Nutribullet banana loaf

With a little help from Mary Berry I have been making a banana loaf most weeks for the last two months or so. Since my Nutribullet lives on the counter it’s quite tempting to use it for other things, and making cake is definitely something it can do.  Even with the blender available to me I have found myself overoptimistic about how many bananas I can eat in a week.

I prefer my banana loaf less plain than the Berry version, so here is what I have been making:

Wet/blitzable ingredients
100 gr melted butter (using melted not softened makes the nutri vessel easier to clean)
175 gr caster sugar
2 eggs
2 bananas
1 other fruit – pear or apple?
good splosh of milk
generous teaspoon of mixed spice

Dry ingredients
225 gr SR flour
2 big handfuls of sultanas
a good sprinkle of nuts, eg walnut pieces, whole shelled hazelnuts
glacé cherries if you have them

Preheat the oven to 180 deg / 160 fan.

Line a 2lb loaf tin – I use Loaf Tin Liners.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Blitz the wet ingredients in the nutribullet.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for an hour.

Check after 45 minutes. If the cake is browning on top but still moist inside, cover with tin foil to stop the crust burning.

If after an hour the skewer is still not coming out clean – this is a moist, heavy cake, after all – turn the oven off and allow it cool with the cake still in.

Variations
The same fundamental method works with other fruit, not just bananas. I’ve tried a pear and chocolate cake by substituting three pears for the bananas and adding two tablespoons of cocoa into the flour.

Since the nutribullet means you can blitz any fruit into a liquid, rather than mashing bananas with a fruit, you can turn pretty much anything into a cake.  On much the same basis that you can hide vegetables you don’t like in a nutribullet with fruit you do, you can also put vegetables into cake this way.

I don’t see the need to use baking powder as well as SR flour – too much and you end up with a cake that gives you heartburn.

Solar panel performance – 2014 and 2015

Forgive me reader, it’s been over two years since I last blogged the annual performance of my solar panel.

Solar panel performance 1/1/16

A photo this time rather than a screen shot as since I upgraded my computer I have been unable to re-download the software that would allow me to connect my new computer to the controller. This is rather annoying because I paid extra for the computer control facility.

Rather suspiciously, the controller reports almost identical kWh outputs for the last three years.

I will estimate it as 3,800 kWh per year. Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. I use the gas rate of 5.19p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas.

That means the solar panel gathered around £197 of energy in each of 2014 and 2015.

The running total to the end of 2014 is therefore £1,187 and at the end of 2015, £1,384.

September will see the ninth year of operation. When it was installed, we needed to put in a new hot water tank which was bigger than the old one, so the installers had to demolish my airing cupboard to fit it in. In the nine years since, I have yet to sort it out.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

French and German weather haiku

I wrote these last year in July as we were approaching a weather topic.

My aim was for Y7 students to make sure they understood them, then translate them into English, then fiddle with them until their English versions also met the syllable pattern to be a haiku.  This proved incredibly hard to explain!

Looking again at what I wrote after 9 months have elapsed, I still quite like them.

The ultimate aim is for students to write haiku of their own in the target language. This is a stretch for many.

Working with haiku in French and German is something I first did on teaching practice and is not really something I have managed to embed.

Please let me know what you think of these haiku – especially language errors, should you spot any.

En avril, il pleut
La pluie mouille la terre afin
que toutes les plantes poussent

 

Soudainement, la
pluie s’arrête. Puis le soleil.
Un bel  arc en ciel

 

Coup de foudre et
Le ciel de nuit s’éclaire
Des gouttes de pluie tombent

 

Quelques mois sans pluie
Des grandes fissures dans la terre
Temps de secheresse

 

L’hiver s’approche vite
L’automne est déjà parti.
Les arbres sont nus.

 

La planète congèle
Le lac et la rivière
Sont durs comme le plomb.

 

Die Klassenzimmer
ist so heiß wie ‘ne Wüste.
Ich brauche ein Eis!

 

Bald ist es Winter.
Die Bäume sind total nackt.
Herbst is schon vorbei.

 

Winter gibt es Schnee.
Frühling und Sommer, Regen.
Nur Herbst ist trocken.

