A Tale of Two Biscuits: Spiced Christmas Cookies

I tried to make gingerbread, and this is what happened the first time I made it today:

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So, just like the Boy was when I told him I made gingerbread, you’ll be wondering what the hell that is.

I don’t really make biscuits. And I was going half on remembering how I made gingerbread when I went to visit my sister and her kids, and half on a recipe in Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook for fiery ginger biscuits.

I also ran out of baking parchment and decided that the cookies would all be fine on the same baking tray.

Instead they all melded into a big gingery blob, and since they had no semblance of the original Christmas Cookie Cutter shapes I had carefully cut them into, well I just started tearing them into little pieces until they resembled kindling.

They were delicious, but I knew I needed to go back to the recipe and tweak it. The dough was far too sticky and couldn’t be saved. So I had a second go at them.

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They turned out better.

This is not a recipe for Gingerbread, because gingerbread typically involves an egg, and these didn’t. These are very spicy ‘ginger influenced’ biscuits that can be cut into the shape of gingerbread men, if you wish.

These are very spicy, so if you have a cold then chow down as these will definitely clear your sinuses. You may want to adjust the measurements to something that is more reasonable, but I say it’s Christmas, go bold.

INGREDIENTS

3 tsp Ground Ginger

1 tsp Cinnamon

0.5 tsp Mixed Spice

1.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

150g Self Raising Flour

75g Butter, diced

3.5 balls of Stem Ginger, cut into tiny diced pieces

60g Soft Light Brown Sugar

2 Tbl sp Molasses*

1 Tbl sp Golden Syrup

*You can use either all Golden Syrup, or honey, or anything really, I just wanted to use up my molasses.

METHOD

Sieve the ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice, bicarbonate soda and flour into a mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and mix with hands until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the molasses, sugar and the diced stem ginger, and combine with a fork. It may be at this stage you will have to add the golden syrup, but go carefully. You want a dough that is combined and mixed well and soft, but not sticky, otherwise it will be a nightmare and you will end up with this:

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Either cut into whimsical festive shapes, or roll into little balls and flatten. Place across two lined baking trays and bake at Gas Mark 5 for 10-15 minutes.

 

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Another Day, Another Daal: Root Veg Daal and Cauliflower Rice

It has been nearly a year since I last had cauliflower rice, that is shameful.

I had a hankering for it today. In true food waste warrior style I cut up the leaves into small pieces and added them to the daal. Waste not want not.

The daal used up the last of my brown lentils and ginger garlic paste as well as some swede and onion.

It was yummy, I have enough for two more portions and I can almost kid myself it is guilt free.

(Probably not if you have it with three mini naan’s though).

Hell is Other People

If you are an avid reader of my blog you will know I have pretty poor mental health at the best of times, and although I love spending time with my friends and family I am pretty anti social and ‘don’t play well with other people’.

Have you seen the episode of How I Met Your Mother where the gang don’t want to know the results of the Super Bowl, and so Ted invents the sensory deprivation kit of sound cancelling head phones and glasses blacked out so there is only the smallest bit to see out of?

Well, that’s me every summer.

Sunglasses, Headphones, I block out the public.

It always takes me a little while to get used to the fact I can’t hide behind sunglasses whenever winter approaches.

Anyway, so today I was mostly trapped in the house as we had workmen come to fix the front of the house and they needed access. When they left I was able to go to the shops to pick up milk (I was having to ration my cups of tea today which is never fun).

Anyway I went to the shops and the following happened.

Two people pushed in front of me in the queue.

There were disruptive kids behind me.

The check out woman spoke to the person behind me and didn’t acknowledge me at all.

Which makes a person with low self esteem and severe anger management issues feel about as appreciated as a pebble at Stonehenge.

I had adrenaline coursing through me as I felt a great injustice had befallen me, and I regret not standing up for myself, though I seem to get standing up for myself confused with causing mayhem.

Any way, I got home, still furious, and I needed to do something to get rid of the adrenaline shakes so I broke my rules about drinking and had a rather generous tumbler of Irish Cream.

My rules about drinking? Ah yes, well in case you didn’t know my mother was an alcoholic. A lovely person, but an alcoholic. As a child I was so paranoid I would end up like my mother that I invented my foolproof rule for drinking, which is:

I am not allowed to drink to improve or enhance a mood. It must be for taste alone.

