Cacao -it’s a bit like chocolate

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It’s week three of the holidays. Things keeping me sort of sane through the repetition of the same argument a million times:

  1. My lovely friends who reassure me it’s just the same in their houses and provide solidarity in the trenches.
  2. The mantra my lovely mum passed down which got her through our childhood (although obviously, she can’t have needed it much as we were all angels). “It’s not me it’s them”.
  3. A lot of chocolate.

I’ve also just had a health check due to my ancient age at which I discovered I am simultaneously ‘obese’, have slightly raised (from ‘ideal’ not average) cholesterol and am at very low risk of developing heart disease. Which is good motivation to keep up with finding ways to eat more healthy food (or at least a bit less chocolate).

I think this might be the most healthy version of my flapjack recipe so far.

Melt:

50g coconut oil

4 Tbsp Honey

1 Tbsp Molasses

Add:

50g cacao powder

Remove from heat and mix in:

150g Oats

Into a lined pan sprinkle over 50g cacao nibs and bake in a preheated oven gas mark 6 for 20 minutes.

Cool and cut into squares.

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Tastes less chocolatey than previous versions but still yummy. These are probably not sweet enough for you if you’re used to eating ‘normal’ amounts of sugar but for those who have already cut down, they’re sweet enough.

Taste team accused them of having funny rubbery bits on the top!

 

Chocolate chip brioche

It’s been a very busy week of fun family days out and cleaning the house.

Continuing the theme of can I make that with sourdough this weekend we had brioche.

Not sure if it’s just that I’m getting better at reading the complicated recipes but enjoying this blog I found this recipe on as it does seem to be mostly written in plain English.

Having read around I decided to use the mixer as the dough is quite sticky and needs a lot of mixing. After the first rise, the butter has to be massaged in. This bit was pretty sticky and hard work. One of the taste team spotted the bowl of butter waiting to go in and remarked wow that’s a lot of butter! He was right, it’s not a healthy recipe it’s a yummy one though and it is the holidays.

The dough was more workable after a second rise but still quite sticky.

Having made two trays of small brioche and still having dough left I thought I’d try a bigger loaf too in the loaf tin.

The small brioche spread more than I wanted them to but they all looked good. The taste team loved them, although they did remark they aren’t quite like the brioche we buy from the supermarket. Personally, I thought they were tastier!

Lists, chocolate, flapjack.

I read that ‘baby brain’ is a real thing. But how old does your baby have to be before you can stop blaming having children for not being able to remember anything? And how do you know if your brain is just the normal amount like a sieve? Anyone else ever wonder if they would even know if they started developing dementia early?

The only way I get through the day without forgetting everything is by making lists. I can’t remember when I started having to write the lists down but at some point not long after my first baby arrived once my third was here I had reached the point of realising if something isn’t written down it’s not going to happen. The silver lining for me is more stationary shopping, I’ve always loved a good notebook.

Busy kitchen this week.

In the search for yummy and healthy trying out chocolate hazelnut spread.

Roasting was ok but removing the skins was very fiddly.

My food processor is reaching the end of its natural life but it did a reasonable job especially once the rest of the ingredients went in.

It’s tasty but no one is going to confuse it with the widely available commercial chocolate-hazelnut spread. Will try using melted chocolate next time.

More work in pursuit of the perfect flapjack.

This week’s recipe:

Melt:

50g Butter or coconut oil

5 Tbsps Honey

 

Remove from heat and stir in

150g Oats

Bake in preheated oven at gas mark 6 for approx 20 minutes.

Easy and general approval from the taste team if a little strongly honey flavoured for me personally.

