Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

my autumn cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Betta Living in celebration of National Cupcake Week have challenged bloggers to come up with an innovative and interesting variation. So with the nights’ drawing in and the temperatures definitely on a downward trend culinary thoughts wander towards comfort foods and homely foods. In light of this I would like to offer my take on an Autumnal Cupcake.

Turn your oven on to 180C and let warm up

Prepare your cupcake trays and line them with paper forms.

Ingredients for the cupcakes:

  • 2 large carrots; grated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 220g brown sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1.5tsp baking powder
  • 0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5tsp ground nutmeg
  • A handful almonds; chopped
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the decorations:

  • 200ml whipped cream
  • 125g mascarpone cheese
  • 1.5tblsp icing sugar
  • 1 large carrot
  • 250ml water
  • 220g caster sugar
  • Orange food colouring

Method:

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda.

Now add the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and the pinch of salt and mix well.

In a second bowl gentle whisk the eggs together mix in the oil; sugar, grated carrots and vanilla extract, you are wanting the ingredients to be just combined.

Now add your wet ingredients to your dry ones and throw in the chopped almonds and combine gently.

Spoon into your paper cupcake forms, you should have enough mixture for 18 cupcakes.

Place into your preheated oven for 20-25minutes or until golden brown and a wooden toothpick comes out clean when stuck into your cupcake.

Turn the oven down to 110C.

1. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Allow the cupcakes to cool as we get ready to start creating the decorations.

2. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Wash your carrot and peel it and dry with some kitchen roll. With a sharp knife you can turn half the carrot into julienne pieces and the other half into wafer thin leaves, or if you are like us who have good but not stunning knife skills then drag out your Oxo Chef’s Mandolin Slicer (other makes are available) and it’s done in seconds.

Add the sugar to the water in a heavy based saucepan and put on a low heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add all the pre-cut carrot pieces to the pan and boil gently for 10-15 minutes.

Sieve the carrots to remove the excess water and place on a baking tray that is lined with baking paper, space them out so they each have lots of space. Place in the oven 20-25minutes.

3. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool you want to roll the leaf shaped pieces around something like a skewer to help form the curl shape. The julienne pieces you want to tie together into knots. Once all the pieces are formed pop them back into the oven for another 20 minutes, we are wanting them to be very dry.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and then add then fold in the mascarpone cheese and the sugar. Split your cream if desired so that different colours can be added, we have created a nice orange cream to accentuate the cupcake base.

So we should now have 18 lovely baked cupcakes, a tray of carrot decorations and a bowl of topping.

Now all that is left to do is find your piping bag and let your imagination run riot.

Have fun and enjoy!

4. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff7. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff6. Autumn Cupcakes for #bettabakeoff

Regis Stone Non-Stick Breakfast Challenge

Regis Stone Non-Stick Breakfast Challenge – Apple and Cinnamon Pancakes

JML challenged me to create a healthy fried breakfast using their new Regis Stone non-stick pan. I’ve heard about non-stick pans before but to be honest they never seemed to work as advertised, so I was really keen on trying Regis Stone.

I wanted to prepare a full English breakfast but then I thought to myself “hmmm, sausages have fat in them so my frying will not really be fat free, therefore I will not be able to truly test the new frying pan”… I could of course cook the eggs first but it would be such a waste of all that tasty nice sausage fat…

This led me to a new cunning idea – I will make Apple & Cinnamon Breakfast Pancakes! No fat in them so I will actually be able to make a fat free breakfast and thus test if the pan is really non-stick.

So how did it go?

Perfectly! I am quite amazed by the Regis Stone pan. I must admit I was tempted to add just a drop of oil… just in case… but I didn’t. My pancakes were cooked without any fat whatsoever and the pan didn’t even require a wash afterwards.

If you would like to try my breakfast pancake recipe, this is what you need and how you make them.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2l milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g flour
  • 100g white sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 apples
  • Icing sugar for serving

Method:

Separate the eggs whites from their yokes.

Place the whites in a separate bowl, ready for whisking.

