Friday, 20 January 2017

Another Lemon Cake

It's that time in the month again when I join in with the Cake Slice Bakers baking from World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey. I very nearly didn't join in this month as we are still going strong with out healthy eating and I didn't want the temptation of cake in the house. But No. 3 son came over last weekend and we were chatting about it and he very valiantly offered to take a cake off my hands should I feel the urge to bake!

The choices this month were a Devil's Food Cake which didn't really appeal. Chocolate cake is probably my least favourite ( I know, I'm weird) and I couldn't stomach the thought of all that sickly frosting. I have completely lost my taste for sweet things.

I did rather fancy the vanilla and blood orange cake... and might make this when the blood oranges appear in my veg box

Or possibly the Apple streusel cake with its crumbly topping.

But as it is exactly one year since I joined The Cake Slice bakers and my first cake was a Lemon Cake I opted for the Lemon Drizzle Cake... it just feels like a January sort of cake! I do have a fail safe recipe for lemon drizzle but this one was different in that it has a whole carton of cream so thought it was worth a try.

The batter was wonderfully thick and creamy and tasted heavenly... yes I licked the spoon!

It did take longer to bake than the recipe stated... a whole 15 minutes longer and if I made it again I probably wouldn't add the water to the syrup but it certainly looked the part and smelt wonderful. I'd like to be able to tell you it tasted delicious too... but it got wrapped up and Joe collected it last night ready to take to work this morning. He's working on a construction site at the moment so I don't imagine there will be much left! He has promised to report back*

* Message from Joe and the guys he is working with "Very nice and lemony", "Best lemon drizzle I've had" and my favourite... "She's very good, is she paid to do this." 

Should you want to try it yourself ,it is incredibly easy to put together, so this is my version:

Lemon Drizzle Cake (adapted from World Class Cakes)
You will need  an 7" x 3.5" x 3.5" loaf pan, greased and lined. Preheat the oven to 160 deg C (140 fan), 310 deg F
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 175g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 150g double cream
  • finely grated zest of two large lemons (or three small ones)
  •  In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Whisk in the melted butter and the cream
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for one hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
  • While the cake is baking make the drizzle by combining 85g caster sugar, the juice of two lemons and 125 ml water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.
  • When the cake comes out of the oven, brush the top with the drizzle until it is all used up.
  • Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out until completely cool.
And this is what it should look like!


Friday, 13 January 2017

Windy Weather

I've had a couple of days away... not in the Gobi desert as you might be fooled into thinking from my photos but in the depths of Norfolk!

Over the past few years three good friends have up sticks and moved away. I'm beginning to think they were trying to tell me something but they all remain good friends. The sort of friends where it doesn't matter if you go weeks, months or even years without seeing each other because when you do, you pick up from where you left off. Gill relocated to Norfolk last year and although I saw her in December this was the first time I've been to visit her in her new home (I say first because I intend to go back whether she likes it or not... she can't get away from me that easily!)

We were hoping for some long walks during the day and plenty of chat and knitting in the evening and we weren't disappointed. On Wednesday we ventured to Wells and walked along the beach to Holkham... well wrapped up against the wind.

Admittedly the wind was really COLD but it was still a beautiful day. Having notched up at least a day and a half's worth of steps, we came home and even though she really doesn't do cooking if she can help it, Gill cooked me a fabulous supper which even included loads of green vegetables which she wouldn't usually eat through choice. See what a good friend she is making me a healthy supper... and all I do to her is make her eat cabbage!

After a night of telly and knitting, the following day we walked from Gill's to Sandringham. We didn't see the Queen but we could just about see the sea!

It's been a lovely couple of days, Gill has cooked me some really good meals... breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, and I feel like I've been on holiday. Not only that I've clocked up so many steps that I've walked a whole extra day's worth. I could have just stayed in bed today! Having woken up to this it was tempting...

But it didn't hang about for long... and I didn't stay in bed for long either!
Wherever you are, stay warm this weekend.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Feeling good

I said I'd update you on our new healthy eating regime and so far we are on day ten and still going strong. I'm starting to scour my old food magazines and where in the past I would tear out all the cake recipes I'm now finding things that fit with the plan - low carb, wholegrains, lean protein, healthy fats, plenty of vegetables and some fruit and most importantly no added sugar. We are eating really well, enjoying every meal, we've both lost weight and what is really noticable is we both feel so good. No afternoon slump or tiredness and loads of energy.

