Converting the Americans

Converting them to what – or from what? You may well ask!

One of the things that the internet has brought us, is recipes from round the world.  Recipes from far flung countries with different climates and different languages do not seem to be a problem – usually someone, somewhere, has taken the trouble to convert the recipe from whatever units it is usually made in – into (nowadays) grams and millilitres. Apart from American recipes!

If you are ‘of a certain age’ you are probably still thinking in ounces and pints for cooking. In fact there are a few recipes I really do not think I could work in metric, so long ago were they learnt that I make them on automatic pilot and in imperial. They are, at least, proper measurements.

DSCF5371I have been looking for a particular type of biscuit to set as a competition for our WIs next group meeting. Now, for the uninitiated, a group meeting is where a designated group of WIs in an area get together for a cut-throat friendly set of competitions and a talk – frequently one that would be beyond the reach (financially) of one WI on its own, though not always.

DSCF5377At these events the friendly competition is usually set to reflect the theme of the talk. Hence – the last one we set up was a talk from a man who had owned a Zoo … the competitions were: Floral – a flower arrangement to represent a wild animal, Craft – a decorative border for the poem Tyger Tyger, by Blake and, Cookery – a Zebra Cake!
Just a few of the entries shown Right>

DSCF5369Now the only available versions of this zebra cake were in American Cups – and using a tin size that is just not commonly in the British cupboard. So a lot of conversion and changing of quantities took place until the recipe worked in metric … and then it had to be converted to imperial and checked again, as some ladies of a ‘very certain age’ only measure and cook in imperial.
Zebra Cake!  my metric / imperial recipe here

I struggle to understand why the Americans use their form of measurements in their cooking. I have heard that it was from when they had nothing to weigh with, that recipes using ‘cups’ were simple enough that any vessel could be the ‘cup’ and as long as the proportions (the cup) used was the same the recipe would then work. Understandable then, if true, but when we live in an age when even ‘sophisticated’ scales, that swap between imperial and metric, are available for small amounts of money – why use a method so random?

Just try getting a ‘cup’ of butter  to be right – or using a different type of sugar to the one specified when you run out of one but have the other in the cupboard (granulated, demerara and caster all give different cup measurements) – or even flour – which has to be ‘fluffed-up’ before making up the cups ‘best spooned into the cup and then levelled off!’ What?!

Looking it up I see that many American Chefs and Cookery writers are trying to convert the Americans to use scales and recipes that are more accurate – but there is a huge resistance – ‘Cups’ ‘Spoons’ and ‘Sticks’ are almost seen as patriotic! (by the way – ‘spoons’ as in ‘a spoon of butter’ – not just spoons of fluid ingredients)

At our next group meeting in May 2016 we have the lovely Anthea Lay who was a competitor on The Big Painting Challenge on the BBC, bringing us an interactive Big Painting Challenge Experience to our WI Group meeting – I’m looking forward to it … but before that I have to work out the cookery competition to fit the theme, and soon – so we can notify the other WIs.

I am after a particular type of biscuit that I saw on the internet, one that can be made to look like an artist’s palette. Can I find it in metric or imperial? Can I coco!

So once more I shall set about converting the American measures into Metric and Imperial. It does mean that I’ll have another recipe to add here eventually – which can’t be a bad thing.

Have you ever tried an American ‘cups’ type recipe without converting it?  How did it go?

Do you *sigh* when you find a really nice looking recipe and see it is all in ‘cups’ ‘spoons’ and ‘sticks’?

Do share your thoughts – and any good recipes too, you know I love to hear from you.

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Fat Woman Thinning? Sunday breakfast to The Big Breakfast

If you are new to the FWT? blog-posts, welcome to Fat Woman Thinning? – a 52 week blog, which I started as pages to keep myself on-track and so my ‘primary cheerleaders’ (my sons) could keep up with my progress. Then two weeks ago, I felt brave enough to post it as a blog!  If you are one of my new cheerleaders ! Yay! Great to see you again!

Sunday 22 /1 – week 4 of 52 week blog

Weigh-in 11stone 7lbs  (161 lbs or 73.2 kg)  belly-button measurement : 42 1/2 ”  relaxed  40 1/2 ”  pulled in

So, a 1 lb drop – that’s 7lb over the three weeks – but more impressive this week was the waist measurement. Yes, I did check that the measurements were ‘level’ and in each case, relaxed and pulled-in there is a 1 inch difference from last week (and that was half an inch down on the first week I measured) All in all I am happy with the results from this week… it does so help to motivate when there is change.. I don’t know about you but it is when I have a week with no change that gives me the biggest challenge. However, with you, my new cheer-leaders and monitors on board I am sure I can beat it!

