So the Bank Holiday Monday went without a hitch.  Well we nearly had an issue with the helium balloons and only just made it to the shop in time to get them filled, but otherwise, aside from Oli not being there, it was perfect.  My menu went without issue, and was insanely tasty, compliments all round, I was incredibly proud.  We planted a Eucalyptus in our back garden, writing notes to be buried under the roots and wrote messages on the balloons to be released into the sky, all for the love of Oli of course, and creating new memories.  'O' has asked about 'Onkie' so much since, which has been really lovely for me, telling him all about his Uncle in the sky.  Such a nice weekend, such lovely memories and so nice to have the story continuing even if he's not here to share in it.  Following the weekend, I've had another forage in Mum and Dad's garden, poaching several blackberries (they have such a huge early crop), raspberries, apples, a courgette, marrow, tomatoes and my all time favourite, runner beans!  I cannot overstate how much I love muffins, they're just so ridiculously tasty, can be passed off as healthy and don't need to be smothered in icing.  So here is a rather easy recipe for Blackberry and Apple Muffins, why not?  Blackberries are soon ripening in the wild, as are apples, and as I've said before, muffins can be frozen in abundance ready for packed lunches, speedy breakfasts or just those desperate snack times!
Picture
Blackberry and Apple Muffin, RoseyHands 2013
Makes 12 cupcake sized muffins, takes 20-25mins to cook in the oven heated to 170'c.

170g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
110g caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
75g unsalted butter
1 egg
100ml milk
100ml yoghurt
1tsp vanilla extract
50g cooking apple, peeled and roughly grated (my grater was nowhere to be found to I just used a knife to 'peel' off slithers)
100g blackberries

  • Preheat oven to 170'c.  Line a cupcake tin with cases.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, caster sugar and cinnamon into a bowl.
  • Melt the butter.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the egg, melted butter, yoghurt, milk and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of flour etc, mix well.
  • Quickly fold in the grated apple and blackberries.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cake cases.  Pop into the oven and cook for 20-25mins, until a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool in the tray for 5mins then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These are demolishable, my rather fussy toddler, who normally avoids 'cakes with fruit' couldn't resist these.

 
 
It is fair to say that my family have the monopoly over all major dates in the UK.  My mums birthday is typically on or around Mothers Day, my dads is around Fathers Day and my little brother died on August 26th, making it invariably the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Last night, my husband and I were whiling away the evening playing Mario Cart on Nintendo 64, very very 'old skool', and I'm so bad it hurts.  It takes my hubby and I back to when Oli was still here and the two played together whenever Ol came to stay.  I have a mascara streaked face with all the tears. I just felt this overwhelming, although irrational, fear that I was letting him (Oli) down.  I was playing with his favourite, the Toad, and I was so terrible at it that I just felt I was ruining all his hard gaming.  I've since spoken to my sister who says that Ol definitely would have been laughing at me, but still, I honestly couldn't miss him more.

I used to think that I'd do anything to have him back, for one more hug, for one more laugh, for one more anything, and I'd do it, but now I have my own babies there are some things off limits. It's horrible though, to lose your brother. I once read that if you lose your parents, you lose your past, and your babies, your future, but that losing a sibling is losing your past, present and future. There is no reminiscing with him, no drinking, no more ramblings on the phone while he walks home from work.  There will be no meeting his wife, no meeting his children, no family summer barbecues. There is no Uncle Oli for my babies, although there is, I do talk about him. But it is sad that they will never meet him.

I was 5 months pregnant with 'O' when he died, so he knew. He thought 'O' was going to be a girl, he was wrong.  He thought I'd just made up morning sickness, he was wrong!  He was too young to go, too talented, too good.

So, this weekend, on Monday, my family are coming over after golf, to celebrate his life, on what will be the third anniversary of his death.  Golf was one of Oli's passions, and he was pretty good at it, so it is something that makes us feel more connected to him, although I must admit that this year I'm not playing.  I just don't feel like it.  Perhaps when my little boys are a little older and I have time to play a bit more, then I'll feel like competing.  It will be competing, no member of my family plays anything to just take part!

