victoria-sponge-cake

The Art and Science of the Perfect Victoria Sponge


A Victoria Sponge is a British classic loved by young and old. Many a competent cook began his or her learning by helping mother or grandmother bake a golden, high-rise cake, just oozing with home made jam, for tea. Like all baking, there is some serious science behind the deliciousness, so this article first offers a simple-to-follow recipe, and then goes on to look at the reasons why it works.

The Recipe

Ingredients

225g (8oz) unsalted butter or margarine

225g (8oz) castor sugar4 large eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tblsp of milk or water to add if necessary

For the filling:

425ml (3/4 pint) whipped cream (optional) strawberry jam

You will also need: 2 x 20cm (8 inch) sandwich tins

Method

1  Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/360 degrees F/Gas mark 4.

2  Prepare two 20cm (8inch) sandwich tins by greasing them thoroughly and lining the base with non stick parchment. All the ingredients should be at room temperature.

3  Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until it is soft and pale.Add the sugar and continue beating. It will soon become light and fluffy.

4  Sift the flour and baking powder together.

5  Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat them lightly.

6  Add the eggs a spoonful at a time to the batter mix, beating in a tablespoonful of the flour to every two or three spoonfuls of egg.Using a large metal spoon, fold in the sieved flour to the egg and butter mixture.

7  The mix is ready if it falls gently off the spoon.  If not, add a tablespoonful of water to loosen it very slightly.

8  Divide the mixture equally between the two prepared tins.

9  Tap the tins down gently to expel any large air pockets and level the cakes.

10 Place into the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes.

11 When ready, a cocktail stick or bamboo skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will come out clean, and the top will be gently browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack and remove the baking parchment.

12 When completely cool, prepare the filling with the strawberry jam and cream if using and sandwich the two sponges together.

13 Dust the cake with icing or caster sugar.

TV Chef Jamie Oliver has a step-by-step photo guide to producing a Victoria Sponge here

The Science

The Ingredients

The difference between self-raising and plain flour, is the amount of gluten it contains.  Gluten is the stretchy stuff which is developed by kneading when making bread.  We don’t want that here, because it will make our sponge tough, so always use sieved self-raising flour for sponges, and plain for breads.

Butter needs to be softened before using, but soft margarine will work straight from the fridge.  Margarine gives a finer texture, and butter a better flavour, so you can use half and half if you like.

The Method

The reason for beating the sugar and butter together is to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible.  The mix becomes quite light and fluffy from all the little trapped air bubbles.  We continue to beat the mixture after adding the eggs to trap even more air. But once the flour is introduced we need to treat the mixture gently, because we do not want to activate the gluten.  At this stage we simply fold in the flour gently with the edge of a metal spoon.

The reason for adding the spoonful of flour with the eggs, is to prevent the mixture from separating.  This happens when the balance between the liquid and the solids breaks down, and it causes air to be lost, so a heavier cake.

The rest of the flour is sieved into the bowl and folded gently in with a metal spoon to preserve as much as possible of the trapped air.

The Cooking Process

During the cooking process, there are three ways the cake is made to rise. The chemical raising agents in self-raising flour and baking powder combine to produce carbon dioxide, and the air particles expand, then moisture in the mix turns to steam and expands. The egg in the mixture begins to coagulate and form the structure of the cake by trapping the expanded gases.

Once all the proteins have set, and the outside has browned nicely, the cake can be tested with a cocktail stick or skewer.  When that returns clean from the centre of the cake, it is ready to be turned out.  The sponge will shrink slightly from the edges of the pan as it cools, and be easier to remove from the pan, thus reducing the need for handling the hot cake.

So now you can follow the simple recipe, and you know the science behind why it has to be done the way it is.  But one thing science can’t explain is why licking the uncooked batter from the mixing bowl is such a treat!

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Muffins

Apple Carrot Muffins


Apple Carrot Muffins are ideal for getting your children to eat for fruits and vegetables. This fool proof recipe below will leave your children asking for more.

These muffins are great for various times during the day. They can be eaten at breakfast, for children’s lunches, as a snack after school or even after diner.

This recipe yields 12 large muffins. You can also make mini muffins, since they appeal more to children. These muffins can be frozen for later.

