Lifestyle

Easter Simnel cake recipe

I love Easter, I always think it marks that spring has arrived and the garden has begun to come back to life. There’s the promise of warmer, longer and lighter days on the horizon and then there’s the food and drink and the chocolate! Perfect for me 🙂 

Easter means we are often able to spend some time together as a family and we usually make a trip to Cornwall to visit my mum and have a few days by the beach. This year has been a bit different but we can at least have a few day trips out. We might not be able to get together inside as a wider family for an Easter lunch but we can still enjoy the food. Although I love a chocolate egg and a creme egg in particular, as much as anyone, my favourite memory of eating at Easter time has to be Simnel cake. My mum and dad always made one and I decided to give it a go myself this year! I’m not a frequent baker and I managed this quite easily as it is simply: measuring, mixing together and putting in a tin! I reckon anyone can have a go at this and especially if you love marzipan! 🙂


The Simnel cake has been known since at least medieval times. A Simnel cake today is a light fruit cake that appears around Mother’s Day and Easter. It has a layer of marzipan baked in the middle and a second layer on top. It’s decorated with 11 balls to represent the apostles minus Judas, and sometimes there’s a ball representing Christ in the middle.

The recipe I have used is courtesy of Mary Berry’s Simnel cake 🙂


Ingredients

  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 175g butter, softened, (I use stork) plus extra for greasing
  • 175g/6oz self-raising flour
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g glacé cherries, quartered (rinse and dry before chopping)
  • 100g dried apricots, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp mixed spice powder

For the topping

  • 450g marzipan
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C Fan. Grease a 20cm/8in round (18cm/7in tin also works), deep-sided, loose-bottomed tin with butter and line the base with baking paper.

  1. Put the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat together until well incorporated. Start by creaming the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy and then beat in the eggs, follow this by sifting in the flour, then all the remaining ingredients. Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

  1. Roll one-third of the marzipan to the same size as the base of the tin and place on top of the cake mixture.

  1. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top of the marzipan and level the surface. Bake for 1¾-2 hours or until golden-brown on top and firm in the middle. If the cake is beginning to brown but not cooked through cover it with tin foil. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.
  2. Heat the apricot jam in a pan, then brush the top of the cooled cake with a little warm jam. Roll out half of the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. Place the marzipan on the cake and use your thumb to crimp around the edges.

  1. Make 11 balls from the remaining marzipan and place these around the edge of the cake fixing them to the marzipan with a little beaten egg.
  2. Brush the marzipan with the egg and glaze under a hot grill for about 5 minutes (turning the cake round to ensure even browning). You can do this using a cook’s blowtorch if you prefer.

Lockdown one-pot dinners

Well at least the worst of January and February is out of the way now and hopefully the lighter evenings and spring days are on the way!

Home schooling and working from home are stressful for everyone and if you are anything like us by the time the kids are ready for bed, all we want to do is sit down for dinner and a well earned glass of wine! The last thing we want to do is spend ages cooking and using every pan in the kitchen, which are usually (let’s face it) still sitting in the dishwasher. 😉


Chicken and Bacon Pasta Alfredo

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced
  • 3 oz spinach(140 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 500ml milk
  • 200g penne pasta
  • 50g (handful) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½  tsp pepper

Preparation:

  1. In salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes so it is just underdone. Drain and set aside.
  2. Add the olive oil to a large pot and cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy.
  3. Add the chicken and cook until no pink is showing. Remove the chicken.
  4. Add garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute stirring to prevent it catching.
  5. Add the flour to the pot and stir to absorb the fat. Cook out the flour for a minute.
  6. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and grate some nutmeg on the spinach. Cover and cook with the bacon until the spinach has wilted (if the spinach is dry, add a tablespoon of water to the pot to create some steam).
  7. Put the chicken back in, add the milk, then stir.
  8. Bring the milk to a boil, then add the pasta.
  9. Stir for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta and to thicken the sauce.
  10. Add the parmesan, then mix until the cheese has melted. Serve!
  11. Enjoy!

Cajun Rice with Chicken and Chorizo

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • I onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 75g chorizo, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 250g long grain or basmati rice
  • 400g can plum tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan (that you have a lid for!) and brown a chopped chicken breast for 5-8 mins until golden.
  2. Remove and set aside. Tip in the 1 diced onion and cook for 3-4 mins until soft.
  3. Add 1 thinly sliced red pepper, 2 chopped garlic cloves, sliced chorizo and 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning, and cook for 5 mins more.
  4. Stir the chicken back in with the rice, add the can of tomatoes and chicken stock. 
  5. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until rice is tender. Serve!
  6. Enjoy!

Pasta with Goat’s Cheese and Spinach (vegetarian)

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 150g soft goat’s cheese 
  • 100g spinach 
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock 
  • 200g penne pasta
  • 50g (handful) parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½  tsp pepper

Preparation:

  1. In salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes so it is just underdone. Drain and set aside.
  2. Add the olive oil to a large pot and cook the spring onions over medium heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute stirring to prevent it catching.
  4. Add the flour to the pot and stir to absorb the fat. Cook out the flour for a minute.
  5. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and grate some nutmeg on the spinach. Cover and cook with the spring onions until the spinach has wilted (if the spinach is dry, add a tablespoon of water to the pot to create some steam).
  6. Add the goat’s cheese to the pot and stir until it starts to melt.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and bring the boil, stirring to incorporate the goats cheese.
  8. Add the pasta and cook for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta and to thicken the sauce.
  9. Add the parmesan, then mix until the cheese has melted. Serve!
  10. Enjoy!

