Thursday, 26 June 2014

Recipe of the Week - Lemon & Coconut Cupcakes {gluten & dairy free}




It's been another of those busy weeks. I had a few things I was going to post this week and I just haven't had the time. Most evenings I was busy crocheting the little gifts for the boys to give their teachers as end of term presents. Tomorrow is the last day of term for them - hurray! I'll show the gifts off tomorrow though.


Tonight, though, there are these little experiments.



I had been wanting to try using coconut oil instead of dairy free margarine in a recipe for a while now. I'm a great believer that butter is much better for you than margarine, as it's so much more natural, but for those on a dairy free diet then there isn't that option. I've read all about the health benefits of coconut oil but the main reason I haven't tried using it in baking before is that Calum (11), who is one of my allergy boys, just doesn't like the taste of coconut! I don't actually understand that though, as one of his favourite dinners is a chicken curry I make with coconut milk in it! Still, I suppose the taste of it in a curry and in a cake is different.


Nevertheless, I wanted to try it out in a cake.


I was a bit concerned that the coconut might dry out the texture a bit, and with gluten free flour you need all the moisture you can get, so that's when I struck on the idea of adding lemon. Besides, with all this lovely warm weather we've been having, Lemon is a perfect summery flavour, don't you think?


One more thing that has put me off is the price of coconut oil. It certainly isn't as cheap as margarine! But if you have a Holland and Barrett store near you they have one of their Buy One Get Anything Else Free offers just now. That's a pretty good offer when you consider that coconut oil is £15 a jar!


For the cupcakes you will need:


4oz coconut oil

5oz sugar

6oz Doves Farm wheat free self raising flour

2 eggs

2tpsp rice milk

Grated rind of 1 lemon


For the icing you will need:

Juice of half a lemon

Enough icing sugar to make up a thickish icing.



All you need to do is put all of the cupcake ingredients into a bowl or freestanding mixer and beat well until everything is combined and smooth.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 180c for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Make up a spreadable icing while they cool down. Add enough icing sugar to the juice of half a lemon to make a spreadable but not too runny icing.

When the cakes have cooled then cover with icing.


And if you're wondering, these little cakes did indeed pass the Calum test!


Monday, 23 June 2014

Visiting the Royal Highland Show

Once a year Edinburgh hosts the Royal Highland Show, the biggest agricultural show in the country. I think I read somewhere that it's been running for over 150 years, but perhaps I misread that so don't quote me on it! It is held over four days on the second last weekend of June, from Thursday to Sunday, and on Friday we headed along for a day out.
We used to go along to the show most years but for one reason or another we hadn't been since Alasdair, now 5, was a few weeks old and so everyone was really looking forward to it.
The show is really, really busy. Especially on beautiful days like it was on Friday and so to avoid the queues of traffic going into the show car parks we took the special bus that was provided from the centre of the city. I would highly recommend this to anyone in future years. It cost us a little bit more than it would have done to park the car but it was so very satisfying when the bus, in it's priority lane, passed the long queues of cars heading to the show!
There is so much to see and do inside the show ground.
One of the first things we watched were the blacksmiths in the forge.
I don't envy them their job, working so physically in such a hot environment and it was quite impressive to watch. James (14) said he would actually quite like to do that as a job as he loves making things. Actually, I think he quite fancies making some medieval weaponry!
There were lots and lots of free tastings in the various supermarket tents, as well as activities for children.
There were, of course, animals galore to see but pigs are my favourite.
Although I did rather like these impressive big Clydesdale horses.
The boys found something to do in most of the tents.
We saw some more displays of traditional skills, like drystane dyking.
We met up with my husband's sister, who was attending the show for work rather than pleasure. She works in the rural affairs department of the Scottish government but it looked to me like there was more pleasure than work when we met her at a lunch reception! There were no complaints from us though, as she invited us to join them for some of their buffet lunch.
One section of the show that I think appeals to little (and not so little) boys is the vehicles section.


The show really is huge and my photos don't really give the scale of how big it is. We spent 7 hours walking around and there were still things that we missed!
After all those hours walking in the sunshine, nearly all of them with me carrying Fraser in his sling, it was lovely to find a relatively quiet, shaded spot and sit down for a while on our picnic rug.
A lovely end to a lovely day.