What you will need :

–          150 g of plain wholemeal flour

–          50 g of granulated sugar

–          25 g dried skimmed milk powder

–          1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder

–          ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

–          ½ teaspoon of ground ginger

–          ¼ teaspoon of salt

–          125ml of vegetable oil

–          60ml of honey

–          60ml of maple syrup

–          2 eggs, lightly beaten

–          ½ teaspoon of vanilla essence

–          1 large apple

–          75g of carrots

–          75g of raisins

Instructions :

1. Take the large apple and carrots, peel them and grate them. If your child normally doesn’t like apples and carrots, you could use apple and carrot puree with the same weight.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180C ( 350F/ Gas 4 ).

3. Take a large bowl and mix together the following ingredients: flour, skimmed milk powder, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and ginger.

4. In another bowl, mix together the honey, maple syrup, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla essence. Beat with a whisk until blended.

5. Add the apple, carrots and raisons to the second bowl and stir until just combined.

6. Combine wet and dry ingredients and fold together gently.

7. Take a muffin tray and fill each cup until two-thirds full.

8. Bake for 20 to 25 minuets, until golden brown.

9. Allow to cool before serving.

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happy_meal_menu

4 Reasons I’m FOR the Happy Meal


While I’m not out marching to re-instate the Meal that is Happy I’m also (to my friends’ & readers’ shock & dismay) not out campaigning to spread the ban from San Francisco across the nation.

Allow me to share with you why:

1.       The Happy Meal is a teaching tool.  My child is on the receiving end if myriad NOs! even at the young age of 4 1/2.  That said, each NO she receives is fodder for an age appropriate discussion about why.  We visit our local McDonalds a couple of times a month for some playscape-time & a snack of apples and milk.  I deliberately choose this fast food emporium because of the conversations & opportunities it provides me to parent.  Which leads me to…

 2.       The Happy Meal is only the first of many.  Given my tattoos and quirky clothing choices people often assume I am a permissive parent. Hello cover not indicative of the book!  Sure I’d be all in if we could ban Happy Meals, age inappropriate skimpy clothing, R rated movies viewed by tweens, a few certain trashy pre-teen book series etc etc—-but we cannot.  In my eyes the Happy Meal is only the first of many realizations my child will have that other kids can do things/eat things she cannot.  At the age of 4 ½ she already can carry on her *own* conversation with regards to this:  Why can she have ____ and I can’t? (dramatic pause) I know, Mama. Because she’s not your girl (exceedingly long melodramatic sigh).

3.       One girl’s Happy Meal is another Mom’s Pop-tart.  We may not consume Happy Meals in this family, but we do have our share of junk in the house.  The ban caused me to realize while I scoffed! & was horrified! anyone would choose to feed a child a Happy Meal my affinity for the Pop-tarts (insert your junk food of choice here)  isn’t really all that different.  I wasn’t the most popular mom on the block when I pointed out to friends we don’t always practice the healthy eating we preach and we seem to be doing ok—-but it appears to be true.  Do I eat junk food daily? No.  Do I have me some chocolate brown sugar cinnamon occasionally? I have to say yes.  And I’m still pretty healthy 80% of the time and don’t want my Pop-tarts banned.

4.      (All of the above said I’m painfully aware:) It takes a village.  Of course I want all of our kids to eat healthy, non-hormone laden, organic foods.  Yes I’m all too aware 15% of American children are overweight putting them at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  Yes it breaks my heart that, in some states, childhood obesity is over 30 percent.  I simply do not believe a ban is the answer—I believe education is.  I’m grateful for the access I have to information others may not and spend hours a week writing & filming videos about this stuff for free.  Teaching, in this woman’s opinion, beats the proverbial pants off a ban any day as the more I’m told I cannot have something the more ALLURING that something becomes.  Teach me why I do NOT WANT IT & I’ll make different choices willingly.

The Editor’s Review:

Not all parents are as awesome as you are with knowing, teaching, balancing.

The laws are not banning Happy Meals, just the practicing of giving a toy with meals marketed to kids that don’t meet certain (minimal) nutrition guidelines. I see that as an extension of the FCC rules that prevent the marketing of junk food using kids cartoon characters.