Top tips on how to declutter your wardrobe

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of clothes you have in your wardrobe? Do you find it difficult to find certain items when you need them and know that they’re in there somewhere?! If so, now’s THE perfect time to give your wardrobe a healthy declutter! And, most importantly, by freeing up some space means that there’s more room for NEW purchases 😊 … surely there’s no better motivation than that?!

So here’s a few tips on how to create a more organised, fashion-forward wardrobe.

Enjoy…


1) Make time

You need to make sure that you have plenty of time before you start. The de-cluttering process will take a while, but it really will be worth it.


2) Make all your clothes visible

This might seem obvious but it Is quite surprising what you find when you make sure everything Is visible! A lot of us tend to have our clothes rammed in so tightly that you can’t actually see all your clothes. Have a really good look through, you might be surprised with what you find. This process will either re-fresh your wardrobe with clothes you had forgotton about, or make more room when you throw clothes out that you haven’t worn for such a long time.


3) Do a quick wardrobe purge

Take everything out of your wardrobe that you don’t need or want any more – this should be a relatively quick job and if there are some items you’re not sure about you can always leave them and decide at a later date. If you do wonder when you wore them last – a quick trick. Turn the head of the hanger so when you re-check at a later date you can see If It’s been worn recently or not. Then you need to be ruthless and throw things out that you haven’t worn for a long while.


4) Take a reflective inventory of your wardrobe

Now this can be the difficult bit, as often clothes are linked to memories and are sentimental, but really do take your time to think about the clothes you do have and ask yourself:

Do I really need 10 pairs of jeans? As much as I love it, when did I actually last wear that dress? And if after reflection, you realise you don’t actually need them anymore, now’s the time to take these items out.


5) Not sure? Try them on

If you do have 10 pairs of jeans it may be hard to decide which ones you should keep and which ones to throw out. Try them on and see which ones fit and which ones really don’t. A second opinion Is often helpful, and a full-length mirror Is essential.  If you still aren’t sure, it might help to accessorise it with shoes, jewellery and a handbag in order to make that final decision!


6) Clean out your wardrobe regularly

It’s incredible how much dust collects up in our wardrobes so make sure you regularly wipe down any wardrobe shelves you have and hoover out the floor; making your wardrobe look spick and span!


7) Rearrange and reorganise your clothes

Now there’s no right or wrong here, people like to organise their wardrobes in different ways. Some people like to arrange it by seasons, others by clothes types and sometimes it’s all about the colour-coding. Whatever works for you is great 😊


We hope this helps, thanks for reading & have a fab day!

The Bang Average Mum’s guide to looking after yourself during lockdown

This month we invited the lovely Mum, blogger and influencer ‘The Bang Average Mum’ to share some of her lockdown experiences with us, as well as tips on how to look after your own mental health during isolation.

We find ourselves in an unprecedented season. A season that none of us were prepared for and none of us have lived through before. Despite what our social media feeds tells us, none of us have the magic formula for living la vida lockdown.

Due to my daughter being poorly in hospital for a few weeks, I joined the lockdown life on 1st April. Happy April Fools day. The feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and overwhelm hit me almost straight away and it felt just like when we had brought the tiny new born version of her home from the hospital.

Just like when I had postnatal depression, I felt like a lot of other people, particularly other Mums, were doing really well and it made me feel really low.

One month on and my mental health has improved. I have accepted that this is what will keep my family safe. This will protect our NHS and ensure that their resources go where they are most needed.

It hasn’t been easy, but I don’t think it is easy for any of us. Here are some things which have helped me to protect my mental health:


Limit your news intake and use reputable sources

Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus, and any news for that matter, can help you feel more in control. I am very wary of viewing sensationalised news from tabloids as their sole purpose of “being” is to sell us news and keep us coming back for more. Instead, use gov.uk, or World Health Organisation for unbiased facts.


Connect with friends and family via telephone/video chat

Feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need. Social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and can help reduce the risk of mental ill health for people of all ages. These times mean that we have to be more creative with connecting with our loved ones but with the joys of modern technology, we can have a quick chat with a friend or a full on family pub quiz via Zoom.


Stop “Should-ing” all over yourself

Karen on Facebook says that she is absolutely killing it during lockdown. She bakes her own bread now and her perfectly dressed, well behaved children are crafting quietly whilst she is able to write her novel and prepare elaborate home cooked meals. Good for her. You think that you should try to make bread now too, or that you should do more crafty things with the children rather than have them watching Disney+ to try to keep them quiet. Or you should use your time more protectively to learn a new skill. Should should should. No. This is not what this time is for. It is so important to stop comparing yourself to others, especially what you see on social media. It is a teeny, tiny piece of someone’s life that they want you to see. A phrase stuck with me during my recovery from postnatal depression and anxiety; “don’t compare your behind the scenes footage to someone else’s highlight reel.” Be kind to yourself; you’re doing the best you can do.


