Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Procrastination




Isn't it funny the things that can be found to do in order to stop you doing what you actually should be getting on with.

I find Facebook, Twitter and general web searching all eat away time, whilst at the same time still being completely enjoyable.  But my most favourite avoidance strategy has to be hoovering the cat.  It seems that we both get something out of it.

What avoidance strategies do you use?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sloooooooow




We are having a tea party on Saturday in conjunction with the Nantwich Food Festival.  It's a drop by event - we invite our guests to drop by either on route to or from the Festival for a cuppa and a slice of cake.  So I've been busy this week thinking about what I could make for the party.  I even posted on Twitter and got a wonderful suggestion from Deanna.  You can check out her blog here:  http://www.foodographic.co.uk/  She said that she thought it was all about textures, having a selection of textures - something chocolately, fruity, a meringue, cake and pastry.  I liked the thoughts on texture, so with her Twitter post on my mind, my menu will conist of the following:

  • French Apple Flan - Fruity but in a sweet pastry case
  • Carrot and Pistachio Cake - To get that spongey texture but with a nut crunch (plus doesn't everyone love carrot cake?
  • Lavender shortbread - a biscuit but with a floral twist
  • Some cupcakes - Just because 
  • And finally meringues
Nothing chocolately on the menu yet, but there's still time if I have a change of heart.

I decided that I would make the meringues today to try and get myself at least a little prepared and so not to leave everything until the last minute.  I have never made meringues before and was a little apprehensive having read all sorts of things about how wrong it can all go.  Anyway again with some help from my Twitter friends and Good Food online support I made a start. 

They seem to have gone ok, although I've not yet tasted one as they are still in the oven "drying out", despite the fact that I started to make them at 10 am this morning.  And that's what I found so fascinating about the process - everything had to slow down.  After whisking your eggs, you have to add the sugar a dessert spoon full at a time and then whisk this in, but not at full speed otherwise you can overdo it.  Once you've scooped your meringues onto a baking tray, then you put them in a really low temperature oven and cook them for an hour and a half/three quarters.  Once they are crisp, you then switch off the oven and leave them in there until the oven has cooled completely. 

So I'm glad that I chose to make them today as I would have been in a real panic if I'd have attempted them tomorrow and not been able to use the oven for the other cakes I'm intending to make.

However, what was nice about the whole experience was that it was slow.  I had to slow down, think about things and make sure that I got it right.  I couldn't sling in the sugar and whisk it into a frenzy.  I couldn't turn the oven up to a higher temperature and get a quicker result.  In this world where everthing seems to be so high paced and fast, it was nice to go slow for a change.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Monday Roast



Have you ever wanted something, and then when you didn’t get it find that it hangs around in your head teasing and tempting you until you do something about it. Well, that’s how it was on Monday. On Sunday I had the urge to have a Sunday roast, but as we were out and about all day, it just didn’t happen. But that thought just kept niggling away at me all day on Monday – lovely roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings smothered in gravy, chunky slices of chicken and of course lovely fresh vegetables. So that was it, I left the office and hotfooted it to Sainsburys and bought all the components for the roast. As it was a Monday evening, I decided to make it easy on myself and bought bags of prepared vegetables and ready made gravy. The end result was that we didn’t eat until about 8 pm, but we ummed and aahhed our way through crispy roast spuds, cruncy kale and doughy Yorkshire puddings. It was a real treat. My husband who was not feeling too well felt much better and my itch was scratched.



I guess it just goes to show that sometimes when you get an idea in your head, the best thing to do is to just take action. It was well worth the effort.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Good Old Fashioned Bartering




You may already know from other postings on this site, that I am friends with my neighbour Jean and we share the joy of baking.  Whenever I see her she will tell me about what she's been making, any recipe changes she made and how it all turned out.  She is like a walking encyclopedia of baking and only shares her sponge recipe with a select few.

Living over t'wall from her reminds me of my childhood.  I lived in a rural neighbourhood where I freely went into my neighbours' homes and produce grown was shared around.  There would always be a smile, a fresh glass of cordial or a dog to pet.  In fact the house we were attached to had a joint loft space, so whenever we got locked out we would ask my neighbour's son to climb through and let us in. 

So I like living next door to Jean, it is a return to more old fashioned values.  There is friendship and sharing.  Jean's husband Jim tends an allotment, so surplus vegetables come our way for soups and casseroles and fresh salads.  In fact last night we did some good old fashioned bartering.  I swapped two jam jars and a glass vase (which frankly was taking up too much room in the cupboard) for a jar of scrummy strawberry jam to put on scones which I am making today for friends who are visiting.

