Wednesday, 27 December 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Sticky Toffee Pudding

Hello lovelies! I hope you had a very happy holiday! We had a glorious feast of savoury nutroast, crispy roast potatoes, green peas, homemade orange cranberry sauce and lashings of gravy. Then we had roasted parsnips and carrots like bookends on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

But what did we have for dessert? Sticky Toffee Pudding. Which is not a pudding at all, but a date cake with toffee sauce. Confused? In the UK, the term pudding can actually refer to any sort of dessert, not just the pudding sort. A bit like how every kind of fizzy drink in the American South is a coke. (as in Q:What kind of coke do you want? A:I'll take a sprite.)

There are plenty of high caloric versions out there with skyrocketing sugar and laden with animal fat and secretions, but this one is lower in sugar and fat and still taste *amazing.*

The original recipe comes from {HERE}. Oh She Glows is one of my favourite food blogs. I made it  a few years ago as it is described in the recipe in the link and it was a wee bit more trouble to make and used more dates than my regular date cake recipe. I decided this year to make my regular foolproof date cake recipe and then add the Toffee Sauce from Oh She Glows' recipe.

Now, this date cake recipe is lovely on its own. It comes up great gluten free--plenty moist and sticky. It makes a lovely snack cake or tea cake. But add the toffee sauce and whoa....you might just want to slap your mama.

{HERE} is a link to my date cake recipe. I have included step by step instructions with photos to show you how to make it. I mean, if you have the time and can afford extra dates then by all means use the one from the Oh She Glows website. But this cake only uses 18 dates, so was more economical to make. Her cake also had pecan in them. I only had about half a cup pecan left from other cooking adventures so i opted to sprinkle mine on the top for some crunch instead of baking them inside the cake.

So, make whichever date cake cake you want--OH SHE GLOWS version or MY DATE CAKE.
Then when the cake has about ten minutes left in the oven make the toffee sauce.

Notes on the toffee sauce: it is *delicious* and would be perfect for making and drizzling over just about anything like ice cream or just straight into your mouth. Seriously, I could have drunk it. It needs a THICK liquid to make it like a toffee. She suggests brown rice syrup which is what I used, but as i was squeezing it out of the bottle I thought to myself golden syrup might well have worked and would cost less than brown rice syrup. I think something like Karo syrup would work if you live in the US. Both golden syrup and Karo syrup would be less healthy than brown rice syrup, but you only use 1/3 cup syrup, so don't sweat it if you don't want to splash out of expensive syrup when you already have something suitable in your cupboard.

Oh She Glows Toffee Sauce
1/3 cup brown rice syrup (or other thick syrup like golden syrup or Karo)
 1/3 cup unpacked brown sugar (I used Demerara)
3 TB vegan butter
1 TB  vanilla extract
1 TB plant based milk
Hefty pinch of (smoked) sea salt

 1/2 cup broken pecans

Bring to a low simmer, whisking constantly until sugar is dissolved and the sauce is warm. Stir in pecans.

When cake comes out of the oven use a fork to poke as many holes as you can (I made about 100) and then pour the toffee sauce over the top making sure all the holes are covered.

The toffee syrup sinks down into the holes and makes the cake all sweet and sticky and delicious.

We had a (large) slice warm from the oven as breakfast on Christmas day and then a (large) slice room temperature for breakfast on Boxing Day before Spiderman went to work wrangling those butterflies at the Botanic Garden.

After all, breakfast *is* the most important meal of the day.

I love this cake because it is relatively low in fat and sugar compared to other versions I have seen. Plus no animal was harmed to make it, so you just feel good about having a large slice for breakfast as a treat.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Case of the Suspiciously Bristly Moustache

Hello friends. One of the things that I love about Spiderman is that we can still stay up all night discussing random topics. We’ve done this for years—even before we were married—we would often stay up deep in conversation in EV Commons until the sun rose.

We once stayed up all night having a marathon of film versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and keeping a log about how textually accurate (or inaccurate) they were. We kept big complicated diagrams and charts about certain passages of prose and how they were handled in each film. The winner—the film deemed to be the most textually accurate was The Muppet’s Christmas Carol.  

So, recently we have been watching a marathon of all the Inspector Morse episodes we own (which is nearly all of them). This has led us to discuss how Morse in the show played so beautifully by actor John Thaw as a hard-drinking, opera-loving, crossword addict grouch is much sanitised from the books. Author Colin Dexter definitely softened the character who was more patronising to women and obsessed with sex. He was less likeable in the books. And there were other changes as well. His sidekick Detective Lewis is Welsh in the books (a fact neither of us remembered) because we are used to seeing him as Geordie (from Newcastle) actor Kevin Whately. Sixth Doctor incarnation Colin Baker played him on stage, much more like the books, and would have been very good at it if you recall his arsehole version of the Doctor. This really wasn’t Colin Baker’s fault…an actor can only work with what he was given. But he would have made a wonderful textually accurate Morse.  

This led to discussions about other long running detective shows where the actor becomes the *true* version and you forget what he or she was like in the books.

Looking at versions of Sherlock Holmes we both agree that Basil Rathbone is good, but Jeremy Brett is THE Holmes. He did it the longest and it nearly drove him mad. He *became* Holmes, which is not a very good thing to do considering who Holmes is—a drug addict and most certainly bipolar. Brett himself famously battled mental illness—many of the same demons that plagued Holmes. I have also often thought Holmes was on the Autistic Spectrum. And while we *adore* the new Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch, they are more a subversion of the genre filled with a wink and a nod to the original source like cases such as the Speckled Blond (the Speckled Band) and the Geek Interpreter (the Greek Interpreter). They are magnificent in themselves, but are not textually accurate.

