Monday, October 10, 2016

Apples and autumn

Well autumn has finally arrived and the cold has come with it! I have written more than once about how much I love this time of year - autumn into winter! It starts with a little chill that gets colder and colder until large coats and thick scarves are fully acceptable and expected and that, my friend, is  licence to walk around in a duvet all day!!

However we are not quite at that point yet, so for the moment I can just enjoy the chill in the air, an occasional scarf, which is my happy place, well one of happiest place would be in my fiancé's arms standing beside a Christmas tree. Okay sorry, I am wandering off in a dream! From the time the leaves start to change I develop an obsession with apples so I decided it would be appropriate to dedicate a whole post to my seasonal favourite.

Property of Lipton

The inspiration for this has actually been a loss. Every single autumn/winter winter, since about 2008, until this one I have been drinking the delicious and incredible Lipton warming Apple and Cinnamon Tea. This won't be news as I have blogged about it before here but the loss of this consistent and warming tea has left me feeling at an enormous loss. I have tried every other apple tea available in the UK market right now and the only thing that comes close is Teapigs 'Apple and Cinnamon,' tea. However it's not as good, in my opinion, and at £4.15 for 15 teabags, well I hope sincerely that they bring out a 50 teabag box soon. However I have started a search to try to recreate this incredible tea myself and I will blog about it if I am anyway successful!

So you cannot think apple and autumn without thinking apple pie! This apple pie consists of a nutty pastry crust and a delicious apple and amaretto filling.

And finally I decided to make my delicious apple salted caramel cake into muffins and they turned out great! Granted they don't have much of the classic muffin format or puffy top but they are so soft and delicious on the inside that you will definitely forgive me. The recipe is here but there are a few alterations. The original recipe calls for cake flour or make your own cake flour. But for these I wanted them to have slightly more structure so I replaced 1 tablespoon of the flour with corn flour but nothing more because too light is not great for muffins. Half of the mixture from my last post will make 12 muffins and I recommend that you fill them up to the brim for the full looking muffins you see below....

 Inside they are fluffy and delicious with moisture and flavour from the apples and soft and delicious bits of cake between each piece of apple

They are not a health food but they are definitely full of autumn flavour and definitely good for the soul!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Lena Dunham, Girls and the Donald Trump of 'Feminism,'

This is a really unusual post for me and for TVandCookies. However it is something I feel strongly about and therefore have decided to write about it. We will return to our regular scheduled light heartedness next week. So the internet has been lighting up lately with thoughts and anger towards first Odell Beckham Jr. and then subsequently towards Lena Dunham. Months ago I started working on a review of the show 'Girls,' and I really struggled with whether to post it because I try to avoid too much negativity. However I will sum it up here.

*Side-note: I am currently working on a slightly psychological review of the Gilmore Girls in which I draw on my psychologist side. However I AM NOT writing this in any psychological capacity. I have NEVER met, nor do I have any first hand information on Lena Dunham as a person or an individual therefore I am merely writing in my role as an occasional television critique about her writing in Girls and the cultural and social impact of the personality that she chooses to display to the world.

I feel like I should state from the outset that I am not a fan of 'Girls.' This is not something that I came to lightly. I definitely gave this show a good college try, watched most of season 1, parts of seasons 2 and 3. I also watched a good 2/3 of the 'Tiny Furniture,' Movie but that was all I could manage.

So what's the issue. To me this is the essential point of this post, because I think that this was the issue that led to the Odell Beckham Jr. situation, I think (I could be wrong) that the problem with Girls and Tiny Furniture and the celebrity personality of Lena Dunham is that she has no boundaries between what she thinks and what she puts out there!! Furthermore she seems to think that most of the thoughts she has are golden and deserve to be shared with the world. But here's the real kicker and essentially the part that moves it on from gossip/hate to something slightly bigger. We created this, I view Lena Dunham as something akin to a a slightly feminist Donald Trump.