It seems a very fair swap to me.  Both parties went away happy and there may even be a couple of scones going over t'wall later today. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Beautiful September is here



I can't quite tell you why, but I always feel happy when September arrives.  I think it is one of the loveliest months of the year.  It brings with it the anticipation of Autumn, yet still holds onto some days of summer.  We know that colder weather and darker nights are coming, yet September often brings joy with sun filled days and the chance to lap up remaining rays of sunshine on your face and skin.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she likes this time of year as it equates to new clothes buying.  And nothing wrong with that I say.  It is a season of change.  We change from our summer outfits into warmer clothing, we watch the trees alter from green to wonderous reds, browns and golds and we take in our harvests and fill our cupboards with brightly coloured jars of fruits, jams and chutneys.

I also like the fact that September brings new momentum and it holds renewed enegry.  People and businesses tend to be  more focussed, the summer holidays are over and children are back to school.  I tend to set goals in September to take me up to the end of the year.  It enables me to focus on what I can achieve before 2010 takes a bow and 2011 enters in.

Could this be a good time for you to set your goals and decide what you would like to achieve before the year ends and a new one begins?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Much Ado About Nothing




Last night we went to see Much Ado About Nothing at the Chester Open Air Theatre with some friends.  We took along a lovely picnic and the weather was kind and it stayed dry for the whole of the performance.  We arrived early so that we could spread out our feast and tuck in before the show commenced.  I made some small summer quiches which were very tasty plus some lavender cupcakes (courtesy of Nigella) with lavender straight from the garden. The quiche recipe is outlined at the bottom of this posting if you fancy giving it a try yourself and you can find the lavender cupcake recipe in Nigella's Domestic Goddess cookery book.



The play focuses on deception and the spread of gossip and rumour which causes disaster in one couple's life and brings love to another couple, yet it ends happily with a double wedding and of course dancing!  All in all, it was a perfect evening - great theatre, singing, dancing, sharing a picnic with friends and being able to enjoy all this in the great outdoors.

Summer Quiche Recipe
Batch of Shortcrust pastry - I used 280g plain flour and 140g of butter plus approximately 8 tablespoons of water to bind together the dough. 

Quiche Filling
3 eggs
300ml double cream
300g cherry tomatoes
1 courgette
Small pack of goats cheese
Grated Parmesan - enough for topping and dependent upon your cheese needs
Seasoning

Here's what I did
Make up the shortcrust pastry in the usual way and then leave to rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  Once rested, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into pastry dishes.  My batch of pastry made four smaller quiches and one larger one.  Prick the base of the pastry with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and add baking beans and then put in the oven at 200c. 

At the same time that the pastry goes into the oven, also roast 300g of cherry tomatoes.  Put the tomatoes into a small roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season to your liking.  The pastry needs to cook blind for about 15/20 minutes.  While this is cooking,  thinly slice your courgette and cook in a little olive oil on the stovetop and leave to cool.  Also beat together the eggs and then add the cream and mix these together.  Plus chunk up the goats cheese (I find the creamer versions work better than the hard cheeses).  After the 15/20 minutes has passed, remove the greaseproof paper and put the cases back in the oven for about 5 minutes until they have browned a little.  You will probably find that the tomatoes are also cooked and these can be removed from the oven too.

Once the pastry is cooked, remove from the oven and then start filling with the goats cheese, slices of courgette and roasted tomatoes.  Pour over the egg and cream mixture and then top with the Parmesan.  Carefully put the quiches back into the oven and cook for about 20/25 minutes.

Serve with salad or some fresh new potatoes or enjoy as part of your picnic feast.

Enjoy

Friday, 9 July 2010

Sprouting


You may have seen from an earlier blog posting, that I am now into sprouting seeds and grains - not something I have ever done before.  Apparently there are lots of health benefits to eating freshly sprouted seeds, so I have been adding wheat grain sprouts onto my porridge in the mornings and alalfa onto salads.  I shall start experimenting with some others soon to add some variety, now that I know the process and what you have to do.

It's quite a simple process - you buy the organic seeds or grains (I buy from a man in Nantwich market who specialises in health food products), you then place some of the seeds into a jar and either place some muslin over the top and seal with an elastic band or I have a screw top lid with holes already pierced into it.  You cover the seeds with filtered water and soak them for a few hours (time depends on the seeds/grains you are sprouting) and then once soaked you rinse them morning and evening and then watch the little beauties grow.  The first time I did it, I thought nothing was going to happen and then suddenly whoosh, all the lovely green sprouts start to appear.  The germinating seeds don't like to be too hot or too cold and most generally don't like to be in direct sunlight, but if you treat them right - they'll suddenly spring into action and grow into delicious additions to your everyday diet.

