Saturday, 31 May 2014

Baking like Berry

There wasn't much time for my Bake it like Berry challenge this week.


That's because the boys' school were holding a Spring Fair on Friday afternoon and I was organising the afternoon teas. We sent a request out to all the parents for donations of traybakes and cakes, but two of the other mums and myself volunteered to bake all the scones.


I did more than just scones though because you never really know how many donations you will get!


On Wednesday afternoon, while Fraser napped or the other boys entertained him, I made (from left to right below): 2 dozen free from cupcakes (these were actually more to keep at home than take with us), a rocky road Traybake, a mint aero Traybake, 2 dozen butterfly cakes (seen here before being turned into butterflies) and 2 dozen mini cupcakes.


On Thursday I made 2 dozen scones and a dozen treacle scones.



And finally, this cake for the Bake Off competition at the fair.
It was based on the Lemon cake I made last week from Mary's Baking Bible. Only this time I made it in round sandwich tins rather than the square tin. I sliced the two halves of cake in half again to make four layers and then layered them together with a lemon mascarpone icing. I left the assembly of it until I got to the school as I didn't think it would survive the journey in buy train and bus! I had planned to make up some glacé icing with lemon juice to put on top of the cake, but I was so busy setting up the tables, putting all the donated cakes out, getting the teas ready etc that I had about 1 minute to see to my cake! So I just slapped the mascarpone icing and some lemon curd between the layers very quickly, sprinkled some icing sugar on top and finished it off with some lemon peel I had brought along.


The afternoon teas were busy, busy, busy! There were only two of us - and Fraser in the baby sling - serving, and we literally didn't stop serving tea, coffee, juice and cakes for nearly three hours! I kept thinking that surely the queue would go down soon and it never did! Still, it made a lot of money for the school funds!
Most of the action was taking place in the school playground and the other boys had a lovely afternoon wandering round the various stalls with their friends.
The school holds a Christmas Fair every year as a fundraiser but this is the first time they have run a Spring Fair, and it seemed to be a big success.
In the midst of the busyness, one of my friends came in and said to come with her for a minute. She took me running into the playground, where there was an auction taking place. The reason wasn't because of the auction though, but because my cake had won the competition!
I got this lovely hamper of goodies as my prize.


Then it was back to the teas, where we sliced up the bake off cakes to serve as well. I joked that we should charge extra for the winning cake!



And that's how this week I really was, in a way, baking like Berry!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Recipe of the week - Gluten & Dairy Free Mint Slice



I do a lot of gluten and dairy free baking but not a lot of that baking is biscuit based. I suppose the main reason for this is that gluten free biscuits are so expensive! I can but a pack of digestives for 30p whereas a smaller pack of gluten free digestives will cost me about £1.99! Still, I feel bad for Calum and Alasdair that they miss out on the sorts of traybakes that the rest of us enjoy and have recently adapted a couple of our favourites.


The first of these is this mint slice. It was a recipe given to me by my friend Bev. The handwritten copy she gave me has the title 'Green Stuff', but we call it 'Mint Slice'! The traybake has been a favourite of those of us who can eat it for a long time now and so it seemed easy enough to adapt to make it free from.


The resulting bake was a hit with both Calum and Alasdair, and the other boys said that they couldn't tell the difference between this version and the allergy packed version that they are used to.


So I think that makes it a success!


You will need:


7 oz dairy free margarine

2 tbsp golden syrup

2tbsp sugar

16 oz of gluten free digestives and rich tea biscuits - you don't need exactly half and half but roughly that will do. I use the Sainsburys own brand range as they are our favourites.

1tbsp cocoa powder

10 oz icing sugar

A few drops green food colouring (or paste)

1tsp (or a little more depending on the brand used) peppermint essence

10 oz dairy free 'milk' chocolate (we used Moo Free)



- Melt the margarine, syrup and sugar together in a pan.

- Crush the biscuits, either in a food processor or the old fashioned way, put them in a bag and bash them with a wooden spoon.

- Add the crushed biscuits and the cocoa to the melted margarine/syrup/sugar and stir together until everything is mixed well.

- Tip into a Traybake tin that you have lined with greaseproof paper and press down well until it's all tightly packed.

