Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Week's Baking, Part One - Peanut Butter & Oat Slice

I came across this tasty-sounding slice recipe in a recent newsletter decided to bake it up for our snacks this week.

A few things went wrong... but it ended up not mattering!
- didn't have enough coconut. So I added cacao nibs instead. Win!*

 - accidentally added way too much honey, as a result of a brain snap that had me thinking it was a good idea to pour the honey out from the 1-kilo tub (instead of doing something sensible like scooping it out with a spoon)...into the same bowl as the peanut butter was already in. Whoops. So there was about 100g of honey in the slice instead of 60g. However, it is by no means oversweet, so that was ok too.

- got caught up with Pippin and overbaked the slice by about 10 minutes, resulting in a slightly drier texture than I think it should ideally have, but it's certainly not a disaster, especially because the edges are really nice and crunchy now.

It's really yummy. I'll be making it again. Very simple and potentially quite versatile... you could use different combinations of nut butters and seeds (or chocolate bits or dried fruit even as well). Substantial, comforting and, despite the additional honey, no sugar crash from this one.

Stay tuned for some sourdough baking news! Things have been going well so far!

*yes, we are the kind of people who just happen to have more cacao nibs than desiccated coconut in our pantry. It's just how things are round here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Look, I've Started!

Remember the other week when I was feeling inspired to start doing something crafty...

nice colour isn't it?

I've made a start on a plain knitted square... not sure what I'll turn it into when it's finished, and it's going to take me quite a while to finish it unfortunately, but it's something to be working on when I don't want to (just) bludge and watch DVDs or read!

I've got some new socks put aside for making a sock friend as well... but I'll need to work up my courage before I take that plunge!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things REALLY don't always turn out like you expect.

What a week.

Trying to get Pippin to bottle feed, or even to drink from a cup, or to spoon feed him, has been a disaster.

I had no idea he would be so stubborn, so uncooperative, so downright uncoordinated about the whole thing! It got to the stage where I basically had to make a choice between breastfeeding him or taking him to hospital because he was not getting anywhere near an adequate fluid intake.

So I am back to breastfeeding, having got some advice from a nurse at the Children's Hospital who specialises in baby feeding problems. I need to be on the lookout for signs that he might bite, and be really strict with him if he does. I'll be taking him to see her at some point, hopefully next week, to discuss options for weaning. In the meantime, I've got mixed feelings... On the one hand I am desperately glad that Pippin is getting the nourishment he needs and I am also glad to still be breastfeeding. On the other hand I was just getting used to the idea of NOT breastfeeding... Then I had to change back.

I feel kind of jerked around.

Also I am terrified of being bitten again. Especially since, on top of everything else, I came down with mastitis a couple of days ago; I have been SO SICK and in so much pain. If Pippin bites my affected breast I swear people in Canada will hear me screaming. Fortunately the antibiotics are just starting to really kick in, but I still feel relatively dreadful. Ironically (although also luckily) regular breastfeeding is actually helpful because it drains the breast properly.

It has been a rotten, rotten, rotten week. I could not have made it through without the amazing support I have received from my husband, my family (especially my mum), my friends, the mothers at playgroup, the maternal & child health nurses...

Everyone has been beyond wonderful and I am so, so grateful. Thank you all!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Week's Baking - Easy Oat Bread, and a Sourdough Starter!

Earlier this week I made the Easy Oat Bread from Kneadlessly Simple. This is just about my favourite bread from that book, or at least the one I make most often; it's simple, very versatile, and makes two loaves in one go.

This time I opted to make one plain and then decided to experiment by adding a chopped-up apple and some cinnamon sugar topping to the second loaf. It turned out well, although I could have done a better job of incorporating the apple.

I think next time I will have a go at flattening the dough out into a square, sprinkling the apple over and rolling it up... that might work better.

I am also making my first-ever sourdough starter, a rye-based one. Look! Bubbles!

