Cutting yourself a slice of self-care

Last week we celebrated World Mental Health Day, and it was wonderful to see so many people sharing their experiences and encouraging others to talk. It certainly feels, at least to me, that gradually the stigma surrounding mental health is being broken. Its definitely seeing such compassion that helps me to lower my barriers-which I’m notoriously bad at doing- and speak about how I’m feeling. Its incredibly brave to talk to someone and to take that first step in getting yourself well again. After all, just like if you’d broken your leg, you’re unwell and need to recover- and it’s incredibly hard to do so alone.

I spent my World Mental Health Day baking some scrummy gluten-free millionaire’s shortbread. This is one of the ways I show myself some self-care. If you haven’t heard me talk about self-care then firstly I’m surprised, because I could and do talk about it until the cows come home. Basically its all about giving yourself a break. Sometimes our biggest bullies can be ourselves, but fun fact: we are all human, and the more we accept that about ourselves the happier we can be. So accept that humanness, and show yourself some positivity. The best part? Self-care is completely tailored to you. If you enjoy getting lost in a book, set aside some time to do so. Relax if you just need that time out- I find meditation really helps me. Push yourself! If there’s something you don’t particularly want to do but you know you’ll feel better if you just do it, push yourself to do so. It could be seeing friends you haven’t met up with in a while, or maybe the more boring stuff of getting the housework done, or doing that work you’ve been putting off. You’ll thank yourself later. Nothing is as scary as you make it, even if that anxiety is telling you it is.

But you know what, I don’t want to preach to you. I can’t say that I’ve been there in that dark place and I got through it. Sure I have done that in the past, been at my worst and fought back on top. Depression doesn’t have to be a constant thing; it can come in waves, peaks and troughs, it can lurk in the shadows and rear its ugly head whenever it pleases. So, I can’t say right now to you that I’ve been in a dark place and I’m okay now, because I’m not okay. Right now, I’m in that dark place, right in the rut of it. I can’t preach about self-care, because I regularly ignore it or lose sight of it, or even do the opposite of it: I self-criticize; I isolate myself; I break.

I’m trying to change that though, to break those bad habits and show myself the same compassion I’d show others in my condition. That’s why a couple of months ago I took my first step in doing so and got in touch with Time to Talk. Since then I’ve completed a three-week workshop aimed at learning more about your negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings. More than anything, being in that group setting has made me realise how important it is to be open. The people around you love you, and want you to be well, so don’t be afraid to tell them something you think might upset them. They will honestly be happier that you’re sharing it, and will understand its part of you getting yourself better.

Anyway, this is a baking blog and with that should be some baking! So if taking some time to bake or eating your well earned treats sounds right up your self-care street, then try my millionaire’s shortbread…

For the shortbread:


200g gluten-free plain flour

100g rice flour

100g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine salt

200g butter, cut into pieces

 

For the caramel:

200g granulated sugar

90g salted butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

120ml heavy cream

1 tsp salt

 

For the topping:

200g dark chocolate

 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four, and grease a 20x20cm tin.

 

First, make the shortbread…

Put the flours into a bowl with the sugar and salt and mix well, then cut in the butter and rub together. Press to form a dough. Spread flour over a clean surface and roll out the dough until roughly the same size as the tin. Press into the tin, prick all over with a fork and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

 

Then, the caramel…

Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar. Very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down. Pour over the shortbread and smooth with a palette knife. Leave to set.

 

To finish, the topping…

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave, and spread evenly over the set caramel. Leave until solid, then turn out and cut into squares.

 

The perfect treat with your cuppa tea!

 

Lastly for this week, I want to share with you some goals I’m keeping in mind as I continue to my journey to good mental health…

1) Continue being open and accept help from loved-ones

2) Continue exercising self-love

3) Push myself, without rushing myself back to health

 

Happy self-care! See you next time xoxo

 

 

 

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Oh (ginger) snap!