We seem to be in an era of anti-expertism, where we have become highly suspicious of authority and expert knowledge. This is, in my humble opinion, a good and bad thing. I certainly believe in questioning 'accepted wisdom,' and particularly those who claim to have the 'truth,' but who are heavily influenced by commercial interests and reductionist philosophies. However in the face of all the uncertainty that comes from questioning established authority and expert knowledge there emerges a vacuum where people seek something certain or something to believe it.

Something that has emerged, unfortunately, is a desire to trust things that 'feel right,' or people who appear to speak in an honest way, by contrast to all those 'lying' experts. I consider this to be a major factor in the rise of D. Trump and also, I would argue, the popularity of Lena Dunham.

But the saddest part is that, I believe, that these individuals who 'speak their minds,' and are just being 'honest with what they see in the world,' are in fact appealing to some of the more crude and base elements of the human experience or reaction, without giving them due consideration. It is this consideration that should be the essence of the educated expert. It is not always, and often not. However this 'I speak my mind and just speak the truth,' is no closer to a certain reality and what I see in D.Trump and Lena Dunham is also a craving for attention and scandal. Then we feed it, because it's interesting, because it's shocking, because we love to see someone expressing things we may have thought (or not: case dependant) but would never say. I realize that I am feeding it by even giving it space here or because the same people who look at her or him might look at this post or that news show. It's a vicious circle.

Now she released an apology via her instagram and for that I must commend her. However I am left wondering if she would have had the reflection or the apologetic thoughts if the world had not turned against her?! What if people had continued to attack Odell Beckham Jr for doing nothing!? Now obviously there are differences, for one D.Trump would not apologise or have the level of self-reflection that Lena Dunham demonstrated. However I think we need to see these situations as a symptoms of a much bigger problem and look at the three fingers pointing at ourselves while we point a finger at her.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Remembering, repeating and Working through pt1

I have been teasing about it for a while and now I shall tease no more. This week I am starting the first in a series of slightly psychological reviews of Gilmore Girls. Why slightly psychological; firstly there is no shortage of GG reviews, therefore it is necessary to take an angle, secondly as I am a psychologist and am completing my doctorate in psychology I don't think I could honestly claim to see it in another way.

You may note that it sounds like a heavy title and I suppose it is. If you are a psychologist you may recognise this as a reference to Freud's seminal paper. However if you are not a psychologist I encourage you to continue reading. I intent to take an only slightly psychological stance and will not be filling this review with psychologist specific references. Partially because I spend enough time doing that in my thesis and I honestly could not be bothered but also because I intend these reviews to be generally accessible. So I will keep my referencing of obscure terms to a minimum. My other intention is to put forward a number of reviews. I may break it down into multiple reviews. All building up to an episode by episode review of the new season in November.

Now as I am aware that not everyone who comes to this website loves Gilmore Girls so I intend to space these out over the next three months and each of the posts will come with a cookie recipe, because you know...TVandCookies.

So anyway here we go...

Image property of Warner Brothers*

In a recent round up of the best episodes of the Gilmore Girls on a popular website they said that you can skip season one all together. Well, I'm sorry but I firmly disagree. Season one is essential! It establishes the mood of the show and the foundational context of the opposing worlds of Stars Hollow versus "Hartford," (i.e. Emily and Richard's World, Chilton). I use invert commas here for a reason. I recently watched a video of a Gilmore Girls fan who pointed out some geographical inaccuracies with the show and made a point that the depiction of Hartford is quite inaccurate which gave me a smile. I actually got to visit Hartford in 2009 and I was bitterly disappointed to see that Hartford was nothing like the place they describe in Gilmore Girls, at all!!!

However I digress, Season one. So, for me, the most important episodes are the Pilot, Rory's Birthday parties, Rory's dance, Star-crossed lovers and Other Strangers, and Emily in Wonderland. I will go through each one and explain why.

