Time to start eating healthily again!

Walkers crisps from the UK
Why must you be so tasty? (Photo credit: suanie)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been letting the fact that I could eat normally again go to my head. Pizza, chips, jaffa cakes, chocolate Digestives and Walkers crisps have all disappeared down my throat like it was the last time I was ever going to be fed. The result? I’ve now put back on half of the weight I had lost thanks to my wisdom tooth operation. Ooops! It’s time for this to stop, and healthy eating to recommence. That’s not to say I won’t be eating any junk food. After all, I do have a sweetie hamper that it would be a shame to let go to waste! And they say a little of what you fancy does you good. But muffins and pizza in the same day? Half a packet of Rolos followed by a bag of crisps and a handful of Liqurice Allsorts? Slightly excessive, don’t you think? It’s got to stop! So, from today, I shall be cooking nice healthy meals again. And no snacking in between! That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how well I stick to it…

And obviously Irish pub days don’t count… I need my fix of chips with salt and vinegar at least once a month!

35 Before 35: Baking – Honey Gingerbread Biscuits

I mentioned that one of the bee-themed gifts that I got for my birthday was honey. Combined with what I already had in my kitchen cupboards, that meant I was left with a lot of honey, so yesterday I decided to find a recipe and try to use some of it up. I chose these Honey Gingerbread Biscuits, mainly because I had all the ingredients (there’s no going shopping on a Sunday in Germany!).

Biscuits in the oven
Biscuits in the oven

I had no ground cloves, so instead I used extra cinnamon and nutmeg. I also added quite a bit of extra ginger because I find recipes never use enough for my tastes.

Biscuits 2

While they were baking, my kitchen smelled like Christmas!
I actually left the first batch in for too long… you may notice that some of the biscuits on the above picture are slightly darker looking… but they weren’t actually burnt and they still tasted okay.

Biscuits 3

The biscuits that I hadn’t overcooked had just the right amount of crispiness, but the honey made them slightly chewy in the middle and the spices gave them a nice kick that took the edge off the sweetness. I’ll probably make these again… and try not to get distracted when it’s time to take them out of the oven!

Two biscuit recipes down, eight more to go!

35 Before 35 – An update

Now that my 30th birthday has passed, I thought it was time to take a look at the progress I’ve made so far on my 35 Before 35 challenge .

First of all, a request. I’m up to 32 things on my list (which you can view here), which means I still need three more! Any suggestions? Some of the things on there are probably going to be quite expensive (hot air balloon ride! Stay in a five star hotel!), so maybe something that isn’t going to break the bank…

So, how far have I got with the items that are already on the list? I’ll do this in numerical order, I think…

Number 3: Learn Spanish. Welllll, I joined Memrise, used it for about three days, then completely forgot it existed. And I haven’t been on Duolingo for months. Not the best start…

Number 13: Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books. I have read two so far – The Importance of Being Trivial by Mark Mason (scroll right down in the linked post – I wrote about it briefly after my revew of Emma) and What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? And Other Cultural Lists: Fully Described by Peter D’Epiro.

Number 15: Read 20 books in German. I put this one on the list because I almost never pick up books in German when there are English ones to be read! I’ve managed three German books since starting the challenge though: Schattenfreundin by Christine Drews, Schwesterlein, Komm Stirb mit Mir by Karen Sander and Mordsfreunde by Nele Neuhaus. All three are crime novels – it’s difficult to find much else by German authors, and I prefer to read books that were written in English in the original!

Number 18: bake 10 different types of biscuit (cookie for the Americans). I’ve baked one type of biscuit so far, Chocolate Cherry Cookies. You can read all about that here.

Number 21: Read all those books from the BBC Big Read Top 200 list of books that I haven’t before. That makes a total of 132 books, and so far I have read 6: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Emma by Jane Austen, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher and To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.

Number 28: Play blacklight (glow-in-the-dark) minigolf.  I did this in Berlin, and posted about it here.

I think I’ve made a pretty good start to the challenge. Hopefully I can keep it up!

35 Before 35: Baking – Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I know you’ve all been waiting for the biscuits post. Well… some of you have anyway. Oh, ok… maybe three of you. And you would have had it sooner if my train home hadn’t been delayed – thanks for that, Deutsche Bahn! Anyway… on with the post…

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

On Saturday we were invited to a WG party (a WG or Wohngemeinschaft is basically a flatshare – Wohngemeinschaft literally translates as living community). One of the items on my – as yet incompete – 35 before 35 list is to bake ten different kinds of biscuit. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone – by baking biscuits I would have something to bring along to the party and make a start on another list item. Perfect!

