Saturday 30 May 2020

Not Quite Gingerbread

It feels as if I have baked a cake every weekend recently.   Sometimes it’s my Banana Bread, sometimes it’s been Lemon Drizzle Cake and when we were overloaded with carrots, it was Carrot Cake.  (I’ll share those two recipes later - I’m still working to perfect my carrot cake, having lost my original, reliable recipe.) 

Today, I baked the closest recipe I’ve got to gingerbread.  This is inspired by a war time recipe for Fat Free Gingerbread that was posted on MSE.  I made the original and found it very tough and chewy.  Of course, it may have been different if I’d used it for gingerbread men, but in a loaf cake, it didn’t work.  The spicing, however, was amazing.  I’ve experimented a bit and this is the result.  While I’ve always made it using my food processor, uou can use a stand mixer, a hand held electric mixer or mix by hand in a large bowl with a whisk or wooden spoon. The recipe doubles up well.  (I normally bake two at a time and and freeze the second.)

Not Quite Gingerbread - makes 1 loaf cake or 12 muffins


1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar
1 egg
150g/1 cup soft, dark, muscovardo sugar
1/2 cup rapeseed oil
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons mixed spice


  1. In the food processor, combine the milk with the vinegar.  It should curdle.  Leave it to rest for 5 minutes while you measure out the rest of your ingredients.  Put the flour and oats in one container, the sugar in another and the baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and spices in a third.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Line a loaf pan or muffin tins with paper liners.
  3. After 5 minutes, combine the sugar, oil and egg with the milk.  Whiz for at least 10 seconds.
  4. Add the baking powder/spice mixture and whiz until there are no visible lumps.
  5. Finally, pour in the flour and oats.  Process until all is combined.  The mixture will appear a bit grainy from the oats and that is perfectly OK.  The mixture will be runny.
  6. If making a loaf cake, pour your mixture into your lined loaf pan and bake at 180C for 55 minutes.
  7. If making muffins, use a quarter cup measure to ladle the mixture into individual muffin cases and bake 180C for 20-25 minutes.  One muffin case should equal one filled quarter cup measure.  If you have any mixture left over, distribute it evenly between the cases.
  8. Once cooked, remove your  cake or muffins from their tin and cool on a rack.  Don’t put in a cake tin until cold.
  9. If you are going to freeze the cake, ensure it is cold, keep the liner on and place in a bag or wrap in cling film before freezing.   Once defrosted, remove the paper liner before placing in your cake tin.  The liner will be soggy and a damp cake goes mouldy faster.

- Pip

Sunday 24 May 2020

SitRep: May update

Hello.  How are you doing in these strange times?  As you will have gathered from a certain car’s post, below, we’ve been on Leave this week.  While I wish we could have travelled, I must say that it has been nice to have a break and a change to the rhythm of our days.  Highlights have been a visit to Costco, a visit to the butcher and walking 2 miles to go to the bank.   Oh, and we ordered a takeaway one evening.  

Prior to the break, it felt like every day was the same!  DH and I are both working from home, so that’s 8 hours of the day taken care of.  It feels like a lot more Worktime is spent in calls and meetings than would normally happen in the office.  Most evenings after work we go for a half-hour walk, cook dinner then watch telly.  I’ll knit and sew, while watching.  (Not much change there.).  

Weekends, we garden a bit, watch more telly, listen to podcasts together... The Kermode & Mayo Film Review podcast is a regular “date”.  It comes out on a Friday evening and we’ll try to listen to it together by Monday.  (Before Lockdown, we’d both listen on our separate drives to work and then discuss it.). I have a lot of podcasts in my queue and will listen when pottering around the kitchen/cooking dinner/doing housework/gardening/doing a very boring, brainless task “at work” (literally something that doesn’t require thought or my ears would shut off). 

One evening on the weekend, DH will play a video game online with his mates and I’ll read or phone my friends.  I love to read and have far more books in my queue than I have time to read them.  In our borough, you can sign up on line to borrow e-books from the “library”, but there’s also the Bookbub mailing list which sends a daily email of free or cheap e-books to match your preferences (Kindles, Apple Books, etc).  The Kindle app is free and I read them on my phone/iPad.  Re the library service, you can also borrow audiobooks for free.

Human contact is important.  We have a couple of regular Skype calls set up, e.g. normally on a Tuesday we’d do a pub quiz, now our quiz team Skype at “quiz time”.  Every couple of weeks, I have a call with the girls from Head Office Finance (where I worked 20 years ago).   My department at work have “Virtual Pub” on a Friday, where we chat and play games.  My project team are now doing the same on a Thursday.   And my choir are having Zoom calls instead of rehearsals.  (You only need to set up a Zoom account if you are hosting the meeting.)

