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A new beginning… its all about what we eat.

A while ago a friend on facebook gave me an idea… we are all becoming much more aware of eating healthier, in my family we have some health issues that need to be addressed and I am a firm believer in, we are what we eat, so its time to address those issues and get healthy again… so back to that idea, it was an idea to inspire others with a menu plan for each week, basically what we eat, we are vegetarian, we are plant based, we eat meat eaters, we are pre-diabetic and we are a clean healthy eating family… so here we go, my guide to eating healthily with a few tips here and there on other things, like reducing our waste, getting a huge bang for our buck with our groceries, becoming more eco friendly and how we can get our children not only excited by food but cooking too.

Welcome to my kitchen, I definitely am not a trained chef, I am not a nutritionist, I am an experienced Mom of 8 children, some grown up, some still in school and some still very small, we homeschool, we bake fresh bread and baked goods and we most definitely cook from scratch, fresh produce is a priority, and as much organic food as we can buy and we can afford is always number one on my list.

I have a family of very picky eaters, many years ago when my older children were much younger, I became proficient in adding in veggies into everything I made, I secretly cooked and blended a variety of healthy produce, then added them into my meals, although these days there has been many a cook book about how to do this, I was most definitely all about this many years ago… and still to this day, even though many of my children are older I still from time to time sneak the odd veggie or legume into a dish… I am all about nutrition and if I have to, I will lie, steal or sneak the vitamins and minerals into any dish.

I have gone from meal planning for 7 day increments to 3 days, with 10 people to cook for, 3 days is more manageable, not only to plan for, but to shop for.  The main priority is getting a balanced healthy diet, at all times.  I am a big Jamie Oliver fan, always have been, and always will be, after a few years break from watching his shows since moving to the US, I have recently been catching up on his newer shows, internet tv makes streaming his shows so much easier these days, he is so passionate about what he does, and his love for food is crazy, I am totally inspired to begin my own journey with health all over again.

I have three things in life that I am truly passionate about, number one is my family always, and joint second place is photography, I have taught myself how to take my camera off of auto mode and also how to use photoshop over the last 3 years, no mean feat believe me,  also, something many people may not really know is my passion for all things food, and this is my joint second place, cooking and eating healthily, the nutrition, what we need to fuel our bodies in the best way possible, I am so passionate about it, it has been suggested by several of my family members that I should train to be a nutritionist, I read so much all the time on the subject I am starting to wonder if they are right.

So lets begin now you know a little bit about me… this week is all about the soups for me, Winter is upon us, comfort foods to the max, having a warm nutritious soup on hand is always good for lunches, and even dinner, and I am all about the sides and what can I dip in that bowl of goodness.  I am all about reducing the fat these days, lowering our carbs and also bringing down the sugar content, once upon a time I would not have worried too much about adding sugar, these days I am always thinking of ways to reduce or add a natural sugar that is low on the glycemic index.  I have read several articles recently about how our bodies use the nutrition we put into them, what I was totally surprised about was how quickly some carbohydrates that we eat are turned into sugar in our bodies, making not all carbs equal, and the same for sugars, it appears that not all sugars are equal either.

Sometimes I love to experiment with recipes, but when I have a time crunch I am all for tried and tested recipes, although I have been known to mess around with a recipe from time to time, change ingredients, add in this and that… cooking is most definitely all about fun.

Soup number 1 for this week… an old favorite, very simple to make and very healthy… carrot and coriander soup.  I took the recipe and made it in my instant pot, a recent favorite purchase of mine, it makes cooking soup a breeze, you can start by sautรฉing your veggies then switch to pressure cooking, I loaded all the ingredients except the dairy and cilantro into the bowl, sealed it and set it to pressure cook for 3 minutes, you can then get on with other things whilst this wondrous machine does its thing… once it was finished I added in some oat milk, my favorite non dairy milk and the fresh cilantro, oh and let’s not forget at this point we need to season to taste, I then got my stick blender and in no time at all we had a delicious bowl of nutrition.

