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Let’s try some home-baked desserts this Christmas

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By MARION MAINA
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“What passes for dessert in Kenya?” read a post in one Facebook group.

The answers on the comment section left me in complete stitches. Some said a glass of hot water while others stated that Kenyan dessert is a “saucer”, which basically refers to a second helping of the main dish.

Growing up, we sometimes ate fruits at the end of the meal and I guess that was dessert?

There are also those tiny mandazis that are served with tea and, depending on the occasion, a 20-litre yellow jerrycan of sour porridge will also feature on some dessert menus. 

Generally, having dessert is not part of our Kenyan culture. But it does not have to be that way, at least not this Christmas.

There is a wide range of yummy treats that are waiting for you to try them out. One thing I have noticed on the few occasions I have indulged in a well laid out dessert buffet is that it mostly consists of cakes and pastries. Learning to bake this festive season will come in handy in helping you create a delicious dessert menu.

Jane Annette, a pastry chef and instructor at Nuru Foods, tells us why we should try out home-made desert bakes this Christmas.

First of all, is it difficult to learn how to bake?

Absolutely not! In fact, there is no end to learning when it comes to baking; every day you discover something new. The basics are quite easy to grasp and after that the sense of adventure kicks in and you keep trying out new recipes, adding your own twists to the old recipes and discovering new tastes. As long as the desire to learn is there, baking is easy.

That is encouraging to hear…what are some of the easiest bakes to start out with?

You can easily make muffins, cupcakes, cookies, breads and simple cakes from the comfort of your kitchen. The recipes are available online and some of these bakes require very few ingredients. For instance, do you know what you require to bake biscuits? Self-rising flour, butter and sugar, just that.

Why should we try out home-made bakes especially during this festive season?

Baking at home is so affordable and who does not want to save a little money? Secondly, it gives you an opportunity to play around with the ingredients and gives room to cater for any dietary restrictions if need be. For example, if you wish to cut out refined sugar, you can substitute this with honey or blended fruit such as bananas.

With home-made bakes, you do not need to gamble on the ingredients, unlike off-the-shelf pastries. You also get to skip on preservatives because you only bake what you need for the moment. And lastly, baking is so much fun. Imagine being in the kitchen on Christmas Eve with all your loved ones and you have your aprons on, dusting flour on the kitchen counter as the delicious aroma of warm freshly baked cookies waft from the oven…pure bliss!

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You can never go wrong with cupcakes.

You can never go wrong with cupcakes. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

Can I still bake if I have no access to an oven, say for instance when I go to the village for Christmas?

Of course you can. I have baked several times on my gas cooker. Remember, the idea behind the oven is to create regulated heat for the mixture to cook. You can improvise this by placing your mixture in a sufuria and immersing it in a bigger sufuria before placing it directly on the source of heat. That way, the bigger sufuria will provide regulated warmth that will be conducted by the smaller sufuria that contains the mixture you wish to bake. The source of heat is not the issue here; it can even be a jiko. All you need is to regulate the warmth. I bake using the pressure cooker and sometimes it comes out better than when I use the oven.

Do you have any recommendations on yummy treats we can try out this Christmas…a recipe maybe?

Just one recipe? (Laughs) Well, easy bakes will definitely enhance the cheer in your kitchen this festive season. You can never go wrong with cupcakes. If you wish to bake with your children, you can make the cupcakes and let the children have fun with the icing. That way, everyone participates in the baking. Cupcakes are playful and fun especially when you have a wide variety of toppings – whipped cream, berries and fruits, crushed nuts, chocolate chips.

Here is a recipe for my all-time easy bake vanilla cupcakes:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of butter (room temperature)

1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line muffin cups with cupcake papers.

2. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together using a mixer or wooden spoon, until it becomes light and fluffy.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs – one at a time. Pour the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture and stir until evenly mixed.

4. Add the vanilla extract into the wet mixture and stir thoroughly.

5. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and salt.

6. Add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet mixture as you stir to mix evenly. Add the milk gradually as you stir up the mixture to form a thick batter.

7. Pour the batter into the cupcake baking tins and bake for 20minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remove and leave them to cool for about 10 minutes.

8. The cupcakes are ready to eat but if you wish to put some frosting and decorate with sprinkles or fruit topping, go for it!



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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