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Have Your Cake and Eat It?

Usually I'm not a fan of the whole healthy baking trend. Low fat or low sugar, they just never taste right and to me they take away the enjoyment of tucking into that delicious and ever so naughty baked goodie. 

Last month I was sent a copy of Mich Turner's new book, Have Your Cake and Eat It and to be honest I was pretty sceptical on the whole concept of the book. Curiosity though got the better of me and I decided to try out a recipe to see if for once I could have a bit more success with healthy baking.  

The book makes for quite an interesting read as not only is it divided up into your typical chapters of Muffins/Biscuits/Cakes etc but it has a whole chapter devoted to ingredients explaining the myths behind good and bad fats, different types of sugar and even what goes in to the chocolate that we eat. Did you know the lower the cocoa content the greater the sugar and added fat will be a lessened nutritional benefit, i.e. dark chocolate is best and white chocolate (which I adore) is the worst type of chocolate you can eat.

When I was flicking through the book there were loads of delicious recipes but one downside I found was that many of them contained nuts. Now I absolutely hate nuts, the smell alone makes me want to heave and peanuts in particular are the spawn of the devil - ick!!

One recipe though that did catch my eye was this chocolate coconut shortbread (is a coconut an actual nut though?) so I decided to give it a go.

I'll be honest here, when I saw the recipe had wholemeal flour in it I wasn't holding out hope for it to be a success and when I first took it out of the oven I was convinced it was for the bin but in actual fact it tasted great. You couldn't tell it had wholemeal flour in it at all and I found myself going back for a second slice. I got Tom and my bestie to try them and they both really liked them. Tom enjoyed them so much he took the rest of them in to work the following day for a departmental meeting.

Chocolate Coconut Shortbread
300g unsalted butter
40g cocoa
300g wholemeal flour
210g soft light brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
150g desiccated coconut
175lm double cream
150g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan)

Grease and line a 30 x 20cm cake tin

Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, flour, baking powder and coconut. The mixture gets quite stiff at this point but keep stirring and it will eventually come together.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it is coming away from the tin.

To make the ganache heat the cream until warm not hot and stir in the chocolate until melted. 

Once the shortbread is baked set it on a wire rack to cool then pour over the ganache and pop in the fridge to cool.

Once the ganache has set, cut up and enjoy!

A Wee Bit of Vlogging...

Yes, you read that right, I've bitten the bullet and decided to try out vlogging. I mentioned it briefly in this blog post but I didn't elaborate on it as it's still quite a new thing.

I've been watching vloggers for a couple of years now and I've always wanted to try it out but I'm too much of a wimp. I feel like with my blog I can hide behind the keyboard a lot more but with vlogging it is pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to talk to a camera.

At the moment I don't know what way I will push my channel, maybe I'll make it more family orientated and keep the blog for recipes or maybe I'll do a mix like I do on here. I've vlogged a few of our weekends but I haven't done anything baking related on it yet as I'm not sure how to approach it. Do I do those Tip Hero style ones where all you see is my hands and a mixing bowl or do I plonk the tripod in our not so attractive kitchen and show you how I bake my favourite recipes? At the moment I'm swaying towards the latter as I feel that the less polished and more real videos are more appealing to the typical YouTube subscriber. Who knows though, maybe I'll get all techy and produce some amazing recipe videos, only time will tell...

I've barely mentioned my YouTube plans to friends and family and to be honest I probably would have held back on writing this post for a little longer but when my NCT friend mentioned it to everyone on our group chat (I'm looking at you Sarah!) as she reads this blog I figured I may as well let you all in on it properly too. I guess I didn't want everyone knowing before I knew my plans and then it backfire and have to deal with the awkward "How's your YouTube channel" questions.

Please let me know what you would like to see from my videos - I'm thinking day in the life, grocery hauls, chatty topical videos and of course, some recipes.

This venture could be a disaster or a success but I'll never know until I try.

Here are a few of my videos so far, do let me know what you think. I've got cake club on Sunday so hopefully I'll be able to vlog at that and show you all how amazing the Clandestine Cake Club is.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

I don't know about you lot but I love a good cheesecake. Baked or fridge set, I'm not fussy. With a melt in the mouth filling coupled with a crunchy biscuit base, it's usually my dessert of choice when we dine out.

