Comfort and Joy – Sunday Sevens 18th March

Radiant and Green Travels book review

Joining Nat’s Sunday Sevens post this week…

It has been a tough six months -moving home and starting a new job, but it seems that things are getting easier – the worst is behind me – a bit like Spring things are starting to bloom. Although right now, I have woken up to a lovely covering of snow!

I have been struggling health wise – back in January I decided to try a wheat free diet – I bought two books Radiant and Green Kitchen travels. I think this decision has added to my misery- Green Travels has a wonderful recipe for chocolate cake that looks delicious but the steps to make it are very complicated – you have to use hazelnut flour that you grind yourself! I have taken the trouble to make it twice now – but my palate has not caught up – it just tasted rubbery and bland! (I do feel a rant coming on but I will save it for another post!)

wheat free peanut butter biscuits

However these little biscuits have been a life saver! My friend, P came over yesterday and I showed her how to make these – they were hot out of the oven in 10 minutes and they are gluten free.

Put 200g of peanut butter in a bowl, add 100 – 175 grams of sugar, ( I use 100g the recipe calls for 175 but I cut down all sugar in recipes) add an egg and mix. Put small balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Press with the back of a fork (tip if you want them crisp flatten them down – if you like them crispy on the outside and soft in the middle leave them a bit thicker. Also use dark muscovado sugar) Bake at 180 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Weekend Baking - Lemon Drizzle cake
Lemon Drizzle Cake

It has been a week where I have needed comforting – I’ve had 9 days of constant migraine so I have focussed on home comforts to soothe myself. I love baking – it is such a nurturing comforting activity. So on Monday I made a lemon drizzle cake and a dark ginger cake. The ginger was wrapped in one of my wax cloths (you can read how they are made on my other blog) – it helped the flavour develop for a couple of days and kept it very moist.

Comfort food - Mac Cheese
Comfort food – mac and cheese

I have also been reaching for comfort food in other ways – this Mac cheese was delicious – why should it be that carbs are demonised recently? I think food is so much more than the elements it is made from. I think this week has seen me rebel because despite cutting down on wheat – I am still getting horrendous migraines!

Seasonal Celebrations
Ready to decorate for Spring

My new tree arrived this week – we have a large alcove above the fireplace and I decided to buy an artificial tree to decorate as a way of celebrating the seasons. So I have been gathering items together to decorate it for Ostara which falls on the 20th of March – and Easter just after. I am not a pagan, but I love the story behind Ostara and it seems to be more Germanic – either way, Spring is a welcome guest.

Preparations for Spring Ostara
Eggs, Daffodils, Spring

 

I have been collecting egg shells – as well as polystyrene eggs to decorate – E and I will sit down together to paint them today which should be great fun. I will also save a few for little ones when they visit – we have little chicks too.

I am relishing the glorious bright sunny daffodils in abundance outside as well as in. They are so unashamedly vibrant – which is just what is needed after the dark months of January and February.

moon gazing hare embroidery
Ostara celebration embroidery

I have been loving slow sewing – this little Moon Gazing Hare embroidery was a delight to do – you can catch up with it on my made for mi blog. I am really enjoying hand embroidery – it is similar to colouring – there is no counting just following the lines one stitch at a time. It can be done easily while watching  listening to the Television.

Mini Vintage linen Quilt Embroidery
Mini Vintage Quilt Embroidery

I am using up all old vintage linens, (I found these pieces in a charity shop) to create mini quilts that I will be posting on made for mi soon. I think the sentiment sums up my week!

