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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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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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!

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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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!

Too yummy for photos

This week I made vegan brownies twice and both times they were eaten too quickly and I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of the finished product. Partly the speed of eating because they were so yummy and partly I was distracted as I had a week surrounded by friends and family. So super busy that not only did I not have time for food photography I had little time for thinking.

Yet what did ‘get done’ was very important. I spent time with my children, I listened to them and I gave them opportunities to spend time with friends and I spent time with my friends and that’s good for the soul. Then I spent time with family over the weekend, which is precious especially as you never know when it won’t be able to do it anymore.

Vegan brownies inspired by some of my friends ‘going vegan’ or rather ‘switching to a plant-based diet’. Good for the environment and when you don’t make brownies as your main vegan thing often good for health too with lots of yummy vegetables.

The recipe involves precooking some of the flour and water before mixing into sugar and cocoa powder and oil.

It’s an unusual method, not one I’ve used before but not too difficult or time-consuming. It makes a really sticky batter which is much thicker than I’m used to but makes really lovely sticky sweet brownies which you can easily be healthy and eat just a small amount of, unless you’re like the taste team and get carried away.

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Thank you https://www.facebook.com/itsthehappypage/

When you’re an introvert it can sometimes feel like hard work having friends and family but it’s always good to be reminded it’s really worth it.

 

Simple pleasures

This week’s blog is a little late, the baking challenge is still on track it’s just the writing that’s been pushed back by illness and crazy painting lady trying to get ready for carpet fitting which is happening as we speak.

This week we’ve had a lot of struggles with our natural tendency to be perfectionists and feel down on ourselves when we do things wrong. It’s an ongoing issue for both the adults in the house although we’ve both come a long way but it’s a whole new thing to teach our teenagers about how to work hard but be gentle with yourself and not put yourself under pressure or think that you will never be good enough. It’s a real reminder that what you tell your children is not as important as who you are, they will follow your example, not your teaching. There’s not a whole lot of joy in the feeling of your child struggling to see how awesome they really are but the joy has been there so much in having friends to turn to who can say in truth it’s ok, it’s normal. Also, a good time to remind ourselves that it really is difficult being a teenager and being there for them is important even when it’s hard .

This week my commitment to bake was challenged by not finding it fun, we made carrot cupcakes midweek. It wasn’t fun, the kitchen assistant didn’t like the smell and it all got a bit stressful. The cakes were ok but not really delicious and we still have some left. Made me remember the whole point of the challenge is to do something for me, something fun. My small person loves to bake too so I fell into the trap of feeling bad if I didn’t include her. But the point of the challenge is not to exclude her but to have fun and find the joy for me as there’s already plenty of joy in her life -it’s really an inspiration how much she loves the things she loves.

The second lot of baking this week was much more fun. I did lots of prep myself and asked for help with mixing which went well. I was looking for a low sugar flapjack recipe but I didn’t have dates or bananas. So I ended up mixing it up with several recipes as ideas and making my own one.

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50g coconut oil

2 tbsp nut butter

4 tbsp honey

1tbsp brown sugar

Mixed :

1 apple -peeled and grated

250g Oats

Added the wet ingredients to the dry and mixed some more.

It was a bit stiff to mix, probably not quite the right balance of wet and dry ingredients.

We baked it for 20 minutes at gas mark 4 in our extra hot oven so probably higher or longer. Looked good and was yummy enough to be gone within 24 hours. It was a little dry so I’ve got plans to adjust the ingredients and try again soon. It’s not perfect first try but that’s ok we try again and keep working and remember we are still awesome 🙂

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Christmas Treats

We have our own Christmas meal traditions as no one in our house really likes turkey. So the oven only gets used to warm bread on Christmas day for dipping in the cheese fondue. But Christmas Eve we had salmon en crute and I made ginger bread more successfully this time. Still getting to grips with how hot the new oven is (very hot on the top shelf) but back to the best ever gingerbread recipe.

The salmon was delicious as usual and the ginger bread made it really smell like Christmas.

And turned out pretty well. It’s been popular with all the family and there’s a bit more dough left to keep having fresh cookies when we feel like them! Normally I make a ginger bread house or some other creation but I wasn’t feeling up to it this year and the new me isn’t doing things just because I’ve always done them unless I want to so I’m trying not to feel like I’ve let myself down.

 

 

Jammy biscuits

Sad to look back and see that I haven’t had time or energy for baking for fun since before Christmas and here we are in the summer holidays.

Luckily it is the summer holidays and I have a two year old who likes to bake. So we made lemon biscuits into jammy biscuits because that’s what the two year old wanted.

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Creaming the butter and sugar was fun mixing a two year old and an electric mixer…

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The lemon zest was left to me as the toddler thought it smelled stinky!

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Mixing in the flour was messy…

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The dough went in the fridge for an hour, fortunately we had lunch time to distract us.

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The toddler was in charge of the cutters she did an amazing job. I took over when it came to the oven part and spread the jam.

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Everyone thought they tasted yummy and I was healthy and just had the one!

Yummy and healthy surely not

I’m a mum and I like yummy food and treats but I’m also aware of the effect eating too many treats has on my health and on my family’s health. I’m also looking for something to keep me busy and maybe in money for more treats. I like to be creative and do all sorts of things but most of them I’m not good enough at to do for more than my family and friends. But I can bake and I like to bake and to experiment with recipes. People seem to like what I make so I’m setting myself a challenge to bake yummy treats that are better for your health than the things you can buy in shops and if my friends and family think they are good enough to make them available for people who like the idea but not the baking to buy and eat for themselves.