Chocolate Marble Cake

Caoimhe, my 11 year old, absolutely loves to bake. At the moment her ambition is to have her own bakery. Being 11, I am aware she may change her mind, but, I really hope she doesn’t and as long as I encourage her and nurture her dream, there is a good chance it will stay and fingers crossed, come into fruition in the future.
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Over the weekend, she was watching over my shoulder as I was working on tidying up some blog posts. She spotted a marble cake and asked if she could make it. I had a look at the recipe, made some changes so it’s now free of refined sugar. Then, off she went to bake and I left her to it, resisting any urge to interfere. She is very competent in the kitchen and if she needs my help, she will ask for it.
Ingredientsimage1
80g 70% Dark Chocolate
175g Plain flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
100 Softened Butter
75g Honey
2 Eggs
Method
  • Pre heat the oven to 170C, grease & line a 1lb loaf tin.
  • Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Put butter into a large bowl and mix until just smooth and creamy.
  • Pour in the honey and beat that into the butter.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together into the bowl and fold into the batter.
  •  Divide the mixture in two, then fold the melted chocolate into one half of it.
  •  Spoon the two mixtures in alternate drops into the tin, then level the top.
  •  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

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This cake turned out delicious and makes a perfect accompaniment to a cuppa! Caoimhe was delighted with herself, and of course, I was delighted with her too.

Rediscovering Knitting

We’re probably all familiar with the plastic needles and small balls of wool with a simple pattern to produce a scarf or something similar during our primary school years.

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One of my Mam’s festive treasures.

My experience with knitting was something more than that. My mother knit every  day. She would knit us cardigans, jumpers, toys. She even knit Aran Jumpers for a shop in town at one point. At Christmas time she would knit the most adorable Christmas decorations. These were often gifted to family members, after many hints about their delightfulness were heavily dropped.

 

I was okay at knitting, good but not great. I could have been better but I just didn’t have the patience for it really. Following my Mother’s death in 2001, I found a stunning cardigan she’d been knitting for my daughter who was just 1 at the time. There was only a little bit to be finished on it, so for her, I completed it. My daughter never wore it, it was too sad. I did hang it in my next two girls wardrobes when it would have fit them, an unworn gift from their Gran.

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There wasn’t much left to do, it had almost been completed. An unworn gift, made with an abundance of love.

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The detail in the pattern is just beautiful.

Fast forward to 2016 and needing something other than scrolling through social media in the evenings, I picked up the knitting needles again. I never bought any, these were my Mam’s. So far I’ve only made small things, but I’m more patient, I’m finding it quite relaxing and very rewarding.

It started with bunting for the fairy party my small girl had at the end of the Summer holidays.

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Fairy party bunting, cakes not essential but delicious!

That turned out okay I think and it sort of spurred me on to do something else. I knit a scarf for the small boy, I have to admit, he’s less than enthusiastic about it, but, he’ll be cold some day soon and be thrilled with it…no really, he will!

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The scarf did not ignite much excitement!

I’ve been knitting a few little festive things in the last couple of weeks. Some of them definitely need a lot of practice. I knit a star, it could very easily be mistaken for a star fish; but that’s not too bad I guess.

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Star or Starfish??

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Miniature jumpers…too cute!

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Work in progress-Festive Bunting

My next project is going to be a pumpkin for Halloween. I just need to get the wool and off I go.

Do you like to knit? Let me know in the comments and if you know of any good knitting websites/books I’d love to hear about them.

 

Kids in the Kitchen

For anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, you will know I am a big fan of spending time in the kitchen with my children. I believe it is so important to instill in them basic cooking skills, to bake with them, to teach them that they don’t need to reach for convenience when they can produce something much nicer, and with some nutritional benefit, themselves.

It an be trying, I know that, letting kids loose in the kitchen, so I have compiled some top tips for you, to get those kids into the kitchen.

 Relax

There is no point in even contemplating cooking or baking with children, particularly younger children if you are not in form for it. It’s imperative that you relax and simply go with the flow. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to test patience however the more you get into the kitchen with your children the easier it will become and it will be great fun and extremely rewarding.

Take Your Time

That bread it takes you 5 minutes to throw together is most likely going to take 20 minutes! No matter what you decide to cook up with your children it will take longer than usual. For children the experience is much more exciting than the end result.

Prepare

Pick a suitable recipe. Older children might like to try their hand at a savoury dish for the family to enjoy whereas for younger children cookies or small cakes might be a better option.
Have ingredients laid out. Children don’t like to be kept waiting. When I am baking with my younger children who are 3 & 4 years old, I measure out the ingredients in advance into small bowls so all they have to do is add them to the big bowl. My older children are able to weigh out the ingredients themselves.

Hygiene is Important

Insist on aprons!! Baking can be a messy business. Make sure hands are washed and long hair is tied back or hidden under a little chefs hat (very cute). Insist on hand washing between tasks, in particular if you are cooking with raw meat.