We got onto Miss Marple (again…Joan Hickson is THE definitive Marple) who may not look as the books describe. I have a real memory of the words “bird like” in one of the books which would suit fantastic-actress-but-all-wrong-for-the-part of Miss Marple Geraldine MacEwan, but not Joan Hickson as she was stockier. Also, the character mellowed over time in the books—she was a right nosy parky and bitchy gossip in the first book The Murder at the Vicarage. We always just think of her as beloved spinster.

Miss Marple inevitably led us onto Hercule Poirot. Again…many have played him—some good, some bad—but to us the definitive was David Suchet, who played him for a quarter of a century. We loved Albert Finney in the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express. He seemed to capture Poirot’s fastidiousness and vanity. I *hated* Peter Ustinov even though I adored Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982). Ustinov was all wrong. He was just playing himself with a Frenchy accent and his OWN MOUSTACHE.

I am not the only one who thinks this. According to Wikipedia:

Christie's daughter Rosalind Hicks observed Ustinov during a rehearsal and said, "That's not Poirot! He isn't at all like that!" Ustinov overheard and remarked "He is now!"

This led us into several days discussion about Poirot’s Moustache which is where all this has been leading.
Image result for suchet  poirot
David Suchet
                                                   
Why we loved Suchet’s performance so much was his attention to detail about Poirot’s appearance and his moustache. In case you don’t know Poirot was a Belgian refugee who fled to the UK during WWI. In his first appearance in The Mysterious Affair at Styles his moustache was described as stiff and military owing to the fact that he was refugee and didn’t have the money for haircare.

Here is where book and video versions start to merge or separate. Spiderman and I both recall clearly the books talked about Poirot having little curling tongs to curl the ends of his moustache. We remember a moustache kit with waxes and oils. We remember his vanity and sleeping with a moustache guard to keep it in place.
Image result for ustinov  poirot
Peter Ustinov
This is why I hated Peter Ustinov—it was not Poirot’s moustache—it was just Usinov’s. The moustache was like a separate character to me. It had a life of its own, like a prissy little hairy friend of Poirot perched on his upper lip. Ustinov’s has no style. It was also salt and pepper which annoyed me as I recall Poirot’s vanity where he dyed his moustache and his hair.
This is where I loved David Suchet. His moustache was magnificent, prim, prissy, curled, and overly dark. It seemed exactly as Agatha Christie had written it.
Image result for branagh poirot
Branagh and the walrus
When the advert for the new Murder on the Orient Express came out we fell about laughing. What the hell did Kenneth Branagh have on his face??? Where did that giant walrus of a moustache come from? Didn’t he read the book for Frith’s sake??

This is where WE were wrong. We had spent so long looking at David Suchet that we had somehow made his moustache the definitive one.

According to AgathaChristie.com

The more Poirot became an established private detective, the bigger his trademark moustache became. By the early 1930s his famous facial hair had evolved from being stiff and military into a magnificent, luxurious asset which gained much comment from himself, narrators and other characters within each story. Throughout Christie’s stories, his moustache was described as ‘gigantic’, ‘immense’ and ‘amazing’, pointing to the importance of this physical asset. By 1934 Poirot himself was described as ‘a little man with enormous moustaches’ in Murder on the Orient Express. By this point and beyond it was clearly his greatest physical attribute, being described as ‘an immense moustache’ in The Labours of Hercules in 1947.

So, why does Kenneth Branagh’s moustache feel so WRONG to us?

It is just ludicrously large.  Branagh defends it in article after article calling on the text to back him up, but I just don’t buy it.

It may be an enormous moustache, but it is doesn’t seem well cared for or groomed with wax and oils and it certainly not dyed. The salt and pepper thing he’s got going on does not work for me—Poirot was too vain for that. In Appointment with Death it is described as suspiciously black. And what the hell is that little goatee/soul patch thing???? I might could live with the ridiculous moustache if it weren’t for the unexplained very un-Poirot like tuft of hair. 

What are your views? Have you seen the new Murder on the Orient Express? Did you want to punch Kenneth Branagh in face throughout the film?

Who are your favourite versions of literary detectives?


I leave you with this Tom Gauld cartoon which says it better than I ever could. 
                          Image result for tom gauld moustache

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Quickie Mexican Beans with Roasted Potatoes and Cheese Sauce

Hello lovelies. I have recently found a new way to roast potatoes that is so quick and easy and tastes nom nom nom (technical term) that I am always on the lookout for ways to use this as a side dish.

Basically, I coat the potatoes with my homemade broth powder and they roast up all savoury and crazy delicious. I started making my own stock powder years ago after refusing to buy the stock pots because they were owned by Unilever who have a very poor track record in animal welfare. Then I moved on to Marigold, a more ethical brand, but they used palm oil and we just got to the point where we avoid it as much as we possibly can as palm oil is responsible for a great deal of rain forest destruction and certainly is single-handedly displacing orangutans whose trees are being cut down to make way for palm oil production.

You can read my recipe for broth powder HERE. These days I make it with 1/3 cup Himalayan Pink Salt not 1/2 cup sea salt.  We don't notice any difference in the saltiness.

So, right now with Christmas approaching and days being busy I am looking for quick meals where I don't have to follow a recipe. I can just throw it together and read a book while it cooks. Or frantically tidy up because we are expecting company the next day. Or frantically write Christmas cards that are very late getting out. I prefer the putting my feet up and reading bit, but sometimes you just to run frantically around your house shouting "Where's my red thread??? I was just sewing with it the other day. I *need* it to finish that order for my shop. Where the hell is it????"

You get the picture.

So this is basically Savoury Roasted Potatoes that cook in a hot oven with a tin of black beans and a jar of salsa heated on the hob. I had about a quarter cup leftover QUICK AND DIRTY CHEESE SAUCE lurking in the fridge so I thinned it with a bit of milk and made a sauce.


