Choccy choccy recipes!

I’ve been doing some baking this week – my small group is going away this weekend for 3 days’ “retreat” (private house with a heated pool…yes please) so I’ve made some treats to take with us.

I thought I’d share the recipes with you, you lucky thing

First up: Rocky Road

This stuff is AMAZING and addictive. But it’s cheap. I honestly believe it’s the fact that the ingredients are cheap that makes it so good.

What you need:

  • one packet of milk chocolate digestives
  • 100g bag of marshmallows
  • 4x 100g bars of milk chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine

The how…

1) Crush one packet of milk chocolate digestives, in a large bowl. I use a rolling pin to crush them. You want a few bigger pieces but mostly little bits; what chefs would probably call “rubble” if they were doing this.

2) Cut up all the marshmallows into thirds. Don’t be tempted to use the mini marshmallows; they are too dry and tiny. Yes, cutting marshmallows is sticky and will gunk up your scissors so wash them immediately

Add the marshmallows to the biscuits

3) On a medium heat, melt the butter and golden syrup together in a heavy bottom saucepan (hehe, bottom)

4) Break up the chocolate bars and add it to the syrup/butter mix

5) Allow to melt. It looks disgusting, then all of a sudden becomes gorgeously smooth. You may need to stir it with a wooden spoon

6) Add the chocolate/syrup/butter mix to the biscuits/marshmallows in the bowl

7) Mix together until it looks like the chocolate mix has covered all the biscuits

8) Line a baking tray – I use a rectangular one but have no idea of the dimensions!

9) Dump the chocolate/biscuit/marshmallow onto the tray. It will try to stick together in a lump so smooth it out with the back of the wooden spoon. You don’t want it very thick but you need to make sure there are no loose bits at the edges or these won’t stay part of it

10) Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but overnight if you can. When it’s chilled, cut it up into squares. My tin with this amount of mix usually makes 20 good size bites

11) Enjoy!

And now, for something a little different. I had a bag of organic spelt flour to use – spelt is a grain that has finer wheat, so it is good for people like me who have discovered recently that they are a little bit over-sensitive to wheat. Poorly tummy, not nice 😦 I want to still be able to eat cake and don’t have any tummy pains after eating this – hooray!

Super moist chocolate spelt cake

What you need:

  • 1 cup of light brown sugar (or 1/2 light brown and 1/2 caster sugar) 
  • 1 3/4 cups  spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup  melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot water

How…

1) Preheat oven to 170C or 350F (no idea what Gas Mark that is)

2) Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, and use an electric whisk (…I’ve only just been given an electric whisk so am using it a lot but mixing by hand is great too) to mix it until it’s all together. It will be very chocolately looking but also very wet

3) Grease two round cake tins and line with parchment (around the sides) DON’T use a loose bottom tin. I made the mistake of making an upside down cake in a loose bottom tin once…the mixture was wet like this cake and it all came leaking out the sides. Disaster. Use a proper cake tin and grease it well

4) Put the cake into the oven. Don’t check it for at least 25 minutes (or 35 minutes if it’s in just the one cake tin)

5) When it’s cooked (you’ll know when you put a knife into the top and it comes out clean – it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes) turn the cake out onto a cooling rack

6) Once it’s cooled, sandwich it together with chocolate butter cream (equal parts butter and icing sugar plus 3 teaspoons of cocoa powder…or just chuck it in until it looks yummy)

 

Sorry for no pictures but my phone is being lame, as always. I’ll try and update later with some idea of what these lovely creations look like but for now, I’m off to eat some rocky road…!

I actually like to make this in one taller tin, and then cut it in half when it’s cooled as I find this gives it a flatter top, rather than two cakes with domed tops that are hard to sandwich together

Pour the mix into the tin an

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Priorities

pri·or·i·ty
[prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-]

1. the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.

2. the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.

3. the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.

4. something given special attention.

adjective
5. highest or higher in importance, rank, privilege, etc.: a priority task.

Lately, I have been questioning my priorities and what I give my time to. The things we prioritise say a lot about us, don’t they?