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Quinoa

It’s true what they say, who you are matters more than what you say in determining who your children will become. It’s a slow and steady process. I’m six months in to eating differently and paying more attention to my health (some weeks it goes better than others but there are no failures when you don’t give up) and my super fussy eater has not only tried and even liked a few new things but has been reading and thinking about allergies and food that makes you feel better. Now if only I could find a way to cope better with them being really irritating so I could pass that on to them too. Or maybe siblings will just always get wound up by each other no matter what. 🙂

The last few weeks I’ve also started consciously working on not letting anxiety stop me from achieving what I want. I know that doing the thing that makes me anxious is almost always not as bad as not doing it and getting anxious over what might happen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I need to head back and re-read The Opposite of Worry and maybe get on and write my diary so I can move on to the next part of the CBT course rather than continue to just avoid it by starting other courses. At least the learn to code HTML and CSS course is really interesting and making my brain work hard and being encouraged by my son to give it a go and keep going is super special.

Despite prevailing opinions on quinoa in the household I decided to give a quinoa experiment a go this week. So I made some for my lunch which was yummy and then made the rest into quinoa crispies like this it wasn’t the weather for having the oven on for longer than necessary so I took the opportunity to slow roast some veggies which means that my dinner is under control for today. Not often I’m that organised so feel pleased with myself!

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The quinoa didn’t all get the same amount crispy but it was sticking to the tray more and more so I decided it was time to move on.

To make it into Quinoa Crunch Bars.

These are so simple. I didn’t have (and don’t like) stevia but I’m also used to things not so sweet now. If you’re not used to being sugar-free or don’t want to be then a teaspoon or even half a teaspoon of icing sugar would work really well.

Decided to be extra decadent and put some melted chocolate on top before they went in the freezer. When they came out they looked great.

They taste like a chocolate bar. The only issue for me was a little bit of getting quinoa stuck in my teeth, worth it for the kick for sure. Two of the taste team found them a little too chocolatey but the maybe not so fussy anymore one wanted a second piece!

Avocado Brownies

It’s been a couple of weeks where a lot has happened in the news and we’ve seen our country in shock and many families and communities in the pain of losing loved ones before their time and through the violence of others. It’s a time when it’s easy to feel a little lost looking at the pain and not seeing where the love could be. But the love is there to see if you look, the love is in the way people come together to care for each other in times of need and where a 13-year-old boy called Adam seriously hurt in a bombing can send a message to the world to say “don’t go forward in anger, love spreads”. When we lose people it hurts but it’s a good hurt because it only exists because we loved them and they loved us and it is (as the saying goes) better to love and lose than not to love at all.

So there is still love in the world and there is still chocolate so there must be hope.

Chocolate Brownies with secret vegetable ingredients. That must be healthy too right?

Not as healthy as it could be as I’ve picked regular sugar again but just focus on the secret vegetables.

They make the mix green so that’s fun!

But the cocoa powder turns it chocolatey -which is good or they wouldn’t be very secret anymore. There’s more of a cakey brownie than a fudgy one but very yummy and I couldn’t taste the avocado.

Then I subjected them to the ultimate taste test -a 13-year-old fussy eater. He ate two said they were yummy and then I confessed they have avocado in them and he still wanted a third. He even picked them over the commercial chocolate biscuit in his lunch box for school. They didn’t quite win the best Brownie ever competition but only because his aunty’s brownies are truly amazing.

 

 

Cheese and Chocolate Chips

You’ll be relieved to hear I’ve not mixed the two things together. Last weekend -the long weekend- we were busy, so baking didn’t happen. I realised when looking through my photos for this post I did do some more baking last week too so there are two posts ready for this week.

