Fruit ‘N’ Nut Brownies

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IMG_0182 I made these brownies for one of my friends who has just joined the ‘2 boy club’. She is the sixth of my ante-natal friends have had a second boy and another is due her second early next year. Truly there must be something in the Bristol water. Anyway, it has now become something of a tradition that I make brownies for new babies, and whilst making the same recipe over and over again wouldn’t I’m sure be in issue for the recipients, it would leave me with less to blog about. Hence this slight variation on the theme; essentially a chocolate bar in brownie form.

Normally I use Nigel Slater’s recipe for brownies, but I was looking for an excuse to try out the GÜ Chocolate Cookbook I bought some time ago. I have adapted it a little – the original is called Macadamia Nut Brownies – but I don’t think it suffers from the alterations. In fact, the raisins probably count as one of your five-a-day (if you ate the whole thing). And it’s super easy to make as it doesn’t require a mixer of food processor, so even someone struggling with endless feeding and sleep deprivation could potentially attempt it. Or possibly their husband.

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Total Fail Flapjacks

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I had such high hope for this post, but sadly it turns out that this recipe is a total fail for two reasons. First, because the flapjacks, which I did actually make (see photo), are so crumbly as to be pretty much un-eatable without a spoon, and second because when I came to write up said recipe, I realised that I had already blogged about it. And to add insult to injury, in that blog post I had sensibly adapted the recipe so as to overcome the crumbly issue. That said, they are lovely flapjacks, even if I am probably going to bash them about, mix them with rice crispies and cover them in melted white chocolate, thereby pretty much negating the whole healthy aspect of the recipe which is, truth be told, it’s raison d’être.

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Portuguese Custard Tarts

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We went on holiday recently. Our first trip abroad with small people, and on a plane no less. Well, I say holiday, as any parent (of in particular small children) will tell you, it wasn’t a holiday in any recognisable sense. No leisurely lie-ins, hours spent reading books, sunbathing or pottering around ancient ruins. No long, lingering lunches in the sun/shade or mornings idly devoted to wandering around markets deciding which is the most appropriate memento of the trip. Oh no. This was the military operation of our daily life at home transported several hundred miles to a place with no playdates or toddler groups, but with sun, sand (though we barely saw it) and, crucially for Little BB and therefore myself and Mr. BB, a swimming pool. Several in fact. Including one giant outdoor pool/lake in which LBB spent a good 50% of his waking hours. You’ll notice that Mini BB’s wants/desires don’t get a mention. Sadly, as a second child, this would appear to be his lot in life. For now at least, and possibly forever more (until LBB leaves home).

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Plum Traybake

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I love Autumn. I love the possibility it heralds; like January 1st only without the Christmas hangover and with crisp sunshine days and crunchy leaves. Most of all I love the opportunity to buy new stationary that each academic year brings. And I know I’m not alone in this. This year, however, I was mostly buying name-tags, seemingly hundreds of them, for Little BB has now started pre-school. It’s only 2.5 days a week, and those are short, school days, but it feels like the end of an era, which it is in a way, and I’m not ashamed to say I had a quiet little sob when I dropped him off on his first day. Not that he was in any way bothered. As soon as he saw the trikes and cars in the pre-school playground he was off without a backward glance. Which is obviously brilliant, but at the same time a little dispiriting. Even more so when I discovered at the end of the week that he didn’t want to come home!

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Old School Chocolate Birthday Cake

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How time flies when you’re having fun/raising children. Little BB turned three recently, and as well as suddenly becoming very expensive to take to pretty much any activity, the arrival of this magic number also means -according to Holly Bell, finalist in the original Great British Bake Off – that I have only a limited amount of time before I am forced to start making birthday cakes which are three parts sugar paste to one part cake; aka a superhero/cartoon cake.  As I hate sugar paste with a scarcely believable passion, this news is most depressing to me, and I fear this may be my final window of opportunity to make an actual edible cake, hence this old school chocolate cake which I have covered in sweets/chocolates in an attempt to disguise my inept icing.

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes

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DSC_0057 We are now into week three of potty training Little BB and think it is fair to say we, or rather he, have (fingers crossed and touch wood) cracked it. Hurrah! We have even retired the jar of chocolate buttons, which were in my view an essential feature of the whole enterprise. Star charts and stickers are all very well, but they had absolutely no effect on Little BB; delayed gratification being very much a concept with which Little BB has no desire to become familiar.

