Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Sugar-free Flourless Chocolate Brownies for a Gestational Diabetes-Friendly Dessert

If you've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes - a particular form of diabetes you can develop in pregnancy, even if you have no previous history of the disease - you'll probably wonder at some point if you can ever enjoy a cake or dessert or piece of chocolate again - or at least until your baby is born when gestational diabetes disappears.

The answer, luckily, is yes - there are plenty of desserts you can enjoy. And I don't just mean sugar-free jelly or no added sugar Angel Delight, which seem to be staples of the gestational diabetes (GD) diet for a lot of people- if you enjoy baking, or eating things that other people have baked, there are still options out there, even though you should be avoiding sugar and refined white carbs, which unfortunately includes the flour usually used in cakes and biscuits.

There are alternatives - for instance sweetener instead of sugar, and ground almonds to replace flour - and I'm going to point you in the direction of a website that has some great recipes.

Very soon after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes I found a Facebook support group that was linked to a website called GestationalDiabetes UK.

It’s full of incredibly helpful information, birth stories, meal plans and recipes. It was set up by a  mum who had gestational diabetes and couldn’t find enough information or support. She’s done a lot of research and has worked with various organisations including BabyCentre UK which advertises her site as somewhere to go for support with GD – so while she’s not a medical professional, I felt like I could trust the info on her site.

The main reason I used the site itself – rather than the Facebook group, where I often posted questions or comments for advice or support – was for recipes. I found it relatively easy to design my own meal plans but when it came to something sweet, I really struggled. Diabetic cakes often use sweetener instead of sugar but with GD, as I mentioned above, I was advised to cut down on carbs and particularly refined white carbs – meaning cakes or desserts made with plain or standard self-raising flour were out.

Members of the GD UK Mums Facebook group were raving about the chocolate brownies so I had to give them a go. The website has a lot of free recipes but to get this particular one you'd need to sign up as a member, which costs £7 a month (there is a cheaper option but that doesn't include access to the recipes) - you can cancel any time so I was a member for a couple of months while I was pregnant.

So obviously I'm not going to give you the recipe for the brownies and advise you to sign up for the site even if just for a month, but like many other diabetic friendly bakes, you won't be surprised to find that the flour is largely replaced by ground almonds. I found this gave the brownies a slightly grainy texture; they don't taste of almonds and just taste of chocolate. The ultimate test was my husband who loves chocolate brownies and doesn't like nuts, and he enjoyed these! I did find them a little more dry than I would have liked, with a more cake-like texture than other homemade chocolate brownies which are usually more gooey, but they were a really nice treat if you are missing chocolate cake and brownies!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 12

I've been trying to sort out what meals we are eating this week for about three days now....  every time I start I have to stop then I don't have time to go back to it! As you may have seen from my recent post on the best thing I've ever made I've had my hands rather full lately! I don't know whether I will get back into properly meal planning for a bit but I've just done an online shop and bought a bunch of easy to cook meals - and realised a lot of them go out of date on the same day so I do need to decide what to eat when and which ones to freeze! So for ease I'm going to put it into a meal plan format and see how I get on with sticking to it!

Lunch prawn mayo sandwich (I bought a tub of ready made filling!) followed by fresh watermelon
Dinner chicken tagliatelle ready meal for me, chicken and bacon pie with mashed potato for him

Lunch prawn mayo sandwich and watermelon
Dinner chicken cacciatore from my batch cooking stash for me, hunter's chicken ready meal for him

Lunch chicken and chorizo soup (ready made again!)
Dinner spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread

Lunch chicken and chorizo soup
Dinner garlic and herb chicken fillets and chips

Lunch with my parents- they will have just driven up and usually want something like beans on toast for their lunch as it's quick
Dinner  ready-made chicken pie from Waitrose and mashed potatoes which my mum can help with

Saturday my husband has to work today and might be back late so I need a dinner where he can eat later if he needs to - a good excuse to have something he doesn't like! Roast lamb is traditional at Easter and something I really enjoy but my husband doesn't eat lamb so I never do it as a roast. Easter Sunday is actually his birthday so he definitely won't want it then! So I'm going to take advantage of him being out and other people being here, to do a roast lamb dinner, and to use up an apple strudel I have in the freezer that is far too big for one person, but my husband doesn't like apple either!
Lunch tuna melt or ham and cheese bagels
Dinner roast lamb followed by apple strudel

Lunch fresh pasta with garlic bread
Dinner pulled pork in bread rolls with chips  (cheating with a ready made one!)

Link up your own meal plan here -

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The best thing I’ve ever made

Since this is a blog about things I’ve made I thought I’d share what is undoubtedly the best thing I’ve ever made- though I can’t take all the credit as it was 50% my husband’s work too:

Introducing our beautiful daughter Sophie Elizabeth:

I almost can't believe how much I adore this little girl already - she's two weeks old today and my husband has gone back to work today for the first time after his paternity leave finished. I've spent today feeding, cuddling, changing (several) nappies, sterilising bottles, expressing milk, and generally attending to her every need - it felt something of an achievement today that I also managed to get dressed, eat breakfast and lunch, sign up to the childcare voucher scheme and add her to my medical insurance plan and write a birthday card to a friend - and now a blog post as well! Still, it's a far cry from my busy 'previous life' working in communications at an investment bank - though I'm loving every minute of being Sophie's mum, even when she does one of 'those' nappies!

