To Eat, or Not to Eat? (Sorry, Shakespeare.)

My mind for the last couple of days has been unhealthily occupied by food and weight because of finding the pretty dress. I’m not particularly unhealthy or overweight or anything, but the dress was pretty and apparently doesn’t have any room for letting it out. Which is a shame. So I’ve been debating the possibility of losing the few inches or so needed to fit into it. I have no idea of my weight – the only scales I have are my kitchen ones – but I know my measurements. They, and my clothes, guide me through my body image issues.

Image

There’s a plethora of information and disinformation about eating “correctly”, the optimum diet for health, often with weight loss as a side-effect. Every year gets its own little fad, an exciting new method promising an easy and permanent way of becoming healthy. There’s the 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting diet. Various high protein, low carb ones, like Atkins, Dukan and Paleo. High carb, low fat. Juice fasts. Weight Watchers. Slimming World. You name it, someone’s written a book about it.

But, really, the only thing I’ve worked out about all of these diets, and my own years of disordered eating, is this. One of them, one way of eating, will work for you. You’ll be happy, your body will like you. But what works for you might not be the Holy Grail for the next person.

My diet tends to be more of the Intermittent Fasting variety, without really trying. I don’t normally get hungry until early to mid-afternoon, so I usually have a late, light breakfast and dinner. It works for me. I don’t restrict my eating – I like cakes and chocolate and slabs of steak and vegetables. I try not to over-eat, but sometimes I do. I walk a lot but I don’t do any formal exercise, like going to the gym. (I would if they were like old fashioned gyms, and were more about gymnastics: rope-climbing and the like.)

This works for me. Listen to your body; what works for you?

Lemon Cupcakes

I feel like I’ve made great progress in the planning of this wedding. Still haven’t reached the heights of great stress that I’m told weddings entail, but I’m sure those’ll come. The images in my head are slowly becoming a reality, now that I have the catering and the registrar sorted. And my scouring of the web has turned up several potential dresses. My favourite one, sadly, would involve me losing about three inches, and growing seven. Such is the life of a vintage-lover!

And, since we can all agree that weight-loss is clearly on my mind this week, here’s this week’s cake test: Lemon Cupcake with a Lemon Cream Cheese icing and Blueberries. The cake is a Hummingbird recipe; the icing just cream cheese and icing sugar with a little dash of lemon juice.

DSCN0019

What you will need: 120g flour, 1 and a half tsps baking powder, 150g sugar, lemon zest, splash of lemon juice, 100g butter, 120ml milk, and 1 egg.

Firstly, mix together all the dry ingredients and the butter until you get a sandy consistency. I will admit, I gave up on the spoon and used my hands. Stir in the milk and the egg, separately, until nicely combined, and add a splash of lemon juice. This wasn’t in the original recipe – I just wanted to make it extra lemony.

Bake for about 20 mins at 170C. You should get about a dozen cakes.

For the icing, you need: cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice. Quantities to your taste. Mix it all up like glace icing and spoon onto your cooled cakes. If they’ve lasted this long. Dot with blueberries. Raspberries would work well too.

To be honest, I’m surprised they lasted long enough to be photographed. Most persuasive in their calls to be eaten. Really very tasty. These will definitely find their way onto the cake-table!

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,”

said Jorge Luis Borges – and I really wish I had!

What sort of books do you like to read? Is there a genre you prefer? Or are you like me, and will read pretty much anything, if it interests you? Do you care if the author is male or female? Does the author’s name really register when you first pick it up?

In my habitual perusal of the ‘net, I stumbled across a campaign encouraging the reading of female authors’ works, despite the allegedly off-putting pastel covers. I’ve been a bit lazy in my reading of late, I will admit, but normally, I am a prolific reader. I also hate getting rid of my books. So I have children’s books next to adult books. Well, not really, that’s not how I organise my books, but you get my drift.

My shelves are, coincidentally, mostly full of female authors. Mostly because I’ve managed to collect the majority of Georgette Heyer’s novels, a decent handful or three of Agatha Christie’s and most of Dorothy L. Sayers. And I’ve still got a load of Enid Blytons (I don’t want to have to buy my children the updated, modern editions. I see nothing wrong with the originals). I don’t have these books because the authors are female and so am I. The only author whose books I discovered because of the author’s name (and therefore gender) is Celia Rees, and she I chose because we share a name. I continued reading her books because I liked them. Most books are recommended or were idly picked up while browsing in a shop.