Quickie Mexican Beans with Roasted Potatoes and Cheese Sauce
For the potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Line a large roasting tin with parchment paper.

400g potatoes, cut into chunks
1 TB starch (arrowroot, corn flour (cornstarch to my American peeps) or tapioca starch)
2 tsp broth powder
1 TB oil

I have found the best way to do these is to use a small compostable bag rather than a bowl. It works a bit like shake-n-bake--you really can coat everything better than with a bowl and a spoon.

Put the potatoes in the bag and sprinkle in the starch and broth powder and holding the bag shut, shake to coat the potatoes. Then add the oil and shake/rub the bag to coat to powdered potatoes. Pour into roasting tin and roast for 13 minutes, take out and stir and roast 13 more minutes.

Meanwhile, throw a tin of black beans and a jar of salsa in a pan and heat.

Make your Quick and Dirty Cheese Sauce. Or just use some leftovers already in your fridge.

Serve by layering potatoes, Mexican Beans and Cheese Sauce. If you happen to have some plain soya yogurt lurking in the fridge, throw on a dollop and pretend it's sour cream.

Then relax.

Or go look for your red thread.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Murder Ballad Monday-- Hazard by Richard Marx

Hello and welcome to the very last Murder Ballad Monday. I started this journey 56 weeks ago, not really knowing where it would lead. I began by exploring different variations of the traditional ballad The Twa Sisters (I found over 30 different versions, some of which were non-English versions) and then I went on to other favourite songs about murder and death. I have really exhausted every song that I loved, discovered some new ones along the way, and have had a wonderful time researching and writing up my findings and sharing it with everyone. I just feel like I am ready to move on to something else. Yes, there are hundreds more murder ballads out there and I could just write about them, but this has been a personal journey and a labour of love. I wanted to only write about songs that mattered to me and it would feel disingenuous of me to continue with just any old songs. But fear not, loyal reader. I have plans for a series of posts where I explore the darker versions of fairy tales. If you only know the Disney versions, be prepared to be scandalised.  
                             Richard Marx - Hazard.jpeg
So, what song is my last murder ballad of the series? The 1992 song Hazard by Richard Marx. It’s one I remember because of the video and the mystery behind it. I spent many hours watching VH-1 and hoping it would reappear, so I could add more clues into my log book. Yes, I had a log book where I wrote down clues from the video and tried to analyse the lyrics. I loved it because it was like watching a crime drama, but with singing. A musical version of Law and Order.  

I was not the only one who was obsessed with the videos (yes—there were at least 2 different videos, the second one containing more clues in the form of dialogue, but VH-1 showed it showed less and I only saw it once or twice. There was also a rumoured third version that I never saw) because there are still several fan sites where people write their own theory of the crime and analyse it to the extreme. These are my people. If you want to read their theories go HERE and HERE.

I really like it because I could never decide. I wanted to say he was innocent and just mistrusted because he was an outsider—I certainly knew that that felt like. But then the video shows us disturbing footage of his mother (who bears a great resemblance to the murdered girl) having an affair and the anger he felt as a child when he witnessed it. There is also footage of a burning house—the house with his mother and her lover. Was on an accident? Or did he know exactly what he was doing? Mary is murdered after he sees her with a lover in a car. Is it history repeating itself or is it just bad luck?

There are other clues. The song lyrics contradict the video. Wikipedia says:
The video makes it apparent that he flees the scene where he sees Mary with the unidentified person, leaving his scarf behind, which is later used as an attempt to place him at the scene. Yet the lyrics state that he 'left her by the river [...] left her safe and sound', which contradicts the video. Additionally, how would he know that he left her there, if he had not been with her, because she 'went walking alone and never came home'? 

And then there’s the creepy Sheriff. He is seen following Mary in his car and taking secret photographs of her with the Richard Marx character. Is he some sort of pervert? Is he worried about Mary’s safety with Marx’s character as he has a history of bumping off promiscuous women? Did he do it and frame Marx?

What about the lover? He is seen getting down with Mary in a car (how classy) as both the Sheriff and Richard Marx look on. Marx runs away, leaving his scarf behind. The scarf that will later be used to strangle her. Mary is seen to run away and chase after Marx. Was the lover jealous? Did he do it and frame Marx or was Marx jealous and commit the crime of passion?

What about suicide? The second video has dialogue that declares that suicide was a theory due to lack of evidence. Did Mary feel guilty for betraying Marx’s character by boning that dude in the car and then kill herself? But then how did she strangle herself with the white scarf? Or did she? We only have the Sheriff’s word that that is how she actually died.

Marx even made appearances on VH-1 when the two versions of the video aired urging the viewer to watch and .and see if you can figure out who killed Mary."

We will never know. So, as my parting gift to you, loyal reader, I leave you with the mystery. Who do YOU think killed her?

Here are the videos. Lyrics below in case you need to write them in your log book for later analysis.

Version one:

Version two:

                                    

"My mother came to Hazard when I was just seven
Even then the folks in town said with prejudiced eyes
That boy's not right
Three years ago when I came to know Mary
First time that someone looked beyond the rumors and the lies
And saw the man inside

We used to walk down by the river
She loved to watch the sun go down
We used to walk along the river
And dream our way out of this town

No one understood what I felt for Mary
No one cared until the night she went out walking alone
And never came home
Man with a badge came knocking next morning
Here was I surrounded by a thousand fingers suddenly
Pointed right at me

I swear I left her by the river
I swear I left her safe and sound
I need to make it to the river
And leave this old Nebraska town

I think about my life gone by
And how it's done me wrong
There's no escape for me this time
All of my rescues are gone, long gone

I swear I left her by the river
I swear I left her safe and sound
I need to make it to the river
And leave this old Nebraska town

Thanks to everyone who has stood by me for the last 56 weeks and read all the murder ballads I had to share. I hope you will continue my journey as I explore the history of fairy tales, the original darker sources which have been sanitised by Disney.

