Half-Baked Idea

With respect to purchasing ready-made food items that turn out to be disappointingly unpleasant to the palette, exactly what kind of half-baked idea is a ‘soft-bake’ cookie?

Supermarkets here in the UK regularly bake different flavoured cookies in-store and bag them up in fours or whatever to sell fresh, but whereas they used to be properly cooked through, crisp and crunchy on the outside and only just slightly chewy in the middle, nowadays what they call ‘soft-bake’ always seems to be the preferred option.

And I truly don’t understand where that idea came from because soft-baked, in my book, simply means half-baked, and the resulting pale, insipid, limp sad excuse for cookies taste decidedly underdone. All too often these pallorific cookie weaklings can’t even support their own weight when held up, sagging most unbecomingly through lack of structural support.

And while I’m in rant-mode since when did cookie dough become a flavour to crave, semi-raw and solid indigestible chunks – yuk! Selling cookie dough flavoured anything as a finished product is about as appetising as selling raw cake batter as a tasty snack. Nice enough when licked off a spoon in small quantities at home, but not when swallowed in bulk as a staple food source.

So anyway, on the rare occasions I buy any supermarket in-store bakery cookies these days, I always find I basically have to finish baking them off in a nice hot oven for at least five minutes or so until they become a structurally sound golden brown and able to hold their own, and only after cooling again on a wire rack do they become in the least bit edible… Grrr… 🙂

Monday Peeve

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Apropos

Mango and Ginger Cake Dessert

After a week of warm sunny weather, it’s much cooler today and we’ve had nothing but rain all day today. Bummer. Good for the garden though.

I was sitting on the sofa tonight watching TV and I fancied something sweet to eat. I checked the fridge, but found nothing tempting there. I looked in the larder cupboard, and found nothing there to fit the bill either. So I decided to make something using store-cupboard ingredients.

I took a tin of mango in juice and chopped the fruit into bite-size chunks, laying them in the bottom of a Pyrex dish. I quickly mixed up some basic cake mixture and flavoured it with ginger powder, vanilla essence and a little of the mango juice from the tin. I poured the batter over the fruit and stuck it into the oven.

While the cake was baking, I boiled up the remaining juice from the mango tin with a slug of apple juice, a dash of sugar and some more ginger powder and reduced it until it made a thickish syrup. Once the cake came out of the oven I pricked it all over with a skewer, and poured the syrup over the top and left it to cool a little.

I didn’t leave it for too long though, and was soon tucking in to a substantial portion warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… and it was yum! Guess who has a big contented smile on her face now, as well as something sweet in her belly.

Nice yummy surprise for my husband when he gets home from work at 10pm too! 🙂

Weekly Smile

Freshly Baked Cakes

These little cakes fresh from the oven probably couldn’t look any more beige-brown boring if they tried, but oh, the warm and comforting sweet smell of cinnamon and vanilla fills the kitchen with the most wonderful aroma. As soon as they cool enough to eat, I’m going to have one with a steaming hot cup of coffee – and that’s another lovely smell to add to my day at home! 🙂

Cee’s Fun Foto: Sense of Smell

Chicken Soup for Lunch

Today I want soup for lunch, so here it is in the making.

Being an old-fashioned sort, I always have a bag of chicken bones squirreled away in the freezer, added to bit by bit as I go along until I have enough of a collection to boil up for a big pot of stock. And in turn the resulting chicken stock makes whatever I fancy at the time. Usually the base for soup, but sometimes a hearty stew or a risotto.

But as today I want soup, I’ve added a handful of oatmeal for thickening, a handful of pearl barley because I love the creamy conststency it makes, chopped garlic, onion, carrot and sweet potato, and seasoning to taste. For me today that means black pepper, a shake of chilli powder, and a good dose of mixed dried herbs, parsely, and of course bayleaf.

My soup needs to simmer gently for a couple of hours, and then about half an hour before I want to eat it, I’ll add a decent portion of frozen sweetcorn kernels to cook through – and then after warming through some crusty bread to go with it, we’ll enjoy some yummy soup for lunch! 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Want

Cee’s Fun Foto: Sense of Taste

Foodie FUBAR

I’m generally quite a confident cook, so am always happy to play around and experiment with different ideas and just wait and see how things turn out. Luckily for me, whatever new concoction of ingredients I experiment with, my husband is always happy to give it a go and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the absolute culinary disasters I’ve had over the last 20 years we’ve been together.