If you can cast your mind back to Week 2 of Great British Bake Off, you’ll remember some contestants triumphing while others crumbled over biscuit week. Usually I am very much in the latter camp, biscuits are not my forte. But as I said in my last post, this project is very much trying to break out of the habit of being a flake because, other than being a delightful choccy bar, flake-life isn’t for me. So this week, it was out with the flakes and time to battle with biscuits…

Despite my empty threats I would ‘boycott Bake Off’ after its switch to Channel 4, they were just that- empty threats. Week 2’s episode again did not disappoint. Sandi and Noel are still giving it a good old (viennese) whirl, the bakers are some of the best to have graced the tent with their wow-worthy showstoppers, and if at 71 I’m still shaking my stuff and sippin’ on cocktails like Flo, I’ll be a very happy woman indeed.

Now, there was NO way I was even going to attempt to compete with the board game showstopper- I mean how, HOW, did Steven create a whole chess board in that time? I genuinely need an explanation. So, signature bake it was, and I plumped for these gorgeous ginger creams- a favourite of my smart cookie of a mother who has recently opened her very own cafe on wheels (and doing one hell of a job!)

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Ingredients
225g self-raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp cinnamon
100g soft brown sugar
125g butter
100g golden syrup

For the filling
125g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 ball stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
Heat the 125g butter and golden syrup in a pan until melted and just warm, but not hot. Add to the flour. Stir to make a stiff dough.
Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space for them to spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 At this point… If the biscuits aren’t as uniform as you’d like, use a cookie cutter (or I used the rim of a glass) to make them more circular
Just before serving, mix the icing sugar with the unsalted butter and the stem ginger and syrup. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to set.

Or… dip half in melted dark chocolate- leave to set.

The reviews I’ve heard from mother hen is that the biscuits are selling like hot cakes (well, biscuits) at the cafe. So, although admittedly I approached biscuit week gingerly, it wasn’t the battle I expected at all. Instead, with the help of a super-simple Asda recipe, it was really quite…

nice biccy

 

For news and updates on the cafe, visit Deli In The Garden on Instagram, Twitter and soon Facebook!!

See you next week xoxo

Recipe: Asda Good Living

Instagram: MegManganaro

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Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

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My brother invited me over for dinner at his new house this week and I thought… how better to celebrate the occasion but with cake?! So I did what I do best- put my apron on and got baking. He adores a good sticky toffee pudding, so I had a search and came across the perfect little recipe. Cupcakes with a soft, rich sponge and a sweet caramel icing. Just, yum.

The comments I received for them were equally as fab. On the back of these little beauties, my best friend is rooting for me to enter Bake Off 2016, and my toughest critic- the brother- praised them as the best cakes I’ve ever made him. The only negative I had was that I didn’t give him enough!! Not too bad if I say so myself 🙂 If you fancy a good ego boost, I suggest you make a batch!

Makes approx. 16 cupcakes

180g pitted and chopped dates

180ml boiling water

80g unsalted butter, softened

150g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

180g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1tsp vanilla extract

Put the chopped dates in a bowl and cover them with the boiling water. Set them aside to soak for about 30 mins while you get on with making the cupcake batter.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin tin (or two) with cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.

Break the eggs in one at a time and beat until they’re incorporated well.

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) into the butter and sugar mixture in a few batches, beating after each addition until you’re left with a smooth batter.

Finally add the vanilla extract to the date mixture and add the whole lot to the cake batter.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Once they’re cooked, leave them to cool before icing.

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80g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar

25ml milk

50g tinned caramel or dulce de leche

Using an electric mixer, mix together the icing sugar and butter until it has the texture of sand.

Gradually add the milk and whack up the speed until you have a light creamy butter icing.

Stir in the caramel.

Top your cupcakes with the icing and decorate as desired.

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Recipe from: Afternoon Tease

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Mini Cheeseburger Cakes

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This was such a fun bake. It was my flatmate’s birthday and, as you can guess, he liked burgers. As students, it was only right that a bottle of vodka was involved in the making of these cakes… But just as a make-shift rolling pin to roll out the fondant icing ‘cheese’! As well as the ‘cheese’, there’s a vanilla sponge ‘bun’, a chocolate brownie ‘burger’ and vanilla buttercream ‘mayo’. The great part about this is that you can make all the different elements up as and when you want. I actually made the brownies the night before and stored them in an airtight container before making the other elements the next day and assembling. They definitely looked the part, and went down a treat too!

Vanilla Sponge Bun

This is just your normal vanilla cupcake, which I then cut in half to make into a bun.

