Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Activities for Children

Now the Easter Holidays are here and the weather is looking less than inviting I thought I would do some activities to entertain your children or Grandchildren indoors.


Most children love ‘helping’ bake so I have found two simple recpies with an Easter theme, Easter Rocky Road and Easter Chick Cupcakes. Both recipe’s are from the Good Food Channel and both are easy enough for children to get involved with.

Easter Rocky Road


Prep time: 15 min, plus setting time

Cook time: 5 min

Serves: Makes 12 pieces

Ingredients
• 300 g milk chocolate, (min 30% cocoa solids)

• 100 g butter, softened

• 100 g digestive biscuits

• 100 g rich tea biscuits

• 100 g mini marshmallows

• 200 g chocolate mini eggs



Method

1. Break the chocolate into pieces, place in a bowl and melt gently - you can do this either in a microwave or on the hob in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.



2. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and fully mixed with the chocolate.



3. Place all the biscuits in a food bag and bash with a rolling pin, but stop before they all turn to dust.



4. Add the biscuits and the mini marshmallows to the warm buttery chocolate and stir well.



5. Pour the mixture onto a buttered baking tray and top liberally with the mini eggs.



6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and then cut into pieces. Store in a cool place and eat within 3 days.



Easter Chick Cupcakes



Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 18 min

Serves: Makes 12

Ingredients
For the cupcakes

• 125 g unsalted butter, softened

• 125 g caster sugar

• 2 eggs, room temperature

• 125 g self-raising flour

To decorate

• 125 g unsalted butter, softened

• 250 g icing sugar

• 2 tbsp milk

• 100 g moist shredded coconut

• yellow food colouring

• 24 chocolate chips

• 12 orange jelly diamond sugar decorations



Method

1. For the cupcakes: heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Once this is pale and fluffy, add 2 eggs one at a time.



2. Add the flour and once this has become a nice fluffy cake batter spoon into cupcake cases in a muffin tray and bake for 18 minutes. Once they are firm but springy to the touch, remove from the oven and allow to cool.



3. To decorate: Put the shredded coconut in a bag and drop in some yellow food colouring. Give it a good shake until the white strands have turned a cheerful yellow colour. Turn it out onto a large plate.



4. In a bowl, combine the butter with the icing sugar. If your buttercream frosting is a bit stiff, add the milk to soften it.



5. Once this has mixed well and become fluffy, dollop 1 heaped teaspoon on each cupcake and spread to form an even layer with a palette knife.



6. Scatter the top of each iced cake with the yellow coconut flakes to give an even coating. Finish each cake with 2 chocolate chip eyes and a jelly beak.



Easter Crafts

There are so many Easter crafts that you can do with children including:

Making Easter cards – coloured card, cotton wool, tissue paper, poster paints, brushes, felt tips, Pritstick

Easter bonnets – plain straw hat ( a card hat can be made instead using a large sheet of card, double sided sticky tape and staples), PVA glue, coloured card, glitter, little Easter chicks (available from most card shops and supermarkets), tissue paper, silk flowers, feathers, ribbons and buttons.

Painted/coloured hard boiled eggs – Hard boiled eggs (eggs boiled for 12 minutes then cooled), felt tip pens, Poster paints, brushes, tissue paper, glitter, wool strands for hair, googly eyes, pritstick.



Friday, 4 January 2013

Healthy New Years Recipe's

Chickpea and Roast Vegetable Salad



Prep: 25 mins plus 30 mins standing time

Total cooking time: 40 mins

Serves 4

Ingredients:

• 1 large butternut squash, cut into chunks

• 2 red peppers, halved

• 2 aubergines sliced in half lengthways

• 2 large courgettes sliced in half lengthways

• 2 large red onions, cut into quarters

• Olive oil , for brushing

• 300g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh leaf parsley

Dressing

• 40ml olive oil

• 1tbsp lemon juice

• 1 small garlic clove, crushed,

• 2 tsps chopped fresh thyme

Preparations:

1. Preheat the oven to hot 220 degrees/gas mark 7, brusg a baking tray with oil and spread the vegetables in a single layer over the tray. Brush the vegetables lightly with the olive oil.

2. Bake for 40 mins or until the vegetables are tender and begin to brown slightly on the edges. Remove and set aside to cool. Chop the vegetables into large pieces, then put all the vegetables in a bowl with the chickeas and half the parsley.

3. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Season, then toss through the vegetables. Set aside for 30 mins to marinate. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley before serving.



Roast Butternut Squash Soup



Prep 20 mins

Total cooking time 55mins

Serves 6

Ingredients:

• 1.25kg Butternut squash, cut into chunks

• 2tbsps olive oil

• 1 onion, chopped

• 2 tsps ground cumin

• 1 carrot, chopped

• 1 celery stick, chopped

• 1 litre vegetable stock

• Fresh finely chopped parsley, for serving

• Ground nutmeg, to garnish

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 180 degrees/Gas 4. Put the squash on a greased baking tray and lightly brush with half the olive oil. Bake for 25mins or until softened and slightly brown on the edges.

2. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan. Cook the onion and cumin for 2 mins over a medium heat, then add the carrot and celery and cook for 3 mins, stirring frequently. Add the squash and the stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 mins.

3. Cool a little and then puree in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and gently reheat without boiling. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve then sprinkle with the chopped parsley and ground nutmeg.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Years Blues and Goal Setting


Christmas and all the excitement of December has gone any many people start to suffer from the January blues. I have been doing some research on how to beat these blues naturally and have come up with my top 7 tips.. Each of them alone can help you to feel better so why not try giving one or all of them a go and start 2013 off feeling good about yourself?


Tip 1 Eat Happy Foods!

Some foods can leave us feeling sluggish and down these tend to be fatty, sugary or processed foods so try avoiding these for a while and stocking up instead on some of these which actively promote feeling good and protecting the body:

Flax seeds or other foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids – These have been shown to reduce symptoms of low mood and aid sleep. Good sources of these include oily fish and nuts. Some products are now fortified with omega 3 too.

Bananas – Bananas contain tryptophan which the body uses to produce serotonin. They are also packed with potassium and vitamin B6. They also can help regulate blood sugars.

Complex Carbs – Complex carbs are found in things such as brown rice, oats and pulses. They give a sustained energy release and can help promote a feeling of wellbeing as they help produce tryptophan and serotonin.

Vitamin B, B6 and B5 – These are essential for the body’s conversion of food into energy and they aid mood elevation. They help support the adrenal glands which help support the body’s response to stress. B6 is essential for serotonin synthesis.

Immune strengthening foods – garlic, onions, beetroot, peppers, chillies, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, nuts, seeds, honey and blueberries. There are many more and they tend to generally be the raw and colourful ingredients in our diets.


Tip 2 Find out what’s making you feel down.

Ask yourself what is making you feel down in the dumps and rather than trying to push these feeling aside allow yourself to acknowledge them and then resolve them. To help to do this you can use the wheel of life, a tool used by many life coaches. The wheel of life is a circle divided by 8 spokes. Each of these spokes represents an area of your life:

1 – Health 2 – Money 3 – Social life 4 – Partner/relationship 5 – Work/career

6 – Friends and family 7 – Physical environment and home 8 – Personal growth/spirituality

For each of the spokes give yourself a score out of 10. Where you score less than 5 this is an area that you need to focus on and write out any problems that you feel are in this area and then try to find solutions for. Set yourself goals for these areas and problems. Try to double at least one of your spoke scores within a set amount of time e.g. I will spend more time with my family by the end of the month etc.

Tip 3 Set short and long term goals

This helps you have a purpose in life and helps you to keep focused on this purpose rather than concentrating on the negative aspects of your life. The sense of achievement that reaching your goals gives you helps to raise your confidence and self esteem. Make sure that your goals are all SMART Goals should be SMART, that is:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant/Rewarding/Realistic

T – Time bound

Specific is the What, Why and How of the goal. Ensure the goals you set are very specific, clear and easy. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight or be healthier, set a specific goal to lose X cm off your waistline or to drop a dress size or to run X miles in X amount of time. Then review the goals and make sure they are still manageable steps towards your main resolution.

Measureable - Choose a goal with measurable progress, so you can see the change occur. How will you see when you reach your goal? Be specific: “I want to lose 1kg before the end of the month, 5kg in 6 months and 7kg in a year” shows the specific target to be measured. “I want to lose weight” is not as measurable. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that motivates you to continue the effort required to reach your goals.