So regular readers should expect lower frequency of blog posts from now on, though I do have plenty of recipes I want to share from when I had gestational diabetes during pregnancy and a few other things I made a while ago - I can't see myself doing any baking any time soon, and even the dinners I'm making at the moment are either frozen food (things with chips), ready meals or from the batch cooking I did while I was pregnant!

I do intend to continue this blog and it will probably take on a more child-oriented stance but I also plan to continue my normal sort of posts.... when I can find the time!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 8

My second full week of maternity leave and again I have a few appointments - I'd imagined it as weeks on end of sitting at home doing nothing, or rather going through the massive to do list of all the things I never get time to do (and almost certainly never will have time again) - but it's not been like that at all. I'm tired all the time so often have afternoon naps and either manage to get one thing done in the morning or have an appointment, then when my husband gets home from work I make dinner (he's still recovering from a leg injury which means he can't help much around the house) and then we are both too tired to do anything more than watch TV. I really do hope we get through everything we need to do specifically relating to preparing for the baby, if nothing else! Don't get me wrong, it's quite nice being at home all day and if my body needs the sleep then it's good that I've got the time to have naps - I'm just constantly surprised when I wake up and a few hours have gone by!

Breakfast something quick eg yogurt or toast as I have a growth scan at 9am
Lunch cheese sandwich as I was home late after hanging around at the hospital for ages waiting for a blood test
Dinner beef and macaroni cheese inspired by a Waitrose ready meal (will freeze any leftovers) - might follow this recipe

Breakfast yogurt or toast
Lunch cheese and ham sandwich or beef and horseradish on either Burgen brown bread or part bake rolls
Dinner cauliflower cheese and leek bake from this recipe with sausages for me, sausage and mash for him

Breakfast smoked salmon and poached eggs
Lunch mackerel pasta as I have some mackerel in the freezer to use up
Dinner My husband wants to try Sloppy Joes so I will make some based on this recipe

Breakfast  smoked salmon and poached eggs
Lunch fish paste on ryvita or leftover mackerel pasta
Dinner homemade chicken nuggets

Breakfast yogurt or toast - got someone coming to fix the radiators
Lunch fish paste on ryvita
Dinner possibly out with a friend for a belated birthday meal postponed from last week - not sure yet

Lunch soup and rolls
Dinner lamb chop with sweet potato wedges for me, beef grillsteak and potato wedges for him I was going to do last week but didn't

Lunch cheese on toast unless I can think of anything better
Dinner toad in the hole I was going to do recently but didn't

Shared your own meal plan? Link it up here!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Gardener's Spring Flowers Waterfall Card

Maternity leave so far seems to have been all work and no play - and a lot of naps as I’m so tired all the time. I thought I’d have plenty of time to do things like sort out photo albums, file about two year’s worth of important documents sitting in a drawer, and maybe read a book while enjoying a cup of tea. Instead I’m working my way through a massive list of things we need to do to prepare before the baby is born - everything from setting up the baby monitor to checking we’ve got enough sheets for the Moses basket to writing my birth plan, which I’d intended to have finished about a month ago and still haven’t done!

But at the same time all work and no play isn’t much fun, so one evening when my husband was doing something on the computer I decided to go up to my craft room - which is now the spare room as we’ve had to move the bed out of what is now the nursery - and do a bit of card making.

I was careful to only take out a couple of boxes from my craft cupboard and ones that were right at the front - getting everything back in when you’ve taken it all out is a bit tricky and I knew I wouldn’t have the time or energy to do that at eight months pregnant.

I found something I’d bought in a bulk purchase from a local seller who was getting rid of some of her stash - a waterfall card kit from Quick Cards that promised everything I needed in one small kit to make an unusual kind of card I hadn’t tried before.

Unfortunately it proved a lot trickier than it looked! There were no instructions in the pack at all so I’d hoped it would be fairly self explanatory but it wasn’t. I ended up going on you tube and watching this video from Dreaming about Rubber Stamps to understand what I needed to do.
Even then I found I needed extra things that weren’t in the pack like a couple of brads, and I had started to use a long strip saying ‘happy birthday’ until I realised it would go behind the ‘waterfall’ and you wouldn’t be able to read the words, so I switched it for a patterned piece of card.

The way a waterfall card works is this: you have three or four overlapping images in a line down the card, and a tab at the bottom. When you pull the tab the picture squares turn over to show the other side in a sort of waterfall effect, and when you push the tab back up, the pictures all turn back the right way up.

What I didn’t like with this kit was that the yellow flower images provided had nothing on the back so when they had flipped you were left with plain white squares. They also didn’t take up much of the card blank provided with a lot of white space around them, so I decided to customise the card.
I used the three spring flower images you can see below, and stuck them onto the piece of card on the right - aside from the 'happy birthday' / 'happy mothers' day' strips down the side which are separate, there was a long section of card already scored in the right places for the waterfall card folds.
But I found it far too plain as I said, so I used a piece of backing paper from the Born to Shop- Go Green range and mounted the waterfall cards on that, along with a 'happy birthday' sentiment from the Quick Cards pack. I used a 'with love' tag as the piece you pull, though the strip that holds the waterfall cards on was made from a scrap piece of card covered with another piece of the Born to Shop paper and secured by two brads as glue wasn't strong enough.

