Here’s a Christmas lesson, this post was written early and posted late because there are so many things that I’m always trying to do at this time of year. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the time more.
It’s been an introspective year for me. I’ve thought of so many times in my life I’ like to go back to and tell myself to make different decisions or to make decisions for the right reasons not because of being scared or feeling that there was no choice. But time travel isn’t possible and I’m trying to learn to give myself the same care that I extend to others. To allow myself to know I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had. We can’t go back in time but we can go forward with all of the life experience and knowledge we have and make decisions for the right reasons in future.
As I write it’s December 1st and I’m waiting for my Christmas Cake to come out of the oven. It’s at least a month after it ‘should’ have been made and it’s made to a much more simple recipe than the usual recipe I use. But rather than having to try and convince myself it’s not happened that way because I’m never good enough or organised enough or have let anyone down I feel happy it’s done now. I decided to do other things up until now and I decided to make this recipe, not the other one. There really isn’t a sort of person who makes the perfect family recipe Christmas Cake and a sort of person who buys a cake there’s only the sort of person who does what they do with the time they have and deserves to be happy and proud of themselves.
I made it a bit more special by soaking the fruit in a mix of sherry and brandy overnight before I started.
My heirloom electric whisk from the 1980s finally gave up the ghost during the creation of cupcakes for the school Christmas Bizarre so I ended up making this using the food processor as I’ve become much too lazy to cream butter and sugar by hand.
Adding the flour and ground almonds and a little orange essence as we didn’t have almond and it seemed more suitable than peppermint which was the other alternative in the cupboard.
Had to mix in the fruit by hand after draining off the excess alcohol (which I saved to pour on once the cake is cooked) maybe I should have used a slightly bigger mixing bowl because it was a bit tricky to hold such a full bowl while pouring mixture into the tin.
Once the cake was cooked and had plenty more alcohol poured over the top it is cooled and stored for a couple of weeks before it’s ready for the marzipan and icing.
This weekend we had spaghetti carbonara which involved egg yolks. Thought I would have a go at making meringues with the egg whites. There were a lot so I used up all the sugar but they went the best I’ve ever managed. I think the key was in all the extra whisking as suggested by the Meringue Girls.
I shared on my Instagram stories as I went so I ended up with videos which gave me more fun (and some swearing) today making a how-to video…
There was so much mixture I also managed to make a pavlova which is pretty much my favourite dessert ever. There’s too much sugar for true healthiness but I’m going with sort of healthy because fat-free!
I made it at the same time as cooking roast dinner so I would like extra points for multi-tasking, please. We had it for pudding and everyone wanted seconds so it only lasted one sitting for our family of five and none of the taste team could guess the secret ingredient.
The first step was the most labour intensive with the sweet potato needing to be peeled chopped boiled and mashed. Then chopped dark chocolate was added and melted as it was mixed in.
Meanwhile, the cake ingredients are mixed together then the whole lot combined.
It goes in the tin and into the oven. I don’t know if it was my oven or what but it took longer than an hour to cook.
The icing is more melted chocolate, butter, golden syrup and chocolate pieces!
I’ve been thinking about and feeling frustrated over the way people are valued only by the money they make not their true intrinsic value again this week. But also aware that I’m incredibly privileged to have the time and energy for philosophical thinking.
Parenting struggles have included how to get your child to calm down and go to bed when they are completely full of sugar from the strangest celebration invented yet, Halloween. Which seems to have developed from celebration of spooky scary things to community spirit and neighbourliness with a sugar focus. As much as I suspect the amount of money confectionary producers are making may have something to do with the growth in popularity I still really enjoyed meeting so many neighbours.
We had fun making our pumpkin lanterns but as always I needed to do something with the pumpkin insides so they weren’t wasted. Turns out there’s so much you can do. Curry for dinner, roasted seeds to snack on, syrup for making my own pumpkin spice latte. Last but definitely not least these really yummy cookies.
Oat, flour and spices in one bowl and melted butter, pumpkin puree and maple syrup mixed in another. Then combine the two bowls with each other and add the chocolate chips. Spoon onto a lined baking tray and bake in a medium oven 10-15 minutes.
They’re still a little soft when they come out the oven but a pretty good consistency once cooled and really delicious. A tiny bit cakey so the search for the perfect healthy cookie continues but if I have more pumpkin to use up again I’d happily make more of these too.
I really love sweet potato. I’ve never had something made with sweet potato that I didn’t like. Well not before today anyway.
The weather was properly cold for the first time this year and sunny too which cheered me up. It was the end of the half-term holiday so I had a lovely walk with my dog (well mostly lovely except of course the ratbag wanted to chase all the squirrels). It’s his least favourite time of year because of all the fireworks, which used to be one of my favourite times of the year but not so much with a terrified dog almost every evening for about 3 weeks.
