Friday, 23 January 2015

Raspberry Traybake

Here we are three weeks into Operation Clawback and those sweet cravings are still creeping in! Luckily with Sion's birthday last weekend there was good reason for dusting off the mixing bowl and making baking magic.

As in lots of workplaces, Sion's colleagues bring in cakes to mark their birthdays. Unsure as to how successful Sion's baking would be I offered to make up something for him to take in. His request was a raspberry traybake...squares of soft goodness, with a little mouthful of sharpness every so often. I think the fact that people were still coming to find him on Wednesday to see if there were any cakes left, meant these were a winner.

Ingredients - to make approximately 24 squares

275g unsalted butter, softened
275g golden caster sugar
400g self raising flour
1.5tsp baking powder
5 medium eggs, beaten
zest of 1 large orange
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp milk
250g raspberries
100g roughly chopped chocolate - I used white, but dark will work well too.
40g flaked almonds

For the icing

150g icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5.

Grease and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin.

Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the remaining wet ingredients and beat together until light & fluffy. (Note - I started mixing everything by hand, but quickly turned to my mixer to finish the job! If you are mixing by hand , I would cream the butter and sugar together first before adding the other ingredients.)

Using a metal spoon fold in the raspberries and chocolate. Spoon into the prepared tin, level out and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then lift out to continue cooling on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool mix up the icing until smooth and runny and drizzle over the cake. Leave to set for 30 minutes and then cut the cake into squares to serve.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

This weekend, baking will take a back seat - I'm off to London for a cookery class and a posh afternoon tea (the diet is on hold!)


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

When pictures of boobs are a good thing...

Another week and another story has again put boobs at the forefront of the nation's thoughts.
I want to talk about pictures of boobs for a different reason though. Boobs are amazing. They feed and nurture, they fascinate, they come in all shapes and sizes. In the words of my niece "you'll make a great mummy because your boobies are squishy and soft...mmmmm"
But sometimes boobs can harbour something sinister, dangerous, and scary. The most recent statistics show that 15% of all diagnosed cancers are breast cancer, over 500,000 women and men are currently living with breast cancer in the UK today.
For some, thankfully an ever increasing small percentage, treatment doesn't work. The cancer can't be beaten. Our family knows though our own gut wrenching, cruel, memories how horrific this time can be. Dad had treatment for his prostate cancer in hospital before coming home, where he passed away a short time later. Cancer took hold so quickly we had very little opportunity to use the services of our local hospice or support centre, but for lots of people these places are a beacon of hope, care and love.
I recently came across a local campaign led by the ARTsalon, in support of The Haven Breast Cancer Charity called the Snapbreast Campaign.

The Snapbreast Campaign is hoping that lots of wonderful, amazing people will take photos of their boobs - covered, uncovered, men's, women's, big or small, to be included in an incredible sculpture being put together by Rose Eva. This sculpture and other art work will then be auctioned at Avington Park, Winchester in March.
The Haven is opening a new support centre in Tichfield, Hampshire (close to my home) in 2015.
This Haven Centre will offer over 30 complimentary therapies to breast cancer patients and their families, along with individual programmes of care to help people cope with the challenges of living with breast cancer.
Sounds pretty blooming amazing hey?
And each and every one of you can help - all you need to do is to take a photo of your boobs, in whatever guise you feel comfortable - dressed, undressed, close up, in bright daylight or in shadow, the choice is yours. Then upload it, anonymously, using this link.
There are a few important rules to be aware of - Chest area only (no faces please!) and over 18s only.
My boobs are winging their way now - hopefully I'll get the chance to see if I can spot them in March! I'd love it if some of you could join in about uploading your own "breastie"?!
Linking up this week to:

Super Busy Mum

Monday, 19 January 2015

What my week was...week 3

Another chilly, grey January week done - it'll soon be Summer (or at least Spring!). How was last week for you? We were reminded that even the best laid plans can sometimes fall apart, we still managed a healthy, gym-filled week though topped off with a Birthday weekend for a very special man...