ttfn x

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Weekend baking

I like to make a cake at the weekends I came across this lovely recipe for Cinnamon and apple crumble cake. I have also been investigating spices and herbs as medicine; cinnamon has sugar balancing properties, which help the body deal with the highs and lows of a sugar rush. It is an all round good spice which also has anti-viral properties which is why it is an excellent cake to eat this time of year. 
 Since I am a huge fan of apple crumble this seemed to be the perfect cake for me, however the perfection in the recipe book has eluded me, if you look closely you will see that the sponge base disappears in the centre. I find recipes that don’t work really annoying, this is my third attempt to get the cake to work and I am disappointed again! It tastes ok, but still does not look like the picture promised. 
The first time I made it the sponge base was uncooked, despite lengthening the time in the oven, the crumble topping began to burn. (The method was to put the apples onto the uncooked cake batter)
The second time I made it I cooked the sponge base first, then added the apple and the topping, but the crumble did not work well. I finally realised that in order to make an effective crumble you need to use butter straight from the fridge, otherwise the flour and butter blend into a dough needing more flour which results in a dry cake. This third attempt, back to cooking all three layers together did not work, the rising cake mixture had no where to go so ended up disappearing from the middle and going up the sides. 
So now I think I have perfected the recipe, so here goes. (will post a picture at the bottom when I have made it again, but for the moment we have too much cake!) 
Apples 
Peel, core and chop two large or three small apples and place in a saucepan, cover in water, add two tablespoons brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a handful of cloves, bring to the boil and simmer until the apples are softened but not mush. (about 10 minutes) Drain and leave to cool, pick out the cloves as they are not tasty to chew on, but they do bring out the flavour of apples so well. 
For the sponge base
4 oz butter, 4oz soft brown sugar which you beat together until pale and creamy
Add cinnamon (to taste) and two lightly beaten eggs, gradually, add 4oz flour a spoonful at a time between each addition of egg to stop it curdling. 
Add a teaspoon of baking powder and mix together and then put into a 8inch cake tin. 
Cook at 180 GM 4 for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly firm. 
Cover the sponge with the apple and return to the oven to continue cooking. (By cooking the sponge first it gives it the room to expand before adding the apples). If you put the apple directly onto the raw cake mixture it will have no room to expand and will move round the edges. 
Crumble topping
Rub in 4oz of chilled butter into 6oz of plain flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add 3oz of demerera sugar and cinnamon to taste (1 – 2 teaspoons) mix together. 
Remove cake from oven and top with the crumble mixture, cook until the crumble topping is brown and golden and a knife comes out of the cake clean. You can see the cake mixture has escaped round the edges and landed all over my oven! hence the suggestion to pre-cook the sponge. 
Delicious when warm with custard. 

We are all a little fragile

I used to read lots of blogs, in fact I had subscribed to so many there was hardly enough time for me to write my own! I would create a new project, photograph it and be all enthusiastic about writing it up and showing the world what I had done, however, the first thing I usually did was look at what everyone else was up to. By the time I had seen everyone else’s projects mine suddenly did not seem so great. Suddenly I would lose interest in what I had done, often not blogging it at all.

We are all human as children we are grouped together and put in order, tests tell us where we are in the scale of who is better at tests, that comparisons become human nature, we do it without thinking. We walk into a room and we notice who is thinner or prettier or who has the nicest dress, we might cover it up, we might smile and engage in small talk, but at the back of our minds is this small 7year old girl who knows exactly where she stands in the group.

What makes matters worse is that we censor what we write, we project a truth about ourselves that is not entirely the whole truth. Mostly because no-one really wants to read that you found a spot on your chin, but also because we feel that we have to have it together, because it seems everyone else is! So today’s post is about not getting it together!

My friends are always giving me so much encouragement, they marvel at my new creations which really boosts me, but they also believe that I a some sort of super woman. A lovely friend of mine comes here to learn how to sew and making mistakes is part of the learning process but she told me she expects I never made a mistake! I told her I had to throw away most of what I made for years before another wonderful friend did exactly what I am doing, took me aside and very patiently helped me to sew.

So here is my little confession! Since I moved my cooker has not been getting up to the correct temperature, however this only became clear when another fault developed and I had an engineer come out. Well every time I have tried to bake cakes they have ended up flat as pancakes! They were often so bad that I did not even tell anyone I had made them! I would hide them in the bin. I could not understand why I was doing exactly what I had done for years but it just did not work.

I joined a marvellous ladies group here in the village called Blakes Belles, I had signed up for a cake decorating day and had to bring along some home made cakes! EEK! So I decided that I would buy a cake! big mistake! I did not hide the fact that I had bought my cake but what I did not realise is that shop bought cakes are very soft! Each time I touched my cake with the icing, a huge chunk would come away!

here it is!

What a disaster! It was so terrible but the teacher reassured me that it would all be ok! I watched everyone else smooth over their buttercream with envy! I found it quite funny and it made me realise that cheaters don’t win! 
The teacher was correct though! Once the royal icing was over the top of the cake the disasters had been covered up! It was a miracle! 
I have always been wanting to try cake decorating, and the day was wonderful, once it got down to making things with the icing I was fully absorbed as was everyone else. The day was wonderful, everyone went home with beaming smiles because they had made cakes they were proud of! 
and so I did finally create a cake to be proud of, even if it was a bit of a journey. Like everything in life, it was a lesson learnt – nothing really is lost, it is just a case of perseverance!