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Clean Eating Strawberry Bakewell Tart - GBBO week 5

I'm not going to get into talking about the news surrounding Bake Off and who is staying and who is going with the show moving channel, I'm going to enjoy it this year for what it is about...Baking and people's passion for baking.

So for pastry week, I wanted to join in without piling on the calories so decided to try to adapt a bakewell tart into a 'clean eating' bakewell tart.

Just to clarify what 'Clean' eating means to me - it is not about 'good' food and 'bad' food as I totally believe in a healthy balance and occasional treats. For me it is about using healthier alternatives to refined sugar and flour where possible and just trying to make recipes that little bit healthier.

So in the case of the Bakewell tart this meant, using fresh berries (I used strawberries just because I had some in the fridge) rather than sugary jam, making a pastry from different ingredients to the usual flour and butter and trying to make an almondy filling without refined sugar.

So for the pastry case I used Henrietta Inman's recipe for Hazlenut pastry (I have the wonderful Clean Cakes book which I often rave about but you can also find the pastry recipe here).  I made half the recipe quantity which made two small tarts and two tiny thumprint tarts with the leftover pastry.

I decided upon the hazlenut pastry rather than an almond pastry that is also in the book (and also found here) because I didn't want it to become too almondy as it has the almond frangipane style filling.

Once the pastry was baked and cooled, I filled with a layer of my 'clean eating frangipane'. This was a simple mix of 50g ground almonds, 1 tbsp maple syrup, a bit of non-aroma coconut butter, and a splash of Rude Health Almond drink.

Finally for the 'jam' I blitzed up some fresh strawberries (very approx 200g?) together with chopped dates (approx 40g) with a spoonful of chia seeds. Again the actual proper recipe can be found in Henrietta's Clean Cakes book or there are loads of Chia Jam recipes online but I just tend to guesstimate. I did prefer using dates to sweeten it as normally I use maple syrup but somehow I felt the dates worked better. I love that there is no faffing about with cooking this jam and it tastes so fresh because of being raw.

Finally some sliced almonds and a drizzle of dark chocolate to garnish and my clean eating strawberry bakewell tart was ready!

In the interests of honesty, the kids didn't enjoy it much, but me and Richard loved it as we've grown used to using lots more of these healthy ingredients lately.

Reading about Mummy Mishap's chocolate pastry this week, reminded me of when I did make some proper pastry that turned out really well earlier in the year - you can read my full post here but even I was impressed with myself - which never happens!

Linking up with Mummy Mishaps Great Bloggers Bake Off

Mummy Mishaps

Getting out of the lunchbox rut thanks to Flora!

I am genuinely and sincerely grateful to Flora for sending us a cute lunchbox with a little leaflet of ideas for kid's packed lunches. Whilst school dinners have come a long way since I was a child, sadly when it comes to packed lunches it is all too easy to get stuck in a lunchbox rut. Which is exactly where we were.

It has been a case of same old sandwich, cereal bar and pack of crisps for a long time now so it was great to have an opportunity to shake things up a bit for the better.

In fact, we're not the only ones... "A Flora-commissioned University of Leeds study recently revealed that only 1.6% of children in England receive a packed lunch that meets the nutritional standards set for school meals, with just 17% of lunches containing any kind of vegetables or salad. Flora wants to change that!"

The little guide containing tips and ideas follows a 'lunchbox builder' plan where you create a main from some suggested ideas, then add a snack or two and finally 2 portions of fruit or veg from your 5 portions a day.

It also has some themed lunch ideas like 'Florasaurus', 'Stegasaurus' and so on - but I stuck with the main lunchbox builder guide and found it SO useful!

My own tips for getting kids to eat their five a day as part of their pack lunch involve making fruit and veg a little different and fun.

My kids adore fruit crisps from Nim's* which are 100% natural and count as one of your five a day so that is one of the things they often ask for in their lunchboxes.

Presenting fruit as fruit kebabs or rolled up in wraps also makes it more fun and appealing to kids.

Spiralising vegetables like these carrots and popping it into little silicone cake cases is another fun thing to do with fruit and veg!

Now before you judge me as giving my kids unhealthy food when you see these rainbow sprinkles, please hear me out first...I spotted the concept of 'fairy bread' in a magazine recently - quite simply bread with butter or spread (or in this case Flora), and Pinterest is rife with the stuff. 

So I wanted to have a go at making my own...

And then giving it a healthier twist...

