The Blog! Archives

The Great British Baking Show

One thing we’ve become accustomed to while living in the US is binge-watching TV shows.   Grant and I have gone through all the episodes of shows such as House, Hawaii Five-O (in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Hawaii – yay!), NCIS and other drama series.  I also love watching shows such as Alton Brown’s Good Eats and other food shows (obviously!).  But the one show that we just hang out for new episodes to come onto Netflix is The Great British Baking Show.

This is a reality TV show where amateur cooks compete against each other, all with different technical challenges, signature bakes and show-stoppers.  I’ve learned so much about baking while watching this show – and I’m trying to improve my decorating as well!  We love this show because (a) it’s British and not American, so a totally different culture compared to where we currently live and (b) some of it reminds us of sweets and pastries we had growing up in Australia.  

Over the past few weeks, Abby and I have both tried to make recipes that we saw on the show.  Abby, as is her way, wanted to make choux buns religieuse.  Not just for the family, but for when we had guests for dinner as well.  For those of you (like me) who had no idea what these are, let me break it down for you:

  • Choux pastry – kind of like the eclair-type pastry
  • Creme patissiere – a fancy way of saying custard
  • Chocolate ganache – hopefully that’s self-explanatory
  • Whipped cream – ditto

Basically, make the pastry, inject it with the custard, dip in the ganache and assemble with the whipped cream.  They look like little ‘nuns’, or as we called them ‘penguins’.  Anyway, see what you think for the comparison – the actual recipe photo on the left, Abby’s on the right

I was impressed – and as they were full gluten and full dairy, I didn’t get to try any of them, but from the feedback from our guests, they were a winner!

For my effort, I tried to make an ice cream roll.  On the show they were tasked to make a dairy-free ice cream (which I had no problem with), a sponge cake and some jam and roll it all together.  There wasn’t just one recipe for this challenge as they could all make their own variety, so I did too.  I made a paleo sponge roll, made my own strawberry jam, some almond butter ice cream with blueberries inside and a chocolate frosting on top.  It definitely wasn’t as glamorous as those on the show were, but we definitely enjoyed it!

And then, because I wasn’t satisfied with just one recipe, I thought I’d try to make macaroons.  Not quite sure what the difference is between macaroons, with 2 ‘o’, and macaron, with 1 ‘o’ – maybe someone can enlighten me?  Anyway, the British cooks seem to use these on a regular basis, and they are naturally gluten-free, so I thought I’d give them a go.  With egg whites, sugar, powdered sugar and almond flour, I thought I’d have no problems.  Well, the texture and taste on mine were great – I made them into a mint macaroon with a chocolate filling – but they were a little bit flatter than I’d like.  Maybe next time I’ll pipe them into smaller rounds so they’ll rise more?  Any advice from experienced macaroon bakers would be greatly appreciated.  Again, the left photo is from the show, the right photo is from me.

Again, not too bad, all things considered!

Anyway, thanks for reading all my ramblings – just know that I’m not going to stop baking any time soon.  There’s so many more recipes I want to try!  And any suggestions you may have for me would be welcomed as well!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

An auspicious occasion and a request

Today marks a very special occasion for me.  As of today, I have now updated all the photos on this website with (hopefully) more artistic and better (!) photos of all the yummy food that I’ve been making.  Can everyone do a happy dance with me to celebrate, please?!

For those who have been along for the ride, you will remember how about 6 months ago, I really started getting into the social media scene.  This was to challenge myself to make my food look better, and to find out lots of new ideas from bloggers around the world.  I started to realize pretty quickly that my photos were just not up to par when I looked at what everyone else was posting.  So I asked for help, and researched a few topics, reached out to a number of Facebook groups for food photography and food blogging in general.  And I think I’ve improved.  

Below are just some of the photos that I’m really proud of:

      

       

      

What do you think?  I know I’ll never win any food photography awards, but I’d like to think these are ok for social media purposes?

