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Bee Happy (and a bit about Laughter Yoga)

Hello, everyone ūüôā¬† I was back at work this week after having an extended Easter break.¬† Can’t say I was overjoyed at the thought of returning to work, but very grateful to have a job¬†to return to (the current economic climate being what it is, every extra day of employment is a bonus).¬† It took a while to get back into the swing of things, and I was horribly nervous when people came in to ask questions about our services etc ; after just a week off, I was a bit brain-dead and stupid.¬† But I got through it ok and people seemed happy with my responses.¬† It’s probably just me who thought I was useless!

One of my tasks today was to write a book review.¬† The book, “Love Laughter and Longevity : the Art and Science of Wellbeing” by Janni Goss, talks about laughter and its positive effects on our health, longevity, and quality of life.¬† As my organisation assists people with dementia, and encourages positive thinking and celebrating the small joys in life, this book could benefit many people who are dealing with the difficulties that dementia inevitably brings.¬† But laughter is a well-documented medicine for many of the things that ail us, whether we are experiencing illness or not.

There are physical changes that occur when we laugh : blood flow increases, endorphins are released, cortisol levels are lowered and the immune response is improved.¬† Intense laughter (whether faked or not – the brain can’t tell the difference) also provides aerobic exercise, which is far more enjoyable than time spent at the gym.

Janni is an advocate for Laughter Yoga and its benefits.¬† Over 100 countries around the world have Laughter Yoga groups, and its positive effect on people with illnesses ranging from high blood pressure to cancer has been studied and reported in numerous medical journals.¬† It’s certainly an interesting topic to read about (a lot of my reading-for-work tasks are pretty dull and make me go a bit cross-eyed) and worth further investigation if you’re into self-improvement and inner health (whilst improving your outer health at the same time!).¬† You can read more from Janni HERE¬†or learn about Laughter Yoga throughout Australia HERE

All that laughter and being happy reminded me of this little canvas I painted on the weekend.¬† At first, when I had finished it, I felt a bit unsure about the whole “bee happy” thing.¬† Sometimes we’re just NOT, right?¬† Sometimes we are decidedly unhappy and a bit down in the dumps.¬† But I guess what Janni’s book and philosophy encourages is to embrace the small joyful moments in life and use them to promote well-being in our bodies and minds.¬† It’s kinda like faking it til you make it.¬† Not avoiding dealing with sadness but, rather, using joy to combat it and face it head on.¬† And you might as well have a few extra happy hormones to help you, right?

Having said all that, it’s important to let people know you’re struggling.¬† No one should suggest you “pretend” to be happy if you’re not.¬† That’s way too much pressure!¬† I believe happiness itself is a bit of a myth.¬† It’s such a vague concept.¬† No one is happy 100% of the time ; how can you be, when there is so much suffering and pain in the world?

But I think it’s important to be content with your situation, be in the moment, and be happy about the small things in life, focusing on the good, and doing what you can to minimise the “bad”.¬† It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sad or upsetting moments in our life, but how often do we give the same amount of energy to joyous moments, savouring them and replaying them in our minds?¬† The brain can’t differentiate between something that is a memory and something that is happening now.¬† So, we should try and hold on to happy memories and use them to boost our spirits when we are down, rather than re-living those moments that caused us pain and distress.

Easy to say.¬† But I think every extra weapon we can have in our arsenal against the blues is a bonus and worth a try.¬† I don’t think I will be doing a class of Laughter Yoga any time soon (I’m not a joining-in kinda gal and I would spend the entire time worrying about what I look like when I’m laughing and whether or not I was doing things right) but there are definitely principles that I could use to be more positive or, at least, trick my brain into¬†feeling¬†happier, until I am able to feel it for real.

