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Loophole Bingo November 28, 2010

…or how to bake at every opportunity for 24 hours, without incurring the wrath of the beloved:

Saturday, 5pm

Home on a Saturday night with no beloved, no LMFs and no pudding? Can’t go out, cos the small one is sleeping, you’ve given all your money to the chahrahprahctahr and the thought of taking off your ugg boots and going out in the rain is enough to make you want to collapse on the couch and watch fourteen hours of ABC election coverage? Then make these…

Very Moreish Coconut Puddings with Blackberry Syrup

400 grams of frozen blackberries (or fresh, it’s no biggie)

90 grams of unsalted butter, at warm room temperature

125 grams of caster sugar

2 eggs

60 grams of self-raising flour

2 tablespoons of almond meal

3 tablespoons of coconut milk

4 tablespoons of dessicated coconut

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced)

Butter up 5-6 small glasses/ramekins/mugs (roughly 1 cup capacity each)

Drop 5-6 blackberries in the bottom of each glass/ramekin/thingy, set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour, almond meal and coconut, folding until well incorporated.

Add the coconut milk and fold in until well incorporated.

Top up the glasses/ramekins/vessels with batter.

Put all the vessels on a baking tray.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen, golden and springy.

For the syrup –

Put the remaining blackberries, 60 grams of sugar and 1/2 a cup of water in a small-medium saucepan.

Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the berries are completely mushy and the liquid is getting syrupy.

Strain into a bowl.

Invert the puddings into bowls (you can cut the tops off the pudding before inverting, so they sit flat in the bowl, but it’s not essential).

Drizzle with syrup. Eat. Although we had none, a good dollop of cream or creme fraiche would go especially well.

 

*    *    *    *    *    *

Sunday, 8am

In possession of a new-to-you waffle iron, a gifted waffle recipe (thank you K!), and a beloved who wants waffles? Make these:

Chia Seed Waffles with….you guessed it – blackberry syrup

(no photos, camera batteries were busy being charged)

2 eggs, separated

~1 1/2 cups of full cream milk

2 cups of plain flour

1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 of a cup of sugar

60 grams of butter

2 tablespoons of cold water

2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Switch on your waffle iron to heat up.

Beat your egg whites until firm peaks form. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks and milk together briefly.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat until smooth.

Add the melted butter and the water. Mix to incorporate well.

Fold in the beaten egg whites…at this point your batter should be thicker than pancake batter, but not as thick as muffin mix. If you need to, thin it down with a bit of extra milk folded through.

Put 2-4 tablespoons (depending on your particular waffle iron) of batter into the waffle iron. Cook until golden and just crispy.

Drizzle with blackberry syrup, or golden syrup, or maple syrup, or any syrup really. Eat, with a generous-sized mug of tea.

 

*    *    *    *    *    *

 

Sunday, 2pm

Very taken with the coconut pudding, but a bit over the blackberry syrup? Visiting friends? Hankering for ganache? Make these….

Just Beautiful Coconut Cakes

180 grams of unsalted butter, softened

250 grams of caster sugar

3 eggs

120 grams of self-raising flour

4 tablespoons of almond meal

8 tablespoons of dessicated coconut

6 tablespoons of coconut milk

150 grams of dark eating chocolate

90 grams of cream

1/2 a teaspoon of coconut essence

Extra coconut to decorate.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced)

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flour, almond meal and coconut, combining well.

Fold in the coconut milk, mixing until smooth.

Spoon mixture evenly between the 12 cupcake cases.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen, golden and springy.

While they’re cooking, start the ganache –

Melt the chocolate and cream together gently, in a small glass bowl, over just simmering water.

Stir until smooth then remove from the heat.

Stir in the coconut essence and set aside to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.

When the cupcakes are cool and the ganache has thickened, swirl ganache generously over each cake, dusting each one with coconut immediately.

 

 

Loophole 1: Visiting gift…check

Loophole 3: Virtuous use of leftovers…check

Loophole 6: Freeing up freezer space for actual meals…check

Loophole 17: Baking on request…check

Loophole 36: Baking to accommodate previous excess baking (syrup has to go with something)…check

Loophole 83: Using up ingredients to regain use of favourite containers (not drawing a long bow at all)…check

Bingo! Yes! Over here!! Bingo bingo bingo!!!

 

More sense November 26, 2010

From the excellent Ina May Gaskin…

 

 

 

 

It’s not only obstetricians who think I’m batshit crazy – I tried explaining this concept to a student midwife the other day. If only I had had this video to hand, she might have been a whole lot less ‘back away from the hippy midwife before she tries to hold my hand and sing’ and a whole lot more ‘why yes, wise and passionate teacher, I totally get you’.