So in our healthy version of 'fairy bread' we have wholegrain bread, spread with Flora Original and topped with pieces of dried fruit (We used Nim's Kiwi & Pineapple 100% natural air-dried crisps and Orange Nim's crisps broken into small pieces and mixed with freeze dried raspberry).

Not only did it look super but when given to D to do the all important taste test, he actually preferred the healthy version of fairy bread - *fist pump* - Yes!

This post is an entry for the #FloraLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Flora. Check out their lunch planner and recipe ideas here 

Flora kindly sent us the lunchbox and a voucher to purchase Flora with. 

*I work with Nim's Fruit Crisps as my 'day job' but my honest opinion is that I adore them so much! 

A Wicked Weekend in London

Once in a while it is nice to put the camera down and visit somewhere with absolutely no intention of blogging about it. After writing so much about our trip to Dubai recently, I wanted to actually take a bit of a rest from blogging about any trips. But we had such a fabulous weekend, and blogging seems to be a wonderful escape - quite therapeutic really - so here I am doing a quick write up.
It was a pretty momentous occasion actually - our first break away from the kids since they were born - that's over 12 years! So as much as I love my children - it was very much needed.

We owe Granny a huge thank you as without her agreeing to look after the kids, there was no way we could have gone. Each of them has certain needs (J with his Aspergers, Miss T with Juvenile Arthritis and D with his current broken wrist) - so it is a big ask asking anyone to take care of all three of them overnight.

We headed up on Friday lunchtime, missed the worst of the rain and grabbed lunch at Five Guys. The lovely staff at Five Guys were telling me that they'd been open there right next to Charring Cross for around 3 years and yet we'd never heard of them. It was actually on our trip to Dubai that one of the taxi drivers had actually excitedly told us that they had Five Guys in Dubai.

Anyhow we ended up feeling VERY full after our burger and fries (and yes the healthy eating went totally out the window!) so we made our way to the hotel.

Our overnight stay in London was actually courtesy of Renshaw Baking and a Valentine's competition they ran (it really has taken us this long to arrange childcare etc to be able to go) and the prize was "A 4*London Hotel Stay with Theatre Tickets for 2" via Virgin Experience days.

When booking, we didn't put much thought into it and went for Kensington Close hotel and Wicked as the show. I did a quick tripadvisor search for the hotel and there seemed to be mixed reviews leaving me a little wary.

Well one of the reasons I did decide to write something up is because the hotel was actually wonderful. It was a smart, clean, comfortable hotel. The beds were comfortable and it had all the basics you would need. I was impressed with things like the coat hooks that are often lacking in accomodation. The room was small but fine for just the two of us for a 1 night stay. For future reference I did enquire about whether any of their rooms could accomodate 5 people and frustratingly like so many other hotels, families of 5 just aren't catered for.

I think we had been totally spoilt by staying at The Rove in Downtown Dubai because it did make this 4 star hotel seem rather less than 4 star because Rove was so fabulous despite considering themselves to be a budget hotel.

So little extras like a box of tissues in the room, which we had at Rove, and complimentary use of the swimming pool and the selection of food at breakfast - Rove had it all. Yet at Kensington Close there was an extra charge to use the swimming pool (something I have never come across despite having stayed in many hotels with pools). Breakfast was fine but the selection was not as huge as what we've had in other hotels. Even hotels like the LEGOLAND hotel and Novotel hotels we've recently stayed at had a far better selection for breakfast.

We did go for a swim on Friday afternoon. A word of caution about the ladies sauna (saunas were separate for men and women) - There were rough sawn wood splinters which luckily didn't go in my skin but totally wrecked my swimsuit. I mentioned this to two separate members of staff so hopefully they will get it seen to, but no-one offered to pay for a replacement swimsuit or at the very least waive our pool fee which I thought was disgraceful.

Friday evening we headed over to the Apollo theatre and grabbed a quick bite to eat at Pret. I was SO impressed with their healthy eating choices. It was the first time I'd been to Pret in ages so it was the first time I was conscious of just how brilliant their healthy options were.

Wicked was utterly amazing - We thoroughly enjoyed the show and headed back to the hotel exhausted.

Saturday morning was the first lie-in we'd had for about 12 years too - so we headed down to breakfast at a leisurely pace. Then packed the grand total of about 3 items of clothing we'd brought with us and head to the V&A museum. Another first for me as I had never been before. I really enjoyed seeing the Iranian artefacts in particular.

To make the most of our time away from the kids, we'd booked to do a macaroon cookery class at L'atelier des chefs at St Paul's so that was next stop after grabbing a drink from LEON.