I hope to see you in 2018 on Fairy Tale Friday.


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--German Chocolate Cake

Hello lovelies! It was my birthday this week and I decided to make my favourite sort of chocolate cake as a little pressie to myself.

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know the story about the Spiderman and I met and fell in love after I made a tit of myself by accidentally eating an entire cake. If you don't know the story then you can read it HERE

So, anyway. I wanted to make a proper  German Chocolate Cake for my birthday. not just a chocolate cake with some coconut and pecans sprinkled over the frosting, but the sort with the OMG gooey icing.

I knew I would want to do it my way--vegan and gluten free with less fat and sugar than a traditional German Chocolate Cake, but still amazingly good.

Before I share the recipes--let me just go on a little educational detour and tell you the history of the German Chocolate Cake.

Fact of the Day
So, German Chocolate Cake is from Germany, right?  Nope. Not at all. I always assumed it was, but Wikipedia has set me straight.

According to Wiki:
 In  1852  American baker Samuel German developed a type of dark baking chocolate for the Baker's Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him.


On June 3, 1957, a recipe for "German's Chocolate Cake" appeared as the "Recipe of the Day" in The Dallas Morning News.  It was created by Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker from 3831 Academy Drive, Dallas, Texas. This recipe used the baking chocolate introduced 105 years prior and became quite popular. General Foods, which owned the Baker's brand at the time, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers in the country. Sales of Baker's Chocolate are said to have increased by as much as 73% and the cake would become a national staple. The possessive form (German's) was dropped in subsequent publications, forming the "German Chocolate Cake" identity and giving the false impression of a German origin.

Back to the recipe. Once my head was full of interesting cake-based trivia, I set about looking for a recipe for the amazing coconut pecan frosting. I figured I could veganise it. I was planning to use my fail-safe amazing vegan/GF chocolate cake recipe, so all I needed was to figure out how to make the topping.

Then I had a look at the actual recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook and I nearly fell off my chair. The frosting recipe called for three egg yolks, half a cup butter, one cup sugar and one cup evaporated milk. Yikes. And that didn't even count the four eggs, one cup of butter, two cups of sugar and one cup of buttermilk in the cake itself.  No wonder it sent me reeling on a  roller coaster of sugar and fat highs and lows whenever i ate a slice (or two...or three...or the whole cake.)

 And according to fatsecret.com, a 7 oz slice of cake weighs in a whopping 734 calories, 36.79g of fat. 

I *knew* I could make it better. Rich and decadent, but way less fat and sugar.  It is not healthy by any means--but it is considerably healthier. 
                     
German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting
My chocolate cake recipe is adapted from THIS  recipe from Moosewood. I cut the sugar in half by using Tate and Lyle demerara sugar with stevia and cut the fat by subbing half the fat with soya yogurt. *if you make it with regular flour  not GF, then just don't add the xanthan gum--that's just for us sensitive types.* And don't be freaked out by the vinegar. This is the secret to making fluffy, tender vegan/GF cakes that rise up high. You can't taste it, I swear. 
Ingredients
·                    1½ cups GF (or regular) flour
·         ⅓ cup cocoa powder
·         2 tsp custard powder (or 2 tsp vanilla essence, but I ran out and discovered custard powder worked fine)
·         1 teaspoon baking SODA
·         1 teaspoon xanthan gum (GF only)
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         1 cup sugar (or half a cup sugar with stevia)
·         ½ cup vegetable oil (I do ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup plain soya yogurt to cut the fat)
·         1 cup cold brewed coffee (I use a TB of instant decaf in 1 cup boiling water and then refrigerate overnight) You’ll probably have “proper” coffee!
·         2 tablespoons vinegar (I use balsamic)

Instructions
1.      Preheat the oven to 190C
2.      Grease an 8 inch square pan..
3.      In a bowl, measure and mix the oil (and yogurt if using) sugar and coffee. Beat with a fork.
4.      Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt (custard power if using) directly into the bowl with the liquid ingredients. Stir until combined. Then spoon into the greased pan.
5.      In the greased pan, add the vinegar and stir quickly. Pale swirls will occur where the vinegar and baking soda react. Stir just until the vinegar is even distributed throughout the batter.

6.      Bake for 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

I adapted THIS recipe on Veg Web for a coconut pecan frosting that was like the ones I remembered so fondly, but wouldn't put me in a diabetic coma. 

Coconut Pecan Frosting
I cut the recipe in half as I wanted to only frost the top of my 8 inch square cake. This is plenty of sweet gooey frosting. If you don't have brown sugar, you can cheat by adding a teaspoon of molasses to your mixture

Boil together over med high in a saucepan stirring constantly for around 5 minutes:
1/4 cup non dairy buttery spread
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used regular demerara sugar which is light brown)
1 tsp molasses (optional...but makes it richer)
1/3 cup cold plant milk whisked with 1 tsp custard powder (acts as a thickener as well as adds vanilla flavour) 
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup pecans broken into small pieces 
When cooked, spread while warm on top of your cooled cake. 

Holy Moly! It was *just* like I remembered German's Chocolate Cake (see what I did there?) to be. 

It was plenty sweet--but not enough to rot my teeth. it was plenty rich--but without ruining my diet. 

The whole cake (frosting included) has only half a cup added fat and less than a cup of sugar. There is fat in the coconut and pecans as well, but being wholefoods they also have fibre and vitamins and minerals, not just empty calories. So, I guess the with the coconut and pecans there is more fat than half a cup--but it is still considerably less than a slice of that Betty Crocker monstrosity. 

