Food & rugby… terrific combination!

First up – daily food! Because it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m quite proud of my eats today, I made a lot of things from scratch. Breakfast was especially good, I used a mix of malthouse bread flour and ASDA ‘Ready Oats’ (finely milled oats and oat flour) which resulted in THE FLUFFIEST PANCAKES KNOWN TO MANKIND! Fo’ seriouz.

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Oat & malthouse flour pancakes topped with hot banana, blueberries & syrup (both maple and agave).

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To the left: roasted kabocha squash, red bell pepper & brussels sprouts. To the right: leftover veggie and millet casserole. At the top: a few chunks of experimental half baked bread.

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The experimental bread was made with the frozen dough from my bread post. I was checking it was OK, so I could go ahead and make this ^ Olive oil, garlic & herb flatbread with cheese. Yumm-o!

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The flatbread was to accompany this homemade lentil soup, which we topped with crispy bacon, red pepper (it’s there somewhere) & chives.

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A quick look through my camera tells I have been slack – I have at least 3 events worth posting about this week that I didn’t get around to!  Adventures ahoy!

The first of these was a brave and daring mission – 147 miles away. Allin, Ant and I went to Exeter to watch a rugby match. Bit of a long way to go for a game, you say? Not just any game – Harlequins vs. Exeter Chiefs. Ant is a die-hard Harlequins fan, and a friend of Allin’s regularly watches the Chiefs play, so we all decided to meet up.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

The story starts with a long and serious train ride (they claim these are their best serious faces).

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We passed through several stations and discovered that if one should wish, one could travel to ‘Mousehole’ (HOW COOL IS THAT?!?! I WANT TO GO! Smile).

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A picnic lunch – not forgetting bakeday flapjacks! – was eaten…

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…in front of beautiful cathedral.

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Well, one half of it was beautiful.

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Someone modelled a very attractive 80’s style cool-bag.

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There was even a nice photo! Both Ant and I look reasonably normal, this is very rare.

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We went to one of my favourite places ever: Lakeland. I bought stuff I shouldn’t have (because there just isn’t space in our kitchen and my bank account hates me).

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For 80 minutes we watched men run around in short shorts.

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We watched them fall over. We watched them scrum, and try, and convert. We watched an awful lot of the official photographer’s back.

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I spent quite a long time gazing longingly at his incredible zoom lens. No, that’s not a euphemism 😉

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The Harlequins lost miserably to the home team. Sad times. We drowned our sorrows with a pint (of lemonade in my case) and took a long train ride home, via Paddington Bear.

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And then we all lived happily ever after.

Before this trip I’d never visited Exeter. Edit: OK, correction to this. According to my Mum we went on a family trip there when I was 12 months old. Silly me, how could I forget?!

I really fell in love with the place! It’s all historic buildings and green rolling hills – just 5 minutes from the city centre and you can see vast stretches of countryside! It wasn’t busy like London but it wasn’t quiet either – just calm and civilised. The city centre had all the shops I could dream of needing (errm, so long as Lakeland is there, I’m a very happy bunny!) yet it had character and charm. And raised road curbs. These are essential: how else are you supposed to fall and twist your ankle? I tested just to check. Suitably dangerous. (I’m fine now :p)

I’ve been pondering moving away from London to do my foundation training once I qualify (now in 3 years time), and I think I’ve found my dream destination!

Where do you live and do you like it? Where would you like to move to?

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TGIB – Apricot & Ginger Flapjacks

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It’s official, Friday *IS* the day of baking. See, even the banner says so! After all, you have all weekend and what better way to spend the time than eating freshly baked cakes, cookies and other goodies?!

Lately I’ve been on a flapjack crusade. It’s addictive, I can’t help it.

*They tried to make me go to rehab but I said noooo, nooo, noooo!*  😉

There’s something about the sticky chewy sweetness that is impossible to resist. (Or perhaps it’s just huge amounts of crack butter and sugar?)

I am cheating a little here, today’s offering was actually made and photographed last Friday, as I inspired by Lauren’s suggestion of making a baked product with GINGER (love love LOVE her blog name, Peanut Butter & Ginger). I made them for a picnic that we had on the Saturday, which is why there are no beautiful posy food porn-esque photos; as soon as it was cool it went into tupperware containers! I also wanted to see if I could reduce the amount of butter and sugar, and add a decent amount of fruit to make them a bit less sinful. The end result?