My husband and I will be cooking Jamie's Empire Roast Chicken again, because it was awesome, with a few new sides to bulk it out a bit, Brinjal Bhaji (an aubergine curry) and Naan, all home-made of course, and for pudding, a Peach Cobbler.

We will be releasing helium balloons in Arsenal colours, red and silver (I couldn't get hold of white), for Oli, to say hi.  We'll probably play a few games, and we'll definitely have a good time.  I love my family, I love my life, but I miss my brother every second he is gone.

This is for all my family, and TCF brothers and sisters.

xx

Picture
Oli and I, 2007, xx
 
 
After the busiest weekend, gallivanting, entertaining and more gallivanting, we've all been so tired this week.  I have reluctantly let 'O' have a couple of lunchtime naps and we've all been to bed early and up late (well, as late as toddlers and babies get!).  We did however manage a superb afternoon out at Kirby Hall.  It was just so stunning, the weather was sunny but not too warm, the ruined building felt ominously grand and the grounds rolling and welcoming.  The boys and I loved it, especially with all the beautiful Peacocks roaming, it was almost majestic.  So, onto the muffins.  I love a savoury muffin, I can't remember how I came upon them, but I get so bored of breakfast cereals and toast that it is always handy to have a quick alternative stashed in the freezer and muffins always hit the spot.  Savoury muffins are also great in picnics or packed lunches and go lovely with soup, they're a bit more interesting than a sandwich or round of toast and not to mention perfect for fussy eaters avoiding veg and for the littlest as they're easy to hold and not too crumbly.  Winners all round!  I still have a little amount of marrow to use up so I thought I'd do marrow instead of courgette, then parmesan, tomato and pumpkin seeds to liven it up a bit, as the flavours mesh so well.
RoseyHands2013
A flying Peacock at Kirby Hall. RoseyHands 2013
Makes 12 muffins, takes 25mins with the oven at 150'c.

150g plain flour
50g oats
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1tbs toasted pumpkin seeds
200g grated marrow
50g chopped cherry tomatoes
50g grated parmesan
1 egg
2tbs yoghurt
5tbs olive oil

  • Heat the oven to 150'c.  Line a muffin or cupcake tin with muffin cases.
  • In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and toasted pumpkin seeds.
  • In a second bowl, mix the marrow, tomatoes, parmesan, egg, yoghurt and olive oil.
  • Put the wet ingredients into the dry bowl and mix well.
  • Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and put them into the oven for 25mins, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clear.

Awesome!  They can be frozen and take very little time to defrost, so they do make a very quick, on the go, breakfast or snack!

 
 
Raspberries are still in season (just), so we traipsed off to a PYO earlier this week and now I'm avidly hunting down delicious looking recipes to use them up.  Biscotti are one of those totally undervalued biscuits in my house, normally overlooked by the ginger snap, or anything with chocolate in, but I do absolutely love Pink Lemonade so I was curious to try out a lemon and raspberry biscotti.  I'll admit, I've also always been thrown by the thrice baked thing, they are a labour of love, no doubt about it.
Makes about 26 biscuits, takes a total of 40mins in the oven, heated to 160'c.

90g fresh raspberries
1tbs caster sugar
115g butter
125g caster sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 lemon
250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
1tsp baking powder

  • Heat 1tbs sugar with the raspberries in a saucepan, stir till they start to bubble away, then reduce by 1/3 and set aside to cool
  • Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Add the egg, lemon zest, add the cooled raspberry sauce, flour and baking powder to the creamed butter and sugar, mix well.  It should be a light dough texture.
  • Put the bowl of mixture in the fridge for about 10mins.
  • Flour a surface, divide the dough mixture into two even sizes.  Roll each half into a sausage shape about the length of your baking tray (12").
  • Either grease the baking tray, or use teflon.
  • Put both dough sausages onto the baking tray and flatten so that they are each about 3" wide, there should still be at least a 2" gap between both sausages.
  • Bake for 30mins until firm but not crisp.
  • Put the biscotti onto a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut the biscotti into 3/4" slices.
  • Put the biscotti back onto the baking tray, cut side down, cook for a further 5mins.
  • Turn each biscotti over and cook for another 5mins.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely before transferring to a tupperware.