- Leave to cool and set for an hour or so.

- Now to make the green layer. You don't actually have to make it green if you don't want to add the food colouring but we like the minty looking-ness (yes, I know that's not a word) of it.

- Put the icing sugar, mint essence and optional colouring into a bowl and mix to a thick paste with some cold water. Because the strength of mint flavourings varies greatly depending on the brand, it's hard to say here how much you will need. Just keep tasting your icing until you get a strength you like. Start with just a little as you can always add more but not take out! Also, you need this to be fairly thick so that it will hold its shape when you slice it later on. Too runny and it will ooze down the sides. Having said that, if you make it too thick it will be hard to spread it on top of your biscuit layer!

- Once you have a spreadable, thick, minty icing then you can spread it on top of your cooled down and hardened biscuit layer.

- Let this layer set and then melt your chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Or in a microwave, but we don't have one! You can choose any dairy free chocolate you like but we've recently discovered Moo Free as our local supermarket has just begun to stock it and I can't believe how much like 'real' chocolate it tastes!

- Spread your melted chocolate over the icing layer and once more let the whole thing set.

- Once your chocolate has hardened then you can cut it into squares and enjoy.





Monday, 26 May 2014

7 months old

7 months old and continuing to delight everyone with his beautiful little personality.
His brothers all dote on him, and who can blame them?!
It's three weeks now since he learned how to roll from his back to his front. A week ago he learned how to go from front to back again and will sometimes go over two or three times.
I found this batch of photos on the iPad that the boys took of him. They were so cute that I couldn't leave any of them out, so be prepared for baby overload!
These are Fraser with Ally (4) in the background. Ally is wearing one of Fraser's bibs because he wanted to be a cowboy that day :)


And these were taken with his biggest brother James (14). I suspect that Calum (11) was the photographer of both sets of photos!
Despite how content he looks in all these photos of him on his tummy, he does soon get tired of it and want either rolled back again or picked up.
Another couple of milestones.
Just over a week ago he cut his first tooth. It's at the bottom but hard to see as he always sticks his wee tongue over it when you try and look in his mouth! He has always loved to chew on his thumb, but he's not a thumb sucker, and has occasionally given himself a wee shock when he bites it with his new tooth!
The second milestone was the introduction of solid foods yesterday. I didn't plan to wait until he was seven months and had meant to begin when he turned six months, but, well, I just didn't get around to it! Besides, he's not exactly wasting away on his mummy's milk!
The other boys were so excited for him to have his first taste of food.




He had a little bit of puréed mango & apple and he seemed rather impressed by it.



As you can see!



He was eager to try again at lunchtime today and now the excitement of introducing lots of different foods begins.


Sticking with food, last week when Alasdair had a dermatology appointment the doctor told us that she had just that morning received the results of Fraser's food allergy blood test and written to the dietician and our GP. We still haven't received our copy of the letter but she said that from what she could remember he has the same allergies as Calum (11) and Alasdair (4) - dairy, wheat and egg. She couldn't remember if he was allergic to nuts or not.


I really hoped he would be spared the food allergies but I suppose at least we know what we are doing by now.


Food allergies and eczema don't affect how beautiful and perfect he is!




Friday, 23 May 2014

Bake it like Berry - Cakes and more cakes

Since I didn't get round to posting about last week's bakes here they are along with this week's.
The first thing I baked from the book after the last bakes I shared was Mary's Key Lime Pie, which was absolutely delicious. I made it to have for pudding one night when we had friends round and as I sat down with it I remembered I had forgotten to take a photo. 'Never mind, I'll take a photo of the leftovers afterwards,' I thought, as I didn't want to take one there at the dinner table. Later on in the evening, when we had all left the table, my husband sat down next to me and confessed that when he had been topping up the coffees in the kitchen he had also polished off the rest of the Key Lime Pie as he had enjoyed it so much!
I have since made the same pudding again, this time when my parents were round for dinner, and again it didn't last long! Again, no photo!
Next bake was this Coffee Traybake. Mary's recipe is actually for a Coffee and Walnut Traybake but I wasn't going to add the nuts for our household. I also made it gluten and dairy free and it worked perfectly. I really liked the generous quantities of coffee icing for the top of the Traybake.