The Pilot is amazing and introduces us to all the major players and contexts. The intro scene with Lorelai, Luke and then Rory sets the pace and tone for the whole show and demonstrates the incredible Sherman-Palladino story crafting skills. We meet all the major players; the aforementioned three, Sookie, Lane, Richard and Emily, and Dean. Then there are the references, you have to love the many, many references. My favourite mother daughter fantasy relationship is beautifully depicted. I know the word chemistry is generally saved for romantic couples but the natural and loving banter between Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel gives the impression of people who have known each other for years, I guess like mother and daughter/best friends! It's so comfortable and that entices us, the audience into this beautiful, relaxed environment and makes us want to visit again and again. Then the core conflict between Lorelai and her parent's is played out beautifully in the first Friday night dinner. The acting in this scene between Kelly Bishop and Lauren Graham is wonderful, of course,but the dynamics are much less subtle than they come to be. In many ways I enjoy this, it's over spilling of pent up emotions, it's tolerating that by all parties for a greater good.

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Rory's Birthday Parties
This episode starts with Friday night dinner and unlike the pilot shows us a glimpse of the hope behind the anger/hurt in the Lorelai- Emily relationship. We see Emily making efforts to connect and Lorelai getting excited by those efforts, responding in kind. This, for me,is essential GG viewing. People can be hurtful to each other for lots of reasons but hurting each other because you want to love each other, well that's the stuff of Shakespeare! The party that Emily throws is beautiful and it's clear what a huge amount of effort she has put in, however once the party starts (foreshadowed by the shopping trip) it is immediately clear that the party was thrown for Emily's fantasy grand-daughter and not necessarily the real Rory. I also love that we get to see more of Rory's character; her attempts to sublimate her needs for those of others and then the subsequent frustration and outburst. Rory gets a taste of Lorelai's life and we get to see the dynamic repeated with Emily and Rory with Lorelai putting her head out to change the dynamic this time, with positive consequences. Sidenote: if you want a laugh watch the random extras at Rory's second party!

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Rory's Dance
Oh this is another classic episode. We get to see more of Dean and we get to see a bit more of the elusive Christopher! We see one of the major introductions of the theme of separating Lorelai and Rory. Emily accuses Lorelai of influencing Rory too strongly and then we see Lorelai encouraging Rory to form her own opinion on dances. This is one of the things that I most admire about Lorelai and Rory's relationship. A single mother and daughter creates an interesting situation. There is no father here to create an oedipal triangle and Lorelai makes it crystal clear that her major priority is Rory. Therefore Lorelai must hold a third within herself (as many mothers do) but is particularly important for single mothers. We see Lorelai struggling to be greater than how she sees her own mother, as being trapped in the dynamic of their relationship, doomed to repeat the past in every interaction. It is Lorealai's desire, to give  Rory the chances she didn't have, that pushes her to re-engage with her parents and the grandparent's desire, for a second chance to give Rory what Lorelai refused, that force them to stay in relationship with Lorelai. They each want what is best for Rory (which of course is subjective) but this shared interest connects them and creates space for relating and small incremental adaptations. This is interesting as their core conflict could have been seen previously as Emily and Richard want what is best for Lorelai and Lorelai wanting what is best for Lorelai but those things being diametrically opposed. Now in Rory they may meet half way, kind of...
What we see in Rory's dance is a climactic effect of these various efforts. Lorelai and Emily are brought together by the dance and they dare to hope for mother daughter connection between them only for that to blow up in their faces when Rory's best interests are not met. The second this happens all of the pains and failures of the past come flooding back and we see the explosion that occurs in the kitchen and unfortunately Lorelai and Rory's relationship takes a blow from the flying debris. As you can tell, I kind of love this episode!!