Here is my update on my 20:20’s:-
  1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth). 15/20 - I finished the jumper I was knitting (5 balls), started the next one (currently 9 balls down) and have still only clocked up one pair of socks this year (ending a ball of yarn in the process).   
  2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards) for 20 weeks. Not started yet.  Modified to 20 weeks.
  3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks. 5 weeks.
  4. Read 20 books. 3/20.  These are listed In the sidebar on the right.  I have two books on the go right now and am 70% through both of them.
  5. Try 20 new dinner recipes.  1/20.  I am a cook!  How can this be so difficult to achieve?
  6. 20 gardening sessions.   4 proper ones so far plus a couple of minutes mucking around with seeds.
  7. Explore 20 new places 1/20 - the cathedral at Bayeux.
  8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings/exhibitions) 3/20 - Frank Skinner’s “Showbiz”.  The News Quiz.  The Troy exhibition at the British Museum.
  9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count. 29/66 coupons used.  These are listed in the sidebar on the right.
  10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone). 8/20.
  11. Lose 20lbs.  6/20.  (To be honest, I’m just glad I haven’t put any weight on given the “Covid Calories” everyone is eating.)
  12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems) 3/20 - hemmed trousers from a suit purchased in 2018 (I’d only worn the skirt and jacket, not the trousers).  Mended the pockets of a different suit jacket, bringing that suit back into rotation.  Repaired the pockets on DH’s shorts.
  13. Declutter 20 items.
  14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
  15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400) £100/£400
  16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund).  29/20.  
  17. Write 20 blog posts.  15/20 
  18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds).  9/20:  11.1.20 10505 steps, 22.2.20 10603 steps, 7.3.20 13527 steps, 21.4.20 10524 steps, 3.5.20 11,196 steps, 4.5.20 13,956 steps, 17.5.20 14,066 steps, 18.5.20 15,046 steps, 19.5.20 11,567 steps.  
  19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
  20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018.  9/20.

- Pam

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Recipe Tuesday: Corn Pone (or what to do with leftover chilli)

Sunday, we had beef chilli for dinner.  When I cooked it, I followed the chilli variant of my recipe post from May 2007,  Minced Beef & Other Possibilities, adding grated carrots and a quarter cup of split red lentils to ensure we had leftovers.  There was enough chilli for dinner for two, two lunch boxes and to form the basis of dinner tonight.  

The idea behind this recipe comes from The Tightwad Gazette, where Amy Dacycyn talks about adding a tin of baked beans and a cornbread top to leftover chilli, in order to make Corn Pone.  Sadly, Amy doesn’t give more details. Maybe Americans are taught to make cornbread at school.  I certainly wasn’t.  The top is a Cornmeal Spoon Bread.  I haven’t priced up the leftover chilli but the additions come to 62p.

Corn Pone - Serves 4


2-4 portions of beef chilli
1x 420g can baked beans (22p)
150g/1 cup fine cornmeal (15p)
1 teaspoon baking powder (5p)
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional) (5p)
1 teaspoon lazy chilli (optional) (5p)
1 egg, beaten (10p)
250ml/1 cup water
Pinch of salt
5 grounds black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  2. Combine the chilli and the baked beans and pour into a deep ovenproof dish.  Smooth over the top.
  3. In a bowl, combine the other ingredients and beat until smooth.  (This is the spoon bread top.)
  4. Pour the spoon bread over the over the chilli, carefully covering the top of the chilli.  (It will be runny and won’t pour out smoothly.)
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until browned and crisp on top.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to look pretty on the plate, but it was yummy!


- Pam

I Got Driven!!!

Is Pam looking?  No?  Good.  Hello, it’s Lucky Car here.  I’m borrowing the Blog.  I have to tell someone.  I am so excited!  I went for a DRIVE!!!  Yes!  Frank, the Boy’s car, doesn’t want to talk to me anymore because, in the last two days, I’ve been for two drives!  (Frank is sulking.  He’s jealous.). I haven’t been driven for ages.  Pam hasn’t been to the office in over 2 months.  I know she’s working - I can see her sitting at a computer most days - but we haven’t gone anywhere for a long time.  They say it’s because of Lockdown and the virus.

Yesterday, I went all the way to Costco.  Their car park was busy - I haven’t seen so many moving cars in ages!  The humans were queuing all the way down the side of the warehouse.  There were marks on the ground two metres apart.  Most people seemed to observe “Social Distancing” (whatever that means) but many don’t realise that the 2-metre-rule is in every direction, not just in front of them.  Unlike the time Pam took me to Tesco in April - she queued for over 45 minutes - it didn’t take Pam and the Boy long to get into Costco.   They were out again within 30 minutes. 

The Boy drove me today.   I had a bit of a workout.  We went to the butcher’s shop near the station, then drove the long way round the back of the RAF base to get home. A whole extra 2 miles!  It was lovely to feel the road under my tyres and to hear the radio playing.  (I haven’t listened to anything for ages.  There’s no cricket or football on the radio and Pam hasn’t played a podcast in me for months!)

I miss long drives.  We were meant to be in Normandy this week but nobody can travel.  I sit parked at the front of the house, dreaming of the day that Pam and the Boy throw a suitcase in my boot and we drive off, and keep driving until there is no road left.  I want to go through the Channel Tunnel and head for places we’ve never been together, maybe even as far as the Czech Republic where I was born.  I just want to experience the open road again.

- Lucky.

PS:  Don’t tell Frank but I get to go on holidays because I’m more fuel efficient.