I also didn't like the fact that when the flower cards turned over there was nothing underneath; I think this sort of card would work much better with a 'reveal' of similar images or even a surprise greeting on the other side. For this one I used more of the same backing paper and a picture from the same Born to Shop Go Green set but next time I might plan something that's a bit more of a surprise!
Here's a video of the card showing what happens when you pull the tab! Please excuse the wobbliness, I was trying to hold the card and pull the tab and film at the same time!

 I'm sharing this with Crafting with Dragonflies where the theme this week is special folds.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 7

Last week didn't go entirely to plan; my husband is still on crutches so he couldn't come on the hospital tour with me on Thursday - though it was a complete waste of time anyway, they stood us in a corridor and pointed out the entrances to the antenatal and post natal wards and showed us a room with a birthing pool (which I won't be using) and that was about it. I had hoped we'd go out for a celebratory lunch as it was my first day of maternity leave as well but my poor husband didn't feel up to it. So the whole day was a bit of a wash-out really!

This week I don't have any plans on Monday or Tuesday though I might go out to get fitted for a nursing bra (there's an awful lot of stuff like that to do!) then on Wednesday I have an NCT class in the morning, since I had to miss one due to an antenatal appointment at the hospital, I'm joining a session with the next group. The following day I have an infant feeding session which I think is mainly about colostrum harvesting (helpful if you have gestational diabetes) then on Friday it's a friend's birthday and we haven't finalised plans but I think I'm meeting her for dinner. So that will keep me busy for most of the week - I think my pre-baby maternity leave will fly past and be over before I know it! I just hope I get everything ticked off my 'to do' list that I need to do before then.

Here's this week's meal plan;

Breakfast smoked salmon and poached eggs
Lunch tuna melt on toast
Dinner butternut squash noodles for me, spaghetti for him, with bacon and mascarpone

Tuesday - shrove Tuesday
Breakfast probably just yogurt
Lunch smoked salmon and soft cheese on ryvita
Dinner Cajun chicken steaks from Waitrose
Pancakes for dessert as it's Shrove Tuesday. My husband would like one covered in chocolate and ice cream like these, and to be honest so would I but I don't think my gestational diabetes would allow that. Instead I'm going to try the ground almond pancakes from the Gestational Diabetes UK website and can top them with lemon and sweetener, or diabetic ice cream and Choc Shot.

Wednesday Valentine's Day
Breakfast pancakes as I expect there will be leftover mixture (unless I didn't like it!) - though I need to go out just before 9.30 for the NCT class
Lunch As I'll be in the local town centre (not exactly far, but I will have gone to the high street) I will get something from the bakery for lunch - they do various sandwich fillings which I should be able to tolerate GD-wise on brown bread.
Dinner My husband and I don't tend to eat out on Valentine's day anyway (too crowded, set menus with limited choice) and now I'm a few weeks from giving birth plus have GD and he's on crutches and a fussy eater it seems like a really bad idea! Instead I will make sure the house is nice and tidy and cook his favourite dinner of steak and chips (sweet potato fries for me) and chocolate mousse for dessert which is also from the Gestational Diabetes UK website.

Breakfast yogurt or toast with peanut butter
Lunch sandwich as I will need an early lunch or something I can take with me - annoyingly, the infant feeding session is at 12.45, about a half hour drive away, and will take a couple of hours, then I have a physio appointment right after.
Dinner butternut squash open ravioli for me from Waitrose (part of their Valentine's range), something like chicken kiev and chips for him

Breakfast yogurt or toast with peanut butter
Lunch rest of butternut squash open ravioli (serves 2 and my husband won't eat it)
Dinner out with a friend for her birthday

Breakfast yogurt or toast with peanut butter
Lunch breakfast burritos
Dinner lamb chop with sweet potato wedges for me, beef grillsteak and potato wedges for him

Breakfast yogurt or toast with peanut butter
Lunch bacon sandwich
Dinner tacos with minced beef and potato wedges

Link up your meal plan here:

Friday, 9 February 2018

Jolly Nation Bathtime Decoupage Mothers' Day Card

Mothers' Day will be really special for me this year, as I'm actually going to be a mother. Just writing that seems strange even though it's going to become a reality in just a few weeks! I expect the day itself will pass in a sleep-deprived blur so if my husband has any sense he will buy me a Mothers' Day card now!
I made some cards at one point early last year with various things I'd come across in my craft stash including this sheet of decoupage paper from Jolly Nation. It has a hand drawn style showing a woman relaxing in a bath with a glass of wine which is the sort of treat I think mums deserve on Mothers' Day!

I used a pink and pale green printed paper for the backing as it reminded me a bit of the sort of wallpaper my mum used to have in her bedroom years ago, then layered the pieces of the decoupage picture on top. I added a small 'mothers' day' sticker I had on a sticker sheet from a long time ago in the top corner.

