Learning to swim…oh, and eating banana bread

Look I know I’m supposed the be the parent here, but in all likelihood, I’m really just seven years old on the inside. Give me a pool and I want to do nothing more than to dive-bomb in and create a splash large enough the engulf all the sun loungers. Not this time though. This time I’m the responsible parent taking Ellis for his first swim. Yep that’s right. Just ten short weeks after (very slowly) entering the world he’s ready for his first swim.

Now swimming with a 10-week old is a new experience on me. Plus judging by the look of the five other nervous blokes in the pool it wasn’t their first time. It all started well enough with a few small splashes, followed by a few gentle bounces. Easy right? Our confidence was brimming and there were even a few ‘we’ve got this handled’ nods across the pool between the Dads…but then, they moved the lesson up a level and introduced dunking the infants.

Now dunking your most prized procession under the watchful eye of his mother, is pretty much up there when it comes to high pressure moments. It goes like this…You quietly say his name, followed by ‘ready!’ and under the water he goes for a very brief second. Easy right? I’m father #3 and have to watch two other Dads pull it off, whilst I nervously bob up and down wondering how much baby wee is actually in this pool.

We’re up. I can see Dad #6 bobbing around nervously in the corner of my eye giving me new found confidence. “Ellis…..ready” and under he goes popping out of the water like a frog that’s been picked up by his back. This is simultaneously followed by whoops and cheers around the pool. We did it and he’s loving the water. We should celebrate right? Maybe some back slapping? A bit more whooping? Nope. The instructor likes to celebrate by getting all six Dads to sing twinkle twinkle little star. So off we bounce whilst murmuring the nursery rhyme out the corner of our mouths.

Around this time I simultaneously start to crave banana bread whilst singing along, feeling vaguely annoyed we don’t have any (mostly because I haven’t made it before) and pressingly, given the context of this blog, why I don’t have a go to banana bread recipe.  So here it is. My go to banana bread recipe.

Chocolate & Banana Loaf Recipe 
125g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tsp baking powder
4 very ripe mashed bananas
100g dark chocolate
50g walnut pieces

Mashed Banana

Banana Bread Mixture

Grease a 900g loaf tin and line with baking paper and pre-heat your oven to 180°C. With an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar, Add the vanilla extract and eggs until combined. Sift the flour and baking powder into mixture and continue to mix. Once combined, add the mashed bananas. Once it’s all combined break up the chocolate and stir in with the walnut pieces.

Pour into the lined loaf tin and level out with a spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Best eaten with a mug of tea after a long swim.

Banana Bread Recipe

Coconut Rice Pudding Popsicles 

Throughout this summer I’ve had a few things on my agenda: A new baby (check), finish the house (check…sort of) and finally use the ice cream paleta mould that’s been kicking around the back of the cupboard. The arrival of the new baby has put any cooking ambitions on the back foot. Unless we can eat it cold or warm it up by the power of a microwave, we’ve not been interested. But whisper it quietly………he’s sleeping a bit longer. Yay! So I could either; Get some much-needed sleep or finally make some coconut paletas. I foolishly chose paletas.
Grated Ginger

Apricot & Coconut Rice Pudding Paleta
250ml full fat milk
200ml coconut milk
80ml double cream
1 finely chopped lemongrass stalk. Bark removed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 tablespoons paella rice
200g sugar
6 chopped dried apricots
Lemon grass

Ice Cream Mix

Chopped Apricots

I found this recipe on bon appétit and thought re-working a classic rice pudding into an ice cream sounded pretty good. Plus, I don’t have an ice cream maker kicking about and this recipe doesn’t need one. I’ve tweaked the recipe a tiny bit to make it a little more creamy with a bigger hit of vanilla.

Combine the milk, coconut milk, cream, lemongrass, ginger, and 1/2 vanilla paste in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the rice with water in a small bowl. Let it stand for 10 minutes to soften. Drain.

Strain ice cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan. Add rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer  until rice is very tender. About 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before combining the chopped apricots and sugar to the mix. Pour into the ice-cream moulds and freeze.

