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.

 

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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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There are no bananas in the flapjack

School holidays week 4 the constant struggle between having had enough holiday fun and feeling guilty for not taking the kids out constantly. My four-year-old is also struggling to sleep through the night again (combination of having been ill with a nasty cold and feeling unsettled due to transition to school -can’t decide if knowing why is helpful or irrelevant when failing to do anything I want to because if over tired brain fog.)

But today was a little better we baked, well mostly I baked and there was a last minute trip to the park and definitely less crying than the previous few days.

Another take on my flapjack recipe:

Melt together:

5 Tablespoons Date Puree (Made mine by chopping dates, soaking in water overnight and then whizzing up in the blender).

1 Tablespoon Honey

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

Remove from heat and mix in 150-175g Oats

Bake 20 minutes at gas mark 6 in a greased and lined tin.

Feed to your family as ‘just normal flapjack’ with no banana or apple. Have them all love it and never know about the dates unless they read your blog.

It was a little crumbly possibly due to a few too many oats – or not quite sugary enough but tastes great so not a problem really.

 

Had a couple of left over bananas for the first time in ages. They went into the usual Mary Berry Banana Loaf.

Brilliant simple all in one recipe including yoghurt as well as banana. Too much sugar to be properly healthy but still not too unhealthy and really yummy.

Turned out beautifully.

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So far mostly enjoyed by the now much less fussy ‘fussy eater’ and I once we got through the confusion as to whether it was naan as bread or banana bread. Not bothered we can’t convince the anti-banana brigade to try any as it means more for us.

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!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate and rainbows

When you go through times when things happen that make you feel confused or frustrated or upset, when you struggle to see the good through all the pain it can sometimes feel like you’ll never feel joy again.

Sometimes we expect joy to fall on us with no effort and sometimes it does, seemingly out of nowhere in the laughter of our children or the hug of a friend. But sometimes it doesn’t sometimes you see glimpses of that joy without being able to let it soak in.

Today the weather has been a bit like that, sunny one minute pouring with rain the moment after then back to sunshine. My dog is feeling neglected because every time I say shall we go for a walk it pours with rain again and we don’t go. But eventually, we will have go, raining or not. We will have to find our moment of joy whether it’s raining or sunny we will have to work for it. The joy that we work for that we plan that we make positive decisions to seek out is just as real as the joy that comes by surprise and when there is rain and sunshine together it’s there you see the rainbow.

I may have mentioned before that much joy comes in my life from chocolate so today I took the flapjack recipe I’ve been working on and tried to make chocolate flapjacks.

No fruit at the request of the taste team so a little more honey and some molasses.

Melt:

50g Butter or coconut oil

4 Tbsps Honey

1 Tbsp Molasses

Mix in while melting:

50g Cocoa powder

Remove from heat and stir in

150g Oats

Optional 50 g chocolate chips or raisins or glacé cherries.

Bake in preheated oven at gas mark 6 for approx 20 minutes.

They don’t look brilliant but they taste amazing. Seriously considered eating the whole tray before anyone else could try them. Then my husband suggested we not offer them round anyone else after he tried them.

Perfecting a recipe

So very tired this week. Having a poorly child for a week really takes it out of you. Have massive admiration for people who have to combine parenting with paid employment elsewhere. I’m so fortunate to be able to take things at the pace I need to after being team-no-sleep for a week. Having said that, being able to get out of the house and miss the drama and tears involved in convalescing may also have its benefits. Today I’ve been a let down to my daughter as I have failed to take her to the pirate swimming pool, failed to let her play in the play area (after she said she didn’t want to until 2 minutes after we passed it) , failed to allow her to eat ice cream rather than her lunch and made her wait an unacceptable amount of time before going in the hot tub (yes we have a hot tub -please don’t judge us it came with the house).

So today I was baking with the kitchen assistant in the kitchen. Fortunately, she was occupied with her own project and let me have peace for working on my apple flapjack recipe. Full story in tomorrow’s special occasion blog. But for now here’s a sneaky peak. It’s very sticky!

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Right at the other end of the scale to the last lot of flapjacks this time I thought I would try to make flapjacks with no refined sugar taste as ‘normal’ as possible.

Made two lots one after the other.

Melt:

50g butter or coconut oil

2 Tbsp Honey

Mix in:

150ml apple sauce (mine is homemade just by peeling coring and chopping Bramley apples and cooking with a little apple juice until soft then whizzing up in the blender)

Then mix in 200g Oats

Place in lined tin and bake for 20-30 minutes at gas mark 5 (I used 4 but my oven is extra hot)

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The taste team (made to do a blind taste test) couldn’t really tell the difference between the butter ones and the coconut ones, they just thought both were very strongly apple flavoured and the butter ones even more so than the coconut.

I like them which is the main point, so far they’re not keeping me off the other item available with a lot of sugar in it but I think they have potential.