not one of the best out there, getting good work could be a challenge. A lot of Psychology work won’t list wages because they don’t pay well. Most students will end up in clerical work. Simply put, unless you’re excellent and plan on specializing, you’re working from the bottom up, from a low wage and sometimes not even getting work in your field of choice until years after university.

Nursing, Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Science: Almost always a good decision in terms of employment. People never run out of illness to treat, in animals or humans. However, whilst it makes perfect financial sense, don’t go in it just for the money. Always bear in mind that your work will involve blood, guts, nauseating smells, dumb patients, dumb parents/owners and (depending on the field) death. You will need to care very much for your job and your patients. You will need to be willing to stay up late, go without food and put your hands in questionable substances for these people’s safety. If you feel like you couldn’t do so much for another human, especially not one you don’t know or may even dislike, then this won’t be the degree for you. People are the top priority in the careers that follow and a lack of love, respect and dedication could result in a wasted degree. Talk to people who already have your aspirational job. Watch videos, volunteer. Anything you can do to get an idea. Then make up your mind.

Any degree with “general” in the name: Unless you plan on getting a specialist MA immediately after, don’t go for it. Get something specialized with a career in mind. You’re better off not getting a degree for a few years whilst you think it over than getting a “general” degree.

Any degree that used to be on-the-job learning: This includes hairdressing, make-up, plumbing, etc. Investigate this degree seriously. Some practical jobs now require a degree of some sort. Some you can still just walk into and learn on the job. The latter is preferable where it’s still an option.

Any degree created in the last 20 years: Forget it. Especially so if it falls into a loose “humanities”, “ethics”, “gender studies” or “ethnic studies” category. These degrees were created to make money off you. They look easy, attract people and wind up being a lot of work for a degree that nobody will employ you with. Especially not if they can pay the same and get a Marxist Film Theory expert from a more elite university instead.

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So there you have it. My humble observations on various degree categories.

But what to do if your degree is on my list? Well, first off, check it against your university of choice and their employment results. I am not infallible and there will be exceptions. If the prospects don’t look too good, consider one of the following:

A:  If possible, see if you could get into an elite university or one well-known for your degree choice. A Literature degree from Ottawa is probably less valuable than one from Harvard.

B: If not, look at the above list for an idea as to better degrees you could pursue.

C: Consider a trade or a certificated job rather than a graduate job. Plumbers, truckers and tutors can earn a lot more than most people with degrees.

D: If you’re really unsure, wait it out. Rushing into something won’t fix anything. Get a temporary job, look at what you like doing, travel a little, get some more or better school qualifications and generally mull it over.

E: Rethink your priorities. If you really want a vanity degree, then at least do one you will have enjoyed and still not regret when you’re retraining or working minimum wage.

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Anyhow, that’s all from me. TTFN and Happy Hunting.