Be happy today.¬† And if you can’t be, I’m sending good thoughts your way and a wish for a happier tomorrow.¬† Hang in there x

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Lemon Cupcake-in-a-Mug

Sometimes you just need cake. ¬†Sometimes you just need cake but are well aware that baking an entire cake could prove dangerous. ¬†Because you will eat it all yourself and fall into a pit of self-loathing so deep that there would be no ladder long enough to reach you. ¬†So that’s where little cheats come in. ¬†Cupcake cheats. ¬†Lemony delicious soul-soothing cupcake cheats that make very little washing up and can be eaten quickly so there is no evidence of your adulting failures. ¬†This recipe is super easy and the taste is yummo-licious. ¬†Nice and tangy and citrussy (is that a word?) and very satisfying. ¬†PLus it takes about 5 minutes to make and cook. ¬†I’ll go back on my diet on Monday (I’ve been ill this week and so everything diet-and-exercise-wise went out the window).

Lemon Cupcake-in-a-Mug

Ingredients

3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or vegetable oil of your choice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method

In a 16oz mug, mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and combine until you have a nice smooth batter.

Microwave on high for approx 1 1/2 minutes. ¬†Check cake and microwave for another 10-20 seconds if need be. ¬†Don’t overcook. ¬†Cake should be moist and springy to touch. ¬†Let cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle with a little icing sugar if desired. ¬†Then eat! ¬†Yummo!

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Easy Lemon Bars

Hello hello! ¬†I discovered this recipe from All Recipes Australia whilst looking for something yummy to make for a morning tea with my cousin.¬† She is an EXCELLENT cook so I wasn’t going to try anything too fancy that would demonstrate how un-excellent I am in comparison to her.¬† This slice was very simple, tasted delicious (my cousin took the remainder home to share with her family), and didn’t require a lot of mucking about.¬† I am lazy when it comes to cooking – I don’t want lots of complicated steps or procedures, or weird ingredients NO ONE has in their kitchen cupboards.¬† I don’t want to have to do a three hour shopping trip just so I can bake something for dessert.

Anyway, this recipe is super easy and pretty fool-proof (I’m a¬†fool and the recipe worked, so there’s your proof, ha ha).¬† It’s nice and zingy with plenty of lemon flavour.

Easy Lemon Bars

Ingredients

For Base

125g butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (175g) plain flour
1/4 cup (60g) caster sugar

For Filling / Top

2 eggs
3/4 cup (185g) white sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. For the base : Rub butter into the flour and icing sugar, until you reach a crumb stage.
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  2. Press the crumb mixture into a 20cm square cake tin, lined with baking paper.  Press down with a fork Рmake sure mixture goes all the way to the edges.
  3. Bake at 180 C for about 20 minutes.¬† Don’t allow it to brown – it should be just cooked.
  4. For the filling : In a food processor (or, alternatively, use a whisk), beat the remaining ingredients together until smooth and well combined.
  5. Pour filling over prepared base, and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 C.
  6. Remove from oven, dust with icing sugar and allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Best kept in the fridge if weather is warm.¬† The base is basically like shortbread, but the centre becomes gooey if allowed to get warm.¬† Not that gooey is a bad thing, mind you ūüôā

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Hope you give these a try – they really are very quick and easy to make¬†and VERY yummy.¬† My cousin and her kids approved ūüôā

Thanks for stopping by x

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Apple Crumble Cookies

I love cooking shows. ¬†You can get some really good ideas from them and, even if the dishes have something in them you don’t like or can’t eat, you can always adapt the flavours. ¬†It’s all about inspiration and having a go.

These cookies appeared on Jamie Oliver’s show, Jamie’s¬†Quick and Easy Food, where he makes yummy meals and dishes using only five main ingredients. ¬†I hastily scribbled down the recipe, hoping I had got all the measurements right. ¬†I am always looking for a good cookie recipe – something that is simple and quick with not too many ingredients or steps. ¬†These fit the bill. ¬†I love apple crumble so what could be better than a cookie based on those flavours, right? ¬†I did add cinnamon because I think that is ESSENTIAL when you are making anything with apple. ¬†So this is technically a six ingredient recipe, not five, but hey, I was never very good at maths anyway.

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Next time I make these, I am going to try leaving out the egg. ¬†I like a really crisp, crunchy cookie, and these were a little softer than I would normally make. ¬†Omitting egg from cookie recipes will generally give you a less “cakey” cookie. ¬†Don’t quote me on that – I’m not an expert. ¬†It’s just my experience.