I'm sharing this with Daring Cardmakers where the theme is cosy home, Cardz 4 Galz where the theme is think pink and Watercooler Wednesday where the theme is feminine.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 6

This is a big week for me - my last day at work for something like a year, I can't even begin to imagine what that will be like! My first two days of maternity leave are pretty busy - blood test, take the cat to the vet, tour of the hospital maternity ward, pedicure (can hardly reach my feet any more!) and new dishwasher being installed. Not having a working dishwasher for a couple of weeks has been a pain as I'm too tired in the evenings to do the washing up....

Why can't my husband do it, you ask? Well, last week he had a run in with a pothole in the pavement and we spent most of Friday in A&E.... the x-ray was inconclusive and he's waiting for an MRI scan this week to confirm if there's a fracture or not. In the meantime he's on crutches and in pain, obviously unable to do anything around the house to help and I am a bit worried about whether he will be in a position to take care of me and the baby in less than four weeks time! But he's improving by the day and I think we will be OK by then, it's just in the meantime when I was hoping to pass over to him all the household chores (including cooking dinner) I'm still having to do them myself. I hope he feels better soon as it's not nice seeing him suffer.

So what am I up to this week? Well....

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner the invalid requested something with chips... I had a portion of lasagne from my batch cooking a few weeks ago

Tuesday working from home - antenatal appointment
Breakfast ryvita with cream cheese
Lunch sandwich - I will be at the hospital over lunchtime
Dinner prawn/ chicken fajitas

Wednesday - last day at work!
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch team lunch
Dinner chicken pie and mashed potato for him; mine will depend on what I have at lunch as we are eating out.

Thursday first day of maternity leave
Breakfast boiled egg and toast
Lunch was planning to go out for lunch with my husband, he took a day off as we are doing the hospital tour later, but not sure he will be able to do that now!
Dinner might need something fairly quick after the hospital visit - will find something in the freezer when I get home.

Breakfast boiled egg and toast
Lunch our dishwasher is being installed any time up to 1.30 so I need an easy lunch where I don't really need to get in the kitchen - maybe ryvita with cream cheese
Dinner sausage and mash for him, sausage and cauliflower cheese for me

Breakfast usually depends what time I get up
Lunch soup and bread rolls
Dinner chicken mini roast from Tesco I was going to do last week but didn't

Breakfast usually depends what time I get up
Lunch tortilla pizzas
Dinner going to have a go at a diabetic friendly toad in the hole

Link up your meal plan here!


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - Week 5

I did have just over 6 weeks to go until baby Cowe is due... and then I got booked in to be induced (because of the gestational diabetes) rather sooner! I've only got a few more days at work as well before I start maternity leave - the idea of not commuting into the City and working for about a year is very strange though I will have plenty to occupy me instead!

This coming weekend my family and friends are throwing me a baby shower which I'm looking forward to, though the catering isn't that easy given I've got gestational diabetes and another friend is vegan - try finding a baby shower cake that works for both! I've also got some people staying - my parents and sister and her baby are coming up the day before and staying until the day after the shower and I always find it harder to plan meals when it's more than just me and my husband to think about, so I'm just going to play it by ear really.

My husband requested something with chips so we had chicken with sweet potato fries for me.

We needed a quick dinner as we had our final NCT antenatal class this evening and the only thing I could think of to do was put pizzas in the oven - I really wasn't sure what my blood sugar readings would do but actually they were fine! Even so I'm not going to eat that sort of thing very often until after the baby is born.

My husband was out and I had a headache so couldn't be bothered to cook so just had some pasta

Thursday - day off
ready prepared chicken with cheese and bacon from Tesco and cauliflower cheese for me, potato wedges for him

Friday - my parents, sister and her daughter are here in the evening, my mum will want to have dinner ready for when we get home from work so I've left her something easy - chicken kievs

lunch - early brunch or light lunch for three of us as there will be food this afternoon at the baby shower but my husband and dad will want a proper lunch - so options will include bacon sandwiches, fry ups etc
dinner - the three of us might not want much though a few friends might also come back to the house afterwards and we might all want to eat while my husband and dad will want a proper dinner, so I'm just going to play it by ear.

lunch - soup and crusty bread
dinner - chicken mini roast

Add your meal plan here


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Pop-Up 3D Box Birthday Card for My Husband's 40th Birthday

Have you come across box cards before? They fold flat to go into an envelope, but when they are opened, pop out into a three-dimensional box that stands up, and often has other elements 'exploding' out. They take a little while to make but are really worth it as they are impressive and really unusual. I made this one for my husband's 40th birthday last year and he was really pleased with itI'd heard of these cards but didn't know how to make them so looked for a video on You Tube.
It's a bit too difficult to describe each step and easier to direct you towards a video like this one or this one - I can't actually remember which tutorial I used now!
You need a fairly large piece of card to start with, roughly A4, and score lines at certain widths apart so you can later fold along them.


Make cuts part way up where you have scored

You'll find the card then folds into a box shape.

To decorate, I cut squares of patterned paper the same size as the sides of the box and used a different paper on each side (but in the same colour scheme).

Stick two strips of acetate inside, folding them at the ends so you can glue to the sides of the box; these create cross strips that you will then stick things to.