So lets talk cookies

Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies

The recipe for the cookie base was a trial of these by Simmer and Boyle.
I was impressed but would make some small adjustments next time. I obviously went for white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts in place of milk chocolate

Here's a couple of delicious pics

And on with the review

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Star Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers
This episode comes much later in the season and Rory and Dean are well established. The episode leads up to them going out to celebrate their 3 month anniversary. The episode focuses on love and we see Lorelai's frustration at being alone. We also see, in part, why Luke has not made a move with Lorelai, i.e. his history with Rachel. This concept is introduced in 'Concert, interrupted,' but now we meet the woman herself and see the dynamic in action. Now much of this episode seems less significant that the episodes above but I would argue that a subtle dynamic is building that comes to a head in the last few minutes of the show. (Spoilers to follow)
Lorelai has forsaken her relationship with Max for the benefit of Rory, and Max, but mostly Rory. However now she is alone, while Rory has a boyfriend. We see from very early in the episode how Lorelai subtly dismisses and downplays the importance of the anniversary. She projects it onto Emily, of course, but I believe it belongs to her. Then comes the date and Rory is blown away with Dean's efforts, that all lead up to the gift of the car and the declaration of love. Now, this could easily have been anticipated. Dean has been telling Rory that he loved her since day one and Rory clearly has intense feelings for him. But as she sits there with the meatball for her mother I believe that Lorelai plays an enormous role in Rory's inability to say 'I love you,' back.
As I mentioned above, Rory has not had a father in her life to separate her from her mother, or with whom Lorelai can model romantic relating. We see in 'Love and Snow and War,' that Lorelai has never introduced another man to Rory, which is something I massively applaud, it's undoubtedly difficult but has provided stability. However every positive has a shadow and the shadow here is that Lorelai has never modelled romance, nor has she ever let a man come between herself and Rory (the essence of the oedipal situation, not the incest part that people erroneously focus on). Therefore how is Rory to know what romantic love looks like, and furthermore how is Rory supposed to put a man between herself and Lorelai? This becomes particularly difficult within the context of the messages of hating love that Lorelai has been showing Rory for the whole episode. Therefore I believe this is an important episode because it shows the shadow side of the fantasy mother daughter relationship and I might go as far as to say that it foreshadows the eventual situation with Lorelai and Max. Eitherway, I suggest you watch it.

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Emily In Wonderland
So finally we come to the fifth essential episode of season one. In this episode we see Rory bringing Emily further into Lorelai and Rory's Stars Hollow world. The themes are somewhat similar to those in 'Rory's Dance,' so I won't get too far into them. However I enjoy Rory's naivety about how easy it would be to introduce Emily to the world that Lorelai worked so hard to keep her out of. The emotional punch of seeing the shed that Lorelai chose over Emily's beautiful house, with all it's advantages, leaves no room for doubt about Lorelai's desire to separate from Emily and her whole world. She reacts in the way that becomes the typical of the negotiation of the new dynamic, by trying to pull Rory closer to her, while in turn taking a step away from Lorelai. I like this episode and this story-line particularly. For me it sets the adaptation that perpetuates the conflict between Lorelai and her parents while trying to maintain the Rory connection. However the fact that Rory is not an inanimate object and therefore has her own interests and concerns, well this puts a spanner in the strategies and keeps things very interesting. Rory's tendency to want to facilitate other's needs is useful in that it gives them the impression that she is more malleable than she really is and this gives a hope that keeps this strategy in play throughout several seasons.

So those are my favourite episodes and there significance in season 1. If you just want to know everything that happened, the actor that played Kirk has been making summary's that cover all the major plot points in 60 seconds that are quite fun, so I would recommend those also. Otherwise I will return soon will more season reviews. I hope that you enjoyed this, it was a bit more involved than some of my other television reviews and since Gilmore Girls is my favourite show, possibly ever...idk, there is a lot more that I could say but I am trying to keep it to the important bits. Anyway, enjoy and the cookies are awesome too so maybe you'd give them a try.

*Warner Brother images used under fair use for the purposes of review

Monday, August 15, 2016

Coffee and Duolingo reminds me of Gilmore girls

This week we had a really fun and impressive anniversary. My fiancé hit a one year streak on Duolingo!! That is one whole year without missing a single day! That is very impressive to me, I think the most I have managed is about 10 days, but then if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time then my constant efforts to work on consistency won't be a surprise!!

