Recipe of the Week - Cinnamon & Orange Cake {Gluten & Dairy Free}

Thursday 28 January 2016

This week we are re-visiting an old recipe that I shared some time ago on the old blog.

It has remained very much a favourite with everyone in our house and is definitely worth sharing again. Besides, I served this at church on Sunday morning when it was my turn on the tea rota and promised someone who asked for the recipe that I would share it again soon!

I love the flavour of cinnamon and especially love the cinnamon infused crunchy sugar that finishes this cake off. The orange juice helps keep the cake lovely and moist and, as with so many of my favourite bakes, this cake is one that you can rustle up in no time!

You could make this cake without using free from ingredients and you wouldn't have to alter any of the quantities.

You will need:

6oz dairy free margarine 
6oz sugar
6oz Doves Farm Wheat Free Self Raising Flour
3 eggs
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 orange, the zest

to finish off the cake you will also need 

the juice of the orange
3-4tbsp sugar
1-2tsp cinnamon (depending on how strong you like the cinnamon flavour)

- Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon and orange zest in a bowl and beat well until smooth.

-Put into a greased and lined tin (I use a square brownie pan which is about 20cm square) and bake at 180C for around 20 minutes until golden brown.

-Remove cake from the oven and while it is still warm pour the juice from the orange all over the top of it.

-Let the juice soak in properly before mixing together the rest of the sugar and cinnamon and then sprinkle this all over the top of the cake.

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Little Box of Crochet

Monday 25 January 2016

I'm sure I've mentioned before what a wonderful place Instagram is for us crafty types. It's full of crafters sharing their makes, ideas and inspirations. Yes, it's also full of a lot of selfies and duck faces, but the people I follow aren't into that side of the site, thankfully! 

My Instagram friends share photos of their crochet, knitting, baking, families, day to day lives and a bit more crochet.

It was there I first heard about the Little Box of Crochet, a monthly subscription box containing everything you need for a crochet project. I've seen quite a few of these sort of monthly subscription boxes around. Some are aimed at crafts for kids, others at home cooks, but this was the first one I had seen for crocheters. It seemed like something I would love but as it was just before Christmas I had more than enough to do without adding a new project and so I decided not to subscribe quite yet.

Soon people began sharing pictures of their first boxes and then the second, which contained everything needed to make a beautiful pair of wrist warmers, and by the time the January box came out I had decided that, yes, this would be a perfect little treat for me.

The trouble was that by then the subscriptions were all full!

Thankfully a few more slots were released a couple of weeks later and I was fortunate to get one of these. A couple of days later and I received my happy post, on a day that Bob the Builder and his gang were busy fixing things.

The box was even more beautiful than I had imagined, a really high quality sturdy box that I am already imagining putting to good use as a craft supply storer!

Once I delved into the box there was everything needed to make the ear-warmer - gloriously soft scheepjes yarn (a yarn I have never used before but will definitely use again), a knit pro waves soft handled crochet hook, stitch marker, pom pom maker, and even a little tea bag so that you can enjoy a cuppa while crocheting. There was also the pattern for the ear-warmers, which was designined by Kate from Just Pootling, and a little newsletter from Amanda, the lovely lady behind Little Box of Crochet.

The pattern was really straightforward and easy to get into the swing of. Look at those cute little pom pom stitches.

I completed the different parts of the ear-warmer over the weekend.

But still need to sew in those ends before assembling it!

You can see how the finished ear-warmer is meant to look, and find out more about the boxes on the Little Box of Crochet website.

I wasn't asked to write a review about these boxes, but just thought they were so lovely that I thought I would share them with you all, especially as I know that there are quite a few of you who are fellow crocheters.

Based on how well the pattern in this box was explained I think even a beginner could successfully have a go too, after all everything you need is in the box, so if you've always fancied giving it a go then why not?!

The price is really reasonable, and since I rarely treat myself I see it as a little bit of 'me-time' in my schedule.