Beetroot hummous on homemade soda bread with feta and olives
Of course we all know we should eat like this all the time but it seems the penny has finally dropped. Like most women I think I have a checkered past with dieting. I first went on a "diet" aged about twenty one because I'd filled out a little and couldn't fit into my size 10 dungarees. Want a laugh... I found this... me in said dungerees! (it was the 1970s... just don't ask what I was doing!)

I remember limiting myself to 1000 calories a day, with no real nutritional knowledge and feeling hungry all the time. How ridiculous was that, to even think I needed to diet... I was like a rake.Yes, I got back into those dungarees but no doubt soon grew out of them again... thank goodness!

Baked masala omelettes with red cabbage slaw
Over the years I've tried a Rosemary Conley low fat diet, The F-plan (with that revolting sawdust that passed for breakfast) and weight watchers. And although I have often teetered in the top range of the recommended weight for my height, which does make me feel uncomfortable, I've never been seriously overweight and yet I still fell victim to the hype and magazine images etc that convinced me I should be dieting. And yet we all know dieting doesn't work long term and I no longer do diets - haven't done for about ten years. Because let's face it, we are in the business of eating for the long haul not just to reach a weight loss goal, so it makes sense to eat well and mindfully all the time.

Poached egg and avocado on soda bread toast with fried tomatoes
And this is what this plan seems to be about... Thinking about what we are fuelling our bodies with so that every meal becomes a pleasure. It is not about denial and then rewarding ourselves with sweet treats, it's about changing our attitude to food. I don't mean to sound evangelical nor will I claim that I will stick religiously to this 100% of the time, of course I will eat the occasional cake or biscuit but the thing that has really hit home is cutting out or greatly reducing added sugar. This seems to have been the single thing that has made the difference to my energy levels and how I feel. This article makes interesting reading on the subject should you want to read more. And given the high levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes with their associated problems of heart disease, cancer and stroke that we constantly hear about, something needs to change. It may have been coincidence but on Sunday evening I had a couple of small glasses of wine and a small piece of Christmas cake... okay the wine tasted good but the Christmas cake icing tasted unbelievably sweet and the following morning I felt tired, headachy and lethargic. It convinced me!

 Sweet potato, tomato and chickpea soup

It does mean preparing every meal from scratch which can be time consuming but there have been loads of left overs for other meals so I think it can fit round a busy schedule. I'm managing by planning a menu for the week and sticking to it, often preparing things the night before.
The test will come when I have to make a cake for someone... so far there has been no baking in January so no temptation! Plus this evening I'm meeting a friend for a curry. Like I said... it's no good being evangelical and shouting from my soap box because I'll only fall off and make a fool of myself. I'll be happy if I can stick to this way of eating 80% of the time.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A New Dress

Having cleared out my wardrobe... I'm now attempting to fill it again!

Well, not exactly fill it but I've had the fabric to make a new Coco dress for at least a year, so thought it was about time I actually made it.

I don't know why I put it off because I cut it out one evening last week and had finished it by lunchtime the following day.

I was trying to do some arty looking shots but failed miserably so got Stewart to take a photo instead... and then edited out my knees! Not sure it's much better!

I may have made a dress but I'm no further on with the jigsaw... although we are still sticking to our healthy eating plan (I may have had a mouthful of Christmas cake this evening) and I've more energy than I've had in ages. So this new year is still looking good!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Off to a Good Start

How was your New Year's Eve? We had a long walk with the dog and then I followed that with an equally long soak in a hot rose scented bath. My sister-in-law-to-be made bathsalts from all sorts of luscious ingredients including rose oil, as Christmas gifts this year. She packaged it up in beautiful jars and added these dinky little wooden scoops. That's pretty much my idea of a perfect present!

I then wrapped up in a cosy gown (okay, I own up, it was actually a fluffy rather ridiculous "lamb" onesie that one of my sons bought me a couple of years ago... but it was cosy!) and decided to take the advice everyone gives me... to slow down. I started a 1000 piece jigsaw that I found when I was clearing bedrooms for Christmas guests. I lasted ten minutes! Since then I wander by on my way to do something else and sometimes fit a few pieces together but it's not going to be the thing that makes me sit down. Maybe "Finish a 1000 piece jigsaw" should be on my 60 x 60 list.

