Thursday 29 September 2011

Making Rocky Roads

The kids love to cook when they come here, but must admit with a bit of a sore throat I really could not be bothered with huge amounts of mess and clearing up, so decided to keep both parties happy but to make little mess.

Bob made his first whilst Fifi was upstairs amusing herself with building a meccano crane, which went slightly wrong and she needed a help to sort but I could see where and why she got muddled up as the diagram was a wee bit misleading, but she came up with a finished crane after about 40 mins ( think she got distracted as she thought she was missing out on something her brother was getting!!)

We made 2 versions of theses Bob safe and not Bob safe. These would be ideal popped in a lunch box or for a party.

marshmallows in

Bob safe - we broke up some meringues, and some biscuits, cut up some marshmallows,  melted some mint flavoured carob  added some raisins, sultanas and coconut and spoonfuls of it on a tray to cool, and very yummy it was to.

stirring together

For Fifi we just used cooking chocolate with the above ingredients, and she needed no help what so ever with this ( apart from me taking the bowl out the microwave).

the finished results

And the best bit - licking the spoons afterwards, Bobs verdict - scrummy
yummy in my tummy.

 Linky this up with over at  If you cook with your kids            ( doesnt have to be a toddler, then join in)

The Crazy Kitchen

Monday 26 September 2011

Lasagne (wheat, gluten, egg and dairy free)

the pasta
I have started looking for nice autumnal meals to start cooking as it is getting to be that time of the year. So having picked some brown rice lasagne pasta as part of my Healthy Supplies bundle then I decided lasagne seemed a good idea. I have always loved lasagne but find shop bought stuff unpleasant and unsuitable for our needs.

cook up mince and veg
So I bought 500g mince, fried it off  with 3 red onions, added some sliced carrots and parsnips and cooked it all up, adding flavourings to suit.

white sauce

To make the white sauce I melted 2 oz vitalite in a pan, and added approx 3oz dove farm self raising flour, then mixed in a home made rice milk to get a pourable white sauce.

layer up in a tin

Layer up mince, pasta and sauce, making sure you add plenty of fluid as you go to give the pasta plenty to soak up. Cook for 40 mins at 170 oC.

The "Bob safe" finished product
serve with a green veg and potatoes if desired.

I always feel lasagne is one of those foods that tastes better on day 2, so I always make the day before I want to eat it, and slice into portions and reheat in the microwave.

To be honest I can not taste the difference between this and normal lasagne.

I felt this pasta seemed expensive when I bought it,  but I got 2 lasagnes ( 1 Bob safe, 1 not) out of 200g of this, leaving me enough for another 1 3/4 lasagnes, so you are getting nearly 4 lasagne out of the 1 box, if you compare this to normal lasagne pasta it really is does not work out any more expensive.

This is a review post thanks to Healthy Supplies, but the findings as usual are my own.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Yeehh have cracked home made soya yoghurt.

As a lot of my regular followers will know I cook without dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs and nuts, and one of my biggest experiments over the last 2 months has been soya yoghurt.

First of all I perfected the timings in my slow cooker as I dont own a yoghurt maker, 15 mins on 1 hr off seems to be the optimal timing so its neither too warm and kills it or too cold and the culture does not grow.

Next I tried differing milks, different soya ones, rice and oat - neither of which work, as you can see here

Home made soya milk has a tendency to separate when I try to make it into yoghurt, I did find using half shop bought half home made works well. But then it defeats the purpose of having a milk maker.

Shop bought milk had thickeners, stabilisers and sugars added. So through trial and error and error I have worked out if I add 1 tablespoon of agar flakes to 2 litres of milk it is enough to stop it separating as you can see here, but not enough to affect culture growth or taste/texture to any extent.

Next I experimented with sugars. Have tried honey, sugar substitutes, white sugar, brown sugar, as yoghurt culture needs sugar to feed on. none of which really had much effect on the overall outcome of the finished product at all. Then - one of the things I have been sent this month from Healthy Supplies was coconut sugar, and boy oh boy what a difference this makes.

look - the spoon stands it the yoghurt goes much thicker, though admittedly this was half and half milk.