You can also buy subscriptions as gifts so if you don't crochet yourself but know of anyone who loves crochet then I'm pretty sure they would be absolutely delighted with this.

I think subscriptions are full again for now as Amanda has just moved house but she has said that she is hoping to open up some more very soon.

Oh, and if you are out-with the UK then don't worry as the boxes are now available worldwide too!

Now, time to sort out all those ends!
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Recipe of the Week - Magic Lemon Pudding {Gluten & Dairy Free}

Thursday 21 January 2016

At this time of year, when the weather is so grey and the days feel like there has hardly been any daylight at all, it's hard to resist the lure of a comforting pudding.

We don't eat pudding every night of the week. Just on one or two week nights, but always on a Sunday. For week night puds I want something that I can rustle up pretty quickly, ideally something that I can throw in the food mixer and let it do the work while I get the next stage of dinner on the go.

That's what I love about this pudding, which came about as a result of re-vamping our old favourite, Magic Chocolate Pudding. (You can find the recipe for that one here.) All it takes is throwing the cake ingredients in the mixer, let it mix for a few minutes, scrape it into your dish and then pour the sauce mixture on top. After 20-30 minutes in the oven you have a pudding AND a sauce.

The revamp of the chocolate version didn't come about as a result of us being tired of it. Imagine the suggestion of me tiring of a chocolate pudding?! No, I decided to try something different as my husband would far rather a lighter, fruitier pudding than a really chocolatey one, so this one was concocted with him in mind, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out that I thought I'd share it here.

The lovely lemony zing from the sauce is perfect for lifting your spirits on a grey January day. I also think it would be lovely with a handful or two of blueberries stirred through the cake mix before it's baked, but one of our boys would seriously object to that so I haven't tried that yet!

You will need:

for the pudding

4oz dairy free margarine
4oz Doves Farm Wheat Free Self Raising Flour
4oz sugar
2 eggs
zest of 2 lemons

for the sauce

4oz sugar
juice of the 2 lemons made up to 350ml with boiling water

- Add the margarine, flour, sugar, eggs and lemon zest to a bowl and beat with a mixer for a few minutes until smooth.

- Spread into a dish about the depth of a brownie tin or thereabouts. I should really measure my dish but I suppose it must be about 2-3 inches deep? And about 30x20cm in length/width?

- Stir the sugar and lemon juice/water combination until the sugar has dissolved and then slowly pour over the cake mix.

- Put into a preheated oven at 180C for between 20-30 minutes. It should be golden brown and you will see the sauce bubbling up from the bottom around the edges.

-Serve with some dairy free ice cream.

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Monday 18 January 2016

16 years ago today our oldest boy was born. 

He kept us waiting for 10 days after his official due date, the second latest any of the boys were in arriving - beaten only by Alasdair who was 11 days late.

James was named after my dad, and my grandfather- and quite a few generations of James' before them too. My father in law's middle name is also James so the name comes from both sides of the family.

Right from the earliest days he was a happy, smiley little man.

James aged 6 weeks

James aged 10 weeks

I remember when that photo above was taken. He was only 10 weeks old but to me that was already so old and it was impossible to remember life before him!

I've had fun going through old photo albums and thought it would be fun to mark his 16th birthday by looking at all of his birthdays through the years.

Starting with his first birthday.

His first birthday cake was a simple one with a picture of La-La from the Teletubbies drawn on it.

He loved La-La!

The album with his 2nd birthday photos in it must be in the loft as I can't find it anywhere else!

On his third birthday he had a little football cake. This was around the time that Calum, then 3 months old, was really struggling with severe eczema. James' was moderately bad at the time too, in fact I would have thought it worse if Calum's hadn't been so severe. So life was pretty tough for a while with two little boys with such intense skin care regimes. Plus very little sleep.

But by the time of his fourth birthday we had the skin care regimes down to a fine art. Their eczema was still there but I guess we had just become experts at managing it.

I think they could almost pass as Alasdair and Fraser in this photo!