I went...almost to Alton for a rock climbing tasting session. My car sadly had other ideas when the scary knocking noise reappeared. Unfortunately we had to turn around and limp home. All fired up for a bit of physical exertion we found ourselves working out in the gym at 8pm that night - what have I turned into?!! With the session rebooked for this week, we treated ourselves to a birthday lunch in The Crown at Bishops Waltham. Such a beautiful pub and lovely to see more unusual dishes on the menu. I went for pheasant with wild mushrooms and Sion enjoyed a perfectly cooked duck breast. Definitely a place to re-visit I think!

I enjoyed...watching Sion's face when he was presented with his Minion birthday cake on his Birthday Eve. Sion's younger sister made it for him and it tasted amazing! Sadly we were all too stuffed after the indian takeaway, despite choosing a health option (cooked with fry-light and reduced sugar) to have some on Saturday night, but there was no stopping us on Sunday!

I made...a huge paella for Sion's birthday dinner that needed two pans to cook everything. We've now got enough leftovers to have as lunches for the next couple of days! I also made a raspberry & white chocolate tray bake (recipe coming this week) for him to take into work.
This week we will be remembering my Dad on his birthday, re-attempting our rock climbing session, having a professional cookery class and walking off a chocoholics afternoon tea in London - I'm so lucky!
Joining in this week with Magic Moments and What's the Story?


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Guilt Free Chocolate Muffins

It's all well and good to say that you will have a no fat, no sugar, no alcohol January, but after all the Christmas gluttony you still occasionally have a craving for something "naughty", especially in the evenings after your steamed fish & steamed vegetables dinner (or is that just me?).

And so I bring you....

Guilt free (almost) chocolate muffins. These come in at about 180 calories per muffin, 10% sugar and only 4% saturated fat...perfectly acceptable as a healthier treat when those sugar cravings hit. You can experiment with reducing the sugar content even further. I slightly increased mine by adding a little drizzle of icing on the top.

So how come these have a low fat content? By the added secret ingredient of courgettes! Don't worry, they add nothing to the taste, only moisture and bulk, reducing the need for extra oil. The added courgette is also a great way of upping veg consumption...try swapping for carrots for a sweeter cake.

Ingredients - Makes 12 large muffins

280 g Self raising flour
2.5 g (half a teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda
10 g cinnamon
45 g unsweetened cocoa powder
100 g dark brown sugar
350 g courgettes, unpeeled and finely grated

1 medium egg
100 ml unsweetened coconut milk (or skimmed milk)
10 ml vanilla extract
50 ml vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 200C (gas 6)

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a jug. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl and combine until all the flour is incorporated. Spoon into 12 lined muffin holes and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top of the muffin springs back when gently pressed.

Leave to cool completely. If you wish combine 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar with one level tablespoon of water and drizzle the icing over each muffin.

If calories are not your enemy...add 100 g of chopped chocolate or chocolate drops to the mix and decorate with butter icing or cream cheese icing!
This recipe was adapted from this Delia Online reader submission


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Happy Birthday

Today is the birthday of a very special man, Sion.

On Mothers Day we thank our mums, on Fathers Day we thank our dads and so today on your day I give thanks to you.

Thank you for not being embarrassed by my klutz-y, clumsy moments.

Thank you for giving me the confidence to continue to write this little blog of mine. I get a warm feeling inside every time you mention that you've read a post.

Thank you for understanding that even ladies get a little trapped wind and that generally speaking it really is better out than in.

Thank you for encouraging me to get fit and healthy. I'll never be a super model or an Olympic athlete but you notice every effort I make, gently pushing me to try a little more, a little longer. 

Thank you for trusting me enough to show your vulnerability. This last year has at moments been the darkest of times, but we got through each of them stronger, more connected than ever before. I promise that I will always be fighting your corner.

When I went to our friend's house that sunny Sunday afternoon, I never once imagined that I would meet a man.

I don't think I fell in love with you that night, despite showing your prowess (or not) of drinking Jagerbombs and providing me with a very special lap dance...I think it was on our first date. Sat in the bus shelter like a couple of teenagers, waiting for the taxi after being kicked out of the restaurant by the owner (everyone had gone home and he wanted to lock up). We had chatted for the whole evening and you turned to me, looked at me with your beautiful eyes, smiled and kissed me. That was the moment I felt "it", something telling me that you were different, special.

The last two years have been far from perfect, but there have been many more laughs than tears. I hope your birthday brings you all you wish for, you truly deserve it xxx