A few weeks back I was watching Mary Berry's new TV show and she made a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Yes, I know raspberries aren't in season yet so they don't taste as good at the moment but I really wanted to make it for pudding for Sunday lunch that weekend.

I'm trying to get in to the habit of making a nice dessert once a fortnight to have on a weekend, something that encourages me to get out the baking books and try something new. Brownies are always my go to bake and as much as everyone loves them I'm getting a bit fed up of them. I want to push my baking skills, perfect that pastry case and maybe even successfully make some creme patisserie that actually sets!

So anyway... recipe! This cheesecake was so easy to make, like all of Mary Berry's recipes it was a success and we all loved it. I let Ethan have a small sliver and he went mad for it. I do try and restrict his sugar intake but I would rather he eats something sweet that I have made and I know exactly what has gone in to it compared to processed rubbish full of hidden added sugars.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake
150g digestive biscuits
75g butter, plus extra for greasing
250g mascarpone cheese
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g white chocolate, broken into chunks
400g raspberries

Grease the base of a 20cm cake tin with butter and line with baking parchment.

Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until it resembles fine crumbs but still has texture.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the biscuits and stir.

Spoon into the base of the tin and press using the back of a spoon until level, then cover and chill in the fridge.

Whisk the mascarpone and double cream in a bowl until smooth and has very soft peaks. Stir in the vanilla.

Put the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl, and place on top of a pan of simmering water until melted.

Once cool, pour into the mascarpone and stir until combined.

To make the coulis, put half the raspberries in a small blender. Blitz until runny, then pour through a sieve into a bowl to remove the seeds.

Spoon half of the white chocolate mixture over the base. Use the handle of a teaspoon to make a few narrow holes in the mixture right down to the base.

Pour or pipe the coulis into the holes, reserve some for decorating. Spoon the remaining white chocolate mixture on top, then smooth and level it.

Cover with cling film and chill for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

Remove from the tin.

Arrange the remaining raspberries on top of the cheesecake and drizzle over the remaining coulis.


***Recipe taken from the BBC website***

Kiddylicious Snacks - Review

Is anyone else's child obsessed with snacks? Ethan loves all sorts of crispy snacks; from the little corn puffs to bread stick and of course the elusive rice cake. All I can say is don't come between him and a rice cake, he guards them as fiercely as I guard my chocolate.

When the lovely folks at Tesco Baby Club got in touch wanting to know if we wanted to review some Kiddylicious snacks I jumped at it. I had seen them in some of my friend's changing bags but as yet we hadn't tried them. I only even buy Asda or Aldi's own brand of baby snacks so I was intrigued to see if a leading brand were on par or better than the supermarket's own range.

We were sent a mixture of fruity puffs, pea snaps and wafers and Ethan would have inhaled them all given half the chance. I put a selection in a bowl for him at snack time and that boy did not come up for air. The wafers were a definite winner but nothing was refused.

It can be difficult to give healthy snacks when you are out and about especially if you're like me and forget to pack the fruit (every time!) but the Kiddylicious range are perfectly sized to keep in your changing bag and whip out when needed. They have no added sugar and have no artificial nasties so are ideal for those sensitive little tummies. They are also ideal if you want to encourage self feeding and dissolve in the mouth easily therefore reducing the risk of choking (that was my biggest fear when I started weaning Ethan).

Thanks to Kiddylicious and Tesco Baby Club for allowing us to review these fab little snacks, I'll definitely buy more of the wafers in the future.

*Products sent for review but all thoughts are my own*

Our Easter Weekend

We’ve had a lovely quiet Easter weekend and it’s been just what I’ve needed especially after joining the team no sleep club this past week. Poor Ethan has cut another tooth and it’s give him a few days of misery. Saturday night was hell but thankfully last night was a lot better so I’m hoping we have come out the other side.

Anyway, I digress – Easter! After a busy few days the weekend before when we flew back to Ireland to see my family (you can see the Vlog here) we decided no plans were needed and to just take things slow. Tom is also snowed under marking coursework – he’s already warned me that the next few weeks will be hell so we will just have to ride it out.

Friday afternoon saw a trip to Ikea to buy some storage bits for the new shed and some tubs for Ethan’s blocks and duplo. I was getting fed up of toys being everywhere and spilling out of the toy tub in the lounge so I cleared out the sideboard, organised everything into it’s relevant box. Yes, I need to get a life but neat and tidy cupboards make me happy.