And now the request …

You’ve been through my journey with first gluten-free baking and cooking, then adding the dairy-free issues, then the vegan sugar-free trial period, and then the issues with corn etc, leading to the Whole30 adventures.  My question to you is – what type of recipes do you want me to look at developing next?  I’ve had lots of fun re-doing all the recipes on this website, and have been developing a few others along the way, but I want to know what you want me to do.  What challenges do you want to give me?  I’m up for anything!  Just tell me!

I look forward to reading lots of ideas  in the comments below!  

As always, feel free to let other people know about this little ol’ website if you like what you see.  Sign up for updates on new recipes and general experimenting in the kitchen, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Facebook.  I just ask that you all enjoy life and cooking at home!

Until next time,

Sarah

 

 

My second Whole30

I have just completed my second Whole30 – and have learnt a lot more about myself and my relationship with food than I ever thought possible.  

For those of you who don’t know what the Whole30 is, check out their website.  Basically, it’s a 30 day reset, where you eat whole, nutritious foods and eliminate those foods that have the potential to cause issues in your system – digestive and psychological.  You eat lots of meats and veggies, eggs, fish, fruit and nuts and remove gluten, dairy, alcohol, legumes and grains.  And sugar.  And then follow a structured reintroduction protocol to positively identify the impact those various foods have on your system so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to eat them … whether it’s worth the reaction, if there is one.

I did my first Whole30 in October (see posts here, here, here and here) and established some good habits (like not standing next to a bowl of cookie dough and putting the spoon in my mouth so many times I only make half the amount of finished product).  And I felt a lot better, less bloated, more clearer mind.  But then November and December happened … and I started moving towards more and more eating cookie dough and cake batter, having less Whole30-ish meal days, my digestive system started to react again and I knew I needed to nip this in the bud, so I committed to a second Whole30 in January.

This time around I wanted to make recipes from other people and test them out on the family – getting more creative in the kitchen.  And people have asked me what I eat … so here’s a round-up of all the meals I made … and all of them were awesome!

From the Whole30 cookbook (thanks to my awesome husband for my lovely Christmas present!):

  • Twice baked Mexican potatoes
  • Italian slow cooker roast beef
  • Green pork and cauliflower curry
  • Ketchup
  • Garlic and prosciutto smashed potatoes
  • Grilled bacon wrapped turkey

From other bloggers:

And I couldn’t forget all the Whole30 compliant recipes I have on this website, which I made during the 30 days:

Try any or all of these recipes, feel better about eating good, wholesome food, and let me know what to think!

Until next time, enjoy cooking these (and other) recipes at home!

Sarah

 

Winter camping food

Call us crazy, call us whatever, but for the past two years the family has gone camping at Christmas time.  For all you Southern Hemisphere people, that probably doesn’t sound like a very big deal.  For all us Northern Hemisphere people, just one word.  Snow.  And lots of it.  And did I mention, we camp in tents?

Last year we camped at Zion National Park, where the days were bright and sunny, there was a little snow on the ground, and it was quite cold at night.  Well, below freezing actually.  We ended up buying a few more blankets and other winter gear while we were camping out.  So this year, we wanted to try another National Park, and chose Bryce Canyon.  Now, Bryce is at 8000 ft elevation, so is definitely higher than Zion.  Strike one.

The weather forecast when we were planning on going showed the first two days with snow, clearing to the blue sky and sunny skies for the next two days of our trip (but considerably colder – maximum temperatures not even reaching freezing).  When we set off, it was snowing.  The roads had snow.  Lots of snow.  But we were holding onto the belief that the snow would clear after the first day.  We set up our tents in the snow.  We made a camp fire in the snow.  Henry made a path in the snow from our campsite to the amenities block … you get the picture.

The second day it was still snowing, but there was about an hour or so of sunshine and blue skies.  And then the snow came back.  With fog.  We did go for a hike – we were told that the fog was not as dense lower in the canyon – see for yourself!