 

Sense

Filed under: Midwifery — titchandboofer @ 12:33 am
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If you have worked with birthing women, the following conversation will be familiar. If you have had a baby – or been with someone having a baby – in a hospital, this is the conversation that the midwife and the obstetrician were having outside the room sometime after you arrived:

Obstetrician – Has Trixie Whosibob arrived?

Midwife – Yep, she’s in room 23.

Is she in good labour?

Yes. She’s an uncomplicated primip (first time mother), well in pregnancy, no risk factors.

How many centimetres is she? (meaning: how open is her cervix? not how tall is she)

I haven’t done a VE (vaginal examination) as Trixie doesn’t want one.

When are you going to do one?

Not as long as the woman doesn’t want one. (grinding teeth just a little)

So, we don’t know if she’s in labour. (huffiness is kicking in about now)

She is in labour. (oh dear, I see where this conversation is going)

So you have done a VE? (elevator music?)

No. My clinical judgement (as a goddamn health professional, with eyes) is that she is in labour. She’s contracting 3/60, the head is…….(trailing off as am talking to a fast retreating back)

Just page me when you’ve done a VE. (as her baby will be unable to come out unless someone touches her cervix, you mad hippy midwife, don’t you know this is a hospital?)

(kill me now)

*     *     *

 

I used to wonder how an eight hour shift with a labouring woman could be so draining. I’d leave the hospital absolutely washed out, just capable of steering the car home, not interested in any post-work action more taxing than lolling on the couch and mainlining tea. How could it be so very tiring, when much of my time was spent sitting quietly in the semi-dark and writing stuff down? For a while I thought it was the pressure of responsibility – eight hours of a voice in my head chanting ‘two lives in your hands, two lives in your hands, two lives in your hands’. And that is kind of tiring, but the acuteness of it fades after the first few months in. Then I thought it could be the politics, the non-stop jostling for recognition, understanding, autonomy, respect. And that too can be tiring, but it’s also oddly invigorating, the constant justification of my professional judgement. Hard to get in a rut if you have to talk about it all the time. It could be the hospital itself, the hideous fluorescent lighting, the constant hum of air-conditioning, the alarms, the phones, the visitors, the doing everything in triplicate, the glacial pace of change. But even all of these things slide into the background over time.

Now I think I’ve got it figured out. It’s one of the best parts of midwifery, but also one of the least understood and respected by our medical colleagues (and, disappointingly, by some midwives). It’s this… if you’re open to it, midwifery is a job that engages every one of your senses and something more, something utterly intangible.

Yes, if a woman lets you, you can stick your fingers in her vagina and feel how open her cervix is. But that is just one piece of information and it’s not as illuminating as so many people believe. You can put your hand on her belly and feel how often her contractions are coming and how long they are. And you can feel her belly all over, feel what position her baby is in and how far down the baby’s head is. You can do all of this and still not know very much. Where it gets interesting is beyond touch, beyond the measurable.

Sit in the room with this woman. Not up in her face, but off in the corner. Be quiet. Pretend to occupy yourself with notes though, so you’re not just sitting staring at her like a zoo exhibit. Now watch. Listen. Smell. What is the look in her eye? What does she sound like when she’s getting through a contraction? What is the smell on her breath? How chatty is she? How restless? How out of it?

Beyond this again, what do you feel? Can you sense momentum? Do you just know that this labour is steaming ahead, relentless. Are you with a woman who is so quiet, so still, but somehow you know you cannot leave this room, that her baby will be here in minutes? Or is it an absence of momentum? Are you watching a woman who is making a good show of being in labour, because that’s how she thinks she should act? Or is she stuck in a labour that is going nowhere, that is every bit as intense, but is somehow stalled? Is this feeling of absent momentum her? Or is it you? Are you impatient, wanting her to birth on your shift, at your pace? Are you hesitant, willing her to hold back, fearful that her reportedly ‘big baby’ will get stuck in your hands. How are you, even subconsciously, pushing your needs into this space?

Now get out of the room and summarise this for the obstetrician on shift.

Is Trixie in labour?

Yes. I can feel it in my body.

No obstetrician is going to give two hoots for what I can feel. They want a quantifiable measurement. They want a number they can pass onto their colleagues without fear of ridicule or criticism. They want a timeline, a schedule, a plan. This isn’t really their fault. We work in a big system that thrives on order and predictability – not feelings.

