June 26, 2013

Where I’ve been

Posted in Food, ME/CFS tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:59 pm by Reva

I have had a crazy month or so which has kept me away from the computer. To an extent I’m paying for it all now but I’m getting by on the fact that I have a week off work scheduled for three weeks’ time. I made myself take a day off yesterday because I don’t want to be taking a week of holiday leave to sit on a couch if I can help it. The truth is it’ll probably happen but I do have a few things I do want to get done.

So where have I been and what has kept me away?

Three weeks ago there were some big birthdays in my family and I volunteered myself for cake making duties. The first lot of cakes I made were for my Dad. I decided cupcakes would be easiest because they can be easily frozen. I decided to make toppers myself and so that I wasn’t doing them all at once I tried to plan ahead and make them over several weekends. As usual I underestimated how long they would all take and spent my weekends going from the kitchen bench to the couch to rest. I’m so grateful for the stool I use at the bench because I’m sure that helped. I coloured most of the fondant myself, except for the black so ended up with lovely aching hands and arms afterwards. The last weekend before the party I also made up all of the buttercream.

photoThat last weekend before the party was also the weekend before my goddaughter’s birthday. I’d decided months ago that I wanted to make her an apron, and I already had the fabric so between rolling fondant and making buttercream I was cutting fabric. A pattern would have been helpful but I had a picture in my mind of how it would look so I played around with the fabric and hoped for the best, and I actually managed to get it in the post and to her house in time for her birthday.

On my day off the week of the party I made my brother’s cake – a caramel mud cake at his request. It was a very easy cake to make and kept beautifully until it was served four days later. I had great intentions of decorating this cake as a laptop computer and made a fondant keyboard in preparation later the same day.

The following evening I made the chocolate cupcakes – a simple melt and mix cake that made a large quantity. I had decided this would be easier than freezing them – I wouldn’t need to find freezer space, and the recipe was easy and make a large amount of cake. Or so I thought. In the end I had fewer cakes than planned so decided at the last minute to make an extra batch. I had enough of everything except for eggs (as I’m not supposed to be eating them at the moment). I replaced the egg in the mixture with “No Egg”, an egg replacement. Big mistake. All of the cakes came out with a big hole in the middle. They didn’t just not rise, there was literally a hole in the middle. I gave up for the night then.

The next night after work I drove home to my parents for the party, loaded up with cakes and decorations. I have never let myself do that drive in the evening before in winter. The last hour or so of the drive was not great but I wouldn’t exclude doing it again.

With the help of my sister we finished the cupcakes on the afternoon of the party I piped white buttercream on the cupcakes and topped them all with toppers – little red telephones, cameras and bicycles. We were pretty pleased with how they looked in the end (I did have to make an extra batch of cakes though).

The party weekend was a massive one for me between the busy lead up, the long drive then the late night, not to mention the socialising. The nodding and smiling when people kept telling me how “well” I looked. I think I lost count of how often people told me that and I still don’t know how to respond when I don’t feel “well” but I went with nodding and smiling. Easier than going into detail with EVERYONE. And it was truly not everyone’s business how I was really going.

The following night we had a smaller get together for my brother’s birthday. We went to dinner and a local restaurant then return home for dessert. By mid-afternoon the cake was still uncut and un-iced in the container it travelled in. An executive decision was made to go for something easier than originally planned. After some time on Pinterest and Google Images we came up with a plan, and hit the supermarket to stock up on snickers bars, chocolate coated peanuts and caramel sauce. We mixed some caramel sauce through the buttercream icing and lathered it all over the cake. Next we stuck chocolate coated biscuits around the edge. We chopped up the snickers bars and sprinkled them over the cake along with the chocolate coated peanuts, then drizzled more caramel sauce and melted chocolate over the top. Not too bad if I don’t say so myself. And even though I’m not supposed to be eating majority of the ingredients (wheat, cow’s milk, egg and peanuts) right now I had a sneaky little slice – so worth the stomach pains afterwards!