Coconut Rice Pudding Paleta

Fairytale Toy Box

I don’t remember much about turning 2 years old, in fact I don’t think I can remember anything from that age. But what I do know is that toys are the most important possessions you own and they provide endless hours of entertainment! However, for the parents it’s quite another story…a sore foot from the up-turned Lego block, a hidden piece of Play Doh in your bag in place of your pen, you get the idea.

With that in mind I was desperately trying to think of the best present to buy one my best friend’s little boy who turned 2 years old today. I had a wish list of Toys to choose from, but I really wanted to try and give him something that he could keep for a long time to come and that wouldn’t end up being another hurdle for my friends to jump over in the daily rush.

What better than somewhere to store the toys….how about a Toy Box?? After finding quite a basic varnished chest of a suitable size in my local charity shop, I trundled home with great ideas of how I was going to decorate it. But first I had the fun task of stripping the varnish off of the chest itself. Using Nitro Mors and quite a bit (actually a lot) of scrubbing and sanding (glad the weight sessions at the gym are coming to good use), I managed to get the wood to a suitable standard for painting.

There could only be one choice for the paint and that was our trusty chalk paint (used in many of our previous projects). After painting a fine coat of white over the whole chest, I waited until dry and roughly sanded all over. This then provided a blank canvas for me to decorate until my hearts content. I love stars and pretty much use them in a lot of the cushions, paintings, doodles I do, so that was my main pattern of choice. After making some various size star stencils out of card, I used these and four different colour paints to make a star pattern on the front and sides of the chest.

Inspired by the lettering on the rides of Brighton Pier I decided to create my own typography and paint the word ‘TOYS’ on the lid of the chest. I stenciled the letters onto the lid and then hand painted them in. It took some time, but then again I was a bit distracted by ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ on TV…yikes there are some interesting folks out there!

After all the stars and letters were painted, I lightly sanded them again to give it a bit more of a distressed look. Finally using one of my trusty kitchen sponges I rubbed a very light coat of paint over the stars and letters to enhance the vintage feel.

I finally fluttered my eyelashes at the hubby to attach the hinges for me and hey presto I finally had a toy box birthday present to be proud of!

And I am very pleased to report that the Toy box was very well received by both 2 year old and parents alike! Yey!

Sweet Potato Brownies

Twelve months ago, I attempted to shift my treat addiction into the sugar and dairy free category. I concluded that the best Paleo pudding was a sliced apple or square of dark chocolate. Pretty dull huh?  I had yet to discover anything as amazing as these sweet potato brownies. Then out of the blue we got pregnant. Yay! Suddenly, we were able to justify brownies with extra ice cream, lemon tart and any other goodies. Wait! What was that you said about butter and sugar? Okay, sure, I had a little bit. I mean, I’ve got to support Anna during the pregnancy right? Well, now the little fella is here I’m bang out of excuses. Time to get back on the sugar and dairy free bandwagon.

Sweet Potato Brownie Recipe

Now I know I’m not the first food blogger to post about these magical Ella Woodward sweet potato brownies. But when you want to unlock sweetness’s hold on richness, oh friends, please do make these brownie wonders. Those eagle eyed readers may have noticed I’ve slightly adapted the recipe. Firstly, because sourcing Medjool dates probably calls for a camel trek in Morocco. They’re pretty hard to source, so I’ve substituted them for Tunisian dates. You can get them in most health food shops. Secondly, I like my brownies to have a little bit of texture. The sweet potato makes these very creamy and adding the walnuts gives them that little bit of extra brownie like texture.

Pitted Dates
Dates for Sweet Potato Brownie recipe

Makes 10 – 12 brownies
600g sweet potatoes
16 Tunisian dates
80g ground almonds
100g buckwheat flour
20g walnut pieces
4 tbsp raw cacao powder
3 tbsp maple syrup

Sweet Potato Brownie Mix
Sweet Potato Brownie Mix

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into chunks. Place in a glass bowl with a tablespoon of water, cover with clingfilm and microwave for 12 minutes. Until they’re soft and fall apart.

Add the cooked sweet potato and pitted dates to a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pre-mix the remaining ingredients and stir into the creamy mixture. Stir well.

Place the mixture into a lined baking dish and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes, until you can pierce the brownie mix with a fork and it comes out dry. Remove the tray and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Sweet Potato Brownies
Sweet Potato Brownies

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