This is why my job is draining. I’m sitting quietly in the semi-dark, writing stuff down, with every nerve-ending on high alert. I’m as open as I can be to absorbing this woman’s labour, to sensing it, integrating it into my body. It might sound mad, but it is based in something real: hormones are catching. I’m sure every one of you has experienced sensing someone else’s mood. Have you walked into a room and been stopped short by tension or anger? Have you ‘caught’ someone’s ‘infectious’, buzzing happiness? Wisdom has it that what we say accounts for far less of how we are perceived than how we say it (ie body language matters more than words), but even that isn’t the whole story. So, I’m feeling all of this, absorbing all of this. Then I walk out of the room, push it all down, look the obstetrician square in the eye, put on my best serious health professional voice, summon the magical phrase ‘My clinical judgement is…..’ and hope like hell that it’s enough.

 

My new best friend November 25, 2010

Is there anything chocolatey that cannot be improved by the addition of a teaspoon of peppermint essence? Locked in my current obsession for all things minty, I think not. These are certainly no exception:

Hot Damn I Love These Choc-Mint Brownies

(…so much so that they were made and eaten far too fast for photos. Just use your imagination. Or don’t waste the time – just make them. Stat.)

200 grams of dark eating chocolate, roughly chopped

165 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

1 teaspoon of peppermint essence

325 grams of caster sugar

130 grams of plain flour

3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius (150 fan forced)

Butter and line a square cake/brownie tin

In a small bowl, over just simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter together.

Stir until smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the peppermint essence.

Put the sugar in a medium bowl.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the sugar, mixing to combine.

Add the flour and mix to combine.

Add the eggs and mix until smooth.

Pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for 25-35 minutes. (I like them less done, rather than more, and put them in the fridge to firm up a bit. This leaves them nicely gooey and so coolly minty.)

Cool in the tin for 15 minutes or so, then turn onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar if you want, but it’s by no means essential.

In view of the current rate of essence consumption I’ve decided to make my own. This recipe looks like a goer. As soon as the torrential rain eases up, I’ll be out to pick some mint. Watch this space……

 

One more reason November 24, 2010

Filed under: Parenting — titchandboofer @ 9:02 am
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In my less articulate moments, if you asked me why I don’t want the small one to watch television you’d get an answer something along the lines of ‘Uh, cos it’s all crap’. And while this is not necessarily untrue, there is a bit more behind the decision than my passionate hatred of Hi!We’reOnCrack!5!

1. It is all crap. Well, mostly. Play School has continued to be excellent for years and years and years. But the kids’ TV that I have been exposed to over the past few years has seemed weird, creepy and unnecessarily dumbed down.

2. Other than the programming being weird and creepy, its also setting kids up to be voracious consumers. Even the laudable Play School has a huge range of branded stuff that you can buy. My optimistic theory is that if a kid has never been a television watcher then (before they hit school age, anyway) their clothes are just their clothes, not an opportunity to wear Dora.

3. On top of the brand-induced consumer training is the advertising. Oh the horror. And again, my fervent hope is that not being exposed to the relentless pressure (and it truly is relentless, not to mention exquisitely engineered to succeed – nothing in advertising is accidental) will cut down on small’s potential pestering power. This point could be briefly summarised as: 3. We are tightarses.

4. There are so few years in anyone’s life when their imaginative and creative powers are so alight as in childhood. It is no exaggeration that the first seven years are magical. Absorbed in play, a young child isn’t thinking ‘this acorn can be a tea cup’, they’re thinking ‘this is a teacup’. Sadly, that power disappears, never to return. The more specific purpose toys kids have, the less they need to engage their imagination. Likewise, television.

5. For us it’s just not necessary*. And yes, I know I may change my tune when we have more children, or less patience, or something. But for now we’re fine. Never mind actual toys, chooks or the garden, small goes through phases of fascination with different parts of the house. For a few months small would spend half his morning putting things down the heating vents. Then it was hurling random stuff into the bath. Currently the washing machine is his love interest. Pushing its buttons, putting things in and out of it, watching it spin, trying to climb into it…hours of entertainment, and occasionally quite helpful – put a basket near the load of clean washing and half of it will find its way in.

6. As one friend of mine can wearily attest, it’s addictive. You start with excellent ideals, one hour a week, only with mama, not during meals. Before too long you have a withdrawing-addict-monster-child, clawing their way past you for their next hit.

And then there is this:

7.

Hey small, you can be anything you want! As long as it involves wearing black and being in charge of blowing stuff up.