This got me thinking.  When you initially get the seeds/grains, they really look quite plain and uninspiring.  It is only when they are cultivated in the right conditions, that the sprouts appear and they come into their own.  This made me wonder about the people around us.  Can we engage in a way that brings them into their own, can we go beyond what we see and dismiss any stereotype images we hold about them and connect with a deeper level that brings about more meaningful relationships for us both?  Are we creating the right conditions to get the most from our relationships with the people around us?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Women's Health Programme


A few weeks ago, I headed down to Herefordshire to attend a two day Women's Health programme run by a company called Green Cuisine.  The two days incorporated some of my favourite things in particular yoga and cooking plus I got to learn about nutritional wellbeing for women.

As part of the learning, I found out more about how the digestive system operates, how to eat to prevent breast cancer and osteoporosis and discussed some foods that support health generally.

Each day started pretty early with a fresh juice to wake you up and then an hour and a half of kundalini yoga.  After some breakfast we did the learning part of the course and then headed into the kitchen to cook our lunch and later on supper.  During the course of the stay, I drank nut milk, learned how to sprout grains, foraged and made nettle soup, enjoyed a couple of slices of geranium cake and tried everything that was given to me.  There was lots to take on board and Daphne our host for the stay was so knowledgeable being not only a qualified nutritionist but also a chef.  

I really enjoyed the few days I had there.  It was fun to experiment in the kitchen and to collect herbs from the garden to add to our meals.  I am not saying that I will take on board everything that was suggested, but I have been eating more raw foods since I returned home plus I have also sprouted wheat grains and alalfa both of which have been delicious and I am now the proud keeper of a small herb garden.

So thank you Daphne for sharing your views, your knowledge and experience and for making it fun too.  If you would like to find out more about what Green Cuisine offer, then check out their website at greencuisine.penrhos.com


And one last thing - Thank you Andy for arranging such a fab birthday gift.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Knowing When to Quit

If you take a look at any quotes associated with quitting, they all pretty take the same approach - don't do it, quitters are losers, quitters will never get the rewards.  It's all about keeping at it. I'm sure you know the sort of thing I'm talking about.


I was reminded of knowing when's a good time to quit when I recently recounted the tale of a friend of mine who was making spaghetti bolognese for dinner for me and my husband.  This story does go back about 15 years and I have to say that this particular friend has moved on herself now in terms of culinary experience, but back to the story.  All was going ok until she realised that she had no tinned tomatoes (an essential I would suggest in a bolognese sauce) and with no time to get any, she added tomato sauce - yes good old fashioned Heinz into the pan.  When we duly arrived for supper that night, the bolognese was promptly served.  I'm not sure what exactly had happened, the tomato sauce wasn't up to the job, the spaghetti had perhaps been insufficiently drained and the moment of quitting arose, when my husband asked whether it would be ok to drain his plate of the watery sauce substance that had collected at the edge of the spaghetti.  There was a moment of tension that quickly evaporated into laughter, followed by six words we all wanted to hear "Shall we go to the pub?


Although quitting in this particular example, had no major implications, it demonstrates that there are times when it's ok to quit, to know that you gave it your best shot, it didn't work out how you expected and it's ok to move on. 

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Food and Friendship


Some friends are coming to dinner on Saturday.  For me this is an opportunity to pore over the recipe books, search on line for delicious desserts and revisit my stash of Good Food magazines.  There is a delight in not only sharing and enjoying food and conversation with friends on the night, but also the joy of preparation.  I'll need to consider what flavours will work well together, what seasonal produce is available and how much time do I have to pull this meal together.   And there is of course the personal challenge - shall I make something new or stick with the tried and tested?

Staying in, seems to be the new going out in the current economic climate and what better than to enjoy some great food, hear some new and interesting perspectives, have a laugh and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine.  Life is good!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Spring Tea Party



At the weekend, we hosted a Spring tea party for some of our friends and neighbours.  This was a lovely event filled with easy going conversation, laughter and of course tea and cake.  When all the preparations are complete - cakes made and presented, table set and kettles boiled and all you are waiting for are your guests - it seems as if it was all quite straightforward.  Yet, had you visited our kitchen on Saturday night it was a different story.



Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Attitude Cakes


My neighbour and good friend Jean has a term for cakes that don't turn out quite as you expect.  She calls them "attitude cakes". I love this saying. I'm sure you know the sorts of cakes we mean - Victoria Sponges that slope down at one side, cupcakes that spill over the tops of their cases and buns that are just a bit too crisp for their own good.  Her view is that often these cakes are a reflection of our own attitude when making them.  Maybe we were not really in the mood to bake, but had already committed to doing it, perhaps we rushed through the process or we just didn't give our full attention to the job in hand.  In summary - maybe our hearts weren't it.


Friday, 16 April 2010

Melody Gardot


To celebrate my birthday, Andy is taking me to see Melody Gardot on Monday evening.  She has the most fabulous voice and I can't wait to see her perform live.

As you know I like to share the things I love so no doubt she'll make it to my loveliness page sometime soon on http://www.coachingandcakes.co.uk/ 

However, if you want to find out more now and take a listen check out her website at http://www.melodygardot.com/

Enjoy.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Spontaneity




I've had rather a spontaneous kind of week so far and it's been enjoyable because of it.  Andy had bought something on e-bay and rather than having it sent we decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to Yorkshire to collect it.  On route we had a delightful stop off at Hebden Bridge including a fresh and delicious lunch at an organic cafe there.  http://www.organic-house.co.uk/

Having collected the e-bay item, we also decided to drop by at some friends that we hadn't seen for about 3 years.  We tried to telephone ahead but after no answer we persevered and went anyway.  And yes they were in.  So we shared cups of tea, some supper and lots of chat and catch up.  It was a lovely experience. 

Friday, 2 April 2010

Expectations v. Reality



Ok - so how many of you had high expectations for a rain-free sunny Easter, where you could head off on congestion-free roads in perfect harmony with your family. I have found that setting expectations can often lead to disappointment - when something doesn't quite match up to what you thought, or someone didn't quite deliver the goods.  So why do we do it?  Why do we build an expectation about an event or a place and more importantly around other people's behaviours?  After all we can't predict what someone else will do.  We only carry responsibility for ourself and our own behaviours and actions.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Lemony Loveliness

Yesterday was a horrible day weather wise.  We had every type of weather - rain, sun, cloud, hail and even a little bit of snow. What's that all about?  So what's a girl gonna do in such conditions? 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Baking Therapy


I am what can only be described as grumpy today.  The day has not gone quite how I expected.  I had a last minute cancellation on an appointment, the day has been disjointed and I feel irritable.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mother's Day



Yesterday was Mother's Day. It was a day for me to reflect on the beauty and sheer wonderfulness of my own mother who sadly passed away in 2008. In order to celebrate her life and share a little bit of her with you, I am attaching a poem she wrote about Spring. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 1 March 2010

An Inspirational Trip


After a couple of days last week feeling a little under the weather, I was ready to leave the house again and have some fun. Andy checked out weather reports to find out where we might get a glimpse of that big yellow ball in the sky fondly known as “The Sun”. Yes you remember it. So finding out that a guest appearance would be made later that afternoon in Wales, we ambled around Nantwich Farmer’s market for an hour buying lovely things, (last Saturday of the month – for anyone who wants to come along to the market) and then jumped in the car and drove across to Aberdovey.


Silver Frosting




Having just glanced in the mirror, I realise that it’s time to visit my trusted hairdresser once again. I noticed that I have my very own silver frosting!!
It may look good on cakes, but I’m not convinced it’s for me just yet.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Coffee and Walnut - Part Two


If you read my coffee and walnut cake entry last week, you’ll now know that I am a convert to this tea shop traditional favourite. But what was interesting was the fact that I would never have made this cake nor had a slice of it, had it not been for my friend selling its virtues. This made me think about how easy it is to stick to what you know in life and not veer into unchartered territories.


Friday, 19 February 2010

Coffee and Walnut cake - Out of Vogue or Out of this world?


So yesterday, I made a coffee and walnut cake for a friend as a birthday celebration. Having quizzed her sometime ago about what her favourite cake was she announced it was coffee and walnut. Well that’s a surprise I thought as it never enters my top ten. I don’t really like coffee flavouring and would always discard the coffee creams from the box of Milk Tray!

Monday, 15 February 2010

My Pancake Recipe


What you need
110 g or 4 oz of plain flour
1 egg
250 g or half a pint of milk
Pinch of salt
Sunflower oil for cooking

For the topping
Whatever takes your fancy

What I do...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Coaching and Cakes


So why a website and blog about coaching and cakes. Mainly because these subjects are dear to my heart. I work as a professional coach and love to see the changes that people are able to make as a result of coaching. In addition I love cake!! I love eating it and baking it. I love being able to turn some random ingredients into something quite glorious and I personally have learnt a lot from my baking experiences which I hope to share with you. And it won’t just be cake we’ll be discussing.