First Snowfall Chocolate Mud Cake.

Made last week, but writing it up now because all cooking has become very simple due to Jon’s dentist appointment.

The icing turned out delicious and quite cute and snow-like with the split between icing sugar and cocoa and the sparkles of plain sugar, though it was far too runny and looks more messy than anything. Need to work on my cake decorating skills!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 700g flour and raising agents
  • 1 to 2 cups chopped brazils
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped into chips
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3tbsp plain cocoa powder
  • 5tbsp sweetened cocoa powder, milk or white
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coffee granules

For decorating:

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate powder
  • water as needed
  • whole brazils
  • white grain sugar

Utensils:

  • mixing bowl and spoon
  • small mixing bowl and whisk
  • greased, nonstick, lined cake tin

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Mix the dry cake ingredients.
  3. Stir in the egg and honey.
  4. Add water until a batter forms.
  5. Pour into the tin. Bake until a skewer comes out with sticky crumbs on it: not dry, but firm.
  6. Put aside to cool.
  7. Mix the icing sugar and white chocolate powder. Add water a few drops at a time and stir into a thick paste. I’m not too impressed with the melting snowfall look, so just blend it thoroughly and set aside to cool a little.
  8. Pour the cool-ish icing over the cold cake.
  9. Stick whole brazils on it.
  10. Sprinkle with white sugar before it completely sets.

snow-cake

Lebkuchen. German Xmas gingerbreads to practise.

There are some great recipes for Lebkuchen out there, but this is the one that works best for us. I decided to start practising making them when I found out ALDI may not have them this year and panicked. They have them now, but tbh I prefer the homemade ones.

Ingredients.

For the cakes:

  • 500g wholemeal flour and raising agents
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar, brown or cane
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4tbsp honey or 1tbsp molasses
  • 2tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1tbsp powdered ginger
  • 1tbsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2tsp allspice
  • 1/2tsp paprika

For the frosting:

  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 20g salted butter
  • 2tbsp chocolate sauce
  • 2tbsp honey

Utensils.

  • mixing bowl and fork
  • large ceramic bowl, small ceramic bowl and spoon
  • small pot
  • greased, lined or nonstick baking tray

Recipe.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Place chopped ginger, half the sugar and the lemon juice in the small pot and cook on a very low heat until the sting is gone from the ginger. Add a little water if it starts to dry.
  3. Mix all the dry cake ingredients.
  4. Incorporate the eggs, lemon and water until the dough is stringy, pourable, but retains some firmness.
  5. Pour into a baking tray and spread out evenly.
  6. Bake until a skewer comes out clean. At 1″ thick, ours took 40 minutes.
  7. Leave the cake to cool.
  8. Once cool, pour boiling water into the large ceramic bowl and place the small ceramic bowl inside it.
  9. Put the chocolate in the small bowl and stir as it melts. Replace the hot water as required to keep the chocolate melty.
  10. Stir in the other ingredients.
  11. Pour over the cake.
  12. Leave the cake to cool.
  13. Slice and serve.

I’m starting to worry I haven’t seen any turrĂ³n lately either… Maybe time to dig out another recipe.

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For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… sit back and chill.

  1. Relax. Think of something nice.
  2. No, the turkey won’t be done after 30 minutes, just leave it.
  3. Phone calls. Breathe deep.
  4. Yes, you remembered to send everyone cards. If someone didn’t get one, insist it was lost in the post.
  5. No, the turkey still isn’t done.
  6. Write a schedule.
  7. Realize there’s no way that schedule is working now that other people are involved.
  8. Try and sit down for another five minutes.
  9. Tell someone not to look for or open their present yet.
  10. Pour yourself something to drink.
  11. Go and check on the turkey. Baste, feel proud.
  12. Fiddle with the decorations before guests arrive.
  13. Make sure the puddings are chilled or frozen well and that the snacks are laid out just so.
  14. Remember your drink.
  15. Light a scented candle to get rid of the strange smell in the entry (why is it the only place that doesn’t smell quite right?).
  16. Chase the dog/cat/child away from the ornaments again.
  17. Fetch your partner a drink. Try and drink yours.
  18. Panic over the roast vegetables and turkey again.
  19. Start making the pie to calm your nerves.
  20. Sit down for a few seconds. The turkey needs more basting.
  21. Put on some jolly music.
  22. Have the second sip of your drink.
  23. Get caught dancing to the jolly music by your recently-arrived guests.
  24. Continue making pie in silent shame.
  25. Will nobody else serve?
  26. Manage to convince someone else to serve.
  27. Say grace as nobody else wants to.
  28. Vow to opt-out for the next two hours.
  29. Find it impossible to relax and keep serving people, checking on the pie and humming along to the music.
  30. Shoo the dog/cat/child away from the very, very, very hot pie.
  31. Serve pudding. Feel proud.
  32. Clean up the awful mess that seems to have spontaneously appeared between bringing out pudding two and pudding three. (Nobody else knows how it got there.)
  33. Let everyone open ONE present.
  34. Now everyone is fed and watching TV, you can relax as it sort of feels like your work is done. It’s a satisfying feeling.
  35. And the dog/cat/child is in the tree. Oh dear…

Can’t win, but it’s all in good fun!