Over the last fortnight I have been really challenged by a situation at work. It has been so difficult and actually quite distressing. We have been dealing with foster carers who are prioritising their own wish to go on a holiday over the needs of the little boy they look after – they’ve only had him for a few weeks and want to go off and leave him with other carers when he’s barely settled with them. It has become clear that their priority is not the child they are caring for.

It was so clear to me that this is not ok, but then since being confronted with this whole thing I have thought about my own priorities. My mind has strange connections – I think about one thing, which prompts something else, and then another thing which seems unconnected but actually makes sense in my mind.

(Example: this evening I drove past a town-house that I liked and thought “I’d like to live in a town-house”. Then I wondered, why are they called town-houses. Then I wondered why the New York versions are called “brown-stones”. Then I wondered how much houses cost in Manhattan. And then I had the song “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald in my head!)

But anyway, let’s not get too off track.

Back in June I came close to quitting my gym membership, since I figured that £30 a month is expensive when I only went once or twice a week – and that worked out at around £5 a session which itself seemed like a lot of money. But I like going to the gym and getting fit, and I think it’s healthy for me – so I decided to prioritise going to the gym regularly and actually making the most of my membership – somehow it’s crept up to 5 times a week, but it feels so good to be active. I do classes and I have a weights routine with an instructor and everything.

I also prioritised eating healthier – I have such an addiction to chocolate and sweet things! Give me a pudding over a savoury any day of the week. I challenged myself to not eat biscuits at work for an entire month – and I did it. I felt so much better during my work day; less energy crashes in the middle of the afternoon.

It seems that if I put my mind to something, and make it a priority, it is not that hard. As my first discipler once said: “you make time for what you care about”

So why then, is it so hard for me to prioritise God in my life? I love God and I want my life to honour him and bring him glory, but I forget him SO often.

Yesterday we had a worship evening at Small Group and it was a great, peaceful, praising time.

But in my own life, when it relies on my own motivation, I really struggle to seek God. I am completely involved in my Church, but when I am serving and don’t get to listen to the service, I very rarely listen to the preach online – although I always say I will … but then I can find time to watch Emmerdale or Coronation Street on itvplayer (hey, you already knew I was middle-aged inside)

Yes, I listen to worship music – but only when I’m cooking dinner… Yes, I read my Bible – whilst I’m eating breakfast. Sometimes I pray at times other than when I just want something – but usually in the car when I get sick of what’s playing on the radio.

When did my time with God become something I tried to multi-task?

I have always struggled in prayer, because talking to a Holy, Infinite, Ever-Loving Father is just not a concept I could understand – to trust that what you ask for will be given, and that he is always there. Actually it was a pretty alien concept.

It’s different now, though…I truly know God as my Father…but how come I can’t prioritise Him. I struggle so much.

I know that everyone struggles, really I do – but I forget him so often.

How can I remedy this issue?

I don’t want some “5-steps to a closer relationship with your Saviour” type spiel. I want a deeper, more honest, more reliant relationship with God.

But how?!

At work I split my tasks into groups: 1) URGENT AND IMPORTANT, 2) NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTAND, 3) NOT IMPORTANT OR URGENT. This really helps me figure out what I need to first, and what can wait until later. (Some of my “not important and not urgent” tasks have been sitting in that pile since April though…should fix that)

God should be URGENT AND IMPORTANT, shouldn’t he?

More thoughts to come on this, I’m sure.

-x-

Domesticated ‘goddess’ / weight-lifter in training

Saturday. A day for lie-ins and laundry, brunch and baking, reading and relaxing, cleaning and more cleaning. On this particular Saturday I have even rearranged furniture. Yes – my living room has a new look.

(I decided my TV does not need, nor deserve, to be ‘pride of place’ since I don’t have a TV license and actually rarely even watch DVDs on it anymore. So it’s been relegated to another corner and I now have a nice reading “nook” next to my fireplace)

I have been very grown-up and domesticated today. I took things to the launderette (not my things, of course, but tablecloths from Matt and Laura’s wedding) and called up Window Cleaners to get quotes, and did lots of little grown-up type chores such as reviewing my finances and cleaning the fireplace.

Seriously. I’m like totally grown up, don’t you know.