I am really pleased with this cake and as June 11th is national German Chocolate Cake day--I suspect we'll be seeing this cake again come summer since that's our wedding anniversary time. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Jenny was a Friend of Mine (The Killers)

Hello and welcome to the penultimate Murder Ballad Monday. These last weeks will deal with ambiguous songs—did they or didn’t they? First person songs where the protagonist swears they are innocent.

But are they?
                            Image result
The song I want to examine this week is Jenny Was a Friend of Mine by The Killers from their 2004 album Hot Fuss. It is a part of The Killers' alleged "Murder Trilogy", which consists of three songs detailing the murder of a girl named Jenny. The other two being Midnight Show (also off of Hot Fuss) and Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf  (released in 2007.)

I was first introduced to this song (and the band The Killers) by my friend Iain back when we lived in England. The first thing that struck me was how it reminded me of Richard Marx’s Hazard (which I will be looking at next week.) Hazard was written two years before Jenny Was a Friend of Mine and we’ll explore more about it next week.

What really got me about this song was the Did he/Didn’t he aspect of it. The protagonist has been arrested. He has been grilled repeatedly about his whereabouts and what happened when he saw Jenny last. Exhaustedly, he proclaims:

I know my rights, I’ve been here all day and it’s time
For me to go, so let me know if it’s all right
I just can’t take this, I swear I told you the truth

He admits to a fight on the promenade out in the rain, but said he said she loved me, but she had somewhere to go. He doesn’t know what happened. He says over and over:

There ain’t no motive for this crime
Jenny was a friend of mine.

So, did he do it or is he a convenient scapegoat?

There is another line that the protagonist often repeats that is a bit more worrisome. Twice he says the creepy words
           
           She couldn’t scream while I held her close. I swore I’d never let her go.

That sounds rather suspicious. Perhaps there is a good reason to detain him. According to Killers lead singer Brandon Flowers there is. When the song is performed live, the line she couldn't scream while I held her close, is often replaced by she couldn't scream while I held her throat, or she kicked and screamed while I held her throat, which is considerably more blatant. His intentions are clear. I think I prefer the sinister quality of the ambiguous words, personally.  

I have also read several accounts online that this song was inspired by the Preppie Murder in 1986 where the murderer Robert Chambers was known to the victim Jennifer Levin and used the defence “Why would I do this? Jennifer was a friend of mine” after her body was found raped and mutilated in Central Park.

Here is Jenny was a Friend of Mine. I have included the lyrics below if you want to follow along.


We took a walk that night, but it wasn’t the same
We had a fight on the promenade out in the rain
She said she loved me, but she had somewhere to go
She couldn’t scream while I held her close
I swore I’d never let her go

Tell me what you wanna know
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on
There ain’t no motive for this crime
Jenny was a friend of mine

So come on, oh come on, oh come on
I know my rights, I’ve been here all day and it’s time
For me to go, so let me know if it’s all right
I just can’t take this, I swear I told you the truth
She couldn’t scream while I held her close
I swore I’d never let her go
Tell me what you wanna know
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on

And then you whisper in my ear
I know what you’re doing here
So come on, oh come on, oh come on
There ain’t no motive for this crime
Jenny was a friend of mine
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for the very last Murder Ballad Monday.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Mediterranean Chickpeas and Greek(ish) Salad

Hello lovelies! Yet again it is Wednesday and I am late to the party. I would like to say that I have been doing meaningful, important work that has prevented me from writing this blogpost, but that would be (mostly) a lie.

We have been away for a trip to Newcastle and I came back with some severe pain in my back that prevented me from sitting too long. It also prevented me from planning and cooking a more creative menu. I have been tired and sore and have relied on old favourites already blogged about to fill the gap until I was feeling better.

I am feeling better, but this new-found ability to sit down has led to me wasting considerable time playing a game where you try to smash sweets that came with my online advent calendar. I suspect it is akin to Candy Crush Saga. Whatever it is, it is HIGHLY addictive. Much like the artificial dyes and mountain of sugar found in actual sweeties--once you start you cannot tear yourself away.

Then today, just as I was NOT playing the sweetie crunch game and about to get to some actual work, my BFF Danny introduced me to The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny  and I spent the afternoon trying to learn all the lyrics.

Thanks, dear.

So, here is my late addition to the food blog--a mix of two things i have blogged about previously.

I wanted to include it to show how flexible things are--just find two tastes that go well together and mash them up.

They both have fresh tastes with lemon and herbs and are tart and savoury. The warm roasted Mediterranean chickpeas go well with the coolness of the Greek(ish) salad.

They are both easy and cheap to make. The last time I served the Mediterranean Chickpeas with  lemon pepper potatoes and the Greek(ish) salad with a pizza. But the flavours go well together, so I thought--why not?

I used a fresh lemon and divided the juice in half--half to the chickpeas and half to the marinade for the tangy feta mushrooms. The good thing about vegan food is you can reuse the marinade without worrying about salmonella or other bacterial yuckies. I poured the leftover feta marinade over the chickpeas and it added just another little pop of flavour.


HEREis the recipe for Mediterranean Chickpeas and HERE is the recipe for Greek(ish) Salad.

Here's to hoping I can get my act together for next week. And if you are curious and need an earworm that will attach to your brain like fluke man from the X Files--then look no further:


Monday, 4 December 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Goodbye Earl (Dixie Chicks)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. For the past few weeks we've been looking at murder ballads with a humorous slant. This week we have a black comedy country song by the Dixie Chicks entitled Goodbye Earl. 

The video features an all-star cast and is the tale of a BFF friendship, domestic abuse, pinky-swearing, murder and zombies. Well, maybe not that last one. But, if you watch the video to the end you'll see what I mean.

