White Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cheesecake (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe)

img_4282I quite fancied a Baileys and White chocolate cheesecake for Christmas Day dessert when I was planning what we would have for pudding. After surveying the hugely expensive and unappealing array of desserts at Marks and Spencer’s and Asda I decided it was easier to make my own adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s version. The reason for not adding the Baileys to the mixture is that I have two young sons and didn’t want a boozy taste to the mix. I opted instead to purchase a selection of Irish cream liqueurs from Aldi called Ballycastle which have more subtle flavours and included the Salted caramel one in the mix. They also have Mint chocolate and chocolate orange flavours.

The taste of the soft cheesecake topping, salted caramel liquer coupled with the mashed up Oreos and oat cookie biscuit base was truly divine and left my family asking for more! Jamie’s original recipe added crushed hazelnut croquante but I didn’t want to mess about with that and opted instead for Ferraro Rocher to decorate the top of the cheesecake.

Here’s  the recipe – Enjoy!

Makes once large (26cm) cheesecake
Base:
200g Oreo cookies crushed
100g chocolate covered oat style biscuits, crushed
100g butter, melted
Filling:
500g cream cheese (eg:Philadelphia)
150ml single cream
150g quark (10 % fat)
40g caster sugar
200g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
120ml Salted caramel Irish cream liqueur (Ballycastle) found at Aldi
One teaspoon of Vanilla essence
2 sheets of leaf gelatine
Ferraro rocher x 10 to decorate, icing sugar to dust

Method:
1. Base: Combine the crushed cookies in a mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Mix well then gently press into the base of 26cm springform tin. Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Prepare the gelatine according to packet instructions then set aside while you prepare the cream filling.
3. Whip the single cream together with the caster sugar till fluffy, then add the cream cheese and quark and continue whisking for about 1 minute.
4. Add the prepared gelatine and vanilla then continue to whisk for approx 2 mins. Set aside for now.
5. Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate over a low heat. Once it’s completely melted, remove from the heat then set aside for 1 minute to allow to cool slightly.
6. Add the melted chocolate and the salted caramel liquer to the whipped cheesecake mixture , folding it in gently with a spoon.
7. Pour the filling into the prepared cheesecake base, cover, then place in the fridge and allow the mixture to set overnight (or a minimum of 6 hours).
8. The next day, sprinkle some icing sugar over the surface of the cheesecake and arrange Ferraro Rocher chocolates around the edge.
9. Cut into slices and serve.img_4286

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Pumpkin Soup recipe

061A40D2-E00F-434F-9F3B-FDD9C7347E81.jpgIngredients

One pumpkin

Two onions, chopped

One leek, chopped

Four or five carrots peeked and chopped

1 butternut squash

1 Red pepper

4 sticks of celery, (optional) chopped

2 cloves of garlic

bunch of coriander or any dried herbs 2 teaspoons

salt and Black pepper

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 pints of vegetable stock

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

 

First of all you need to remove the seeds from your pumpkin as well as the stringy pulp inside the pumpkin. The seeds can be saved and roasted with some chilli oil in the oven later. Scrape the inside of the pumpkin and then cut your pumpkin into wedges as above. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to peel off the thin outer skin and then chop pumpkin using a bread knife into cubes about one inch in size. Prepare and chop remaining vegetables and make up two pints of vegetable stock.

Fry chopped onions until golden brown in the coconut oil. Add leeks and garlic and chopped peppers and fry till softer.

Add garlic, seasoning and cinnamon with herbs and vegetable stock. Stir in remaining vegetables including pumpkin, celery, butternut squash and carrots.

Cook in large pot until all vegetables are soft – about 25 minutes.

Blitz with a blender to remove lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of cream. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Alex

Dear Alex,

Today is the first day you attend secondary school. Wow! Where has the time gone? I still remember your first day at Primary School. The moment you got your uniform you kept trying it on asking me every day, “mummy is it time yet?” You posed in front of the mirror looking at yourself with me looking at you wishing you didn’t have to grow up but knowing that you were so ready for it. You wanted to be one of the big boys and join your big brother Sam at school. You used to say to people “I’m going to big school now” and we all knew how you felt.

And now, seven years on we go through the same routine – new haircut, new uniform, hemming your trousers because you are still dinky for your age, and I’m still sewing your name onto your uniform in case it gets lost or mislaid. Whilst I’m running around organising everything,  I pause to reflect on all that has passed in those seven years. You are still keen to jump into your day with a joy and an energy and a smile on your face. You love having your bag ready, your shoelaces are tied and you are ready and dressed for school at 6.15am! You’re ready to learn to embrace new challenges to live your life to the fullest! I’m so proud of you!

I’m still in bed but realise it’s time to get ready. How could I not be there for you for such a special occasion. And I realise that I have a sadness too inside of me that misses your childhood and your cuteness as I do up your tie even when you protest you can do it yourself. It’s my mummy privilege to do this one small thing for you 😢.

