Bake Off Part 2…

Well, it’s safe to say that in the middle of moving, unpacking and everything else that goes along with moving as well as looking after my two little ones, I didn’t get chance to practice making a dairy-free cheesecake so instead I ended up making it the day before and hoping for the best!

My intentions of making mini meringues for the first time also went out the window and I cheated (just a little bit) and bought some mini meringues instead!

I found a recipe that pretty much replicated a normal cheesecake except I substituted cream cheese, double cream, and butter for dairy free versions. This recipe recommended Violife cream cheese, Elmlea plant based double cream and Flora plant-based butter. It wasn’t as easy as I thought to track down the ingredients which sent me into a slight panic as without these ingredients, I wouldn’t have been able to make the cheesecake, but I eventually managed to find them.

The ‘butter’ and ‘double cream’ are really good and you can’t tell they don’t have dairy in. The butter melted really well, and the cream whipped as you would expect.

I have tried a couple of vegan cream cheeses since going dairy free, but they have been awful which put me off trying any others, but the Violife one tasted as close to cream cheese as you can probably get. The only thing that threw me and Andrew who was making the other cheesecake was that it is very thick which makes it hard to mix and I struggled to get lumps out.

If I made one again, I would consider using a mixer but as my girls were helping to make it, we just used spoons. However, once it had set you couldn’t taste any lumps and it turned out really well.

I used ginger nuts for the base, and these happened to be dairy free and then I added lemon zest and juice into the cream cheese and cream.

Both Ali and Andrew said that they couldn’t tell it was dairy-free and really liked it and my eldest daughter gave it 10/10!!

I had intended on putting lemon curd heart swirls on top as google made it look incredibly easy….no it isn’t easy! So instead, I let my girls’ put blobs of lemon curd on top and make their own pattern!!

Andrew opted to make a banoffee cheesecake using more creative ingredients including coconut water, milk, and butter! I thought that was very brave of him. He used normal chocolate bourbon biscuits for the base as again these don’t have dairy in either (it is lethal finding out I can eat all these biscuits!!). His cheesecake was delicious, and the flavours went really well together but we all agreed that the topping was more mousse like and so didn’t necessarily taste like a cheesecake, but it was still yummy! His cheesecake had also travelled all the way up from London and survived!

So, for the past couple of days, I have pretty much lived off cheesecake as we split the two cheesecakes between us! I even had cheesecake for breakfast the other day…this is why I don’t bake!!

However, I did enjoy baking and having a reason to bake and would definitely like to do another challenge but maybe I need to be able to give more of it away next time otherwise I will end up piling the weight back on!

I’m already wondering what to do next time…Ali likes scones and I have mastered a dairy-free lemon scone. Most of the dairy-free scones I have tried are really dry so that would be the challenge!

My dairy-free lemon cheesecake!
Andrews dairy-free banoffee cheesecake!

Bake Off!

Since The Great British Bake Off first aired 11 years ago, it has become a household staple that many people look forward to watching every year and then avidly watch throughout the competition. I have always been a fan and have watched every series. I have always enjoyed baking and like many others, I end up feeling inspired by the bakes and often tell myself I will have a go at some of the bakes (but it rarely happens!!).

I have to admit that I preferred the series when Mary Berry was a judge and when Mel and Sue hosted it. I don’t think I have had the same affection for the Bake Off since in all honesty. It may also be because the challenges have become increasingly difficult and so it is no longer targeting good home bakers. I have always had a soft spot for Mary Berry, and I would love to meet her!

Maybe it is because I grew up without a Grandma and longed for one and when I picture a ‘stereotypical’ Grandma I picture Mary. Spending hours in the kitchen with her baking and sat round a table together enjoying our bakes over a pot of tea!

I haven’t done an awful lot of baking in the past couple of years, mainly because if I bake a cake it is tempting to eat it and I don’t like waste. I remember someone suggesting that I should bake because I enjoy it and not worry if it doesn’t get eaten but that doesn’t sit right with me! I’d happily bake and give it a way, but I don’t have that many people to bake for. I did end up baking buns for my counselling peers to celebrate the end of our first year and I enjoyed that.

I have also mastered dairy-free lemon scones which I have to admit are delicious! Not like the dairy-free scones I have tried in cafes which for some reason tend to be dry or hard.