One of Calum's favourite cakes is a gingerbread and so as he flicked through the Baking Bible one afternoon, he asked if we could try one of the gingerbread recipes. There are two or three of them in the book. We chose the traditional gingerbread recipe and again made it gluten and dairy free. It is a similar recipe and method to the gingerbread recipe we make (see wheat free recipes tab) but Mary adds a lot more treacle than we use. This recipe didn't ask for icing on top but Calum loves icing on gingerbread and so we added some to this one too.



The final new bake this week was this really beautiful Lemon Cake. It was so light and lemony. A perfect summer sponge cake. I took some along to our parents' craft group at the boys' school this morning and the empty tin I took home spoke for itself!


As well as these new bakes we've also made a couple more batches of those delicious chocolate cookies from the last Bake it like Berry post and another batch of the griddle scones.


There are so many lovely looking recipes in this book that I can hardly decide what to add to my to do list for next week!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Makings - Crochet Madagascar Penguin


Calum (11) asked me if I would crochet him something to give to his best friend for his birthday.


He had a look through my Pinterest Crochet board and decided he would like this wee fellow.


The lighting in the photos is terrible but you get the idea!




He is based on this pattern here and was pretty straightforward to crochet.


Calum now wants me to crochet one of this penguin's friends so that he and his friend have penguin buddies!


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Look out bad guys.

Has there ever been a cuter super hero?


Alasdair (4) is still a huge Captain America fan (as is his 14 year old brother actually!) and was saving up his pennies to buy this costume.


He was the proudest little boy ever when he was finally able to buy it.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Getting fit and healthy

Ha, well there's a title I didn't think I'd ever see myself writing!
Don't worry, I haven't given up on the cake baking. That just wouldn't be me, and I'm still a firm believer that a little of what you fancy - substitute cake/chocolate here - does you no harm at all. Moderation is the key.
Trouble was that I realised I was indulging a little too much. I was using the excuse that I needed extra calories as I'm breast feeding as a reason to eat a bag of mini eggs in one sitting. And while this hasn't really done me any harm in the short term, I realised I should probably try and clean up my snacking habits a bit.
That's where my downfall was. We eat healthy home cooked meals every night. One plus side of cooking for allergies is that you can't eat processed food and so need to cook from scratch. But in between meals I was reaching for the biscuit jar a little too often. But hey, those of you who have breast fed know how hungry you get, right? Ravenously so at times, and a handful of chocolate digestives fits the bill just nicely!
A little over a month ago I came across the green smoothie challenge at They challenge you to drink a green smoothie every day for 30 days. It sounded like just what I needed to kick start the new healthy me. I read the site a little more and they claimed that by drinking a daily green smoothie your cravings for sweet things would go down. I was a little less convinced by that! Still, I wanted to give it a go and that week I added a couple of bags of spinach to my shopping list, as well as a pile of extra fruits.
Now I'll admit, it's not the most attractive looking thing once it's all mushed up in the blender, and I did get some looks of horror from the boys and my beloved, and it does smell a little bit like fresh grass - stick with me here - but it tastes delicious!
I was an instant convert, easily drinking my one smoothie a day, and this Thursday my 30 days are up!
Plus, they were right. I didn't want to eat that junk between meals any more. is full of inspiring green smoothie recipes and beautiful coloured photographs of them but my favourite one is one I came up with using the formula they give below...


If you've never tried a green smoothie before then try this one: 1 cup spinach, 1 cup water, 1 mango, 2 oranges. It's like a bright and sunshiny morning.
Moving on from the smoothies, I decided to add a little extra excercise into my life too. I've always considered looking after the boys and everything that running a busy household involves as enough excercise for me. Then on top of that there's the walking involved in taking the boys to school and back. It must add up!
But then one day Calum (11) came home from school on a day when he has running club, and asked if I would go out running with him as he wanted to run more than just once a week at club. On top of that, both he and David are working on their fitness at rugby too.
I didn't outwardly laugh when Calum suggested it but inwardly, well, I've spent my whole life avoiding running. It just wasn't me. But then I thought, why not? I might hate it or I might love it and it's worth a shot.
So, I downloaded a couch to 5k app, and we began our training schedule at the weekend.
At the moment this picture sums up my fledgling running...