Truly delicious, crunchy biscotti.  I'll be taking them to a picnic tomorrow, along with some raspberry cupcakes I made, Yum!

 
 
There is something so scrummy and easy about a crumble, but given I've made one just recently I thought I'd try my hand at pastry making and a pie.  I know it's a bit autumnal, but it won't be long before blackberries are in full glory again and we see the last of the summer.  Mmmm, I might even give my own custard a go to serve (or not, I've had too many failed attempts to mention!).  Mum brought round some amazingly huge early blackberries from their garden and not many people don't love a blackberry and apple combo, so here it is: Blackberry and Apple Pie, straight from the oven, my house smells amazing!
As you know, I made my pastry in advance, and I only used half the quantity to make the pie, the other half is in my freezer for another impromptu pudding when we have visitors.  I'd say the pie I made would serve 4-6 adults depending on the size of the belly in question!

Pastry
500g plain flour
60g icing sugar
250g cold butter, cut into small cubes (I actually bought some in for this!)
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs, beaten
splash of milk

  • Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into a bowl, using fingertips, rub until it resembles a fine crumb, try to be quick so the mixture stays cool.
  • Add the orange zest.
  • Make a well in the centre of the mix, add the eggs and splash of milk.
  • Using your hands, work the mixture together until you form a dough, be quick and don't work the pastry too much or the pastry will be less crumbly and more chewy.
  • Make the dough into a rough ball shape, flour, then wrap in cling film and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least 30mins.
  • For making the pie, as below, split the dough into two even sized balls, put one in the freezer, floured and wrapped in cling film.

The Pie
25g butter
50g caster sugar (although the end result is really rather sweet, I'd probably want to use 30g next time I make it)
1 large bramley apple
1 gala apple (I had one in that wasn't about to be eaten any time soon)
large handful of blackberries
1 egg, beaten
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbs demerara sugar

  • Remove the pastry from the fridge.
  • Peel, quarter and core the apples, chop each quarter into bite-size pieces.
  • Put the apple, butter and sugar into a small saucepan with the lid on.  Slowly cook for 5-10 minutes until the apples are soft, add the blackberries and leave to cool.
  • Butter your pie dish, (approx 10" diameter, shallow dish)
  • Roll out half your pastry to cover the pie dish (approx 5mm thick), lay the pastry over the dish and push gently to fit.  Trim the excess pastry off the edge of the dish.
  • When the fruit is cooled, strain through a sieve, reserving the juice.
  • Put the cooled fruit into the pie base adding back half of the reserved juice.
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
  • Roll out the remaining half of pastry to cover the pie, lay over gently, trim excess pastry and press together the edges of the pie with fingers or a fork.
  • Brush the top of the pie with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle over the ground cinnamon and demerara sugar.
  • Cut a few slits into the top of the pie.
  • Put the pie in the oven, 170'c, for about 40minsm until the top is golden brown and crisp.

Tah Dah!  Beautiful Blackberry and Apple Pie, fabulously smelling house and rather full bellies!

Update:  We had this for pudding earlier, served with a spoonful of yoghurt, and it was immense.  Pastry was perfect, the middle wasn't too sweet, as I suspected it might be, so I'm really rather impressed.  Looking forward to demolishing the rest of this one with a cup of tea tomorrow and making a few more as autumn starts to draw in and the air turns chillier.

 
 
Oh the weekends just blend in with the week when you're on maternity leave, I tend to walk around oblivious of the day or date and just get on with things.  This weekend we went raspberry picking, a free pudding to a lunch and so so yummy to cook with.  I also attempted Jamie Oliver's 'Empire Roast Chicken', which was no mean feat.  I generally find that his recipes are easy to follow, but this one didn't really read well but it did look pretty immense and I was after a Sunday dinner that was a little out of the ordinary.  It was beautiful, honestly, the chicken smelt amazing while marinating in the fridge, and the whole thing cooked beautifully.  Both the children devoured it too, which is always a bonus.  I'd definitely cook it again, another successful meal!