110g/4oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g/4oz self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat oven to180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 12-hole cupcake tray. Grease it well so that the cake won’t stick!

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into each of the holes of the tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, cut each of the cupcakes in half to create the mini buns!

Brownie Burger

For this part of the bake I made a tray bake of brownies and, once cooled, simply used a small cookie cutter to create burgers 🙂

275g (10oz) butter, softened

375g (13oz) caster sugar

4 large eggs

75g (3oz) cocoa powder

100g (4oz) self-raising flour

100g (4oz) plain chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/gas 4. Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to fit the base and sides of the tin. Grease the tin and then line it with the paper, pushing it neatly into the corners.

Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand-held electric mixer until evenly blended.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to remove all of it. Spread the mixture gently to the corners of the tin and level the surface with the back of the spatula.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.Cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the mixture is browning too much.

Allow to cool in the tin. Once cooled, turn out the brownies and cut into 12 small rounds (or ‘burgers’!) using a cookie cutter.

Vanilla Buttercream Mayo

175 g butter (at room temperature), cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk
350 g icing sugar, sifted

Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency.

Lastly, assembling the burgers…

Spread a small amount of icing on each of the vanilla sponge halves

Place a brownie burger on half of the vanilla sponges

Place a small dot of buttercream on top of the brownie (this will be to hold the fondant ‘cheese’ in place)

Roll out the yellow fondant icing (supermarket bought!) and cut into small squares to resemble slices of cheese. Place one on top of each of the brownies

Place the rest of the sponge halves on top, to create your burger!

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Gluten and Dairy-free Lemon & Poppyseed Traybake

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It’s been a while but I’m back and still baking FODMAP friendly delights… and this is no exception! Such a light, fluffy sponge and an icing to die for (honestly, I could have eaten a whole bowl of it). The original recipe comes from the queen of baking, Mary Berry. I adjusted it so that it was suitable for the FODMAP diet, i.e. so that I could scoff it all 🙂

Makes 16 squares

SPONGE

2 lemons
225 g Vitalite (or another dairy-free substitute)
225 g caster sugar
275 g  gluten-free self-raising flour
2 level tsp gluten-free baking powder
4 eggs
4 tbsp lactose-free milk
25 g poppy seeds

ICING

3 tbsp lemon juice, approximately
225 g icing sugar, sifted

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. Grease and line a 30 x 23 x 4cm (12″ x 9″ x 1 1⁄2″) traybake tin or roasting tin with greased parchment paper.

Using a zester remove the zest from one lemon and set aside for garnish. Finely grate the rind from the other lemon. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl, add the grated lemon rind and beat well by hand or with an electric hand whisk for about 2 minutes until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the cake is shrinking from the sides of the tin and springs back when pressed in the centre with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the tin. Once cool turn out and remove paper.

For the icing, mix together the lemon juice, sieved icing sugar and mint to give a coating consistency. Spread out evenly over the cake sprinkle with reserved lemon zest and leave to set.

Cut into squares to serve.

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Best Ever Brownies

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This is honestly my ‘go to’ brownie recipe, it always go down a treat. I first made them when I was stuck what to make for my sister-in-law’s birthday- we were holiday on her birthday and needed something that we could stash in the suitcase without being destroyed during flight. You’ll be pleased to know they survived and were DELICIOUS. They are everything you want in a brownie- rich, moist and chocolatey. Since then, I’ve had not so subtle hints to keep making them- it’s safe to say a lot of brownies have been consumed by my family and friends this summer. They love them though. In fact, I went round a friend’s house recently and took a tray of them with me. Next thing I knew, her mum had tracked me down and asked me what my secret was! Gotta say, I was pretty chuffed with that 🙂 The recipe is from BBC Good Food, and is definitely worth the effort!

185g unsalted butter
185g best dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
50g white chocolate
50g milk chocolate
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar

Cut 185g unsalted butter into smallish cubes and tip into a medium bowl. Break 185g best dark chocolate into small pieces and drop into the bowl. Fill a small saucepan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them. Now remove the bowl from the pan. Alternatively, cover the bowl loosely with cling film and put in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
While you wait for the chocolate to cool, position a shelf in the middle of your oven and turn the oven on to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4 (most ovens take 10-15 minutes to heat up). Using a shallow 20cm square tin, cut out a square of non-stick baking parchment to line the base.