Yes, that is Grant and me, standing where the fog was the least!  We ended up sticking it out for another night, when a huge winter snowstorm came through and almost buried our tents.  We ended up having to crawl through our tents that collapsed under the weight of the snow.  Packing up was probably the quickest we have ever done it, and it was very good to get back home.  So we missed out on two days worth of camping … but the forecast showed more snow and more fog for the rest of the time.  And it really wasn’t that much fun hiking in the snow to not see anything.  The kids were troopers, though, I was so proud of them!

What has this got to do with a cooking website, I hear you ask?  Well, let me share with you what we ate while camping.  I managed to stay relatively on the Whole30 plan (i.e. no sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, gluten) with just a few exceptions along the way.  Here’s what our main meals were:

From the top left clockwise: taco soup, ham and potato soup, beef stew and satay chicken (obviously these aren’t the actual photos of what we took camping, but you get the idea!).  Our breakfasts consisted of eggs and either bacon or sausages – I also brought some sweet potato toast and avocado so I could have my all time favorite breakfast (recipe here).  And our lunches were basically sausages, or pulled pork or burgers (recipe here) with salad for me (bread-type stuff for the rest of the family).

So we ate pretty well – I cooked up all of the main meals before we went so it was just a matter of reheating … which was very convenient considering it was snowing every time!

Anyway, thanks for reading this far – feel free to let me know in the comments on whether you think we are seriously crazy, or whether we should continue camping in the winter!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home (or while camping … in or out of the snow!)

Sarah

Whole30 – nearly the end

It’s coming to the end of my Whole30 and I wanted to update you all on how I went. 

I can honestly say that I feel better than I have in such a long time. My stomach is so much flatter i.e. not bloated, I don’t feel the constant need to exercise off overeating episodes, and in general I feel happier, without the guilt of overeating. And I’ve been able to bake so many sweets without having a single lick or bite. Not. One. Single. Bite. 

This photo is a collage of all the goodies I have made this month … including things like my favorite monster cookies, peanut butter fudge, my ultimate chocolate peanut butter slice, carrot cake and granola.  Lots of granola.  The granola was meant for Abby when she realized how much better she could be eating but she didn’t really stick with it that much.  I’m still working on her though!

whole30-non-whole30-dishes

Mind you, a lot of the time I baked with full gluten and full dairy so I knew I would suffer some pretty terrible pains if I did give in, but I still made a few things that technically I could have eaten.  And I didn’t!  I’m so proud of myself!

I’m still being challenged with how much to eat at each meal. Over the past week or so I’be been really hungry. And I feel like I’ve been eating way more than previously. The recommendation is to just have 3 meals a day but to snack on a combination of protein, fat and/or carbs if hungry. I’ve been trying to avoid snacking, but I’ve given in a few times. People have told me it can take 4-6 weeks without the sugar and grainy carbs for your body to use the fat and protein for energy instead so I’m waiting for that to kick in. 

I havent weighed myself, or measured myself all month but I’m pretty sure I have lost some weight and inches at least. And I haven’t missed peanut butter or sugar at all. To be honest, I am a little scared of how I’ll go next month and whether I’ll gradually slide back into my old habits, but the funny thing is, the first non-whole30 compliant food I’m thinking of having is green peas in a soup or casserole. Not sweets or peanut butter. How weird is that?

Anyway, just thought you guys could celebrate with me … counting down the days but will probably continue eating this way the majority of the time and only splurging on the non-compliant foods when it’s really worth it. It will be interesting to see how my body copes with legumes and grains again … wish me luck!

Thanks for reading and for following me on the journey. I look forward to posting many more new recipes across the gamut of all things gluten and dairy free in the coming months!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Whole30 October … the first 14 days

It’s halfway through the month of October so I wanted to give you an update on how my Whole30 experience is going.

