Overextending and Chocolate Brownies

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

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201709/the-overextended-introvert-handle-care 

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.

They’re a different recipe for avocado brownies than we used before and slightly less healthy but more gooey and chocolatey.

They’re made with maple syrup and brown sugar. Realised at the last minute that I had run out of cocoa powder but the hot-chocolate powder and syrup seemed to work ok as a substitute.

The real decadence was in adding the chocolate chips at the end. The looked a little overdone when they came out of the oven but were pretty perfect once they had cooled down.

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Amazing Chocolate Pudding

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.

Sift:

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

Add:

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

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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.

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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.

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Moments

Prioritising has never been a strong point for me I’m good at getting bored easily and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. I may have mentioned before I need lists. This is never more true than on weeks like this one when my youngest started full time school and suddenly I was already busy every day of the week. I’m trying to take things slow and appreciate the small moments so that all of the things that need to be done don’t become overwhelming.

I’ve been continuing to think about how we need to teach ourselves and our children to cultivate positive mental health and good practices and habits to help prevent potential problems rather than just firefight when the problems start to get bad. This week I’m trying to slow down and remember the most important thing happening in my life is my children are growing up. To do this I’m trying to make sure I look at them and listen properly when they talk to me. To spot the times of day they are ready to open up and to focus and listen. It’s not easy especially when all three want to talk at once but just because I don’t always succeed doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

Looking for recipes for lunch box friendly cakes and biscuits made me remember a favourite from my own childhood. Mary Berry (yes always the family favourite cookbook) Melting Moments.

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I’ve made one small adjustment because I don’t buy margarine anymore, sometimes I swap for butter but this time I swapped for coconut oil.

It’s a cream fat and sugar add egg and then flour and oats type of recipe. The biscuits are shaped by hand and rolled in oats then flattened on the tray. As with all the recipes in the book pretty simple.

They’re baked at quite a low temperature and for 20 minutes which was just about perfect, the tray on the top shelf slightly more well done than the one on the middle meaning those ones were crunchier and the middle shelf ones were chewier.

The taste team took their responsibilities very seriously and rated them ‘good’ on smell, snap, crunch and chew.

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Failing the challenge but not at life

After challenging myself to bake at least once a week for a year, nine months in, I’ve failed for the first time. Last week I didn’t just fail to write I failed to bake. I did bake bread (sourdough) which in itself represents a win, didn’t think I was going to keep that up as well as I have done. But it’s not a win on the baking for fun side of things. It wasn’t a positive choice just something that happened, the week went by while I was deep in the parenting trenches. The last week of the holidays is always the hardest because everyone has had enough of each other and everyone is feeling the nerves of what will the new school year hold. We held it together, just about, but it’s been hard work. Not least because the challenges that teens today have to face and the pressures on them are immense and it’s really no wonder that there is such an increase in mental health issues.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this but I’ve got a strong feeling positive mental health and how to create, maintain and support it is a gaping hole in our society. I’m going to have a lot more thinking and writing to do over the next months and years. Lots of threads in my life seem to be coming together.

This week baking is back and these flapjacks are really yummy but not at all healthy. They did make a great back to school treat though.

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I’m fed up with not being able to find sugar free cake recipes that don’t have wither sweeteners or non-standard ingredients in so I’m setting out now to start making up my own recipes that are simple as well as healthier.

I had some pears that needed eating up so my first go was a pear and ginger loaf.

4 Pears peeled poached and pureed

3 Eggs

150g Butter

175g Self Raising Flour

1 teaspoon Ginger

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

All in a big bowl whisk for 2 minutes. Place in greased and lined loaf tin. Bake at Gas 6 for 50-60 minutes.

 

It was too fatty and not sweet enough and didn’t rise as much as it could have. Not inedible though and a good first step. Next week apples in place of pears and some more tweaks and see where we go.

 

Too much fun, too many nuts

It’s that point in the holiday when parents feel like it’s been going on forever and wonder if we’ve had too much fun and kids realise there’s very little time left before school starts and they need to squeeze in as much fun as possible. Also, the moment when the dreaded feeling we have to go on the school shoe shop occurs and everyone wonders if last year’s shoes will be ok still (they never are).

In our house, we’re facing the last year of school for the first time and the first year of school for the last time. Conversations are on how to keep motivated to study when the long term gain feels far away and there are other things that are much more fun to fill your time with. Lots of reassurance that friends will be made and fun will be had is required.

Everyone wants to know what I will do once I have no more preschoolers at home. The short term answer is “have a nap”. Then after that organise a conference. But in the long term, I don’t know. If I start to think too much I have to start managing anxiety.  Which of course is wasted energy that’s not going to help with anything right now while I can’t do anything solid about it. So I’m learning (always learning) to focus on today, what I’m doing right now and stay present because when the time comes I will find the right path. For this time of parenting, I need to be focused not distracted with possible futures.

I had some pears that weren’t being eaten fast enough so I looked for something to bake with some of them and decided to try out pear and honey flapjacks.

These have sugar in as well as the honey so I thought they might be a bit more indulgent. Turns out I’m so used to low sugar flapjacks now that I found them a bit sweet but the main issue for me was they use the same amount of nuts as oats which seems to be where they fall apart (literally) and I found them too chewy. The other member of the taste team to try them so far loved all the nuts though so I guess that’s more of a taste thing.

Grating the pear was a bit of a faff but other than that it’s a pretty simple recipe.

I made the mistake of thinking they weren’t completely done at the end of the first 30 minutes and then getting a little distracted during the extra 5 minutes so they turned into an extra 10 minutes. Which is why there are a few ‘caramelised’ nuts, but overall they weren’t overdone anyway.