So, anyway, here is the Apple Crumble Cookie recipe. ¬†Try them – they’re simple, no fuss, ¬†and delicious. ¬†Plus they have my Mum’s seal of approval, which is good enough for me.


Apple Crumble Cookies

Ingredients

100g dried apple
100g butter, cubed
100g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

Process apple in a food processor until it is chopped finely.

Add butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon and process again until it resembles bread crumbs.  Remove about 1/4 cup of this mixture and set aside.

Add egg to remaining mixture and process until a dough is formed.

Roll spoonfuls of dough into small balls, about the size of a walnut, and place on baking tray lined with baking paper.

Flatten with a fork.  Sprinkle set aside crumb mixture on top of each cookie.

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Bake at 200 C for 10-12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Apologies to Jamie Oliver for borrowing his recipe. ¬†But these deserve to be shared ūüôā

 

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High-Fibre Muesli Bars

I have a new baby nephew!¬† He’s very cute (as babies tend to be) and everyone is besotted and spending a lot of time gazing at him, taking photos, and generally coo-ing in his direction.¬† What is it about babies that makes everyone go a bit nutty?

In trying to help out my brother’s family, I baked a few meals to pop in the freezer and a few little treats to go in school lunchboxes, for bub’s four older siblings.¬† One such treat included these muesli bars (granola bars if you’re in the U.S.) that I¬†modified from a recipe found¬†at ¬†http://superhealthykids.com/.¬† I have to confess, I made the¬†munchkins¬†a batch and then, unwisely, made myself some.¬† I am not good at stopping at one treat – I will generally convince myself that I can have just one more, and just one more…and so on.¬† I am a bit binge-y these days.¬† I am consuming my emotions in vast quantities.¬† Which translates¬†to having no willpower whatsoever and basically just shoving food into my face, regardless of how large my thighs are getting or whether I can do up my pants.

At any rate, these muesli bars are quite delicious and super simple to make.¬† I was looking for something I could give the kids that was nut-free (because their school has a ban on foods containing nuts due to the rise in allergies) and this fit the bill.¬† Coconut is not a true nut (it’s considered a fruit, technically) so isn’t on the banned list (but do check to see if it’s ok with your school and allergy-prone kiddiwinks).¬† You should also check to see that the seeds used¬†are not from¬†a plant which also processes nuts.

I added flax meal to the original recipe to incorporate some extra fibre.¬† You could easily add some chopped dried fruit, dessicated coconut etc.¬†¬† Choc chips would be nice too ūüôā

 

Ingredients
  • 2 cup ‚Äď quick oats, dry
  • 2/3 cup ‚Ästraw caster¬†sugar
  • 1 cup ‚Äď flour, wholemeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon ‚Äď bicarb soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ‚Äď baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ‚Äď cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ‚Äď salt
  • 1 teaspoon ‚Äď vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup ‚Äď honey
  • 2 tablespoon ‚Äď coconut oil, melted if it has turned solid
  • 1/4 cup ‚Äď sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup ‚Äď pumpkin seed kernels
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax meal
Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients and press into rectangular pan, (mine was 32cm x 23cm) lined with baking¬†paper. The mixture will be really dry, kinda like crumble mixture.¬† That’s ok – that’s how it should be.¬† Trust me.
  2. Press mixture right to edges of pan.  Flatten with a fork.
  3. Bake at 160 degrees celsius for 20 minutes or until edges are browned. Take out and before it cools, score lightly into bars (mine made 15).  This makes it MUCH easier to break them into bars later.  Otherwise you just have a crumbly bunch of, well, crumbs, everywhere.
  4. Once completely cool, break or cut into bars and store them in an airtight container.

Ta-da!  Easy-peasy.

Superhealthykids.com has lots of simple, tasty, healthy recipes to try.  Check them out!

Thanks for dropping by.¬† Have an awesome week ūüôā

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Easy Lemon Delicious

Lemon Self-Flagellation Pudding. When you’re sad and hating yourself for being a not very good human being, cook a guilt-laden dessert for yourself and shove it in your gob. Salty tears and a scoop of remorse add a little savoury note.

