Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Five fine things in life.. and some healthy home baking

Recipe of the Week...
... Coconut and Raspberry Macaroons
with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle

Ingredients: 150g desiccated coconut, 150g ground almonds, 2 eggs, 50g coconut sugar/nectar, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, 150g pack of raspberries, 50g very dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more).

Serves: 12 modest-sized macaroons

Time taken: Half an hour or so to bake, and then an hour or two for cooling, decorating and setting the chocolate. Start at least two hours before you aim to be eating macaroons.

Hi readers,

How are you this week, lovely people? Is everything good? Are you hanging in there? I hope all is well! Hope you had a fab weekend and now you’re off to a smashing start this week. What do you think? You’re two days in now – is the week shaping up the way you’d hoped? If it is – high five! If it maybe isn’t – fear not! Let’s turn this week around. Just look forwards and keep your chin up, readers. Tomorrow will be a better day.

How am I doing? Goood, I think! Pretty good. I’ve been upping my swimming and yoga lately, readers, and trying to eat more fruit and veg. And I feel really upbeat and full of energy! I’m keeping quite a positive headspace and waking up feeling switched on. It’s nice. June was a busy month and I think I’m enjoying having a little more time and flexibility in July, to mess with my routine and to be spontaneous. It’s fun.

Five things I’m enjoying of late…

1.     Jogging Having spent the past few weeks struggling with shin splints in my right leg, wincing as I walked my commute and taking the stairs facing backwards, it seems I can finally jog again. I made it out on a slow run over the weekend and my leg felt a lot more comfortable than it has done (i.e. felt more like a leg than an instrument of torture). And I’ve never appreciated running so much!

2.     New book I got stuck in over the weekend with the latest book we’re reading for Book Club, ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood. Bit strange so far – this is a book about a character called the Snowman, living in a dystopian future world. Not the kind of novel I’d normally choose to read! But this is a big book to sink my teeth into and I’m enjoying discovering a new world. It’s nice to give something different a try.

3.     Vibe feel good popcorn This is no paid product endorsement. I was wandering around the supermarket on Friday evening, feeling pretty zen after yoga. Not at all taking my shopping seriously. And happened upon a new brand of popcorn! Bought it in two flavours – coconut and strawberry – and have enjoyed them both. It’s a sweet honey-coated kind of popcorn (like an ethically branded version of Butterkist toffee popcorn). Probs not healthy at all, but packaged in a way that suggests it might be.. which is good enough for me. Tastes sweeet.

4.     New TV show Aside from religiously watching ‘One Born Every Minute’ and ‘First Dates’ each week (and – I’m not ashamed to admit – I quite enjoy singing along to ‘Pitch Battle’ on a weekend), it’s been a bit of a dry patch for me and TV. Nothing’s been taking my fancy! So, I decided to give a classic series a try and have since become addicted to ‘The Bridge’ (/ ‘The Bron’ / ‘The Broen’). I’ve already finished Season One! If you’re a lover of Scandi crime then I do recommend.

5.     Reading a Sunday newspaper I’ve been meaning to do this for weeks but haven’t been able to. This Sunday, at long last, I got the chance to amble down to the local newsagents for a paper. Then return to bed (with crumpets) to read it from cover to cover. And it was so good! That is what life is about at the weekend. I intend to do this more often and enjoy Sunday morning from the comfort of my bed.

Admiring my lovely flowers
as they bloom

How about you, readers? What have you been enjoying lately?? What are the things that you look forward to, and that really make your day? Are these your favourite things you always enjoy? Or has there been any change – maybe you’re losing interest in one thing but you’re really keen on something new? Or someone new?? Hmm!

Whatever it is that’s making you happy, readers, pursue it! Go with the wind and make time for the things you’re enjoying most. Even if it changes every day! How about baking, readers, have you donned your apron recently and mucked in for some baking? Or is your baking kit sat gathering dust? I got back into baking this weekend for the first time in a while, and had good fun in the kitchen!

I baked a batch of healthy, sugar-free macaroons (based on a Fitness Forster recipe found here) to bring into work on Monday.. and they were met with rave reviews! What do you think? Are you overdue some time spent baking, readers?? Yeahhhh! It’s both therapeutic and tasty pursuit – win win! If you're keen, here’s the macaroon recipe in just ten simple steps...

Recipe: Coconut and Raspberry Macaroons with a Dark Chocolate Drizzle

1.     Throw open the windows, pour a chilled bev, get yourself into a Mary Berry frame of mind, and set some music playing to sing-a-long with.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: This week I’ve been listening to ‘HAIM – Ready For You’, ‘Joey Negro – Must be the Music (disco version)’ and ‘Tom Misch – South of the River’. If you’re stuck for a song, maybe give these a try!
2.     Heat your oven to 180C and line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.
3.     In a bowl, mix the eggs until they become light and frothy and begin to stiffen.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: You could use a manual or electric handheld whisk. Or if – like me – you lack either of these… you can blend your eggs in your smoothie maker and hope for the best!
4.     Once the egg mix is stiffening, fold in the vanilla followed by each dry ingredient one at a time (not the chocolate).
5.     Once the mixture has come together, and has a doughy / crumbly consistency, it’s time to get stuck in! Use your hands to podge together small balls of macaroon mix and spread these balls evenly about the baking tray.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Look out for pink flashes of raspberry in the mix and try to make sure each macaroon has some raspberry in it.

6.     Carefully transport your trayful of macaroons into the oven and leave for 15-20 minutes to bake.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: Use this time wisely! While the kitchen fills with a delicious smell of baking, you can be tidying about and getting the dishes done.
7.     Once your macaroons look golden and nicely baked, you can safely remove from the oven and switch this off. Then leave your macaroons to cool for at least half an hour.

8.      Once the macaroons are cool, break your dark chocolate into small pieces in a bowl and microwave until melted.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: It’s a good idea to microwave is short 30 second bursts, then check/stir/repeat until your chocolate has melted, as chocolate can easily burn if left microwaving for too long.
9.     Use a spoon to artistically drizzle the chocolate over your macaroons, and then leave to set for either a few hours on the side or half an hour in the fridge.
10.  Your macaroons are ready to eat! You can tuck in straight from the tray, serve the macaroons to friends and family, or Tupperware for another day.

What do you reckon, readers? Would you give this recipe a go? Are you a fan of a macaroon? I chose this recipe as it looked like it wouldn’t all-out destroy my new health kick. And it looked like a fairly straightforward recipe for getting back into baking, after a while away from my wooden spoon. The coconut nectar required a trip to Holland & Barrett (my home from home) but the other ingredients were all inexpensive and easy to source.

And the macaroons turned out pretty well! A few broke apart in the oven, so I donated them to my Father Bear as a taste-better-than-they-look kind of pudding. Something he could chuck custard on, he’s not fussy. And the rest turned out really well! They looked smart plated up in the office, when I took them into work. Looking at the pics – would you be tempted to give this recipe a try??

Admittedly, when I first tasted a bit of broken macaroon, I wasn’t sure. I was quite unsure, readers, because they aren’t sweet! And they do taste… sort of… ‘healthy’, these macaroons. BUT they grow on you, readers. Once you get a taste for them (and you will because who throws away home baking?!), then they’re really nice. Fruity and coconutty and homely. They look and taste like they’ve been baked with love! And they have.

They won’t bust your diet, readers, and they’re easy to bodge together – so give ‘em a go! Let me know how you get on with this recipe. Do share your thoughts on these macaroons and relay great tales of your antics in the kitchen. I hope they turn out well and you like them! Fingers crossed.

Podge safely,


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