...but you've got to start somewhere.


I'm using the NHS couch to 5k podcasts. In the first week you run for 60 seconds then walk for 90 seconds and repeat this 8 times, with a 5 minute walk at the start and end. Calum and David (8) are my running buddies, Ally (4) comes along on his scooter (although he sometimes puts it up on the pram and runs along) and Fraser is pushed along in the pram. I'm not sure if the pram is making it easier for me or harder. It's nice to have something to lean on but it's also tougher on the hills!


We've decided to take a running selfie after we complete each session and this was our very first one.



I like to think that I'll stick with the programme. I know it's going to get tougher but it's good having the boys keen to get involved. James (14) also wants to start running but he thinks our pace is a bit slow for him and he might join in later.


You only run 3 days a week, with a rest day in between each run day. On my rest days I've been doing Zumba - which I love! I haven't been going to classes, but bought the game for the Wii on eBay. And I always close the curtains before having a go! Again, Calum, David & Ally love to join in and I often end up doing it with Fraser in the baby sling.


I hardly know myself any more!




Friday, 9 May 2014

Recipe of the Week - Gluten & Dairy Free Mini Doughnuts

These little beauties are deceptively simple to make.


I don't want to make a habit of sharing recipes that need a specialist bit of kit, but I think this one is worth being the exception! I've heard many people who are gluten free say how much they miss being able to eat a doughnut and with this little tin they are really easy to make.


I bought mine quite a few years ago from Lakeland but they don't stock them any more. I emailed them to ask if they had any plans to restock them and I received a reply saying that they didn't. So, I had a quick look on Amazon and found a very similar looking one here. I should add that I don't get any Amazon affiliates or anything, just wanted to help share the doughnutty love!
When I first got our tin, no matter how well I thought I had greased it the doughnuts would still stick a little, especially the middles. Then I thought about doing what I do when I make Yorkshire puddings as they never stick - heat up a little oil in each space first. It worked perfectly.
Now that Calum (11) loves to bake, I have started to write down my recipes in a little book for him. He can now go ahead and bake without me having to tell him the recipe each time.
Isn't it cute?
For the mini doughnuts you will need:
350ml rice milk
8oz Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
4oz sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
Oil for greasing
Extra sugar for dusting.
- Pour about 1/2 a teaspoon of oil into each section of your mini doughnut tin and then put into a preheated oven at 180C for about 5 minutes until hot.
- Put the rice milk, eggs, flour, sugar and vanilla essence into a bowl and beat well with a whisk until you have a smooth batter.
- To make pouring the mix into the tin easier it is best to transfer it all into a good pouring jug now.
- Pour a little mix into each section of the tin. Fill each section to about 3/4 full. No higher or your doughnut will rise too high and the hole will close up.
- Bake at 180C for about 20 minutes until golden.
- Let them cool for a little before trying to remove from the tin. They should come out with just a wee twist.
- Dip each doughnut into some extra sugar (the side that has been in the tin will be best for the sugar to stick to) before cooling on a cooling rack.


- Add 1 tsp cinnamon to the batter mix instead of the vanilla and then add another tsp of cinnamon to the sugar you use to coat the doughnuts.
- Dip the cooled doughnuts in some water icing and then dip into some gluten free sprinkles.
- Dip the cooled doughnuts into some melted dairy free chocolate.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

This little man....

....loves his mammy's silky top.


It has a big cowl neck that he loves to chew on when I wear it. The other day when one of the boys took the washing in off the line for me they handed Fraser the top and he had a happy wee chew and cuddle with it!


Another of his brothers took the photos, which is why some of them were at funny angles!




This little man got some goalie gloves of his own at the weekend, so he can now be like his big brothers when they play football together. He was quite the proper goal keeper, throwing himself around on the ground to stop the ball.


And back to this little man, who learned how to roll over from his back to his tummy for the first time on Sunday.


He was rather pleased with himself at first.


But then he looked at me as if he was saying, 'OK mam, now how do I get back again?!'


He doesn't roll over much yet and when he does he still gives me that panicked look once he's over! Being on his tummy just isn't quite so much fun.