Going places on a morning can often be a no no for us unless we can time it right as Ethan tends to nap for 1-2 hours around 10am. We did consider taking advantage of some free Newby Hall passes that I got from work but Tom figured it was better to crack on with more marking while Ethan napped then to stay fairly local in the afternoon. We ended up visiting a few garden centres in search of some new hanging baskets but when we saw the price (£30+!) we found ourselves at Homebase paying a much more reasonable £5.

Seeing as Fodder was round the corner we stopped for an obligatory cake and coffee and oh my, I had the Toffee Apple Crumble Cake and it truly was the biggest slice of cake I have ever had! Tom had a Treacle and Ginger Tart. I’m not great at pastry but I definitely want to recreate that recipe.

Once Ethan went to bed that evening I took advantage of Tom needing to mark and watched Britain’s Got Talent – did you see those twins? They were fantastic, they so should have got a golden buzzer. Of course sod’s law that was when Tom came in to the room and totally ruined the tshirt trick for me by saying “that’s easy, the tee was just made from a smart material.” The joys of being married to a D&T teacher eh?

Saturday night was a rough one with Ethan. He woke at 9 with a dirty nappy and it took an age for Tom to settle him back to sleep. He then woke 1-2 screaming and eventually wore himself out and crashed in my arms. 5am saw another wakeup and he went back over asleep on me at 530, he woke again at 615 but snoozed in our bed until 7 when he woke up for the day. I was exhausted but as I knew how important it is that Tom is on point with marking coursework I got up again with Ethan No lie in for this mama this Easter.

The weather was miserable so we enjoyed a quiet lazy day. I made us a delicious leg of lamb for lunch and used this recipe for a Cookie Dough Pudding for dessert – yum!

My friend Amy popped over later that afternoon to borrow some cake decorating equipment for their wedding cake and for a good old natter. I also had a quick Skype to the family and a nice evening with my mister. You know one of those evenings where you sit together and properly talk? We spoke about when we could start trying for baby no2, our hopes for the next year, Tom’s career plans – all sorts.

Before we knew it, it was 11pm and as we headed up to bed Ethan woke. We knew it was still that tooth bothering him so we gave him some nurofen, snuggled in our bed watching In The Night Garden on iPlayer and he went back down about midnight. Thnakfully that was him until 7am this morning.

Today has been another quiet one but I’ve just loved being at home and pottering about. We’ve practiced walking and snuggled in front of the TV. For some it may sound like the dullest of weekends but for us it’s been just what we needed.

You can check out our weekend vlog here.

Easter Tart

I've another fab little Easter recipe to share with you all just in time for Sunday. I'll keep this post short and sweet as I want to get it published and get on with some house jobs before Ethan wakens from his nap.

This Easter Tart is a twist on this Key Lime Pie that I made from my Nigella Kitchen book. It's the perfect dessert for Easter Sunday, not too heavy and only a little bit of chocolate. It's also ridiculously quick and easy to make and as it will set in the fridge there is no baking required. No need to juggled baking a dessert while trying to roast a leg of lamb at the same time - win!

Easter Tart
1 x 23cm fluted tart tin
300g chocolate digestives
50g soft unsalted butter
1 x tin condensed milk
300ml double cream
1 x bag of mini Creme Eggs

To decorate
A selection of Creme Eggs and Mini/Micro Eggs
1 square of dark chocolate grated

  • Pop the biscuits and butter in a food processor and whizz until it's a sandy consistency
  • Press into the tart tin taking care to push up the sides and make sure there are no holes in the base
  • Pop in the fridge to firm up
  • Whisk the condensed milk and the double cream until smooth and thick
  • Pour into the tart tin and push the mini Creme Eggs into the filling
  • Scatter the Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs over the top of the tart
  • Pop into the fridge for 4 hours to set
  • Before serving grate over the chocolate

Easter Brownies (and a new look!)

So things look a little bit different around here – what do you think?

I’ve installed a new blog template and it’s not quite perfect as there are a few kinks to iron out but I have a couple of Easter recipes I wanted to share with you before Sunday. If you notice anything odd it’s only temporary and hopefully I’ll be able to use the long Bank Holiday weekend to sort out any niggling little gremlins.

Anyway – Easter! The one time of the year where it is perfectly acceptable to over indulge in copious amounts of the brown stuff. Chocolate eggs of every shape and size litter the supermarket shelves and somehow they find themselves falling into your trolley during the weekly shop.

