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.

WWW. Chicken and Peas, Home-Made Ice-Cream.

Been a little run down lately and the FF is on hold until my arm is better, so here’s what we had on Wednesday.

Recipe 1: Chicken and Pea Fry.

An excellent way of using leftover chicken and veg or of just putting together a meal when you’re in a rush.

Ingredients:

-4 chicken drumsticks

-300g peas

-300g beans

(can swap peas and beans for legumes of any variety)

-5-6 leaves of lettuce

-4 medium carrots

-2 rashers of bacon

-30g butter

Utensils:

-chopping board and knives

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Slice the chicken from the bone and roughly cube it.

2: Dice the carrots.

3: Heat the oil in the pan.

4: Seal both sides of each piece of chicken before adding the carrots.

5: Cook the chicken and carrot right down before adding the legumes.

6: Turn the pan to a lower heat. Slice and add the bacon and lettuce.

7: Once the lettuce is wilted, serve.

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Recipes 2 and 3: Strawberry Jam and Ice-Cream.

Jon doesn’t normally like strawberries or anything related to them, but he enjoyed this so that’s a success.

Ingredients:

-400g strawberries

-10tbsp sugar

-300ml double cream

Utensils:

-mixing bowl (microwave safe)

-funnel

-fork

-jam jar

-plastic tupperware (freezer safe)

Recipe:

1: Mash the strawberries.

2: Add the sugar.

3: Microwave until thickened.

4: Pour the excess fluid into tupperware.

5: Use fork and funnel to put the thickened jam into the jar. Secure the lid tightly and place in the fridge.

6: Mix the cream into the strawberry fluid. Freeze.

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FitFriday VIII. Not good.

Bicep is more miserable than last week. Not sure what’s wrong with it. Keeping it in a sling and taking ibuprofen, which seems to help, if only because I am discouraged from using the arm when it’s in a sling. Weights off the table. Still doing walking and everyday jobs.

On the plus side, slightly lower starch and losing that little bit of excess fat was made easier by a stunted appetite.

Seeing the doc on Monday, hopefully all will be revealed and I’ll soon be back to weights.

WWW. Liver, Meat and Potato Pies and Blackberry Pudding.

Pies are kind of hard to get right, but I’m really pleased with these ones!

And the pudding is hard-work, but not too complicated.

Recipe 1: Liver, Meat and Potato Pie.

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Ingredients:

I made two, but they would probably serve 8-12 between them.

For the pastry:

-600-700g flour

-250g butter

-100ml olive oil

-cold water

-a beaten egg white

For the filling:

-300g diced meat

-300g liver

-300g potatoes

-150g sweet potato

-1 small onion

-1 small pepper

-2tsp salt

-1tbsp pepper

-1tbsp herbs

-cold water

Utensils:

-clean surface and rolling pin

-1 mixing bowl

-chopping board and knife

-2 greased or non-stick pie-shape baking trays

-1 pastry brush or clean, stiff-bristled paintbrush

Recipe:

1: Mix the flour, butter and oil thoroughly.

2: Add water until the mixture is stiff, workable, not crumbly and not sticky.

3: Put the pastry dough in the fridge.

4: Dice the meat and liver. Put to one side.

5: Dice the potatoes, mince the onion and pepper, thinly slice the sweet potato.

6: Take 1/4 of the pastry and roll it out. Once it’s large enough, lay it over the baking tray.

7: Press it into the edges and shape it to the sides of the tray. Cut off the excess.

8: Brush the base with egg white and bake at a high temperature until the glaze sets.

9: Layer the meat and vegetables in the pie and add the seasoning.

10: Pour a little cold water into the pie.

11: Roll out another 1/4 of the pastry, cut it to size and roll it over the pie.

12: Press it to the sides of the pie. Glaze all over. Make a couple of scores in the lid. Maybe decorate with spare pastry.

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13: Repeat for 2nd pie.

14: Bake at 160C for 45min and then turn up to 180C for a further 20-30min.

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Recipe 2: Blackberry Pudding.

A little technical, but worthwhile.

Ingredients:

-3tbsp blackberry jam

-200ml double cream

-2 egg yolks

Utensils:

-jug

-blender or whisk

-serving pots

Recipe:

1: Mix the double cream and egg yolks in the jug.

2: Whisk or blend vigorously until the mix starts to rise and thicken.

3: Add the jam. Whisk even more vigorously.

4: Pour into the pots when thick but not stiff. Place in the fridge where it should solidify into a cross between a yoghurt and a mousse.

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Time-Saver: Microwave Jam.

Yup. Jam. In the microwave.

This is brilliant for several reasons. Firstly, it lets you easily use a small haul of fruit that you don’t want to eat raw, for example due to bitterness or dryness. Secondly, it takes no time at all: it means you can make a small amount of jam without feeling like you wasted the time cooking and washing-up. Thirdly, it’s delicious.

I made it because I wanted to see if it could be done and also had some crabapples, wild raspberries that were a little dry and early blackberries.

So here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

-fruit

-30g of sugar to every 100g of fruit

-any spices you may want

Utensils:

-1 small microwaveable bowl

-1 fork

-handheld blender (optional)

Recipe:

1: Mash or blend the fruit in the bowl.

2: Add the sugar, stir.

3: Microwave on the defrost setting. Keep an eye on it. It will probably take 10min for anything under 500g, but it could take less depending on your microwave!

4: When the fruit juices are looking syrupy and thick, but still pour confusingly easily, place the bowl in the fridge. Maybe let it cool first if you made a lot, so as to not disturb your fridge temperature.

5: Serve.

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WWW. Paella de Marisco and Apple Muffins.

Something Spanish and something from the recent Sainsbury’s “Live Well For Less” mag.

Recipe 1: Paella de Marisco.

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For a paella and a fish dish, this is cheap and fairly simple.

Ingredients:

Serves four.

-600g rice

-400-500g fish

-fish stock (if using canned fish you can make a simple stock from the brine)

-1 onion

-1 red pepper

-400g chopped tomatoes

-2tsp pepper

-2tsp salt

-2tsp paprika

-3 leaves sage

-1tsp coriander

-4tbsp olive oil

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-pot

-large frying pan or wok

Recipe:

1: Mix the fish stock with some water. Add the herbs and the rice and put on to boil.

2: Very finely dice the pepper and onion. Fry in the oil until softened.

3: Add the tomato to the pepper and onion and reduce.

4: Cut the fish into fork-sized chunks.

5: Season the tomato mix with paprika and add the fish.

6: Add the rice and stock. Salt and pepper. Reduce.

Recipe 2: Apple Muffins.

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Ingredients:

-2 large apples

-250-300g flour

-200g butter

-2 eggs

-4tbsp palm sugar or 3tbsp brown sugar and 1tbsp molasses or 4tbsp maple syrup

-2tsp cinnamon

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-mixing bowl and spoon

-greased or nonstick muffin tray with space for 12 regular or 6 large muffins

-paper cupcake cups (optional)

Recipe:

1: Core and very finely dice the apples.

2: Mix the flour and cinnamon in a bowl.

3: Add the butter and eggs and mix until crumbly.

4: Add the sweetener of choice.

5: Add water to make up the consistency.

6: Pour into the tray.

7: Bake at 160C for 20min or until golden brown.

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