Back to baking!

Ah baking, how I have missed you. But yesterday I got back in to it, with a lime, coconut and ginger cake.

I used the same basic recipe for the Lemon and Blueberry traybake I made a while back, but I swapped in lime zest and juice for lemons, left out the blueberries, added 50g coconut, and a few chunks of chopped crystallised ginger.

I was sent some Bake Even cake strips to try out, from the Cake Decorating Store website, and I used them for the first time in this recipe.

You have to soak the strips before you use them (only for a bit), and then you wrap them around the cake tin. I had to secure them with pins- for some reason I had thought they would have velcro or something, but I suppose they are completely adjustable so that would not work. I used two to go around my brownie pan, as one did not quite reach, but overlapping them is fine (according to the instructions).

I was worried it would slide off, so I put the tin on a tray too. The idea is that they help to distribute the heat evenly, so you get an even rise, and the cake is cooked the same all the way through (no cracked tops, uneven rising etc).

I was very impressed when it came out of the oven- the cake was perfectly even in colour and in height. I think these would be great to use when baking fruit cakes as they need so much longer in the oven so can become more uneven. Although next time I will use safety pins to hold the strips on.

I made up the syrup (lime juice+zest+sugar) and poured it over the warm cake.

Mmmm delicious zingy lime cake. I left it to cool overnight before I sliced it today so that the icing would set and sink in.

On to some random food photos from the week. Yesterday Andy made a lovely sweet potato chilli (he has made it before for us and it is delicious)- I decided to make some guacamole. I have been reading a book by Scott Jurek- it is half autobiography and half recipes (I think it is called Eat and Run) and the other evening I read his guacamole recipe. On holiday we treated ourselves to a Cheesecake Factory guacamole (they make it up fresh when you order it) and so I attempted to re-create this as I have been dreaming about it ever since. It contained avocado, sea salt, freshly squeezed lime juice and chopped cherry tomatoes. I did consider adding a little bit of chilli but as we were having that in the sweet potato chilli I thought a cooler guacamole would be better. It was wonderful. Mmm. And Andy even said it tasted like the Cheesecake Factory one 🙂 I had it with some iced tea as I had just spent the last hour and a bit planting out onions in the allotment.

As the weather has been getting warmer I have been making salads for my lunch. I do love them, and they fill me up so much, but they take so long to eat! Which is OK I suppose if you have a normal lunch break, but I am usually in a meeting/ doing marking/ getting resources ready for the afternoon etc, so a long lunch is not so good! Anyway, these contained spinach, balsamic, grated carrot, courgette and beetroot (all stained by the beetroot though), roasted pepper, artichoke, chickpeas, hummus, extra carrot sticks for dipping, and pine nuts. I had then with a couple of pumpkin seed ryvitas, and some fruit (although mostly I ran out of time to eat the fruit)- very summery.

This afternoon I spent some time cooking in the kitchen, as in the week I ate the last of my freezer stash of these Mexican casseroles (they were loosely based on a recipe from Oh She Glows, but I am not sure they are really a casserole at all). It is one of my favourite meals- roasted celery, peppers, red onion, quinoa, tomato, sweetcorn, some kind of beans (?), spinach, a little chilli, and then served with salad and avocado. Mmmm. I know I have mentioned it before but I think I am getting a slight avocado addiction (quite a few times on holiday I would pay to have it added to a sandwich or meal). How did I think I didn’t like them for so long?

After pottering around this morning (or watching the elite races on the TV) I went out for a run in the sunshine. It was great, but I was so hot! I only wore a vest and capris, and I wasn’t expecting it to be that tough. I suppose when it gradually warms up you have time to get used to it. I did a 6.6ish mile loop, slower than recently but it was good to be outside getting some fresh air. I made pancakes for when I got home- I added some chia seeds to the batter, and used apple and blueberry puree in them which made a nice change, and the last of my lovely Meridian mincemeat.

Well done all you marathon runners too! I loved watching it on the TV, and each year I find it so inspiring.

Time for iced tea!

Hey peeps- I am very excited about this wonderful weather. I have decided that ignorance is bliss, so I might not check the weather forecast any more (breaking the habit of a lifetime) and just imagine that it will continue like this for the months ahead.

This morning we were up early for a Saturday (6.30) to drive up to Silverstone as Andy was driving an Aston Martin (he got it for his birthday last year and had to cancel twice due to torrential rain and then snow)- we stopped at Ikea on the way home, which of course turned into a two hour shopping trip. Then we popped to town to get a couple of bits, and neither of us could resist a Starbucks. They now sell re-usable cups (for £1 or free if you have a gift card) so I got my free one, and that gave me 25p off my drink (and from now on if I remember to take it with me)- plus this week they donate 25p to a clean water project each time someone uses one- every little helps.