Having a ‘moan’ to Son#2 about it only being a 1 lb drop this week and he said “One pound is a one pound – if you drop one pound a week for the whole year that’s over 50 lbs.”  Whoa! That’s massive! So whenever I find it’s ‘only’ a pound then I shall be glad that is still moving and remember that quote!

Sunday Notes:

Sunday is Sunday – and the tradition in this household is for a proper English breakfast, that looks huge compared to my daily breakfast, followed at dinner (lunch) time by a roast dinner – come cold weather, come hot weather. Again, this appears to be huge and we have dessert, though I have been cutting down the carbohydrates on that down by substituting stewed fruit and custard for the usual Fruit Crumbles or Pies. No one has complained ….yet.

Monday Notes:

Decided to time my weights sessions… I knew they weren’t taking long as I do them to music and they only took 3 tracks, but it’s good to know because one of my criteria is that they shouldn’t take too much time as I am quite a busy hedgehog and I really can’t afford to take much time out to do the exercises. This is one, but only one, of the reasons I don’t go jogging* or cycling for exercise. The other reasons will have to wait for a post of their own as from last week as I realised my notes over the week created a bit-too-long post in one bite. (*see 7 random things about me in Oh MY! oh my! Versatile Blogger Award post)

Tuesday Notes:

Still finding the lunges really hard work – just making it over the 15 – though I guess if I ended up doing a lot more it would take more time – 11 mins today  – not too much of a time suck! I suppose I should explain what I do for my aerobics and stretching sometime.. in case anyone wants to know!

Wednesday Notes:

Having found the triceps extensions difficult to get right without hurting my elbow a new way of doing these was suggested.   http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBLyingTriExt.html   if you want to see it- I don’t have a fancy bench so I used the bed with folded a pillow supporting my head so it projects a little beyond the foot of the bed (had to be that way round – can’t do this where you have a headboard!)

Thursday Notes:

I was a bit short of time – so missed out stretching from the half hour workout I usually do in the evening  as had just done belly dance class  which includes a great stretching warm-up

Friday Notes:

Saturday (tomorrow) is the Big Breakfast – so all exercises will have to wait until the afternoon, if I am still standing – will be cooking from 9am to 1pm!

Saturday Notes:

Stood helping to cook about 200 Big Breakfasts in the Village Hall today from 9 to 1.30, then cleaned ovens and tidied up, drove all round village collecting all the roadside notices in ….. felt as if I had already done a workout – but stuck to the schedule even though the resistance training that I usually do in the morning was completed at gone seven in the evening. *virtuous feeling*

TO BE CONTINUED       ****************

Don’t forget if you want any of the details of exactly what foods I am eating –  certainly not on a diet, most certainly not starving myself or going hungry between meals and yet it is working so far .. but will it work for the whole 52 weeks? Or what the exercises are that I am doing, then go to the Fat Woman Thinning page on the cross bar and each week is on a drop-down. These are updated daily.

Last week I asked you what were your greatest temptations and how you stopped yourself from falling for them, this week I’d love to know your best excuses for not doing the exercises you set yourself.

I know I use ‘lack of time’ mostly for mine – and aware of this I am getting used to telling myself that this is ‘just an excuse’ . Name it and shame it — then I’m less likely to use it again!

Most of all I just love to hear from you folks, questions, experiences whatever –  looking forward to hearing from you all.

Thanks for all the cheerleaders that have joined me in this challenge, please keep sharing this as there is plenty of room in the grandstand!

And if you want to know more about the novels by Ann Foweraker ‘Divining the Line’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ and ‘Some Kind Of Synchrony’ just click HERE to be able to the first 3 chapters in pdf FREE !

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Growing old disgracefully?

So I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past fortnight and feeling guilty that I haven’t seemed to have time to put down all the thoughts I’ve been having about it. There have been a combination of things getting in my way (as it were) To start with there was the small matter of the smallholding duties of getting 29 chickens in the freezer. Christine (a friend I first met at the Callington market who, incidentally, makes the best lip-balm I have ever come across, http://www.cornishcreams.com from all natural stuff including Cornish beeswax as well as lots of other lovely skincare goodies without the nasty chemicals ) says I must not go into details about the demise of the chickens in my blog

However, I am still going to post this photo as I find it so interesting to see the wide variety in livers when all these birds were raised together, free-ranging with poultry corn ad-lib. Needless to say this is the sort of job that is not done in five minutes and comes on top of the usual slate work and general household chores.