To make an element stand up out of the card, stick it onto another strip of acetate as shown, then stick this acetate strip vertically to the horizontal ones running across the box. Glue dots are good to use for this.

This is the effect you are going for! You can add as many of these as you like.

 You can see that here I've got three elements sticking up inside the box; two are glued onto acetate strips running horizontally through the box and one is stuck to the front and the back of the box itself. Make sure the elements aren't aligned with each other either in position or height, otherwise you won't be able to see them all when you look at the card from the front.

Here's a better view of the box so you can see the elements sticking out - a 'happy birthday' die cut, a 40 I cut from silver card, and a 'with love' heart. I also used a 40th birthday message topper on the front of the card.

And here the card is from the front; it's better in real life as you can take in all the elements at once. I think my husband liked it and seemed pleased with the amount of effort I'd put in to make him something special!

I'm sharing this with Cardz 4 Guyz as the theme is 'January blues'  and the Make My Monday challenge where the theme is 'fancy folds'.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 4

Having not managed to blog all week since I posted my last meal plan, I have at least made a lot of headway with baby's nursery and washing all those tiny little sleepsuits! I've also just about managed to cobble a meal plan together...

Monday - working from home - physio appointment

Lunch baked sweet potato with tuna

Dinner  chicken in a cream cheese sauce

Tuesday - working from home - antenatal appointment

Lunch - toasted ham and cheese sandwich

Dinner – pork chop with homemade cauliflower cheese I keep meaning to make but don’t


lunch- sandwich or soup

dinner - out in evening


lunch - sandwich

dinner - sausage and mash/ sweet potato mash


lunch - sandwich

dinner – tuna steak for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for him


lunch – prawn/ chicken fajitas

dinner at cinema. If time, steak and chips/ sweet potato fries which we didn't have last week or might even eat out


lunch – eggs benedict

Dinner – pasta bake with sausages

Link up your meal plan here!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - week 3

I'm working from home twice this week as I have an appointment with the diabetes midwife on Tuesday and a growth scan on Friday, so a bit more time hopefully to cook some nice meals!

Breakfast porridge
Lunch tuna sandwich
Dinner fish pie for me (frozen a while back pre-GD but only has a little mashed potato on top) and chicken kiev for him

Tuesday - working from home
Breakfast smoked salmon and poached egg
Lunch ham and cheese toasted sandwich
Dinner spicy chicken escalopes I was going to do last week but didn't, with potato wedges/ sweet potato wedges

Breakfast yogurt and oats
Lunch chicken soup
Dinner  tuna steak with vegetables and quinoa for me, my husband is out at a work event

Breakfast yogurt and oats
Lunch tuna or ham sandwich
Dinner out

Friday working from home
Breakfast - porridge
Lunch ryvita with cream cheese and smoked salmon
Dinner salmon en croute for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for him

Breakfast toast with peanut butter
Lunch tortilla wrap 'pizza'
Dinner steak and chips/ sweet potato fries

Breakfast  toast with peanut butter
Lunch baked sweet potato
Dinner pork chop and roast potatoes for me

Join in the blog hop!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Review: Pure freeze-dried cat food

While this blog usually focuses on food and drink for humans, I have written a few posts before about meals I've made for Tilly - my gorgeous tabby cat.

I was asked if I wanted to review some cat food and since there is a link (albeit small) with what I've covered before, I said yes. The product itself is interesting I think to foodies anyway as it's freeze-dried - you just add water - making me wonder if there is any food for humans (other than what astronauts eat in space!) that is prepared in this way. I have a feeling that herbs are sometimes freeze-dried as a way of keeping them tasting fresh - if you know of any other freeze-dried food let me know in the comments!

So on to the cat food. Made by a brand called Pure Pet Food, a company founded by two friends who wanted their dogs to eat food as good as they did, rather than highly processed food made with low quality ingredients. After developing the business and seeing it start to take off, they appeared on TV's Dragon's Den (the equivalent show in the US is called Shark Tank if you're an American reader!) and were offered investment but decided to turn it down to go it alone.

They started off with dehydrated food in 2012 and only last year moved into freeze-dried. The company says its freeze-drying technique keeps the texture of the meat which did look to be the case from appearance (I drew the line at tasting it myself) and it doesn't need preservatives added. There's plenty of nutritional information on their website which I won't repeat here but I am impressed at the list of ingredients and their benefits, and that it contains nothing 'bad'.

I was sent finger-lickin' chicken and surf and turf flavours; here's what you get inside the box:

Mix with the recommended amount of water and leave for a few minutes to rehydrate, mixing well.

Tilly (my cat) really enjoyed this - she does like to switch up her brands and flavours every so often - and seemed to prefer it when I added a little more water to the mixture.

Here she is posing for a photo!

It does take slightly longer to mix this up in the mornings, and I'm always in a hurry before work,  though you can do it the night before and keep it in the fridge. You can buy online from their site and the products are also stocked in Pets At Home.

A 200g bag costs £11.99 but this is equivalent to 800g of fresh food, Pure says.