I did attempt to make a blackberry and apple pie for pudding, but got as far as making the pastry!  Clearly incapable of multitasking to a great extent!  I'll be finishing off the pie tomorrow, pictures to follow.
Monday morning means it's baby group, off to the park this morning.  The park is a giant sandpit, most of which we seemed to bring home with us!  The house had to be hoovered in the brief window both boys are entertained at bath time, phew!  Park number two this afternoon, and 'O' threw the hugest paddy, what do you do when your child refuses to walk any further?!  I threatened the naughty step, which was clearly implausible, you could nearly see him laughing at me.  I couldn't carry him and push the pushchair.  He was just in a clingy mood.  The little limpet only let go of me to stamp across the bridges 'trip trap' style.  I admit, I find the limpet highly irritating when I'm out and about and manoeuvring the pushchair at the same time, it can be difficult, but really, I also love it.  He always holds my hand when we're walking about, so I know he's with me and safe, and I love him so much, why would I want to let go, or why would I want him to let go?

Mr and me discussed our family at the weekend.  I'm sure it's a conversation most parents of two have at some point, but we're thinking this is it for us baby wise.  I'm going to hate to sell and donate all our baby belongings, my maternity clothes, all the teeny toys and things but we feasibly can't afford to have any more, so these precious baby days are nearly over.  I feel so sad about it.  I feel sad that I'm never going to be pregnant again, feel the baby kick, wriggle or hiccup.  I feel sad that we're not going to have a little girl.  I do though, recognise how lucky we are.  We do have two beautiful, healthy boys.  I know, having had my brother die, that the temptation is to have a 'spare'.  Obviously they wouldn't be 'spare', but I could not be any more grateful to still have a sister, so if the worst did happen to one of my little boys (please no), then at least there would be another little one for the other.  But it is not to be, and like most parents out there, we will hope for the best, every day.  I also think I'd be too fraught with three, I'm pulled at two, and I've never been the most patient or rational of people.  So two it is, at least 'H' won't have the trauma of being a middle child!
 
 
My husband would live off very few ingredients if he could.  He is a man who, I'm sure, would quite happily have the same three meals day in day out.  When we first started dating he ate poached eggs on toast every day for breakfast and either pasta with cheese and grilled chicken smothered in mustard, or mushroom stroganoff, for tea.  Neither of which I was (or am) particularly keen on... something had to change!  Anyway, very quickly we varied the meals, but I can still rarely get him to eat any other flavoured cakes than chocolate, the old staple.  So, chocolate cupcakes it is, with a pretty, twisty, top.
Makes 12 cupcakes

Cakes
100g plain flour
21/2 tbs cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
11/2 tsp baking powder
40g butter (or like me, olive spread... I just rarely get butter in!)
120ml whole milk
1 egg (I use large)
1tsp vanilla extract

  • Line the cupcake tray with cases.
  • Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, butter, 60mls of milk, egg and vanilla extract into a bowl, and beat well with an electric whisk.
  • When smooth, add the remaining milk, scrape the sides and whisk again until fully incorporated.
  • Either spoon from the bowl, or poor the mixture into a jug (it is quite runny) and pour straight into the cupcake cases.  Fill each case about 2/3rds.
  • Cook for about 15mins on 150'c (fan oven), or until a skewer, inserted through the middle of one of the cupcakes, comes out clear.
  • Cool in the tin for about 5mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Icing
300g icing sugar
100g butter (yep, I used olive spread again)
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2tbs whole milk
1tbs cocoa powder

  • Put the icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract and whole milk into a bowl, beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  • Take out half the icing, put it into a clean bowl with the cocoa powder, beat until smooth.
  • Using separate spoons, spoon alternating icings into a piping bag with nozzle.
  • Squeeze out the icing into a swirly pattern onto each cooled cupcake.

Super.  Actually, I halved the icing quantity when making my cakes as I never usually bother with piping, subsequently, half of my cakes are un-iced, boo, luckily 'O' is not quite so fussy with sweet as he is with savoury, so I'm pretty sure he'll eat those without noticing there is icing missing!