 

Während des Tages
hat es heute geregnet.
Ich will draußen geh’n.

 

Heute morgen – Schnee.
Der Schneefall mag ich gucken.
Weihnachten kommt bald.

 

Schwitzen und streiten,
Beim sonnigen Wetter kann
Nichts gut herauskomm’n

 

Regelmäßig kalt.
Ohne Mantel nicht ausgeh‘n!
Handschuh‘ braucht man auch.

Diner à deux

Another opportunity to cook for a friend. As ever, starter and pudding ideas come easily to mind and coming up with a main is a little more challenging.

Tonight it’s potage parmentier – 3 leeks and one huge baking potato simmered in stock with a parmesan rind (thank you Julie/Julia) and some herbs, served with a swirl of cream and slices of the breadmaker bread mix loaf (“homemade” stretching it a bit) that’s on the go at the mo. Chicken breasts poached in stock (my friend is teetotal) then baked in homemade tomato sauce and strewn with cheese, with green beans, carrot batons and broccoli.

And the pudding is a chocolate chestnut ganache. In a French hypermarché years ago it seemed like a good idea to buy a multipack of little tins of Clément Faugier marrons glacés de l’Ardèche, in beautiful traditional blue and white designs, and I’ve been baffled about what to do with them ever since. I plumped on the idea of adding them to a ganache to make truffles as I was preparing something to take with me to Hogmanay in Scotland and it worked reasonably well. My first attempt with 150gr milk chocolate, 150ml of double cream and one little tin of chestnuts would have been fine as a chocolate pot to eat with a spoon but was too soft for truffling. Remelting with a further 50gr of bitter dark chocolate I had knocking around was enough to get the consistency right, but by then it was too late to form the truffles so I carted the lot off to Scotland in a recycled takeaway tub.

Since we are not eating chez moi ce soir, I’ve boxed the lot up for transportation, again in those hardworking recycled takeaway tubs. It was under an hour’s cooking at home and getting it on the table will be less than 30 minutes. There’s lots of spare soup and chocolate for later in the week.

Dinner for 2

This week an old friend posted on Facebook about chalet jobs in the Alps. I’ve had little fantasies about this kinda work ever since I heard about it. You spend a week in a chalet for 6 or 8 or 12 providing all the hot meals for the residents – a cooked breakfast, afternoon tea for when they come off the slopes, and then a full home cooked meal in the evening. I’d love to have a go at doing that for a season, even if I would almost certainly be terrible at winter sports, just for the cooking aspect. Of course it would be incompatible with paying a mortgage on the house in blighty and there are all the animals to look after so it’s not anything I’m going to move into any time soon, but… one day maybe?

Project Dressing Room

Now that I live alone I have a spare room that was previously P’s office. It’s only barely big enough for a bed and was a box room when we bought the house ten years ago. I wasn’t entirely sure how to use the space when he left it entirely empty and beautifully clean, but my thoughts had been edging towards turning into a dressing room, or a giant walk-in wardrobe.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I could do this. I wondered about getting someone to build something simple out of scaffolding poles and MDF to make boxes – I’m a big fan of shelves for clothes rather than drawers. My clothes until now had been living in a mix of built-in wardrobes and open rails from Argos in the corner of my office. I’d recently innovated so that things that didn’t need to hang lived in cheap Ikea laundry baskets on the floor of the built in wardrobes.

Clothes baskets

A more expensive solution would have been a pair of Ikea wardrobes with all the fixtures and fittings. Two problems – one, it wouldn’t be impossible to end up spending a grand doing that and two, P had a wardrobe up against the external wall and it led to damp and mould.

This mould is where a wardrobe was next to the wall. What's going on here and how do I stop it?

That took about a year – he’d had worse problems before with more furniture closer to the walls. This is an old, single skin brick house and that room has two external walls.

I’d spent a couple of months wondering about it and idly googling, but everything I’d found so far was high-end, luxury spec sort of thing – because I suppose most people with the space for a dressing room are not short of a bob or two.

What made the difference in terms of getting the answer I wanted out of google was to add the search term “warehouse” – this mean the answers I was getting were a bit more high-volume, low-price and less hand-burnished rosewood with a mahogany trim.