Anyway back to my partner, to celebrate we decided to do a cake and when I asked him he said 'Coffee!' which may have been more to do with him wanting a cup of coffee than any specific cake design concepts.But We figured out a way to give him both!

This cake was so much fun to make. It. COntains 3 separate. cakes. One 7" and two that are basically oversized muffins each approx 3" diameter. Then there's the frosting. I used 3 types, ganache, buttercream and marshmallow fluff .The ganache was a combination of whipped and fudgy ganache to give a woodgrain look. The outside of the.cups is butter cream and the foam on top is the fluff. After that I just added a tiny bit of fondant/flower paste for the handles and raised decorations and we were away!

The cake needed to be sturdy so I did a coffee pound cake. For future reference I would add a coffee syrup for texture and extra flavour. However I think this was still pretty delicious! Here's how I put it together, recipe at the end.

I divided the main cake and first filled with fudgy ganache

Then coated it in whipped ganache and smoothed it out

Then I split the mini cakes, filled them with ganache and added them to the top of the cake, Being careful to avoid crumbs!!

Then I added a top coating of ganache before frosting with buttercream. I piped a rim for the mugs from butter cream also. The butter cream was initially difficult to smooth so I got it as smooth as possible and then let it set up in the fridge before applying greaseproof paper and smoothing further.

The handles were a mixture of fondant and flower paste, as mentioned above. If these are not things you have lying around you could feasibly make a play dough from flour, water and food dye and leave it it dry in the oven or the sun. Just be sure that no-one tries to eat it!

Finally there was the issue of the froth/cream. For this I made a homemade marshmallow fluffy using marshmallows and some agave nectar. It worked beautifully imho. However word to the wise- this stuff is Hella sticky, so keep some tools and a food scissors in a bath of hot water nearby while applying.

And that's it! Simples! Not really....but fun!

Coffee Cake Recipe

220g Butter
220g Sugar
280g Plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant coffee + 2 tbsp boiling water

285g Dark Chocolate
285/1 container double cream

100g unsalted butter
200g Icing sugar
1 tbsp Milk
Black food colouring

Marshmallow fluff
3 jumbo marshmallows
1 tsp Agave nectar

1 - Preheat oven to 180'. Beat together butter and sugar

2- Sieve together the flour, baking powder and baking soda

3 - Alternate additions of flours and eggs

4 - Add the coffee and vanilla

1 - Heat the cream

2 - Chop chocolate into small pieces and pour over the hot cream

3 - Leave the chocolate and cream to sit and then mix thoroughly

4 - Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes to cool fully before whipping

1 - Beat together the butter and icing sugar

2 - Add milk and food colouring

Marshmallow fluff
1 - Melt marshmallows in the microwave for 30 seconds

2 - Add the agave nectar and add to the top of the cups immediately

I am not going to get to worked up encouraging you to do this at home as I appreciate it's not a one hour job. However I will say that if you have a loved one that deserves a special treat it is probably less work thanks you would imagine! The whole thing really reminded me of Gilmore Girls and as a result I got through a few episodes while putting the cake together, which means that the review will be soon. (I don't know why I am constantly teasing this review......setting myself up for failure)

Otherwise I hope you enjoy this fun post and I will return next week with something a little more normal but just as delicious!!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Simple things and stranger things

This week has been awesome and then tremendously empty. Once you find Stranger Things,  get completely hooked and then realise that there are only 8 episodes. Well everything has slightly less shine now! Aw, I joke but honestly this show is fantastic!! It creates such a wonderful atmosphere of 80s nostalgia and childhood adventure with a hint of the mysterious paranormal!

Image property of Netflix

So I thought naturally that I would accompany this post with a simpler thing - Scones.