*    *    *

*For the sake of full disclosure – we do have a TV and we do watch it. We aim, with varying degrees of success, to maintain a policy of ‘no TV while small is awake’. Notable exceptions being sport and MasterChef. And Glee.

 

Fancy November 21, 2010

Filed under: Bad baking — titchandboofer @ 9:43 am
Tags: , , ,

Three easy steps to make your own super fancy breadcrumbs:

1. Waft around the kitchen in a happy haze, thinking ‘Oh how glorious! The sun is shining, the small person is sleeping, I will make bread, lovely lovely bread, full of lovely lovely seeds and chia and things!’ Devotedly tend to the yeast, feeding it with honey and warm water, delighting in it foaming up. Toss flour with seeds, stirring distractedly while you watch one of your chickens try to remember how to get out of the hen house (seriously, every few weeks it’s like Betty short-circuits – she can get stuck on the balcony for hours, peering over the edge and skittering away from the ramp like it’s on fire). Knead, rise, beat down, knead, rise, bake.

2. Contemplate your two loaves of freshly baked bread with a great sense of virtue. Enthusiastically offer warm bread to your beloved as reviving afternoon snack. ‘I am domestic queen! I am nurturing my family with wholemeal goodness!’ Butter your own slice of warm bread. Bite into it. Think to yourself ‘Damn. Damn damn bloody buggery damn. Forgot the salt.’ Contemplate your two loaves of fairly tasteless bread with a great sense of disappointment. Decide you will tough it out and eat it as toast, slathered with salty peanut butter. Be really determined not to waste the fruit of your labours.

3. One day later, decide that you cannot eat such bland toast. Not even at six in the morning. Not even hurriedly. Not even in the car on the way to work. Not even with nutella. Using your tiny food processor, turn the whole lot into breadcrumbs.

We’re going to be eating a whole lot of schnitzel.

 

And so the world is divided November 18, 2010

Inspiration seems in short supply today. It could be that I’m just tired and distracted. Or it’s possible I inhaled a little too much bleach vapour in the midst of my cleaning frenzy. Either way, I’m finding it hard to get too exercised about the media coverage of Significant Progress to the Gay Marriage Cause. Perhaps I should be more impressed, but at the moment the most I can muster is ‘meh’. So politicians are being encouraged to consult their constituents? Was that not always their job?

In my relentless hunt for ideas I conducted a poll. It was brief. In an ad break during her Stories, I asked the beloved what she thought of the news.

*    *    *

Someone passed a motion in Parliament? Ha!

No, not that kind of motion. The Greens passed a motion…

A green motion!! Hahaha!

Gah. Politicians are going to consult their constituents, you know? Ask their opinions.

Oh. Good. Shhh now, my stories are back on.

*    *    *

Yup, we are political animals here.

Much as the world is divided between the gays and the ‘dinosausers’, so it is between those who love icing and those who painstakingly scrape it off every slice of cake they meet, or just eat it and then whine about its excessive rich/sugary/creamy/abundant-ness. Like the beloved. Possibly it’s fortunate that she’s not as in love with icing as I am. If she was we might both spiral into a teeth-aching, nerve-jangling, eye-popping diabetic fit by dusk each day. And small would be raised on a diet of buttercream and ganache.

Anyway, by some unintended stroke of genius, I managed to make an iced cupcake that the beloved loves.

 

Miniature Minty Cakes

100 grams of plain flour

20 grams of cocoa

140 grams of caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

a pinch of salt

40 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

120 mls of full fat milk

1 egg

1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Icing:

150 grams of dark eating chocolate

90 grams of cream

3/4 of a teaspoon of peppermint essence

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

You can use a freestanding mixer, or handheld electric beaters.

Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a large bowl. Mix on slow speed until everything is well combined and a sandy consistency.

Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together.

Continuing to beat on low speed, slowly pour about half the milk mixture into the flour mixture.

Increase the speed to medium and add the rest of the milk mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

Mix until smooth, without overdoing it.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes. When done they will be risen and springy.

Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

While they are cooling, make the icing:

Break up the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. Add the cream.

Heat gently over a small saucepan of just simmering water until the chocolate melts.

Take off the heat and stir until smooth.

Add the peppermint essence, stirring to combine. Leave to cool and thicken, stirring regularly.

By the time the ganache thickens to a spreadable consistency, the cakes will be cool.

Swirl generously over each little cake.

Eat.

Not really a cupcake. Not just a dry, sponge-like vehicle for excessive, garnished buttercream frosting (yes yes, I know they’re not all like that). These are tiny devil’s food cakes, moist and flavourful. Like a Mint Slice biscuit, but bigger and better.