Attainable – Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. For instance, if you aim to lose 5kg in one week, we all know that isn’t achievable. But setting a goal to lose 1kg and when you’ve achieved that, aiming to lose a further 1kg, will keep it achievable for you. The feeling of success which this brings helps you to remain motivated. Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message that you aren’t very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

Rewarding – When your goals are rewarding for you, it is much more likely that you will stay focused and motivated. By making the goals and resolutions personal to you rather than what other people ask of you it is far more likely that you will stay on track. When you achieve each goal towards the main resolution take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. Take time to see how the goal has taken you closer to meeting the resolution and look at the progress you have made. Reward yourself appropriately for having met your goal and it will help build your confidence and motivation towards meeting the next goal in your plan.

Time bound - Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by the end of the year etc. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action now. Time must be measurable, attainable and realistic.

Some other Hints and Tips for meeting your resolutions and goals are:

State each goal as a positive statement rather than as a negative eg I will, can, regularly, rather than I won’t, can’t or never

Set priorities – if you have more than one resolution then decide which one is most important to you and work on that one first it is easier too easy to feel overwhelmed by having too many goals to reach at once.

Write goals down – if you have no record of your goals it is much easier to give up on them.

Make sure your goals are small and achievable if things seem too large and difficult it is far harder to stay motivated.

Set goals over which you have as much control as possible. If you set goals based on personal performance rather than outcome you can keep control over your achievements rather than being dispirited by external reasons beyond your control.

Keep re assessing your goals to make sure you are still working towards your over all resolution and if not alter your goals to make sure you can still achieve what you set out to do!

Tip 4 Socialise and build or maintain relationships and friendships

When you feel depressed or down you can start to isolate yourself, this increases the feelings of depression. Mixing with people does help to left the spirits!

Close relationships affect how we feel, so nurture them and if there is problems try to resolve them. If you need some help try organisations such as RELATE http://www.relate.org.uk/home/index.html

Friendships also affect how we feel, just having a friend to listen and talk to can make a huge difference. Make sure you devote some time to maintaining or making new ones. Remember it is quality of friendship that matters not quantity!

If you are having trouble making new friendships why not try: Joining a health club or gym, Joining a class at a local centre, Joining a team or a club, Joining a book club, Volunteering at a local centre or charity, Learning a craft, Joining a local Women’s or Men’s group, Joining a local drama club, Attending reunions or Joining a church. These are just a few suggestions!



Tip 5 Exercise

The effects on mood of exercise can be instant. Whether it is a workout at the gym, a simple walk in the sun or as a member of a team, exercise can be uplifting. This effect is partly due to the body releasing its mood boosting and pain killing endorphins. These are a drug free way to feel better. Exercise also has many other benefits including a healthier body and increased self esteem from looking and feeling better. There is lots of research that shows exercise is depression beating.


Tip 6 Sleep

Sleeping well can have a big affect on how we feel, look and perform on a daily basis. Sleep directly impacts upon our overall quality of life. Good quality sleep leaves our mind and body ready for a new day by enabling muscle repair, memory consolidation and the release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. It helps concentration and allows us to better make decisions and participate fully in activities. To help you to get better sleep make sure that you give yourself a regular bedtime routine that includes a wind down period with no food, caffeine or alcohol. Having a hot bath or shower and a milky drink can help relax the muscles and allow you to drift off to sleep naturally.


Tip 7 Ask for help.

If you still are feeling down and can’t seem to shake the negative thoughts and feelings then ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need some help and turning to others to get it. Try your doctor or organisations such as MIND http://www.mind.org.uk/


I hope that this January and the rest of 2013 is a happy and healthy one for you!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year Resolutions

Its that time again, whether we want to loose weight, learn a skill or break a bad habit a new year means a new start.

This year, why not make a list of things that you could do to make someone elses year. they can be really simple.