I’ve been thinking about how to not get completely exhausted and frustrated while doing household tasks and cleaning this week. Half term is always a time there’s so much more to be done and it can be easy to let things slide for a day and then have regret the next day. In our house, we are trying to teach our children the household tasks are the joint responsibility of the household. So the older kids have a list of chores to pick from before they go off and do their own thing each day and the youngest is beginning to learn to tidy up her own things after she finishes using them. Still, many of the household chores fall to me as does keeping a mental picture of what needs doing and how long it was since all the different tasks were last done. The most helpful thing I’ve found apart from doing little and often and listening to good podcasts or radio shows is thinking about why I am doing something, who am I really doing it for. More often than not I find I’m really doing things for myself. It’s me who doesn’t feel comfortable surrounded by dirty dishes or with piles of dog hair over the floor so really it’s me who benefits from those things being sorted out. I think it’s important to teach my kids to do the laundry and to cook and clean so they are positive members of any future household they belong to and can look after themselves when they are ready to leave home. But I find it much less stressful if I remember they aren’t there yet they’re still learning and sometimes I have the energy to teach but sometimes I don’t but I still want things done so I chose the things that matter to me and let the other things slide if I’m happy in my surroundings that’s what’s most important.

Today I was invited to a vegan cheese related event which was too good an opportunity to try something new to turn down. So I had a go at making vegan queso dip.

I used this recipe which I picked because it was comparatively quick to make. I have spotted some recipes for cashew cheese which take a while to mature but I’m definitely giving them a try soon.

Basically, this is aubergine dip flavoured with garlic, cumin, nutritional yeast and what is supposed to be chilli powder but I didn’t have any so I used paprika. I chopped too much garlic and had to remove some when I measured and I might use even less if I make it again as it was a bit garlicky for my personal taste.

The only issue I had was it didn’t thicken as much as I expected even after adding extra cornflour. But once mixed with salsa and nachos it was really yummy and cheesy and I couldn’t really tell it was vegan. Not sure if anyone else tried it so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This afternoon we had a go at vegan gluten free chocolate chip cookies as choc-chip cookies are something super popular with my family.

Had fun cooking with my kitchen assistant except when she was disappointed she couldn’t use the oven herself.

I started with this recipe and then changed it around for ingredients I had in the cupboard.

1/3rd Cup coconut oil

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons almond milk

2 cups Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup dark choc chips

Heat oven to Gas Mark 4 (180C 350F).

Grease cookie sheets.

Cream coconut oil and sugar, whisk in vanilla and almond milk.

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Stir in flour and baking powder. Gently combine chocolate chips. 1 cup is definitely too many chocolate chips 1/2 or 3/4 would be plenty. img_20170601_190109.jpg

Make small balls and flatten slightly onto trays at a reasonable distance from each other.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating if you can resist that long.

These are amazing. So good that the fussiest member of the taste team ate two without realising or even minding when he found out they were gluten free and vegan. Will be making them again many times.

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Week Off , New Name, Brownies.

I changed the name of the blog. It’s still exactly the same blog with the same aims and ideas but now the name reflects that better and fits in with my website and facebook and all that.

I also didn’t bake or blog last week, it was sort of a positive decision and sort of completely inevitable as I was too ill. Have still an awful cough but feeling so much better in comparison.

I still have no car, that was an extra stress to an already stressful weekend at a funeral. As maybe is always the case we wished the person we were celebrating could have been at the funeral to see how much we all loved him. The four-year-old is still not convinced on the permanence of death, she wondered if her grandad might appear on the stage in the arts centre while we were having the funeral after party.

So without the car, we had to find entertainment in the house and local area. This week’s baking is a result and as a result was not as fun or positive as usual, some grumpiness occurred.

We wanted to have the best ever brownies so we used a recipe which made that claim.

It was high maintenance.

We didn’t have enough dark chocolate so we had to use a variety of chocolate colours. They melted easily though so that was good. Whisking the eggs took a while but made the mixture seem really light and fluffy looking.

The brownies looked amazing when they came out but after they cooled down they were still liquid so they went back in. After a second half hour at a slightly higher temperature, they are still mostly liquid. Not sure what’s gone wrong there.

The bits we have been able to try were super delicious though.

Tomorrow we try making almond milk…

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…and get the car back at last!

