Tuesday, 28 June 2011


The whole idea of dieting has always horrified me because I love food so much. It's not even fatty food that I hanker after it's ALL food of many varieties. I couldn't bring myself to become one of these people who stands in the supermarket isle staring at the back of packets of health food to see if they can eat it. A dusty cracker is not food. This combined with the fact that most diets seem to make ludicrous suggestions like 'have a salad or some soup for dinner' means that I have never dared take one on. I have, however, began to discover that each number on your age can easily correlate with an extra inch on the waistline. A worrying trend indeed.

So imagine my surprise and delight on reading an article in Zest on grazing. When I say grazing I don't mean standing in a field chewing on grass with some black and white, horned buddies. I mean snacking on healthy treats in between meals. This doesn't have to mean an aforementioned dusty cracker as I discovered when I came across http://www.graze.com/. Here you get all sorts of yummy treats with lots of good heart boosting properties and stuffed with vitamins and all delivered to your door or work place. Today I have been tucking into Vanilla Seeds and they are absolutely delicious. Even better I have managed to avoid the triple chocolate chip cookies that are in my kitchen cupboard.

The theory with grazing is that by eating every few hours when you are hungry you avoid reaching the ravenous state before meals that drives you to eat enormous portions of whatever it is you have whipped up (or worse picked up on the way home!) It also regulates your blood sugar and keeps you fuelled up with energy. You are also more likely to get all the nutrients your body needs if you eat a greater variety of foods throughout the day. This is what really does it for me, a diet that means you get to eat more things! Perfect!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Sugar craft for (very lovely) dummies

I have always been a fan of cupcakes. Not just because they are amazing when stuffed into one's mouth but also because they are little mini works of art. There is nothing like spending an afternoon crafting them to perfection while singing along to the radio at the top of your voice to really restore the soul (if not the neighbours sanity). Luckily if you have driven your neighbours mental in the baking stage they will love you at the eating stage. Cupcakes are just meant to be given away and let’s be honest, we all love a bit of oohing and ahhing over our culinary creations.
In an effort to become a cupcake baker extraordinaire I went off for a lesson with the lovely Jo Taylor of Just Iced Cupcakes. At this session (don’t worry Jo I won’t give all your secrets away) and in my subsequent sugar crafting adventures (and misadventures!) I have discovered a few helpful things for the budding sugar crafter. I’m not saying I will make you into a professional baker but I can at least give you some hints and tips on creating gorgeous homemade cupcakes cheaply and as fast as you can sing though a Glee album.

To get sugar crafting there are only really a few things that you need.

  1. Some sugar paste. Obviously. Though not quite so easy if, like me, you are a cake decorating novice. There are loads and loads of varieties on the scene and no one likes to look like a cake dunce or end up with piles of sugar paste that they don’t know what to do with. So what you need is flower paste as it dries hard and is good for detailed work. A word of warning, this can dry out fast so you’re best to decide on a colour scheme for your cupcakes and just get a couple of colours or get a white pack and some food colouring (paste food colouring is good) and make up your own colours. I defiantly favour this now as you can get much richer colours – hot pink roses anyone?!
  2. A teeny tiny rolling pin. Quite frankly these are so cute you should own one anyway just for the sheer fun of it. These are basically smooth plastic rods that you use to roll out the sugar paste. You could also do with a non stick board to roll onto but if you don’t want to get this till later you can use icing sugar on your worktop to prevent the paste sticking but this does dilute the colour of your sugar paste a bit.
  3. Some cutters. You don’t have to have these, I will show you how to make roses without any equipment at all, but they are really cute. This is where sugar crafting gets very fun indeed and be warned it is easy to go a little crazy and own a whole menagerie of cutter animals.
  4. Some glitter. Again, this isn’t essential but oh so lovely. I would put glitter on my macaroni if I could get away with it.
And that is really it! There are some great stockists online and with this basic kit you can see if you like it before you start buying all sorts of kit you might not use.
Some good retailers to check out are:

Next time in cupcake school (much better than regualr school isn't it?!), how to make sugar roses. These really do cause people to collapse in awe of your domestic goddess skills, so well worth a try!