Indigo Days

Feeling down. Too blue today to want to talk, to communicate. Can’t get passed the grey skies this morning.

Evening: I know its silly to feel like this, by the end of the week we will be on the upward path again whereas some other people are only just discovering how painful it can be trying to survive on one income. We have managed it. We have survived on one salary for close on 15 months and it has been really difficult but we stayed afloat for most of it, and then just as we were starting to spiral down we got a lifeline of more hours for me and a new job for Husband.

But its been a long slog and I’m tired. I’m tired of watching the pennies and relying on selling books (mainly cookbooks) and other secondhand stuff for treats. I’m tired of the creative cookery (the tomato sauce worked, but the gnocchi didn’t as I forgot to drain the pumpkin enough). oh yes I can feel morally virtuous that we haven’t wasted any food since February but I would kill for a just cooked steak, peas, carrots, sauteed onions and chips with a glass of good red – no more Co-op claret…I want to splurge…well just a bit…but what I really want to do is spoil Toddler for Christmas without feeling guilty, but I can’t because mentally my head cannot cope with the idea of being in debt I am tired and I need a holiday. I am tired of being sensible and responsible and adult and so so reasonable…and yes the road ahead is the road to freedom but it is still going to be another long slog to clear the debts that have built up

So please excuse this little outburst. Tomorrow I will be sensible and reasonable again and start out on that long long road to solvency…but tonight I shall give in to my inner toddler, I shall cry, I shall suck my thumb and I shall hide under my bed with my teddybear.

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The cupboard is bare

Actually that’s not quite true. I know this because I did a stock take the other night to establish what we have/have not as all our various resources are low.  I used up the last of the plain flour on Tuesday night making the Baseline Brownies and can’t justify buying any more until next Thursday as all the bank accounts, those that are not already drastically overdrawn, are dangerously low.

The more serious problem is that I can’t afford to put fuel in the car in order to go to work. My home work journey is 134 mile round trip. I used to do this journey by train but it is 50% cheaper by car. I have negotiated with work that I will occasionally work out of a local office nearer home but somehow I think they would object if I spend all next week in a different office.

We have been surviving this week by creative cooking and lucky bargains from the local co-op.

Monday – end of date sausages and mini baked potatoes. I made more pumpkin soup for my lunches out of the pumpkin my Dad grew.

Tuesday– “hope” omelette, as in “I hope this tastes OK”, primarily leftover potatoes and roast lamb bound together with egg. Husband had the leftover sausages from Monday as his lunch.

Wednesday – Toad in the hole with more reduced sausages and mini bakers.

Tonight I intend to use the leftover potato from yesterday with the remains of the pumpkin to make gnocchi. Using rye flour instead of plain and making a sauce from onions (the only veg left in the fridge), passata (soooo cheap from Aldi) and the meat from the remaining 2 uncooked sausages.

Can still make Toddler some muffins though as I still have SR Flour (along with several other more exotic types of flour) and a big bag of prunes which he won’t touch (doesn’t like the colour) unless I cunningly disguise it as something tasty. I may have to try my hand at bread dough as it is a truth universally acknowledged that children will eat almost anything if it comes in the form of pizza. Suspect that might not include lentils though…

Zombies Awake

On Sunday morning we were woken by the gentle garlic infused breath of Toddler (Husband had taken Toddler and Teenager to Pizza Hut the night before on the way back from a bonfire display).


We had not had a good night having been kept awake firstly by the wind that had been blowing a Hooley around the house all night and secondly by the sound of Teenager, who’d had an even worse night, having been sick about 4 times. Definitely not a good start to what was meant to be a day of celebration at my parents for my Dad’s 70th birthday.


Things went downhill rapidly as the birthday cake I made for my Dad was not looking too good, the icing had gone wrong. As I’ve mentioned before my Dad does not like butter cream so I’d used a mascarpone based icing. I’d left the cake out overnight, as sponge goes hard in the fridge and would have ruined the cakes texture. As a result the mascarpone had set hard in places and gone almost translucent in others. Fortunately I had a spare tub of mascarpone and some double cream so I was able cobble together a second icing to cover the imperfections of the first and then covered the lot with a later of black sprinkles and jammed a “7” and a “0” candle in the top.


The birthday cake was a simple lemon sponge with a lemon curd, mascarpone and cream filling (idea nicked from Nigella Lawson book)


Toddler and I went off to the party where we had a lovely time with the rest of the family. Husband and Teenager stayed behind gently moaning and dozing on the sofas. I of course was suitably sympathetic, but perhaps I should have kept quite. My comeuppance was that my tummy hadn’t been ready for rich food as a result I’ve been surviving on apples and oxo most of the week waiting for things to return to normal.


