Dinner and dessert ~ trying something new

26th March 

Once the zest was removed, I just loved the pattern and colour
I unexpectedly did not have to work yesterday morning and boy did I achieve a lot.  I wonder if this would be the case if I stayed at home every morning; guess not, as we all know I like to be crafty!!!  However,  by 9am I had made the children a healthy fruit homemade smoothie for breakfast, made a batch of cupcakes from a newly found recipe, driven them to school, (this is not normal) completed the weekly food shop and was just about ready to start cooking the evening meal, phew, feel tired just writing it!!!

I had to be at work by 1230, by which time I added to the list: dinner made, prep work for work completed and I had joined a very long queue at the post office to send hubby something he had forgotten and needed by today, plus I managed to squeeze in dropping off daughter's lunch as she had taken an empty lunch bag to school!!! What a morning!

So dinner and dessert were both new recipes to me.  Sometimes things happen for a reason and it is not till much later that it becomes clear why or indeed the meaning.  Just recently a good friend of mine has started raving about the virtues of coconut oil and posting various recipes including it, another friend of mine is challenging herself to feed a family of 5 and a couple of pets, for as little as possible each week, she is using the newly published book, A girl Called Jack,  and yet another friend talks about the importance of you are what you eat.  It was with all this in the BACK of my mind that I stumbled upon (I was not looking for it) a new blog all about healthy food, see link here:  www.earthyfeast.com   As I scrolled through the posts, the stunning photography of food sang out to me and made my stomach rumble, I just had to make something from here, but not feeling very brave or adventurous, came across a soup recipe that I thought would be great for the forecasted cold day that turned out to be yesterday.  So in my early morning food shop, I added only a few ingredients extra and started to tot up how much this meal would cost, a la my girlfriend, as previously mentioned.  Costing, later...

Roasted Sweet Potatoe Soup

You will need:
4-5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium length chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1cm of ginger, finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
200ml coconut milk
vegetable stock, enough for desired consistency, I used just over 1 litre
smoked paprika, to taste
salt and pepper
a few chilli flakes
a little oil

This is a straight forward recipe, for photo tutorial, follow this link to Earthy feasts blog:  http://www.earthyfeast.com/recipe/sweet-potato-soup-with-ginger-lime/

But in a quick read format:

♥Saute the onions till soft and golden.
♥Roast sweet potatoes with smoked paprika, seasoning and well coated in oil, until gently roasted and soft.
♥Add sweet potatoe, stock and coconut milk to the onions and boil.
♥Add ginger, garlic and lime zest and juice and simmer gently.
♥Liquidise and eat and enjoy!

So that covered the let's try to use coconut oil/milk in our food, and it tasted good, so I may well be trying to incorporate it more into our food, it also ticked off the let's eat cheaply, as I worked out the soup cost approximately 80pence  per serving, serving of four.  Not bad in my book. And hopefully it covered off the, you are what you eat, lovely warming vegetables, I can live with that!

However, old habits die hard and I had been pondering when to make this next dish for a couple of days, ever since someone posted it on a food/recipe sharing group I belong too and so all my good intentions went flying out of the window, I made...Nutella cupcakes! This did not adhere to any of the above good intentions and probably undid any good we may have achieved, but hey, small steps, right...

For those of you with a sweet tooth, this really hits the mark and both my children loved them, I had a nibble as I really am trying to be good ;)  This is an incredibly easy 'all in one' mix and would be easy to do with small children too, very quick! Many thanks for this recipe from Wiola Zylka, a fellow group member from the food group that I belong too.

Nutella Cupcakes 
You will need:

1 cup (280g) Nutella
2 eggs
10 tbsp (62g) self raising flour

I also used 1 tsp of baking powder, although this is not strictly necessary.

♥Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
♥Place a large tablespoon worth of mixture in cup cake cases.
♥Add toppings if desired, ie chopped nuts, choc chips etc, I did not add any.
♥Bake in pre heated oven, 180 degrees Celsius, for about 15mins.
♥Eat and enjoy x

Good old hand whisk, comes up trumps every time.
The mixture was quite heavy in consistency, but the cakes worked well, so this is correct.

Ready for the oven!  Bought paper cases, made out of coloured greaseproof paper, they are basically just a square of greaseproof paper.  I am going to try and make my own, as they are jolly expensive, but do create a ta dahh! feel to them.

These were perfect yesterday on a cold day!  As they say naughty but nice!

I love this cake dome, that was once Mamma's but she kindly gave it to me when she discovered that I was coveting it!  It is used often in our household.

I really enjoy taking photographs, but you do go to some silly lengths sometimes, here is my 'behind the scenes' type shot!!

I wonder what you will make, will you be good or naughty in your cooking choice?