As the sun has come out, it is the perfect time to start enjoying cold drinks instead of hot tea all the time. I was sent some Welch’s juices to try, and they have been great now the weather is warmer.

The Purple and Rose grape light versions are “juice drinks”- water, juice, sugar and a little sweetener, but they have fewer calories than neat grape juice. I think it is a shame they add in the sugar, as the grape juice is sweet enough. Saying that, I really liked the Rose grape (my fave of the three), but on its own it was too sweet for me. I would either have it with some water and lots of ice, or as iced tea.

The White Grape and Raspberry drink was very refreshing as the raspberries added a tartness to it, although again this was a juice drink so made up of water, grape and raspberry juice, and some sugar. I have seen on the website white grape with peach, which sounds so summery.

My favourite way to drink it was as a fruity iced tea.

Any fruity tea would do, but I have some lovely strawberry and kiwi tea at the moment, so I used that. I made up the tea (using hot water), left it to cool, and then had a mixture of half tea, half juice, and then as much ice as I could get out of the ice cube tray.

I bought myself an iced tea cup on holiday (well it is a plastic Aladdin cup with screw on lid and straw).

I also had it with black iced tea. On holiday I would have iced tea unsweetened, but it does go well with something fruity in there too.

I used a Twinings Black tea with Echinacea, as they have a hint of cherry (or something like that) but plain black teabags would be fine. Again, make up the tea (I don’t leave the teabag in there too long), leave to cool, then mix with the grape juice and plenty of ice. It really is so refreshing. I made this up on Wednesday when I got home from work, and had it to drink when I finished my super tough Sweatshop run (tough because I was tired/ had not run for 2 weeks/ it was very windy). Very refreshing. Anyway, I liked these drinks, although I think it is a shame they add sugar to them. But I would prefer to have sugar than artificial sweeteners and as I don’t drink fizzy drinks they make a nice change as the weather warms up.

How have you been making the most of this weather? We walked to the allotment in the week and picked some daffodils, and I need to go and plant out some onions either today or tomorrow. I also want to plant some seeds in pots, as hopefully they will germinate now it is a little warmer. Plus a run in the sunshine is on the cards for tomorrow.

Are you an iced tea fan? I must admit even though I love tea I never liked the sound of it, until I was persuaded to try some while on holiday- now I love it!

Also, GOOD LUCK to Lara (who is running the London Marathon), and of course anyone else running this weekend 🙂

Back from Yosemite etc

Hey peeps!

(To the tune of Back in the USSR) Back in the UK we are!! (Sort of works?)

I’ll try to be quick (haha- I think the lack of sleep is warping my mind).

So, after our stop in Monument Valley we were on our way to Zion Canyon. The drive was long so we had a night half way, and that was near a horseshoe bend in a river.

It was amazing to see, and unless you knew it was there you would not have come across it. We parked and then walked for about a mile up and down steep orange sand dunes (past the warning signs about there being no railings and that the rocks can crumble at any time) and then suddenly the floor opened up and you could see the river way below. It was hard to get a photo as I didn’t want to get too close to the edge (I am not a fan of heights or steep things) but I am sure you get the idea.

Then it was on to Zion National Park. Which was amazing, but I don’t have any photos at the moment (both myself and Andy took some photos with our phones to email to our parents etc, but none of Zion it turns out, so will have to wait for Andy to sort out the 1000+ pictures on his camera (and that is not even an exaggeration).

We had a day trip to Bryce Canyon, nearby, which was full of rock formations like enormous stalagmites. Impressive. And also no phone photos. It was cold there though, with snow on the ground. We even saw some pronghorn deer- very exciting.

We then had a long drive back towards California- we drove the loneliest road in America, one day during a snowstorm (that was a surprise when we saw the car in the morning).

We had one night in Lake Tahoe (which is very beautiful and surrounded by snow capped mountains) and then we drove to Yosemite- I was so excited!!

Road trip supplies! Well, sat-nav, map and iced chai latte to share (although some days we had 5 hours of driving so then not so much drinking went on!)

Photo: From Yosemite valley

That was our view from the lodge we stayed in! Amazing.

We did loads of walks around the valley, up into the hills, including some very steep walks/ hikes. One started off on very steep trails (and I got annoyed as there was a man in front smoking a cigar- seriously who does that??? and in the end I had to run (up the very steep trail!) to get past him), anyway, as the trail carried on it went by a river, towards some waterfalls, and ended up on steep steps that were soaked by the spray from the massive waterfall. I went up a bit, got scared, came down, waited for Andy (who had gone up in search of the perfect photo), then got worried about mountain lions, so went up again, and this time I must have climbed these steep slippery steps for about half an hour, and still was nowhere near the top, so came down again. My legs were broken after that!


I did get views like that though, so I think it was worth it.

Photo: Waterfall after hiking for an hour uphill

According to someone coming down I still had half an hour of terror to go, so that’s when I turned around.