The song was originally written by Dennis Linde and recorded by Sons of the Desert in the late 1990's but was made popular by the Dixie Chicks in 1999 on their fifth album Fly. 

                     Chicksfly.jpg

A few radio stations refused to play it because it was said to promote violence. The Chicks' Emily Robison says, "We're not promoting murder, and we even say that in a disclaimer on our album. Besides, is there a gentler way to go than with black-eyed peas?"

A few years alter this song was released, the band would receive death threats and tremendous loss of sales and support from the country music community over comments about the Iraq war made by lead singer Natalie Maines.
She said:
"Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

But back to the song. I love this song and the accompanying video because of the story it tells and how it makes you root for the murderers--even when you know murder is wrong. Domestic violence (just like gun violence) is no laughing matter, but this song (like The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun) doesn't take itself too seriously. The tongue is firmly planted in cheek here.

Enjoy the video, but I have included the lyrics below if you are interested.


Mary Anne and Wanda were the best of friends
All through their high school days
Both members of the 4H club, both active in the FFA

After graduation
Mary Anne went out lookin' for a bright new world
Wanda looked all around this town and all she found was Earl
Well, it wasn't two weeks after she got married that
Wanda started gettin' abused
She'd put on dark glasses or long sleeved blouses
Or make-up to cover a bruise
Well she finally got the nerve to file for divorce
And she let the law take it from there
But Earl walked right through that restraining order
And put her in intensive care

Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atlanta
On a red eye midnight flight
She held Wanda's hand as they worked out a plan
And it didn't take 'em long to decide
That Earl had to die, goodbye Earl

Those black-eyed peas, they tasted alright to me, Earl
You're feelin' weak? Why don't you lay down and sleep, Earl
Ain't it dark wrapped up in that tarp, Earl

The cops came by to bring Earl in
They searched the house high and low
Then they tipped their hats and said, thank you ladies
If you hear from him let us know

Well, the weeks went by and spring turned to summer
And summer faded into fall
And it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all

So the girls bought some land and a roadside stand
Out on highway 109
They sell Tennessee ham and strawberry jam
And they don't lose any sleep at night, 'cause
Earl had to die, goodbye Earl

We need a break, let's go out to the lake, Earl
We'll pack a lunch, and stuff you in the trunk, Earl
Is that alright? Good! Let's go for a ride, Earl, hey!
Ooh hey hey hey, ummm hey hey hey, hey hey hey

Stay tuned next week for an ambiguous song--did he or didn't he? 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Cheesy Sweet Potato and Chickpea Bowl

Hello lovelies! This recipe contains some of my favourite ingredients--chickpeas, sweet potatoes and kale. I do *a lot* of recipe browsing on the internet and sometimes you see a recipe that hits you POW! and you think,

"That looks amazing. I have everything to make that right in my kitchen I don't have to think about it, just follow the recipe and eat up all that deliciousness."

Then Spiderman laughs as he knows I cannot follow a recipe exactly. There must be little tweaks.

I did try with this recipe. Honestly. Hand on heart. I made it exactly as it was described on the blog Keepin' It Kind which you can read {HERE} we ended up liking it without the lemon tahini sauce. I mean, lemon and tahini are two more of my favourite things, so i thought we'd love it, but these days we eat this bowl NAKED.

Or NEKKID if you are from the American South.

Sometimes I just make the sweet potatoes and have them with my pimped baked beans cos we are wild like that.

I told you I don't follow the rules.

But this is worth trying with the sauce if you like that sort of thing. Find the sauce recipe {HERE}

But here is my version of Keepin' It Kind's bowl of deliciousness.


Cheesy Sweet Potato and Chickpea Bowl
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F

Add the following to your roasting tin:
2 medium (or 3 small) sweet potatoes cut into small chunks
1 TB oil
3 TB nutritional yeast flakes to make it cheesy
1/2 tsp garlic powder
shake smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Stir well to get everything coated.

Bake for 15 minutes, the remove from the oven and stir and bake another 15 minutes.

When you have stirred and put the sweet potatoes back in the oven, work on the chickpea part.

The chickpea part:
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4-5 button mushrooms chopped

Cook those together in the pan until the mushrooms cook down and the add:
100g kale, destemmed and torn into bite sized pieces (about 4-5 cups)

Cook this until the kale has softened and reduced then add:
2 TB tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp mixed herbs
2 TB lemon juice (I use from a squeezy bottle and it is fine) 

That's it. By this time the sweet potatoes are all dry and crispy and cheesy and the kale and chickpeas are all cooked and savoury from the tamari, lemon and mixed herbs.

It is a lovely taste combination (with or without the lemon tahini sauce)

Make it and enjoy!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Irish Ballad (Tom Lehrer)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last week we began looking at murder ballads with a humorous slant. This week is no exception.

If you don't know Tom Lehrer then you don't know what you are missing. He is a Harvard educated mathematician who was famous for his pithy, humorous songs. His dry sense of humour really appeals to me and was one of the first things Spiderman and I discovered we had in common--a love for these witty songs.

He is known in the adult world for songs like The Elements where he sings all the elements on the Periodic table to the tune of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.

He is know in the kiddie world as the singer of some of the best songs from The Electric Company such as LY and Silent E. I still use both of these when teaching to explain these concepts.
                                  Image result for tom lehrer songs by
But the song I want to discuss today is entitled The Irish Ballad from his 1953 album Songs by Tom Lehrer which makes fun of of this style of sob-story tragedy ballads, so common in Irish lore. He sings with a perfectly straight face an increasingly disturbing catalogue of murders by a young girl who does her whole family in. He includes elements of traditional folk ballads--an "idiotic refrain" with the words rickety-tickety-tin, interminable verses and a wrong note played every now and then to sound authentic.

