Monday, 29 July 2013

Peppa Pig Birthday Cake

Well here it is, the Peppa Pig cake! I started it the day before Miss M's party and ended up staying up until 11pm doing most of the work (which is a very, very late night for me!!). I finished putting it together the next morning and decided two hours before people arrived to do the background! All in all I was pretty pleased with myself, not perfect of course but was happy with it and more importantly so was Miss M! I have to give credit to another blogger Just for Daisy as I read her version online and found a lot of her tips helpful.
I doubled my Chocolate Yoghurt Cake recipe and made a 23cm round cake and a 20cm square cake using the batter.

I made a template from a picture downloaded from the net and cut out the head, ears and dress.

I used my mortar and pestle to grind down the Natvia and made a Sugar-Free Cream Cheese icing (See recipe below) for the skirt. I used Pillar Box Red food colouring to give it its vibrant colour. I caved and used icing sugar to make a crumb coat for the head. (A crumb coat is used so that bits of cake don't come through when you ice the cake. I put the crumb coat on and put the cake in the fridge for an hour before putting the top layer of icing on). I mainly did this to cut costs, Natvia is so expensive and thought I would do it to keep costs down. I did make a Sugar-Free Buttercream icing for the top layer of the head, colouring it with a pink colouring gel. I also made a darker pink Sugar-Free Buttercream icing for the piping around the head etc. In hindsight I hardly used any Natvia to make the icing and probably would have used the Sugar-Free Cream Cheese icing for all layers of icing next time.

I hand made the appendages (arms, hands, tail, legs and feet) eyes, and cheek by hand colouring some white ready-made Royal Icing. Since I had a lot of it left over I decided the next morning to make the background. I hand coloured the sky, grass and muddy puddle and rolled it out onto the board, as you can see I didn't have quite enough to cover the whole board but I don't think anyone really noticed!
Finally I piped around the head and ears and made the smile with the darker pink Sugar-Free Buttercream icing and coloured the black pupils with a black icing pen. 

There you have it! I was surprised how stress-free it was, even husband questioned why there was none of the usual swearing coming from the kitchen ! Happy baking!
Sugar-Free Cream Cheese Icing (using Natvia)
100g cream cheese, softened
40g butter, softened
1 tbsp milk, room temperature
1/8 cup ground Natvia (I used a mortar and pestle to grind it down, you can also use a coffee bean grinder)
1. Beat butter and cream cheese by hand using spatula (push against side of bowl to ensure there are no lumps)
2. Using electric mixer add ground Natvia to butter/cream cheese mixture and beat together
3. Add milk and mix
4. Add food colouring until reaches desired colour
(Note: This will make enough icing to cover a 20cm square cake)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sugar-Free Chocolate Yoghurt Cake

Yay! First recipe, done. I have been testing cake recipes for Miss M's upcoming 2nd birthday and think this one is in the running. The yoghurt in the cake makes it moist and fudgy and since I am attempting to make a Peppa Pig cake for her party I am hoping this cake will hold together well. (Fingers crossed!) I am still trialing icing options, I want to use a sugar-free buttercream icing as I like to go for taste over aesthetics! However making a buttercream icing without icing sugar is difficult. I am going to attempt to grind down some Natvia and make my own icing mixture and hopefully this will be a good substitute for the sugar-laden version. However for this trial run I made a simple cream cheese icing using dextrose.
Here is the recipe.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Yoghurt Cake
  • 100 grams butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup of granulated stevia (I used Natvia)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups spelt flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup full-fat natural yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup full-fat milk (you could substitute this for almond milk if desired)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees fan-forced)
-Grease and line a 20 cm round deep baking tin (or 23cm round tin)
1. Sift spelt flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Stir together.
2. Whisk together yoghurt, milk, water and vanilla in a jug.
3. Beat softened butter in electric mixer until fluffy, add granulated stevia and cream together. (Stevia and butter don't cream in the same way as sugar so beat butter first before adding stevia).
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix together.
5. Add 1/2 flour mixture to butter mixture and mix, then add 1/2 yoghurt mixture and mix together.
6. Add rest of flour and yoghurt mixture alternatively and mix together until just combined. (Add a little extra milk if you find the mixture too dry)
7. Pour mixture into pre-lined tin.
8. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celcius for 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
9. Rest in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack.
Sugar-Free Cream Cheese Icing (using dextrose)
  • 30 grams butter, softened
  • 90 grams cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup dextrose
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Cream together butter and cream cheese in electric mixer
2. Add vanilla extract
3. Add dextrose slowly to mixer and combine until smooth
4. Spread onto cool cake