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Apricot & Ginger Flapjacks

As a guideline, this is the perfect quantity for a 9 x 7 inch (23 x 17.5 cm) pan.

  • 125g rolled oats
  • 80g dried apricots
  • 30g crystalised ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 60g butter
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 50g light brown unrefined sugar

1. Soak the dried apricots in water for a minimum of 2 hours, until they rehydrate and puff up nice and juicy. Set aside 4 or so, then puree the rest (I recommend a hand/immersion-blender).

2. Pre-heat the oven to 190 C/375 F/Gas 5. Line a shallow baking tin with baking paper or grease it well with butter or oil.

2. Melt the butter, golden syrup, honey and sugar together until all it’s all goopy liquid. Add the oats, pureed apricots, vanilla extract, ground ginger & cinnamon to the liquid mixture and stir to coat.

4. Tip the mixture into the baking tin and spread evenly with the back of a metal spoon.

5. Chop the remaining apricots into pieces – as a rough guide, each apricot should be in 6 – 8 pieces. Chop the ginger to a similar size. Stud the ginger and apricots firmly into the oat mixture, distributing evenly across the tin. Use the spoon to even it out again if need be.

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(before)

6. Pop into the oven until bubbling and lightly browned  – 15 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used baking paper, lift out of the tin to cool, otherwise let it cool in the tin. It’s got a softer and more crumbly texture than traditional homemade flapjack, so it’s important to wait for it to cool before cutting or it will just fall apart everywhere. When cool, slice up and serve!

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(after)

Apricot and ginger are such a LUSH combination! Try this and you won’t be disappointed.

And thank you all. I really appreciated all the comments on my post about bread – it’s interesting how many people can relate to ‘fear foods’ or situations… but at the same time, look at us all! Overcoming those fears and learning to love food for what it is, nourishment, and a happy experience to share with others. 🙂 Go bloggies!!

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The Big Bad Bread Post.

Who’s afraid of the big bad bread, the big bad bread, the big bad bread? *to the tune of ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf’, obviously!*

Errrm. Me.

Bread is my fear food. I’ve noticed many people mention how avocado was once a fear food, due to it’s high fat content. Interestingly that’s never bothered me, but I cannot eat bread and not feel guilty afterwards. In my mind, it’s a nutritionally devoid, highly addictive, over-processed foodstuff. Now, since there are as many types of bread as there are stars in the sky (well, almost… it seems like the bread aisle at the supermarket goes on forever and ever), then that’s clearly not true of all of them.

80% of commercially produced bread in the UK is produced using the Chorleywood Bread Process using low-quality, low-protein wheat. It is made using an excess of yeast to speed up the rising procress, and the fast rise results in a loss of flavour (so fat and salt are added to combat this) and the finished dough also requires stabilisers, emulsifiers and solid fat to keep the texture stable when baking (thanks for the info, The Ecologist). YUCK.

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(source.)

I didn’t actually know all these details until I researched it. But before that, my gut feeling told me bread = bad. Why?

Because:

  • I can eat a lot of it without feeling satisfied.
  • It’s often paired with other less healthy ingredients – butter, cheese, sandwich meats etc.
  • It’s bland yet once I’ve taken I bite, I want to eat more.
  • Even a quick look at the ingredients tells me it contains E-numbers and additives.
  • It lasts an unnaturally long time (thanks to stabilisers and chemical mould inhibitors).

Also, the circumstances in which I eat bread often gave rise to feelings of guilt. As a recovering bulimic, bread is the sort of carby foodstuff that one craves when using food to regulate emotions. While I didn’t often buy bread in loaf form, I ate a lot of bread-based products like pizza and fast food in buns. If it satisfies a need when eating and purging, it’s unlikely to be a healthy choice in a normal diet! Even when eating bread as part of a balanced diet, I find it is SO easy to over-eat, or cave in to bread-products that come loaded with additional fat and calories (20g fat in a Naan bread anyone?). I have also felt negatively about bread in other contexts – despite the additives, it often goes mouldy before I can eat it all, which makes me feel bad for being wasteful. Buying ready-made sandwiches in shops is a complete rip-off (money-wise and nutritionally) – check out Gill’s post over at Snax and The City, which sums up the negatives of ready-made sandwiches.

That said, good bread tastes nice. I can’t deny it, and I don’t want to deny it – bread is something I would like to enjoy as part of a healthy, nutritionally balanced, ‘everything most things in moderation’ lifestyle.