There are even two punchlines--one where she arrested for her crimes and one where the singer denounces the audience saying:
My tragic tale, I won't prolong,
Rickety-tickety-tin,
My tragic tale I won't prolong,
And if you do not enjoy the song,
You've yourselves to blame if it's too long,
You should never have let me begin, begin,
You should never have let me begin.

It is a true masterpiece of comedy. I have included the lyrics below if you'd like to follow along. 


 About a maid I'll sing a song,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
About a maid I'll sing a song
Who didn't have her family long.
Not only did she do them wrong,
She did ev'ryone of them in, them in,
She did ev'ryone of them in.

One morning in a fit of pique,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
One morning in a fit of pique,
She drowned her father in the creek.
The water tasted bad for a week,
And we had to make do with gin, with gin,
We had to make do with gin.

Her mother she could never stand,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
Her mother she could never stand,
And so a cyanide soup she planned.
The mother died with a spoon in her hand,
And her face in a hideous grin, a grin,
Her face in a hideous grin.

She set her sister's hair on fire,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
She set her sister's hair on fire,
And as the smoke and flame rose high'are,
Danced around the funeral pyre,
Playin' a violin, -olin,
Playin' a violin.

She weighted her brother down with stones,
Rickety-tickety-tin,
She weighted her brother down with stones,
And sent him off to davy jones.
All they ever found were some bones,
And occasional pieces of skin, of skin,
Occasional pieces of skin.

One day when she had nothing to do,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
One day when she had nothing to do,
She cut her baby brother in two,
And served him up as an irish stew,
And invited the neighbors in, -bors in,
Invited the neighbors in.

And when at last the police came by,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
And when at last the police came by,
Her little pranks she did not deny,
To do so she would have had to lie,
And lying, she knew, was a sin, a sin,
Lying, she knew, was a sin.

My tragic tale, I won't prolong,
Rickety-tickety-tin,
My tragic tale I won't prolong,
And if you do not enjoy the song,
You've yourselves to blame if it's too long,
You should never have let me begin, begin,
You should never have let me begin.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale of a white trash murder.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Roasted Chickpeas (two ways)

Hello lovelies! My goodness, it has been a busy week. I have been rushed off my feet meeting deadlines and have needed some quick and easy meals to get me through.

I was so rushed, in fact, that I forgot to post a recipe last week. Shock! Horror! I only realised I had missed a week when it came time to write this week's recipe. My apologies, loyal readers. As repayment for my forgetfulness, I shall give you two recipes for the price of one (and since you don't actually pay anything to read this, that's a pretty sweet deal!)

Last week I tried out two new roasted chickpea recipes. You can't go wrong with roasted chickpeas. Throw on some oil and spices and roast for 30 minutes and they become chewy, slightly crispy and 100% delicious. There are a zillion combinations, depending on which spices you use. Here are two very different ones that were equally yummy

I adapted this first recipe from one that was meant to be a tempeh marinade. I have nothing against tempeh except the price. A packet of this fermented soya costs around £3 to £4 and a tin of chickpeas costs me 33p. You do the math.

The original recipe comes from {HERE}

Indian Roasted Chickpeas with Potatoes, Mango and Kale
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

In your largest roasting tin add the following:
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced small
half a pepper, diced small
one small carrot, diced small

Marinade:
In a small bowl mix the following and pour it over the chickpeas mixture, stir well to coat.
1 TB oil
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 TB liquid sweetener (agave, maple syrup or the one I used golden syrup)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli flakes
1 tsp ground ginger

Bake for 30 minutes stirring halfway. Serve with potatoes boiled in vegetable stock, a chopped mango and sauteed kale or other favourite greens. I used a heaping cup of frozen mango that had been defrosted over night in my fridge instead of fresh mango as frozen is cheaper.


Mediterranean Chickpeas with Lemon Potatoes
 I just used the spice profile for a recipe for Mediterranean chicken and used it in a cruelty free way. I often use lemon juice from a bottle, but this recipe really benefits from the brightness of a fresh lemon.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F

In your largest roasting tin add the following:
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced small
half a pepper, diced small
one small carrot, diced small

Marinade:
In a small bowl mix the following and pour it over the chickpeas mixture, stir well to coat.
1 TB oil
Zest of one fresh lemon
Juice of half a lemon (save the juice of the other half for the potatoes)
1 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp each dried basil, oregano and parsley
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves crushed garlic

Bake for 30 minutes stirring halfway. Serve with potatoes boiled in vegetable stock. After the potatoes are cooked and drained add the remaining juice of other half a lemon and some chopped oil packed sun dried tomatoes plus salt and pepper and a dash of mixed herbs.

I made it with potatoes as that is what we had, but the next time we eat this (and there will be a next time) I will make it with my Greek Salad with Feta mushrooms. you can find that recipe {HERE}

So, sorry for forgetting a week. Hope that having two roasted chickpea recipes makes up for that. They are both delicious and economical and as always cruelty free. 

Enjoy!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Murder ballad Monday--The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun (Julie Brown)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Up until now, all of the ballads have been serious. I hadn't really thought about the fact that a song about murder could be funny (even silly) until I thought about this song.

So, for the next few weeks we will look at murder ballads with a humorous slant.

Last week we looked at a very serious song about gun violence. Working in a school in Louisiana, I saw my share of gun violence and how it affected my students. I am very serious when it comes to guns. I don't think it is clever or funny to pretend to shoot anyone. In the UK, I have always pulled a child aside and talked to them about the gun violence I have seen and how it is not a good way to play. They are often shocked when they hear true stories about real shootings. True stories about children I know who were shot.