Now you all know how much I love to make brownies so it seemed only right when another packet of Mini Eggs ended up in the kitchen cupboard soon found themselves in a tray of chocolatey goodness. I opted for a combination of Mini Eggs and Crème Eggs but to be honest you could scatter any chocolate treats on top and it will be just as delicious. As I type I’m wondering would the malteser bunnies work – might have to try that when they are reduced in the shops next week!

Easter Brownies
250g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
200g unsalted butter
250g soft dark brown sugar
3 eggs
50g plain flour
6 Crème Eggs, halved
1 bag of Mini Eggs

Preheat the oven to 170C (fan)

Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until doubled in volume

Once the butter and chocolate have melted, whisk in the egg/sugar mixture

Whisk in the flour

Pour into the tin and bake for 25 minutes

Remove from the oven and quickly scatter the Crème Eggs and Mini Eggs over the top of the brownies

Bake for another 5 minutes

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin

Once cool cut into squares and enjoy!

The Me and Mine Project - March 2017

I swear, since the slowness of January was left behind, these past few months have whizzed by in a blink! How is it April already? At the rate time is going it will be summer before we know it!
March has been an interesting month for us. It was the month that our darling Ethan turned one and 

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have shed tears on more than one occasion as we approached that milestone. It still feels surreal now to think that I have a one year old who is not quite a baby any more but not yet a toddler either. He’s so close to walking but just needs the confidence to let go. He will happily walk holding your hand or using his walker but encourage him to let go and he’s reaching out for something to hold. We’ve had quite a few instances of him standing alone but usually it’s when he’s distracted and as soon as he notices he swiftly drops to his bottom.

While I was in no rush for him to crawl, I’m busting for him to start walking. Suddenly the world will become a much more exciting place. He can play out in the garden and we can chuck the sling in my bag instead of always bringing the pram out. I was never ready for him to reach any of his other milestones but he’s been crawling since October so it now feels like this next stage is within touching distance.

With March marking Ethan’s first birthday it seemed only right that this month I share a few family photos from his party. We had such a lovely day and he was truly spoiled by everyone – I know I have said it before but how is my baby boy one?

Roll on April, I'm looking forward to a trip home to Ireland to see the family and hopefully some sunny days out in the garden. Who knows... maybe next month I'll have photos of the little man walking to share with you.

Meal Planning Monday

Monday again!

It’s not just me that thinks these weeks are flying by – honestly it’s can’t be almost April, it feels like March has barely begun.

Last week was a bit of a washout for us with a rotten tummy bug. I got a phone call from nursery at lunchtime on Monday saying Ethan had had a few loose nappies and as per their procedures he had to be picked up as soon as possible and wasn’t allowed back for 48 hours. Thankfully Tom was only teaching one lesson that afternoon so he could arrange cover and go collect him while I spoke to my manager and made plans to work from home on Tuesday.

The poor thing had bad diarrohea but one positive was that he wasn’t bothered in the slightest, he was still his happy little self. My sister-in-law looked after him for us on Wednesday but that evening I started to feel off it. By Thursday morning it was apparent I had caught the virus and poor Ethan still had diarrohea so we had a day at home. He must have sensed I was poorly as he was so good and napped really well.

I didn’t start to feel better until Saturday lunchtime and finally I could eat something without feeling like I was going to heave. I was really worried I would be ill for my first Mother’s Day but by yesterday I felt totally back to normal. I had even lost 4lb – win! (every cloud and all that jazz haha)

I’m hoping this week is quiet and uneventful so I’ve planned lots of meals full of veg to get some nutrition into me after 4 days of barely eating.

This week we are having:

Monday – Spicy pork with rice and veg
Tuesday – Chicken Chow Mein
Wednesday – Chilli Con Carne
Thursday – Bacon and Mushroom Pasta
Friday – Burgers, Chips and Corn on the Cob
Saturday – Out for a curry for our niece’s birthday
Sunday – Roast, I’m thinking beef as we haven’t had that in ages!

Have a great week whatever you are up to.

Meal Planning Monday

Note to self... when you think things are going well don't say to anyone else as you end up jinxing yourself.

We had a few weeks there where it felt like Ethan was ill every week and we were both taking time off work to look after him. Juggling childcare and working is hard going especially when we don't have much family nearby. I said to a colleague this morning that I was really pleased that I had completed a full week at work last week but I spoke too soon. I was just getting my lunch out of the microwave when nursery's number flashed up on my phone.

