Carrot Cake

Hmm, hectic week. I’ve calmed down about the work situation a bit, but it has kept me pretty busy all week. I’ve had things I’ve wanted to post about, so I’m taking the time to start the catch up, and every good catch up needs cake!
I love carrot cake. Love, love, love carrot cake. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the cinammon, or maybe it’s the ridiculous amount of calories in cream cheese frosting, but I buy carrot cake at every available opportunity. On our holiday in Scotland last September I decided I was going to start a quest to find the best carrot cake ever; Unfortunately in the Highlands I only got the chance to sample two, both of which were pretty damn good. Since then the quest has faltered a little, but I intend to continue eating carrot cake and trying to photograph it.

Today, I finally harvested the carrots that have been growing in the garden since last summer. I left them in place so long in the hope they’d get bigger, but it was getting to the point where I want to be planting new stuff, so they came up. There were a lot, but they were pretty tiny, but I’m still impressed. Problem was, we really don’t need any more carrots right now. Brilliant, perfect excuse to make carrot cake πŸ™‚

I haven’t made my own carrot cake in quite a while. I didn’t have all the things I needed for the actual carrot cake recipe I have, so I improvised and blended a recipe for vanilla cake and then the carroty bits from the carrot cake recipe, with a few of my own changes just for fun. By the way, when I say cake, I mean cupcakes, obviously.
So my carrot cup cake recipe is;

  • In a jug mix 1 cup of soy milk with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, left for a few minutes to curdle. (I know that sounds awful but it’s the egg substitute in the vegan recipe and trust me you cannot taste any vinegar in the final product).
  • In a bowl mix 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, 3/4 of a cup of sugar (I used caster, you could use granulated or, now I think about it, brown might be quite good for carrot cake) and the milk mixture together.
  • Then add the dry ingredients, 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons cornflour, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Now for the carrot cake bits, 1/2 teaspoon cinammon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, a tiny bit of all spice (all can be adjusted to taste, I realy like cinammon so probably put more than 1/2 tsp in), 1 teaspoon black treacle, oh yeh and 1 cup grated carrot (although in fairness, I didn’t measure out my carrot).
  • Then spoon into cake cases (I use silicone cases because I don’t like waste) and bake at 190 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes. This seems like a big difference, basically the recipes say about 20 minutes but my oven is a bit weird and I had to bake mine for 30. You can tell by inserting a cocktail stick in the centre of one and seeing if it comes out clean.
  • Once they’d baked and cooled I frosted them. Vegan cream cheese isn’t that easy to get hold of, so I had to go with regular frosting; 1 1/2 tablespoons of sunflower margarine and the same of vegetable fat blended together with loads of icing sugar until it tastes more like frosting than margarine. As they’re carrot cakes I finished them off with a bit of cinammon on top for prettiness.

So that’s my carrot cupcake recipe, but it’s not a hard and fast thing, it’s totally up for modification.
My sister is coming over tomorrow afternoon and I said I’d bake as she missed out last time, just in case she doesn’t fancy carrot cake I also made brownies :/ Oops.


I will post again over the weekend. Hope you have a good one.
Betty
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So much for the exercise

I have actually been exercising, but today I baked brownies and shortbread, which will need some serious working off :/


The recipes were both from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, although I adapted the brownies a bit. I’d not tried the shortbread before but I’m pleased with how it worked out. I was concerned as my dough didn’t look as crumbly as the recipe suggested but it came out fine, in fact if the dough had been crumby I think the finished product might have been too dry. I went for a rustic finish, as I had to spread out the dough on a baking tray, in theory in should be made in a nice round tin but it’s not like it affects the flavour! It was really quite simple, creamed together vegan marg and sugar, then add vanilla, flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt, with a bit of sugar to sprinkle on top when it comes out of the oven.
The brownies I have done before, but I added syrup and melted chocolate to the recipe as brownies rarely work out as gooey and fudgey as I like them. It definitely made the difference, the texture is great, crisp on top and insanely gooey and chewy in the middle, although, if anything, they may be a bit too rich (not that I’m complaining). The recipe uses silken tofu, but only a quarter of a pack, so there is now three quarters of a pack of silken tofun in my fridge, so looks like I’ll be whipping up some more brownies soon and maybe some blondies too (blonde brownies rather than an 80’s pop group).

I’ve already had more than one persons worth of brownie and shortbread for one evening, although it’s only 9.20 and I don’t think I’ll be going to bed for a while, will be a trial to keep myself from eating more. If anyone is bored and fancies helping me out with some of them, let me know πŸ™‚
See you later
Betty
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HIIT That!

