Back in the kitchen happy place

DSC_0329Tring out some new flour in my sourdough this weekend. The rolls are a mix of wholemeal and rye flour. They’re made with honey and butter so are sweet and soft. Not my favourite but I wanted them to go with soup which is next on my list along with more flapjack of course. The loaf is made with the regular wheat starter but then all spelt flour. It tastes amazing, the perfect mix of soft middle and crunchy but not too hard crust. I’m thinking the same recipe could be made into baguette shapes and would even make the fussy teenagers happy.

This week we’re almost back on it with the older kids routine which is making everyone a bit less stressed, although we’re still working on some kind of screen time compromise that doesn’t suit anyone!

It’s been the last week at home with one afternoon of trying out school for the youngest. Such a mix of emotions. Not looking forward to having to get out of the house in time for school every day but very much looking forward to routine and time to do things other than child care better.

Baking for fun partly motivated by having forgotten to buy any treats for lunch boxes this week. Back to good old Mary Berry Fast Cakes. These are Chocolate Fudge Squares and live up to every part of their name as expected.

The only issue being they sunk in the middle. Sorted by adding extra icing to make it look flat. So for those who like icing the middle pieces are the ones to aim for!

Extremely yummy, not at all healthy.

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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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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!

 

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.

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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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!

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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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.