I am not a junk-food vigilante, but I have learned about nutrition over the years. My kids are past Happy Meal stage. When they were younger I had no clue about nutrition and regularly bought them Happy Meals. I teased my son that he wasn’t really “mine” because he didn’t like the fries. My teenage son left me a grocery list note: “If my [sister] gets Toaster Strudel, I get Pop Tarts.” Now, my daughter calls me from college to ask for her favorite Cooking Light recipes. I just had a Fudgy Pumpkin Brownie for breakfast – but it was a healthy fitblog recipe and the cocoa is a good source of anti-oxidants. 😉

I generally support these laws. The food industry is like the tobacco industry with their insidious ways of getting us to eat cr@p (adding salt, sugar, fat, etc. to foods where we least expect it because our bodies are hard-wired to want those foods). They resist providing nutrition information, and don’t make it easily accessible (I’ve had to email McDs to get info on their oatmeal and smoothies- its not on their websites).

They price unhealthy choices much cheaper than the healthy ones. (A Happy Meal is cheaper than a grilled chicken sandwich or salad.) They actively market unhealthy food to kids!

If only getting a toy when you get a meal with milk and apple slices/carrots instead of soda and fries encourages parents to think twice about what they are ordering for their kids, I don’t see the harm. Yes, it is Big Brother-ish, but given the manipulative ways of the food industry, I guess I am willing to put up with the government intrusion to help with the imbalance of power/information.

Hhhm, would I support a law that bans giving a toy inside sugary cereal boxes? Probably.

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How To Use A Vibrator

Every woman is different; therefore each and every woman wants different ways in terms of how to get pleasured or how to finger yourself. There really is no standard or “right” way to get an orgasm using a vibrator. You may have the best vibrator out there but you would still need to work with it and get to know it and your body for you to achieve climax.

It is important that you are sexually aroused when you start to learn how to use a vibrator, as climax for women are as much in the mind as it is in the body.

Get comfortable with your toy, know how it works first and practice using it in different ways and trying out its features. Do not be afraid to experiment, be creative and find a style that work for you and your vibrator.

If you have a vibrator that can be inserted, try using it internally as well as externally. Try this technique:

Hold the base facing upwards (to yourself) and use the tip to touch your clitoris, let it vibrate there for a while varying the stimulation style, then add lubrication and get ready to insert the shaft. From the tip, slide the shaft downwards between your labia and insert the vibrator in a sliding motion into you vagina. Slide back up and repeat.

Try using the Lelo Iris Personal Massager as it has two motors, on the base and at the tip. You will get vibrating stimulation on the way down and all the way back up from tip to base, assuring your clitoris and internal vagina adequate stimulation simultaneously.

The Lelo Iris is a smooth insertable vibrator so you can change it up or use it both ways depending on your mode. It also has five different types of stimulation that will give you a more variety depending on what style you like. It’s great that the Lelo Iris is a vibrating shaft because you can use it externally or internally, depending on what gets you off.

So I hope this little guide helped you a little for how to use a vibrator.

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3 Reasons to Have Your Air Conditioner Cleaned and Tuned Up in Atlanta

Our central air conditioners get a workout here in Atlanta and surrounding areas. Like anything mechanical (cars, computers, lawn mowers), they need proper cleaning and maintenance to deliver the best performance and durability.

Here are 3 reasons it is absolutely essential that you have your central air conditioning system – the outside condensing unit and the inside air handler or furnace – checked, cleaned and tuned up on a regular basis by an HVAC professional.

*See your owner’s manual for the time frame in which you should have this done. Some manufacturers even require it for the warranty to remain in full effect, which is just another reason to have your air conditioner cleaned and tuned up!

Cleaning and tuning the air conditioner will reduce mechanical problems

No Hot-Lanta area resident wants their central air conditioner to fail on one of our lovely 95 degree, 90% humidity days, right? Mechanical problems are the result of maintenance issues adding up. These include low refrigerant due to use or leaks, dirty coils, moving parts that need to be lubricated to prevent undue wear, partially plugged drain lines, components like the blower fan that are out of adjustment, and more. Regular cleaning and maintenance will help fix these problems as well as the hassle and expense they produce!

A tuned up, clean central air conditioner will give you the best efficiency.

Many of us buy high-efficiency central air conditioners in order to keep our monthly energy bills under control. An improperly maintained unit will suffer from reduced efficiency. If you have a 16 SEER central air conditioner that is only performing at 8 SEER – a distinct possibility if there are multiple maintenance issues – then you are paying twice as much to cool your home as you should be.