Sunday, 21 July 2013

I Quit Sugar- Part 2

So before I took up this quitting sugar malarkey I thought that fructose, was just sugar that came from fruit! Apparently I was WAY off. Fructose is in everything!! What we consider sugar, the white stuff, is actually made of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. It’s the fructose part that according to research is the one doing us harm. Making us fat, tired, and craving more, not to mention contributing to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It’s not the amount of obvious sugar we eat that is the most shocking but the amount of hidden sugar that‘s scary. I have always poured over the nutrition panel on most of the food I buy and as we have been taught by the diet industry, I had always focused on the calorie and fat content. However, when I started focusing on the sugar content in these foods I was stunned! The amount of sugar in my low fat mayonnaise was staggering, it was nearly 1/3 sugar! Not to mention my beloved BBQ sauce - 50% sugar!!
It was at this point I started to doubt this whole challenge. Sugar was in everything, what was I going to eat? Could I really keep this up forever? I was worried I wouldn’t lose any weight or worse still put on the weight I had already lost, that I would find the withdrawal part to tough to handle and that at the end of it all I would just slip back into my old habits. In saying that I was still curious as to whether ‘quitting sugar’ was actually possible. I knew it had a hold of me and couldn’t imagine not having to fight against constant cravings.
My quest was made all the more daunting by the fact that I am someone with an ‘all or nothing’ approach to dieting and therefore I found Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar 8 week detox program a little vague at times. I realise now upon completing it that she meant it to be this way, her approach as described by Sweet Poison author, David Gillespie, is a ‘down-to-earth, practical approach’ to quitting sugar and although on occasion I was in search of a little more guidance than is provided by the book, the best approach as suggested by Sarah is to take it on as an ‘experiment’. That attitude is exactly what got me through the 8 weeks.

I found the first few weeks reasonably easy. I think with most diets it’s the initial excitement of the possibility of change that drives you to embrace these things with such gusto. I did have to wean myself off Diet Coke after the first week which was a little tough but I basically drowned myself in as many varieties of herbal teas as I could get my hands on. It helped that the weather was getting colder so having a cup of tea constantly in my hands was a good distraction. I was loving going back to full fat dairy of all kinds, our cheese drawer which is normally pretty full was exploding at the seams! Sarah advises to give up all sugar for the detox period including fruit. I didn’t find this too hard either, although as is typical with anything that you ban yourself from all of a sudden had hankerings for apples and mandarins!
At the 4-5 week mark as foretold by Sarah I started to question why I was doing this, my kidneys were starting to ache and I felt extremely lethargic. (Although to be honest I have felt extreme lethargy since the birth of Miss M two years ago, so maybe that’s just Mum exhaustion!). I was finding the cup of tea after dinner wasn’t cutting it and neither was eating a bowl of yoghurt and nuts. I missed the sweet something to round off the night. I did bake a few sugar-free treats during this time but tried not to go crazy. Fortunately that got me through the cravings and back on track.

Week 6 and we were on holidays at my Mum’s house. Normally upon arrival we are welcomed with an array of homemade slices and biscuits. This time I forewarned Mum of my foray into quitting sugar and forwarded her some sugar-free recipes instead. As a result I had my first sugar-free birthday cake courtesy of David Gillespie’s ‘The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook’ (A birthday present from husband!). I have to say it wasn’t as good as a sugar-laden cake but it was definitely close! The week on holidays was probably the hardest, catching up with friends and going out to dinner presented more challenges than I’m faced with during my normal daily routine at home. Skipping cake whilst out for coffee and ordering an entrĂ©e instead of a dessert at a restaurant were new adventures for me, but I made it through and was quite proud I had survived such temptation without faltering.