Emotional

DSC_1187This blog is about cupcakes a little bit but it’s also about friends and family and how feelings are ok. I made so many cupcakes this week, vanilla ones, chocolate vegan ones, even gluten free ones which tasted good. Why? Because it was my birthday (an age with a 0 in it) and I wanted to celebrate having reached a point in my life where I have friends I can count on and who I love to spend time with. I wanted a party where I didn’t have to be the centre of attention because my friends know and love me just as I am and where I could show them how much I love them all with cake. Because I’m not always good at expressing myself but I’m good at making cake.

I am also blessed to have many lovely and loving people in myDSC_1188 family (not least my wonderful mum who supported me through all of the stress and shopping and organising and cleaning) and the same day was filled with many emotions as my kind, principled, loving father-in-law passed away. Even when you know that someone is very ill and have plenty of warning it’s still a shock when that moment comes. So there was sadness, I will never see his smile again or hear him say ‘ah they’re alright’ when I tell off one of my children. We will miss him more than we probably know. But there was also relief as his pain is over and he’s at peace now and he died with all his children and his partner and sister around him in his own bed knowing he is loved. And even surrounding the sadness there was joy. The joy that we knew him and have many wonderful memories and the joy that comes from the comfort of your friends sharing the downs as well as the ups with open and loving hearts.

Life is full of beginnings and ends and celebrations and hard times and all of the mundane day to day in-between. But if life is also full of love all of those times and all of those feelings are OK. It’s OK to be happy and OK to be sad sometimes and it’s OK to share that with each other.

Making so many (over 100) cupcakes meant freezing them before icing them on the day.

Which worked really well except that chocolate cupcakes’ wrappers peeled away as they defrosted. The gluten free cupcakes which finally worked well and tasted good were made using Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour with their own recipe https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/fairy-cakes/

I also made vegan and gluten free scones – more on that next week!

Three weeks in one go

I’ve been making positive decisions over the last three weeks. Some of them have been decisions to do things other than spending time on the computer which is why the baking has happened but the blogging hasn’t.

It’s been a few weeks of thinking about so many things that are completely out of my control. The things that are either shit that happens because that’s just how the world is and the things that are the consequences of bigger life choices that I’ve made. My heart is very much in one day being able to go back to my job of being a birth doula -if you’re saying ‘a what?’ click here. But not dwelling on that as it can’t happen in the next couple of years is easier said than done. Making smaller positive choices within the confines of what is possible for me right now does help but it doesn’t quiet the longing in my heart completely.

In our wider family we’re being forced to face the fact sometimes people have to leave you before you’re ready to let them go and cancer is really shit. There are positive choices you can make to value and love people but sometimes hard times come and it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to not be ok.

When things are not ok chocolate cake can’t fix anything but it’s still nice to have some.

This recipe hasn’t got eggs and I made it with almond milk so it was completely vegan. I was also in a hurry and I took it out the tin too quickly so it crumbled but it still tasted really good.

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The next week my project at the insistence of my kitchen assistant was strawberry cupcakes. They tasted amazing, too amazing, the taste team was either not available or apparently don’t like strawberries, except the kitchen assistant who didn’t like the icing and then refused to eat any more cakes. Long story short I ate them all. It wasn’t a good decision but I couldn’t help myself.

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And it led to a very positive decision to stop saying I need to do something about my health and start actually doing something. And so the last week has included a lot of making smoothies and salads and no coffee drinking. I’ve gone a bit hardcore to start off but I’m working on a new lifestyle, not a temporary quick fix so I’m planning to mellow as I  learn.

We did a little Easter Baking. It was fun and I think we did a good job of making them like the picture but I don’t know what they taste like.

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Chocolate and Banana and Apple

Two lots of baking this week first a Birthday cake. Just plain despite the numerous suggestions his small sister came up with the 13-year-old was reluctant to have too much fun -it’s very serious being 13 you know.

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Just a regular chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream and chocolate sprinkles -enough chocolate for you yet? It was yummy of course.

Second was an adjustment on a banana loaf to make a banana and apple loaf. Looks good but won’t be taste tested until it goes to a bring and share lunch on Saturday.