It is easy to see how having a qualified Atlanta HVAC contractor service your system will pay for itself many times over! This is especially true when you consider the last of the 3 reasons to have your central air conditioner cleaned and tuned.

An improperly tuned or dirty air conditioner will fail prematurely

You paid good money for that central air conditioner or heat pump, and repairs or replacement are expensive! A well-tuned and maintained central air conditioner should last for 15 years or more, even when workhorse duty is demanded of it here in metro Atlanta! Having to replace the unit in 8 or 9 years instead of 15 to 20 will hit your wallet hard. Even a unit that is under warranty when it breaks will be costly because most warranties do not cover labor costs after 1 year, and labor is often the largest part of the expense!

Things You Can Do on your Own!

Between maintenance and cleaning visits from the Atlanta HVAC contractor, you can do a few things to help.

  • Hose the dust and debris off your outside condensing unit every couple of weeks, or after each lawn mowing.
  • If it has a filter that needs to be washed or changed, do it as often as the manual suggests.
  • Keep clutter away from the unit that may restrict air flow and cause it to overheat.

Ask the HVAC pro what other steps you can do. And always remember, in the event that your central air conditioner does need repair, be sure to get at least 3 estimates from qualified contractors to make sure you are getting the most competitive prices available.

These 3 reasons to clean and tune up your air conditioner provide motivation enough to have it done on a regular basis. An ounce of prevention here is worth a pound of cure!

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Is There Any Point in Dieting in December?

How do you avoid temptation over the holidays?

Usually during the holiday season (thanksgiving and Christmas) i don’t count calories like i normally do. I try to eat smaller portions and try make sure what I’m eating is somewhat healthy. in the end i will probably have something rich and fattening or a third cookie, might as well enjoy it and not be depressed and frustrated. Come January 1st i don’t “diet” per say i start counting calories and my lacrosse season starts back up so I’m practicing about 6 days a week. Diets never work, moderation and healthy eating do. Don’t worry enjoy the holiday eating, i know i will!

These are things I do daily, all year. I bring snacks when I run errands, not only because I don’t eat the junk that is offered at fast “food” places, but because it’s cheaper and more convenient. (How convenient is fast “food” if I have to find a business, walk inside, or to the drive thru and wait in line to order, then wait for my food, when I have real food on the passenger seat in my car?)

Homemade, vegan soup is a staple in our house in winter. My husband will make large pots of it and freeze it and take out a frozen container (or two) to thaw in a warm pot on the stove. However, about once a week, or every other week, I’ll have a can of Progresso or Campbell’s (the few pure vegan varieties they have) for lunch. I have a five-week-old who likes to spend some days just eating, so I need something quick and easy to prepare when he’s not eating. (I also eat a lot of veggie burgers warmed on our electric grill and veggie deli “meat” slices as well.) My favorite is the Campbell’s Healthy Request Mexican soup. It’s filling and only 100 calories. Okay, I do worry about calories some, though I’m breastfeeding, but I also have my 12s to get back into again.

I also have no problems avoiding the cookies, because I normally don’t eat them. One of the staples at my husband’s aunt’s Christmas open house are my mother-in-law’s sugar cookies, complete with a thick layer of canned frosting (the stuff that comes in the plastic containers and made with loads of sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors), and sugar sprinkles. I’ll be bringing my vegan banana bread (the two main ingredients are whole wheat flour and bananas), and I’m hoping my banana chocolate chip cookies. (Which are also vegan and made with all whole wheat flour. I only use all whole wheat flour in my baking.)

I don’t “diet” that just seems ridiculous to me. (I’m convinced that the junk “food” industry, the diet products industry and the government all work together to scam money from people. People over eat on the junk, so they go the diet route and they yo-yo in their weight and their efforts. I even see that with my husband. Yesterday, as he was dressing for work, he was excited that he could wear his “transition suit”. Yet, at the funeral lunch, he had two meat sandwiches on white bread and several desserts. Yeah. That didn’t help. In the past he’s lost a substantial amount of weight, gained it back, lost it… I’ve not said much, but I’m sick of hearing him complain and I want him to be able to really run around with our kids.)