One cup of chopped carrots…

  • 52 calories
  • 12.26 grams (g) of carbohydrate
  • 3 g of sugars
  • 1.19 g of protein
  • 0.31 g of fat
  • 3.6 g of fiber
  • 1069 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 7.6 vitamin C
  • 42 mg of calcium
  • 0.38 mg of iron
  • 15 mg of magnesium
  • 45 mg of phosphorus
  • 410 mg of potassium
  • 88 mg of sodium
  • 0.31 mg of zinc
  • 24 mcg of folate
  • 16.9 mcg of vitamin K

Making them a power house of super charged nutrition.

Soup number 2 for this week… another favorite, usually around Thanksgiving or Christmas time, using up the ham hock for flavor, these days the ham hock has been replaced with liquid smoke or sweet smoked paprika to replace that taste, but still as delicious and most definitely as nutritious… spit pea soup, vegetarian style.  I have made split pea soup for many years now, it is my husbands favorite over the years especially around Christmas time when we have had a ham, we use the bone with some of the meat still attached and cook it within the soup, these days my husband is a vegetarian so I needed to replace that smokey ham taste with something, and Smokey paprika is my favorite replacement. Split Peas will provide you with 21 grams of fiber and 28 grams of protein, among loads of other nutritional goodness, making it a fantastic winter comfort food soup.

Both soups are full of goodness, very budget friendly and you will be eating it for days to come, we just change up the sides, sometimes a roasted veggie sandwich with sourdough bread toasted, sometimes crackers and cheese, sometimes roasted squash or sweet potato wedges, today we had a quinoa salad with nuts, berries and roasted squash on the side, now I cannot claim to have made this one, but I know this guy called Trader Joe that can make life a little simpler sometimes.

‘[‘Tomorrow we are heading out for brunch, a great place we know, all made from scratch and all farm to table, my favorite.  I will be putting a lentil bolognese in the slow cooker for when we get home, some of us will have this with pasta and ground sausage, the rest of us will have it with roasted butternut squash wedges and a green salad.

Well that is what we are eating for the next few days, low carb, low sugar, but always healthy and nutritious, I try to incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies, so right now we are eating lots of squashes, pomegranates, apples and pears, all full of flavor and packed with lots of nutrition… (just a little hint, keep all those veggie scraps, do not throw anything away including the seeds from the butternut squash, freeze them ready for an awesome homemade, ultra budget friendly, almost free broth made in your slow cooker or instant pot, recipe to follow soon) Be happy and stay warm… and remember eat the rainbow. ๐ŸŒˆ

 

 

 

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What is it like to be a Mom for Senior Prom…

It all starts many months before the actual day with Prom dress shopping…. well it does for us Moms of teenage girls. Junior Prom dress shopping turned into a nightmare last year, we could not find the perfect dress for our budget, we spent day after day, month after month visiting dress shops, we ordered and bought 4 dresses in total and then we finally decided on a dress that M had tried on in the very beginning, which by the way was always one of my favorites and ended up being such a bargain with extra discounts. Moving onto this year, with last years experience under my belt, I had a plan and a budget… one giant outlet dress shop and a free afternoon… well my plan was even more successful than I thought it would be… one shop, first dress we saw, 20 minutes later we were off to get lunch with the dress in our hands… so organized and off to a good start this year.

Next on our prom to do list was organizing the hair appointment well in advance, luckily our last minute hair appointment was so successful last year, we decided this was the perfect place for this year. We did leave shoe and bag shopping a little late but that worked out well in more ways than one. To be honest in all the preparation I was not prepared personally for the actual day….

After having 5 boys who I absolutely adore by the way, I got a beautiful dark hair baby girl, I remember touching her after she was born, trying to take in every moment of her being here, she is almost 18 now, she has challenged me in more ways than I thought possible, there have been fights, tears, laughter and so much joy, but I feel like I blinked and she was here going to Prom. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that went along with Senior Prom before the actual day. I was and am so proud of everything she has achieved, this year has been challenging for her, but not only has she come out of High School on top with fantastic grades, a few Honors societies under her belt, but she has grown so much as a person, to see her smile light up on Friday melted my heart in ways I have never felt, different ways… I am so proud of each one of my children for who they are, who they have become, and each one of their achievements… and Friday afternoon was no different, except this time my baby was wearing a beautiful pink dress that made her sparkle in every way possible.