Week 6 also provided an expected boost when I came across Fountain ‘Smart Sauce’ at the supermarket. I curiously looked at nutritional panel to discover it only contained 5% sugar! The Fountain BBQ ‘Smart Sauce’ was even lower with 4.4%! Upon closer inspection I found that it was made with Natvia! It was as if all my prayers had been answered! It sounds like a funny thing to say, but it was at this point I knew I would be able to stick to this past the 8 week detox, thanks Fountain!
By week 7 I gave myself permission to eat some fruit, although to be honest the cravings had faded by then. I did find surprisingly that the last two weeks were probably the hardest. The reality that I would now have to keep this up forever was a bit daunting; 8 weeks seemed doable but forever?
Well here I am, 11 weeks in and I am happy to report, still sugar-free! So here is the round-up of my progress:
  • I lost just under 3 kilos in 8 weeks (I have lost another kilo since the end of the 8 weeks), not as much as I had hoped for but I also kept off the 7 kilos I had lost leading up to this so was certainly happy about that.
  • I still have the occasional craving for something sweet but they are controllable.
  • I didn’t give up bread and although one of my next challenges will be to cut down on my bread intake for me eating bread doesn’t lead me to eating blocks of chocolate so I am ok with it. 
  • I am allowing myself to eat fruit if I wish, even if it is the ‘high fructose’ fruits like apples, but since allowing myself to eat it I have probably only eaten two pieces a week.
  • My appetite is completely different, it is true (apart from being too busy most days to think about eating) I am seriously not hungry like I used to be. I found this to be a surprising outcome. Although this is said to be one of the benefits of quitting sugar I really couldn’t imagine cutting out so many foods and not being hungry all the time
  • I don’t have the ‘3pm slumps’ anymore.
  • I stick to the ‘Eat products with less than 3-6 grams of sugar per 100g/ml’ rule, and this rules out a lot!!
  • I also try not to buy anything with more than 5 ingredients in it, so you really aren’t buying much that comes in a packet!
  • As well as quitting sugar I have swapped a lot of our usual foods to healthier options and incorporated a lot more superfoods. For e.g. Our pantry is now stocked with spelt flour, coconut flour, rice malt syrup, chia seeds, dextrose, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, sugar-free nut pastes, coconut milk and lots more.
  • I am excited about experimenting with my sugar-free baking and although my first few attempts need some re-working I am enjoying the challenge!
Are we healthier?
Well unfortunately if we are its not noticeable at the moment! Everyone in the family has just gone through another round of viruses and as I am writing this I have tonsillitis. But everyone keeps telling me that this is life with a toddler and a baby in winter- so only another 3 months or so of this to go! (God help me!)
And finally for the million dollar question…Will I stick to being sugar-free?
Short answer, yes. My diet is far from being the ‘ultimate’ clean diet, but little steps. I have finally broken the hold sugar has had over me for all these years and it’s certainly not something I would be willing to give up anytime soon.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Mum vs Dad - On the phone

How a Mum has a phone conversation

The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation I had with my friend, Mummy M, who is a Mum to 3 girls.

(Note: Coloured font indicates conversations directed to our kids. Kids present during conversation: Miss M (23 months) and Master Q (9 months) and Mummy M’s Miss S (3 ½ years) and Miss H (23 months).

Ring Ring (That’s how phone’s used to sound).
Me: Hello (Screaming heard in background, sounds as if caller is phoning from the scene of an industrial accident)

Mummy M: It’s just me.

Me: Oh hi, wondered what all that screaming was about. (Holding phone to ear whilst browning pork to go in slow cooker)

Mummy M: Yeah just the usual. How are you? (Cleaning up in the kitchen)

Me: Oh surviving, Master Q is still sick and not sleeping, fed him four times last night.
Mummy M: Get off the couch now! You are going to hurt yourself! Oh it’s the worse when they’re sick, especially when they are that young, you just feed them so you can get them back to sleep.

Me: (Master Q and Miss M using me as a play gym) Would you two get off me? Here play with the ball. Ok, yes you are hugging your brother, that’s nice, ok now you are just strangling him, let him go! Sorry what was I saying? Oh yeah and now I have a cold and we have snot coming out everywhere and Miss M still has a manky eye. Oh geez it feels like it will never end.

Mummy M: (Loud beeping noises heard) Please take the Barbie computer further away, it’s too loud, I can’t hear. This is the worst phase for getting sick, after Miss S was born we felt like we were sick for the whole year. Ok, I’ve told you a thousand times, get off the couch, you are going to get hurt.  (Loud crying) You fool, I told you you would hurt yourself. She is just obsessed with standing on the couch and then just falls off and hurts herself. (More unintelligible screaming heard in the background) It’s a really hard phase, but it does get easier.

(Laughing from both of us)
Miss M: Nanna, Nanna, Nanna.

Me: It’s not Nanna. (Master Q grizzling)
Miss M: Nanna, Nanna, Nanna.  

Me: It’s not Nanna, sshh. (Master Q crying reaching a crescendo) Ok, that’s it Master Q off to bed. So how are the in-laws going? (Holding phone to ear whilst wrangling Master Q into sleeping bag and doing hand gestures and miming ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’)
Mummy M: Not too bad, but it’s exhausting cooking for everyone. (Screaming heard by what sounds like a mob of young girls at a One Direction concert) Ok, both of you go and watch Despicable Me.  Although John (Father-in-law) is having like 7 cups of coffee a day and using my coffee machine and commenting that it’s not the same as his. It’s driving me crazy, keep your hands off MY coffee machine!