The company Shopfitting Warehouse was what popped first and they had a whole series of chrome garment rails that are intended either for warehouse or shopfloor, but which are very well priced and don’t look cheap. They fixed almost all of the problems – free standing, so can stand away from the wall to allow airflow and to check and clean the mould if necessary. They can easily be moved around the house into other positions if necessary. Very easy on the budget. Modular, so I can configure them exactly how I want them. I ordered a couple of units on the last day of term and they were delivered bright and early on the first day of the holidays. I’d built them and put all of my clothes onto them within 90 minutes.

Project Dressing Room

Project Dressing Room

Project Dressing Room

I can’t quite get a picture showing both units together because the room is so small I can’t stand far enough away. But I am distinctly chuffed. I have more clothes storage space than I have ever had and more than I need, even for the obscene amount of shirts I own. And all for less than £200.

Project Dressing Room

Project Dressing Room

(Now to go and get 15 shirts back from the cleaners and drop off another 15, and do two loads of washing. Hmm, that will fill some of the spaces…)

Lifeboat tasks

When I was on teaching practice a senior leader introduced me to the concept of a lifeboat task – something to have in reserve for the times when the class in front of you finishes all the work you had planned in record time.

The concept was not introduced in time to save me from a very long and desperate game of hangman with some very able Y7s who must have finished their secondary education by now.

The best of these are ideas that need very little prep, and there is a super document on the TES of “minimum preparation, maximum effectiveness” tasks that did the rounds in my PGCE year and which I definitely recommend.

The simplest of my lifeboat tasks is a game of noughts and crosses or connect four where each square in the grid has the initial letters of a sentence that has been worked on in the lesson, eg “HSJRGD” as a cipher for hier soir, j’ai regardé Grand Designs. Students have to guess the sentences before drawing a naught or cross for their team.

But I also have a small selection of simple printed resources that have helped me out no end from time to time when the class is quicker than anticipated.

my lifeboat task file

Clare Seccombe’s hexagon booklets

I have a wodge of blank hexagon booklets that students can use in many different ways. This works as an extension task for fast finishers as well as a whole class lifeboat task.

Follow the link above for Clare’s template PDF and some examples of how to use it. (telling the time, verb conjugations)

It’s a great example of HOTS not MOTS (higher order thinking skills not more of the same) because you can get the students to consider it as a teaching tool.

Lifeboat tasks - strip bingo

I have some blank sheets for playing strip bingo on, made by simply drawing horizontal lines on a landscape sheet of A4 and guillotining into strips. Students put one vocab item from the a constrained list into each square. You call out the vocab items. Students are only allowed to score the two outside squares of their sheet, so you have to have a way of calling the same vocab item more than once (return the paper to the hat, for example.) If you call the item from the outside of their strip, they tear it off. You have to be strict about keeping the discarded paper safe ready for throwing away and not making a mess with.

Students get excited at the name of the game – strip bingo – so I make a point of clearing up that it’s called that because it’s played on a strip, not because anyone will have to remove clothing.

It ought to be possible to play this game without providing a preprinted strip for the students, but I find they do not listen to instructions and many do not draw the boxes so they can tear the strip off properly. At least the first few times through, it’s quicker to provide them with a sheet.

The same is also true for my final suggestion, aural dominoes. For this, students pick a sentence from their work, which they write in the target language and in English on a small sheet. They then tear the English off, you collect all the English strips, and you get them to pick a new one at random. Then it should be possible for a student to read their TL sentence, another student to hear and understand it, and read the English translation, and then start a chain. Each new student reads aloud the English of the TL sentence they have heard before then giving a new sentence which someone else in the room should have the English for. This can be quite a long activity – up to 20 minutes – until the students are used to how it works and get a bit quicker.

Aural dominoes template.

What are your go-to lifeboat tasks?

Further ravages of time

Slightly under ten years ago, I renewed my passport.

Now I’m preparing to do it again so it will be definitely back with me in time in case I get to go on the school trip to Paris in December.

I didn’t quite dare tick the box that says my appearance has not substantially changed since last time.

passport photo

passport05

passport96