Scones are one of the first things I ever learnt to make, scones and brownies. When I was about the age of the Stranger Things kids, maybe a little younger. My Mum taught me how to make these two things from a Darina Allen book and I was absolutely enthralled!! I felt like I was being taught some kind of super-power;You can just make treats?! Mind-blown! Well as you can tell, I started there and didn't stop but today I wanted to revisit the ole favourite with a bit of a healthy twist. 

Obviously scones are sweet breads so they are inevitably carbs but I have made a few adjustments to make them as healthy as carbs can be, and honestly you wouldn't know he difference. They definitely passed the fiancé test. These two lasted about five minutes between us.

So what are the adjustments - the flour is a fine ground wholemeal flour. Fine ground is important here, it can be called pasta flour but it makes a very big difference.

The second big alteration, these contain no added sugar. They are sultana scones and thereis  natural sugars in the sultanas but otherwise there is no sugar, no sweetner and no way to tell that it's no added sugar, I promise!

The secret is to soak the sultanas in tea. The tea adds a depth of flavour anyway but as the sultanas are soaked the natural sugars seep into the tea and then the whole lot is added into the scones which adds just enough sweetness, not to mention beautiful plump juicy sultanas. So you would never know that I didn't add sugar, why not give it a try?!

Healthy Scones (Wholemeal, No Added Sugar) (Makes 12 large)

1-1.5 Cups Sultanas
Black tea - enough to cover the above

500g Wholemeal fine ground plain flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp all-spice
1 egg
2 tbsp milk of choice
2 tbsp oil of choice (I used almond)

Egg-wash to beautify

1 - Soak the sultanas for at least an hour up to overnight

2 - Preheat oven to 180'C. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and spices

3 - Pour in the sultanas and mix

4 - Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until a dough is formed

5 - Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes

6 - Form into even sized balls, try to hide the sultanas inside, and place on a lined baking tray

7 - Egg-wash to finish and bake for 15-20 minutes or until hollow sounding when tapped.

8 - Allow to cool and enjoy with some sneaky butter ;)

Perfect for enjoying during an episode of Stranger things. I haven't spoken about it much but I feel that I don't wish to spoil anything. Suffice is to say that it is well, well worth watching! My favourite character was Eleven, shortly followed by Dustin, toothless kid, because he was just a hero and so cute whenever he speaks! If you don't have Netflix, get it, there is more and more amazing ontent there every week. I am not sponsored to say this, I just appreciate Netflix more and more every day and you will need it to see Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which I will review, episode by episode! Not to mention catching up, or rewatching Gilmore girls as I am doing right now to put together a full review for you shortly. So anyway for now, watch Stranger things, make these scones and thank me later =)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Apple and Salted Caramel Cake

This week a very good friend asked if I could make a cake for them. I was absolutely delighted to do so and the requested cake was Apple and Salted Caramel

I had never actually made an apple and salted caramel cake before so I decided to do a little research. I found a delicious looking recipe on the Brown Eyed Baker and I must say that her cake looks amazing. However, naturally I had to make a couple of little adaptations and I am very happy with how it turned out. Firstly I wanted to make the cake lighter and more summer appropriate, so less spicy. I also wanted to include fresh apple to make it taste more fresh. Finally I came up with my own easy to make icing and some interactive decorations

Chocolate apple of mystery!!
Two delicious layers of apple cake were covered in frosting

before three little apples were placed on top

Excuse the on location picture quality
And the apples, well let me show you how they work.....


Fun right?!

Apple Salted Caramel Cake (adapted from BrownEyedBaker)

Apple Cake (enough for 2x9" Cake layers)

340g Butter
400g Caster Sugar
75g Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
500g Cake Flour (Plain flour with 8 tbsp replaced by cornflour)
1 tsp Baking powder
2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
4 cups grated apple in 2 lemons worth of lemon juice

Salted Caramel Icing (enough for this cake)

280g Salted Butter
560g Icing Sugar
60ml Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce recipe that I used


1- Preheat oven  to 180'C and grease and line your cake tin

2 - Beat together the butter and sugar, beat in the vanilla extract

3 - Sieve together the flour, baking powder and soda and spices

4 - Beat the eggs together

5 - Add portions of the eggs and flour to the butter alternating between the two, leaving a portion of flour

6 - Add the grated apple and the remaining flour.