I took this photo on Sunday when it was 2 days old. It's looking pretty good now, smells quite sour but ok, and I think it will be ready to use in another day or so. I'm a bit confused about the right feeding schedule, but it seems to be going ok, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing (feeding it once a day) and change if I need to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flavour of the Week - Blackberry Ripple

My husband, herein to be known (for reasons well-understood by our intimate friends) as The Stressed Chef, is an avid maker of ice cream. (He is also an avid consumer of ice cream, a habit which I consider a most peculiar perversion at this time of year, but to each his own.) Most weeks of the year he churns a batch and takes it into work to share with his colleagues, and time permitting alerts them to the presence of a new frozen delight with an appropriate email. I'll be sharing these with you as they are produced).

Dear Colleagues,

In the grisly annals of heinous crime no greater enormity can have been committed than that lately visited upon the unfortunate berries of the infamous Freezer District downstairs.  A discovery by horrified yet oddly peckish police inspectors has shown that the series of disappearances that had roiled the close-knit blackberry community was but the first step of a gruesome design.  The person or persons responsible, of unknown identity but demonstrably diabolical culinary criminality, had evidently plied the missing blackberries with vanilla-laced vodka, rendering them insensible to the merciless pulping that ensued.

The crime came to light with the delivery of an insulated package to the unsuspecting functionaries of the constabulary.  The container inside proved to hold an icecream within whose rich confines were strewn the mortal part of the former blackberries, arranged in a layered display of fruity gore that left transfixed onlookers unable to decide whether to weep or fetch a scoop.  Affixed to the top of the container was a note claiming responsibility for the evidence of “my funny little games” within.  Chillingly written in juice, the note was signed “Jack the Rippler”.

Investigations into the matter continue, though the gradual and inexplicable disappearance of the icecream has led increasingly plump detectives to issue public appeals to the perpetrator for further samples.  In the meantime, unaccompanied berries are subject to a curfew, and members of the public are encouraged to examine the custardy-fruity evidence for themselves while it lasts.

Dietary information: this icecream contains milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, blackberries, vanilla, vodka, lemon juice.

Yours ripplaciously,

The Stressed Chef

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things don't always turn out how you expect (or hope)

I've been breastfeeding my little son since he was born nearly 8 months ago. As of last night, I'm not. To cut a long story short:

He has four large, sharp teeth.
He likes to bite things.
Those things include (for whatever reason) my nipples.
The last few bites have drawn blood and I cannot stand the agony any longer.

It wasn't meant to end this way. Yes I have complained about breastfeeding - it's not 100% easy after all, takes practice etc - but I really wanted to go the full 12 months. I didn't want him to go to formula. Nevertheless it looks like that's how it's going to be. I'll keep expressing as much milk as I can for as long as I can, but it is - obviously - not the same. The next few days will be really difficult too, I anticipate - Pippin is not used to a bottle at all. My husband is trying to give him one now, I'm not sure how successfully. I'll look in on them shortly.

I am really grieving. I have been crying and crying and crying. I guess I didn't realise how important breastfeeding is to me until it has been suddenly taken away.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sesame Yoghurt Face Scrub & Mask

Here's another easy face scrub/mask that I made for myself the other day: 

1 tsp polenta (cornmeal)
1 tsp plain yoghurt
1 tsp tahini (sesame paste)

Mix all ingredients together to form a thick paste. Spread onto clean skin, rubbing in gently, then leave on for 5 minutes. Wash off with warm water. 

This scrub/mask is great for exfoliating and deeply moisturising congested skin, and is also a really good hand scrub. However if your skin tends to be delicate, sensitive or blemished, it might be too abrasive - use finely ground rolled oats or almond meal in place of the polenta. 

Happy pampering!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Something Lovely

 Flowers from my husband:

I love the smell of jonquils, do you?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeling inspired

I'm a hopeless crafter-dreamer. There are SO many things I wish I were able to do... Like sew clothes and make softie toys (I'll have to get a sewing machine first though, AND learn how to use it), crochet, knit something more complex than a stocking-stitch scarf, make collages...

I've dabbled in a bunch of different crafts over the years: making soap, soy wax candles, aromatherapy creams and lotions, scrapbooks, pot pourri, embroidery. I've made a couple of softies from the lovely book Sock and Glove...

This one was my best effort: it was originally meant to be a rabbit, but then it ended up a bit more like a dog... I finally decided that it was in fact a Heffalump.

 Since then I have been rather too discouraged to try making any more! This is the problem with most of the things that I try... They don't turn out as well as I hope they will and I lose confidence and don't keep on trying. Maybe I should? Or am I just a glutton for punishment? I've dug out my copy of the book again, nonetheless.