Thursday, 19 June 2014

Recipe of the Week - Marshmallow Truffles {Dairy Free, Wheat Free, Egg Free}

You know how certain smells, songs or tastes can instantly transport you to a place or time in your past?
Like the day I was walking along behind a lady and the scent of her perfume took me back to our wedding day and those early days of our married life, as it was the same perfume that my husband bought me for a wedding present. Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy Girl.
Well, whenever I eat one of these truffles it reminds me of the days when I was about 14 years old and my friends and I used to go to a girls club every Thursday. It was run by some ladies at one of the churches near us and we used to love going along. There must have been about 30 of us in total and those ladies must have had the patience of saints! We used to do all sorts of activities at the club and one night we baked these truffles. I just can't eat one of them without the taste reminding me of those days and those lovely ladies.
When I began my allergy free cooking journey this was a nice easy one to convert.
You will need:
About 8 marshmallows
3oz dairy free margarine
2 oz drinking chocolate (make sure it's dairy free), or cocoa if you like things really chocolatey
3oz desiccated coconut
3oz sugar
5oz rolled oats (not oatmeal)
4tbsp rice milk
Extra coconut or drinking chocolate to roll the balls in.
- Begin by cutting your marshmallows in half. The easiest way to do this is by dipping a pair of scissors into a cup of boiling water. The marshmallows will then not stick to the hot scissors. Dip the scissors into the water after cutting each marshmallow.
- Melt the margarine.
- Stir the drinking chocolate, sugar, coconut and oats together in a bowl.
- Pour the melted margarine onto the dry ingredients and then add the rice milk.
- Mix everything together until well mixed and sticky.
- Take about a big spoonful of the mixture and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place one of the marshmallow halves on top of this and then using both hands squish the mix right round the marshmallow to make a ball. You will need to squeeze the mixture together tightly so that it holds it's shape.
- Roll each ball in either some extra drinking chocolate or some coconut.



You don't need to worry about the marshmallow being exactly in the middle, as long as it's all covered up by the truffle mix.


I like to think that with such a large proportion of oats in these they are pretty healthy!


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Little Music Maker

Every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon I have a few piano pupils come to the house. While they play through their lessons, Fraser sits quietly on my knee.


He seems to enjoy listening to them, his brothers or myself playing.


But what he really enjoys is the chance to play the piano himself, as you can see from this clip of him and James. Just look out for his grand finale!



I'm pretty sure you couldn't watch the end of that without a smile on your face!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Weekend Happenings.

This weekend James (14) went away for two nights to Army Cadet camp. It was his third weekend camp with the cadets since he joined them last August. He has enjoyed all of the camps but this one was the best yet he said.

He looks so much older once he puts his uniform on and, in my rather biased opinion, extremely handsome. Although he'd be extremely embarrassed to read that!
Being at camp meant that he missed the annual Boys' Brigade prize giving which took place on Friday evening.
David (8) and Calum (11) are showing off their prizes and badges here. David's squad won the 'best squad' and Calum won the 'most points in the company' trophy.
And of course they look just as handsome as their oldest brother in their uniforms!
I love to come across photos that the boys have taken of each other on either the iPad or my phone. These ones of Ally and Fraser were taken at some point over the weekend. I think Calum was the photographer.
On Sunday mornings we always have pancakes for breakfast. I think even the little routines like this are so important in family life.
I like mine piled high with berries at this time of year. In the winter, when fresh berries are out of season, then we have them with sliced bananas.
In other food happenings this weekend, I saw an ice cream maker on special offer and so treated us to one. The first ice cream I tried out in it was this dairy and egg free mint choc chip one. We had it with some of my trusty Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake as part of our Father's Day dinner. Roast pork, apple sauce, roast potatoes and cauliflower with cheese sauce (for those allowed the sauce) was our main course. If you're asking!
The ice cream was a success and I promise to share the recipe soon. That makes two recipes I've now promised to share in the last few days!
Once the biggest boy was home from camp he was far more interested in catching up with his youngest brothers than anything else. I don't take his helpfulness with them for granted, he is missed by them all when he is away.
One more photo I found on my phone from the weekend. This time it was David's turn for cuddles with Fraser.
And that was, mostly, our weekend. Not nearly as hectic as last weekend, or the one ahead of us either!


Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup Fever

Back in the days when I was at high school I loved football. On Saturday nights myself, my dad and my brother would all watch the highlights of the days' games together. Now our youngest brother is looking to making a career from his football playing.

I remember when the US 94 world cup was on I used to babysit for my piano teacher. Once his two little boys were in bed I had the rest of the evening to watch the football. And I got paid for it too!

I was obviously being prepared for living with boys in my future!

In our house not all of the boys are football mad. James (14) will only watch it if a really big game is on. Other than that he isn't too fussed about it. Calum (11) loves to watch a game and he especially loves to read all the facts and trivia about games, players and teams. I can see him on Mastermind or a similar programme in the future as he retains all those facts so well! He also enjoys a kick around of the ball.

David (8) is the real football crazy boy. He will watch any team playing, no matter how low the league they play in. He would also kick a football about from dawn to dusk if he could.

Both he and Calum enjoy their special Saturday night treat of getting to stay up late and watch the football with daddy.

Alasdair (5) is still a little young to enjoy watching a whole game but has been buoyed along by his brothers' enthusiasm. He has started to enjoy kicking the ball about the garden with his brothers.

So, they have been eagerly awaiting today and the start of the world cup.

The wall chart showing all of the games, and with space to write in all of the scores, has been hanging on the dining room wall for a few weeks now.

We've printed off some bunting of the flags from each country taking part, although we haven't got round to hanging them up yet. It's a sneaky way to get them learning what are the flags of various countries without them realising!

I found the bunting on this site here and I've also printed off a few different activities to do over the next few weeks from the same site.

The boys have bought a couple of special football magazines, one of which came with this inflatable ball that Fraser loves to play with!

We decided that to make the tournament even more fun, everybody should choose a different team to support. The boys were also treated to a top or jacket from their chosen team.

David chose Portugal, because he wants to play like Ronaldo one day.

Alasdair chose Spain, because he inherited a Spain top that was David's at the last world cup!

Calum chose Italy. I can't actually remember why he chose them but I know he had a reason.

James chose Brazil because he read a book about Kaka a few years ago and liked it. And he seems to think they have a good chance of winning!

I've chosen France because we honeymooned in Paris and I have always had a soft spot for France since then. And my husband chose USA - because he liked the look of their training top!

Finally, just to kick start our world cup fun, we had a Brazilian inspired barbecue for dinner. I must share the beef recipe as it was so delicious. Just not tonight as I've said enough already!

We're going to have some food from our chosen countries on some of the nights they are playing. If anyone has any good suggestions for foods from any of the countries I've mentioned then please let me know!

And we finished off with these wonderful little balls, which are called Brigadeiro and are apparently a popular Brazilian treat. They are seriously delicious.

Now, I have a football match to finish watching!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Loom Band Tutorial

If you have children of primary school age then I'm pretty sure that this latest craze will not have passed you by.

Your house will be full of small elastic bands, in varying shades of colours - bright ones, pastel ones, sparkly ones and maybe even some scented ones too.

Our boys, their cousins and all their friends know them as Loom Bands but I think across in the States, where the craze first began, they are known as Rainbow Looms.

In our house it's Calum (11) and David (8) who are gripped by their new hobby. They have found various tutorials on YouTube for different designs and I have even made up a Pinterest Board just for loom band patterns for them!

Part of the fun of making the bracelets is choosing a suitable colour or theme for a specific person and then giving that person the bracelets. It's a sharing and giving kind of a hobby.

I always get given the bands they make with the purple or pink bands from the packs. After all, they couldn't be seen giving them to a GIRL!

Both boys have been making bands in the colours of the teams they have chosen to support in the world cup (more about that tomorrow). One of the men at church is English and Calum loves to talk football with him, so he made up this band based on the English flag for him. I think it looks great!