But it’s easy to tell my mind’s a bit preoccupied just now, because recently we almost had a foodie FUBAR incident with a normal everyday decidedly non-experimental basic sponge mixture for a quick-and-easy Eve’s pudding. (NB Eve’s pudding is like apple crumble but with a soft sponge on top rather than a dense and crunchy crumble.)

What happened was I was thinking about tons of other stuff while I was preparing everything. I peeled, cored and sliced the apples on autopilot, placed them in an oven-proof dish, sprinkled lemon juice and a little brown sugar and some cinnamon, and microwaved them for a minute or so to start to soften a little.

And while the apples were in the microwave, I got on with making the sponge mix – equal weights of butter, sugar, eggs, flour all beaten up together to a smooth thick batter consistency. Then I added some cinnamon powder and vanilla extract to flavour the mix and reached up to my spice rack to grab some ginger powder, giving it a good heaped-teaspoon-worth shake over the bowl to give the cake a little kick.

At this point, with the smell of cinammony apples coming from the microwave, my husband came through to see what I was making, and asked to taste the cake batter before I poured it over the apples and put it into the oven to bake. He took a taste on the tip of his finger, and pulled a puzzled face. He took another taste just to be sure…

Um… That tastes funny… Have you used curry powder instead of cinnamon, he asked? I picked up the tub in question – nope, definitely cinnamon. So I tasted it myself… yuk! That wasn’t ginger I was tasting… It was garlic! In my pre-occupied mind-state it seems I’d picked up the powdered garlic instead of the powdered ginger off the spice rack and had applied it liberally to the sweet cake mix without even noticing… Duh!

So the dodgy garlic-infused cake batter went in the bin and I started again, using ginger powder this time, and thankfully the resulting Eve’s pudding was as yummy as usual, eaten hot with cold vanilla ice-cream…Mmmm…!

However, the epilogue to this story is that my husband was doing something DIY-ish the other day and I reminded him to be careful. He looked at me with a grin and said – You know I’ve been doing stuff like this for years, I do know what to do… I mean, I don’t tell you how much garlic to put in a cake, do I?

Ha ha ha ha OMG will I ever live it down! 😀

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Experiment

Tonight’s Dinner

Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt today is dinner, so I’ve taken it literally and am sharing a pic of my dinner with you tonight. We’ve got oven-baked scampi, petit pois, and cheese-and-onion-stuffed baked potato. And after a busy day out in the garden again we’re eating on a tray in front of the TV.

Last night I baked four potatoes and we ate two fresh from the oven with chilli salmon, tomatoes and coleslaw – yum!

So tonight I took the two leftover cold baked potatoes and halved them lengthways. I then took a dessert spoon and carefully scooped out most of the flesh, keeping a very small layer of potato over the skins to create a perfect potato skin bowl. I mashed the cold potato with grated cheese, pre-fried onions and seasoning to taste before heaping the well-mixed filling back into the potato skins and sticking them in the oven again to heat through and crisp up.

It’s a great way to use leftover baked potato, and I make it with cheese and onion, with cheese and mushroom, or with cheese and bacon – I really love it done this way so will often bake extra beforehand just so I have leftovers! PS The scampi and peas came straight from freezer to oven and microwave respectively 🙂

Weekly Smile: Simmering Soup

What’s definitely made me smile today is a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove – the pink bit at the front is a smoked gammon joint, and the rest is diced onion, leek, carrot, and swede with seasoning to taste (including a bayleaf). It’s pouring with rain outside, and I can hear the wind buffeting the swaying branches of the trees in the garden, but I’m warm and dry in my cosy kitchen with the wonderful wholesome smell of soup cooking for dinner tonight – yum! 🙂

Weekly Smile

Leek and Tattie Soup

So here I am on a typically damp and dismal Scottish Saturday morning, with a pot of leek and tattie soup simmering away.

I’ve always loved cooking, but since moving back to the North of Scotland from the South of England four months ago I’ve been finding myself drawn back to the practical and economical dishes of my youth, traditional tastes of the past all suddenly clamouring for attention again in the creative culinary section of my middle-aged memory banks.

