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The Problem with New Year Resolutions

The problem is clearly that you have to do something, instead of sitting around doing nothing.

Amirite, guise?

Or rather, the real problem is that they set high expectations that are quite likely above what you can achieve; they become relevant purely because of an arbitrary date; and they often seem to have no foundation in reality.

Many resolutions have the same potential to fail, even though the result you are trying to achieve are very different.

Some Common Resolutions

Lose Weight

After the over-indulgence of Christmas and the holiday season, January 1st rolls around and you decide enough is enough. You have to lose weight. You clearly ate too much, and are now immensely fat (because it was definitely those two weeks that caused it, and not your whole lifestyle), so the only thing to do is starve yourself or just eat celery.

Good luck. You’ll need it.

The first problem is that unless you are bestowed with amazing willpower, you can’t change your whole way of eating at the snap of your fingers. And if you do, you won’t stick to it. For weeks you’ve been shoveling down cakes and biscuits and candy and chocolate and wine and beer, and from this very instant you will only eat lettuce leaves and water.

Yeah, right. You’ll do it for six hours (if you’re lucky) and then decide you are starving, eat a bucketload of fried chicken, and consider starting the day after, at which stage you’ll rinse and repeat until you get sick of the whole idea and carry on eating as if it were Christmas all year round.

I don’t know how you manage the Christmas food and snacks in your home, but in early January at my house, there’s still chocolate bars, cakes, Twiglets, and much more still left over. Am I going to eat a stick of celery or finish off the Mars bar? You know it will be the Mars bar.

So what can be done? Finish all the “bad” food and start the lettuce diet next Monday?

No, because you won’t. You might buy the lettuce, but you’ll end up going to McDonald’s.

So you try and out-run your diet and…

Go to the Gym regularly

You have a life to live, and possibly a job to do. It takes a lot of time and energy just to do everything you have to, so it’s extremely difficult to put the time in to go to the gym. And you’re tired. And it’s cold, because it’s winter. Plus, there’s all those other people in the gym, and they don’t need to someone out of shape like you are.

So it’s probably best that you don’t go, because there’s no time, and you’re cold, and you don’t need to exercise that much, really. Ever.

Write a book

Writing a book is hard. Most authors don’t have another job, or a family, or the need to eat, so they have plenty of time to write. They probably don’t even go to the gym either. And words! Oh my! Words are like complicaturd thangs thet sometymes don’t merk sense, and sentence together put not happen write. OK?

Spend more time with someone

In similar fashion to the other resolutions, the whole process of spending time with someone requires time and commitment. And you clearly don’t have hours to spare…

And there’s more

Learning an instrument, going for a hike, learning a language, everything needs time and commitment. How can you improve your life if time is finite and your commitment is lacking?

Let’s all give up now!

No. You’re just approaching this with the wrong mindset.

Remember that phrase that you’re supposed to chant in front of a mirror? No, not “Bloody Mary” or “Biggy Smalls”, but “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. You might not say it, and you might not even believe it, but every day is an opportunity to get better. And if you improve just 1% every day, in just 70 days you’ll be twice as good as you were before. Why? Because that 1% compounds day after day.

Little changes compounded become big changes – changes you couldn’t make in one go. Instead of committing to going to the gym every day and putting in an hour of hard exercise, why not start smaller? After all, three days in, you’re going to be sick of going to the gym, and will give up. But if you stop what you’re doing now and do 10 push-ups, you’ve done some exercise and it hasn’t really interrupted your day.

You’ll most likely find that you have time to do 10 push-ups several times a day. You can also write two sentences for your novel. And you can spend 10 minutes with someone. Instead of eating six Mars bars today, just eat five.

By next week, you’ll have done 70 or more push-ups (maybe over 200 if you can fit 3 sessions in a day), you’ll have spent over an hour with someone, written 14 sentences, and you’ll have had 35 Mars bars instead of 42.

So now you’ll have no problem doing 15 push-ups per session, spending 20 minutes with someone, writing 5 sentences, and only having 4 Mars bars.