I can’t help but feel so proud of you as I have done from the very beginning of all of my children. You are my youngest child and I’ll never again have this moment with you so I want to savour every moment to hold you and hug you and kiss your little face and tell you I love you. Even when I drop you off you are anxious about being late and the traffic but it pales into insignificance as you see your friends from St Lukes, smiling at you and you walk through those doors and don’t look back.  The little group of Tom, Mitchell, Corey, Elliot and you – together at last on your new adventures! You’re going to be just fine. I just know it because they are with you cheering you on – just like I always will be. My gorgeous smiley Alex – how I love you!

 

 

 

 

The season of change

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I love the changing seasons and don’t really have a favourite one. I adore seeing the new growth of spring after the loneliness and cold of winter. But even winter in its own way brings warmth and the promise of fires, friends and Christmas and the hope of new things round the corner with the dawn of a new year.

Recently I was chatting with someone about life’s changing seasons. Sometimes when we are caught up in the business of our daily routine, we are too busy to notice that there are changes happening in our lives that we need to be aware of. Sometimes it takes a holiday or break from the routine to make you SLOW down, relax and look at your life from a different and calmer perspective.

What happens is that you recharge your batteries, look at what’s important to you and realise that what you are doing is not lining up with who you really are. Your life is changing and you haven’t noticed the changes till now. Friends you used to hang out with have moved on. Circumstances are different. The work you felt so passionately about doesn’t seem as exciting as it once was. Perhaps you didn’t notice your partner was looking really tired lately or that your best friend needed help through a family crisis. When was the last time you REALLY looked into your husband’s eyes, held him tight and told him you loved him so much? It took ages for my husband and I to finally book a babysitter and have time for ourselves but we were so glad we did because we had such fun when we went out!

 

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Maybe you need to sit down and look at your priorities and decide that you need attention too. Maybe you need to stop putting off things so much and begin to be more proactive in reaching a goal you wanted to achieve or ticking something off that bucket list you have before it’s too late!

This year alone we have as a family gone on holiday (we hadn’t had a proper one for 7 years!), we have made new friends, become more organised, embarked on several large DIY projects and home improvements and built in time in our days to socialise and relax! I have also changed career and attend college each week to study floristry! Life is more balanced and we are happier people and parents as a result.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to wait till tomorrow to book that holiday, call that friend or cuddle your children – today is a new day friends and it’s never too late to seize the day! Because whether we like it or not things change in our lives, the seasons change, friends change and the sun still sets at the end of the day. What new thing will YOU do today to embrace your tomorrows?

 

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What to do when you are wronged or misunderstood

imageIt’s never easy to deal with accusations against us that challenge our ability to do our job or undermine our confidence in ourselves. It’s never easy when you believe that you’re being used as a scapegoat and that favour is shown to others in the workplace above you. Does anyone recognise you work hard or appreciate your efforts? Does anyone appreciate you? Are you valued where you work?

When these thoughts and others like them cross your mind it is easy to give in to self pity. It is difficult to admit we have shortcomings when we are learning a new skill in a job that demands perfection and makes no room for human error or mistakes in the learning process. What happens is we listen to the voice of the accuser and take things personally. We replay the lies over and over in our heads giving way to torment and ripping our souls apart in anxiety and worry. We focus on the problem being ourselves and the two become one and before we know it we begin to believe we are the problem. We have believed a lie.

It’s no mistake that the devil is called the accuser of the brethren for a reason. Whose voice will I believe? That of my God and creator who loves me or the voice of one who always lies because he hates me.

Ephesians 6:12 says For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Fight the good fight ladies in the spirit realm. Stay silent and bite your lip. Go to your secret place in God and do business there with Him!! Know who your enemy is – not flesh and blood but the powers of this dark world. Pray against everything that has come against you and bind it up because the weapons of our warfare are MIGHTY in GOD!!
No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that rises against you in judgement thou shalt condemn! Isaiah 54:17

Read Psalm 15 to keep your heart right when you are accused –

‘Who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your sacred mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless who does what is righteous
Who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander who does no wrong to a neighbour
And casts no slur on others

Whoever does these things will NEVER be shaken!!’

And as for favour over you – let God’s word be your strength Proverbs 3:3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Verse 4 Then you will find favor with both God and people and you will earn a good reputation.
Praise God it is Him that brings you favour! It is Him who rewards what is done in secret.

It is in God I will find my confidence and hope!

The power of persistance – overcoming your sugar addiction

Dear friends

Those of you who know me know that for most of my adult life, I have waged a battle with my weight, carrying far too much of it for my frame. My career choice so far hadn’t helped matters with baking on a regular basis even if just to feed an addiction to sugar that I really didn’t realize I had. Yes really! I just felt whenever I was emotional whether happy or sad I had a compulsion to bake, an excuse to fill a void within me that sadly never got filled through chocolate intake or cake consumption.image

I’m totally baring my soul here when I admit that I just couldn’t get enough sugar into myself. Years went by, my weight escalated and I went to the doctor so many times. Every joint in my body ached from Fibromyalgia. Sometimes I would crawl up the stairs from how my joints ached, but still I never addressed my over indulgence in sweet things and my weight.