The positives:

  • I have not had peanut butter for over 3 weeks now!  That’s a pretty major achievement for me!!
  • I can definitely feel that my stomach is less bloated, and my pants fit better.  I always thought I had a few pairs of ‘fat pants’ for work, but for a few months I never found them (they all look the same!).  Since last week, every pair I’ve worn have felt like the ‘fat pants’!
  • I am enjoying creating new meals with Whole30 compliant ingredients, and am amazed that a lot of my recipes are already compliant, or can easily be made compliant.  Check out my new creations here (Thai beef curry, Turkey meatballs with marinara sauce, Sweet potato toast with egg & avocado and Applesauce and trail mix).
  • I have still been baking a lot for friends and guests.  And I haven’t had one single lick of the spoon or scrape of the bowl.  At all.  While most of what I’ve made has been full-gluten and full-dairy to help me get into better habits, I recently made my ultimate chocolate peanut butter slice, which is fully gluten and dairy-free and I did not have one taste.  I’m counting that as a major win!
  • The kids tell me I look more awake and more happy.  And that’s true – I feel more happy now that I’m not constantly worrying about how I’ve overeaten.

whole30-october-meals-so-far

The challenges:

  • Life happens.  And every now and then Grant and I like to go out for a meal together.  Typically we would choose places like Indian, Thai, etc, but now I’m leaning more and more towards the steakhouses, where I know I can get a decent piece of meat and some steamed vegetables.
  • Trying to balance the flavors that I like – eggs, avocado, sausage – without having the same things every meal every day.  I’ve had to put together a meal plan so I can do all this.
  • I’m still not sleeping that well, but that may be due to the change in weather, the cats sleeping on my side of the bed, and/or Grant’s snoring, rather than any digestive issues!
  • We were recently invited to a friend’s house for dinner.  She made a chicken veggie soup that was full of good stuff, but she showed me the ingredients of the chicken stock and it contained honey.  I battled with myself as to whether I should bring my own food and appear rude, or whether I should just eat the soup.  So I ate the soup and it was yummy.

Now I need to figure out whether I should either start the 30 days again, or realize that amount of honey wasn’t going to bring back all the old habits of overeating or promoting any sugar cravings and just continue for the rest of October.  I am really enjoying eating this way and am thinking I’m not necessarily going to reintroduce many of the foods I’ve taken out this month.  I think it will just be a decision each time as to the costs vs benefits of each food.  And still enjoying life.

So I’m definitely continuing for the next 16 days.  It just depends on how I feel at the end of the month, whether I feel I’ve gotten out of all those bad habits while baking, as to whether I continue to strictly monitor sugar contents and the grains/legumes (read peanut butter).

I’d love to hear any advice from people who have done the Whole30 or something similar … and also what you think of all my new recipes!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Whole30 October

Warning: this post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, so feel free to click back to whatever you were doing before if you don’t want to step inside the workings of my mind!

whole30-picture

I’ve decided to do the Whole30 for the month of October.  That’s a pretty big statement there, because I’ve just made myself accountable to you all.  But I’m determined to do it … and I’d love any support you can give me – thoughts, prayers, recipe ideas etc!

What is the Whole30?  

For all the information you could ever want to know, check out the website at http://whole30.com/.  But in a nutshell, the Whole30 is a ‘short-term nutritional reset, designed to help put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract and balance the immune system’.

images

Why would I want to do a Whole30?  

The reasons are pretty much two-fold:

(1)  Since we moved to the US just over 2 years ago, I have gained nearly 15 pounds in weight.  And I’m having trouble losing it.  And I’m still having digestive problems.  And I have very low energy levels that can’t totally be explained by lack of sleep at night or just getting older.

(2) My eating habits have gotten very poor.  This is pretty much the main reason why I want to do the Whole30, and here’s where all the personal, touchy-feely stuff comes in.  