At the moment I'm also feeling inspired by a knitting feature that I saw in a library copy of Better Homes & Gardens from a couple of months ago. Ten things to do with a knitted square (even I can knit a square in garter stitch), including making a little bag for your jewellery, making a soft toy, using it as a placemat, making a keepsake envelope, brightening up a plain cushion...

I have a bunch of brightly coloured balls of wool stashed away under my bed... All I need to do is dig the bag out and get knitting, how long can it take to knit a few squares?

What are you feeling inspired to make?

PS: Wish I had some of this gorgeous wool... How divine are the colours?!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

I had some buttermilk sitting in the fridge last week, leftover from something else I had cooked, so I decided to use it up in some Irish soda bread. The recipe was this one, from The Bread Experience. I only made half the quantity, because I didn't have quite enough buttermilk for the full version. 

The recipe was super simple and quick to make - only took about ten minutes, plus the resting time, and then 40 minutes in the oven. I think I should probably have given it another 5-10 minutes to brown it a little more, plus it was still a touch doughy in the very middle - only a tiny bit though. 

Basically it looked like a giant scone, but easier to make (no rubbing in butter)! Fantastic toasted for breakfast. I'll be making this one again, and might experiment with different flours and some flavourings as well... Maybe a spicy/fruity version, what do you think?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Something Lovely

This gnome by HumbleBea on Etsy.

Is it not too gorgeous for words? Everything else in HumbleBea's shop is divine too...

Happy sigh.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thyme and Prosciutto Scones

I signed up to be part of Bake Your Own Bread, which is not just about baking bread but baking oodles of other things as well, and this is my first... Hmm, I'm not even sure what to call it... entry? installment? Whatever, it's my first thing for BYOB, anyway. 

I made these scones to have with some pumpkin and carrot soup when my parents and brother came over for dinner on Sunday night. The recipe is from The Women's Weekly Bake cookbook and originally called for sage, but then I remembered that my dad doesn't like sage (pity! It's so nice!) so I used some thyme instead. You actually couldn't taste it that much unfortunately; I should have used more.  

Other than that the scones were very yummy and a perfect accompaniment to the soup. I would normally serve bread with soup but I hadn't had time to make any, and I thought that some savoury scones would be a good alternative. It was certainly a perfect day for baking and having soup; incredibly changeable weather, pouring rain one minute, sunny the next, and chilly the whole time! 

I remember from Home Ec classes at school, when we made cheese scones we were told we should never end up with flour in the palms of our hands when rubbing the butter into the flour, only on our fingertips. I try! I am not sure about my technique though, it always seems to make my hands cramp up. Maybe I'm rubbing too hard? Or maybe I just need more practice. 

Speaking of scones (or rather things to have with them), on the weekend my husband made the pumpkin jam from A Year In A Bottle (I helped a bit, but got caught up with the baby). Isn't it the most amazing colour? 

There's quite a lot of lemon zest and juice in it so it tastes almost like a lemon curd. Can't wait to have it with some plain scones for afternoon tea! Perhaps when my first flush Darjeeling tea order arrives from Thunderbolt Tea...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lovely Sunday

My husband took Pippin off to Daddy Playgroup this morning, leaving me with a couple of hours All. To. Myself.

There were a million things I felt I should be doing, but instead I made myself a cup of Japanese sencha and ran myself a bath.

I love essential oil blends for bathing... this morning I mixed up a recipe from Judy Chapman's book Spa: chamomile, rosemary and ylang ylang blended into a small amount of milk and then poured into the bath.

I also adore homemade skincare products - so simple, effective and inexpensive. I mixed myself up the following face mask for my poor neglected skin:

1 tsp ripe avocado, mashed
1 tsp plain yoghurt
1 drop chamomile essential oil (diluted in jojoba)

How easy and delicious is that...

And then after some serious soaking time I took myself downstairs for some yoga... something my body has been totally craving for the last several days.

I feel refreshed and more ready to face another week now. What have you been doing with your Sunday?

Saturday, June 5, 2010


This is going to be my blog for things other than tea (gasp! Yes, I do have other interests!). Thanks for your patience while I get it all set up and looking pretty. See you soon!