I received my first blog comment last night! πŸ™‚ I was very excited, but also intrigued by what I read; the idea that a few short cycles of running and resting could not only be as productive as, but, may be better for fitness than lengthy running sessions 4 or 5 times a week. Now I have vague recollections of reading something about exercise regimes that work on a principle of short sharp bursts of activity interspersed with rest periods, but it was in the context of a celebrity diet article, which instantly screamed fad and put me right off. However, these comments, and the fact that they had originated from a personal trainer, inspired me to do some research.

HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training

An exercise/training principle based on short periods of very intense exertion separated by rest intervals. There is quite a lot of information out there about HIIT, including a Wikipedia page and a number of articles published in scientific journals (Little et al (2010) Journal of Physiology). The idea seems quite simple, 30-60 seconds of maximum effort aerobic exercise followed by 30-75 seconds of rest in cycles repeated 8 to 12 time (starting at a lower number of cycles and building up over time). It is advocated on grounds of taking less time than other intense or endurance type programs whilst achieving the same or better results in terms of fitness, muscle growth and fat loss, apparently making it appealing to everyone who complains their life is too busy for exercise. From what I gather of the science behind it, the high intensity periods are inteed to completely exhaust stored energy in cells so that afterwards your body has to mobilise fat stores to replenish the energy in cells. I assume the rest periods are neccessary to make the intense periods bearable, as 10 straight minutes of maximum exertion is never going to be an appealing workout.
Now this all sounds pretty interesting, amazing results from minimal effort. I am still intrigued but also retain some scepticism. Firstly, the idea of maximum exertion, I’m not sure how easily this can actually be replicated in an everyday workout sort of scenario. Under experimentation, volunteers used exercise bikes in a lab under observation. Now I don’t have access to an exercise bike, so would be working with running/sprinting on the spot, so not sure if this is a comparable activity in terms of effort and energy expeniture. Also, I can’t help but think that being observes and knowing that you are supposed to be putting in maximum effort would affect performance and that trying to do the workout on your own may not be a sufficient replication of circumstances and potentially not be as effective in achieving the optimal outcome achieved under experimental conditions. On another note, having given the technique a trial this afternoon, HIIT isn’t as easy as some would have you believe. I was working on a 60 seconds of running with 60 seconds of rest (it should be noted that in the experiment ‘rest’ actually refers to low intensity cycling rather than doing nothing). Now, 60 seconds of running as hard as you can is actually pretty hard going, even with the rest periods. Having said that, I started on 6 cycles (with the intention of building the routine up as I improve), totalling 12 minutes of exercise, which isn’t exactly a massive time investment and certainly made the whole thing seem better than 30-40 minutes of jogging and squatting. At the end I still felt like I’d had a good work out, being suitable hot, sweaty and tired, certainly got my heart going.
So I think I’m going to give this a go. Again, the experiment worked on a schedule of 3 sessions a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), and I think I might try getting in at least 4 a week, as well as keeping up the general toning exercise I’ve been doing (mostly inner thighs and bum). Having never achieved amazing results from exercise I’m not overly optimistic of what changes I can expect to see, but I’ll keep you posted. Hopefully I won’t have cause to resort to chocolate binging that always undoes any effort I put into working out.

Best wishes,
Betty
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Ingredients

I’m not sure how relevant the title will be to the post, but I wasn’t sure what else to call it. I hadn’t meant to leave it this long since last time, but, between actual work and feeling screwed up, I haven’t had time or inspiration to write.
I have, thus far, not followed through with my near acceptance of joining a gym. I have, however, been making significant efforts to work out at home. I have been trying to find out more about the best types of exercise to o given my thyroid condition and the specific areas I want to target. Unfortunately, I find the more I read about exercise the less inclined I am to do it. Largely I think this is due to how difficult some people can make it sounds, expecially compared to the amount of effort I think I will reasonably be able to muster. My biggest concerns at the moment are my thighs, bum and hip area, so the advice largely seems to be aerobic exercise (ie. jogging), squats and lunges. Doesn’t seem too bad, except, I read on one site that, for a woman, it can take at least 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise before you start to burn fat. So, factoring in my lousy metabolosim, I could be looking at maybe 50 minutes or even an hour of aerobic exercise BEFORE I started to burn fat. Now I just know that that is beyond me, not even being defeatist, an hour of jogging!? No way. I have been making my best efforts so far, with a couple of 30 minute Wii aerobic sessions and a couple of 20-25 minute non-computer aided jogging sessions in just a week. To be honest I think I can already notice a difference, which is nice as I normally give up from lack of visible results. No change in scale readings yet though :/
I have been wanting to make brownies for about a week as well, inspired by seeing Katie last Wednesday. Unfortunately my exercise and calorie related guilt has prevented me, alongside a lack of some ingredients, most notably, silken tofu. Yesterday I finally got around to getting out to the international food store and getting the necessary tofu so I can now make brownies whenever I wish. Ideally I should wait until I will be seeing people so I can share them and not pig out all on my own, but I’m only human πŸ™‚
I’ve also been looking into how to make a vegan caramel slice. I have the recipe but need to source some ingredients like powdered soy milk to make condensed soy milk with. I’ve found it on the internet but I have heard there is a new health food shop not too far from my flat so I intend to walk there tomorrow and check it out. There are some other things I’m interesting in getting hold of for other vegan recipes, like agar for meringues and egg replacer just to generally test.