Our macaroons turned out brilliantly compared to previous attempts at home so that made us smile. Then it was back to Charring Cross, another burger at Five Guys for dinner and home.

By the time today came round, we were already wishing to get away from the kids again!!!

Here's Miss T enjoying the macaroons we made:
A photo posted by Rebecca Beesley (@rebeccabeesley) on


Dubai Diaries - Day 4 - Adventures at Aquaventure

Written on Sunday 4th September 2016 (apologies for photo quality - most taken with a waterproof camera at waterpark)

It's now 6am Sunday 4th September. We arrived home yesterday lunchtime UK time after a comfortable yet busy flight home with Emirates having had to wake up super early at 4am Dubai time making it a really long day by the time we got unpacked and to bed last night.

I have a 'note to self ' to add at this point. ..do not read an emotional book on an airplane. I blubbed my eyes out all the way home reading Jennifer Niven's All The Bright Places. Such a beautiful book.
Friday was our last full day in Dubai. Just like the other days we had a packed schedule with Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm Dubai. The plan was to then have lunch at Kaleidoscope, followed by The Lost Chambers Aquarium.

Well you know what they say about best laid plans and all that. In Dubai Friday and Saturday are the weekend days so I can only imagine that there may have been a mix up in communication from those organising our visit and the weekend staff on duty as they were not expecting us.

This led to a delay in getting our wristband entrance tickets sorted and getting started. A couple of other hiccups meant that we didn't get started at Aquaventure until after midday despite leaving our hotel as planned at 10am.
Aquaventure waterpark is located at The Atlantis, Palm Dubai - A stunning building inside and out!

I'm going to give you our top tips later in this post to make things run smoothly. In our situation the staff told us that there was no way we'd be able to finish by 2pm for our meal and sent me over to speak to hotel security about changing our meal time. He reassured us that we could take as long as we needed and then head over for our meal whenever we wanted. So with that (seemingly) sorted we headed into the Aquaventure waterpark and had an amazing time.

You would need to allow a long day if you want to enjoy everything - the place doesn't close until late in the evening so if you have that long, then stay and enjoy everything.

We prioritised the lazy river and torrents, the rapids, the kids splash area with kids slides and pouring buckets, shark attack (sadly with no sharks due to maintenance ), zoomerango, and leap of faith (sadly with no sting rays to see again due to maintenance.)

We also popped briefly to the beach/sea area just to tick it off our bucket list. It was really quiet on the beach and had stunning views of the Burj al Arab in the distance. The kids wanted to get back to the rides so we didn't spend long on the beach.

We had a quick peek at the dolphins in dolphin bay.
By the time we did all this (and we estimate that this was around half of what was on offer) this took up most of the day. When we headed for our Kaleidoscope meal we were told that Kaleidoscope was now closed until later in the evening (3 different people told us different times of when it was due to re-open). After racing around the hotel in an attempt to find someone who knew about our visit and could make a phone call for us we had to resign ourselves to the fact that we'd have to leave Kaleidoscope and The Lost Chambers aquarium for our next trip to Dubai. We are determined to come back to this amazing city!

We headed back to Rove hotel for our evening meal before packing ready for our early start the next day.

As promised, here are our top tips for Aquaventure Waterpark :
  • Arrive early and stay late to allow yourselves enough time for everything
  • Take as little as possible with you - the standard lockers are tiny
  • Extra lockers and larger lockers are available at extra charge so that is another option if you really can't travel light.
  • Bring some form of beach footwear with you. We had brought our crocs all the way to Dubai but we had no idea that we would need them for Aquaventure so hurriedly had to purchase shoes to wear on the day as we were told we'd be 'at risk' without them. Indeed we saw plenty of red burnt feet for those who were attampting to walk around without footwear because the ground really is hot enough to burn your feet very quickly.
  • Crocs and flip flops are fine for getting from place to place but aren't permitted in the water or on the rides. They advised us to wear the wet-suit type beach shoes which they said would be permitted in the water and on rides. It turns out that they are only permitted on some rides so we still had to remove them and hold them for some things.
  • Glasses aren't permitted on the fast rides so again I was having to hold them and then not be able to see anything as mine are prescription sunglasses. 
  • They are really hot on safety which is brilliant. There are lifeguards positioned everywhere and we even watched them doing a practise rescue with a lifesize doll.
  • They stuck strictly to the height restrictions which for most things seemed to be 120cm. Again fantastic from a safety point of view but to be aware of if you have little ones too you need to plan to swap around. 
For our family this meant that there was very little that Miss T could join in with. We only found the lazy river and the kids splash area that were suitable for her and she didn't enjoy the lazy river as she capsized in her ring at one point. The kids splash area then got closed for an hour for cleaning when someone had an accident which is great that they take hygiene so seriously. But if you do have a younger member of the family,  logistically you just need to plan to take turns on the rides so that someone can stay with the little one. 