Aged 5 and James was into his space phase. It was also the first year he had a party for his birthday with other friends around and not just his cousins.

The 6th birthday photos must be in the same place as the 2nd birthday ones as I can't find them either, so let's move on to his 7th birthday, which was around the time he started on his superhero phase.

When James was turning 8 he had a huge fascination with the Ancient Egyptians. It also happened that at that time there was a big exhibition of Egyptian treasures in the O2 in London. There was also a really great offer on train tickets to London at the time - I'm pretty sure that we got returns from Edinburgh to London for £5 each! So for James' 8th birthday we all took a trip to London for a couple of nights to go and see the Egyptian treasures.

When we were back home again he got his cake, which was shaped like a Dalek from Dr Who. My brother thought it was some sort of bug but James knew what it was meant to be!

By his 9th birthday he had brief obession with Ben 10, but still loved all things Egyptian and received quite a few Egyptian themed presents.

Aged 10 he had discovered Club Penguin and asked for a Club Penguin cake.

When he turned 11 he was still very interested in all sorts of history. His birthday party was a Medieval Banquet.

His cake that year was quite a work of art and is worthy of it's own photo!

I took his continued love of Captain America and Marvel as inspiration for his 12th birthday cake, this red, white and blue concoction.

When he became a teenager he asked for a chocolate cake. Simple.

You may remember me sharing some of these cakes in previous years, like the one he had for his 14th birthday which was meant to look like the Marvel badge. I love this photo of him and his cousin Finlay - a fellow Marvel fan!

Almost up to date now, and onto last year's cake which was this chocolate M&Ms cake.

And finally his 16th birthday, which we celebrated at the weekend rather than today as James has Army Cadets on Monday nights and so wouldn't have time to enjoy his birthday dinner and cake.

Birthday boys always choose the birthday dinner and this year's choice was no different than what he has asked for for the last five or six years - home made steak pie, which we had with roast potatoes, roast parsnips and veggies.

When I asked James what he wanted for his birthday cake this year he said, 'Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate.'

I think I fulfilled the brief!

Chocolate cake surrounded with chocolate fingers and topped with milk & white coated chocolate Oreo truffles as well as coconut truffles.

Even I struggle to finish a slice of it but the birthday boy was delighted with it.

After all, if you can't overindulge on your 16th birthday then when can you?
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Recipe of the Week - Carrot Muffins with Maple Syrup Frosting {Gluten Free & Dairy Free}

Thursday 14 January 2016

These muffins seem quite fitting for January, when so many people try and eat a little more healthily to try and counter-balance all the over indulgences of December. They might be cake but they are packed with carrots and we are always being told that Maple Syrup is a more healthy form of sugar. They do, however, contain plenty icing sugar in the frosting as well, but just a little layer of frosting won't do much harm will it? 

I'm not claiming them as some sort of super food though. Just justifying my reasoning for cakes in January, not that cakes ever need justifying in my opinion. And I certainly wouldn't go so far as to make the suggestion that one of the boys made when he asked if having 5 of these muffins would count as his five a day!

Carrot cakes usually have a cream cheese style frosting on them, which is obviously no good for those who are dairy free. There are dairy free alternatives for cream cheese available but our boys don't particularly like them and so I came up with the idea of Maple Syrup frosting. The flavour is not so much of the syrup but more of a subtle vanilla taste.

For some time now I have been using Oat milk in baking and cooking as my milk substitute as it doesn't have a strong flavour like Soya milk does. It also doesn't contain any added sugar. That means that when I make these muffins they aren't strictly Gluten free, just Wheat free. If you need to make these completely Gluten free then simply swap the oat milk for another milk alternative - such as soya, nut or rice - (or milk itself, if you don't need to worry about dairy). 
Muffins have the added bonus of being really quick to make and are a great thing to rustle up for an after school snack.