So all of that was more than enough for little old me, but to top it all off there was a family wedding. Knowing that weddings generally involve socialising, late nights and standing, I took care to rest the weekend in between as best I could. For me it also involved some more travel (a shorter trip this time though). As expected it was a late night. I also slept poorly the night before – I think four hours all up – which hasn’t happened to me for ages. There was a lot of standing after the ceremony – I was trying hard to find somewhere for my Nanna to sit so it wasn’t as obvious I was doing it for myself but even poor Nanna had to stand around for a long time. I was fortunate that I could sit for most of the time at the reception though, and even ran into my prep teacher who I haven’t seen for about 25 years which was lovely (also lovely that she remembered me).

So that’s it. Clearly it’s time for a nap because I can see that I’m rambling. Things are getting back to normal now though and I promise not to stay away so long next time!

April 14, 2013

Where did the weekend go?

Posted in Food, ME/CFS tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:52 pm by Reva

I’ve written half a dozen blog posts in my head this weekend but do you think I can remember any of it? To top it off I think my brain is mush and my house looks like it’s been ransacked. I was determined to have the house looking at least tidy by the time the weekend was over but there are still dirty dishes on the bench, you can’t see the top of the kitchen table and the doona that I took the cover off last weekend is still lying on the floor. The dog has stolen the good spot on the couch – in fact she’s walking circles at the moment rearranging herself. Okay, I know that she’s a small fluffy thing that I could move but she looks so cute (and by the good spot I mean I would lie down there amongst the cushions and quilt, and not write anything at all). I promise I’ll move her when I’m done.

As my brain is just mush I’m just going to see what comes out. Oh, I did do some fun stuff at the beginning of the weekend (I had a bonus weekend day on Friday). A friend invited me over with some other ladies for a “macaron masterclass”. It was so lovely to be able to learn something new and I enjoyed sitting around drinking coffee, eating good food and just generally chatting. I did try to make some myself when I got home (love my new stool – I sat down the whole time) and I think I can honestly say, without a doubt, they were a disaster. I accidentally added the sugar too early, and eventually too much sugar all together so that they were extremely sticky when they first came out of the oven, and then so so crunchy. Like a rock. I did want to try again but when I woke up this morning a faced the fact that I really didn’t have the capacity to do it. Then I spent four hours sitting on the couch. I did a lot of that this weekend.

I have a few blog posts mentally planned, some even started, but I require more brain capacity than I have right now so I think I’ll just give you some pictures of my macarons from our masterclass (not the disaster ones – they weren’t pretty) and attempt to do a better job of writing next week

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January 20, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Posted in Food, ME/CFS tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:16 pm by Reva

Today I tried to work on an assignment which has a due date that is zooming towards me. I managed my initial 45 minute goal, took my 15 minute scheduled break, and couldn’t get back into it. I took an hour or so to just lay and had another go at the assignment. This just confirmed that my brain is pretty much mush at the the moment so I decided to bake. I’ve had a rocky couple of weeks and baking makes me happy, even if it can use nonexistent energy. I decided to bake my favourite chocolate chip biscuits. Super easy and I had planned to make them for the past two weeks as a part of a (belated) Christmas gift for a family friend.

choc choc chip biscuits

I love these biscuits because they are so easy and I always have the ingredients on hand; coming from a Women’s Weekly cook book, they never fail. The ingredients are also listed in weight so I find that I’m also saved a tonne of washing up because I just just pop the mixing bowl on the scales and add everything straight in.

I decided today to do something really crazy and replace some of the flour with cocoa powder; what can I say? I like to live dangerously 😉

chocolate choc chip biscuits

Overall it was a success. The biscuits were crispier than the original version, but in a good way. They were very cracked on top, so I might have to play around with the recipe or oven temp next time. There was one small almost-disaster where I was trying to unload one tray onto the cooling rack, and load the next tray on my too narrow kitchen bench tops, and the cooling rack toppled off. Fortunately the batch was saved from the floor by my buffet, all but one anyway. And only one third of that one was demolished by Maisie.