Acts of Random Kindness or ARK are a nice way to not stress about 'becoming a better you' but able making someone else feel better.

examples could be:
opening doors for people
smiling at people who serve me in shops
bringing in a neighbours bin
defrosting a neighbours car

this makes the new year happier for so many... and you never know the effect it has on others.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

We hope you have a prosperous and happy 2013

Monday, 31 December 2012

Sweets

As New Year Treats, or as thank you gifts for hosts over the holiday season homemade sweets go down a treat (im sorry i couldnt resist)

here is a nice simple recipe

Snowflake Truffles
Serves: 16


Filling:

100g (3 ¼ oz) desiccated coconut

60g (2 ¼ oz) icing sugar

100g (3 ¼ oz) ricotta cheese

16 whole almonds

Ganache:

70g (2 ¾ oz) chopped white chocolate

3 tablespoons double cream

50g (2 oz) desiccated coconut, or enough to coat

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 1 hour

1.For the filing: In a medium bowl, mix together coconut, sugar and ricotta cheese to form a dough. Divide into 16 portions. 2.Roll each portion into a ball, pressing one almond each into the centre of each; cool in freezer for 20 minutes. 3.Place the white chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water to melt. While the chocolate is melting, stir in the cream. Use a cocktail stick or fork to dip the truffles in the chocolate mixture. Arrange coated truffles on a platter. Sprinkle remaining coconut over the truffles while the chocolate is still melted. Cool in refrigerator until the chocolate coating hardens.  

Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Years Eve Prep

After all the Christmas planning, meals and visits you can get to new year eve and want to just flop.
Here are some simple games and ideas to make it all a little easier.

The Night:

PLAN.
Whether throwing a party, being a guest or staying home, spend time sorting out a plan. who will you be with, will you need a taxi? will someone drive? what will you do to entertain the children.

THE ELDERLY.
Try to to forget elderly friends or parents, they may wish to be at home, but not everyone wants to get an early night. Offer to entertain or at least give them a call in the evening to make sure they have everything they need.

CHILDREN.
As keen as they may be to stay up getting them through to midnight can be hard. make sure everyone has an afternoon nap and have plenty of games to keep them occupied.

GAMES.
here are a few of our favourites

• STRIKE A LIGHT How To Play: Two party guests leave the room and together decide upon a word that the rest of the group will try to guess. They then return to the room and start a conversation together based around their chosen word, trying to give clues to what the word is - but without, of course, actually saying the word itself.

When a guest thinks they know what the secret word is, they must say, "I strike a light", then whisper their guess to one of the two original players. If they guess correctly, they can join in the conversation with the two players. If they're wrong, they must carry on until they guess correctly. The game ends when all the players have guessed what the word is.

• THE VICAR'S CAT How To Play: party guests form a circle and the first person begins by describing "the vicar's cat" with an adjective beginning with the letter "A". Each player then takes a turn finding a different adjective to describe "the vicar's cat" starting with "A".

Once everyone in the circle has had a turn, it starts again with the letter "B", and so on. Any player who fails to think of an adjective in ten seconds is out. The game continues through the alphabet until only one player - the winner - is left.

• FRUIT BOWL How To Play: You need an even number of people to play this game. Everyone gets into pairs, and each pair is given the name of a fruit. Someone at random calls out the name of a fruit, at which point the relevant pair must get up and swop places with each other. It starts off simply, but the idea is that as the game progresses, it becomes more complicated, with two or more fruit categories called out at the same time.

• LOOKABOUT How To Play: One person starts the game by showing everyone a small object in the room. Everyone then has to leave while that person hides the object somewhere in the room. When everyone is called back in, they have to search for the object. When they see it, they have to sit down quietly.

The game is more interesting if they don't sit down immediately but pretend to keep looking around for a few more seconds - otherwise it makes it obvious exactly where the object is. The last person to find the object becomes the next person to hide something.

• YOU'RE NEVER FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT A SMILE How To Play: One player is "It", and they're the only person allowed to smile during the game. They then have to try, any which way they can, to make everyone else in the group smile. This can get very silly. The game continues until only one person is left not smiling - and he or she is declared the winner.

• BLINDMAN'S BUFF How To Play: One person is blindfolded while all the other players spread out around the room. The blindfolded person then has to feel their way around the room until they manage to catch someone. They then have to guess who it is they have "caught". If they guess incorrectly, the person is freed and blindman has to keep going until they correctly guess the identity of a person caught.

Once they manage this, someone else is chosen to be blindfolded. It's probably best for you to move any fragile or delicate items out of the way

TV.
there is always some nice New Years Eve TV so whether its a low key event or a party using a TV show that counts down can keep everyone entertained.
Above all have fun!