Mind you, living with my parents for the first ten weeks we were back in Scotland meant inevitably cooking only the sort of meals my dad can eat – he’s 83, with mobility issues after four strokes and memory issues with ongoing vascular demetia, so keeping to an easily-recognisable-to-him menu is an important part of his ongoing care. And at least he still has a good appetite and enjoys his food!

So I cooked (and we ate) a lot of soup – lentil, leek and tattie, Scotch broth – and variations on a theme of mince and tatties or stew and tatties, and stovies, often with fruit crumbles and custard or bread and butter pudding for afters – yum! And now we’re here in our own house, with a big enough kitchen to cook in comfortably, I’m continuing in the same vein a lot of the time, sticking to the heart-warming farmhouse cooking I grew up with.

It makes me smile to be hearing my paternal grandmother’s satisfied voice so loud and clear in my head ‘Aye, that’s fine soup – gings roon yer hert like a hairy wurrum’ (Goes round your heart like a hairy worm). She was a typical North-East-Coast farmer’s wife, and much of my knowledge of traditional cooking and baking has come from spending quality time with her as I was growing up.

Although sadly she’s long gone, it speaks volumes to her quiet, steady influence on me that not only do I still use today the culinary skills developed years ago by her side, but also I’ve taught my children those same skills, and now my grown-up children are teaching my grandchildren in their turn. Too many people are unable to cook from scratch these days, and I’m proud that generations of my family can make a meal out of traditional ingredients, then, now and on into the future… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Loud

Fruit Crumble

A chronological line up of pics showing a day in the life of two types of autumn fruits progressing from plant to plate 🙂

The fruit on mum and dad’s plum tree is ripening nicely just now, as are the brambles growing along the side of the road by the house. So the other day my husband picked some of both and I made them into one big fruit crumble.

After cooking in the oven I could see the fruit had been far juicier than I had anticipated so the end result didn’t look the best with all the juice soaking right up through the sugary cinnamony crumble topping but oh, the smell – and the taste – was absolutely delicious.

We had it hot with custard on the first day, then cold with vanilla ice cream the next… yum! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Line Up

Colouring In is my New Comfort Eating

Due to a recent diagnosis of several mid-life digestive health issues, I currently find myself having to face up to the seriously negative consequences of my ever-present emotional eating for comfort. At 55 I’m really not finding it easy, because old habits die hard and after a lifetime of swallowing down my disappointments and reducing the bitter taste of quietly taking my doing-what-I-should-be-doing medicine with the proverbial spoonful of sugar, I’m finally facing my food demons and dealing with my past pains instead of always shutting them up with the promise of tasty treats.

Changing my diet so completely inevitably also requires a necessary change in both attitude and lifestyle, and the emotional consequences of such a massive change means that right now I’m constantly craving the comfort I’ve historically found in food, which of course is the very thing I’m trying to relieve myself of in the first place – Aaarrrggghhh..! It’s unbelievably complex for me to delve so deeply into exploring why I’ve developed such bad habits over the years going all the way back to childhood, and although I’m finding it a complete head-fuck at the moment I’m determined to see it through.

So instead of eating for comfort whenever I feel bad, I’ve been concentrating on colouring in – absolutely loads of colouring in. I really enjoy it, it keeps me busy, and it creates a very different kind of distraction from food. I find I have to be physically calm to colour in well – I like smooth lines and soft shapes, not jerky erratic strokes all over the page. So I tend to start off staccato, and focus on stilling my movements until everything starts to flow better from my hand. And you know what? Once the colour flows smoothly, I do actually feel a bit better emotionally too – at least, relaxed enough to have passed beyond that particular point of craving food for comfort, anyway.

And as well as the physical calmness I find in colouring in, the more emotionally relaxed state it brings me to seems to be responsible for creatively opening up a line of communication with a host of other difficult issues that I’ve also struggled to process in the past. I find myself feeling increasingly curious to explore them now, as if the more the pressure is off the more things seem to come to me, naturally and organically. In finally letting it all out instead of swallowing it all down, it feels as if I’m able to deal relatively comfortably with the emotional as well as the physical issues held within my errant digestive system, which surely can only be a good thing?

So while physically I’m getting to grips with a whole new way of eating, emotionally I’m comfort-colouring my way to good health and wellbeing, in the hope that I can build myself new creative habits to help over-ride the familiarity of those old destructive patterns of behaviour, once and for all…