Merry Christmas!

10 Things I Am Grateful For This Solstice.

Staying up late on the Solstice gives plenty of time for reflection. This will be the longest night of the year. When it’s over, the days begin to draw out and Spring is officially on its way. Life is reborn from here, even if we can’t see it yet. And as life is conceived again, there are many things to cast aside, but many things to give thanks for.

1: My perfect husband.

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t start with the one thing I genuinely am amazed I have.

I’m grateful to have met such an intelligent, handsome, loyal, dedicated, witty, random, like-minded man. I am a thousand times more grateful he was single, interested in me and happy to wait through all my anxiety and doubt.

2: The roof over my head, the food in my stomach and the fire beyond the hearth.

I am grateful to be alive, safe and sheltered from the elements. I am grateful to be able to eat every day if I want to, to the point of obesity if I ever wanted to. I am grateful to have a home of my own and not share it with anyone I don’t choose to welcome inside. I am grateful that in this chilling cold our house is warm and safe.

3: My art and my writing.

I am grateful that I can paint and write, that I can do it to relax, that I can put my mind to paper with ease and that I can make a small portion of my income on highly creative work.

4: What health and youth I have.

I am grateful that despite my ups and downs, my physical health is incredibly robust. I am grateful to have never broken a bone. I am grateful to have blood tests coming back as perfect. I am grateful to be in the middle of perfect childbearing age and soon to try for my first.

5: My grandmother in law and her help.

I am grateful that my grandmother in law is with us and is so kind, generous and caring. I am grateful that she shares her tips and hints about cooking and gardening with me. I am grateful she is there to help with the dog or just to talk should I need it.

6: Our friends and their support.

I am grateful to have friends as weird and wonderful as Jon and I. I am grateful for the fun things we arrange together, the places we go and the things we do and make. I am grateful to have a few close people in my life, rather than a thousand distant ones.

7: My business, my clients and my students.

I am grateful that I can make money from home. I am grateful that despite my location I am bringing in a comfortable income whilst tending our house, as well as a tidy passive income. I am grateful that the vast majority of my clients and students are polite, well-informed and work with me, rather than having me work for them only.

8: The spaciousness of the British countryside.

However many people I am grateful for, I am also grateful to live so far from most of them. I am grateful for fresh air and long country walks and dead quiet nights. I am grateful for our cheap cottage and its big garden and my potato harvest and the possibility of breeding turkeys.

9: Our pets and their company.

I am grateful to never be home alone. I am grateful to have a quickly growing puppy to motivate me to exercise, to cuddle when I feel down and to make me laugh when I’m struggling to focus on work. I am grateful to have an insane cat that clears the area of rats (and voles, whoops) and purrs like an idling engine whenever he sits next to me.

10: The modern world… and opt-outs.

I am grateful to live in a day and age when any item or service I need is a click or a call away, when I can make friends thousands of miles from me, when I can relax and read anything I want whenever I want. I am grateful for this blog, for my followers, for the blogs I read. I am grateful for social media and free tv streams and music downloads. But I am also grateful to be able to turn it all off once in a while and sit by the window watching the snow fall…

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

We Are All Blessed.

Nobody’s life is easy. Some are easier or harder than most, but to every person, our lives are going to present us with challenges and dilemmas that are serious business to us.

And sometimes, when we see everyone else gloating about their happy lives, their happy families, their great incomes and great jobs and great friends and great hobbies… we can start to wonder why everyone else seems to have it so much easier.

But this time of year isn’t the time to be jealous, because however much or little you have, relatively speaking, you are deeply and truly blessed.

You are blessed for having had any family or any friends by your side. However alone you may be now, that acute pain is there because you were, and most likely still are, loved.

You are blessed for having an internet connection with which to read this, a way to reach out to others and simply talk.

You are blessed to be alive and breathing, to have enough food, freedom, shelter and healthcare to keep you going until now, and hopefully longer.

Those are things I know for certain you are blessed with.

Furthermore you are supremely blessed for every single thing you have above that. Every penny, cent, yen or centimo to your name. Every person by your side right now. Every gift you receive, every bite of food. For being able to hear carols and see the lights strung up about town. For having children or pets to shower with love. For all the faith and love and happiness you can hold in your heart. Not because others don’t have these things, but because you do. If everyone on the planet lived a perfect life, you would be no less blessed to be their equal.

However much or however little you have today, you are blessed to have it. Not blessed in guilt of what others don’t have or in envy of what others do, but purely and simply blessed.

