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 🙂


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.


So much for the exercise

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

P1050127 P1050129

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 🙂
See you later

HIIT That!

I received my first blog comment last night! 🙂 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,

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.

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.

A whole lot of random distractions

I’m supposed to be writing a report about my research progress so far. It’s very, very dull. Not helped by the fact that my brain feels like it’s made up of sticky cotton wool today after suffering a headache of epic proportions over night 😦 Thankfully it doesn’t hurt anymore, but full functioning capacity has yet to be restored.
So far today I’ve written maybe ten lines of the report. The rest of my time has been spent listening to a very random assortment of music, staring out my patio doors and windows shopping. Somehow found myself listening to Rihanna, which is as much of a surprise to me as anyone else, I’m not exactly a Rihanna R&B pop sort of girl. Managed to move myself onto something slightly more reasonable, a bit of Katy Perry. Laugh all you want, I actually quite like Katy Perry, although not in a strictly musical sense…..Anyway.
Ramone the local Robin has been around in the garden providing me with some entertainment. I made bird cake a little while ago and have been putting it out to provide good energy and nutrition for the local bird population. I enjoy feeding birds and watching them visit our garden, it’s very relaxing. My bird cake is amazing, it’s got left over cereal, bird seed, raisins, peanuts and crushed insects in it, if I were a bird I’m pretty sure that would be an irresistible banquet 🙂 The crushed insects really stink though.

My bird cake never works out as hard as I expect it, even after chilling for days. I was planning on cutting it into tiny pieces to put out, but instead have to scoop it out with a spoon and leave lumps on the bird feeder. Don’t suppose the birds really mind in what form it’s presented to them though.

Continuing in my failure to stop shopping, I remembered about this dress just now.

Leopard print 1950’s Tea Dress by Trollied Dolly

I fell in love when I first saw it before Christmas while I was meant to be shopping for other people. In all the festive chaos that followed I had completely forgotten about it until today. It has only one downside, the price tag of £49. Now, it is worth every penny, I’m just not sure I should be spending all those pennies on a dress, in January. Having said that, I did get £50 from my grandparent for Christmas that I technically haven’t spent yet. I may have to go do some accounting and see what I can do.

Got to dash, there is a pigeon eating all the bird food I put out….

Ooey Gooey Sticky Chewy

Just wanted to post about the cookies I made today. Tried out one of the choc chip cookie recipes from my new Vegan Cookie Connoisseur book (one of about five in there!)
Even used my own home-made apple sauce. I wasn’t totally sure about apple sauce in a cookie recipe as I’m not really a fan of the stuff. But as it’s in the recipe and we had some bruised and not very nice apples that needed a purpose, I made some and stuck it in the cookies.
Apples sauce was really simple. I cut up the apples and cored them, I didn’t peel them partly because i couldn’t be bothered and also because I didn’t want to waste a load of the apple. Then I cut the apple into smaller pieces and put in a pan with enough water to cover them and just boiled them until they broke down. I used a fork a bit to encourage the breaking up, mashing the apples against the side of the pan. I thought about taking the skin out, as it doesn’t break down like the flesh, but instead I removed the skin pieces, cut it up into tiny pieces and put it back in the mix, minimal waste 🙂 As they were eating apples, not cooking apples, I didn’t add much sugar, I also didn’t want to make it too sweet if it was going in cookies. I also added a small amount of cinnamon, because I like cinnamon and it goes well with apples.
The final product didn’t look too great (hence no photo) but it did look like apple sauce.

The cookies worked out really well. They look good, they smell good and they are very yummy :p Texture is great, crisp on the outside but soft and chewy inside. No apple taste, not that I dislike the taste of apple, but choc chip cookies shouldn’t taste of apple. The batch made a few more than are pictured, a certain amount of taste testing was required, oops. Will probably take most of them into work though, as I so often talk about making cookies that never make it as far as other people. It will also save me from the guilt of eating a while batch of cookies on my own.


Oh yes :p I’m going to enjoy those.

New Year

I am, unfortunately, a bit of a New Year grump. Maybe it’s part of my post-festive melancholy or maybe it’s the logical part of my brain telling me that, really, this day isn’t really any different from any other. Whatever the reason, I find it hard to embrace the happiness that others find in the turning of the new year. Having said this, there is still a small part of me that remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, there is something about New Year that will make a difference and that will help me make changes in my life. If that part of me wasn’t there then I probably wouldn’t be writing this post.
My history with New Year’s Resolutions has been patchy. I haven’t always made them and even less frequently stuck to them. But, on occassion, I have made them and also managed to achieve the changes I’ve wanted, so they can’t be all bad. I’ve had things that I would like to change popping into my head for a while, and now that the big 1.1.11 is here I suppose it’s time to put thoughts into words and then publish those thoughts for your scrutiny.