I saw my friend Hannah today, who I have known since secondary school (maybe 12 or 13 years ago!) but am very bad at arranging to see regularly. As seeing people more is one of my resolutions I will definitely be making more effort to see her. I had a good afternoon just sat chatting with her, we talked a lot about movies. I like movies but am bad at getting to the cinema to see them (you may know my opinion on cinema prices) and then even worse at remembering the films I wanted to see after they have been released on DVD. Hannah seems to see a lot of movies, particularly less mainstream / more interesting movies, which I generally find more appealing than blockbuster, big name, hollywood drivel. The discussions have inspired me to make a list of movies I want to see, and subsequently start watching. I would start watching them this evening but Indianna Jones and The Last Crusade is on BBC1 at 8, and I have always liked the Indy films πŸ™‚

That’s quite a lot of waffle considering I didn’t really have a plan when I started out.
Hope you are well
Betty
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Saying Yes

Well, as one of my New Years resolutions was to get out more, do more, have more fun and all that. Part of that really comes down to saying Yes more. Far too often No is my default answer when I’m asked to do something, go somewhere or see someone, and not usually for any good reason. I get stuck it a rut of doing nothing far too easily.
This week I’ve been trying to put that into practice an get out and do things, with reasonable success.

On Wednesday evening I went over to see my beautiful, wonderful and amazing best friend, Miss Kitty Bob Barrett. We have known each other since uni and she’s one of very few uni people I actually keep in regular contact with. Her brain works in a very similar way to mine so we share interests, problems and understand exactly how each other feel. We do, however, both suffer from the same issues when it comes to seeing people, even each other. As such, I hadn’t seen her since before Christmas, so Wednesday was the first chance we’d had to exchange gifts.
I had bought her a copy of A Vegan Girls Guide to Life by Melisser Elliott, which has loads of information about vegan food, crafts, beauty and people. Kit seemed pretty impressed with it, which made me smile, I think it’s already cost her money though as she’s been sourcing vegan cooking ingredients that the book recommends. Baking, particularly vegan baking, is something Kit and I are both pretty interested in and we’re always buying and sharing good vegan books and recipes as well as the unusual ingredients the recipes usually call for.
As the lovely, lovely lady that she is, Kit bought me far too much (I intend to make up the deficit soon as it is her birthday next week :p). I got a really thick cookie book, not vegan but that just gives me an extra task in veganising them, and even better she got it in a charity shop. I love a good charity shop find πŸ™‚ In addition to the brilliant book she got me loads of baking accesories, a huge tub of sprinkles (you can never have too many sprinkles!), edible glitter, tiny cupcake cases, skully cupcake cases and edible paper googley eyes. THEN! She also made me a charm bracelet with cakey, foodey charms that she made herselfΒ  (she’s a very talented lady), which is so cute, and (randomly) a load of onion bulbs because she had ar too many. I am thoroughly thrilled πŸ™‚

I did also take some Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food frozen yogurt over, as Kit hasn’t been feeling too well. I’d not actually tried their frozen yogurt before, but am a massive fan of their ice cream. I was very plesantly surprised by the frozen yogurt, even more so when I saw how few calories it had (in comparison to the ice cream!), all the yumminess and a lot less of the guilt. If only my freezer was actually big enough for me to have ice cream in regularly. 10 out of 10, thumbs up, A* and all that πŸ˜€ I also hope they come out with a cookie dough version soon (that’s my absolute favorite ice cream ever and always).

Β I think that’s probably enough of me for now. On a final note, I have already mentioned how wonderful and massively talented Kitty is, but in case you need more proof…..She makes her own soaps and bath type proucts and sells them online through Folksy under her own brand Bits N Bobs (Bob is another of her nicknames). You really should check her site out, everything is stupidly underpriced and she is massively efficient in shipping things out. Great presents and treats for yourself.