So having discovered this I tried 1litre of home made milk with 1/2 tablespoon of agar flakes and half a tablespoon of coconut sugar and I am over the moon with the outcome.

It has a very slight brown colouring to the finished product but to be honest with you I don't know if I can improve on this, or even if I need to.

Can make 2 litres of yoghurt, giving a yield of twelve normal size pots,  from home made milk for change out of 25p, and to be honest cant even buy one yoghurt for that price.

So 10 weeks of trial and error, with some wasted batches, has finally paid off and given me a perfectly acceptable, very palatable natural yoghurt that I am more than happy to eat.

The only thing I have been buying has been the culture I use as a starter, as it gives a level playing field to my experiments, at least then the culture has been acceptable and I know it was never that they made an experiment fail., but maybe next week I will see what happens when I use some home made culture to make more home made now I have a good product to start with.

Will keep you posted.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Egg, gluten, wheat and dairy free brioche

On Monday night whilst baking with the children I had previously made a brioche that I cooked whilst the oven was on anyway.

I took my recipe from Phil Vickerys Seriously good gluten free baking book that he was lovely enough to have given me to adapt some of his recipes to suit Bob.

Phils recipe

125ml semi-skimmed milk (I used home made rice milk which I made using my Kiemling milk maker)
1 large egg ( I used egg replacer )
325 g gluten free flour mix ( Phil recommends 7 parts white rice flour, 2 parts potato and 1 part tapioca)
1 teaspoon Xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
25g caster sugar
7g sachet easy blend dried yeast
200 g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed ( I used vitalite)
75 g sultanas ( I used a mix of sultanas and dried cherries)

warm the milk, add the egg and beat slightly

the uncovered unrisen mix
place dry ingredients ( not fruit) in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process briefly, leave some lumps, you dont want it to go to breadcrumbs.

Empty contents of processor into a large bowl, make a well in centre, add dried fruit and milk and egg mixture. Fold together briefly, mixture suppose to be lumpy.

Spoon into a oiled loaf tin. cover with clingfilm and prove for an hour.

Cook for 25-30 mins at 200 oC until well risen and brown on top ( note egg free one will not brown)

Eat whilst warm and fresh. This surprised me, normally making recipes with the ingredients I use a lot of the time once cooked they have a brownie consistency to them, this did not it was a lighter airier bake than my normal, so I guess the yeast must do something after all.

sliced and yummy
Well Monday nights one was left for 1 hr covered in the green house as the sun was sort of shining some of the time, and then for 1hr on a warm radiator, it made no attempt to rise what so ever, but I popped it in the oven and cooked it anyway. It stuck to the tin and broke coming out, and I tried a broken piece....and promptly (sorry) spat it back out into my hand, it was bogging beyond believe, I think my problem was the yeast had not activated. When I had bought yeast during the week I had been in a rush and just picked up yeast, its years since I have made my own bread, and did not realise it needed to be activated, it was not easy stuff. I had placed it in with sugar and warm water but used flax seed as egg replacer and had popped it all in one cup, and I guess the flax seed held back the yeast. It was all yeasty and horrible tasting, even some of the sultanas I picked out once it was cold tasted horrible as well.
But I got a laugh out of it, oh went into the kitchen when he came back from fishing, and helped himself to a bit, his face went the same as mine and he spat it out as well!! Such a polite couple that we are. Fifi said to granddad...grandma did that as well.

Anyway tonights one I had bought some instant yeast and used it instead. It still made no attempt to rise (again) but I cooked it up, and apart from being a tad salty it was delicious. OH even ate some and went back for me...he is reluctant to eat Bob safe baking ( cos its got all the nice things taken out), so that is praise indeed.

Now if I could just find a way to make an omelette/scrambled egg type mixture but egg free  I could convert it to bread and butter pudding. Any recipes for this anyone??