So, I am not allowed to drink to feel better. Which is what I did today.

I am not exactly drunk, or even tipsy. But it still breaks my ‘rule’. So I must be careful and not make a habit of it.

The sad thing is I am not an alcoholic like my mother, so success there. But guess who has a ‘police intervention’ anger management problem?

My Dad.

So I tried so hard not to be my mum that I ended up like my Dad instead. (Is that not also an episode of Friends?)

The sad thing is I avoid being around other people too much because I know I have this anger problem. And what others might see as being passive, I see as self preservation.

If I don’t react badly around other people, then I haven’t gone too far.

Christmas Preparation Part 1

I got a little bit excited/anxious today about Christmas and bought the remainder of the Jillett’s Christmas presents this morning. I did it mostly with Amazon vouchers I had earned, not as epic a saving as last time, but a nice and much appreciated £45.55 was saved on my shopping. I spent £12.35 which is probably the most I have spent on an Amazon order since February.

I say I got a bit excited/anxious as I could have saved even more money as I have about £20 in Amazon vouchers from my various side hustles (all legit, promise!) which are waiting to clear, but this second batch of presents I bought today contains my little bro’s Christmas present, and part of his Girlfriend’s present, and I am seeing them next weekend and plan to exchange presents then. I didn’t want to risk the presents not arriving in time.

I have so far spent just over £40 on Christmas 2017. I need a further £80-100 in order to buy the in law’s presents.

As for the other costs-the Boxing Day football match, sending Christmas cards, Alcohol gift bags-well, I still haven’t figured out how I can afford them. I made good headway on Friday with the job hunt, but it is artificial headway, by which I mean it seems that I have progressed, but I am still in the same position.

(I applied for 2 jobs and called a temp agency who asked me to send my C.V. over)

So despite working so hard to prioritise my debt this year, where has it got me?

Sure I paid off over £3000 in a combination of bank debt and money I owed The Boy, and yes I have cleared my overdraft…but I had to borrow £750 off The Boy on Saturday to pay my bills. That’s the rate of debt I will get in every month I am unemployed.

I once heard the average time it takes someone to find a job is 4 months. 4 x £750 = £3000. Maybe I would have been better off saving that money instead.

Today I will sit down with whatever remains of my Irish Cream, put on the Christmas CD for about the 20th time already this Winter, and wrap the presents that have already arrived.  I can toast my success in getting nearly £200 worth of presents for about £36 in cold, hard cash.

But maybe what I am toasting is I get to save face in front of my family, that I can provide them with gifts when I have zero net worth.

Financial Review of Week 47

Hi everybody!

Well, I hate to be all ‘spoiler alert’ but on account of being very poor and on Saturday borrowing £750 from The Boy in order to pay my bills, I did not spend any money on myself this week, all purchases were food only.

So this will be a shorter post then usual.

Saturday marked the beginning of a new food budget month because Saturday would have been the day if I was still working at my old job. We ended up going £24.47 over last month’s budget. Let’s hope we do better this month.

One thing I can say is we bought a lot of milk this week. And milk prices have gone up! (Somehow I doubt the increase in price is going to the farmers) Also I have switched my allegiance from the ‘Every little helps’ supermarket to the ”little’ on price’ supermarket as I just can’t pay their prices anymore.

There have been some great posts on WordPress about the UK Budget announcement this week, so I will leave you to search them out rather than say anything myself.

FOOD AND HOUSEHOLD SHOPPING

Cheese, Celery, Gem Lettuce, Bread, Raisins, Tomatoes, Carrots, Cucumber £6.01

Frozen Onion and Frozen Peppers £2.58

Ciabatta Rolls £1

Milk and Cookies £2.30

Milk and Chocolate £2.10

Washing Tablets, Coconut Milk, Prawn Crackers, Anchovies x 2, Carrot Soup x 2, Eggs, Rice x 4, Icing Sugar, Naan Bread, Apples £12.58

Soup x 2, Crystallised Ginger, Mixing Bowl, Poppadoms £4.27

Salt and Gravy £2

Cobra Beers, Parsnip x 2, Onion Bharji’s £7.50

TOTAL SPENDS = £40.34

This is really reduced from what a typical new food month weekend’s shopping would normally be so I am pleased.