So what’s it truly like being a Mom of a Senior at Prom… well my day started with collecting the boutonniรจre for M, it was then my emotions began to go haywire, it was then I realized that today was truly bittersweet, my heart lit up with pride at this beautiful person she has become, but deep down I felt a huge weight, this day really does signify change, time to move on, but as a Mom it’s hard to let go, I’ve tried so hard this weekend not to be the over bearing mother of a daughter partying at Seaside, so many times I wanted to check she was ok, but I didn’t because I know this will be our life moving forward… college awaits this smart beautiful girl and I want her to enjoy every single moment of this new and exciting life… but I can tell you one thing I was so happy when she text me to say she was home yesterday afternoon.

Time please stop moving too fast, please slow down just a little, let me stay a while in this moment before we move on to a new and very different life… being a mother is challenging in so many ways but the rewards are more amazing than we ever imagined… that’s what being a mother of a Senior is all about… boy or girl they challenge us in ways we never expected but when it is time to fly our little nest called home, are we ready, will we ever really be ready… I think the answer to that will always be no, but we know the time has come to let our babies fly away but deep down inside we know they will always want to come home to us… life changes but our love will never change it will just grow and grow and grow.

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The land of the free…

Memorial Day weekend feels a little early this year, I guess because it’s almost a week before May closes out and June begins… despite feeling a little odd that we have celebrated and we have almost a week left in this month, we had an awesome time.

We celebrated an event that happened earlier last week on Saturday, Lewis’ Graduation with a glass or two of Prosecco, followed by an awesome family evening of chatting and laughter. Sunday was a fun day… NOT, we tackled the crowds at Costco in desperate need for some food it was a must… not one that I would have chosen if our cupboards weren’t completely bare.

Memorial Day was so much fun though… it started relatively early for us, Paul was preparing to take F and T to our local town parade, candy bags ready for the big collection and I was getting ready to take M to meet someone she has been chatting to on her college forum. We arrived in Morristown a little early so Century 21 is always a must to look around, for those of you who don’t know what Century 21 is, it’s a shoppers paradise with 3 floors of discounted brand clothes, shoes, homeware , make up, bags… you name it they have it… always so much fun to mooch around.

Later I had a couple of hours to myself, so after my much needed Starbucks I took myself and my new camera off to explore, it felt really weird for it just to be me, normally I have someone with me… but today just for an hour or two it was me, myself and of course my beloved camera… I love to people watch, so combined with awesome buildings Morristown didn’t disappoint, it was totally alive with Memorial Day crowds, sitting, chatting eating and just simply walking around.

Time flies when you are having fun… my final stop for the day was our friends Pool for a swim followed by a delicious BBQ. I met Paul and our children there, by the time I arrived F and T were already in the pool, splashing around with Jill, they had had an awesome time at the parade with their Dad and their candy bags were full, well fuller than they had been when they started the day, the sun was shining but the temperatures were so pleasant… it really was the perfect way to spend Memorial Day afternoon into the evening… friends, good food and beautiful weather.

Back to a normal week… last few weeks of schooling both home and High School… counting down until school is out for Summer Break, finally I will be able to kick back and relax a little… well almost I forgot we are about to enter Birthday Season in our house, and that is always a crazy busy time.

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New year…

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I’m not sure it really feels like New Year to me yet, for the first time ever I slept right through it, getting stomach flu on vacation was not quite the plan but it happened anyway, hot, cold shivers, violent headaches, stomach pains, nausea and the dreaded run to the bathroom, all led to me wanting to just sleep in bed for three days, but I didn’t, you are only on vacation for such a few days and I wasn’t going to let this thing keep me from getting out and enjoying Arizona, but I did let it allow me to sink into bed early each night and sleep on and off through each evening and night, including New Years Eve… so there were no tears of something lost and happiness of something new this year, just sleep and then more sleep.