Safety is high priority - there were lots of lifeguards on duty

Life vest for children were provided free of charge
Like most of Dubai, the whole place was clean. The changing rooms were a pleasure to use with shower gel and shampoo provided for use in the showers. The floors were kept clean and dry. 

Towel hire is available or you can take your own.  Some people had got their towels at the start and used them to reserve sunloungers but as sunlounging was not something we were planning to do we only got our towels at the end. 

This caused a bit more of a delay as there is no towel pick up near the changing rooms and yet you need the paper ticket they give you to pick up your towel.  So this involved a bit of to-ing  and fro-ing to go to locker,  get tickets,  go back into the park to get towels then back to the locker room to get changed.  

With Dubai being so technologically focused we were impressed with the barcode wristbands being scanned for entry to the park and to access lockers and yet towel vouchers are issued on paper receipts and so are meal vouchers if you are eating at a beachside fast food restaurant like Shark bites or Barracudas where you can stay in your swimwear.  So being wet and carrying around paper tickets is not a good combination! 

Our final bug bear with this place was that smoking was permitted and in my book places with lots of kids around and smoking permitted is not a good mix. 

Oh and remember plenty plenty plenty of suncream. Spending so much time in the water makes you forget that the temperature is over 40 and unless you keep reapplying that suncream you are going to get burnt. 

Overall this is a great place to visit which is so nearly perfect. For us our timings went awry but if you allow plenty of time, and are aware of the small lockers and the need for beach shoes, then you should have a fantastic time as the rides are brilliant.

This was our last full day in Dubai but I hope to write a summary post at some point too to round up all our adventures. 

And here is some further info that Aquaventure and Kaleidoscope have provided: 

  • Aquaventure is the largest and most dynamic water-themed attraction in all of Dubai and the number one Waterpark in the Middle East and Europe. 
  • Set among 17 hectares (42 acres), this non-stop water experience consists of several extraordinary water slides, extensive river ride action with cascades, tidal waves and rapids. The lush tropical landscape is traversed by over two kilometres of water adventure; The Rapids circumnavigate and lead into the thrilling Mesopotamian styled Tower of Poseidon which stands in the centre of the action, reaching 40 m (100 feet) into the sky. The Tower Of Poseidon features five heart pumping, record-breaking rides.
  • Voted best waterpark in the Middle East and 3rd best in the world by Trip Advisor
  • The Aquaventure waterscape contains 18 million litres of fresh water used to power a huge variety of thrilling waterslides, a 2.3 kilometre river ride with tidal waves and pools, water rapids and white water chargers. 
  • Aquaventure is the only waterpark in The Middle East that offers Marine Animal Experiences including: Shark Safari, a delightful walk on the bottom of the Shark Lagoon, Cownose Ray Feeding, in the water interacting and feeding the hungry rays. 
  • Resort guests of Atlantis have unlimited complimentary access to Aquaventure Waterpark as admission is included in the guest room rate. For more information see: www.atlantisthepalm.com/marine-water-park/aquaventure-waterpark
Prices for visitors start from:
  • £44 (AED 250) for those above a height of 1.2 meters
  • £36 (AED 205) for those below 1.2 meters
  • Children aged 0-2 years of age can enter free of charge. 
Kaleidoscope is a truly international buffet breakfast, international lunch and dinner buffet with main focus on European Mediterranean cuisine, complemented by cuisines of Northern Africa, India and the Levant region. A mosaic pizza oven prepares fresh pizzas, as well fresh pasta and traditional curry and tandoors.

A huge thank you to Visit Dubai and Tots100 (special thanks to Extraordinary Chaos blog too as it was via Richard's comment on Sarah's blog that won!) 


Things can only get batter...(sorry!) Week 4: GBBOBloggers2016

Regular readers will know that disasters feature heavily in my kitchen. Despite my best attempts I am often left with #epicfail and #pinterestfail style results.
So for GBBO batter week, I decided to attempt the easiest option - Pancakes! I mean what can go wrong with pancakes! In fact, pancakes are so easy that I decided to impose the GBBO time limit of 1 hour on myself and stick to the rule about 1 test pancake and the next 12 to be served up.