Place the flour, sugar, salt, soda, cinnamon, milk and both yokes in a large bowl and mix all ingredients with a whisk until everything is well combined.

Wash, peel (or not), core and dice your apples. Add them into your main mixture.

Whisk the egg whites until they are able to form firm peaks and then gently fold them into the main mixture with a metal spoon.

Now, you are ready to start cooking.

Regis Stone Non-Stick Breakfast Challenge – Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes

As I used a Regis Stone pan, I had no need for any fat. I just grabbed a good spoonful of my mixture and place it in the preheated pan. It should take you just over a minute for each side to cook and brown nicely.

Regis Stone Non-Stick Breakfast Challenge -- Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes

Serve warm after dusting with icing sugar.

Enjoy!

Oh, and if you are in need of a new frying pan, I would highly recommend Regis Stone! We are going to order a large 28cm one. This is really one amazing frying pan!

*  I received one 24cm Regis Stone pan for free as well as shopping vouchers, to cover the cost of the ingredients, but all opinions expressed in this post are honest and my own.

Aviva Stress Less Challenge: Week 3

So three weeks have passed and my challenge is coming to an end. During this time I listened, I read and I tried to implement the changes in order to follow the tips given to me by the Aviva experts.

Last week I told you that I will share with you my week 2 tips, so here they come:

Work-life balance from Dr Doug

“Undertake a mind experiment and place yourself as the boss telling your ‘stressed self’ what they need to do. What would you say to an employee who was in your position? How would you prioritise their work, give them support, help manage their time and workload better? By placing yourself in a different role helps to put a different perspective on how you should deal with your work-life balance”.

Wellbeing from Dr Doug

“When you’re feeling overloaded or unsure what you need to do for the best outcome, change your focus for a bit to help you get a different perspective on a situation – do something different to what you’ve been doing e.g. make and enjoy a cup of coffee or take the dogs for a short walk. It will also improve the way you’re feeling as well as helping you be better placed to make the right decisions”.

Fitness from Mike, Billy and Jonny

“If you need some extra motivation to exercise challenge yourself by having a finish goal for example a 10km walk/run for charity. Tell your followers about it and share your progress. By doing this you won’t want to let yourself, your family or friends down especially if they’re sponsoring you”.
“Finish off each exercise session with a series of callisthenics exercises, e.g. press-ups, sit-ups and lunges to get more variation of exercises for the body”.

Diet from Paddy

“There’s a number of foods you could try to help you sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan will help as these help serotonin and melatonin, which are our brains ‘sleep chemicals’. For example turkey, spinach and halibut could help”.

I like the tips from week 2; actually I like them all.

The diet tip from Paddy is especially useful as I had no idea what tryptophan even was before I read this tip. I researched it a bit and I found that a lack of tryptophan can cause depression 🙁 It looks like tryptophan is very important. Other foods which contain a high content of tryptophan are: eggs, cod, soybeans (raw), cheese especially Parmesan and cheddar, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and many more.

But my favourite tip by far is the second week’s wellbeing tip from Dr Doug – when you start feeling like you’re losing it, take a time out! It makes a lot of sense but so very often when I am stuck with something I tend to just keep going despite totally losing it at times. I tried to follow the “time out” rule last week and it does help. A little break will give you some perspective as to the task at hand and when you return to it everything seems so much simpler and far less complicated.

The aim of the challenge was to both reduce stress and to be better prepared to deal with stress. The Aviva experts think that a small change for a long time will help you to achieve it, so I am committing myself to a time out rule for a lifetime. When I feel like I am stuck in the muck I will take a short break and try to regroup. Hopefully this will allow me to clear my head a little and once I return to my original task it will not be so gloomy.

Will you commit to a small change which can benefit you over a lifetime?

What do you think about the tips I have received from the Aviva experts?

Do you have any special ways to deal with stress?