I chose to make Chocolate Cherry Cookies using a recipe I found on the BBC Good Food website (click the name of the cookies for the recipe… but open it in a new tab. You want to stay here after all, don’t you?).

Stupidly right up until the mixture was almost ready I managed to overlook the fact that the dough wanted to be refrigerated for 2 hours before baking. Whaaaat?! I only finished making the dough at 10pm! Now I was going to have to wait til midnight before I could even bake the first batch! Buuut, the recipe did say “2 hours or until firm”. Maybe I would get lucky?

I initially left the dough in the fridge for half an hour. At 10:30, I took the bowl out, discovered the mixture to be nowhere near firm, then decided to try my luck anyway for at least a few cookies. It’s not like I was going to run out of mixture any time soon!

If you're thinking that's a lot of mixture... you'd be right!
If you’re thinking that’s a lot of mixture… you’d be right!

The mixture was still verrrry sticky as I tried to roll balls of it in icing sugar, but I persevered long enough to get eight of them:

Balls of cookie dough
Balls of cookie dough

Into the oven went the eight raw cookies while the remaining mixture went back into the fridge. After 12 minutes (the supposed baking time), I found the cookies still rather sticky, so back into the oven they went.

Nowhere near cooked yet... also, my balls may have been slightly too big
Nowhere near cooked yet… also, my balls may have been slightly too big

At 5 past 11, experimental batch 1 came out of the oven and I decided to try for another batch. The middle of the mixture was still pretty sticky, but around the edges was firm enough, so I used that. It certainly made rolling the balls easier!

Batch one finished... cookies or rocks?
Batch one finished… cookies or rocks?
Batch 2 waiting to go in the oven
Batch 2 waiting to go in the oven

I also discovered the reason some balls had ended up so large was because the cherries inside them were large. Yes, it was a bit of a “well, duh!!” moment…

I carried on like that, putting the mixture back in the fridge as each batch was cooking and using those bits of dough that had managed to get firm in that time before eventually deciding enough was enough and going to bed. It was 1 a.m. by that time! The next morning, I was up bright and early to make a couple more batches before going out for the day. The mixture was certainly firm now… so firm that I had to use a spoon to break bits off for rolling into balls!

Ironically, after all that we ended up not even going to the party. But at least I made a start on another list item… and Jan had some yummy cookies to take to work this morning (he was supposed to take them yesterday… but he forgot). Apparantly his colleagues had been asking when I would be baking again…

Cookies, ready for delivery
Cookies, ready for delivery

Snippets

Monday Blues
Monday Blues (Photo credit: United States Marine Corps Official Page)

The epic what-we-did-in-Ireland marathon seems to have temporarily robbed my of my blogging mojo, so instead of a proper post, today I’m just going to give you some random snippets of information:

  • Today it was hot and sunny for practically the first time since we got back from our holiday (well, with the excpetion of the day after our return). Being the fool that I am, I left both my sunhat and my sunglasses at home this morning. You would think after this incident I would have learned my lesson! Luckily my route from work to the tram stop can be walked in the shade, and back in Karlsruhe I took the tram home… even though it’s only one stop. Tomorrow, rain is forecast again. So much for summer!
  • I know I promised you biscuits (cookies)… and I will be posting about them in the near future… as soon as the very idea of uploading photos to my blog doesn’t seem like a monumental effort. I’m sure you don’t want a post about biscuits without pictures, do you?
  • At the weekend, Jan and I had a very long and very draining conversation about our relationship. I still have no idea where things are going, if anywhere… but he did say the last 3-4 months have been great, which makes him think he does want a future with me. Buuut generally he still doesn’t know what he wants. From our relationship, from life… he just doesn’t know. I’ve agreed to stay until Janaury… again (sound familiar in any way?). Because I’m weak I actually think we make a good couple and I hope things will work out between us. Also, I can’t actually afford to move out right now, so once we get back from our trip to England I’ll start saving up so I can actually pay the deposit on a flat come January!
  • Tomorrow is the quiz and I’ve never felt less knowledgeable… except maybe last month. Ick.
  • It’s only Monday and already I feel like I’m behind on this week’s work. So. Much. To. Do! I think I need another holiday already…
  • Speaking of holidays… only 18 days until I fly to England for a week! I really need to get a move on with finding a dress for the christening…

That’s all I can think of, and I have to get in some exercise before I start cooking, so this is where I leave you. Proper post coming up tomorrow… maybe.