I have joked around on quite a few of my blog posts and recipes about eating too much, and this is not an infrequent occurrence.  I can usually eat quite well and disciplined during the week, but when it comes to the weekend and I start baking, I have a tendency of eating way too much of both the preparation and the finished product.  And if I bake during the week as well, I can easily blow up with too much food.  You know the feeling that your stomach is never empty?  Yeah, I was getting that lots, rather than giving my stomach time to digest, I was just filling it with baked goods.

And even though I’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of refined sugar in my baking, I can still eat way too much combinations of peanut butter, honey/maple syrup etc.  And I was craving it.  Every weekend … I’d get upset if I couldn’t go in the kitchen and bake (translation – eat dough).

I have tried a number of things – like calorie counting, working through an eating disorder app and talking to professionals – and every time I think I’m doing well, the weekend hits and I can justify to myself that I can be strong and not eat too much while baking multiple things.  I do feel that I’ve improved over the last month or so, but there are still too many times that I overdo it.

How does the Whole30 work?

So it comes to the Whole30.  Here’s the deal (from the Whole30 website):

whole30foodlist

  • I eat real food – meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetable, some fruits and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds, foods with very few ingredients, totally natural and unprocessed.
  • I avoid:
    • Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial
    • Alcohol
    • Grains
    • Legumes
    • Dairy
    • Carrageenan, MSG and sulfites
    • Re-created baked goods/junk food with ‘approved’ ingredients

This list of foods to avoid is to help to regain a healthy metabolism, reduce system inflammation and help discover how these foods are truly impacting my health, fitness and quality of life.  My main objective is to train my brain to not crave baking (and eating).  The secondary objective is to lose weight and become fitter.  The tertiary objective is to find out if other foods are affecting my stomach issues.

Sound simple?  Well, in case you missed it, peanuts are a legume.  Legumes are on the foods to avoid list.  And if you know anything about me at all, you will know that I LOVE peanut butter.  30 days without peanut butter, or baked goods???  That’s going to be the challenge.

Progress so far:

I was originally going to start the Whole30 this week, after a weekend of lots of chocolate and peanut butter left me feeling more bloated and heavier than normal, but as I started working through some of the normally considered healthy food I had in the house, which needed to be used, I realized that I needed to take a week just to get prepared.  Did you know that Craisins have sugar?  And that tuna often contains soy?  So this week I have used to get more familiar with the program and trying my best to adhere to the principles without worrying about a few green peas here and there.  I haven’t had anything with honey or maple syrup, or any baked goods this week.  And I made a cake for Henry’s birthday without tasting even the slightest amount of it (it was full gluten and dairy, which made it easier!).  

My stomach is feeling better and I am learning a lot about what I am capable of.  And I’ve started swimming again and loving it.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to forget you all during this month!  I’m bound to be creating new recipes for you to try and I’d love to hear any suggestions of what you recommend.  I’ve already discovered a number of new dishes that I’m dying to put up here for you guys … once I make them again and take photos!

Another challenge will be for me to still bake stuff, but get out of the habit of sampling as I go … so I’ll still be continuing to update my photos with recipes I make again.  Again, suggestions and comments on the photos are always welcome!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading all my brain dump.  I’m hoping this is the beginning of helping me to become a much healthier person.  Wish me luck!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography update #4

It’s been another week of making and updating recipes and photos.  I think I’ve gained 5 pounds since I committed to re-doing all of this!  Maybe I should take it a little easier this week?  Although, I know the people I share the food with have appreciated the push to improve myself.  I try not to make stuff just for the sake of photos – I try to have a purpose for making something specific.  Like someone coming around for dinner.  Like having to use up ingredients in the pantry.  Like we were going to have this for dinner this week anyway.  But then I just get a craving to make a particular recipe for no real reason.  And I enjoy it.  A little TOO much, maybe?  Oh, if only you all were here so I could share the love (and food)!

I’ve said this is now a photography update, rather than a handover, because Grant has been really busy recently, so I’ve taken most of these new photos … Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that – if you don’t like the photos I could have always blamed them on him.  But now the secret is out and I’ll take responsibility for whatever you give me!