We then went out to friends for a lovely meal and stayed up to see in the new year.  We took down the tree and decorations on New Year's Day. I like them up over the Christmas period but I'm really not a fan of them lingering into January. I'm ready for a fresh start. That includes food too... I no longer want the chocolate and biscuits and rich fayre, just lots of lovely fresh flavours and vegetables.

I subscribe to Good Food magazine which has a 7 day healthy eating plan this month. I'm not really a follower of diets but the recipes sounded so good I convinced the other half to join in too and so far we've been sticking to it. The raspberry coconut porridge was amazing and the stilton, pear and walnut on homemade soda bread was delicious too... in fact it has all been really tasty. It's so good I think we might stick to it for more than a week. There's a bit of effort to prepare the meals from scratch but nothing has been too hard... the website even provides a shopping list.

I was sold on the healthy aspect of it all and feel a week or more without any added sugar and masses of fresh vegetables can only be a good thing. And if we lose a few pounds too... then that's a bonus. I'll keep you updated! You can find the recipes here without having to buy the magazine.

And while I was feeling virtuous and full of energy I decided to clear out my wardrobe. You would not believe how long some of the clothes have been in there...over half my stuff has been cleared out ready for the charity shop, including so many pairs of shoes I'm ashamed to admit it...let's just say double figures! Heels that I will never totter on again, certainly not with this blimin' ankle. And above the clothes on the shelf more stuff that I really do not know why I kept, including a toy "paint ball" gun which I had obviously confiscated and hidden many years ago. I know, don't say anything... my "children" are aged between 24 and 34, but I'm sure they would still attack each other with paint balls given half a chance! It's now in the dustbin!

And this is my wardrobe today, which is so clear and tidy I keep having to go and have a peek because I can't quite believe it. I'm on a roll now... nothing is safe!

Saturday, 31 December 2016


Well that's it all over for another year! There was lots of good food shared over three days, much laughter over silly games (reverse charades were a great hit this year)...

Some thoughtful gifts...

And baby cuddles.

So all in all a good Christmas... a happy Christmas but if I'm honest I found it absolutely exhausting. With eleven for supper on Christmas Eve, followed by twelve plus baby Logan here for lunch on Christmas day and seven extra sleeping overnight it was more than a little overwhelming. I may have been heard to mutter "I'm never doing that again" as my head hit the pillow on Sunday night but of course I'll have forgotten that by next year.

The days since have been calmer, beds have been stripped, laundry done, floors cleaned and there has been time to take some lovely long walks in some beautiful winter sunshine. Time to read, time to knit, time to watch TV (someone got the box set of series two of The Bridge) and generally time to stop and reflect on the year that has passed.

It was a year that started with the death of David Bowie, one of my teenage heroes, and continued with so many other well known celebrities leaving us. We've had the shock of Brexit and the election of Trump all of which pale into insignificance against the atrocities in Syria. The world sometimes feels like a frightening place.

On a personal level it has also been a year of changes and challenges. We started the year with my Mum living with us and Jacob back home struggling with severe depression and anxiety. Mum is now settled in her own flat and Jacob, although not better has managed to live back in Guildford and resume his studies. There are occasional blips when he retreats back home and stress levels rise, but ever the optimist I'm hopeful he will graduate in the summer. I had a year trying to establish a baking business alongside my textile practice. I've lost count of all the cakes I've made and although I'm still enjoying it (the Minion cake was made this week) I'm not convinced it is the way forward for me. There needs to be a lot more reflection on that over the coming weeks. I also managed to break my ankle which is still not completely right, we got ourselves a puppy, Hector, who is growing up into a beautiful dog, and despite finances being a bit tight we managed a fabulous weekend in Copenhagen... so a mixed bag and certainly not all bad.

And as for 2017... who knows. 
But I just hope that whatever the coming year holds it is a happy and healthy one for you all.
Happy New Year!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty four

Well after twenty four days there's not an awful lot left to say except thank you to all my blogging friends and followers, especially those who have stuck with me every day and have taken the time to read and sometimes leave comments. It makes it all worthwhile. I'm now going to spend the next couple of days catering on an industrial scale but also sneaking some time with our new grandson. After that, I might put my feet up!

May your holidays be happy and stress free. 

With much love and best wishes, Gina xx