7 - Divide between 2 9" cake tins. Wrap the tins in tin foil to protect and bake for 45-50minutes.

8 - Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

*Note - This is a very soft and light cake and needs to cool completely in the tin to be workable but the texture upon eating is just perfect!!*

9 - Beat together the butter icing sugar and caramel sauce for the frosting.

10- Ice the cake - First do a crumb coat - there will be crumbs. Although I think a naked cake version would also be awesome

Finish the icing and make the chocolate apples.

To make these I used half circl moulds and dark chocolate. I found the bet technique was to paint the chocolate onto the mould to achieve even layers. Then set and melt the edge to get two half circles together

I made a hole in the top and filled with more caramel sauce. Then filled in the hole with a pretzel stick.

Then when the cake is ready to be eaten, just cut the apples and enjoy the show!!

So that's it! I hope you enjoy and try it out for yourself!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Trying something new without commiting

It's interesting that in my last post I was writing about marriage and in this post I want to focus on trying new things without having to commit fully.

Sun setting over the clouds

Back in May I wrote a post about trying a week without milk. It was something really different for me because I really love dairy. I mean REALLY love it!!! I would probably go through about 5 litres of milk a week and then cheese; cheddar, cottage, brie and then yoghurt and whey protein and ice-cream. The list goes on and on but the main point is I consume a lot of dairy. In fact, when I think about it I would probably say that the majority of my protein came from dairy sources. I used to be a vegetarian for years and while I switched back to including white meat and fish when I moved in with my fiancé, I still wouldn't eat a huge amount of it. Therefore I got most of my protein from dairy and I loved it!!

KerryMaid Country

However recently I have been doing some thinking and soul searching. Now I am not, absolutely not, going to stand here and criticise anyone else. Neither am I here to preach because lord knows I have consumed enough dairy in the last few years to feed probably about 5 people, so..... But there are a lot of people out there advising against too much dairy, for a variety of reason and I guess I have started to wonder if eating this much dairy is right for me?! And right now........ I'm not sure what the answer to that is.

So, I've decided to try something new, without making a massive commitment. So before the Vegan police descend - I cannot and will not tell you, or myself that I will never consume dairy again. In fact, I think I will probably deliberately leave myself the possibility of consuming dairy for ever, in a limited way, in one form or another. I mean I'm a baker, for goodness sake, and not a massive believer in overly processed substitutes. I may well be converted one day. However for the moment I have decided to try going dairy free for a little while and see how it is.

Also another side note to the Vegan Police - I am not Vegan, I do not claim to be Vegan. I have good people in my life who are Vegan and I respect them and their, at times, difficult choices for the benefit of animals. I believe in making some Vegan choices and you will see a number of Vegan recipes or alterations on my blog. However as a baker, a food blogger and a psychologist there is one thing that I firmly believe in and that is spreading hate and attacking people is never okay!! I understand that you view meat as murder, it kind of is, and I realise that living in a world where this is the norm frustrates you greatly. However I WON'T EVER agree that hateful behaviour towards others will successfully promote your cause. If anything it will shut down the very conversation you wish to start. So I compel anyone who finds this blog and feels the need to attack me or anyone else for where they are on their journey with food to just leave. This is not the place for you! 

That said I welcome and am excited by anyone who would like to share with me their story with dairy and their experiences with dairy-free too!! Particularly any tips! Please?!

So this week I tried an exciting new recipe and I wanted to share. You may remember if you read my previous post about giving up milk that I am on a bit of a quest. If there is even the slightest hope of giving up milk then I need to find something to put in my tea. As a born and bred Irish person, tea is an essential part of the day. In fact you can almost chart my mood based on whether I have had tea, and carbs but that's another story. So I need, NEED a dairy-free milk that will work in tea or this dairy free life is not manageable. I appreciate that this sounds dramatic, but I have come to know myself a little bit and I know I need tea.