The best thing about this Saturday is that it means last week is over, and I can look forward to starting again on Monday. I don’t know what was so particularly nasty but the days dragged, everything felt like a challenge, and it was just exhausting. I had a headache every day and I feel like I haven’t slept well the whole week. Unsurprisingly, last night I slept like a baby.

That might be, however, because yesterday I had a session with a personal trainer at the Gym (who happens to be an ex-Marine, ex-weightlifter, with a degree in sports science or physical science or something like that from what’s meant to be the best University for that kind of thing. Go figure.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. It seems I am now in training. Actual, set routine, “overload” / “pyramid” training with weights and everything.

I wanted to meet with the yogalates (yoga/pilates – of course) instructor, to find out if there was anything she could suggest to sort out my shoulders, since I have a condition called Winged Scapula (don’t Google it, it’s gross) but she was off sick, so Tony (I don’t know if that’s his name. He looks like a Tony) went through things with me. He’s never heard of Winged Scapula but could see right off that my upper back muscles, underneath my shoulder blades, are severely underdeveloped. In particular my left side. I’ve always said that I am incredibly right-handed, and my whole right side is stronger than the left, but no-one’s believed me until now!

Long story short, “Tony” has set me up with a weight lifting routine designed to build up and tone the muscles underneath my shoulder blades so that they can’t wing out as much. I have to do: bent over fly lifts with dumbbells, dumbbell rowing, and upright rowing, and lateral pull downs. (You can Google those, they’re not scary or gross)

I am really quite excited about this new regime. I feel like I have a goal and I will be able to see the results of my hard work. I have to do the routine 2 times a week, at least, which works out great because currently I’m there 5 times a week anyway. (Mon/Wed/Thurs evenings and Tue/Fri mornings, generally)

I know, it’s a little intense. But I’m making the most of my money, right?!

So I figured that if do my weights on Monday and Wednesday evenings I have the evenings off to recover – my arms felt like jelly afterwards but Tony promised that is normal.. On Thursdays I go to yogalates from 6.15 – 7pm, and on Tuesdays and Fridays I can do Cardio.

Perfect. Not bad for £30 per month.

Right then. I have to end it there, since my peasant bread should be done rising soon. Yes, you read right. I am in a little bit of a bread-making phase. Last week I tried a spelt loaf which turned out so heavy you could have throw it at someone and killed them dead.=”2013-08-10T15:34:50+00:00″>peasant bread which is supposed to be lovely. And you don’t have to knead it. Score. I’ll let you know how it turns out – if I like it!!

I quit…

Yes. I am quitting my supposed August blog challenge. Sorry.

I think I was a bit over-ambitious in choosing August to commit to blogging every day. Usually it would be a good month…it’s summer after all, and usually things slow down a little (lot) but this year seems to be an exception;

This is because my work is awaiting our 3 yearly Ofsted Inspection. We think they will come unannounced, because we have never had this – but we may get some notice. Either way, we think they have to come by September 10th as that was when our last report was issued… so we are on tenterhooks trying to ensure that we are prepared for it.

Last time, in 2010, we were good with outstanding features. This year we are really gunning for OUTSTANDING because that would be AMAZING.

Of course, striving for a greater “grade” means lots of hard work. We have scrutinised our previous report to work out where we ‘let ourselves down’ (I say “we” … I was having my tonsils out at the time we were being inspected, but never mind)

It’s made a little more complicated, due to the fact that it’s August and everyone is trying to take their holiday and also because my manager is due to go on Maternity Leave on the 30th.

Add that pressure to the fact that I have worked 65 hours’ Overtime in the past 2 months and you might understand why I am a little frazzled.

And so, that is why it is not the best idea for me to try and do a blog challenge. On my free nights I just want to rest without pressure to do anything, and on the evenings when I am out of the house, I cannot find time to blog.

There we have it.

I am aiming to be less stressed in the next few weeks. I have booked a week off from Weds 22nd and that will be just glorious. A week in Plymouth, going to see Sense and Sensibility at an outdoor theatre, and just not having to do very much.