Breadbasket for outdoor living!

Just before 6 o'clock in the morning on Monday 24th March
24th March

Did you see the sunrise here this morning.  It was just so beautiful and what a great start to the week. Hoping the week continues to give such good surprises.

Away from the direct sun,
the colours were beautifully muted

Slightly later in the morning but before I needed to wake the children up, I took my morning coffee outside into the garden, where despite having had this glorious sunrise, there had been a frost.  We have had so few this year, that it took me a little by surprise and I felt a little sorry for all the drooping flowers too. 

Peering a little closer and looking at the beautiful frost crystals, I noticed my first tulip, but it looked so sad under the weight of the frost.  By late lunch time and my second outing into the garden to eat my lunch, using my newly made bread basket, hot off the sewing machine, I took a peek at the frosted tulip...

What a transformation a few hours had made, it just made my heart skip

I have recently joined the Instagram world and have been sucked in by something called #makeitsewcial. This is run by an amazing woman called Allison who runs what I can only describe as the most beautiful and inspiring shop in Birmingham called, The  People shop. Not that I have been there but the photographs she posts and the things she makes and the workshops she organises, need I say more?  Pop over and see her website http://www.thepeopleshop.co.uk/  I particularly like the idea of her Friday night Sewcial club, where one gets to make beautiful things, nibble on gorgeous tastes and drink a couple of cocktails!  This is my kind of woman, and I am determined to visit before the year is out. 

So Allison began a group on Instagram to cheer up the Monday blues,  whereby if you have the time and the inclination to make something then  you are asked to post a photograph of it before Monday is finished for all to see.  The group has grown rapidly and last week was my first foray into posting something on the group.  Very naive of me as I had not even had a nosey at what people had previously made, nor did I check to see if my photograph was posted!?!?  But today again, after work, I set to the sewing machine and spurred on by the glorious sunshine, decided to further add colour to my garden for summer eating and entertaining.  This time I would make one of those folding bread baskets you see so often in Scandinavia.  

...and this is what I had constructed an hour and a bit later...

A Scandinavian bread basket ~

You will need:
thin, firm plastic (I used an old flimsy plastic chopping board)
material twice the size of desired bread basket
ribbon for fastening
fabric spray glue, but not essential

I had no pattern for this and so it was to be trail and error.  I decided that the chopping board dimensions would dictate the size of my bread basket.  I knew I wanted a long and thin one, to sit in the middle of my table, as it is not a wide table, narrow was good.
Dimensions:  base: 38x15cm
long end: 38x5cm
short end: 15x5cm
I laid all five pieces on the wrong side of the fabric, leaving a slight gap between all pieces to allow for the sewing line.

Next I folded over the side edges on the shorter ends, so it covered the smallest pieces of plastic only.  I carefully pinned between the large plastic base and the smallest piece.  This would then trap the smallest plastic piece within the sewing.  Does that make sense?

The same needed to be done on the second short end.
Next came the two longer sides and much the same needed to be done to these.  Again the material was folded over to cover the plastic and pinned and sewed between the plastic pieces.
Before pinning and sewing the second long side, I hemmed the raw edge of the material that would be in the centre of the base as this would be too difficult to do once both long edges where sewn into place.
Now the second long edge needed to be trapped in place.
Looking at the above photograph, I had two choices when it came to finishing the centre hem section.  At this point it was loose and not attached to the material below.  I chose to fabric glue it down, although I did toy with sewing it by hand and slip stitching it.  I may still do this, to ensure it stays down.

To finish, each of the corners needed ribbon, to fasten the corners together when the bread basket is in use. 
I tested the length of the ribbon by tying a bow to see how long I would need it and then diagonally sewed it onto each of the four corners.

The finished bread basket, made in just over an hour.
I was able to finish by 2 pm today and as the weather was still lovely, I laid the table outside and had brown bread with home made jam, just because I wanted to test out the bread basket! For those of you interested, the bread basket material, was the third material used for the table cloth you see in the photograph here, it was used as the bias binding.  So with my oilcloth crochet cushion, link here: http://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/attic-24-inspired-crochet-cushion.html, the garden table cloth, link here:  http://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/an-eclectic-garden-table-cloth.html, and now this bread basket, the garden should start to look ever more colourful and ready for summer.  Bring it on!

 Have a wonderful week, would love to know what you are up to!


Baking ~ A family favourite cake

21st March

We all enjoy cake in our house, some more than others, I must admit.  My son when little when asked if he had a sweet tooth, would always politely reply, "No, I don't have a sweet tooth, my teeth are all sweet," and pointing to one particular tooth would say, "they are all sweet, except this one!"  That is how much of a sweet tooth he has! 