So when I discovered this easy homemade cashew milk I jumped for joy!! It's creamy, milky and has minimal lumps. It works perfectly with cereal, amazingly in coffee but ..........awful in tea. So my quest continues but that doesn't diminish my love for cashew milk because this stuff is amazing!!!

Cashew Milk

225g/ 1.5 Cups Cashews
1.4L/ 6 Cups Water
2 Dates
1/2 tsp vanilla

You need - a blender
                 - an airtight glass jar
                 - a sieve (optional)
You Do Not need cheese cloth or any other special straining equipment

1 - Put the cashews in a jar cover with water and let them soak for at least 3 hours.

2 - Drain and rinse the cashews

3- Add Cashews and 1/2 the water into a blender and blend until smooth. At this point add the dates
     and vanilla if you want.

This is now a perfect consistency for creamer if that's your thing, so if you want that then stop here.

4 - Add the rest of the water until you have reached the desired consistency.

5 - Store in an airtight container in the fridge for  3 days, some say 5.

Then just enjoy in a delicious coffee...
This was full at one stage but I honestly couldn't resist it long enough to get photos

Note of caution ; It has been drawn to my attention that there can be an issue with raw cashews and mycotxins and although I have also found research that claims that properly treated and stored cashews contain little or no toxic substances. However I have yet to complete my own research on this subject and if you have any concerns I suggest that you do the same and reach your own conclusions.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Travelling and doctorating etc

I have been away for a while. I genuinely didn't mean to leave it so long and I think it deserves some real talk in explanation. However I will pepper it with some lovely pictures for your entertainment.I will also share a new baking post very very soon.

Recently we travelled back to Ireland and visited some locations for our wedding next year!

I haven't written much about the engagement or the wedding planning on here and if I'm honest I think that has been a major reason for my absence. I'm not completely certain why I chose not to write about the engagement etc but I'm guessing it had something to do with the fact that it didn't belong to me alone. You see my fiancé is quite a private person and I fully respect that. You may have noticed that he never appears in this blog much. Sure, I make reference to him is various ways; bf, partner, the boy etc but I've kept it deliberately vague in order to give as little away as possible.

You will have seen snippets of him -

Isn't he handsome?!

But that could be anyone really!

So now when we decided to make our two lives into one -

Well suddenly it felt like a horse of a different colour! A shiny colour ;)

Seriously though, from the second you get engaged it feels like the wedding is ever present and it has taken up, in a good way, a lot of my thinking since then. In fact, between that and the doctorate, I don't really think about much else. Well my friends and family but you know, they will also be in the wedding so I often think of them that way too!

Showing off in their finery!

And in the mist of all of this excitement, I got a bit lost about how to blog -

I know it sounds old-fashioned, and honestly we are not being old-fashioned about this thing at all, but joining our lives together threw me for a hot minute about which parts I had a right to share and which I should keep private to respect his choices! I cannot even tell you how many times of the last few months that I have sat at the computer and stared at a blank post, with a blank mind! It all felt a little too fake and although I tend to show the happier parts of my life and my baking I am nothing if not real. As evidenced by my previous 'I screw up this recipe,' posts.

If I'm fully honest, this is a process that I am still muddling through. However I think that I have documented so much of our lives together on here (we have been together since before I started this blog) and I love blogging about life and baking. Not to mention that the biggest and best baking project (i.e. my own wedding cake) is also going to be coming up! Well I think I am going to share a little more and show you some of the colour (good and bad) and excitement of this developing experience.

A glimpse of my hubby to be and this green house!
So I hope that you will accept my apology and explanation for my absence and here's to lots more baking fun to come!!

Also in fun news - I got an instagram -

Follow me on instragram at tvancookies
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