Monday 19 September 2011

two new biscuit recipes

Last week when I was was raining and windy for a change...I decided to go do some baking and so came up with strawberry creams and choc chip and apple cookies, so me being me I decided to take them one step further and take the egg put of them as well.

Bob cuts the biscuits into shapes
To make this a fair challenge to see how things work out I used up the flour mix that I had made up last week for the egg biscuits.
So yesterday afternoon after work I made up the 2 batches of biscuits and popped them in the fridge wrapped in cling film,  just so the grandkids didn't have to make it then wait on it refrigerating before they could cut and cook it.

and plonks them onto a baking tray

So I replaced the egg with egg replacer, and made the strawberry creams into lemon creams ( as per Phils original recipe from Seriously good, gluten free baking, and having made them to Phils recipe last week, seriously you could not have told the difference.

They are both a nice texture and consistency,  I flavoured the biscuits as well as the butter icing with the lemon essence gives a soft beautiful delicate flavour, very  natural in comparison to the essences you buy in the supermarket and the butter icing was just the lovliest. We had a friend over for tea tonight and he admits he cannot tell the difference between these and normal baking.

These biscuits would be fab as part of a high tea, or would feel just as well at home in a pack lunch box.

in goes the cream

on goes the icing.

and voilĂ  - looks good enough to eat

the finished choc chip and apple cookies

Bob has a couple of these popped into his school bag for play piece tomorrow.

hubble, bubble

toil and trouble

strawberry pancakes with ice  cream

The kids had wanted pancakes for tea tonight, they decided on strawberry pancakes, and they had them with home made chocolate ice-cream, I wont bother giving you the recipe as they were edible but not one I would remake them , or recommend them either. If you want a good pancake recipe I have not got better than this one yet.

The Crazy Kitchen

Sunday 18 September 2011

Blackberry and Apple Jam

It was such a lovely eveining on Thursday, probably the best day we have had all month, no wind, no rain, and a warm yellow glow coming from  a large blue expanse over our heads.

So the three of us, me, oh and short dog set off to Auchincruive Estate. normally less than 5 ins away from us down the bypass, with  5 plastic tubs, a pair of secateurs and a long sleeved jumper on to protect my arms.

We parked up and wandered round the edge of the field, finding blackberries (ok should be brambles here north of the border, but I'm English by parentage and they will always be blackberries to me) very sparsely populated, 1 here 2 there and 1 somewhere further along, but eventually with hubby trimming back bits to get into other bits, getting scratched and stung, we had filled the 5 tubs. I learnt my lesson last year when all my arms and hands swelled after touching the plants and getting stung by nettles so this year hubby did all the dangerous work.

the cooker I left for OH to clean up
Took them home and soaked them to rid them off the fresh protein living inside them, and popped them into the fridge over night. Next day we stood in the kitchen with me peeling approx 8lb apples that we rounded up from the allotment, that oh cut up and popped 6 lb into the pressure cooker. Cooked them for approx 20mins and then added 3 lb blackberries, boiled for 15 mins, and which point it bubbled out all over the cooker, the work top and the tiles behind the cooker like a minimum volcano.

Then stirred in 6lb sugar (bit by bit, stirring as you go to dissolve sugar) and then boiling again until it reached setting point on my jam thermometer. Actually split it into 2 batches at this point as it would not all fit in my pressure cooker and unfortunately I no longer have a proper preserving pan.

looking very posh with its label and hat on

Jarred it up into warmed and sterilised jars, left to cool and lidded them up. Must admit it is very yummy, but then I love bitty blackberry jam and personally believe it is the best sort in the world

 Got 14 jars of jam, not bad for a bit of petrol, a free walk in the fresh air, 4lb suger @ £1.40 and about 2 hrs of time to get from raw ingredients into pots. This equals less than 20p a jar, with no added preservatives or other such nasty things added

The rest of the apples went with the pears into Pear and Apple crumble that we had with home made soya custard.