Lower your expectations of yourself and your children.

There is a reason why the phrase “do not work with children or animals” exists. If you are in the midst of trying to home school and work at home; I take my hat off to you. Home working while home-schooling presents an unprecedented challenge and one that, let’s face it, no one in normal circumstances would choose as it’s such a hard task. Coming through this with your and your children’s mental health intact is THE most important thing you can aim for. Setting expectations too high is a sure-fire way of creating extra anxiety and stress for everyone.


Enjoy the great outdoors

A mistake I made early on was not making the most of the allowance of being able to take some exercise outside. I didn’t leave the house for a week at the start and I was in a terrible mood. A walk around the block, or window rainbow spotting is a great family activity and a great opportunity to blow away the cobwebs.


Take time out for you

I have found that being at home 24/7 with a 2-year-old and a husband is certainly a new experience (to say the least!) and there have been some times when they both have been incredibly annoying. I’m sure they will both say the same about me too! More than ever, it is so important to take some time out to have break; just you. My favourite treat is putting Lexi down for her afternoon nap and having a bath with a lovely bath bomb. It is a simple thing to do, its pretty cheap and it gives me 30 minutes to relax. Other days, I go for a walk, or for a run. I feel so much better if I take the time for myself; both mentally and physically.


Ask for help

The strongest thing you can do is ask for help if you need it. Motherhood can be a lonely place without a global pandemic and there are some wonderful support services available if you wanted to chat to someone, off load or seek extra support.

I have compiled a list of organisations who I have sought advice from during my difficult times: (https://www.thebangaveragemum.co.uk/resources)


Take care & look after yourself,

The Bang Average Mum x

Things to do at home with kids

So, the government has just announced a three-week extension on the UK’s social distancing measures, and we’ll be spending most of our time at home for the foreseeable future.

For families with little ones, this time is particularly challenging. As parents ourselves, we know. Keeping kids entertained is hard at the best of times, let alone when you’re spending all of your waking hours caring for them – perhaps whilst also working from home.

That’s why we’ve put together a few ideas of things you can do at home to keep your kids stimulated, happy and fit – and to give you a break, too.


Learning from home

Your child’s teacher has most likely given you access to a range of systems that they use at school, and they are probably giving you age-appropriate activities to do on a weekly basis.

If you would like to do some additional learning, Teachit Primary has plenty of free printable resources, split by key stage and subject. DuoLingo is also a fun resource for you to learn a language as a family.

If you love to attend museums as a family, here are a number of virtual museum tours that you can go on from your sofa. Orchard Toys have also released a number of fun yet educational activities that you can print out.

But when it comes to your child’s education, the advice at the moment is to do what you can, but to not put pressure on yourself to be perfect. No amount of home learning will equate to the experience a child receives at school. And that’s perfectly okay. We’re all in the same boat.

You can play a unique role in your child’s life by supporting them with school activities where needed, but also by being a positive and loving figure during these strange times.


Staying mentally well from home

While this is a scary time for most adults, children can have a particularly hard time grasping the concept of having to be at home all the time, not being able to go to school, and not being able to see friends and family.

Mind Moose is a truly fantastic online resource to help kids aged between 7 and 12 to understand their emotions, how their brain plays a part in their mood, and it prepares children with tools to improve their mental wellbeing.

The website includes a series of useful free resources created specifically for families to help them have positive conversations to help support their child’s mental health, and to practice kindness. You can also subscribe to a range of benefits that will help you stay mentally well as a family, in a way that children can grasp.


Socialising from home

Most of us are missing friends and loved ones at the moment, and technology is proving to be a saviour for staying in touch. How many times have you heard someone say, “imagine if we were going through this before smartphones and technology?”

You’ve probably heard of the House Party app by now. It’s a great way to video chat with friends and family, with the addition of getting to play various games with them. It’s a great laugh and your child can get involved too.

You’ve also got WhatsApp video calls, Skype and Zoom at your disposal. Many people are using this period as an opportunity to reconnect with those they haven’t caught up with in a long time. How great is that?


Exercising from home

The NHS recommend that children have 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should also get physical activity each day.

Many of us can still enjoy one walk outside per day, so long as you maintain the appropriate social distance from other households. However, your family can stay active without leaving the threshold of your home, whether you have a garden or not.

The NHS have released a number of at-home activities to keep children moving, and it includes plenty of activities that you can all do safely indoors as a family. nd the fantastic Joe Wicks is running weekly PE workouts on Youtube that you can do at home together.

Of course, whilst it’s great to have some activities planned for your little ones, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have the perfect schedule to keep them entertained during every waking hour.

Kids, whilst they might complain of boredom, have big imaginations and are notoriously good at finding excitement in the little things. Your child can have an indoor picnic, get out the board games and make Christmas cards early, because why not? There’s plenty of original indoor activities out there.


Hang in there and stay safe,

Love the Pentlebay team x