Again, I’d love your feedback – let me know if you think I’m actually getting any better!

 

Old photos

 

New photos

 
Almond coconut cookies  -> Almond coconut cookies (800x600) Almond coconut cookies
Raw energy bars   raw-energy-bar-800x600 Raw energy bars
Egg muffins  -> egg-muffins-800x600 Egg muffins
2015-02-19 Mint chocolate brownies  -> chocolate-mint-brownies-800x600 Chocolate mint brownies
Chocolate cake - dragon -> chocolate-cake-800x600 Chocolate cake
Dairy-free chocolate peanut butter ice cream -> chocolate-peanut-butter-ice-cream-800x600 Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

Can you see an improvement at all?  Any other suggestions?

Again, if you have any suggestions as to which recipes you’d like me to re-visit, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige.  And dedicate that photo (and recipe) to you!

Thanks for reading – I’d love to hear from you … just comment below, or follow me on any of the social media sites using the buttons on the side menu.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #3

Another update of photos and recipes for you.  I spent a lot of time outside taking photos of all the recipes I’ve been re-making in the kitchen inside and updating for your enjoyment.  It’s for your enjoyment, really.  I got nothing out of having to taste all of these recipes again.  Do you believe me?!

What do you think?

 

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Quinoa and roast veggie salad  -> Veggie and quinoa salad (800x600) Roast veggie & quinoa salad
Peanut butter choc chip ice cream   Peanut butter ice cream (800x600) Peanut butter choc chip ice cream
Pancakes by Grant  -> Pancakes by Grant (800x600) Pancakes by Grant
Peanut butter s'more cookies  -> Peanut butter smore cookies (800x600) Peanut butter s’more cookies
Spinach peach salad -> Spinach peach salad (800x600) Spinach peach salad
Chocolate peanut butter pie -> Best ever chocolate peanut butter cheesecake (800x600) Best ever chocolate peanut butter pie

Can you see an improvement at all?  Any other suggestions?

I’m having fun re-visiting all these recipes again … and am happy to share the results with those of you who live near me.  If you’re interested, please let me know what you’d like me to make (and take updated photos) to share with you and I’ll do what I can!

Grant bought me a new light box so hopefully I won’t be stuck taking photos outside, especially since winter is coming up.  I’ll see how the photos turn out from that … and again ask for your opinions.  Because you are the most important at liking my photos!  That’s all of you!

Thanks for reading – I’d love to hear from you … just comment below, or follow me on any of the social media sites using the buttons on the side menu.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Photography handover #2

Last time I started updating the photos on this website, using photos that I asked Grant to help me out with.  I am honestly happier with the photos that we are taking now, but would always welcome suggestions for the recipes and the photos.

Here’s the latest installment of the photos that we’ve taken, with the before (my photos) and after (Grant’s photos) shots.  As I mentioned last time, I’m updating the recipes as I go, so make sure you check back on a regular basis to see what’s been cooking at our place!

My photos

 

Grant’s photos

 
Oatmeal granola cookies  -> Oatmeal granola cookies (800x600) Oatmeal granola cookies
Almond blueberry granola   Almond blueberry granola bow (800x600) Almond blueberry granola
No-bake oats and raisin bar  -> No bake oat and raisin bar No bake oat and raisin bar
Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake  -> Chocolate pb tofu slice (800x600) Healthy chocolate peanut butter cheesecake
Oat balls  -> Oat balls (800x600) No bake oat balls

What do you think?  I’ve been getting some good comments on Instagram for my new and improved photos – but would always love to hear from you guys as well.

I kind of went a little overboard with baking and obsessing over taking photos of nearly everything over the past week, so please spare a thought for my poor family.  Yes, I’ve already got enough photos to share with you for a third installment … but you’ll have to wait for next week.  And I need to stop baking so much (and eating so much) to catch up with all the recipes.  Oh yeah, relaxing on the weekend outside of the kitchen …  What’s that again?

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

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