Ever keen as I am to share the parenting love, for those of you yet to embark upon this most fun of activities, here are my top Potty-Training tips (remembering that every child is different, yadda yadda):

  • Wait. We waited until Little BB was almost three and would have waited longer had I not been shamed into attempting it by the fact that all of his little friends had managed it months before. Note: this is not a reason to try. As my friend sagely remarked: ‘Potty train at two, dry by three. Potty train at three, dry by three’.

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Easy Peasy Cheesy Biscuits

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It’s Bake Off time again, or the Great British Bake Off to give it its proper title, and I for one could not be more delighted. I have been a devout follower of this, frankly ridiculous, show since it started. Any thoughts of applying to appear on it have, however, entirely vanished thanks to a former contestant’s candid behind-the-scenes portrayal of life under the big tent; since mysteriously deleted from the web. Hmmm.

That said, I am pleased to see the finalists in years gone by, the ones that were any good at least, doing well, and I feel a particular kinship for Holly Bell, runner up in series one. Like me she is not only an avid baker, but also an only child and mother of  young boys (it was two and is now three, so I have some catching up to do). Her blog, Recipes From a Normal Mum, has now, inevitably, spawned a cookbook, which I am pleased to report is full of lovely sounding recipes that look both achievable and delicious, and crucially do not require the sourcing of a gigantic list of obscure ingredients, yes I’m looking at you Mr. Ottolenghi.

These biscuits have now joined my repertoire of go-to weaning snacks for MiniBB and LittleBB, thanks in particular to their limited number of ingredients, pretty much all of which I always have in the kitchen, and the fact that you can make them from start to finish in under half an hour. They are also good for getting small people involved in the baking process as there really is almost nothing they can do to make them go wrong. I said almost.

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Orange Dough Cookies

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We are currently in the midst of Potty Training, something I have been dreading for as long as I have been thinking about it. Actually it seems to be going okay (touch wood), but for the moment let us turn our attention to a more wholesome small person activity: weaning.  Somehow I had conveniently forgotten how much time this takes up and how much mess it makes. Even having carefully batch cooked and pureed a variety of fruit and vegetables in advance, I still find myself casting around for yet more food to give the insatiable eating machine that is Mini BB. And according to the books I will soon have to drop his morning bottle and replace it with actual food; something neither of us is looking forward to. Or wouldn’t be, if each of us had a concept of the future.

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Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

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One of my friends, well a Facebook Friend essentially, has recently told me that she is ‘with child’. Obviously I’m delighted, but also a little sad. Not because she is about to discover the joys (and horrors) of motherhood for the first time, whereas if I have any more it will (according to Mr. BB at least) very much be for the last time, but because it reminded me that once, long ago, we were actual friends. Who actually spoke to each other. Mostly by telephone  – a land-line no less, this was the 1990s – and we would spend hours dissecting the minutiae of our (frankly not-very-interesting) lives and those of our (equally uninteresting) friends and sworn enemies. My mother always said that she knew I was talking to her because I would be crying with laughter. Somewhere along the years, however, we drifted, and became people who wrote birthday messages on each others’ timelines and the occasional (not very) witty comment under the more outre status updates. So I’m hoping that her imminent induction into the secret world of mothers will allow us to reconnect. And for those already in the club, here is a blogpost which I dare you not to snort out loud at.

Oh and here’s a recipe too. It doesn’t look remotely like the photo in the book, but tasted nice all the same. Just so you know.

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Blueberry Bundt Cake

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When I made this cake it was for our annual street party, which was a happy, sunny event on a Friday evening, even if Little BB did try to scooter down our road/hill on a borrowed scooter several sizes to big for him. I even used blueberries picked from our very own blueberry bush (singular, one of them died) in our very own (patio) garden. Supplemented by some from Ocado – 250g is a lot of blueberries I soon discovered. Then at the weekend I made the mistake of reading an article about Japanese Knotweed, a plant so awful even the Royal Horticultural Society describes it as a thug, and ever since I have been obsessed by it, to the exclusion of almost all else. I see it everywhere. And I am afraid; very afraid. I have taken to inspecting our garden almost hourly to ensure it hasn’t crept in to destroy all the equity in our house and my dreams of one day moving to somewhere with two bathrooms. I scan hedgerows and paving slabs for sign of its insidious tentacles, lest they should spread towards my front door whilst I am sleeping. I know this is not normal, but I simply can’t be stopped. Much like the plant.

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