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Although I was still kind of out of it on New Year’s Day, feeling a little better but not even 75%, we spent the day in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been privileged to go to… Sedona AZ… if ever you are lucky enough to travel to Arizona make sure Sedona is on your places to visit list, well that’s if you don’t decide to just stay there for a few days… everywhere you look the views are just stunning and surreal, sit in Starbucks sip coffee and the views are phenomenal, grab lunch at one of the many places to eat and the views are out of this world… my only criticism would be that some of the places are a little too touristy and the shops tend to be a little generic, but I wasn’t there to shop, even though we did do a little, obligatory teenage girl Sedona sweatshirt shopping, Mom and Florrie got handmade healing necklaces, oh and an unexpected find of summer Harlem pants… to just sit relax and take in that fantastic scenery that just surrounds you everywhere you look is just amazing and so calming.

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I don’t know why but I always feel a little apprehensive at the New Year… the thought of what a New Year can bring, has had me a little depressed this year. It is silly because really it’s just another day, but it really seems such a big deal… I was reading all these positive New Year posts on social media and I had to stop and give myself a good talking too, although last year was tough with my Mum getting sick there were lots of positives… three of my older sons all have good jobs now, we have had three vacations, one was unplanned to see my Mum, but we still got to see family and friends and see the new regeneration of a town we grew up in and our older children grew up in, our children are all doing well and are happy, Paul and I are in a really good place with our relationship right now and my Mum is through her chemo now and on the other side, she is the bravest person I know and I am very proud of her. So I think I need to start looking at New Year in a new light from now on… how exciting is this year going to be?

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No resolutions from me this year, another first… just intentions to be a healthier more positive me… I want to continue my healthy eating campaign… get back to the cardio and yoga I was doing until I damaged my ankle, no more excuses though, more meditation and learning to relax… and over this winter I want to stay in the warm hibernate by the fire and fuel one of my passions photography, I want to improve my skills, more reading and practicing, I want to be as good if not better than the talented people of the photography Facebook groups I follow.

But for now I am going to enjoy my last two days in Sunny Arizona… relax in the warmth, soak up as many rays as I can because on Saturday when we arrive back home it will be freezing and I need this warmth to last through until Spring… Happy New Year everyone ๐ŸŽ‰

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We are what we eat…

Getting older sucks… I have gained weight and I haven’t changed the way I eat, your metabolism slows down and the middle age spread begins… are you kidding me? Really?

Ok, so I admit I really do need to excercise more, but I’m a busy Mom of 8 children, I include my older ones too, from first thing in the morning until I sit down with that much needed glass of wine I’m on my feet rushing from here to there, but according to my OBGYN that’s not the type of excercise that is going to burn off those calories at my ripe old age, well he didn’t mention the ripe old part, I’ve just added it in so you get the picture… he says I need at least a 20 minute cardio routine per day that will get my heart racing, so even my gentle morning yoga routine does not fit the bill for getting my heart racing I’m afraid. Food is also important and consistency, 4-6 healthy small meals a day, well the small portions are not a problem for me as I’ve never eaten large meals, but 4-6 is a huge problem, I can go hours and sometimes forget to eat… ok so here we go, new me, I am determined to beat this middle age spread.

I love healthy foods, I love salads, I love soups, I love fish, I love veggies, I even love radishes too, so how hard can this be? 4 to 6 small portion meals/snacks a day together with a low impact cardio workout, just to start me off and some yoga to keep my joints supple. The hardest part of a carefully thought through menu plan is the prepping, to have a healthy menu for Paul to go to work with is the planning a prepping the day before… this week we are keeping it simple and doing a ‘let’s see what we can make with what we have in’ using up supplies in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry… so next week we can start a fresh in an organized way… does anyone else do this once a month, to clear out the old ready for the new?