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Friday 16 September 2011

do birds have allergies grandma?

just a short posting here, but it makes me realise just what an impact having a child like Bob in the family has on Fifi, and that a child truly learns what they live

On Thursday morning I went out to top up the bird feeder whilst the kids were sat at the table eating their breakfast. On my way back in
Fifi says to me "what are you feeing them?"
Me - bird food
Fifi  - but what sort of bird food?
Me - I dont know just bird food
Fifi - but there is no list of ingredients, how do the birds know if they are allergic to it?

I must admit I had no answer for that one!! But quite an intelligent comment when we as a family read everything twice before feeding to young Bob.

Meccano Review Part 2

As you have seen on Meccano Review 1, the grandchildren got to grips with one Meccano set I had been sent, so this week was it was the chance for set 2.

This set is more your traditional Meccano that I remember my brother having when we were kids, and is designed for 8-88 yr olds, so Fifi just falls into this age range. We were given the new 7 model set and there are plenty of others available over at Meccanos' own website.

So she decided as she had built a helicopter in week 1 with the other Meccano that she would build a helicopter with this set as well.

getting to grips
the starting of our masteroiece
Now Im slightly under 88, not a lot but under none the less, and I struggled to read the diagram instructions, I personally found them too small to read clearly without my reading glasses, but Fifi seemed to manage ok. She didnt always look properly and just picked up the first bit that looked right, and we had to undo a few pieces as she had picked up a wrong piece. But she learnt by the half way through to look at the front of the book as it had a list of what each piece was and each piece had its own unique number.

Fifi did struggle with this as she found it very difficult to manage on her own, as she could not use both tools and hold what she was assembling at the same time, so I had to hold one of the tools for  her so she could tighten up the bolts.

Anyway 2 hrs later ( by which time I was totally fed up and half wished she wanted to give up but she didnt), we had a helicopter. Think 1 bit was upside down but didn't tell Fifi that.

nearly there

yeeehhh finished
Thoughts  - some of the picture instructions were not the clearest ( didn't tell you how far through to push the piece of metal we later worked out was for the winch.....and that was thanks to the fact helicopter heroes was on while we were building. We also noticed the No5 instruction had an error in.

Feel this is a bit fiddly for Fifis' age so we are going to play with the younger set for a while so she can use her imagination and get pleasure out of achieving, but with time and confidence she should be fine.

So to give this a fair test I asked one of my neighbours children, K who is nearly 12, if he fancied playing with it for me for a while.. K had never heard of Meccano but took it off me willingly and took it away to play with. His mum says he likes building things and does brilliant with his lego, so I look forward to getting feedback and photographs from him. Good luck K.

putting it together
Meanwhile whilst Fifi and I were using the more grown up Meccano Bob was amusing himself with his box full. He sat for an hour and built himself a dragon, he loved playing with it, thinks its great fun and loves having it. It is certainly a hit with him and eventually he will be able to follow instructions.

adding more
our finished dragon
 This is a sponsored review, I was not paid for doing this but was given the Meccano free, and all comments are my own true findings.

A Monday night with no grandchildren

oops...waves a bit high
Normally the grandchildren are here on a Monday night, but due to the adverse weather conditions I decided I was not risking picking them up, or their mum being able to get back to pick them up for school on Tuesday morning.

These pictures were taken by a friend of my husbands who was mad enough to go down to Saltcoats (only because the tv cameras were there as it was decided by them that we were the windiest place on mainland Britain on Monday). Saltcoats is 10mins away from us, so we were just as wild wet and windy.

So I hear you say. you had a nice quiet relaxing evening. Did I flip, no such thing with my family.

the trains at Saltcoats
Now to add to the fun of the weather and travel problems daughter No2 was flying back from Plymouth to Glasgow on Monday, and daughter No1 was to be picking her up from the train station to take her home (they both live in same village), but as I did not have the children and daughter No1 wasn't willing to drive the same road as I had refused to, I was left having to pick up daughter problem train station is less than 5 mins away from me and she was due it at 6.15pm. 6.15 became 7.30, became 9.30, became 11.20...

