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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GBBO Week 2: Biscuit Box Showstopper

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Gluten-free Lemon & Elderflower Shortbread Box with Raspberry and White Chocolate Biscuits

First things first, I don’t particularly thrive at biscuits. I like baking cake- I know cake, I can do cake. Biscuits, however, have never really been my bag… So, with it being biscuit week in the tent and having yet to have participated in the Great Blogger’s Bake Off 2015, I plucked up the courage and decided to face my biscuit fear. The best way to do that… The showstopper challenge of course! It took a lot of effort and patience- having a few mishaps along the way- but I did it! (And I have to say I’m pretty chuffed with it too!). To see other fab recipes and entries, visit: www.mummymishaps.co.uk 

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So, starting with the box…

Lemon & Elderflower Shortbread

400g Gluten-free Plain Flour

150g Caster Sugar

150g Butter (Cubed)

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

100ml Elderflower Cordial

Rind of 1 Lemon

A few (Approx 5) Boiled Sweets

Pre heat the oven to 220°C.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the cubed butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Heat the elderflower cordial, lemon rind and golden syrup in a small pan. Pour into the flour and butter mixture and add the sugar.
Continue to mix all the ingredients together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.
Remove and divide into two balls and place on a floured surface.

Butter a large baking tray.

Roll out the doughs one at a time and using a template/ruler, cut out the 4 walls (W 12cm x H 6 cm) and a lid (W 12cm x H 12 cm) of the box

With remaining dough, cut shapes to decorate the box (I used heart cookie cutters!)

Place all pieces on baking trays, and cut a 8cm x 8cm window from the lid

Cook for 8-10 minutes, until golden on the edges.

Whilst cooking, place the boiled sweets in a pestle and mortar or into a food processor and crush until a rough sand texture

With about 3- 4 minutes left on the timer, sprinkle the crushed sweets into the hole in the lid to make a stained glass effect

Cool on a rack before decorating.

Royal Icing

1 egg white

225g Icing Sugar

1 tsp Lemon Juice

For the icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy.

Using a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric mixer on slow speed, add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time.

Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.

Cover the surface with a damp cloth if not using immediately.

Using a piping bag or palette knife, pipe or spread icing over each part of the box and decorate as desired (I used freeze dried raspberries and the extra heart biscuits!)

Pipe a line of icing onto the display board and stick the first biscuit wall to the board (I struggled to get the biscuit to stay upright so used mini cocktail sticks to secure it while the icing set)

Repeat this for the other sides of the box, piping icing along the wall edge in order to join the sides together

Place the lid on the top and ice any plain areas to give the box a neat effect

Leave to set for at least 4 hours

Tip: Leftover royal icing can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in a glass/stainless steel bowl and cling fling placed directly on top of the icing

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Raspberry & White Chocolate Biscuits

250g Gluten-free Plain Flour
200g Butter, cut into small cubes

100g Icing Sugar
Pinch of Salt
2 Egg Yolks

60g White Chocolate

Raspberry Jam (Shop bought or home-made)

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
Place the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolks and mix until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of about 0.5cm/¼in. Cut out shapes using a 4cm/1½in cutter.

Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden-brown and crisp. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the biscuits cool, melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over boiling water

When the biscuits and the chocolate have cooled, spread a layer of white chocolate and a layer of jam onto half of the biscuits. Top with the other half of the biscuits and allow the filling to set (you can place them in the fridge to speed this up if you wish)

Decorate as desired

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If you can resist eating it all, place your jammy-choccy biscuits into your box and let people marvel at your creation! ENJOY 🙂

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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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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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3D Gluten-Free Vanilla Shortbread Beach Scene #GBBO

As a newbie to ‘Great Bloggers Bake Off’, I decided to go for it and attempt the almighty 3D biscuit structure challenge. Although with the deadline a little later tonight, I have cut it pretty fine! 

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So here is my gluten-free vanilla shortbread beach hut and beach accessories, surrounded with honeycomb sand. As my first try at anything like this, I’m really happy with it- although, quite noticeably I forgot the top halves of the doors, my bad! 

First, the honeycomb:

200g caster sugar
5 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease a square tin
Mix the sugar and golden syrup together and gently heat on the stove until the sugar has dissolved
Once sugar grains are no longer visible, slightly increase the heat and let the mixture simmer until an amber caramel colour forms (this will happen fairly quickly!)
Remove from the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda as quickly as possible and beat until all mixed in and the mixture is bubbling
Pour the mixture into the greased tin and leave to the side for 1 hr-1 1/2 hrs until hard
SMASH IT, and use as sand (tip: place around the plate, once the biscuits are all stuck down)

For the biccies:

200g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
335g gluten free flour (make sure it contains xanthan gum, if not add 2 tsp)
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Mix the butter and sugar together
Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix until combined
Add the flour gradually, mixing it into the other ingredients well before adding flour.
Flour a surface with gluten free flour to roll the dough out on. Roll out the dough to about the width of a pound coin.
Cut shapes out of the dough. For the hut I made templates for the front and back (7 cm length 10cm height- remember the tops!), the sides (12cm length, 10cm height) and the roof (12cm length, 7cm height). For the accessories, I made the buoy with a larger cookie cutter and cut the middle with a smaller one. The rest of the accessories were free hand. 
Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment
Bake in the oven until the edges of the shortbread are turning golden. The smaller elements will take approximately 8-10 minutes, whereas the larger ones will take 16-18 minutes
While these are cooking, make the royal icing (directions below!)
Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes on the baking tray, then transfer to a cooling rack
Once cooled, decorate with glace icing (mix approx 200g icing with a few drops of water until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Add food colouring if you desire)

For the royal icing:

1 egg white
250g icing sugar

Whisk the ingredients together to made a very thick icing, ideal to ‘glue’ and stick parts together and to the presentation plate.

Assemble using your new best friend: Royal icing
Pipe the icing onto the biscuits and glue the first side onto the plate
Continue to glue the other sides down and together
Pipe icing onto the tops of the two sides and glue together the two roof slabs before placing onto the sides
Glue the accessories around the plate as you desire!
Sprinkle the honeycomb sand

And… Ta da! Your very own biscuit beach scene. 3D and gluten-free, what more could you ask for?!

http://www.thecrazykitchen.co.uk/p/the-great-bloggers-bake-off.html
http://www.mummymishaps.co.uk/category/gbbo 

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Where to eat out if you’re a gluten-free foodie!

That time is approaching, the end of summer. Its back to uni in just over a month, so I’m getting organised. Like, ‘writing lists and ticking things off’ sort of organised. 

But I’m so easily distracted.

‘Lets just check Facebook’, ‘… see whats happening on Instagram’, ‘Hey, I’ll watch Jeremy Kyle’

(That last one is pretty shameful.)

Just earlier, during another bout of procrastination, I started searching Google for gluten-free restaurants/cafes/bakeries. *Note: I would search for a FODMAP friendly restaurant- but c’mon, that would get me nowhere.* I’ve got to say, despite initially being a way to avoid all the boring jobs I have to do (i.e. No. 6 on the list: get a tax refund (yawn)), it ended up being a worthwhile search, presenting some great places I’d love to try.

Going out for dinner for most people is relaxing luxury. Well for people suffering with IBS like me, it’s a right pain in the ****, both for me and the people that join me. It starts being a nuisance from the get go. I’m one for popping the chosen restaurant into Google and having a nose at the menu before I visit, the vital question being: ‘Do they serve anything I can eat?’. I mean, actually having something to eat is the aim for going out for dinner isn’t it, so a few restaurants in the past have been rejected for the fact I simply can’t see anything suitable for my diet on the menu. Fortunately, my friends are quite understanding of this. In fact, for her birthday earlier this year, my best friend chose one restaurant over another just because it provided a separate gluten-free menu for me. Yes guys, that’s true friendship right there.

Anyway, back to my Google search findings. I stumbled across ‘The best gluten free restaurants, cafes and bakeries in the UK’ – on first glance it seemed to hit the nail on the head. I clicked into it, not knowing I’d end up spending a great chunk of time trawling through menus of hand-picked gluten-free hideaways, slobbering over some of the delicious-sounding food on offer. I’ve listed a few of the sites below (turning out to be quite a range of cuisines) that particularly tickled my fancy, do give them a look: 

The Truscott Arms, London (Bar Menu) – serving, among other delights, gluten-free fish and chips- yum! There’s also Dinner, Saturday and Sunday menus featured on their main website.

Le Bistrot Pierre (various locations) – Here’s a place which seems to really understand the struggles of gluten-free diners, providing gluten-free bread in their entrees and following with some mouthwatering French fancies! With one based in Cardiff, I’m sure to visit. 

The Creperie, Brighton – Going to Paris earlier this summer and not being able to eat a galette was pretty tough. Fortunately ‘The Creperie’ serves gluten-free ones! Brighton might not be Paris, but it suits me fine if I can get my chops around the “Everyone’s Favourite”- with ham/chorizo and cheddar cheese. 

Pho (various locations) – This caught my eye as I’ve never tried Vietnamese food and would really love to. Looking at the menu, rice noodles feature as the key ingredient in a vast amount of the dishes, meaning it’s perfect for gluten-free diners like me who want to try something new. One of their restaurants happens to be in Brighton which also serves as home to ‘The Creperie’- so I know where I’ll be heading for a day out in the near future! 

It’s great to see that more and more restaurants are providing for gluten allergies and intolerances. Personally, when I see a restaurant which takes gluten-free guests into consideration, it makes me more eager to visit and try their food- and by the looks of it, some of them are producing yummy gluten-free dishes. Hopefully I’ll visit some of the restaurants I’ve mentioned in this post very soon, and I’ll be sure to post my feedback!

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