Won’t that be lovely

-x-

DAY 5…

I’m skipping day 5’s subject – for two reasons: 1) it’s a stupid topic, 2) it’s 2 minutes to 11pm and I just remembered I was meant to be posting today. I really don’t seem to have the hang of this anymore!

Today has been a trying day. Work was a bit tough on Friday and while I thought I’d managed to sort out the situation, it all rose up again over the weekend and there was nothing much anyone could really do to untangle this mess.

I don’t feel I did very well… but amazingly there is grace for today and a bright hope for tomorrow, so I shall sleep and trust in God, and try again on Tuesday.

God really blessed me today – just as I was driving home from the gym I thought to myself that today was one of the times I regretted not having a housemate – because I didn’t want to sit at home by myself, watching TV or reading or something, but probably dwelling on the day.

As I pulled into a parking space, who did I see but 4 friends from church – all stood in a line across the road waiting for me to notice them. They were off to the pub and invited me…what an answer to my heart’s cry. I needed people and there they were. We went to the pub and I have had a lovely evening chatting and laughing.

I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to go out on a “school night” though…now I am tired, but fortunately I have a late start tomorrow so I can have at least another 30 minutes’ sleep.

But hallelujah and praise God for His mercies and goodness, right? I find it incredible when he blesses me like that – even the little things, he takes care of.

A great thought to end the day with

-x-

DAY 3 & 4

I’m really not doing very well at this “blog post per day” malarkey, am I?

Day 3: A book you love

Oh heavens, where do I start?! There are so many books I love. I almost typed “too many” then, but I corrected it because I really don’t think you can every read too many books. Books are heavenly. If I wasn’t a reader, I don’t know who I would be. Books have shaped my character so much – I grew up devouring books!

My mum used to make us sit on the stairs if we were naughty (at some points all four of us were on the stairs…a few steps apart so we couldn’t kick each other, you know) But in one house we lived in this was great for me, because it was a staircase that went round corners and there was a big step where we kept a bookcase. If I got sent to the stairs for punishment, more likely than not I’d end up reading a book or two whilst I waited to be ‘released’

So you see, this topic is very difficult for me, because to choose just one book sort of goes against my nature. But if I had to choose, it would be Little Women, by Louisa May Allcott. (But I’m cheating slightly because I love the trilogy – they come together, as a set and I will not choose one over the others)

I feel like this is my “go to” book – I can read it time and time and again, and I love it the same every time. It never gets boring (although I do skip the chapter where the sisters act out a Christmas play with their friends, since that’s not really essential to the story after the first five or six times you read it!)

I love Little Women (and the sequels: Good Wives, and Little Men) for so many reasons.

I love Jo, the main protagonist for her feisty character and headstrong ways, I love Meg because she tries so hard to fulfil her role as the oldest girl and be an example – but lets the side down a few times (particularly in Good Wives). I love Beth, quiet and gentle Beth because who can help but love her – and I even love silly little Amy because some of the things that she says are quite profound and deep down she has a good heart underneath all her annoying ways (although I will never forgive the author for pairing Laurie off with Amy. Even though Jo is so wonderfully happy with the Professor in the later books, I despair everytime I read the sections where Laurie and Amy fall in love – because it should be Jo!

I love Marmee because she’s everything and more – wise, gentle, kind, strong, loving, nurturing… and I love Mr March too, even though he isn’t around for most of the first book, because when he does come home to his girls he is perfection.

I could go on and on, but I won’t (because I have bread rising and if I get too carried away it will all go wrong) so I will just say that if you have never read Little Women, you are absolutely missing out – and if you haven’t read the sequels (both of them!) then you absolutely must.

Your character will be better for it.  

