Christmas Preparation Part 2

Today I put up the Christmas decorations. They are very minimal as The Boy is more ‘Bah Humbug’. Just a bit of tinsel round the stairs and these fairy lights in the living room.

And still he went ‘What the hell?!’ when he got home from work.

I have posted all the family Christmas cards. I have come in under budget. Last year I spent nearly £50 on postage and packaging, this year it has been less than £30 (but I do still have a birthday present to post).

I am watching my lesser favourite Christmas films, I am building up to the big ones, my two favourites are Muppet’s Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. I don’t want to dilute the magic.

I have worn 2 of my Christmas jumpers, watched Die Hard 1 and 2, Miracle on 34th Street, baked Christmas cookies, volunteered at a food bank, put up the decorations, wrapped the presents and posted the cards.

Next on my to do list are to make proper gingerbread, mince pies, finalise The Boy’s family gifts, wear the remainder of my Christmas jumpers, watch more Christmas films and drink more Christmas booze (amaretto and cranberry juice, Irish cream, alcoholic ginger beer, mulled wine etc)

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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.

 

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.

Rustic* Festive** Fruity Parcels

  • *Rustic = A euphemism for ‘looks like they were assembled by a toddler’.
  • **Festive = I wanted to use the seasonal ‘C’ word but felt I might get beaten up by scrooges if I did.

Hi everybody.

I haven’t been feeling 100% all week. Each day brings on a new symptom and today at work was tough.

The boy was going to a gig. I wanted to go to the gig but couldn’t afford it. Normally I would use a night in without the boy as a good excuse to get my bake on, but I felt so shattered after work that all I could muster the energy to do was to put anchovies on my pizza.

Then I saw in the fridge was a packet of frozen puff pastry I had taken out to defrost on Sunday with the intention of using it on Monday.

And the packet recommended using within 24 hours of defrosting. Aye Aye Aye.

So after a quick energy boost (double shot of fake Baileys) I got to it.

INGREDIENTS

1 x 500g Block of puff pastry

4 Apples

1 x 400g Jar of mincemeat

Caster Sugar

RENEGADE SUGGESTIONS

My cooking often involves a random ingredient that caught my eye. So at step 2 I also threw in 4 apple & rosehip tea bags and a bit of orange juice. You don’t necessarily have to copy me.

  1. Defrost your puff pastry the night before according to packet instructions and then roll out into a large square/rectangle shape and cut into 4 equal shapes.
  2. Cut your apples into small pieces and place in a large pot with the sugar (I didn’t give a measurement because, well, I just threw it in. If you like to be exact I would say 75g is enough). Cover with boiling water and bring back to the boil.
  3. Cook until tender.
  4. Once cooked, drain, and mix in the jar of mincemeat (true story, mincemeat used to contain meat, but generally doesn’t now, but I thought it did and didn’t eat a mince pie until I was something like 17 because I thought it would compromise my at the time vegetarian beliefs).
  5. Divide the mix across the four puff pastry squares and then pull up the edges until you have little parcels (or you could be really neat and bring out a protractor or something and have something a bit more professional looking).
  6. BONUS STEP! I meant to do this, but then forgot. Lightly brush the parcels with a milk and/or egg wash.
  7. Bake in the oven on gas mark 4 for a very long time because you are watching the new episode of your favourite show ‘Eat Well For Less’ and don’t want to miss any of it (The episode was an hour long)
  8. BONUS STEP! Turn off the oven but leave the parcels in to stay warm and then go to the shops to get ice cream because the boy refused to do this for you earlier. What a d***.
  9. Watch today’s episode of Neighbours whilst eating the parcel. And then watch Eat Well For Less again.

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