Even recently, I was prescribed pills by my GP and I felt like I was tripping or something wierd. I knew that actually the root issue was not actually the weight but in reality the REAL issue was how I felt about myself deep down. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that in essence, I was deceived.

Why didn’t I actually ask myself the real question – why do I overeat? My ‘weight’ and yes I’m taking ownership here and accountability for my wrong choices and actions – was simply the by product of a deeper issue.

I could make all the excuses I wanted and blame circumstances, the death of my first husband, the life changing car crash I was involved in, people who had hurt me, bereavement,  loneliness or unhappiness. Any number of issues and emotional upsets could have caused me to turn to food as a comfort, in the same way an addict turns to drugs as an escape. And yes, I used every one of them to shield even my own heart from the real issues.

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But facing the next season of my life and having a long hard look at my body ( when most of my life I have avoided looking at it) gave me the gradual wake up call I needed to hear. Certainly my mum’s passing was also a game changer for me. There was no magic pill I could take, no super formula I could drink, no fairy godmother – no corrective surgery – just plain old persistance in being careful to eat sensibly and take regular exercise. I also realized how addicted I had become to sugar and began to gradually break it’s hold over me through regular juicing and eating fresh fruit instead of devouring chocolate.

I took the goggles of deception off. I looked at my body and apologised to it for all the abuse it had suffered because of what I had eaten. I looked at my puffy arms, my swollen ankles, my aching joints and my poor shoulders for what they had carried all those years. I decided to change. No amount of persuasion of my loved ones all those years could have reached until now. Finally I had seen the light. I prayed and asked God to help me overcome and change.

In my lifestyle change, I had moved back to our home and before we moved, my husband and I decided we would join a gym. It needed to have a swimming pool. Years before, I had joked with my husband that getting into a swimming costume in a public place was like the humiliation of walking naked into a stadium of people – I felt like everyone’s eyes would be upon me in disgust. However in this paradigm shift of mine, I decided to remove my contact lenses so that if I couldn’t see their embarrassed glances, then it wouldn’t bother me.

Together Paul and I joined a gym two months ago. I decided I could only face the swimming pool because there I was weightless. I didn’t have to look in a mirror just get myself into and out of the pool. I knew I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers and that it would just be a matter of continually willing myself to move even if it was two or three times a week. I’m more like a stealth swimmer rather than a speed swimmer.

It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I told no one except my family what I was doing. Each time I visit the pool I go early in the morning and am now going three times a week at 6.30 am. This weekend I went twice. At first my joints ached and sometimes took two to three days to recover from the pain.

I didn’t give up – instead I developed the power of persistance within myself. I pushed myself even when I didn’t feel like it and told my mind that I actually enjoyed swimming. I get a buzz now once I’ve had a swim and feel more able to cope with my day. My joints don’t ache as much, I feel alive!

My clothes are getting looser and I respect what I put into my body. I’m on my way to where I want to be and life is good!  I want to encourage anyone who is wrestling with their weight to get moving! I can truly say it has worked for me. Find an exercise you enjoy and just do it!! Obviously if it’s cycling I wouldn’t recommend taking your lenses out! And never mind those negative people who frown upon your frame – just enjoy your moment and know that your loved ones are cheering you on xx

Mags.

A Father to the Fatherless…

Psalm 68 v5 – 6 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity

http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/Bishop-TD-Jakes-on-Surrogate-Fathers-VideoIMG_9100_2

Some golden nuggets written from Bishop TD Jakes video about the Fatherless generation.

For children raised without fathers, there is a hole in the soul many try to fill with promiscuity, drugs and other unhealthy behavior. However, Bishop T.D. Jakes says, there is a way everyone can fill it in a positive way—by giving what you didn’t get. Find out how, he says, fulfilling that role for another fatherless child can help heal your own heart. Plus, learn how to become a father when you didn’t have one yourself.

You can give out to others what you have not received yourself and it will be given back to you. “Give and you shall receive”.

What real fathers do is make deposits in you through which you can make withdrawals for the rest of your life.

To be able to allow that spiritual part of you to heal that part of you that is wounded so that you will never go to that job interview alone. You will never be alone. Have a spiritual foundation so that you know you are never alone.

When you have been giving out you may have had an absent or deceased father in your life. There’s an aching inside of you for what you used to have.

You cannot reclaim yesterday or reclaim those moments. Time keeps on moving on so it cannot be the same. But what you can do is appreciate and embrace what you have right now and to allow it to feel the vacancy of what you didn’t get yesterday.

Once we let go of our ideals or fantasies of what things could have been like, and embrace what they are like now, it gives both the father and the son or daughter the feeling of being accepted for where I am.

The father is just as afraid as the son. We are creating a ramp so that  father who has been de-railed can get back on track to building a wholesome relationship with those he loves.