Then there was the fact that I had set myself a deadline for completing the first major edit of my new novel ‘The Angel Bug’ as I had promised to send it to Tim Smit of the Eden Project, Cornwall to read and to get his ok for me to use him as a character (as the only real person in the whole novel) So all the time I could access to sit before the computer was devoted to that.

So, back to writing this blog. You see, we had a talk at WI, entitled ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ and it was amusing as intended, but as I got to think about it I felt it had rather strayed from the aim, turning more into a ‘grumpy old woman’ diatribe (like the TV programmes of the same name) And talking of growing old and of the WI – you hear people say weird things like ‘Oh I might join the WI when I retire’ or ‘Oh I’m not old enough for the WI’. I actually joined when I was 15 and apart from the time I was at college and then lived in a city for five years (no WIs were allowed in the cities then) have been a member ever since. (there, that’s that grump out of my system)

Anyway I got to thinking what I would call ‘growing old disgracefully’… or perhaps not disgracefully but certainly not growing old as expected. Along with many others I love the list of ‘disgraceful’ things Jenny Joseph says she will do in her poem Warning – ‘When I am old I shall wear Purple, With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’ If you don’t know this poem it is worth looking up, however, some of the things she warns that she might do seem old-fashioned for today.

A good friend of mine went to her first belly dance lesson at the age of sixty … as I already do that I started wondering what I can take up when I get to that age. One of the most enjoyable afternoons I had recently was when sons 2 and 4 took me rock climbing. This is only the second time I have done this (first time in my forties with the WI!) but I got a real buzz from it.

This train of thought led onto the ‘bucket list’ that has become popular, a wish list of things to do or see before you die (or reach a certain age). So I’ve started compiling mine, not necessarily ‘disgraceful’ things, more adventurous, exciting or unusual things to try, see, experience. What would be on your list?

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One day….

Just over two weeks ago I performed a first – the first time I trimmed our goats’ hooves. Usually this is a job for the husband but he was away and the job needed doing. With my father on hand to advise (he has had plenty of experience at this task but at 85 finds goat wrestling a little difficult) we set to.

Luring the six nannies (or does as they seem to call these Boer goats) out of their field and into a pair of connected goat houses was easier than I had expected, even if it did present a funny picture as I ran ahead rattling a small white bucket, quarter full of sugar-beet pellets and calling, ‘come on then’ followed by galloping goats, ears all a-flapping, until I dived in through one door, ducked through the connecting door between the houses and led them right through (to where I had placed a trough of cut-up veg to stop them in their tracks) then I slipped out through the other pen gate and round to close the connecting door between the houses. I was exhausted but we had only just started!

One by one we brought the goats out to the stand. Now these goats are smaller than the ones we were used to and I took a small wooden stool to sit on so that I didn’t have to kneel on the damp concrete. With my legs stuck out under the goat I tipped a goat foot up and started working, paring away the outer hoof and then the inner, carefully so as not to go too far. When it came to Peggy, the oldest and heaviest, she decided to fold up her legs and sit her whole weight on my legs! And as for the youngest, Nougat, no way was she going to be led anywhere… I had to pick her up and carry her out! Not only did this process take me nearly three hours start to finish but the hard wooden stool left my rear-end bruised for days!!

Today, prior to their sharing their field with the Billy (or buck as they call the male Boer goats) we did the whole process again, but with the husband doing the honours trimming the hooves and me just doing the herding, catching and fussing (to keep them peaceful) while he worked. Six females and one male goat done in a hour and a half!

Just as well because (after a good hot shower to de-goatify myself) I had an appointment to take a selection of new slate based products to a shop in a local market town, to see if they wished to stock these items. This is a shop that specialises in things grown or made in Cornwall so I had made some of my usual designs (salt and pepper pinch-pots, tea-light stand, heart-shaped coasters and hang-ups) but used reclaimed Delabole slate to base them on. Delabole, for those of you outside Cornwall, is a famous slate quarry on the north Cornish coast producing a beautiful soft-grey slate (colour not hardness). However, as it ages and the weather affects it, as lichens grow on it and the sun bleaches, it mutates to the most delicate shades of colours, with browns and gold from traces of iron pyrites, shiny sparkles of mica and silica and the original soft grey all intermingled. Of course to find this you have to scrape and rub off all the grime, and not every reclaimed slate responds the same, but it is well worth it when you find the pretty ones.