Me: (Laughing) So will Miss H sit down and watch a movie will she? Ok, have you done a poo, Miss M? (Miss M runs off) You have, you stink. (A chase ensues around lounge room.)
Mummy M: Well sort of, of course she doesn’t really understand what’s happening but she likes the three girls and the little characters dancing. Yes, eat the mandarin, but that’s the last one.

Me: Oh geez (Wrestling Miss M whilst trying to change nappy full of dark brown soft poo. Phone still held to ear with shoulder.) I really regret feeding her that vegan chocolate cake last night.  
Mummy M: Well I better go, got to take Miss S to swimming lessons. She missed all her lessons last week because of the double ear infection so we have been going every day this week!

Me: Oh geez, your poor thing. (Scraping poo off nappy into toilet)
Mummy M: Oh well, at least she’s exhausted.

Me: That’s something! Ok, thanks for the call talk to you later.
Mummy M: Bye.

Me: Now Miss M, would you like to watch a DVD?

How a Dad has a phone conversation

Ring Ring
Dad: Hello

(Kids yelling in background)
Dad: I’m just going to take this in the other room. (Hands Master Q to me)

(Dad leaves chaos to have phone conversation in peace).

Friday, 5 July 2013

You heard right, I quit sugar! Part 1

For anyone that knows me “I quit sugar” is the most unlikely statement to flow from my mouth. I’ve been known to run to the shops late at night for a packet of M&Ms, break into a sweat upon realising there was no chocolate in the cupboard after dinner and spend hours at work deciding which fundraising chocolate bar I would eat after lunch! (All for a good cause of course!) I needed the sweet stuff, and I needed it bad! Every occasion I can think of has pretty much been punctuated by something sweet, so the fact that I have managed to banish the sugar for 9 weeks and counting is a miracle!
So why did I decide to take on this crazy challenge? A few reasons. I like many others, have been on the diet roundabout since I was a teenager. I have gained and lost 7-10 kilos about 6 times in my life and after the birth of Master Q was keen to banish some of the extra kilos I gained in back to back pregnancies. So at the start of the New Year I decided to sign up to the hugely popular Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation. I didn’t follow the program to the letter but gave a lot of her recipes a go and made a lot of little changes to my diet. I had all intentions of exercising, but the endless sleepless nights with a newborn and the constant run of illnesses in our household meant the only exercise I managed was running around after the bubbas. Despite this relaxed adherence to the program I did manage to meet my goal of losing 7 kilos in 12 weeks. I was pleased with my efforts and to be honest surprised at how easy it had seemed. I did cut down on my chocolate intake during this time but I was still eating it on a daily basis. I couldn’t imagine being able to stop eating it for a week let alone for good!

Although I was happy with my weight loss I wanted to lose another 7 kilos and was scared that history would repeat itself and that in time I would just end up putting it back on, and then some. I was desperately seeking a way to keep it off for good.  I knew if I was to keep following the low-fat, calorie counting diets of my past I would remain on this roundabout forever. I was in search of something different, something lasting.

Since my mid-twenties my immune system has been under what seems like constant attack. Suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, shingles, amoebic dysentery, glandular fever, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, not to mention having a kidney operation and two caesareans! In addition to this since the birth of Master Q our whole family has suffered from a constant run of colds and viruses, one cold following onto another, the humidifier going from one room to the next and contributing a record amount of tissues to landfill. By the end of our latest round of illnesses I had had enough. I was sick of our family being constantly sick and spending every week at the Doctors seeing very little improvement.

What was I to do? I had read numerous books and articles as to the benefits of organic produce, superfoods, miracle honey, and cure-all herbal teas. And although this wholefood, kale eating diet made me feel healthier just reading about it, could I as a time-poor, budget conscious, Mother of two small children incorporate this into our daily lives?  Would this be the key to a healthier family as well as a permanent solution to maintaining my weight?
On a trip to the bookstore in search of answers to these questions I stumbled across Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ book. I had barely flicked through a few pages before deciding to buy it.

I immediately read through her 8 week detox program and nervously announced to hubby “I think I might try and quit sugar”. As I expected Star Wars loving hubby’s reply was, “Do or do not. There is no try”. So with that, I did.

Stay tuned: 'You heard right, I quit sugar! ' Part 2