So what’s a girl to do? Obviously there are healthier choices out there, and I try to stick to them – wholegrain, wholemeal, seeded etc. But supermarket brands almost always contain additives, and I’ve found that staff in local chain bakeries (e.g. Greggs) don’t actually know what go into the products they sell. There is the odd artisan bakery… they’re good, they know it and they charge accordingly!

The answer? BAKE MY OWN.

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Combine simple straight-forward ingredients with warm water to activate the yeast, (save the oats & wheat flakes). Mix until combined into a dough.

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Check out the amazing one-handed kneading/photo-taking multitasking!

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Regard smooth ball of springy dough with satisfaction.

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Put dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel. Take one photo but make sure you miss the fact that it’s not in focus before moving on.

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Leave until risen to double size, then do the pokey-pokey to make sure it’s ready.

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Remove from bowl, punch and flatten to remove the air. Decide you’re making way too much and get half ready to freeze for another occasion.

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Follow this video to form into double knot-rolls. Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle the oats & wheat flakes. Cover with towel and allow to prove.

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Do a rather demented happy dance around the kitchen as everything is going to plan so far. Whack ‘em in the oven. Enjoy the smell of fresh bread wafting through the house!

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Do more joyful dancing, interspersed with nibbling warm-from-the-oven-made-from-scratch-guilt-free-very-tasty bread! Spend the rest of the day telling everyone you meet that you baked your own bread for the first time.

I would love to know –

What are your fear foods? Or are all foods there for the chompin’?

Have you ever made your own bread? What are your thoughts on commercial bread?

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I Gots A New Header!

Aloha!

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(source.)

Eccentric man pointing enthusiastically. It’s got to mean something…

 

Facelift time for sparkling snowflake! I love the digital scrapbook-y style that seems popular at the moment so decided to give it a shot myself. Whaddya think?

I intend to register a domain name for my blog in the coming months… but I’m quite torn. I have a great idea for a new blog name (and matching domain name), and I think it sums up the meaning of my blog much better; that is, it might be clearer to a new reader what I’m trying to achieve, whereas ‘sparkling snowflake’ sounds a bit… wishywashy, like I chose it because I’m a bit girly rather than the true meaning behind it.

However, I am quite attached to sparkling snowflake, and it’s what I’m known by. It would be a bit of a nightmare to get a matching domain too.

Decisions decisions….

What decisions did you have to make today?

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Do you know… the creole soda bread man? (Hint: he’s easily mistaken for the muffin man)

It’s happened again! Suddenly it’s Friday again and I don’t know where the week has gone! Most people I know wish for their weeks to fly by like this, but sometimes I feel like I’ll never quite catch up on life.

This week has held some very healthy things – yoga, green monsters,   abs & upper body work-outs, vegan muffinbread, peanut butter oats, laughing until my sides hurt, the second coming of the Halloween soup, a whole day of sunshine, organic apple flapjack yoghurt, Mummy-hugs, a couple of short runs, ploughing through a good book, avocados, cuddles with Bailey… to name a few!

Not all of those moments were lucky enough to be captured on camera, but the vegan muffinbread was in the right place at the right time… my local farmer’s market! It’s actually held on the university grounds and has loads of treats on offer. I plan to pop back with my camera next week and dedicate a proper post to showcase all the local/organic/vegan/artisan produce on sale. I’m very fortunate to have it on my doorstep.

Right, so, the vegan muffinbread is actually a misnomer. Technically, it’s creole soda bread. It gained the muffinbread nickname as I tried to describe it to Allin over the phone. It comes in loaf size yet has the taste and consistency  of muffins although I’m assured they have half the fat & sugar content. I’m pretty impressed by this, as they honestly taste twice as good as regular muffins/cake. Kudos to The Global Fusion Vegan Bakery!

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I bought a hunk of mixed berry loaf and a hunk of beetroot and carrot & pumpkin seed. I knew I’d love the mixed berry, but I picked the carrot and beetroot because it sounded unusual. But now I honestly can’t decide which is my favourite, they’re both mouthwateringly good. At £8 per loaf, you’d hope so! As you can see from the photo top left, a loaf is pretty big and they are kind enough to sell it in halves or quarters so I got the equivalent of half a loaf and change from a fiver. Can’t argue with that! 😀 If you’re ever in Stoke Newington or near a London farmer’s market, keep an eye out!