Let’s start with Breakfasts that I can easily prepare in advance… healthy banana, oats and honey waffles, perfectly preprepared and easily transported if you have to go out…

Serves 2
One cup of gluten free oats
I cup of dairy free milk, almond or coconut (if using coconut I suggest 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
1/2 a banana
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute… add 1/4 cup of the batter to a lightly oiled waffle maker and let it cook for 2-3 minute.
Serve with fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt or for a dairy free option a tablespoon of almond butter ๐Ÿ˜‹

My next easy to prepare breakfast is raspberry, coconut chia pudding…

Serves 2
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of raw honey
2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Take the first three ingredients place them in a blender and let them blend for 45 seconds, divide the blended fruit milk into two mason jars then add 2 1/4 tablespoons of chia seeds, place the lid onto the jar and shake to mix the chia seeds, place in the refrigerator over night… top with a few raspberries and a tablespoon of sliced almonds ๐Ÿ˜‹

Now if I’m staying in I love a slice of whole grain gluten free bread with avocado and grape tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze and if Paul is going to work I make him a super healthy veggie omelette ready to cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a piece of fruit. Another healthy on the go breakfast is a smoothie served with a hard boiled egg for protein.

Lunches are much easier when you are at home, your choice is endless, I love salad, cheese, eggs, veggies, homemade hummus and steamed veggies, but planning a healthy portioned out work lunch takes a lot of prep… 5 meals, 5 healthy carbs, 5 healthy lean proteins and plenty of veggies ready for a busy week of working… quinoa, brown sprouted rice, sweet potatoes, ground turkey meatballs, oregano chicken and Cajun pork, all leftovers from a past week dinners and lots of veggies, but when you are home you can quickly bake some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, add in a little arugula and a lightly fried egg, finally whip up a Harrissa dressing… so good ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Heathy fish and chicken tacos are my favorite dinner option, polenta crisped salmon and chicken tenders served with warm corn tortillas, salad and a healthy mango salsa, easy healthy and filling. Dinners are always a challenge in my house, some of us need GF carb options, some of us don’t like veggies, some of us are mainly vegetarian, except for a little fish and some of us are such basic eaters that meat and plain pasta is all they will eat. Salad is my friend, I can add a protein and then a healthy carb and it covers most diets in my house… but soup season is on it’s way, although I love Summer, I personally love soups they are so versatile, healthy and can stretch your budget sideways.

Snacks are my biggest challenge for planning ahead, each time we eat we are meant to have a complex carbohydrate, a protein and a fat, so getting that right in a snack is a huge headache for me… protein bites were simple and nutritional for a snack, gf oats, almond butter, honey and then I added chopped nuts dried fruits and seeds. Another idea is brown rice cakes, and almond butter, or fruit and a handful of nuts… but with all the planning snacks still remain something I think about last and quite often forget to eat myself… I am working at it though… slowly ๐Ÿ™ƒ

… and then we always need an occasional treat, I try my hardest to make these treats as healthy as possible, like lemon muffins made with yogurt and honey… light and delicious ๐Ÿ˜‹

Whatever you eat, try to make it nutritional, delicious and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

Photographic diary, Uncategorized

Really my camera is totally awesome and I never knew it!

Having made the decision to take my camera off of automatic mode I knew I had to get to grips with how the camera actually worked, everyone said the photos would improve and I would never want to go back, but I just couldn’t get my head around exactly what settings were for what.

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I decided photography blogs and you tube should be my first port of call… I found an excellent video on you tube that explained all of those buttons and dials, that I had just ignored for so long… I suddenly could see what each button was called and exactly what it did, I watched it several times with my camera in my hand going through each button and dial as the guy in the video explained what it was and what it did.

Next I found some excellent photography for beginners blogs, I read, and reread them, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, I wrote notes and found cheat sheets on Pinterest… next I gave myself exercises to understand how each aspect of the exposure triangle worked with each other… when you reduce the ISO the shutter speed needs to be increased, and when you increase the ISO in darker situations you need to decrease the shutter speed, what I did not realize was that changing the aperture, F-stop would then affect both the ISO and shutter speed too… so much to think about.

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I found an excellent guy on you tube who has created these fantastic short videos using his real life to explain everything from lighting to shutter speed and everything inbetween. Moose Winans sang to me, his videos are short fun and speak my language when it comes to photography, I love to sit watching his videos and they seemed to explain this complicated world of a DSLR camera to me.