So, why is this song an exception? Well, The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun is less about shooting and more about being part of those 1950's doo-wop Teenage Tragedy songs. You know, like Leader of the Pack or Tell Laura I Love Her. It is a satirical look at the shallowness of teenage girls rather than about mass shootings (even though it contains one.)
                     Image result for the homecoming queen's got a gun
I first heard this song on the Dr Demento show.  I fell in love with Julie Brown and her silly Valley Girl persona (see also: Cause I'm a Blond from the film Earth Girl's Are Easy) and Spiderman and I continually quote this song to each other, even now.

Julie Brown has said that after the Columbine High shootings, she doesn't feel comfortable singing this song in her live shows anymore and I understand that. In 1983, you could still make fun of things like this. These days, it just feels too tragic to do so.

The song was originally released as a B-Side to her self-released single I Like 'Em Big And Stupid and was later re-released in  1984 on her Goddess in Progress and re-released again on her 1987 album Trapped In The Body Of a White Girl. 

The video, full of Julie Brown at her Valley Girl best, was a huge hit with Spiderman and me. We still say things like Stop it Debbi, you're embarrassing me! whenever the other person does something outlandish in public As well as An hour later the cops arrived and I said . . . in her good ear. 

The video is a comic masterpiece, so you don't want to miss it. You do have to suspend your disbelief as she shoots around 24 times and never reloads, but it is a comedy so I can let it slide.  However, I have included the lyrics below if you'd like to follow along.

Did you see that bit at the end where someone steals her tiara? Priceless.

It was homecoming night at my high school
Everyone was there, it was totally cool
I was real excited, I almost wet my jeans
Cause my best friend Debbi was homecoming queen

She looked so pretty in pink chiffon
Riding the float with her tiara on
Holding this humongous bouquet in her hand
She looked straight out of Disneyland
You know, like, the Cinderella ride
I mean definitely an E-ticket


The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked
I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something
The band was playing "Evergreen"
Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed
"Look out—the homecoming queen's got a gun"

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun


Debbi's smiling and waving her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
Oh, Buffy's pompom just blew to bits
Oh no, Mitzi's head just did the splits
God, my best friend's on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbi, you're embarrassing me
How could you do what you just did
Are you having a really bad period?

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Stop Debbi, you're making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress)

An hour later, the cops arrived
By then the entire Glee Club had died—no big loss
You wouldn't believe what they brought to stop her
Tear gas, machine guns, even a chopper

(Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of the float)

Debbi didn't listen to what the cop said
She aimed and fired, and now the math teacher's dead
Oh, it's really sad, but kind of a relief
I mean, we had this big test coming up next week


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Debbi's really having a blast
She's wasting half of the class)

The cops fired a warning shot that blew her off the float
I tried to scream "duck" but it stuck in my throat
She hit the ground and did a flip, it was real acrobatic
But I was crying so hard, I couldn't work my Instamatic
I ran down to Debbi, I had to find out
What made her do it, why'd she freak out
I saw the bullet had got her right in the ear
I knew then the end was near

So I ran down and I said, in her good ear
"Debbi, why did you do it"
She raised her head, smiled, and said
"I did it for Johnny"

Johnny
Well, like, who's Johnny
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Does anybody here know Johnny
Are you Johnny
There was one guy named Johnny
But he was a total geek
He always had food in his braces
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Oh god, this is like that movie "Citizen Kane"
You know, where you later find out Rosebud was a sled
But we'll never know who Johnny was
Cause, like, she's dead


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a
Everybody run
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun.
  

 It was homecoming night at my high school
Everyone was there, it was totally cool
I was real excited, I almost wet my jeans
Cause my best friend Debbi was homecoming queen

She looked so pretty in pink chiffon
Riding the float with her tiara on
Holding this humongous bouquet in her hand
(Bouquet)
She looked straight out of Disneyland
You know, like, the Cinderella ride
I mean definitely an E-ticket


The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked
(Was stoked)
I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something
The band was playing "Evergreen"
Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed
"Look out—the homecoming queen's got a gun"

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun


Debbi's smiling and waving her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
Oh, Buffy's pompom just blew to bits
Oh no, Mitzi's head just did the splits
God, my best friend's on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbi, you're embarrassing me
How could you do what you just did
Are you having a really bad period?

Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Stop Debbi, you're making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress)

An hour later, the cops arrived
By then the entire Glee Club had died—no big loss
You wouldn't believe what they brought to stop her
Tear gas, machine guns, even a chopper

(Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of the float)

Debbi didn't listen to what the cop said
She aimed and fired, and now the math teacher's dead
Oh, it's really sad, but kind of a relief
I mean, we had this big test coming up next week


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun

(Debbi's really having a blast
She's wasting half of the class)

The cops fired a warning shot that blew her off the float
I tried to scream "duck" but it stuck in my throat
She hit the ground and did a flip, it was real acrobatic
But I was crying so hard, I couldn't work my Instamatic
I ran down to Debbi, I had to find out
What made her do it, why'd she freak out
I saw the bullet had got her right in the ear
I knew then the end was near

So I ran down and I said, in her good ear
"Debbi, why did you do it"
She raised her head, smiled, and said
"I did it for Johnny"

Johnny
Well, like, who's Johnny
Answer me, Debbi, who's Johnny
Does anybody here know Johnny
Are you Johnny
There was one guy named Johnny
But he was a total geek
He always had food in his braces
Answer me, Debbie, who's Johnny
Oh god, this is like that movie "Citizen Kane"
You know, where you later find out Rosebud was a sled
But we'll never know who Johnny was
Cause, like, she's dead


Everybody run
The homecoming queen's got a gun
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a
Everybody run
Everybody run
The homecoming queen has got a gun.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a (not so) traditional Irish Ballad