In a month, you’ll have done thousands of push-ups, spent hours with someone, written several chapters, and have nearly kicked your Mars bar habit. But right now, you don’t have any free time to achieve any of that, do you?

Come on. 10 push-ups. Right now.

Go!

 

Recicember Day 31: Southern Biscuits with Chicken and Honey Butter

It’s day 31 of the 30 day challenge! Well, if I’d picked a month with the right number of days in it, that would have worked out better. Anyway, for the final day, we’re having Southern biscuits!

These are of course American-Southern biscuits, as opposed to digestives from Cornwall.

They look a bit like scones, have a similar texture, but are usually eaten in place of a potato product.

Ably assisted by The American, we’re going to use a recipe from by Alton Brown on the Food Network website. So, let’s give this Jammie Dodgers and chicken thing a whirl!

‘Murica!

Here’s what we do. Bang on the oven at gas mark 8, grab a single solitary bowl. Chuck in some flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt – I’m already thinking this is going to taste salty. As in, very salty.

Butter and shortening are carefully lobbed in, then rubbed in to make lovely crumbs. Then you have to dig a well.

Well

No, wait, it was make a well in the middle. That’s easier. A cup of buttermilk is poured in, and stirred with a non-walloping spoon.

Buttermilk

The sticky dough is then juggled onto a floured board.

Dough

Flour is sprinkled on the top, and the dough is folded like a piece of paper several times. It’s then flattened out, and circles are cut out of it. I discovered at this point that I still have no pastry cutters, and so used an empty and clean jar to cut the shapes. This worked well, until I tried to remove the cut shapes and place them on a baking tray.

I managed this with the help of a small spoon, but it did mean that none of them were round.

Uneven

Sling them in the oven for a bit, along with some chicken, and start making the honey butter! This is made by mixing butter, honey, and cinnamon together – there are many recipes online, and nobody seems to agree how it should be done. So I just did it anyway.

Honey butter

When it’s all cooked, hurl it at a plate, and either spread the honey butter on the biscuits, or put it to one side and dip them in. I chose the latter.

Plate of biscuits Plate of biscuits

I was right – they were a bit salty. But also delicious. So that’s OK.

TL;DR: Chicken and hob nobs, US style.

 

Recicember Day 30: Cheese, Pesto and Tomato Sandwich a la Starbucks

Starbucks! What are they good for?

Absolutely nothing!

No, wait, that’s war. Starbucks are good for coffee. And sandwiches. Toasted sandwiches, or grilled sammiches if you are reading in US English. I don’t understand how you grill things in a frying pan.

And what a selection of sandwiches Starbucks have! Let’s not forget they have the classic Marmite and cheese panini! Pro tip – if you try and make one at home, get a spoon of butter, and a half-spoon of Marmite, and mix it into a paste before spreading on the bread. Just like mama Starbucks used to make!

Anyway, here’s my twist on another Starbucks sandwich – the Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Panini!

Let’s not get carried away…

Roasted tomato and mozzarella is a bit pretentious, so let’s scale it back a bit. We’re going for regular tomato. And proper sliced bread, not a panini. And we’re not using mozzarella – we’re using Emmental, a Swiss cheese. But that’s fine, because they speak Italian in Switzerland.

So, let’s fire up the George Formby Foreman grill and get started!George Formby grillObtain two slices of bread. Chop a tomato into slices. Sling some green pesto on the bottom slice of bread. You can go quite close to the edge with it, as it doesn’t tend to leak.

Pesto spreading

Cover it with cheese. Neatly arrange the tomato on it.

Added tomato

Put the lid on, and place it in the grill. See? An actual grill!

Grill

Remove from grill once toasted, chuck it on a plate.

Grilled

Slice diagonally for that professional look.

Sliced

Enjoy with a cuppa…

Not Starbucks

And it’s just as good as Starbucks. Except, it’s made with different stuff. But at least the drinks are cheaper. And you can pick the music too. You can even add extra fillings if you want. Pesto and Marmite, anyone?

TL;DR: Toasted a grilled sandwich in a grill. Starbucks.

Recicember Day 29: Basic Waffles in a Christmas Present!