Now tip 85g plain flour and 40g cocoa powder into a sieve held over a medium bowl, and tap and shake the sieve so they run through together and you get rid of any lumps.
With a large sharp knife, chop 50g white chocolate and 50g milk chocolate into chunks on a board. The slabs of chocolate will be quite hard, so the safest way to do this is to hold the knife over the chocolate and press the tip down on the board, then bring the rest of the blade down across the chocolate. Keep on doing this, moving the knife across the chocolate to chop it into pieces, then turn the board round 90 degrees and again work across the chocolate so you end up with rough squares.
Break 3 large eggs into a large bowl and tip in 275g golden caster sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar until they look thick and creamy, like a milk shake. This can take 3-8 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is, so don’t lose heart. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume. Another check is to turn off the mixer, lift out the beaters and wiggle them from side to side. If the mixture that runs off the beaters leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second or two, you’re there.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Plunge the spatula in at one side, take it underneath and bring it up the opposite side and in again at the middle. Continue going under and over in a figure of eight, moving the bowl round after each folding so you can get at it from all sides, until the two mixtures are one and the colour is a mottled dark brown. The idea is to marry them without knocking out the air, so be as gentle and slow as you like – you don’t want to undo all the work you did in step 4.
Hold the sieve over the bowl of eggy chocolate mixture and resift the cocoa and flour mixture, shaking the sieve from side to side, to cover the top evenly. Gently fold in this powder using the same figure of eight action as before. The mixture will look dry and dusty at first, and a bit unpromising, but if you keep going very gently and patiently, it will end up looking gungy and fudgy. Stop just before you feel you should, as you don’t want to overdo this mixing. Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks until they’re dotted throughout. Now your mixing is done and the oven can take over.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping every bit out of the bowl with the spatula. Gently ease the mixture into the corners of the tin and paddle the spatula from side to side across the top to level it. Put in the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes. When the buzzer goes, open the oven, pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Take out of the oven.
Leave the whole thing in the tin until completely cold, then, if you’re using the brownie tin, lift up the protruding rim slightly and slide the uncut brownie out on its base. If you’re using a normal tin, lift out the brownie with the foil. Cut into quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares and finally into triangles. These brownies are so addictive you’ll want to make a second batch before the first is finished, but if you want to make some to hide away for a special occasion, it’s useful to know that they’ll keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks and in the freezer for up to a month.

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FODMAP Friendly Tomato, Goat’s Cheese and Basil Bread

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Inspired by this week’s Great British Bake Off. Week 3: Bread.

Before being advised by the doctor to follow the low FODMAP diet I ADORED this bread, originally devised by BBC Good Food. However, their recipe isn’t FODMAP friendly, as it includes butter and wheat flour- boo. So, instead of moping over the fact I couldn’t eat this bread anymore, I decided to have a bit of fun with the recipe. The result? A completely FODMAP friendly, and still utterly delicious loaf of bread! Here’s what I did… 

100g Dairy-Free Butter (I use Vitalite)
300g Gluten Free Self Raising Flour 
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Salt and a lot of Black Pepper
175g Goat’s Cheese, diced (no need to remove the rind)
175g Cherry Tomatoes, halved
15g Basil
100ml Lactose-Free Milk
3 eggs

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4
Grease and line a loaf tin
Put the Flour, Xanthan Gum, Salt and Pepper into a bowl
Rub the butter into the flour to resemble fine breadcrumbs
Add 100g of the Tomatoes and 100g of the Goat’s Cheese to the mix
Roughly tear (so in rather large pieces) the Basil and add to the mix
Beat the Milk and Eggs together in a separate bowl, then quickly stir into the Flour mixture
*The mixture should look quite wet/sticky*
Empty the mixture into the tray and scatter the remaining Tomatoes and Cheese
Bake for 45-50 minutes until when a skewer is inserted, it comes out clean

Cut when cool and serve in thick slices- most of all, enjoy that gooey cheesy and tomatoey goodness! Mmmm! 

check out: Mummy Mishaps Page

#GreatBloggersBakeOff2014

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