So, when the Bake Off was mentioned in conversation with some new friends I suggested (half-jokingly) that when we meet up, we should set each other a Bake-Off challenge. And guess what?! We are actually going to do a Bake-Off challenge!!

I’m excited about this as baking for a purpose gives me a perfect excuse to have fun in the kitchen!

I was given the task of setting the same challenge for both of us, but I was told not to make it too hard! After much deliberation I have decided to go for something fairy straight forward but with a twist.

I have set us both the challenge of baking a no bake cheesecake but dairy-free. I used to love cheesecakes when I ate dairy and realised that I haven’t had one since. There are plenty of dairy-free alternatives out there now but I have yet to find a dairy-free cream cheese that is edible so this could be challenging! If we manage to find the right alternative ingredients there is no reason why it shouldn’t be delicious.

I have no idea what my friend has in mind and for all I know they could be planning on sculpting the Eiffel Tower out of cheesecakes!!! So, I have been scouring the internet for ideas of how to make my cheesecake into something spectacular and feel I am setting myself high expectations!! I am contemplating attempting to make mini meringues to go on top (I have never attempted to make meringues in my life!) and making lemon truffle curls to decorate the cheesecake as well. I’d like to also finish the cheesecake with lemon curd heart swirls (again I have never done this before!) Whether or not I attempt all of these things I am not sure, but this is what I am aiming for!

I think one of the first things that I will be unpacking when I move next week will be my baking things so I can get practising. Although I need to source some good dairy-free ingredients first, particularly the cream cheese. The ones I have tried so far have ended up in the bin as they were inedible, as hard as I tried to eat it or try and hide the taste I couldn’t.

Any recommendations for a good dairy-free cream cheese would be appreciated!

I’ll let you know how it turns out and if it’s a success I’ll post a photo! (If it doesn’t get eaten first!)

Lockdown part 3…. Week 18

1 week to go until the majority of lockdown restrictions are eased! This week marked the announcement of foreign travel rules with the new traffic light system which will also begin on the 17th May alongside the return to life as normal as it is likely to be for a while.

There has been a lot of confusion and frustration over foreign travel, and I don’t feel it’s much clearer after the recent government announcement. I know some people are desperate to travel and may not care about the potential risk of bringing new variants of Covid into the country but then there are others (like myself) who would rather the government do everything within its power to keep new variants out.

As it stands the government have decided which countries are on each of the green, amber, and red lists and have said that these lists will be reviewed every few weeks. This seems to make sense as we know how quickly things can change when it comes to the spread of Covid, however I also appreciate that this doesn’t help people when it comes to planning a holiday and may have left people in limbo. Some people may have booked holidays or decide to book a holiday in a country on an amber or red list with the hope that it will be moved to the green list in time but with a lot of companies not being able to provide refunds unless holidays are cancelled as well as people having to book time off work, pay for tests etc it seems more hassle than it’s worth right now.

We have been told this week that anyone coming from a green list country needs a negative pre-departure Covid test and they will also have to take a PCR test on day two after their arrival. (I am not quite sure what would happen if this were positive once they’ve arrived on holiday!) Isolation is not required for people returning from green list countries.

If people decide to travel to an amber list country, they also need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two AND day eight. They then have to isolate at home for 10 days on their return, however, they can use the test-to-release system on day five and if they have a negative test result, they can end their quarantine immediately.

Finally, people visiting red list countries need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two and day eight and stay in a hotel for managed quarantine for 10 days which cannot be cut short.

The government have said that no one should travel to amber and red countries for leisure, but I can’t see the majority of people following this advice. However, unless the government allow people to purchase PCR tests anywhere instead of through limited and expensive companies then this will put some people off as it will significantly add to the cost of a holiday.

The first countries to be added to the green list are: – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel, Jerusalem, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira.

However, I had to laugh because I have no idea why the government has produced this list as only Portugal and Gibraltar will allow British tourists to travel there without quarantine or vaccination requirement and Iceland and Israel will only allow entry if people have had their vaccinations. So really the green list consists of four countries!

…..