The plane she should have flown up in had not left Glasgow the day before, so her flight was cancelled. So she was transferred on to a none direct flight....and to cut a long story short as I can hear you yawning by now she did not land in Glasgow till after midnight - far to late for a connecting train and far to wild a night for me or any other sensible person to risk going up for her. So she got a taxi I had to get up next morn to run her home in time for her to get changed and go out to I was up for 6am....earlier than with the grandchildren.

Enjoy them while that are young....much much easier to cope with and handle.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Gallery - a happy memory

Fifi at 1 week
Well I suppose like any grandparent happy times are with my grandchildren, So here we have said granddaughter (now called Fifi on here) at 1 week old. She was born at 29+6 weighing 3lb 3oz after things went wrong and daughter was rushed into hospital at 6pm, and by 6.20pm we had had a granddaughter delivered by emergency section or we lost the two of them.

Here she is at nearly 7 weeks old, after daughter got her home we wet and stayed for a week to
Fifi on her first visit to Scotland
her, came home to get a phone call within less than 5 hrs from a distraught howling daughter who didnt know where to start or how to cope. She was exhausted after all she had been through but now baby was home and safe the reality hot her. So daddy was promptly dispatched to bring daughter and granddaughter to stay with us (in a small pokey overcrowded house) to help her get use to being a mum and let her adjust.

Its happy memories because Fifi will be 9 in a few short weeks, has no adverse effects of being born so early, and its great how our family, like many others, can rally when need be.

The first time we bathed her was so so funny, daughter did not feel comfortable bathing a not quite 5lb baby, so I did it, and nearly lost her in the bubbles!! Happy memories indeed

Tuesday 13 September 2011

If I could start my blog over, I would....

This post is inspired by Brit Mums blog prompts over here, and so I thought I would join in with this linky.

Basically we have to say
  • What might you do differently?
  • Would you choose a different url?
  • Would you change your blogging platform?
  • What would your header look like?
  • What technology related gagets/widgets/etc would you employ?
  • Would you leave everything the same?
I started my blog because I wanted to leave my grandchildren behind a legacy a bit more substantial than the black and white photo album I have of my childhood. Thats the way life was back in the 60's and 70's but I have a choice of what  memories I leave behind, and in what format for the kids

I like the title of my blog, it is apt and straight to the point, says what I do in 4 small words. I suppose I have the advantage of being one generation older than the rest of you, thereby giving me more time to spend on indulging my hobby than some of you.

I would change the platform I am on and use wordpress instead of blogger because it has some interesting bits and pieces on it, like the ability to be able to reply to a comment, unlike here that I can only add another comment to reply.

with hindsight my first post might have been a bit more personal, about me and mine, and why I was getting into blogging, but you have an intro and other things so a lot of the info is there.

My blog as I say is a legacy for the 2 children and any more that may come along..., and it is there for that reason and that reason only. If nobody read it for the next 5, 10, 15 yrs then I would not be too bothered, I would still do it. But Im glad people do read it, and I love having an insight into other people lifes and the ups and downs the go through.

The freebie side of my blog has taken off in a way beyond my wildest dreams and we asa family have got some great opportunities thanks to this, as well as items to review that the kids really enjoy, so I would not change that either.

My blog tends to be written pretty much as I speak, no airs no graces, and certainly no sign of the essays and thesis that was written as part of my uni degree 5 years ago influencing the style grammer or sentence structuring, Im sure my lecturers would have a fit!!! But I have been asked to write a few guest posts so somebody must like the way I write.

I might find a way to change my header picture to one that fitted the screen better had I taken more time, and yes I could go and change it but then it would not be the same any more.

So I am as happy as I can be, plain simple blog, enjoyed by family and friends, read by others and a leagcy for later generations.

quick easy moist fruit cake

I had approached Phil Vickery a few weeks back as he has written a few gluten free cookery books and I thought one of them may be useful for experimenting with. So last week he sent me out Seriously Good Gluten free baking, and he was lovely enough to sign it for me as well.

Trying to alter recipes to make them gluten, wheat, egg and dairy free is a challenge in itself if there ever was one, so I thought if I had some gluten free recipes then the rest might be easier.