This changed the way I set my camera, suddenly I began to understand a little bit more, I start with a setting of ISO 400 shutter speed of 320 and f-stop of 1.8, then I adjust it from there depending on whether I am inside or outside, if the light is good, if there is shade, I always change my ISO first, more of less depending on how much light I have I set my white balance to the type of situation I am in and then I look at shutter speed, moving it up or down until my white balance meter is set to either 0, just above + or just below -.

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Once I gathered a little knowledge it was time to get a new lens, I wanted one with a lower F-stop than the two lenses I had, I wanted to take portrait photos both indoors and outside, I looked at both 35mm and 50mm, in the end I chose the 35mm, just because I like to take a lot of photos indoors, but I am now looking to invest in the 50mm too, just because I want something with a longer exposure for outside and I am now looking at the lens with a lower f-stop of 1.4.

I also decided it was time to switch from the basic photo editing software on our Mac computers and iPads, I looked at lightroom and photoshop, lightroom seemed easier to use, but photoshop although more difficult to learn could do much more creative effects that I would eventually like to do, so I found the monthly $9.99 deal for both online by reading blogs written about both lightroom and photoshop… after a little research I signed up and I am loving it.  There is so much advice online about settings for different types of filters you want to create, the list is endless and in lightroom it is so simple to achieve a look you require.

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I have endless amounts to learn in all areas of photography, everyday I take my camera out and snap away changing the settings and experimenting with it, I then go onto lightroom and I am trying to learn how to change the photo for different filters, the above vintage setting is one of my favorites. I may have slightly over used it recently, but with my newly acquired skills I think I am allowed a little creativity over use.  I am tending to set the camera for a lighter setting, some might think it looks a little over exposed but I am loving the new lighter effect of the photos, I hadn’t realized quite how dark the photos looked on the auto setting of the camera… one of the bonus’ of setting your camera to manual you get to choose the settings exactly the way you want your photo to look.

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I had read so many times that once you switch you camera off of Auto and start to really learn your camera in Manual mode you would never want to go back… As someone who has recently made the switch I don’t think I will ever go back, sometimes I second think my settings and panic a little, but usually I have made the right choice, so I should have more faith in myself…  everything I read was completely true… I have thought about doing this for a very long time, but always doubted myself, the Manual setting is so much more fun and you have complete control instead of relying on your camera guessing the type of photo you want… if I can do it, you can do it to… it wasn’t as difficult as I first thought and every day gets a little bit easier.

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Baking…

I love to bake, I love making sweet treats for my family… but with a new oven to deal with it’s been difficult getting those cakes to rise and stay risen, so finally yesterday I googled the reason that cakes keep sinking in the middle, one of the causes could be the oven is too hot, the cake cooks from the outside in, so the cake is cooked and browned outside but the middle is not so it sinks… makes perfect sense, so I’m thinking a little experimentation is in order. 

With three Birthdays this month I needed to enlist my little bakers help, the first one was  this weekend, so we set about a nice easy Victoria Sponge recipe from Mary Berry, an easy mix all ingredients go in, mix together then divide equally into two 8 inch baking tins, bake at 350f for 25 minutes… both cakes looked good in the oven they rose nicely then just before they were due to come out they both sank in the middle… REALLY, I couldn’t believe it.  I sent Blu out for more eggs and started again.

I decided to switch recipes, this time a Victoria sandwich recipe from Jamie Oliver, his cake was a little more in ingredient weight and dial up the heat on the oven to 375f… this time the butter and sugar were beat together then the eggs added one by one, finally a gentle mixing in of the dry ingredients… once again both cakes looked good in the oven but just as the timer went off both cakes sunk in the middle… REALLY again!


Time to get GOOGLE working for me… ‘why are my cakes sinking in the middle?’


I had to use one set of cakes and after I added strawberry buttercream, fresh chopped strawberries and grated chocolate it really didn’t look so bad… my little helpers did a fantastic job of adding ingredients, counting the eggs, mixing, chopping strawberries, making chocolate drizzled strawberries and most importantly eating all the strawberries before they had a chance of going in the cake, that was the best part of all of this… for now I see a lot of experimentation of cake temperatures in my new oven… Happy Baking ๐ŸŽ‚