I decided to set myself a challenge this week which took me way out of my comfort zone. I am aware that I don’t like to speak in front of others and so I am the quiet one on my counselling course when it comes to whole class work. There are people who are happy to take centre stage, so this has made it easier for me to take a step back, but I realised that I didn’t want people on my course to think that I didn’t want to contribute or judge me for not speaking up often. I also thought how much more difficult I would find standing up in front of them and talking about myself for 10 minutes if I didn’t take the opportunity to voluntarily speak up beforehand.

So, I thought about what I wanted to say and built up the strength and courage to do this. I am proud that I did speak up and that I was brave enough to share with the group how I didn’t value my voice so why would others and that this had stemmed from my abusive ex where I had no voice or say in my life. I couldn’t look at anyone as I spoke and felt myself getting teary (which isn’t what I wanted).

When I finished speaking, I was taken aback by the response I received from the group – I wasn’t the only one with shiny eyes. One person told me it was the most touching thing they had experienced; I was told how brave I had been, how people like hearing my voice and when I do speak up how valuable my contributions are and how touched people were. My tutor asked me to say what I needed afterwards, and I said that I needed a hug but certainly didn’t expect one given the restrictions but ended up getting a group hug! I was surprised how much it took out of me, but I am pleased I did.

I have always been a private person but know that sometimes it’s important to share and to take yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ve been left realising that I need to have more belief in myself as well as what others say about me without almost shrugging it off (not in a nasty way as I was very touched by the comments, but I struggle to take compliments).

…..

Finally, this week me and my girls re-designed our front window with a summer theme. We may be the only house that is still decorating our window, but I have received such positive comments about how much people love to see our window and how much children enjoy walking past our house so of course it had to be done!

131 Confidence Quotes To Help You Believe In Yourself

Habits

We all have habits…some good and some not so good but what I have found is that it can be hard to break habits especially if we have got stuck in our ways.

Just like setting ourselves goals or aged old New Year’s Resolutions, it is important that they are achievable otherwise we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Our society tends to be one of impatience and wanting things to happen instantly but in reality, this is not how things work, particularly with creating new habits or breaking old ones.

If you are trying to create a new habit or break an old one you need to give yourself at least a month (think of it as a hurdle to jump over) before it will feel more natural and therefore easier to sustain.

It can be beneficial to start small e.g., if you want to drink less rather than saying ‘I’m never going to have a drink again’, cut down instead and take it from there.

Placing reminders around the house, car or on your phone or computer can be useful to keep you motivated and remind you of the habit you are trying to create or break. Motivational pictures or quotes are always good to have around as well. I have got motivational quote fridge magnets so every time I open the fridge, I read one. I also have an app called ‘I am’ which provides positive affirmations that will ping up on your phone throughout the day and they have different categories for you to choose from such as self-care, positive thinking, addiction etc.

If you are finding things a little challenging, it is a good idea to have a friend to help keep you motivated or to offer support be it to provide reminders or accompany you to the gym.

Something that can trip us all up is temptation, so where possible, remove temptation, be it junk food, cigarettes, alcohol, technology etc.

Having a trigger to perform each time you feel tempted to steer aware from creating your new habit will help you along the way. If you find yourself reaching for the biscuits, wine, cigarettes etc wear a hairband on your wrist to pull each time you are tempted, do 10 sit ups, drink a glass of water, run up and down the stairs, play your favourite song loudly, do some mindfulness…. basically, something that you can easily do that will distract yourself instantly.

It can be useful to challenge yourself and try to understand where the bad habit stems from. This could be done with a counsellor, friend or even with yourself. Ask yourself when it started, did something happen that triggered the bad habit, is there a pattern for when you reach for that drink or bar or chocolate, how do you feel before, during, after. Knowing the root cause of a bad habit can help to unpick it, helping you to stop and think of ways you can change your thought processes and actions and replace the bad habit with a good habit.

Another useful tool, particularly to help with giving something up, is to make sure that you are replacing it with something, so that the void will not feel as big. See if you can think of another way to relax or a new hobby or habit that you could create. Not only will this help fill the void, but it will also help give you focus and offer distraction…after all, giving something up can be very challenging.

It is also worth noting that if you are not successful in changing habits the first time, do not give up, instead try, try and try again (when you feel ready). It could take 1, 2, 3, 4 or more attempts but with the right support, perseverance, and mindset you will succeed.