This evening I finished off and packaged up thirty Cornish slate fridge magnets that I have been making on and off over the weekend, then chaired a WI committee meeting, ‘cooked’ twenty slate cheeseboards and olive-oil conditioned them and wrote this blog….

 

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Making Jam and writing this blog at the same time!

I am making Jam! Right now… while the bowl of fruit and sugar bubbles safely in the microwave I am using the eight minutes, until it is ready for a stir and to reset microwave time and power to simmer, to start this blog.

Jam making is one of my ‘other passions’, it takes hold of me when I find beautiful free or cheap fruit and I have a bit of time. I have my regular jams to make, the blackcurrant which is the staple jam on our table is made from fruit harvested from our garden and frozen, so this is often made as required, five jars at a time (this being the maximum quantity I can make in the microwave in the largest Pyrex bowl I have). I cannot resist making apricot jam when in France in the summer and boxes are being sold cheap in the markets and supermarkets, we eat apricots, make desserts out of apricots and then make jam from the rest – enough to take back to use at home for the rest of the year, each spoonful crammed full of the flavour of summer.

Right now, hang on… ok stirred and set to simmer for another 8mins…right now, I am making Bullace jam. This year the small semi-wild trees in our orchard hedge that bear these slightly smaller, slightly sharper, damson like fruit have been heavy with their glossy bloomed and black fruit, so I mused that I might try making some jam with them, perhaps just one batch of 5 jars as I haven’t made jam with these before and as I adapt my WI preserves book recipes (WI recipes are the best!) to make them suitable for the microwave as I go, I usually do a smaller sample first, however, M immediately went out and picked a box full – about 7lbs (yes I still work in imperial when cooking) which was enough for 15 jars!

So, problem… not enough sugar, in fact not enough even for the first batch (I was only musing remember) and it is Saturday afternoon. So, I hear you think, just go and buy some. Well, I always buy my sugar from my village post office and stores and that is closed on a Saturday afternoon – it’s part of my effort to support this shop in the hope that it will stay viable, so I don’t want to buy it elsewhere and elsewhere would also mean a drive into the nearest town, when I would prefer not to take a car journey for just one thing, part of an effort for the environment.

So the fruit goes into the cold room until Sunday morning, when I can pick up the sugar at the shop and take it into church with me (opposite the shop) and bring back after the service.

Ok…I’ve just put a small spoonful on a plate in the fridge to see if its ready to set and poured boiling water into recycled jam jars and put them in the microwave to boil away happily for a few minutes.

Already… the jars are done, I’ve put the jam back in the microwave to bring it to the boil again, the test shows a decent set…bullace are high in pectin and so I was on to a winner there.

 

Continued 2 days later…. it didn’t take 2 days to make… just 2 days to get back to my blog!

Fifteen jars of gorgeous looking jam now stand on the shelf in the cold room, alongside this year’s apricot. Yum!

 

My Microwave Recipe: makes about 5lb of jam.

2 ¼ lbs damsons or bullace – washed, stalks removed

3 tablespoons of water   (this is the main ingredient difference in using a microwave)

3lb sugar.

Butter – walnut sized piece (it really makes a difference to the finished product)

1, Place bullace and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins high power to soften fruit. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it)

2, Stir and squash fruit to help release the stones, further 6 – 8 mins until stones come free of the flesh.

3, Using a slotted  spoon lift out as many of the stones as possible and drop into large-hole colander to squash off as much of fruit and skin as possible to return to the fruit pulp – discard the stones ( a few stones remaining in the pulp do not matter and adds to the home made feel of the jam)

4, Re-heat for about 3 mins to bring back up to simmer.

5, Add sugar and stir in well, add butter and make sure it melts.

6, Lid off, bring up to the boil again in MW – about 8 – 10 mins.

7, Stir well and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins

8, Stir well, and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins and check for set (place a teaspoon of jam mix on a cold plate – pop back in fridge – will show a set if the jam skin forms wrinkles and feels thick when finger is pushed though it when cool)

9, Into well washed jars pour about 1 cm (half an inch) of boiling water, place in microwave on full power for 3 – 4 mins until the water boils in the jars. Take care and tip them out well and stand to evaporate the last bit of water while you re-heat the jam mix

10, If a set is demonstrated by your test – return jam mix to microwave and heat until bubble appear then remove from microwave and ladle into hot jars. (if no set then simmer for another 3 mins and retest, continue until a set is demonstrated)

11, Cover with clear jam-covers as per instructions with the packet, and label.

12, Enjoy!

 

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