Thanks to Pure for the pet food for review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - week 2

I've found having gestational diabetes has increased my grocery bills... but at the same time I did my first bit of batch cooking over the weekend and now have five portions of lasagne in the freezer. Just need to do a bit more of that so I can have some easy dinners when the baby is born!

Breakfasts – will depend on what time I go into work but either: overnight oats; yogurt; toast with peanut butter, or protein if I feel I need to avoid carbs eg egg, ham, smoked salmon

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: spiralized carrot and butternut squash with prawns and mascarpone (recipe previously on my blog)

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: pasta with a cheesy sauce with chicken

Lunch: soup
Dinner: spicy chicken escalopes

Thursday- working from home
Lunch: soup
Dinner: pork chop and cauliflower cheese

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: salmon en croute with vegetables

Lunch: prawn/chicken fajitas
Dinner: chicken mini roast - I'm going to treat myself to some roast potatoes!

Lunch: packed lunch on NCT class
Dinner: vegetarian toad in the hole based on this recipe

 Join in the blog hop!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Restaurant review: Ewe Tree Cafe, Cholderton Charlie's, Wiltshire

The middle of winter isn’t the best time of year to visit a farm – but I discovered that if there is soft play, children are happy at any time of year!

Meeting up with my school friends at Christmas, it was decided that we needed to do something during the day to tire out – I mean entertain – the children, as there would be three children aged three and under with us on this occasion. We were meeting up at a friend’s house in Hampshire, not far away from Cholderton Charlie’s (which is near Salisbury in Wiltshire). I remembered this from when it was Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm – it is still home to a number of rare breeds of animals though the types of animals themselves are fairly standard – goats, pigs, ponies, chickens, sheep etc. I’m not sure if as a child I particularly appreciated that any of them were rare breeds!

There’s definitely more here than when I was a child, not least the pig racing (though we were out of season to see it – rates start from February) – apparently the pigs enjoy a quick burst of energy and want to run because they are rewarded by treats at the end. There’s also an outdoor adventure play area, trampolines, nature walk – even a vineyard where you can hold your wedding.

It was a pretty freezing day and by the time we had waited for everyone to arrive and finished lunch, we only had an hour before the place shut – but an hour was long enough. Unsurprisingly a lot of the animals were tucked up for the winter – we saw some but I imagine the place is much more buzzing in the summer. The children really enjoyed the indoor soft play area and I did briefly get to hold a very cold shivering guinea pig before I gave him back to the keeper to put back inside her coat!

We ate lunch at the Ewe Tree Café; the menu looked quite good but it was disappointing they had run out of several things – I asked about the soup of the day and there was none left, and asked for a cheese toastie instead and my friend asked for the quesadilla, only to be told they had no cheese! She then asked if she could have an adult portion of the fish finger sandwich and chips from the children’s menu which the café was happy to do, and several of us (including me) ended up having the same – though I had no chips (a side salad instead, and brown bread with my sandwich) as I am supposed to be avoiding certain foods due to gestational diabetes.

The café was happy to accommodate our various requests and the service was friendly – the same guy was running the gift shop and the café (which was part of the same area), probably due to low out-of-season visitor numbers, and I half expected to then see him in one of the animal pens, but they did seem to have other staff around after all.

Cholderton Charlie’s looked like a nice place to take children of all ages and somewhere I would definitely come back to – but probably in warmer weather next time.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Low Sugar Low Carb Diabetic Lemon Cheesecake

My sister, her partner and their one-year-old came to stay for new year which was lovely (especially fun introducing my niece and my cat to each other – I think it went fairly well!). I wanted to make a nice dessert for new year’s eve but of course am a bit limited now I have gestational diabetes (sorry to keep harping on about that – but it’s relevant to this recipe!).
Sweetener is a god-send when you can’t eat sugar – though I know there are people who avoid artificial sweeteners and have health concerns, so it’s not something I use often but as I did want to make an actual dessert that others would enjoy as well, it came in very handy.
I can also eat dairy products like cream, soft cheese, yogurt etc, so quickly decided on making a cheesecake. I prefer no-bake cheesecakes for the taste and texture, but a lot of them involve using condensed milk (I don’t know if you can get an unsweetened one but I figured it probably wasn’t possible to get sugar-free) and some cheesecakes involve raw egg. I made mine very simply, using a tub of Quark (curd cheese that is a bit like cream cheese only thicker, and doesn’t really have much of a flavour) mixed with soft cheese, lemon juice and sweetener – it tasted really good.
I’d read on a gestational diabetes diet sheet that I could have a couple of light digestive biscuits or rich tea biscuits (which struck me as odd as they do contain carbs and sugar) but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I crushed up some digestives with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (the biscuits were in a plastic freezer bag, that is – not the rolling pin) and mixed with some melted butter and pressed into the base of a loose-bottomed cake tin. I then spooned the cheese topping on top and decided not to decorate it as most of the things I could think of involved sugar!
I left the cheesecake in the fridge for a day until we wanted to eat it – it really was the easiest thing to make and tasted really good. My sister was surprised that I could have it, even after I told her what was in it, but I had a reasonably-sized portion after a dinner of chicken and vegetables, and got a blood sugar reading that was perfectly within range. So this is a dessert I can recommend!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - Week 1

Welcome to 2018! I hope it's a great year for all my readers. It's going to be a life-changing year for me as our baby is due in just over 10 weeks... and potentially sooner which is quite a scary thought! I haven't been blogging as much as things like choosing a car seat and buggy are more important at the moment but I will continue to bring you recipes ranging from the birthday cake I made for my niece to diabetic-friendly baking so please stay tuned!