Straight away I had that feeling of dread and when they said he had had a few loose nappies it came as no surprise. He had had a few over the weekend and one this morning so I knew I was taking a chance sending him in. The only downside now is he's not allowed back in for 48 hours so Tom picked him up as he was only teaching one lesson this afternoon, I'm working from home tomorrow and my sister-in-law is looking after him on Wednesday. It is a juggling act and I wish we could afford it that I didn't have to work but unfortunately life doesn't always work out that way.

Thankfully he's happy in himself so hopefully we get a nice day together tomorrow and he lets me get on with some work. I've an advert to produce before the end of the day so fingers crossed for a good nap time.

Anyway, enough talk about my childcare woes and now on to this week's meal plan. I feel like it's been a while since I last did one and I need to stick with them. I find writing it on here makes me stick to plan a bit more and resist the lure of the chip shop!

This week we will be having:

Monday - Campfire Stew 
Tuesday - Tuna Pasta Bake
Wednesday - Chilli Con Carne
Thursday - Creamy Chicken One Pot
Friday - Slow Cooker Minted Lamb and Mash
Saturday - I have no idea
Sunday - Mother's Day meal at Blackhouse

Hope you all have a great week and please do let me know what you will be having.

A wee bit of the weekend #1

I've been thinking of sharing a glimpse of our weekend for a while now but sometimes life gets so hectic lifting the camera is the last thing on my mind.

This past weekend we had very little plans so I decided to get snapping. I may make this a regular thing or I might do it once in a blue moon but whatever way it goes it's nice to remember our weekends. We both work long hours (Tom in particular) so the weekend becomes our time, a chance to reconnect as a couple and as a family. A time to stay in our pyjamas until lunchtime (as let's face it, lie ins are a thing of the past!), do the mundane things like go to Aldi and step away from the 9-5 for a couple of days.

This past weekend was fairly chilled out and normal but a few exciting things did happen. Ethan treated us to a 6:30-6:30 sleep which was much needed after a long week. Tom was up and out the door by 8am while I pottered about with my little man. We had breakfast and he played in his favourite spot - under the kitchen table while I put load after load in the washer and dryer.

Tom came back a few hours later and handed me a gift bag and said to me "I didn't want to wait until Mother's Day to give you this, you deserve to have it now." I opened it to find a new camera perfect for vlogging. I have been talking about starting to vlog for a while now but our DSLR is too big and clunky so Tom surprised me with the lovely gift. I cannot wait to start using it.

Shortly afterwards M&S turned up with our new sofa delivery. This was such a milestone for us as our old sofa was second hand when we bought it and was totally worn out. We could never afford to replace it so to finally have a new suite felt like such an achievement.

Bye bye old sofa!

Hello new sofa!

 Our evening was a lazy one, we watched the rubgy (battle lines were drawn in our house!), I baked some brownies for my brother-in-law's birthday and made a cheesecake for Sunday pudding. We also had the joy of Ethan being a monkey resisting sleep but as always, I remind myself that this too shall pass. As I type this he has been asleep since 7pm, fingers crossed for a good night!

Is anyone else's baby obsessed with pulling your glass off your face?

Sunday saw a very early start with a crabby little boy. He perked up after breakfast but by 9am was so cross and fighting his nap. I decided to try and rock him in his car seat so I could finish getting ready then take him for a drive to the farm shop while Tom got on with some marking but Ethan had other ideas. I was sat on the floor exhausted and broken when Tom snapped this photo of me. I'm browsing on my phone while rocking and willing Ethan to go to sleep. In the end I couldn't take his screaming any more so Tom took him off my hands for an hour while I prepped the casserole for dinner. Thankfully he went down for his nap at 10am and we got almost 2 hours of peace.

We nipped across to the in-law's to see Tom's brother for his birthday and once we got home I popped the spuds on to boil while Ethan napped and Tom tackled the pile of circuit boards that he had to mark (I did not envy that job).

After dinner, there was the usual Skype call to my parents, bath time, bed time for Ethan, tackle the ironing and now I'm enjoying stretching out on the sofa while tucking into another slice of cheesecake (oops!).

It's been a lovely weekend, nothing exciting really but perfect for us none the less. I could have done with some more sleep though!