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.

 

 

Bonus almonds

I worried the lady on the door at the blood donation session yesterday by not having eaten carbs that morning. Fortunately, the nurse said it was OK to donate still. It made me think about how much healthier I feel since I cut down on grains and dairy. No thinner and not cutting anything out or doing anything drastic but just more balanced and less digestive discomfort. Plus I get to do fun things like making almond milk and then making granola with the pulp.

Taking the skin off the almonds was fiddly but blending them up was fun.

I was lazy and used a sieve rather than a muslin but it worked fine.

DSC_0009_1The milk tasted fine in coffee but maybe I need a better blender as by the end of a cup there was some graininess.

To use up the pulp. I tried out this recipe with a couple of substitutions for things I don’t like (I’m really fussy with dried fruit).

Roasting / drying the almond pulp wasn’t as difficult as I thought but mixing the coconut oil and honey was surprisingly challenging.

Looked pretty much the same before and after being in the oven. Just a colour change and obviously dried out.

But it tastes pretty good and that’s for someone who’s not really a cereal person.

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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!

Perspectives

As a family in a time of mourning, we’re trying to learn more about empathy and taking each day at a time here. I’m struggling with car troubles and the teenagers are struggling with school work maybe not all big things in the grand scheme of life but when you’re already on edge it’s harder to keep perspective. Our four-year-old is learning sometimes cheering people up with a picture you’ve coloured works and sometimes people are just sad and maybe need a hug and that’s ok.

So we are all in need of good positive energy, trying to get good food into the family is sometimes easier said than done but at least I can lead by example.

This week I’ve baked energy bars. The taste test team mostly refused to try them due to the presence of dried fruit but those who did found them delicious, hard to believe there’s no refined sugar in there!

I used the food processor to chop the nuts -my first go at roasting them in the oven, turned out ok. I chose apricots and a couple of dates as I’m quite fussy about dried fruit (maybe where my kids get it from). Whisked the eggs by hand and that was the most work, back to using the electric whisk next time!

Just remembered to take the photo before taking a bite as had been good and waited for them to cool before cutting. They taste like a cross between flapjack and cake. Super yummy.

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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.

More gluten free woes

So I did bake this week. It was fun but pretty much a disaster.

I made gluten free cupcakes. With some adjustments based on this recipe.

I didn’t like them much. I just need to develop a taste for gluten-free maybe.

Bananas and apples for sweetness and coconut flour. I think the coconut flour was probably the main issue, my gluten free friend can’t eat oats so maybe I need to try a different type of flour.

The taste test team refused to try them because they were ‘burnt’ and then disaster struck…

We went out and left them on the kitchen worktop. The dog ate the lot.

Then he pooed all over the kitchen floor later that night. 11 muffins might be too much for one dog.

It’s been a busy week.

 

Cupcakes for all

It’s been a long week. This blog and the time spent doing some fun baking is now 7 days overdue. But some weeks it takes all the positive decisions I have to get to the end of each day without giving up and the whole point is to find the fun and the joy not to give myself something more that I have to do.

It’s difficult for me to feel I’ve done enough when ‘all’ I’ve done is parenting and cleaning, cooking etc all week but it’s something I’m trying to call myself out on. I know it’s important to look after yourself to have the energy to care for others but sometimes the most important thing to do for yourself is to go to bed early and ignore the ‘you’ve not done enough’ feelings.

I’ve a daughter with a cupcake obsession and an event coming up so today we were thinking about perfecting cupcakes. Vanilla cupcakes made by weighing two eggs then matching the same amount of butter, sugar and self-raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla flavour are so simple but work so well.

The kitchen assistant’s style of putting the batter in the cases was a little random but very enthusiastic and I managed to pull them together and the cakes taste good. Now we just have to keep working on our icing skills.

Maybe it’s like with the pancakes and we just need better equipment or maybe we need a good YouTube tutorial.

Once the kitchen assistant was distracted I also decided to see if the vegan brownie recipe would work as cupcakes. They cooked quicker but tasted just as good.

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So tomorrow to find a good gluten free cupcake recipe.