I'm actually almost too embarrassed to show the results - the test pancake was pure and utter disaster.

Things did improve....marginally.

Left to right, top to bottom in order here are my final 12 Paul Hollywood style lace pancakes.

Thanks to the lovely Angela at Only Crumbs Remain, I even had the book to bake along with so there is no excuse really. I did use hubby's pancake recipe which is not an exact science so perhaps that didn't help (125g plain flour, 1 egg, half a pint liquid made up from milk and a bit of water, and I added a tablespoonish of sugar).

So here I am, head hanging in shame, and linking up with Mummy Mishaps #GBBOBloggers2016

Oh and it took me one hour and 12 minutes rather than the permitted hour.

There's nothing more to say really except batter luck next time I hope (sorry again!)

Mummy Mishaps

Dubai Diary Day 3: Butterflies and Burj Khalifa

Written on Thursday 1st September 2016

Today was day 3 which means tomorrow is our last full day before heading home at the crack of dawn on Saturday.

We actually felt really quite emotional today as it was our last day with our fabulous tour guide Dainis who has been such a big part of our experience here in Dubai. He's got us safely to all the places on our itinerary, liaised with the minibus drivers, ensured tickets to attractions were ready for us, joined us for some of our visits and shared his passion and knowledge about Dubai with us.

He is such an all round nice fellow that we really didn't want to say goodbye to him.

After enjoying another wonderful breakfast at Rove hotel it was off to visit the Dubai butterfly garden. It is located alongside Dubai Miracle Garden. The Miracle Garden itself is closed for the summer season because it is not sustainable during these hotter months (and it really is hot hot hot). There is such little rainfall that anything that grows needs to be irrigated.

And one of the mega impressive things we've discovered about Dubai is that they take sustainability seriously. Given the rapid rate of development here it would be easy to believe that it is building at any cost but actually they are not prepared to adversely impact the environment.

We’ve learned that water is desalinated from the sea and recycled. We found out that the water used for the gardens at the Base of the Burj Kalifa is gathered from condensation from the Burj itself (a whopping 15 million gallons a year!) You can read more about that here.

The locals respect the natural eco system of the sand dunes and whilst they enjoy certain activities on the dunes they tend not to endorse dune bashing which tourists may often engage in.

So back to the butterfly garden, as much as I would have loved to experience the Miracle Garden, I found myself pleased to hear about the reason why it closes in summer.

The butterfly garden in itself is worth a quick visit. It is a little out of town to get there and there is a lot of construction work going on at the moment en route and around the area where the butterfly garden is located.

There were a series of butterfly domes forming a circular route to follow so you end up back at the start once you've finished. Within each there were 'cage' areas that you could go into to see specific species of butterflies more closely.

A member of staff showed the kids how to carefully hold a butterfly on their finger and so they got to hold quite a few.

Our guide seemed to be popular with the butterflies and they kept landing on him!

Once finished here, we were dropped off back at downtown and headed to the mall saying our goodbyes to Dainis.

Our itinerary sadly didn't include a trip to the Burj Kalifa and yet we all felt strongly that a trip to Dubai wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Burj so we used our free afternoon to tick this world famous attraction off our bucket list.

We had prebooked tickets for the Burj Kalifa so grabbed a bite to eat in the mall before heading up.

I have to admit that I was fearing the worst in terms of queues and crowds and I was left extremely impressed. There were no queues or crowds and it was a really straightforward and enjoyable experience.

My favourite view from the Burj was overlooking the fountains that we had enjoyed so much on Tuesday evening. They looked stunning from above too with the beautiful blue colour!

Although we haven't had time for proper mall shopping here, there was one part of the mall I was itching to see. I'd seen online photos of a walkway covered with umbrellas which looked so delightfully colourful and I wanted to see them for real.

We'd rushed past that area on Tuesday but hadn't had a chance to stop and look properly. After a bit of getting lost we found it in 'The Village' part of the mall.

Then it was a cab back to the hotel a dip in the pool after dark. Seeing the Burj Kalifa lit up at night whilst swimming in the pool was another surreal and amazing experience. Dinner at The Daily restaurant with Miss T's favourite waitress taking care of us was a great end to today.

It's now 11.30pm and once again my eyelids feel heavy so I know I need some sleep.

It may well be our last day tomorrow but it is no less busy than any of the other days and it should be a good one!

We won this amazing experience which was truly a holiday of a lifetime via Visit Dubai and Tots100 (special thanks to Extraordinary Chaos blog too as it was via Richard's comment on Sarah's blog that won!)