 

Mystery Squash Curry

So you know the squashes I picked up on OLIO this week? Well, it inspired me to add some stray items I had in my cupboards that I wasn’t going to use, and funnily enough one of them was picked up by the squash lady. And she said that the striped squash would be very sweet taste wise.

To remind you here is a picture of the squashes I picked up.

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I decided that the best thing to do with them was to turn them into a curry.

They are very sweet as well, they smelt a bit like melon when I was cutting them.

Anyway, the curry was absolutely lovely.

MYSTERY SQUASH CURRY

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons Ginger Garlic Paste

1 teaspoon Mild Curry Powder

1 teaspoon Turmeric

1 teaspoon Garam Masala

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Onion

1 Carrot, diced

2 small Squashes (or 1 large), diced

400g tin of Chickpeas

400g tin of Coconut Milk

400g tin of Chopped Tomatoes

400ml Vegetable Stock (optional)

A little Rapeseed Oil

METHOD

Make a cheats curry paste with the ginger garlic paste and spices.

Start to cook the onion in the rapeseed oil. When covered in oil and cooking lightly add the curry paste and mix with the onion.

Add the rest of the vegetables and then the coconut milk, the stock (if using) and chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil, and then simmer until the vegetables are cooked.

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Realise you now have a ton of curry and will be eating it for the next week.

Add ‘make best curry in the world’ to your to do list, so you can cross it off, because this was a mighty achievement.

I Have Wombled over £2000 This Year

I have ‘wombled’ over £2000 this year.

Now, I bet you are thinking ‘What is wombling?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Is wombling some sort of weird British sex game?’

Ha ha…no.

You may have heard of a lovable British children’s book series and later a television show called The Wombles. The Wombles were little furry, pointy nosed creatures who lived in Wimbledon and they aimed to help the environment by collecting and reusing and recycling rubbish in new and creative ways.

The Wombles TV series became so popular that they later released pop songs, and grown up performers and musicians would dress up as The Wombles and perform on Top of the Pops.

This is an important part of British history…maybe.

Anyway, originally ‘Wombling’ became a term for people (like me) who are obsessed with a bargain and saving money and may do slightly legally ambiguous things to save some cash. It has come to mean a lot more than that, but I will just explain it’s origins.

It all comes down to receipts.

Receipts can earn you money.

So, I will give the example of a certain big chain supermarket. If you find a receipt for certain big chain supermarket and it has the magic words ‘If you had a (store loyalty card) you would have earned X points with this transaction’ on it.

And any money saver will have that loyalty card, so they can take this receipt to certain big chain supermarket’s customer service desk and say a little story of how they recently did a shop and ‘forgot’ their card and could the points be added on.

So it is recycling…to a degree.

You can make serious dosh with another big chain supermarket who do a price match guarantee, so if you find one of their receipts and enter in the special code at the bottom on their website, you may find the person that did the original shop could have gotten their shopping cheaper elsewhere, and thus big chain supermarket number 2 will give you a voucher for the difference.

So that is what wombling originally meant (outside the context of the TV series), but it has come to mean (at least on the Money Saving Expert website) anytime you get a bargain/money off/get given something.

So no, I did not make over £2000 in ‘wombled’ receipts (most supermarkets have cracked on to us wombler’s and thus a discarded receipt is very hard to come by anyway). BUT, I have used coupons, vouchers, special offers, promotions, discounts, and free gifts (such as my recent OLIO squashes) to have effectively retained the value of £2000.

So, if I had paid full price for everything this year, it would have cost me over £2000 extra.

I’ll give an example of today’s wombles.

I went to have an eye test done, I had a voucher for a free eye test at Vision Express. Their eye tests are normally £25, therefore that was a womble of £25.

The boy bought some ciabatta rolls that were on offer for £1. They are normally £1.96, therefore that was a womble of 96p

And remember when I did my Christmas shopping and got over £120 off because I paid for it almost entirely with vouchers I had earned? Or when I got £64 worth of clothing for £2?

Wombles, my friends, wombles.

Next time you have a deal like that, take a moment to register that you have saved money on it, maybe make a note of it (to be honest I am very surprised I don’t have a a spreadsheet for it). It does get a bit addictive after a while.