Aviva #StressLess Challenge

* I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Aviva Stress Less Challenge: Week 2

#StressLess

I think the fact that I am taking part in this challenge is stressing me a bit. On one hand I have fantastic tips to follow which are supposed to help me be less stressed but on the other hand… I am stressing about whether I am not so stressed…

Does it make any sense?

I hope it does.

Anyway, I am on week 2 of my challenge and I have all the tips which are coming my way.

On my first week I received 3 tips:

Work-life balance from Dr Doug

“You say that the best thing about your job is not having a boss but actually you sound like you have a very demanding boss who wants you to do lots of things – you! You put pressure on yourself to do everything. Try to remember everything does not have equal importance rather than thinking everything has to be done.  Make sure that what you have on your to-do lists are things which you have to do – this helps reduce the list and pressure. Overall, it sounds that whilst you report high levels of stress, in many ways this is your normal state – consider whether you really want to make significant changes if this has always been the case”.

Wellbeing from Dr Doug

“Sleep is essential to help you be better prepared to tackle stress. Prepare yourself for  a good night’s sleep by having some relaxing time before bed. Avoid anything which makes your mind active such as online gaming and turn off your laptop or mobile devices so they don’t distract you from slumber”.

Diet from Paddy

“To get extra portions of your 5 a day in your diet, try different vegetarian dishes. Roasted vegetables are a great accompaniment to any meal you make, just chop up your favourite vegetables, add some seasoning and herbs of your choice and put in the oven until cooked. Try changing the seasoning for added variety”.

So what do I think about my week one tips?

Diet tip is a bit to sketchy for me. I think on most days I do get 5 a day and I do not agree that roasted vegetables go with any meal… Yes, I know I am hard to please…

… However I must agree with Dr Doug, especially regarding my sleep routine. Normally I would go to bed and then play a puzzle game or a round of scrabble, which is not helping me to calm down and more importantly keeping my brain activities quiet… therefore I wanted to follow this tip religiously so I decided it was time for a change: no mobiles allowed in or near the bed; to my surprise it really helps. Now instead of staring at my mobile I will have a “quiet” conversation with Mark (he always asks me why am I shouting when he is right next to me) and just drift off. It is much easier now to fall asleep.

I received 4 more tips for week two, which are actually quite interesting… The diet tip from Paddy is definitely my favourite one, but let me try them out for a week and I will tell you all about them in seven days’ time.

For now… stay calm and #stressless!

* I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Aviva Stress Less Challenge: Week 1

Can you cure stress?Aviva stresses of life getting to you

Most likely not, but you can for sure reduce its occurrence and intensity.

I am a “stress monkey”. I stress too often, too much and most likely about things which I can do nothing about it… but I do not think that I am a lost cause because I am aware of my high stress state and I would love to change it. I think admitting that you have a problem is the first step to getting better 🙂

The Aviva team have joined up with Mumsnet to run a Stress Less Challenge with 10 UK bloggers. I was one of the lucky 10 chosen to be a part of it.

Aviva Stress Less Challenge Questionnaire

It all started with a long questionnaire about me, my lifestyle, my eating habits, work, home, hobbies etc… Based on the content of my answers, I received a bunch of tips to follow which should in theory allow me to stress less.

Aviva say “Armed with our experts ranging from a doctor, nutritionist and rugby coach we want to help you achieve a healthier and less stressed you. We want to give you some truly personalised health tips to try for 2 weeks aiming to commit to at least one for a lifetime. A small change for a big health benefit”.

My week 1 tips were about work-life balance, wellbeing and diet. They were very accurate and for sure were tailored specifically for me. “You say that the best thing about your job is not having a boss but actually you sound like you have a very demanding boss who wants you to do lots of things – you!” Lol this is so true! This is part of my problem. I want to do it all by myself. Everything has to be perfect and done now…

For as long as I can remember I have been in this high level of stress state and Dr Doug picked up on it. It was suggested to me that maybe I do not really want to change… I do! I really do! I want nothing more but to stress less and be able to relax easier and I am determine to change, so I will follow my tips and let’s hope I can stress less.

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted on the progress.

Aviva Put the spring back in your step

* I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.