Does not seem that steep, but it was, and each step was higher than my knee.

Looking down the path- you could see the spray from the waterfall floating way up and out.

We also drove out for a bit, for views of the valley from afar:

Photo: Yosemite valley

And went to some giant redwood trees (some were over 2000 years old!!!). It was all just wonderful.

On our final day we had to drive to San Francisco for our flight home. We were hoping to have time to go into the city, as we both love it there, but the drive was much longer and we didn’t want to risk missing the plane, so we went to a place across the water called Sausalito, for a walk by the water in the sunshine, and then drove up to an overlook for the most amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photo: Golden Gate Bridge- great way to end the holiday


Then we had an overnight flight to Toronto (on a side note, I bought an eye mask for this holiday and I am converted to not only using it on the plane but also just when the room is light too), and then a day flight back home, arriving on Saturday night.

Yesterday I went to the allotment to do some digging- I was loving that sunshine! My Dad had done some digging while we were away, so I just had to carry on where he had started, and also do a bit of weeding. I was pretty pleased with my efforts. The leeks are looking good, and I will pop down later in the week to cut some daffodils as they are all in bloom too.

Today I went on a short run after work- I only had about 3 hours sleep last night, so I thought some fresh air might help to tire me out some more. I was so excited to get changed so quickly though- all I needed was capris and a t-shirt- no head warmer, no leg warmers, no gloves, no buff, no jacket…


This post has taken ages, mainly because the photos have taken ages to load for some reason. Anyway, just seen the awful scenes from the Boston marathon- so frightening for all those people. The marshals look amazing though- on the footage some of them ran right towards the injured people instead of running for cover which is amazingly brave considering they are there to help hand out water and medals etc. 

Hello from Utah!

Hello! I hope everyone is well, and that the temperatures in England are getting warmer.

Last Thursday we had to get to the airport after work, as we were heading to California and beyond for an Easter holiday. We usually have a small trip in the UK at this time of year, but because last summer we bought an annual pass to the National Parks, (and because we have always wanted to go to Yosemite, and Easter is the best time for all the waterfalls etc) we booked it.

We had an evening flight to Toronto, then an overnight stay, then an early flight the next morning to LA. The pilot told us when we were flying over the Grand Canyon- pretty amazing.

We had two days in the Disney parks (which were great- really fun rides), and then picked up our hire car and drove to Vegas.

The Bellagio hotel had a lovely garden in the foyer bit- so pretty (we stayed in a hotel that linked to it).

In the evening we had tickets for The Beatles Cirque Du Soleil show, Love.

It was our birthday presents to each other, as they are both coming up soon. I had never seen a cirque show before, and had no idea what to expect, but it was brilliant. The performers were amazing, and the music just added more to it.

Of course we had to stop by the Fountains and see them dance to music.

The next morning we had more of a walk in the sunshine before our longest drive- Vegas to Grand Canyon (over 270 miles). We stopped for some lunch first, then stopped at the big dam, (The Hoover dam, apparently where one of the transformers live?) before the long drive. It was amazing the way the scenery changed- mountains, deserts, forests. We finally reached the canyon once it was dark.

We did a lot of walking around- there were free shuttle buses that went all around the South rim, so we got those and then walked between them (on the first morning the walk was 5 miles). It is just amazing- the views change all the time, and it is so hard to understand the scale. Apparently it is 10 miles across, and the river, which looks like a ribbon in the distance, averages 100 feet across!

We even saw some elk in the car park of the hotel! We saw more while on the bus too- always very exciting!

Then we drive to Monument Valley (just the 200 miles this time) as Andy has always wanted to see it.

It was amazing to see. They can be up to 300 metres high! There was a drive all around them, but it was on sandy desert and not paved roads, plus we had another 140 miles to drive before our overnight stay. We have been doing a mega road trip! We had one night in Page (Arizona), right by Lake Powell, and then another long drive to Zion National Park today. It is amazing! If you have seen 127 hours (which is a brilliant film) then the scenery is just like that. Basically it is a massive canyon, but you are in the bottom of it, instead of looking down into it, like at the Grand Canyon. (You can look at a photos tab on that link if you are interested, although Andy has taken loads too)

We arrived in the afternoon, and it turned out the clocks had changed? We were in Arizona before, but often they have the new time zones on the “Welcome to … state” signs. Anyway, even though it was an hour later we still had time to catch a bus up the canyon (they have free shuttles here too) and do a couple of walks- one up the river, and one alongside the canyon floor. The walks all have estimated times, but I don’t think they take into account all the stopping for photos that we do- I think Andy has already taken 600+ this holiday!

We still have Bryce Canyon, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite to visit- lots more walking and photos to come!

Bye for now! 🙂

Did you all have a lovely Easter? They don’t seem to have Easter eggs over here- have to look forward to some on our return home!