And I hope you’re continually and consistently blessed with more.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… make some quick Christmas treats.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone is a bit pressed for time this season. So what’s worse than remembering you have no goodies to give guests or passersby? Of course, we can always buy a few, but if you want to stand out and cut costs in a relatively stress-free manner, here are some super quick treats to make.

1: Shaped Flapjacks.

Simple, quick, can add as much or as little as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg
  • an equal balance of wet and dry fillers

Recipe:

  1. Mash all the wet ingredients together.
  2. Fold in the dry and stir until smooth.
  3. Pour out into a flat baking tray.
  4. Bake until firm but springy.

Then, just use a cookie cutter to cut them into adorable shapes!

2: Cocoa Dusted Meringues.

Meringues are actually really easy to make and the cocoa dusting makes them extra luxurious.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 175 caster sugar
  • 2tsp sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder

Recipe:

  1. Heat the oven to 140C.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until peaks form, but its still smooth.
  3. Slowly whisk in the sugar.
  4. Place dollops on baking paper on a baking tray. Put in the until pale and dry.
  5. Air cool. Lightly sieve cocoa over the top.

To mix and match, try making cocoa or caramel meringues and dusting with white chocolate.

3: Woven Biscuit Baskets.

More of an arts and crafts than a culinary crafts person? Make some simple sugar cookies and cutesy them up by handing them out in these adorable baskets!

Link.

4: Cute Biscuit Jar.

Or you could also look up some cute ways of decorating mason jars and candle jars to become snack-containers to give to friends and family.

5: Snowman Ice-Cream.

An adorable pudding you don’t need to make on the day!

Instructions:

  1. Roll out two or three differently sized ice cream balls per snowman. Pick a pale ice cream!
  2. Stack them up.
  3. Use raisins or chocolate chips for the eyes and buttons, maybe the mouth.
  4. Use strips of candy and fruit for a scarf and the mouth if you didn’t do it in raisins or chocolate chips.
  5. Use a round slice of chocolate wafer and a round chocolate (like a peanut butter cup) for a hat.
  6. Use thin slices of wafer for arms.
  7. Put back in the freezer until needed!

6: Festive Fruit And Cheese.

For something simple and adorable, make a festive cheese board.

Instructions:

  1. Lay out crackers and sliced hard cheeses in triangles until you’ve formed a tree.
  2. Sprinkle crumbly cheese for snow on the ground.
  3. Make a snowy log of goat’s cheese.
  4. Decorate your tree with half grapes (baubles) and ribbons of apple and pear (streamers).

And those are a few quick snacks to hand guests at parties and passing friends these holidays! Cute, cheap, festive, simple.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

WWW. How hard are mince pies?

Not very, unless you overbake them. :p

But, in all seriousness, this English classic is very easy to make at home and absolutely delicious.

My own recipe is a secret, which is secret, will be kept secret and not be secretly or discreetly disclosed.

Best Simple Mince Pie Recipe 0

However the general outline of how I make mince pies is free for anyone to experiment with.

You will need:

  • 500g raisins or sultanas
  • 500g mixed dried fruit (preferably including candied peel)
  • 500ml applesauce
  • cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste
  • 500g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 300g butter
  • water
  • 1 beaten egg
  • sugar for dusting
  • rolling pin
  • greased/nonstick tart/muffin tray
  • mixing bowls

Recipe:

  1. Mix the dried fruit, applesauce and spices together. Add around 50-200g of sugar if you think the mix isn’t sweet enough.
  2. Rest the mix as long as possible. Overnight or 12h is fine, but 48h allows for some real richness.
  3. Best Simple Mince Pie Recipe 1
  4. Make a thick, stretchy pastry mix with the flour, egg, butter and a little water. Chill for 30-60min before use.
  5. Best Simple Mince Pie Recipe 2
  6. Preheat the oven to 160C or 180C fan.
  7. Roll out the pastry at least 1/8 of an inch for small (tart tray) pies and 1/4 of an inch for deep fill (muffin tray) pies. I made the mistake of using 1/8 inch pastry for both and the deep fill ones were not as excellent.
  8. Cut circles for the base. Push them into the grooves in the tray.
  9. Fill your pies, leaving a bit of a rim of pastry visible.
  10. Brush the rim with beaten egg before adding circles of pastry for the top.
  11. Brush the whole pie with egg and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
  12. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden and crumble juuust a little bit when pressed.
  13. Remove from trays and fully chill.
  14. Serve with wine or custard.

Best Simple Mince Pie Recipe 3

Best Simple Mince Pie Recipe 4

And feel free to mix and match the recipe! My own mix has another two to three ingredients and a specific spice balance. Jon normally despises mince pies, yet these ones received a 6/8 (an honourable 7 as he doesn’t like most mince pies). And friends and family seem happy enough with them too. Find your own perfect balance to enjoy!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!