The cold weather arriving is legitimising my desire to make stews and soups more and more so today I was making a shepherds pie of sorts (it had veggie mince and sweet potato topping). So I thought I would give some sweet potato baking a go too.
I’m not linking to the recipe I used because this isn’t the best of reviews (plus I slightly changed it as not a fan of raisins and didn’t have pumpkin seeds available) but it’s not the recipe’s fault.
3/4 Cup mashed sweet potato
1/2 Cup peanut butter
Whisk together. Then add and mix in.
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Add and combine
1/3 cup oat mix flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Spoon tablespoons full on to a lined baking tray. Bake at 350f 175c or gas 4 for 20 minutes.
For me, they are the wrong texture for a cookie and taste entirely of slightly gone off peanut butter. The rest of the taste team said they look like chicken pieces and taste disgusting. I think we need to find someone who likes the idea of peanut butter flavour cake. Taking them to a meeting this evening to try them out on some friends.
Back to the drawing board for me when it comes to sweet potato baking. The sweet potato shepherds pie, on the other hand, is amazing.
Almost into the third week so here’s two weeks in one before I have to do three weeks in one!
There was a fifth birthday in our house this week and lots of parties to celebrate so both weeks the baking in the house was cake. Last week I made pumpkin cupcakes which were also seasonal.
This week it was birthday cake.
This is just a regular sponge cake made with the same weight each of self-raising flour, sugar and butter or margarine as 3 eggs plus a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The batter was split into three bowls and each one coloured with a different gel food colouring. When baked and cooled it was iced with shop bought buttercream icing and covered in rainbow sprinkles.
Pumpkins are in all the shops at the moment. It’s a bit soon for carving if you want them to be still fresh on Halloween though plus I hate all the waste so I’m always looking for ways to use what’s emptied out for carving. This recipe requires pureed pumpkin which can be made by baking the pumpkin then removing the seeds and skin or by removing seeds and skin and then boiling the chopped up flesh. It needs to be well strained to remove as much water as possible before being pureed.
I used this recipe which is easy to follow and required things that were already in my cupboard.
The wet ingredients are mixed in a food processor then added to the dry ingredients.
I found it a bit of a liquid batter which made a challenge for getting into the cupcake cases. Best method seemed to be pouring from the bowl which also works your arm muscles! Which explains the messy cake tray.
I needed to make dairy free icing rather than cream cheese icing but apparently failed to photograph after I iced so this is the finished cupcakes. Without the icing, they were almost like muffins. The taste team approved as did the party guests. If I get time and another pumpkin I might try for a low sugar version.
I’ve had a couple of new projects I’ve been working on and one, in particular, that has been pretty full on, for good reason, the last few weeks. I’ve also been thinking about the future again and continuing to support my small (and not so small) people through life’s challenges. It’s all good but I’ve not been doing so well at really filling my own cup so I’ve got the resources to keep on giving out. I know I need to change that but the inbuilt guilt is a struggle so I was pretty relieved to read this article
and realise I’m not going crazy and I’m not alone, think my husband was relieved to find that I wasn’t really going to run away with the circus either.
This weekend was pretty busy but we managed to get everyone together at the table for dinner on Sunday. So these brownies were for pudding and were declared yummy by the members of the taste team who weren’t too full or too keen on having a lolly.
This week’s baking involved another flashback. This time to University days when I used to make this Chocolate Fudge Pudding as a treat for my friends because it’s pretty cheap to make but really indulgent and super yummy. Just the thing for people who need lots of energy, a bit like my kids who are always hungry, especially after a day at school.
This week’s musings have been about if we’re possibly causing a problem for ourselves. If we tell small children to smile and pretend not to be sad as they go into school so they can get a sticker and then we wonder why our teenagers are unable to express how they feel and talk it out but rather tell us they are ‘fine’ and then start self-harming or develop an eating disorder! (To be clear I’m talking about ‘we’ as a society, not my own family). So no, I’m not happy about the accidental wee in my bed this morning but yes, I am going to keep cuddling my children whenever they need me to (or let me in the case of the teenagers).
On to the recipe, chocolate always helps me feel better.
Chocolate Fudge Pudding.
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix it all together until it’s a brownie type consistency batter and pour or spoon into a greased 6″ square tin.
In a separate bowl mix together:
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons sugar
Sprinkle over the batter.
Pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the top and bake at 350f 175c Gas 4 for 40 minutes.
When cooked the cake is at the top and the sauce underneath just like magic. Tastes like magic too and even better with a little ice cream or cream.