The carrot & beetroot loaf got me thinking… what crazy stuff can I bake into a muffin or loaf? I’ve promised a friend I’ll bake something and bring it for lunch when we meet on Monday – any suggestions? What’s the weirdest combination you can think of?

A lot of time this week has been spent hunched over my computer as I was doing a bit of work designing icons for a company’s software. My back doesn’t appreciate it much because my ‘at desk posture’ is appalling (I blame the cheap IKEA chair…. and OK, I’m a bit lazy when it comes to sitting up/hunching over). How is your computer/desk posture? How do you keep ache-free?

On that note, I’m keeping this short and sweet so I can power down my laptop and have a good stretch! I’m looking forward to spending the weekend doing… whatever I feel like! I don’t have any plans and I’m looking forward to relaxing since I worked hard to meet the tight deadline on the icons.

Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a fantastic weekend, gals (& guys)! I hope you enjoy every minute 🙂

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Counting sheep…

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source.

3.30am, and I can’t sleep.

I thought it might be a good idea to start writing about my weekend in Southend; how good it was to see my family. We caught up & chilled out. The biggest news is that my  brother just bought himself a new car. He’s so pleased with it, and rightly so… it just seems so strange that my “little” brother is now nearly 23 years old and ridiculously grown-up and responsible! How time flies!

Allin and I had planned a 16 mile walk along the seafront but we were foiled by the weather – grey grey grey and bitterly cold. Instead we went shopping, where A bought a new hoodie and a new duvet cover set. We also went to visit a family friend of ours, a delightful lady named Joan. She’s a bit like a spare grandma to me and ever-so sweet; I can’t believe she’s going to be 90 years old on her next birthday! Spending a bit of time with her really bought a smile to my face. 🙂 She’s a gem of a lady, so kind and always generous with her infectious positivity.

So that’s a little re-cap. The most significant food-related mention of the weekend was that all the meat I ate was free-range/higher welfare. I want to talk more about that in my next post, but it’s another goal for 2011; I’m getting all up in the ethical eating this year! Innit.

I hope you all get a blissful night’s sleep. Nighty night!

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TGIB!–Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies

Thank God It’s BAKEDAY!

Yes, I have appointed this Friday as Bakeday. Earlier on the week, I noticed Angela’s post about her love of creating spin-off recipes of her favourite desserts. Her featured dessert was Apple Pie, OSG-ified into Apple Pie Oatmeal. Almost instantly I had a craving to take it one step further and make Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies. So I already knew what Bakeday Friday held in store and I’ve been looking forward to it all week!

Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies

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Makes about 15 cookies.

For the cookie dough:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75g plain flour
  • 130g coarse-cut oats
  • 1 heaping tsp of golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla esssence

For the “apple pie” apples:

  • 1 large eating apple (or 1 small cooking apple), peeled & cored
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (or tsp sugar + drop of vanilla essence)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp water

Make the apple pie apples first:

  1. Chop the apple finely – chunks no larger than 0.5cm on any side.
  2. Pop apple chunks into a bowl, add the lemon juice and stir to coat to prevent discolouration.
  3. Add the vanilla sugar, cinnamon and all spice. Stir vigorously to coat (this also helps release the juice). Leave to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Transfer coated apples + any juice that has oozed into a non-stick saucepan. Add the butter & water and heat gently for 5 minutes until the juices are bubbling slightly.
  5. Allow to cool (no need to remove from the pan) until ready to use in the main recipe.

The the cookie monster dough:

  1. Per-heat oven at 200oC.
  2. Combine butter, brown sugar & caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Do not overbeat – combine but do not aim for “pale & fluffy”.
  3. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
  4. Add remaining ingredients expect syrup and mix.
  5. Then pour in the apples and the syrupy juice from the pan, plus the golden syrup. Stir with a spoon to distribute evenly.
  6. At this point: Taste With Caution! It tastes SO GOOD as batter that you might never get around to baking it.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1 hr or the cookies may spread excessively.
  8. Grease a cookie sheet well, or use baking parchment (they WILL stick otherwise). Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the sheet, ensuring a some distance between each – 8 per sheet is a guideline.
  9. Bake for 10-15 mins until golden brown. Quickly & carefully transfer to a cooling rack. They are delicate at this stage but hard to remove if you cool on the cookie sheet.

INHALE WHOLE BATCH IMMEDIATELY. Or y’know, exercise a huge amount of self-restraint and offer to friends/store in airtight container.

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That’s all for now, folks! If you decide to give these a try, let me know how they go!

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