What do you get the highly attractive man who has everything? Well, according to my son, a combination treat maker that makes waffles!

It looks like a mini George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine, but it’s red.

Oh, and you can’t grill things in it. But you can make mini-doughnuts, cake pops, and…waffles!

And I am tremendously good looking.

So how do you make waffles? Let’s look at the instructions!

Basic Waffles

The instruction manual contains a recipe for basic waffles, which is pretty much what you’d expect – 150g flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp sugar, an egg, 300ml of milk, 2 tbsp veg oil, and a pinch of salt.

The method insists you need two bowls, and that you need to sift the flour, stir in the sugar and salt, and make a well in the middle. In the other bowl you beat the egg with the milk and oil, and then pour it in the other bowl and mix it up.

This is inefficient.

I put all the liquid ingredients a jug…

Liquid ingredients

…and put the dry ones on top. Then I walloped it around with a hand whisk.

Dry ingredients

Meanwhile, the treat maker was heating up.

Treat maker

By the time, I’d finished mixing, it was warm enough.

Waffle plates

I poured some of the mixture in the middle of the tray-thing in the treat maker, closed the lid, and waited.

Blob

And waited.

Five minutes is a long time when you want waffles.

The first waffle was slightly misshapen. Never fear! Waffle two will have more batter!

Poor waffle

Waffles two and three turned out very nicely, especially with the addition of some maple syrup.

Waffles

Waffle five used up the dregs in the bottom of the jug, and tried to take over the house in a similar fashion to the beignets. Turns out you can use too much batter in one waffle. Who knew?

So there it is. Quick and easy fresh waffles. As long as you don’t overfill the thing…

TL;DR: House nearly engulfed in batter. Again.

Recicember Day 28: Turkey Curry

As eating turkey for Christmas dinner is traditional in the UK, it is quite common to have leftover turkey well into January (and possibly beyond). And so the internet searches begin for leftover turkey curry recipes…

All I’m looking for is a quick turkey curry recipe. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top, just a straightforward simple turkey curry recipe. So with that in mind, we’ll probably be avoiding Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith, because I said so.

But we might take a look at this one from the Hairy Bikers.

Well, actually it’s from Abdul Yaseen, but the Hairy Bikers seem to have included it in their Christmas party show. I can’t confirm this as I didn’t watch it, and more importantly, it seems to have been broadcast in 2011, so I can’t even watch it on iPlayer.

Turkey Curry From Leftovers!

Well, the turkey is a leftover. The rest of the stuff isn’t. I mean, who has “leftover” cardamom? Let’s empty the spice drawer!

Turkey curry spices

And speaking of cardamom, here’s where I made my first “mistake”. The recipe calls for each of the spices to be dry roasted one by one. Ain’t nobody got time for that. And I ain’t got no star anise either. Nor do I have enough turkey. Abdul, buddy, 500g of turkey isn’t leftovers. It is a small turkey in itself. A tur-turkey-key, if you will. I had about 170g of turkey, so I put in about a third of everything the recipe asked for. Except the things I didn’t have.

Roasting spices

Next up, we begin to suffer from let’s-put-50-things-in-one-step syndrome, otherwise known as MKD-IKEA disease. So in goes garlic…

Garlic

…onion and ginger (ground, because a ginger root is something I don’t have)…

Onion and ginger

…spices and jalapenos…did I mention I didn’t have any chillies? No? Oh. Jalapenos from a jar made a decent substitute.

Jolly peenoes

Then a red bell pepper, and some tomato puree…

Tomato puree

…and the turkey.

Turkey in the turkey curry!

And then just stir it around a bit so it all gets warmed up. Lob it in a bowl and you’re done.

Lob in a bowl

Turns out it’s a curry that doesn’t have a sauce like gravy. Or maybe I just did it “wrong”. Certainly didn’t serve it with rice, because even a third of the original recipe was more than enough for a meal.

Tastes delicious though, and very spicy – but is it the best turkey curry ever? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to make your own to find out because you’re not getting any of mine!

TL;DR: Spicy turkey curry. Burn your gob off.

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