All the best,
Betty
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127 Hours

Now I really don’t watch that many current movies, but I saw 127 hours last night with some friends, and was plesantly surprised with how good it was. I was aware of the premise before I saw it (as I assumed most people were, although my friend Kirstin proved me wrong on that one) and while it seemed like a worthy story to be told I wasn’t sure how a feature length film could be made out of a man spending 5 days in a hole. While I don’t want to give the game away to anyone else who wasn’t aware of what the movie is about, briefly; it’s based on the true story of Aron Ralston, a guy who enjoyed running around in the canyons of Utah and one day in 2003 fell down a canyon and got his arm stuck under a rock. Being alone and having told no-one of his whereabouts, the film charts his experiences of being trapped for 127 hours.
James Franco plays Aron in the film, and the vast majority of time is spent with only James on camera. The amount of focus on one character in one setting is the main reason for me questioning how a full length film could have been made out of the story, but both Franso’s performance and Danny Boyle’s directing actually make for a wonderfully compelling tale of human endurance against the odds. Aron did actually film himself while he was trapped and I have been told that people involved in the making of the film have used these recordings to inform the creation of the movie. While I have no idea what such an experience must be like, Franco captures the range of emotions, ranging from cool, calm logical reasoning to desperate and deranged ramblings and halucinations, whilst maintaining the obvious strength of Ralston’s character.
The ‘critical scene’ (those of you who know the story should know what I mean) is very well done, if not a little graphic and gorey, although not uneccessarily so. The drama, desperation and determination of the experience are very well captured in Franco’s acting, the direction and the use of sound, I found it a pretty realistic depiction (again, from someone who hasn’t expereinced anything even close). I am a little squeamish and honestly felt a little ill afterwards, but the attention paid to the scene were completely justified, it couldn’t have been brushed over or toned down for the sake of delicate audience members.
Aside from the actual film making, I found watching the movie really moving, to think of this real person who went through such an awful expereince and yet remained resilient and refused to give up. I have since watched a couple of interviews with Aron online and I have such admiration for him. Although the chances of getting myself into a similar situation are slim, I know I would not have coped with the situation at all and would have been far too willing to give up hope. I wish I had even half of his strength of character and will power.
While I am always in two minds about recommending films at the cinema, I’m not sure if any films are worth the amount that’s charged, this is a film I would recommend you see at some point. When and where is up to you. Overall I’d give it 8 out of 10.
I’ve never reviewed a movie before so I’m not really sure how this has worked out. Hope I haven’t bored you or come across as a pretentious movie-buff (I’m really not).
I will probably post again later, at least I intend to, we shall see.
Laters
Betty
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PS. Still on the movie theme. If you a) don’t want to go to the cinema or b) fancy something entirely unrealistic, check out The Men Who Stare At Goats on BBC iPlayer. Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey in one movie and a wonderfully fanciful storyline. A bit of a juxtaposition from 127 hours.

Critical Mass

I am feeling particularly fat today, well, for the past few days actually. Which goes nicely with the general malaise I am suffering from. I have little motivation to work but feel too guilty about doing things other than work, which means I end up sat doing very little at all. Which is a shame as I am, once again, accumulating crafty bits and bobs. Got some elastic today which I hope to make some head band type things out of. Still waiting on some iron-on interfacing though.
I am almost resigned to the fact that, if I want to make an actual difference to the way my body looks, I am going to have to join the gym. I’ve been putting it off for ages, telling myself I’ll just put in the effort at home, it’s not worth the money because I won’t go, etc.Β  I really think it’s about time to bite the bullet. There’s not much more I can do to change my diet, I’m not really gaining weight (other than the odd little fluctuation) so I don’t think the food is the problem, which is a shame because that would be much easier to fix.
I’ve been told that the benefits of exercise are really quite significant, but I’ve never really seen them. Apparently, working out might actually help boost my mood in the long run as well. My experience of exercise however, is just getting nastily sweaty and then being horribly tired. I hate sweating, and I am tired enough as it is without increasing my energy expenditure. I am in a bit of a grump at the moment though.
I will stop inflicting my bad mood on you, for now.
Love
Betty
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PS. Needless to say, my statutory afternoon nap has lifted my mood somewhat. Joining the gym will be a good thing (as long as I remember to actually go), and it will make me look and feel better. I need to stop being so cranky. Going to see my most wonderful, amazing friend this evening, we shall either cheer each other up or drag each other down, but we will be doing it together and that can’t be bad πŸ™‚