Day 4: Bullet [point] your entire day

Well, the day is not quite over yet… but I’ll share what I’ve been up to so far

  • Woke up at 7.30am and listened to Good Morning Sunday on Radio 2, checked Postsecret and Facebook and all the other very exciting and important things on my phone
  • 8.00am  – got up and had a bath
  • 8.30am – had breakfast (congratulations to Lidl for making the worst breakfast cereal ever) and watched last night’s Casualty on IPlayer (Karen Thatcher, don’t you judge me)
  • 9.35am – left for church…
  • 9.45am – arrived at church!
  • 10am – 12pm – church 🙂 We have a great sermon from Derek Reynolds, about the plagues in Eqypt (Let my people go…you’ve surely seen the Prince of Egypt) and how when things ‘plague’ us in our lives or when we suffer, it can be hard to worship – but why we should do so anyway
  • 12.30pm – home and made lunch – grilled chicken with sweet potato chips and a courgette/celery/tomato salad – which was yummy, and which I ate in my garden whilst reading “The Storyteller”. Thisi s Jodi Picoult’s new book…and I am enjoying it so far. I was disappointed with her last two so in a way am giving her one more chance…!
  • 1.30 – did some gardening. I bought plants yesterday using a voucher that my Mum gave me for my birthday. I now have a lovely sunflower, some purple verbena, marigolds, 2 strawberry plants,  and also a pink flower that is very pretty but I have no idea what it is. Go figure.
  • 2.30pm – Wrote in my “thankfulness book”. This is something that our small group are doing together; like in the book “1000 gifts” or the song “10000 reasons”. We are all “counting our blessings” and recording them in little books, for a year.
  • After that I decided I wanted to make bread. In between stages I’ve been sitting in my garden, reading and listening to music. I love that I still get my WiFi in my garden. It’s beautiful, sitting here in the afternoon sun listening to the Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack or worship music. I am blessed

And now it’s 4.07pm and I need to go and put my loaf of bread (organic spelt loaf…actually) in the oven, so I’ll sign off by saying that I will try to do better and actually post day 5 tomorrow!

-x-

AUGUST BLOG CHALLENGE Day 1 & 2

Well, I very nearly lost the race at the first hurdle…since today is the 2nd day of August and I didn’t do the first blog post yesterday. My defence is that it was SO DARN HOT! My car said it was 33.5 degrees (Celsius) at about 4pm yesterday. By the time I got home, it was too late and too hot and too everything for me to think about blogging.

But now it’s Friday evening and I have had a yucky day at work, but made better by an hour at the beach reading, watching the sea and  eating chip shop sausage and chips. £2.30 for a bag of comfort food….view was priceless.

I’m so blessed to live and work so close to such a gorgeous place.

Image

Now, I feel much calmer (thanks also to my Mum for listening to me rant for an hour!!) and I’ve got the Friday evening feeling.

This time last week I was preparing myself for the prospect of a 2 hour, late-night drive to pick up a wayward child… quite a contrast to this week. I know which I prefer!

Anywho. Business.

DAY ONE  5 ways to win my heart

1) Love God

2) Be kind to people – be patient and loving, and tolerant

3) Make me laugh

4) Be interesting! Be committed to something

5) Embrace the craziness that is my life!

Well that was simple. I’m probably meant to go into detail as to why I picked those things…but I’m not going to…because it’s still very hot outside and also I don’t want to

DAY TWO Something I feel strongly about

Now this is slightly trickier. Don’t get me wrong, I am so not the kind of person who has a strong opinion on everything. I remember countless debates during Study Time when I was doing Impact, where the boys all knew exactly which side of the argument they were on…and then there was me, totally sitting on the fence and thinking “well, if xyz doesn’t affect my salvation, do I need to make up my mind?!” (Apparently I did need to, but I never managed it)

Nevertheless, there are a number of things I do feel strongly about. Can I think of any now?!

Jokes.

I feel strongly that payday loan companies which charge excessive interest should be illegal

I feel strongly that books should have an age certificate according to the themes (like they do for movies)

I feel strongly  there are a lot of people complaining about a lot of different things, which in the grand scheme of the world, do not matter. I call these “First World Problems” and am working very hard on being thankful for the blessings I have each day…and not complaining. If I catch myself complaining about my computer being slow, or not being able to get internet signal, or my bedroom being a bit too hot to sleep at night, I try to count my blessings and remind myself just how good I have it

I feel strongly that daisies are the friendliest flower, green is the best colour you can have, and that dresses are better than trousers.

I also feel strongly that I need to go to bed, because I don’t feel I am taking this challenge seriously right now. My brain is a little overheated I think.

It’s been nice spending time with you tonight. Come back soon.

-x-