Overextending and Chocolate Brownies

I’ve had a couple of new projects I’ve been working on and one, in particular, that has been pretty full on, for good reason, the last few weeks. I’ve also been thinking about the future again and continuing to support my small (and not so small) people through life’s challenges. It’s all good but I’ve not been doing so well at really filling my own cup so I’ve got the resources to keep on giving out. I know I need to change that but the inbuilt guilt is a struggle so I was pretty relieved to read this article

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201709/the-overextended-introvert-handle-care 

and realise I’m not going crazy and I’m not alone, think my husband was relieved to find that I wasn’t really going to run away with the circus either.

This weekend was pretty busy but we managed to get everyone together at the table for dinner on Sunday. So these brownies were for pudding and were declared yummy by the members of the taste team who weren’t too full or too keen on having a lolly.

They’re a different recipe for avocado brownies than we used before and slightly less healthy but more gooey and chocolatey.

They’re made with maple syrup and brown sugar. Realised at the last minute that I had run out of cocoa powder but the hot-chocolate powder and syrup seemed to work ok as a substitute.

The real decadence was in adding the chocolate chips at the end. The looked a little overdone when they came out of the oven but were pretty perfect once they had cooled down.

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Amazing Chocolate Pudding

This week’s baking involved another flashback. This time to University days when I used to make this Chocolate Fudge Pudding as a treat for my friends because it’s pretty cheap to make but really indulgent and super yummy. Just the thing for people who need lots of energy, a bit like my kids who are always hungry, especially after a day at school.

This week’s musings have been about if we’re possibly causing a problem for ourselves. If we tell small children to smile and pretend not to be sad as they go into school so they can get a sticker and then we wonder why our teenagers are unable to express how they feel and talk it out but rather tell us they are ‘fine’ and then start self-harming or develop an eating disorder! (To be clear I’m talking about ‘we’ as a society, not my own family). So no, I’m not happy about the accidental wee in my bed this morning but yes, I am going to keep cuddling my children whenever they need me to (or let me in the case of the teenagers).

On to the recipe, chocolate always helps me feel better.

Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Sift:

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

Add:

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

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Mix it all together until it’s a brownie type consistency batter and pour or spoon into a greased 6″ square tin.

In a separate bowl mix together:

1 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons sugar

Sprinkle over the batter.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the top and bake at 350f 175c Gas 4 for 40 minutes.

When cooked the cake is at the top and the sauce underneath just like magic. Tastes like magic too and even better with a little ice cream or cream.

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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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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.

 

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!

 

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!

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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