For around 12 muffins you will need:

For the muffins

10oz Gluten Free Self Raising Flour (I always use Doves Farm)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg
3 fl oz oat milk (or alternative)
4oz sugar
12oz carrots, grated 
(if you have a food processor then use the grater attachment to save yourself some time!)
3 fl oz vegetable oil

For the frosting

3oz dairy free margarine
9oz icing sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup

- Preheat your oven to 180C and put your muffin cases into a muffin tin.

- Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

- In another bowl beat the egg and then add the oat milk, sugar, carrot and vegetable oil.

- Now pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix together. The secret to making muffins that aren't too heavy is apparently to not over mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Mix until everything is combined and no more.

- Divide between your muffin cases and bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown.

- While the muffins are baking you can get the icing made. Simply put all the icing ingredients into a bowl and beat together using an electric mixer. You could, of course, do this by hand but if you have a mixer then let it do the work for you! You might need to add a tiny drop or two of your milk alternative to help the icing come together but if you do, then just a tiny bit at a time. Once the icing has come together, continue to beat it for another minute or two as this will make your icing fluffier.

- Spread the icing on the cooled muffins.

- Enjoy!
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Hello again...

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Hello again friends. Well it's been a while hasn't it?

I didn't intend to take quite such a break from blogging, but December is always such a busy month and that's just how things worked out.

Now I'm all refreshed and ready to get back in the routine again.

Thank you to everyone who got in touch with Christmas well wishes.

I do hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Our December was filled with all the usual traditions. Don't worry, I won't try and fill you all in with an entire month's worth of our happenings but here are a few of the highlights.

One of our advent traditions is an activity calendar. It is an old felt advent calendar with pouches for each day and I put a slip of paper in each day with an activity on it. Nothing too time consuming, or involving too much preparation, after all December is busy enough without making extra work for yourself!

Some of the boys' favourite activities were...

- paper chain making

- writing to Santa

- painting owl decorations for the tree


- making pom-pom robins for the tree

Speaking of the tree, decorating that was quite an adventure for some!

Every December the high school that the older two boys attend hires Edinburgh's Usher Hall for their Christmas concert and it's always a wonderful evening of music.

This was the 4th year that James (15) has taken part, playing trombone in the school wind band. This year Calum (13) took part for the first time, having joined the wind band as a trumpet player. 

They don't scrub up too badly do they?

As well as all the usual Christmas events, we had a family celebration to fit in the week before Christmas. My mum celebrated her 60th birthday and my sister in law and I worked together to put on a special family dinner for her. 

One of my contributions was to make the cake.

Here is my mum with all of her grandchildren.

As for the actual day of Christmas, we spent it much the same way as we always do, with my husband's parents and sister joining us.

Dinner was, of course, a big turkey with all the traditional trimmings.

There had to be a selfie taken at some point during the day.

And my Christmas Pudding flamed very nicely indeed!

We even managed to get an updated photo of all of us together, thanks to my husband's sister.

The days following Christmas and leading up to Hogmanay were suitably lazy and largely spent indoors as the weather was so awful.

We did venture out to the cinema one day though. The older boys went to see Star Wars with a cousin while I took the younger boys to see the Peanuts movie, which was a lovely little movie.

Then it was on to Hogmanay, which we spent through at my in-laws'.

All of the boys, except for Fraser (2), stayed awake to see the New Year in at the Bells.

It's OK, that's Shloer in his glass!

Now school has started back, and things have started to get back into something like a routine again. James has his Prelim exams on this week, as well as a special birthday coming up next week! David (10) is just longing for this horrible, cold, wet and windy weather to pass so that he can get back outdoors playing sport again. Although he wouldn't mind the cold so much of we got some more snow!

Well, it's been lovely 'chatting' to you all again and to reacquaint myself with my little corner of the blog world again.

I'll even finish off with a Gaelic phrase of the week to get things kick started again. I'm sure it's one I've shared before but there's no harm in sharing it again.

Bliadhna Mhath √ôr (Blee-an-ye Va Oor) - Happy New Year!

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