Even when my son was only two weeks old, I was getting comments on how good I looked already. While I was not very active during my pregnancy, I still ate whole, real foods. Now the only pair of non-maternity pants I know I fit into are khakis that close just above the hips. Not only does that seem to be a flattering style, but I’ll wear them with a tucked in black Tshirt or golf shirt as well. (Fitted dark solids seem to be flattering.)

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Where To Go For CPR Training?

Where should you sit your CPR training? The answer to this question depends on why you want to learn cardiac pulmonary resuscitation. If you need certification for a job then you should look to take the classes offered by either the Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Both will require you to attend a physical class so that you can practice your skills and be assessed by a qualified instructor.

Do you need a formal certificate?

If you just want to know CPR but do not need a formal certificate then you could take the American Heart Association online CPR course without leaving your home. This course will teach you everything you need to know and you can log on and refresh your knowledge whenever you feel like it.

Are you living in NYC?

If you are based in New York City and willing to use your newly gained knowledge to teach other people, the NYC CPR classes are worth looking into. These classes are free and the New York City fire crew will come to a venue near you. They won’t give individual training; you will have to arrange for at least six people to take the training with you. In order to try to make sure everyone gets some personal attention the fire crew would prefer that there are no more than 20 people taking any one course. They are more than happy to come out a second, third or fourth time to teach more people if there is sufficient demand.

 

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A Little Bit About Corrective Tattoos

There are a wide range of corrective tattooing methods available to the public. Let’s take a look at a couple of the most popular.

Concealing Body Art /Laser Tattoo Removal Discolorations

Artistic body tattoos, which may have been lightened by laser treatments {or by less professional means}, and may have left the skin white in some areas {with or without eliminating the original tattoo} can be treated by paramedical micropigmentation tattooing procedures that use flesh-tone pigments to correct/conceal discolorations and hide remains of unwanted body art. Bright tattoos can’t be easily concealed with light flesh-tone repigmentation, but in some cases those that have been lightened beforehand can be made to appear less obvious.



Reducing the Appearance of Fine Lines Around the Mouth

There’s another area of micropigmentation that’s not necessarily medical/paramedical, but is indeed corrective. Women who have small scars on the lip, fine lines around the mouth, asymmetrical lip / mouth shape, small or no cupid’s bow or have thin lips due to aging, can benefit by having a variety of corrective cosmetic lip tattoo procedures. There’s a lip tattoo procedure that creates an outline around the vermilion border, one to accentuate the cupid’s bow, one to define and give the illusion of fullness / plumpness, and most full lip tattoo procedures that also have a liner as a border will automatically reduce the appearance of fine lines for a more youthful look.

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The Day in a Word: Brooding

Weight: 205 lb

Ailments of the Day: Fear

And we’re off.  Today officially marked the end of my transition into the juice fast.  I took the first few days of the week to ween myself off of processed carbs, meat, caffeine, and all the other things that usually keep my days going.  For breakfast over these past few days I primarily ate eggs, granola, and yogurt.  For lunch I tried to exclusively eat salads, with a granola bar as a snack in the afternoon.  For dinner, I had juice.

I just finished my last dinner juice a few minutes ago, and starting tomorrow morning I’ll be going for fourteen days of juice, juice, juice.  I’ve gone for seven days before, and it surprisingly wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be.  I’m not sure how this attempt will go.  Especially considering the length.  My main fear is boredom, but luckily I have things to keep me busy.  But don’t worry, I won’t bore you with those details.

This blog will be dedicated to the physical and psychological effects of this juice fast.  My hope for it is twofold.  First, I hope that it can keep me motivated to finish.  Second, I hope it can serve as a reference for anyone who might consider juice fasting in the future.  Whatever may happen, let the great experiment begin!

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Secure and Comfortable

Here is one of my friend’s mail:

I feel secure and comfortable knowing I have multiple sources of abundant income. This allows my wife the freedom to work or not, have time with our son, travel and help those less fortunate.

Now I reply to him as follow:

Most people want a lot of money not for the money itself, but for the time it would allow to spend on yourself, with your family, and with the things you love.

After all, that is what wealthy people get to do.

So start living like a wealthy person now by making time for yourself, your family and the things you love your top priorities. Get into that mindset and the money will come to support it.

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