Here is the first meal plan of the year - as I explained in a recent post I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and have to cut carbs as well as sugar, which is actually pretty difficult - in the summer I'm happy to have salad for lunch but in winter am more likely to have something carb-based, and while I don't always have potatoes, rice or pasta with dinner, I do sometimes- and once or twice a week when I get home late like most people I might bung some chips or a frozen pizza in the oven. Can't do that any more! So meal planning will become even more important, and probably more time consuming until I get the hang of what I can and can't tolerate to get blood sugar readings within my target range.

I'm slightly late posting this week so the first two days have already happened!

Breakfast plain soya yogurt (Alpro) with sweetener
Lunch tuna sandwich using Burgen soya & linseed bread
Dinner As it's a bank holiday and we were not looking forward to going back to work I decided to give takeaway a go after all (having read online some options are not that bad from a diabetes perspective), and had a few slices of thin crust takeaway pizza - and my blood sugar reading was well within range! Won't be doing this sort of thing often (if at all) for the next few months though.

Breakfast having been told by my midwife and read elsewhere that porridge made from scratch should be OK (complex carb, low GI, slow release) so I made some using Tree of Life organic porridge oats from Ocado, using a mixture of water and milk and added a little sweetener - and got a blood sugar reading well over my target level! Sigh.
Lunch At the hospital after a lengthy set of antenatal appointments and a long wait at the hospital pharmacy - I expected to be home hours ago so didn't take any food (or a book to read!) with me. My only option was lunch in the hospital restaurant where nothing looked particularly diabetes-friendly (though I could have had sausage and mash without the mash I suppose). I had a small portion of lamb pasta bake which wasn't particularly nice but I got a surprisingly good blood sugar reading.
Dinner tuna steak with wholewheat noodles and vegetables.

Breakfast Going into work early and need to take something with me so going to try overnight oats using a little porridge oats and the soya yogurt.
snacks al desko: mini babybel, sour cream and chive dip and carrot sticks, sugar-free jelly
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner spaghetti and meatballs, but using spiralized carrot for me

Breakfast depending on my blood sugar reading and which train I get to work - toast with peanut butter, overnight oats or just yogurt
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner sausage and mash for him, and sausage and cauliflower, sweet potato and kale bake (from Ocado) for me

Breakfast as above depending on the same factors
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner out with a friend

Breakfast depending on when I get up - toast and peanut butter most likely
Brunch/ Lunch buckwheat pancakes with apple or lemon and sweetener
Dinner for me: pork with cauliflower cheese. For him: chicken breast wrapped in bacon with potato croquettes

Breakfast toast and peanut butter
Lunch need to take a packed lunch as we are on our antenatal course
Dinner homemade lasagne

Join in the blog hop!

Monday, 1 January 2018

A Year in Review and 2018 Resolutions

Each year I look back on the year in blogging (and a few aspects of my personal life) and my top 10 most popular posts, and think about what I want to tackle for the blog in the coming year.

The first half of last year was pretty normal; I made cakes for birthdays, reviewed restaurants, did some crafts, all the usual things. Then at the beginning of July I found out my husband and I are expecting a baby - and everything changed. We are really excited and looking forward to the new addition to our family; I've been lucky and not suffered from morning sickness or much else during this pregnancy apart from a few aches and pains (trying to get out of bed in the morning is quite difficult these days) but I have been extremely tired for several months, often needing a nap (or simply falling asleep wherever I am) which means I am not getting much done! I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes right before Christmas, which should disappear as soon as the baby is born, but means I now have to watch what I eat a lot more and cut out most carbs as well as sugar.

Lack of time and the tiredness meant I blogged a lot less in the last few months of 2017 and my readership stats reflect that. It's been interesting to see what my top 10 most read posts were over the year:

1. Slow cooker butterscotch pudding - from a book called the Slow Cooker, you cook the puddings in a water bath and they set like custard - they tasted great. I have lots of other slow cooker recipes on my blog!

2. Vegan French apple tart - often people who are not vegan need to make a vegan recipe and this is where the internet rather than recipe books comes in! I found this on the Good to Know website and made it for last new year's eve where I was with friends including a vegan, and also entered it in the Food n Flix challenge. You can find lots more vegan recipes on my blog.

3. Chicken and chorizo filo parcels - I always have a few sheets of filo pastry left after opening a packet and this recipe from the Jus-Rol website is a great way to use them up.

4. Slimming World coronation chicken jacket potato - I haven't followed the Slimming World plan for a while but still have a lot of the recipe books and cook from them sometimes. This coronation chicken filling is low fat and really nice in a baked potato.

5. I'm glad to see that my meal plans, which I post every Monday, are popular, and hopefully useful. One of them - my very first meal plan of 2017 - made it into my top 10 most read posts.