Ingredients

250g butter
165g castor sugar
165g brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g self raising flour
30g cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
300g dark chocolate chips

Method

1. Beat butter, sugars, extract and egg until creamy.
2. Sift in flour, cocoa and bicarbonate soda and stir until combined.
3. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate for an hour.
4. Preheat oven to 180degrees
5. Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls and place on a greased oven tray 3cm apart. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

supper

November 4, 2012

It’s Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

Posted in Food tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:01 pm by Reva

I haven’t made a Christmas cake in years, probably because I don’t eat them much and I still have one from four years ago in my pantry.  But I’m a bit of a kid at heart and figure it’s time to start thinking seriously about Christmas (oh yeah, and I have a chronic illness which, if I don’t start preparing early, is likely to turn around and bite me on the bum).  Last weekend I found a recipe in a CWA cook book that was sooooo easy.  I hardly had to standing up at all and there were hardly any dishes to do at the end.  What more could a girl with ME/CFS ask for?

This was so simple.  Saturday night I poured 1.5kg of mixed dried fruit in a bowl.  I sprinkled in some sherry (I didn’t bother measuring), some treacle, a cup of sugar and a grated apple.  I mixed it all together, covered it and left it over night.

The next morning I took off the cover and it smelt like Christmas!!  In a separate bowl I mixed together some flour and mixed spices with some melted butter which had cooled, then stirred in 4 eggs.  Once this was all mixed, I poured it over the macerated fruit, folded it all together and poured it into a prepared cake tin.  I’m not a lover of the white icing so I made pretty patterns on the top with almonds and cherries instead.

Then I popped it into a slow oven and spent a good two to three hours pottering in the garden and reading the Sunday paper while it cooked!!

October 20, 2012

“P” Risotto

Posted in Food tagged , , , at 5:35 pm by Reva

I went back to work this week after taking only the 2nd full week off that I can remember since being diagnosed with ME/CFS.  I knew I’d struggle so I’ve spent this week eating leftovers out of my freezer.  So last night, the first day of my weekend, I decided to make use of all the yummy fresh veggies slowly wilting away in the bottom of my fridge.  And this is what I came up with:

Pumpkin, Pea and Prawn Risotto

First I diced a small butternut pumpkin and roasted it in the oven – I did this ahead of time so I could rest while it was cooking.  In a large pan I cooked 300g of defrosted uncooked prawns then removed them so they didn’t overcook.  Thin I browned a diced onion and clove of garlic and then added a sliced zucchini.  I added a cup of Arborio rice to the pan, tossed it around then added a glass of white wine and a teaspoon of vegetable stock powder.  As the wine was absorbed I slowly added boiling water, stirring the whole time (this is where I wish I had a bar stool to sit on).  Towards the end I returned the prawns, added the pumpkin and 250g of fresh shelled peas.  Once the rice was cooked I added about a ½ cup of grated parmesan and some cracked pepper.  Enough for about 4 serves (I froze 2 serves to help restock my freezer).

October 14, 2012

Mocha Macadamia Nut Slice

Posted in Food tagged , at 2:41 pm by Reva

When I’ve had a run of bad days I like to use some of my rationed energy to do something I really want to do.   I know that while the washing, weeding, dishes all need to be done, for my sanity all those things can wait.  I need to do something I want to do.

So yesterday instead of working through my list (more on that another day) I baked.  What I really wanted to make was miniature chocolate cupcakes with chocolate butter cream icing but that damn sensible voice in my head said no – too draining.  And then I remembered the slice I planned to make last weekend.

This slice turned out to be a perfect choice for yesterday because:

  1. I had all the ingredients so no need to use energy going to the supermarket
  2. The recipe had several steps that required cooling which meant I could sit down for a long rest at intervals without worrying about things turning bad.
  3. None of the steps took long so if I needed to rest at any time I could.

There are a few things I could do to make it even easier next time.  I could chop the nuts, chocolate and caramel ahead of time. And the slice base was hard to spread.  If I made this on a particularly bad day again I’d probably rest before this step, and if possible get someone else to cut it. But overall easy peasy!

And in case you’re interested, find the recipe here