 There is a section at the start of the book that covers topics such as "Introduction to Coeliac Disease"
It also has a list of gluten free foods, an explanation about food labels and how to interpret them, and a list of foods that may include gluten without you realising that they do. Next we have a section on gluten free alternatives, and advice on how to prevent cross-contamination in your own home. This one is vital if you have an allergy to any product as even the tiniest amount can be fatal.

Phil then carries on with a section on "Essential ingredients for gluten free baking" and list the common types of  gluten free flour with a description of each one, as well as other useful ingredients. This list contains glycerine, which Phil explains is "fabulous for keeping moisture in....". It is an ingredient I have not thought about using before, so I bought some in the supermarket the other day when I was there, it comes in a small bottle similar to your essences and colourings and in my supermarket was stocked with this items in the home baking section.

The book then gives you a check list of other items to be aware may not be gluten free, baking powder was one I not given a thought to (fortunately bob is intolerant to gluten not allergic) but he does list items I would never have thought of containing  gluten in the first place ie chocolate, meringue, marzipan, as I have never read food labels on these items as I know Bob cannot have any of them due to his allergies anyway..

He introduces the book with basics, various flour mixes, as gluten free flours work better in mixes than separately,  and the recipes are split into 8 sections; basics, biscuits, cupcakes and muffins, large cakes, celebration cakes, traybakes and bars, bread and puddings and sweet treats.

So as today was such a beautiful hot sunny summers day (ha funny ha!) I thought I would do some baking. Having had a good read through the book there are a fair few that look adaptable for Bob to eat.

So today we started with

Quick extra moist fruit cake

100g raisins
100g sultanas
75g semi dried cranberries ( I didnt add these as I didnt have any I used 125g each of others)
125ml semi-skimmed milk, warmed ( I used home made soya to make this dairy free)

soak fruit in warm milk for at least 2hrs, until milk absorbed

90g margarine ( I used dairy free)
125 caster sugar
180 g flour mix ( I used 100g buckwheat, 40g potato and 40g tapioca)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
125 ml semi-skimmed milk, warmed with 2 teaspoon glycerine ( again I used soya)
2 medium eggs beaten (I used egg substitute)

place marge and sugar in bowl and beat until nice and creamy
in a separate bowl combine flours, soda, baking powder and xanthan gum (I sieve them together 3 times to make sure well combined). add flour mix to marge mix, then add the warm milk and glycerine and mix well. Finally add the soak fruit and put in an oil lined loaf tin.

cook for 50-60 mins at 160 oC.

the finished cake

once cooked cool for 5 mins in the tin then turn out onto a cooling rack. 

This cake was very moist and mine had a very brownie like texture once cooked, though the one in the book looks more normal cake like, mine is probably to do with the egg replacer.
a slice to see inside
it was very pleasant and would be ideal to butter and slice and put in a packed lunch or with a cup of coffee. I felt there was an awful lot of fruit in this item, but I love dried fruit so was not a problem, but I personally feel you may get away with 150-200g fruit in total.

Not sure where the "quick" bit comes in, 2 hrs to soak the fruit, beating and mixing, then 1hr to cook, in my book is not quick....but well worth going with. I have done a similar cake soaking the fruit in tea to give a very similar result.

Saturday 10 September 2011

August wins and blog freebies

not a lot to report on here really, but grateful for any win especially that will make presents for Christmas.

Competition Wins

a cushelle bear and a poohbear.

A mobile phone, struggling to use it but getting there, old one was much easier for a geriatric like me. Nice pink one.

2 sets from the fruit shoot competition.

a Scotland football top from a comp I entered way back in April, still waiting on prize. A pack of rice krispie limited edition orange squares, no picture they were very yummy and have been eaten.

A very yummy hamper that you can read about here

and a fuel less cooking stove to use and blog about but not got that yet either.

Goodies for my blog.

Keimling milk maker 

These were excellent last month, but then I put a lot of work into my blog so it paid off.

                                                                      my ice cream maker

2 meccano sets 

food from Healthy supplies

fab effex