My Resolutions

1. Lose Weight/ Tone Up
Not surprising really. This one probably features in a great many other resolution lists and is something I have often moaned about here previously. Exercise and healthy eating have never been things I’ve been good at and as I get older, my weight is becoming more of a problem, at least in terms of my personal image. I currently weigh around 11 stone (I haven’t actually weighed myself in a week or so due to the excesses I have indulged in over the festive period). In terms of BMI, I am not overweight, but am at the top end of the ideal range, which makes me rather uncomfortable. So as a result, I am resolving to make changes to the physical appearance of my body. I’m not sure about setting an actual target, I don’t really know what is realistic and what would actually be healthy for me, so I’ll hold off on that for a while. I may invest in a book on weight loss/management for people with thyroid disorders, as I strongly believe this is a significant factor in my weight trouble. (I must start a list of things I will/may buy). This is mostly going to be about more exercise as my diet in general isn’t actually that bad these days. Ideally I’ll get 3 half hour work outs into a week, plus a few days of dog-walking/walking to work, which may be a little ambitious, but if I was being realistic I wouldn’t have this resolution at all.

Moving on……

2. Invest in a more grown-up skin care regime
For a while I have been suffering from worse skin than usual and in my attempts to overcome this (mostly switching erratically between intensive cleansing and intensive moisturising), I recently realised that my skin care has changed little since I was a teenager. Needless to say, neither I or my skin are still teenagers, so I should probably start treating it like the grown-up it is. Part of this will probably involve buying my first anti-wrinkle treatment. OK, some of you may say I am still too young to be thinking of such things as wrinkles (I hope), but I saw Joan Collins looking fabulous on the TV a few months ago and she puts her ageless facade down to taking proper care of her skin from a young age. If this is true then the results speak for themselves, I certainly wouldn’t mind having skin like Joan when I’m in my 70s. It’s not like if you use wrinkle cream ‘too young’ then it’ll backfire and you’ll get worse wrinkles than you would otherwise, as far as I know!

3. Make more time for the important people in my life
I am very fortunate to have some very important people in my life, who are special enough to make my life worthwhile and lift my spirits when I am in need. If it wasn’t for these people I wouldn’t be who I am today. For various reason, ranging from too much work, being overworked and my tendency to revert to the life of a recluse, I don’t think I have made enough time to see these people. My reclusive nature has previously resulted in loss of contact with good people, often to the point where I lose them as friends. For my own benefit and also to ensure I don’t risk losing any more friends, I need and want to make more time to appreciate and enjoy these special people. They mean the world to me and make such a difference in my life, I want them to know how important they are to me and I want to be there for them if and when they need me, as they always are for me.

4. Work on being happier/more confident and enjoying life more
Initially, I had these as 3 or 4 different resolutions, but that made for a very long and repetitive list. I think the sentiment is clear and is something that comes up repetitively in my life. I suffer from depression, nowhere near as badly as in the past, but still in notable episodes. As a result of this, I have low/no self confidence and am often too afraid of life to actually do things, even things that I might actually want to do. All this leads to a destructive spiral of low mood and shutting myself off.
In the past a resolution like this would include a resignation to the need for professional help, but not this year, this year it’s just me (and hopefully some willing volunteers) to get me through. This is going to be a big one, but is very important. In theory, finding some self confidence will lead to me feeling happier, enabling me to do more things I want to (being less scared) and leading to even greater happiness. Here’s hoping.
I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to go about this. I guess it’s a mix of general positive thinking and pushing myself to do things that I wold normally resist. This one is probably going to need some work too.
Enjoying life more could also extend to doing more of the things I enjoy such as baking, gardening and general crafting. Not only do I enjoy these things but having a better balance in my life should also help me manage my moods.

5. Work harder
I’m not going to explain this one too much. I’m rapidly running out of time on my PhD and I don’t think I’m working as hard as I could be. While what I actually want to do with my future is unknown and possibly unlikely to be in research, getting a good result from my PhD is important to me and this isn’t always translated into actual effort. So I’ll try and be better at that.

I’m not sure how much sense this makes or how interesting it is. I apologise if I have bored you. Writing when tired isn’t actually very easy.
Hope the New Year is treating you well,