Good books I read, and look for more by the same. Books which bore me, not so much. I don’t normally think about the author’s gender. I just want to know if the writing’s any good. Sometimes, easy reads are what I want, and I’ll read “chick-lit” for the simplicity, or television/film tie-ins – like those by “Richard Castle”! But usually, I just want a good story, told in such a way that the words paint pictures in my mind. Conan Doyle, Dumas, the above women, Tolkien. There is a host of great authors out there, too many to list them all here. Discover your own favourites, not just the ones that the Powers That Be decide everyone should read.

I think a book is a book and you should read what you like. Regardless of the author’s gender.

Potential Cake #2

I wasn’t supposed to talk about weddings today. Well yesterday. But me and the Real World? We speak, but only sometimes. I’m not always sure which day it is.

Which is probably part of the reason why I’m being a tad slow with my organising of the Big Day.  It just seems so far away. Months, in fact. Still need a dress, though…And pretty much everything.

But anyway.

Up today is another nice, simple recipe. It’s the 2, 4, 6, 8 cake.

Image

2 eggs

4oz butter

6oz sugar

8oz self-raising flour

Enough milk or water to make the batter suitably liquid

And it works the same way as any sensible sponge. Cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, stir in sieved flour and mix. Add milk or water as required.

Bake in a moderate oven for approx. 45 minutes.

Decorate to taste. Mark asked me to make a Victoria sponge – hence the cream and jam – but it wasn’t quite deep enough to cut in two.

I reckon it requires a splish of vanilla or maybe some lemon juice. And probably some slices of fruit rather than jam.

Also – while it’s still warm, cut a slice and have it with ice cream. Very tasty.

Potential Wedding Cake #1

Is it too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year? I hope your resolutions are continuing well.

The countdown to the wedding begins in earnest now. I have less than eight months to organise this. Which is plenty of time, I’m sure. It’s all planned in my head. Just a bit annoying that this doesn’t also mean that it is, actually, planned and organised physically too.  A shame, that. Like essays. Think about them long enough and they write themselves, right? So far, though, it’s not been nearly as stressful as I’ve been led to believe. In fact, the only stressful moment came when I discovered I’d lost a diamond from my ring. We found it again, after a hunt through both the bin and the vacuum cleaner. Not that it was in either, but to be sure.

But anyway. I’m beginning this year with cake. Lots and lots of cake. Because we need to choose the wedding cake. Shame this, needing to test cakes and recipes. You can tell I’m taking any thought of a pre-wedding diet seriously, can’t you?

So. Wedding cake. Budgetary restraints mean that it’s more likely than not to be home-made. It won’t be hugely fancy and beautifully decorated (I’m no expert decorator), but it will be tasty. So I’m going through my recipe books, hunting likely cakes and trying the recipes. Mostly in cupcake-sized variety.

The only things about the wedding cake we know we don’t want are: the traditional fruit cake (Mark and his not liking raisins), and not too boozy. Which means that if I want to make it in advance, it needs to be freezable.

Potential cake no. 1 is named Extra Indulgent Cupcakes. It’s chocolatey and simple, from Women’s Weekly Chocolate Heaven edition from before Christmas. Being a chocoholic, I tend to collect anything with lots of chocolate recipes. There’ll probably be a few more cakes from this mag in the next few months.

DSCN0008

It’s straight-forward. Butter, brown sugar, self-raising flour (4ozs of each), 2 eggs and 1oz of cocoa powder. Or drinking chocolate, which is what I used, since I seem to have a collection of Wittard’s luxury ones.

Butter and sugar creamed together, stirred in eggs, then the flour and beat until smooth.

DSCN0006

Like I said, straight-forward and simple.

Teaspoons into cupcake cases, and bung ‘em in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 190C/Gas Mark 5. Decorate any way you wish. Probably best with a chocolatey icing. 

The recipe reckons this’ll make two dozen. I’ve got ten. Meh. Five for me, five for Mark. If he’s lucky.

Postscript Taste Comment: Having let them cool a bit, and getting a bit peckish, time for a Taste-Test! Aside from being perhaps a tad over-done (I always forget about fan-ovens), this doesn’t actually detract from the generally quite yummy cake. It’s still relatively moist in the middle too. As simple chocolate cakes go, this is a pretty darn good recipe. Thanks, Women’s Weekly!