 

Irish food stash…

… or what happens when you allow me to shop at Tescos.

Food stash

This is just a small stash, because there wasn’t much room and we will be in England at the end of July anyway.
Here’s what you’re seeing in the photo above:

  • Bisto gravy granules
  • Galaxy Minstrels
  • Baxter’s soup (so I wouldn’t have to go shopping for something for lunch on Monday)
  • Brown sauce
  • Ginger Nuts
  • Vice Versas (OMG, they’ve started making those again?! Must buy!!)
  • BBQ Beef Hula Hoops
  • Strepsils
  • Lemsip Cold & Flu powder
  • Baking powder that actually works!!
  • Ready-made poppadoms
  • Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch
  • Chocolate Limes
  • Dark chocolate Hob Nobs
  • A three pack of Galaxy Ripples
  • A Cadbury’s Wispa
  • 8 Irish Potato Farls

OK, when everything’s listed like that it does sound like quite a lot, but trust me, I showed great self-restraint here. I could very easily have added to the pile…

Home alone!

 

Jan had to leave for his dissertation conference thingy at 5:30 this morning (yawn!), so I am now boyfriend-free for a whole week. Of course,most of that time will be spent at work, but for today it’s just me and the flat. Her are my plans for the day:

A whole pot of tea and some biscuits all to myself. No need to share!

Tea and biscuits

Two new cross stitch magazines for me to read – and pick out projects that I’ll probably never get round to stitching!

Cross stitch magazines

A selection of my favourite music playing on my BlackBerry!

Currently playing: Poets of the Fall - All the Way/4U
Currently playing: Poets of the Fall – All the Way/4U

(By the way, it’s incredibly difficult to take a photo that actually shows which song is playing rather than just the reflection of my face/the camera/the ceiling…)

Staying in my pyjamas, fluffy socks and slippers all day!

PJs

And just because it’s so cute, have a bonus picture of my teapot dressed in an owl tea cosy:

owl cosy

Later, I shall be starting my spring clean, but for now it’s time to relax and enjoy having the place to myself.
Have a great Sunday everyone!

 

Christmas baking – round 3

On Sunday, a friend invited us over to his place to bake biscuits. Obviously I jumped at the chance – all the fun of baking without getting flour all over my own kitchen again? What’s not to like! There were 9 of us in all, but we managed to do a pretty good job of not getting in each other’s way.

First we baked biscuits

biscuits in ovenThen we decorated them:

Christmas tree biscuitsWe had many different types. These are some traditional German biscuits known as Vanille Kipferln (Vanilla Crescents is the best translation I can come up with).

VanillekipferlThese ones were waiting to go in the oven when I took this – somehow I failed to take one of them after they came out.
These chocolate-coated biscuits are gluten free for the sake of one of the group. Can you tell I had fun decorating the teddy bear?

Gluten free teddy biscuitOnce we’d finished baking, we settled down to feast on our creations with a nice cup of Glühwein.

Christmas biscuitsA fun afternoon, but I don’t think any of us will be wanting a sugary snack for a while!

Christmas baking – round 2

Gingerbread men, baked in 2011
Gingerbread men, baked in 2011

Question: What do you get if you turn a gingerbread man upside down?

Rudolph!
Rudolph!

Answer: A reindeer of course!

I saw this idea on Facebook a while ago, and knew that as soon as the time for Christmas baking came around (November is not the appropriate time!) I would have to try it out.
The picture I saw used white icing for the details, but I preferred to make mine with chocolate icing. I think they worked out quite well, considering I only bought the thing for putting on the icing yesterday (no idea what it’s called – it looks like a syringe!). Technically, my reindeer aren’t upside down gingerbread men, because they contain no ginger! I put cocoa powder in, and now wish I’d gone with vanilla or something so the icing would show up better. But overall I’m pleased with them.
Here are some more Rudolphs:

Rudolph times four (And you thought there was only one!)
Rudolph times four (And you thought there was only one!)

(This was actually supposed to be last night’s post, but by the time I’d finished icing it was midnight and I was exhausted! Since I’m working from home today, I can post this before I log on to work and still start at my usual time… and it’s still last night somewhere in the world, I’m sure!)