One thing we have noticed with the YouTube tutorials is that they are all American. No offense to my American friends but Calum felt that there should really be a few Scottish tutorials out there too!

So, here he is giving his very first tutorial about how to make a design that he made up himself. He was a bit stuck for a name for it so since it is based on groups of three he has called it a Treble Triple band.

Spurred on by his wanting to share tutorials, as well as his photos and some of his favourite recipes, Calum launched his own blog this week too. I've already sent some people over his way via the housefulofboys Facebook page but if you haven't visited him yet he would love to hear from you!

His blog is called Calum's Ceilidh and you can find it here. Ceilidh (Kay-lee) is the Gaelic word for a visit or a get together and so he thought it would be a good name since it's his little online place for getting together with folk and for people to come and visit him.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Weekend things

Every year our calendar for June is crammed with happenings. I think June and December must be the busiest months of the year for us!
This weekend started as June is supposed to continue. I'm also hoping the sunshine continues, although it has been replaced by heavy rain today and the forecast doesn't show a return to sunshine any time soon.
Anyway, enough about the weather and back to our weekend.
It wasn't crazily busy though, and actually began with a rather relaxed Friday afternoon in the garden.
Fraser was quite content to sit in his little shady patch and look through his toy basket for a while, while I sat in front of him in the sun and tried to catch up on my crochet memory blanket. I'm still not caught up but I did get a few more squares done!
It was so lovely in the garden that even the biggest boy was persuaded to come out and join us all.
Saturday was the day of our local gala day. Each year the Gala committee sets a theme and this year it was 'all things Scottish'. The boys always take part in the Gala with their Boys' Brigade Company and they have something of a reputation to keep, having won the prize for best float for quite a few years running! This year their float was a Forth Rail Bridge made out of bamboo sticks and pulled along by the boys dressed as famous Scots.
We made a dressing up police man hat into an explorer's hat with some white packing tape for David's costume. Then we tea stained some paper and made it into a map of Africa. Does anyone know which famous Scot he was going as?
After dropping the older three boys at their float, we found a space to watch the parade and waited patiently.
As the sound of the pipe band that leads the parade began to reach us, Alasdair turned to me and said, 'Aw I love that noise!'
Second in the parade are always the little gala queens and page boys, their trailer pulled along by a big tractor.
Then the next float is always the one that has been given first prize.
And it was the Boys' Brigade and their bridge.
And just in case anyone doesn't know what the real rail bridge looks like....
They did a pretty good job!
Our famous Scots were Andy Murray, David Livingstone and Eric Liddell.
The rail bridge even had the Flying Scotsman train going across it.
The gala day parade takes place at lunchtime so that left the rest of the afternoon free for other stuff.
Like food shopping, and Fraser's first time in the big boy trolley seat.
He didn't last long in it as he's not steady enough to sit unaided on his own yet. In fact, he looks like he's clinging on for dear life!
Back home again, and the sunshine had given way to torrential rain. A perfect excuse for Calum and David to indulge in their new hobby. One that is shared with nearly every other child their age just now - loom band making.
The green bands are a lovely apple smell.
No Saturday would be complete without a spot of baking. Especially as we had some people round in the evening.


And on Sunday my hubs was speaking at a church in Stirling.
Stirling is such a pretty, green part of the country and really not far from us at all. Only a 40 minute drive.
The boys think that Striling castle looks like a mini Edinburgh castle!
The church service we were at is held in the lecture theatre of a museum so after the service we topped up our Scottish history knowledge! With the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn coming up in a couple of weeks, there was a special exhibition about it with some things I'd never heard before. Did you know, for example, that parts of the US Declration of Independance are based on the Declaration of Arbroath (written after Bannockburn) as there were a few Scots involved in drawing it up?
David (8) wasn't so interested in the Scottish history but this, the world's oldest football!
We spent a lovely afternoon with a family from the church and enjoyed a beautiful walk near their house.
I have no idea what type of tree this is, but isn't it huge?


There was every possible colour of rhododendron growing.


And some more unusual trees!!


This week is looking busy too, although the weekend looks a little less busy than last. So far anyway.


Now, sunshine, don't stay away for too long!