I was just about to post this when I realised that my head has been so full of work related things that I’d almost forgotten the reason for this post in the first place – rice pudding. A side effect of this tummy bug is that I am having problems digesting milk and I’ve been searching the cupboards to find things that are gentle on the stomach other than beef oxo.


The result is 2 rice puddings made with non-dairy milk replacements which in my case is coconut milk as I usually have some in for making Thai style curries. The first is a cinnamon rice pudding (sainsbury magazine circa 1998) and the second is Ubud black rice pudding (with banana) from Cook at Home with Peter Gordon – a similar recipe can be found here …I have a packet of black rice lurking at the back along with the semolina and other things no one will eat…

Nigella and I: A tale of love, loss and Morning Glory muffins

When I was much younger and had a lot more money but presumably less of a life, I decided to cook my way through “How to be a Domestic Goddess”Nigella Lawson’s ode to baking. Now, admittedly this isn’t quite in the same league as Julie/Julia and my reason for doing so was a lot less admirable than Julie’s mission to tackle French cooking, and it was certainly a betrayal of any feminist principles I had acquired by that stage.

 

It was simply that I was trying to keep hold of my man, something I have only realised with hindsight. I had recently moved in with someone who loved cakes, and since I loved baking it was almost a perfect match. He worked in the city. He worked long hours. We had a deal. I would make sure he didn’t have to worry about anything domestic (food, cleaning, ironing shirts…) and he would make it his mission to come home at a reasonable time. I was just trying to make sure that there was cake, so that he would come home and eat it!

 

A colleague of his and I, had become friends. She, I found out was feeling down in the dumps and a little blue. To cheer her up I made some muffins, probably the best muffins ever invented, they have everything in them but Morning Glory (probably a good thing too since Ipomoea have toxic side effects). I made these little buns of happiness. I bought a posh box, some tissue paper and a ribbon. I sent the boyfriend off to work one day with 12 little baked best wishes wrapped up with ribbon.

 

I believe she enjoyed them. She probably said thank you. But to be honest I can’t really remember because very shortly after I’d made them my whole “gingerbread cottage’d goddess in the kitchen” ideal came crumbling down around me. As you can probably guess, (because the theory of narrative dictates it should happen that way, or do I mean the law of irony), over the course of the 4 months we lived together his appearance at the door got later and later…because as I later found out he was meeting his colleague for drinks and the reason she was depressed was because he was living with me and not her !

 

I gave up baking. I put my cake tins into storage. I learnt Spanish. I took up world travel and learnt to scuba dive. I took up rock climbing. In short I rediscovered who I was and reclaimed my life.

 

Morning Glory Muffins are however, pretty damn good…I do regret all that ironing tho’ !

Only good girls go to parties…

…and ones who have not spent the best part of the day either in bed or with their head over the toilet bowl !

Yes it would appear that earlier in the week I wasn’t suffering from “performance anxiety” but was about to come down with some sort of stomach bug. Fortunately Husband was enjoying his last week day of freedom so was able to take care of Toddler and take him and Teenager, plus the food to the party…Husband also spent 2 hours in the morning sourcing lollipops to finish off the cake. So a big thank you to him.

Flapjack Queen happens to be the high priestess of make and do, so their house (which I saw this afternoon) really set the mood – honest what she can’t do with some paint and double sided sticky tape really isn’t worth doing.

Husband took round what food I had managed to do before being incapacitated.

  • Ghoul graveyard cake (recipe linked previously see earlier post)
  • jelly pumpkins
  • spider cakes
  • halloween shapes biscuits

The spider cakes were made by Mum with the Toddler from a recipe and design from the Good Food magazine. The jelly pumpkins were made from orange jelly in a circular pumpkin mould that Tesco’s sold a few years ago.

this years version

this years version

Jelly The simplest way to make jelly is to use commercial jelly (chivers, rowntrees whatever). ..that had been the plan as I wasn’t sure whether my homemade jelly would set sufficiently hard to make the pumpkins keep their shape… I once sent Toddler off to lunch club with a small box of home made jelly which had the Pre-school asking what it was, as by the time it came to lunch time the jelly had liquified again.

Anyway, I forgot to buy jelly cubes so I had to fall back on my usual method. I married a man who, when I met him had 3 packets of gelatine in his kitchen cupboards, and 2 children – so I discovered early on that its very easy to make jelly using fruit juice, and a packet of gelatine.

Biscuits – I don’t like the recipe for cut out biscuits in most of Nigella’s book which a lot of people seem to be wedded to, they need the icing that the biscuits are decorated in and sometimes I prefer the biscuits to remain plain – partly because Toddler hates cleaning his teeth, and partly because I am useless at decorating. So I tend to use a recipe from Frost Bite by Susan Austin. The only real difference between this recipe and Nigella’s is a spoonful of custard powder. They also freeze very well uncooked, which means if I need to I can pretty much do an instant party out of the freezer.