Praise & Encourage

Two very important words that go hand in hand when cooking or baking with your children. Praise their efforts and that in itself should encourage them to want to have fun in the kitchen with you again.

Have Fun

Make this a fun experience and your children will pick up some invaluable life skills. They will learn that the kitchen needn’t instill fear but instead be a most fun and relaxing environment.

 

The Siege of Jadotville

Last night I had the privilege of attending a special screening of the latest Netflix Original, The Siege of Jadotville, which tells the untold true story of 150 Irish troops who came under siege in the Congo in 1961.

Jamie Dornan plays the role of Commandant Pat Quinlan, who along with his men fought tirelessly for six  days, against attack from at least 3000 Congolese troops led by French and Belgian mercenaries, with no Irish fatalaties. Following their surrender, these unsung heroes were held hostage for almost a month.

‘A’ Company, the 35th Battallion defeated a massive enemy force at Jadotville, however they were not to be acknowledged by the Irish Defense Forces, instead they were known as’Jadotville Jacks’, cowards in the Irish Army.

It is shocking to think it has taken 55 years to recognise the bravery and courage shown by these men. It was extremely humbling to watch a such an enormous part of their history unfold on screen last night and then to have the opportunity to give them some, albeit small, acknowledgement as they were invited to the front of the theatre. I sincerely hope this film will see a broader appreciation for the heroics of these amazing gentlemen.

The Siege of Jadotville is in cinemas now and will be available on Netflix from October 7th.

 

As a member of the Netflix Ireland Stream Team I have received complimentary Netflix membership, attend Netflix events and in return will be featuring Netflix related blog posts. All opinions are my own!

 

The Power of the Written Word

I like to read a nice positive quote or a quote that resonates with me. As I get older especially, I have come to really appreciate the power behind something.

If we read something often enough, we can learn to believe it. I have been trying very hard, more so in the last six months I think, to see the positive in situations, to put a positive spin on things, to believe that in times of hardship all is not lost.

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Any of you who follow my Instagram account will have seen that I often post ‘Body Positive’ quotes. These are always well received and many followers have thanked me for posting them. When they’ve been having a bad day and feeling pretty crap about themselves, they’ve read them just at the right time. For me too, they have been instrumental in helping me overcome serious body image issues.

I think one of my favourite quotes of all time the one below, this carries such an important message for me.

I lost my Mother far too soon, far too young. Blinded by grief you wonder how you will ever smile again, get through a day without crying a thousand tears, simply live; but you do, you get through that storm.

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I think it’s good to remind ourselves and others to be mindful. None of us know what a person is really going through. There’s a person scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, not communicating, not looking for anything in particular, feeling guilty for wasting time but too tired to do anything else. Then they read something positive shared by someone who had a crap day the day before. They decide to get dressed, a small step but a step none the less. We must never, ever underestimate the power of the written word.

Do you have a favourite quote? A saying that resonates deeply with you or a little line that can bring a smile on a sad day? I’d love to hear it if you do.

 

 

Good 4 U Snack Review

I am always on the look out for healthy options for the kid’s lunchboxes. I do bake the majority of what goes into them along with fruit and as my daughter would say, the savoury option.  However the day often arrives (usually Tuesday or Wednesday) when the fruit bowl is empty and I can’t get to the shop to replenish it until Thursday.  For those days, these Good4U Super Bites are perfect.

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I confess, I spotted these as I was doing my Tesco shop online during the Summer months and bought them for my younger two, telling them they were sweets. They loved them and they have indulged in a packet of these ‘sweets’ almost every week since. They enjoy them and I indulge in a smug mother moment.

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It can be very difficult to find something in the supermarket that is lunchbox friendly,  imagehealthy and appealing to children. These however fit the bill perfectly here. They have a deliciously soft texture, are small enough for young children, are full of natural energy boosting ingredients and are free from nuts, gluten, dairy, wheat, added sugar and syrups. All 5 of my children from the 16 year old down to the 3 year old love them (and I may have had a packet or two as well!)

What I absolutely love about Good4U too is that they are an Irish, family run company who’s story began in 2004. The Butler family have combined their passion, expertise, knowledge, determination and shared vision to develop a brand that will for sure help improve the health of our nation. Good4U put nutrition, health and well being at the top of the agenda with the consumer at the very heart of everything they do.

I think there is a shift in how people are looking at sugary treats and are cutting back on how often they are given to children. With healthy products such as these Super Bites appearing on our shelves, it should, and will I believe, make that change easier.

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Perfect movie snacks!

Super Bites Kids is the latest range from the Irish brand, best known for its roasted seeds and fresh sprout products. Passionate about healthy snacking and clean ingredients, Good4U supply high quality products with real integrity and proven health benefits to more than 4000 retailers across the globe.

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Good4U can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and they have a very good website here,  which I recommend you check out too.

I received some complimentary Super Bites from Good4U however I have been buying them myself for the last while and will continue to do so.