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It’s not really carrot cake

Been struggling to write this week. Feeling a little bit lost and not sure how to put it into words. Last week my eldest had his last ever sports day. No matter how much you enjoy all the moments you can the time when your children are small the time still goes super fast and they are big and growing up so soon.

It’s a long time really until I’ll be finished with small people as my youngest is only just starting school in September but that does mean the pre-school baby days are all gone for me and the countdown feels like it’s on as this time next year we will be waiting for the first big set of exam results and school will be over (just school, not full-time education but still -college is a whole new thing).

It’s been 19 years since I left full-time education and I still feel like I don’t really know what I want to achieve with my life, what I’m going to be when I grow up. Making three people and trying not to ruin their lives before they reach 16 is amazing as well as really hard and often frustrating but even when you stretch it out by having a big age gap it doesn’t last forever. I wouldn’t have my life any other way than revolving around these three wonderful people but I still feel the sense of panic that haven’t really got a plan for what comes next for what it means to be just me when they don’t need me so much anymore. It’s a strange job parenting, you’ve only really succeeded when you’ve made yourself redundant. It’s so hard to want to reach that point, that feeling of success while also never wanting to reach it because it feels like part of who you are is not forever. We will always be their parents and always care for them and look after them of course but it won’t be the same. So who will I be, what will my time be spent on, how will I know I’m still me.

I can’t answer these questions and letting them run round in my head is making me anxious so I know I need to fill my days and really focus on enjoying today and making the most of these moments which are not forever.

This week I’ve made more bread -it was too crusty. Also, I found the cookbook I got for my birthday, so here’s a way of having more vegetables for breakfast. Having made it I think maybe it should be renamed just carrot granola because there’s really no cake involved.

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Drying the carrot was OK much like drying the almond pulp in the previous granola recipe but there were too much of the other ingredients to mix on the tray this time.

Luckily I have such a lovely bowl I love to find reasons to use it.

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I mixed once during baking but think maybe should have mixed twice because it got a little overcooked at the edges.

 

 

 

Still, it tasted good and made a healthy breakfast so that’s what counts.

 

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Pizza

Parenting challenge this week -when the news is pretty scary how do you help your 13-year-old with a tendency to be anxious and an interest in current affairs not let it overwhelm them? I don’t know the answer, I’m working on not letting it overwhelm me and remembering that a loving gentle home environment and a safe space are the things I can control when I can’t control what’s out there. If anyone has the answer please let me know I’m always keen to learn.

In our little home bubble, we’ve had a lovely weekend. All three children worked together on a meal for father’s day without arguing which was a minor miracle. Friday we had pizza for tea. Making pizza is pretty easy and fun if you just use a bread mix for the base and let people choose their own toppings and don’t make the people who have very strong views on how much sauce a pizza should have share with each other.

The challenge comes when you’re trying to cut down on gluten. I’ve tried a gluten free scone pizza base, too dry for me and a commercially prepared gluten free pizza base, tasty but not so fun from a cooking point of view. So this week yeast and gluten free flour like this recipe.

There’s milk in it which I think could be substituted for a non-dairy alternative but I thought on the first go I’d not change too much. Making the yeast bubble was fun and looked cooler than the photo shows.

It wasn’t too sticky and formed a dough nicely but didn’t rise as well as I hoped. It did look more different than the photo shows. Think I need to do a food photography course next.

Rolling out was not too difficult but picking it up to put on the tray was practically impossible without it falling to pieces.img_20170616_173712.jpg

The one on the left I managed to get on the tray almost in one piece but the one on the left fell apart completely and ended up as a pile on the tray with the result it was a lot thicker.

They looked good once the topping was on and they had been baked.

The thinner pizza was pretty good just a little floury if it had been just a bit thinner it might have been just right. The thicker pizza was just too floury and I mostly just at the topping.

So the search for the perfect gluten free pizza continues.

In other news, while I was making pizza our new budding foody was making Mary Berry’s ‘Can’t go wrong chocolate cake’. Which was very yummy. It’s two layers in the recipe but he’s of the opinion that two cakes are better than one!

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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!

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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Killing the perfect

I’m reading a book at the moment. I like reading but I struggle with reading good novels because I like to get absorbed in the story and carried away with reading and real life is always getting in the way. But right now I’m reading a book of ideas, it’s challenging but I’m persevering. I reached a point where the book told me to put it down and go kill the perfect person I want to be -in my case the perfect mum and the perfect friend have got to go. I can’t move on until I kill off the people who don’t exist, who I will never be.

It said to not come back until I was done but it’s a long and winding road and I want to read the book. Because, like I said, it’s interesting and challenging. I do know I need to stop trying to be the perfect – that what I’m trying to be isn’t even perfect really just an image in my head built on so many things, many of which aren’t even fully true. I’m so good at recognising how great other people are but I really find it hard to appreciate myself. I don’t think I’m going to be able to switch off the perfect image I can’t measure up to just like that but I’m committed to the positive decision to step back from it and teach myself to be kind to me.

Today’s recipe is applesauce muffins to use up the leftover applesauce from last week’s flapjacks sugar-free and low-fat, how healthy.

They mix up nicely. Only problem I came across was probably because I need some proper muffin tins, the muffins stuck to the inside of the wrappers.

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They rose beautifully and cooked in the time suggested. It’s past the taste team’s bed time so they weren’t available (and are sceptical about apple flavoured thing apparently) but I liked them. They are really not very sweet at all and taste better with a little butter but overall will make a good breakfast I think.