 
 
The boys and I have been really busy today, we went to the park to meet 'O's nursery friends for a summer holiday picnic, which was rather nice, and then 'O' and I went to the dentist.  The appointment today felt completely pointless, not only was the appointment solely for 'O', but he obstinately refused to open his mouth... this was the third time we've been.  Baring in mind, like most toddlers he is rarely quiet for more than a few seconds, if he's not chattering away, he's going through this hugely irritating roaring phase, think lions, tigers, dinosaurs, thunder... if it roars, he roars more.  We were even encouraging him to roar for the dentist, but no, not a sausage.  When we got down from the chair, he did ask if we were going home now.  Yes, and thanks for that!  I'm not against obstinacy, I'm absolutely sure I was one of those children, but it's about me learning how to handle it, how to coax, cajole, negotiate, so that we can at least do these necessary appointments... has anyone any ideas?  Our next attempt is in September... I want to go prepared!

Dinner tonight was Fish and Chips, well the home-made version.  Sea bass in breadcrumbs, potato wedges and a massive quantity of peas, the awesome, on-hand, easy veg!  I'm not going to do a recipe, it's just too easy, but thanks to the Hairy Dieters, I do now use yoghurt instead of egg when preparing to cover something in breadcrumbs.  It is less messy, less points on weight watchers, more moist and infinitely more tasty.  The big news on dinner was that 'H' ate a full baby portion, he couldn't have chowed down more food quick enough,  it was amazing to watch, he clearly loved every mouthful!  I felt so proud!  I'm still not sure whether it was down to it being a brilliant tasting meal, that was easy to hold, or whether it was because he was in his bumbo as opposed to his usual Cosatto Noodle high chair.  Speaking of which, we've had the Noodle for 21/2 years, and yesterday I noticed a crack in the leg hinge bit, phoned them up, no quibs, they came and collected it today for repairs, what awesome customer service!

And lastly, every year, there is no escaping the flying ant season, and this is right now.  Ugh, I've just sprayed loads with fly spray and put down one of those ant stop things... fingers crossed we'll have no more tomorrow!
 
 
I'm not usually a 'tell all' type of a person, but given I've started this blog, and it's supposed to be about all things me, it wouldn't be right if I didn't mention that I'm on a diet.  A friend of mine (bloke from work), used to call women he thought were attractive but overweight 'chunky but funky'.  It's a bit offensive, but he was that kind of bloke.  Thing is, I used to think I was too fat to even fall under that terminology.  I've been overweight for a while, but it wasn't till I gave birth to my second son that I realised I'd fallen into the obese category.  Gutted.  I'd always thought obesity meant you were huge, and I suppose I was, just not as huge as I'd thought you needed to be.  Anyway, after 'H' was born in February, and I turned 30 in March, I decided that two babies was enough, my twenties were over and I needed to take back some control over my body.  I joined Weight Watchers in April, and have since lost 1st 9lb, whoop!  According the the NHS BMI table, I still need to lose another 2st(!) to be at my ideal weight.  Wish me luck!
 
 
My littlest, 'H' is so enjoying his food at the moment, he's coming up to 6 months soon and we've been 'weaning' of sorts for about a month.  I'm following BLW with 'H', so in principal it means that the little one helps helps himself to whatever I'm eating, and obviously some things are easier to eat (get hold of) than others.  Unlike 'O', he revolted at the first taste of ice cream, far too cold, but he does love a good sweet.  Please don't think I'm fattening him up on puds, he gets plenty of savoury too!  This crumble, far from original in idea, is incredibly tasty and proved very popular with the little man.
I'm very ad-hoc with crumbles, it takes very little time to prepare, 30mins in the oven (at 150'c) and serves two lots of two adults and two toddler/babies.

Filling
1 large bramley apple
small punnet of raspberries
juice of half a lemon
1tbs brown sugar
3tbs water

Crumble
100g plain flour
50g butter (although again, I used olive spread)
50g sugar (I used 25g brown and 25g demerara for extra crunch)
20g oats
10g ground almonds (I had them to use up)

  • Peel, quarter and core the apple.  Cut each quarter into small bite-size pieces.
  • Put the apple, raspberries, lemon juice, brown sugar and water into an oven proof dish.
  • To make the crumble, put all ingredients into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until a rough dry crumb is formed.  It doesn't need to be uniform, all lumps and bumps add texture.
  • Spoon / pour the crumble mix over the filling.
  • Pop the crumble into the oven for about 30mins, or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling though.

Serve with ice cream, brilliant!