Cheesy feet biscuits – from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. These didn’t go to the party. They went straight in the bin as I was afraid they might spread the bug, as I’d made them 12 hours before I was sick.

Anyway, I am now, after 48 hours without food feeling much slimmer, so am sat here with a glass of wine and a slice of ghoul graveyard cake…Husband, Toddler and Teenager are off watching racing cars and fireworks. I have a clean house and a sparkling clean kitchen and bathroom with every surface bleached… I then spent the day making birthday cakes, hence bleaching all surfaces, I didn’t fancy being the cause of my entire family coming down with food poisoning.

Are pre-school children scarier than being in debt ?

I received a very expensive hug from Toddler this morning. He was overenthusiastic and uncontrolled, his arm hit my eye and PING out went my contact lens to the further reaches of the bedroom. Twenty minutes of searching and nothing, left Husband carrying out a fingertip search of the bedroom, and I was late for work.

 

That horrid constricted feeling is back in my gut. It’s not the money though. Yes getting the car fixed did cost more than initially anticipated, (much much more L). But I had this feeling on Sunday night and didn’t know about the car until Monday morning.  So either I am allergic to beer (unlikely, as I split a bottle of Bombadier with Husband Sunday night), or…the thought of having a Halloween party for small children is haunting me !

 

My nice neighbour, the Flapjack Queen reassures me that its going to be a small affair.  Food does not need to be elaborate as after all 3 year olds are not as harsh critics as 4 year olds. So the menu is biscuits cut in Halloween designs, orange jelly pumpkins, sandwitches, crisps, melon monster eyeballs, possibly pizza and the monster cake, by special request from Toddler who remembers it from last year… may need to be a bit creative as can’t find the lollipops. M&S only have chocolate lollipops, John Lewis has some great characters on top of rice crispy clusters but at £1.50 a pop, so that’s not an option.

 

Still have that tense feeling…I think its fear of letting the Toddler down…his Mummy is making a cake for his friends…can I measure up to his requirements ?

My crimes against cooking: Allegations of Bad taste

Woke up in a bit of a grump this morning. The Toddler came into our room at an early hour demanding company and then started accusing me of waking him up ! So to cheer myself up on the journey into work I started remembering past times in the kitchen – but got distracted by memories of culinary experiments, some of which were quite funny, which at least made me giggle and got me into a better mood.

As mentioned I do have Form for slightly eccentric cooking. Show me a recipe with unusual ingredients and I find it hard to resist the temptation to try it.

The charge sheet

Minty Pea Pops (from The Toddler Cafe) – these are meant to be ice lollies made of cream cheese, chocolate drops, pureed peas and peppermint essence. These were not a success, the Teenager now, after having experienced these, asks me everytime I offer him cake or something he hasn’t tried before asks “It hasn’t got peas in it has it ?”. Toddler was not impressed either, and he loves peas. I tell myself that his rejection was based on his dislike of mint (insists on strawberry or banana toothpaste, boy will he have problems cleaning his teeth when he’s older)

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow from Feast (Nigella Lawson) This is just cooked sweet potato, with some lime juice baked with a layer of mini marshmallow across the top which gets kinda baked and caramalised and slightly toasted. Having thought that this was the sort of thing that both Toddlers and Teenagers couldn’t get enough of it turned out that neither of them would touch it.

Creamy Carrots –(Apples for Jam – Tessa Kiros) sounds innocent enough but it was not appreciated in this house. My fault, I didn’t have any parsley so I used tarragon. But to be quite honest I think carrots are nice enough without adding cream, you just need butter and black pepper.

Beetroot Cake This one worked, as long as I didn’t tell anyone what was it it before they tried it. I guess it’s the same principle as carrot cake, but because in the UK beetroot is usually eaten soaked in vinegar, its difficult to overcome people’s fears and get them to try it. It came from Nigel Slater’s Observer column and I carried the newscutting around for several months before I did it, fresh beetroot is not something it is easy to find in the shops out of season (because there’s no demand for it), so I guess this cake wins on the food miles stakes too. It was too tempting to resist as it also had orange blossom essence in it, so how could I not make it ? The thing that I don’t like about it is the linseeds, but that’s just me. I don’t like the sensation of small hard seeds in my teeth so no dried figs in my christmas pud ! If I did it again I’d just up the amount of sunflower and pumpkin and leave out the linseed.

There are no doubt many many more crimes and I’m sure that if the Toddler could read, or I pointed the Teenager at this site they would remind me of many more eccentric mixtures I’ve tried out on them. But these are the ones that I can remember over the past 2 years, and besides sometimes the journey to work is only 15 minutes long.