It’s been a rough week. ¬†I hurt someone’s feelings and I feel terrible about it. ¬†I’ve apologised and I think they’ve forgiven me but I can’t get the yuckiness out of my brain.

¬†I’ve had to say goodbye to people this week, a dear friend lost her beloved four-legged best friend, I’m anxious and tired, and everything seems tricky and hard.

Feeling miserable and sad and not liking myself very much, I turned to food. ¬†Because that’s what I do. ¬†I have been trying so hard to be good but last night was NOT the time to be disciplined. ¬†So, baking was on the agenda. ¬†The fat and sugar-laden agenda.

I had some lemons that were beckoning me (they’re fruit – that’s healthy, right?) and I was not looking to create anything too difficult or taxing on my limited energy. ¬†I wanted comfort food. ¬†I wanted sweet, lemony, saucy comfort food. ¬†So I made a Lemon Delicious Self-Saucing Pudding. ¬†And then ate pretty much all of it. ¬†Hating myself with every bite. Crying over the bowl as I stood at the kitchen counter.

I use this recipe from¬†Best Recipes.com – it’s easy and fool-proof and takes no time at all to whip up and devour. ¬†Which is good if you want to bake it and eat it in record time¬†so there’s no evidence of your bad adulting left behind. Unless of course your brother comes home and catches you, standing in your PJs, sobbing into a steaming hot baking dish, your face smeared with lemon sauce and cake crumbs.

Lemon Delicious (Self-Saucing Pudding)

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon rind grated
  • 2 tbs butter melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon rind grated
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180C.
Sift the flour and pinch of salt together.
Add sugar and grated lemon rind, mixing well. Stir in melted butter, vanilla and milk.
Turn into a greased, ovenproof dish with deep sides.

Sauce: Sprinkle mixture with the sugar and lemon rind.
Combine boiling water and lemon juice and carefully pour over the mixture in the dish.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tears optional ūüôā

 

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Super Simple Banana Bread

My workplace has a “health and wellness” program, that includes providing the staff with a box of fruit each week (to encourage us to eat healthily and not rely on the coffee van for cakes, muffins and sweets). ¬†Inevitably, there is some fruit left at the end of¬†each week, especially now that we have a lot less staff to eat it all. ¬†So, I have been taking the leftovers home and making various baked goods with it. ¬†I can’t stand the waste otherwise. ¬†It might as well get eaten and not just thrown in the bin, right?

This week I had a few bananas that were overripe and needed using, so I made banana bread for my brother to take to his workplace for morning tea. ¬†From one workplace to another – I don’t care who eats it, as long as someone does!

Here is my very easy-to-make, simple banana bread recipe.  It takes no time at all to whip up and is very flavourful, even if you only have a couple of small bananas to put in to it.  It slices nicely and is equally good served at room temperature, or toasted up and spread with a little butter.  Keeps well and can be frozen.

Super Simple Banana Bread

2-3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten lightly

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, sugar, vanilla essence and melted butter.  Add the beaten egg and mix well.  Add the sifted flour and salt.  Stir until combined.  The mixture will be quite thick.

Put the batter in a loaf tin, lined with baking paper (or sprayed with non-stick spray, depending on the non-stick-ness of your tin!) and bake at 180 C for approx 30-50 minutes.
(NB : I have found that this cake takes very different amounts of time to bake depending on the amount of banana in it and whether or not you have a decent oven!
Check it after 30 mins, but be prepared that it may take longer).

Have a look every now and then to make sure it is not burning Рit has a fairly high sugar content Рcake is ready when it is just firm to the touch.  Allow to cool slightly in tin and turn out onto a rack.  Serve sliced, warm, with butter if you like.

That’s it – told you it was simple ūüôā ¬†It’s kind of a no-fail recipe and a good one to have in your¬†arsenal of “what can I bake for afternoon tea/unannounced guests/school bake sale?” ideas. ¬†Everybody likes banana bread, right?

Thanks for stopping by x

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