Happy Holidays

The house is full. So far the holidays are living up to my expectations of being harder work than term time. There’s mess everywhere and I can’t sit still for 5 seconds without someone asking me what I’m doing. Mind you they also ask me what I’m doing when I’m involved in a blindingly obvious task like loading the washing machine or stirring the batter for these cupcakes. I’m not winning at trying not to stress eat too much.

Most of the baking I’ve been doing this week has been more sourdough related products one of the taste team remarked ‘you really love sourdough don’t you’ half way through the week. Today’s rolls are my best yet. Many recipes that claim to be foolproof are lying but this one has earned its title.

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So yummy I ate three in a row (they’re only small honestly). Taste team comments also very positive.

There’s no free time to enjoy baking but the kitchen assistant wanted to do cupcakes. I managed to hold it together through most of the process -have given up all hope having cleaned the surfaces 3 times in 2 hours.

I started with a recipe but I changed it so much it’s a whole new recipe now.

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup butter

1 cup coconut sugar

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/4 milk

Preheat oven to 190 c 375 f gas mark 5. Place cupcake cases in a cupcake tin. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Spoon batter into cupcake cases. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

We iced with regular vanilla buttercream and sprinkles.

They taste really good. Coconut oil and coconut sugar makes them a bit healthyish -that’s the story I’m sticking to anyway.

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Fancy bread

Getting more practised with the regular sourdough bread and although still have a way to go before reaching loaf perfection feel it’s going well enough to give me the confidence to try new things. The summer holidays are rapidly approaching here. Mixed emotions because although there are lots of fun things about holidays and of course less having to get up early and go out on time there’s so many lasts and firsts and children growing up. Plus it’s not always fun in the house with everyone here, sometimes it’s just more people to row with each other.

I’m looking for more interesting and fun things to pack for picnics so suggestions very welcome.

The first type of fancy bread I’ve made with sourdough is focaccia.

This recipe was a joy to use for the simple fact unlike many sourdough recipes it’s really easy to read and follow.

The biggest difference obviously between this and other sourdough bread recipes is this has a lot more ingredients. There are honey and olive oil in the sponge and even more olive oil in the main dough mix. The dough wasn’t as wet as other sourdough recipes I’ve used, maybe my starter was less liquid and or using a cup measure rather than scales for the flour made that difference.

It was really lovely to knead.

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And easy to press out into the pans. It rose well and pretty quickly, it’s warm here at the moment so that was expected I guess.

Looked pretty good before and after baking or is that cooking?  The cheese and onion one was definitely suitable for a meal. But took a little less time to be well done than the recipe expected, warm weather and an especially effective oven probably caused that.

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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Sourdough Adventures

I’ve not missed the gluten I’ve cut out of my diet in many places but I’ve been missing the taste and convenience of having bread or toast for breakfast. Plus thinking always of ways to increase the list of healthy things my children want to eat.

I read the headline of an article from a satirical news website saying “middle-class children overdosing on sourdough bread” and realised I was letting my middle-class children down in so many ways. I’m sure they would like to write you a list, lack of instant access to exactly what they want when they want it being top of it!

Joking aside sourdough bread seemed to be a good place to start trying to increase the fermented food products in our diets so I thought I’d give it a go. I read many pages of recipes and descriptions and started a starter which went mouldy. Fortunately, I’m lucky to have friends who are much further ahead in the pursuit of healthy kitchens than I am so I took some advice on Instagram and read some more pages. But I pretty much stuck to this recipe just for the simplicity compared to many recipes.

The loss of my first ‘sourdough mother’ due to mould meant I learned two important things 1. don’t use tap water 2. mix with a non-metal spoon not sure whether both are necessary but definitely one is vital as the second lot of starter went much better. Also, don’t go out and have too much fun and then have to make your loaf up in a delicate state (apparently, I hear, not that I would ever do that).

So after the starter comes the ‘sponge’ basically just add more flour and water and leave it overnight (or until it’s thick sticky and bubbly).

 

I was a bit concerned about how sticky the dough was going to be when I first added the flour but it turned out to be lovely to knead.

Ended up having to clear up most of the extra flour I’d put on the worktop as it wasn’t used in the kneading process.

The first leaving to rise was very slow (the second picture is nearly 24 hours later) but the second loaf I made it rose loads much quicker so I think maybe my ‘mother’ just needed another 24 hours to get more effective.

The second rise photos show I don’t have a proper proving basket but I may well get one if I keep up making sourdough as the flat shape although it looks ok is not the easiest shape to slice and make sandwiches with.

The mess on the top is from not enough flour on the tea towel in some areas and too much in others.

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Had to leave the house to take the 4-year-old to one of her weekend parties while the loaf was in the oven so I had to ask my husband to take it out when it was cooked.

Must have tasted good as it was half gone by the time the party was over. It is quite sour but seems to be digestible. Hoping to make more well-risen loaves in future. Which seems like it’s going to work out based on loaf number two which was an experiment with a loaf tin that didn’t go perfectly but was definitely a lot more risen.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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