6. Chocolate crumble - something I made for my husband while I enjoyed an apple crumble as he doesn't like apple. The recipe comes from the Tesco website and I recommend you check it out!

7. Weightwatchers Turkish pizza - another good recipe for people who are watching their weight. This Turkish take on a pizza has no cheese but is topped with minced lamb and spices and is really good.

8. A roundup of soup recipes I'd previously featured on my blog - soup is really easy to make and pretty much a fail safe lunch in the winter for me!

9. Super-moist vegan strawberry cake - a birthday cake for my vegan friend which she really enjoyed. If you like strawberry flavour check out these other strawberry recipes.

10. I'm pleased to see one of my card making projects made it into the top 10, even though this snow scene foil Christmas card is based entirely on a design from a card making magazine - if you want to see the other cards I've made click here.

In terms of goals for 2018, I'm not going to write a whole long list like I sometimes do - as I can't even begin to imagine how much my life will change when I have a baby. My resolution instead is to continue my blog, even if I'm not able to post often; I would also like to revise the layout and make some design changes which I've wanted to do for a while now but never seem to find the time to do. So I think given there is a baby on the way, blogging at all this year will be an achievement!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Mini Lebkuchen Doughnuts for Christmas

Lebkuchen is a German biscuit-cum-cake, a bit like gingerbread, that is traditionally eaten at Christmas; they are easy to find in UK supermarkets but having also lived in Germany for two separate periods between the ages of 18 and 22 (both including Christmas) I became quite keen on them.

I thought about making some Lebkuchen at Christmas but didn't get around to it; instead I decided to make some baked mini doughnuts using my Wilton doughnut pan which I was going to flavour with gingerbread spices, but then remembered I had a small packet of actual mixed spices for Lebkuchen that a German colleague had given me a little while ago that I'd never used. So the doughnuts tasted of Lebkuchen and I glazed them with chocolate as Lebkuchen often are.

I used this pan and the Wilton recipe to make Halloween doughnuts last year though I found the batter really thick - possibly because my buttermilk had set quite thick in the fridge - so also added some milk, and switched the plain flour and baking power for self-raising flour as follows:

300g self-raising flour
175g caster sugar
175ml buttermilk
50ml milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 x 15g sachet of Ostmann Lebkuchen gewurtz
to decorate: 100g plain chocolate

As an alternative to the ready made Lebkuchen spice mix, you could use:
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 tsp allspice

Preheat oven to 200C. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until you have a batter that is a dropping consistency.

Grease a doughnut pan - you could also try making these as cupcakes in a cupcake tin - and drop in the batter so each doughnut ring is 2/3 full. This quantity will make two batches of 10-12 doughnuts. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Allow to cool in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack. Melt some plain chocolate in a microwave or bain-marie and spread over one side of the doughnuts and allow to set.

I allowed myself to try a bit even though I'm supposed to be cutting out sugar - it is Christmas after all and I hoped that a few bites wouldn't hurt - and they were delicious, tasting a lot like lebkuchen!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Chocolate Orange Christmas Bundt Cake

This cake is delicious and a special treat at any time of year but especially at Christmas where chocolate oranges are often a popular gift (though I also asked for a Terry's chocolate orange at Easter some years!).

I had decided to make it before finding out I had gestational diabetes and still wanted to bake the cake, as I was planning to take it to my brother in law's on Boxing Day for everyone to eat anyway - it's not like I was going to eat the whole cake myself. Depending on my blood sugar readings and what else I've had I may be able to have a very small piece of it anyway - the diabetes midwife did say it wasn't a case of not being able to ever have anything sweet, but it has to be a small amount on rare occasions.

Terry's chocolate oranges are, as I said, pretty iconic at Christmas. A month or so ago Tesco had a really good offer of 3 for the price of 1 (no that's not a typo) so I think I paid £3 for three. I decided at the time to give my husband one for Christmas and use the other two for baking.

I thought the chocolate orange slices would look great across the top of a bundt and that the cake itself should be chocolate orange flavour. I'd like to be able to say I developed my own recipe but these days I'm so busy preparing for the baby as well as doing everything else, and I am very tired all the time - I actually baked three different things today and had a nap in between as well! So I used a recipe I found online at Marsha's Baking Addiction.

It was easy to make and delicious (according to my husband who ate the offcuts when I levelled the cake) - really moist and you can taste the orange with the chocolate. I definitely recommend this recipe!

The cake came out of my Nordicware bundt tin easily after I sprayed it with PME Release A Cake Spray 600 ml - sometimes I've had problems with cakes sticking in my metal bundt tins but I really wanted to use it because the ridges around the cake are beautiful and I thought would be perfect for this particular cake.

To decorate the cake once it had cooled, I melted a whole Terry's chocolate orange (broken into segments) and stirred in about 50 ml double cream.

I planned to pour this over the top of the cake but it was still a bit thick so I spooned and spread it into the ridges, and topped each one with another piece of chocolate orange (using half of another one so you need one and a half in total). As a final touch I added some Dr. Oetker gold pearls.

I'm pleased with the way it turned out and my husband loved how it tasted so I hope the family enjoy it on Boxing Day!

I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa hosted by Tin and Thyme and Cook Blog Share, hosted by Recipes Made Easy.