So, it was my son who a couple of years ago now, found somewhere on the Internet a recipe that he thought he could manage on his own, he was then 10, as he felt I did not bake him enough cakes!  So following the recipe and using what we had in the kitchen, we had it all, these are fairly stock ingredients, he set about making his first cake on his own.  A banana cake.  Now, I am not too fond of such cakes, but have to admit this fast, all in one mixture, produces a moist and very moreish cake.  It is often requested by those children who visit our house.  Give it a go this week end, you won't regret it!  As said, it is not our recipe, not sure where it came from, but in our house we call it:  Jack's banana cake.

Jack's banana cake

You will need:
170g caster sugar
170g self raising flour
170g butter
2 bananas, as ripe/over ripe as possible
3 eggs

Pre heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

optional extra: chocolate chips or vanilla essence

loaf tin, baking paper and oil spray

We have made this with different sugars too, depending on what is in our cupboard, it is a very forgiving recipe.

We do not even sift the flour into the mixture.

We tend to melt the butter before putting it in the bowl, but this is not necessary, the reason we do it, is so that the mixture is mixed quicker this way.

There is no such thing as a banana too ripe for this recipe.

Place ALL the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If using vanilla essence, add this now. Cake is done! (Note: half melted butter.)  If using chocolate chips add them in after mixing and stir in thoroughly.

We grease and line a loaf tin and dollop the mixture in.

Place in the pre heated oven of 160 degrees Celsius.
After about 30 odd minutes we start to test the cake, best with a cake tester, but anything long and thin should do.  Pierce the middle of the cake and if the metal spike comes out clean the cake is ready.  If some mixture sticks to the metal, it needs a little more baking.  Keep checking every 5 minutes thereafter, do not over bake as the cake will loose its moistness. 

Depending on time and who the cake is for, we often ice it with ordinary icing sugar and grate some chocolate over the top.  As this cake is travelling to Wales tonight, we thought it best not to have icing on!

Ice cake if desired once cool, slice and eat and ENJOY! My children love this cake when it is still warm, if they begin then, it is gone in minutes!

♥Have a great week end everyone,
let us know if you make Jack's cake!♥

Pot holder or oven glove?

20th March 

Nine cut out pieces were needed
I do not know what is wrong with me, but I want to make and do and nothing else.  Somewhere in blogland (SewDaily.com) there is a dictionary (mock) name called procraftinating, which my family and I think sum me up, the definition is:  working on craft projects when you should be doing the laundry, dishes or picking the kids up from school.  Yep, that sums me up!  Do you fall into this category?

So what have I been up to whilst ignoring my chores?  For those of you who have been guessing on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/eclectichomelife?ref=hl):  I made an oven glove, English name, or as the Americans call it a pot holder.  I recently discovered a new blog that has many beautiful sewn makes and this is from there, thank you Amy, I am sure I shall be popping over to your blog often.  Link below to her great page.

Oven glove (pot holder)

You will need four different patterned materials, one pattern for the front (need two pieces of this), one for the back (again you will need two of these), one for the ruffle and one for the bias binding edging. Plus you will need fire retardant wadding (again two - or in my case disused seat wadding!!)

Amy's tutorial is very clear and so I will not labour the point and tell you step by step, but show you my photo journal of the making of my oven glove.  I found the sewing of the criss cross pattern strangely satisfying and wonder now if I might actually enjoy quilting, have never even considered it before!

The first thing to do was to sandwich the wadding between the front material pieces, to hold them together whilst sewing on the machine instead of basting them, I thought I would try something new and hoped it wouldn't ruin my machine or machine needle - I spray glued them together!!  And guess what, it worked a treat.  I had spray glue left over from a previous crafting activity - heart making: http://eclectichomelife.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/valentines-and-crafting.html I shall use this again as it held it all together and there was no slipping of the material.  Not very Sewing Bee like I know, Patrick would have a fit!

Amy used fancy quilting tools to mark out where to sew the lines to criss cross and hold the wadding in place, but as I do not possess such things, I just followed the pattern on my material and followed the dots, literally!

I just loved the criss cross coming together.

I needed to do exactly the same with the back piece of material too.

Two completed criss crossed front and back sections with wadding sandwiched between.

Next up, was top make the front ruffle, a little bit of girlie extravagance for an oven glove, but actually I quite like this frivolity.  And making a ruffle is fun and  quick, just remember, to change your stitch length to the longest you can to help when it comes to ruffling it up.

At this point Amy does tell you to be careful, but I do not think it can be stressed enough.  At this point BE CAREFUL when pulling on the threads of the long stitched to ruffle the material.  You do not want the thread to snap as otherwise you will need to start this process again.  Pull on the threads very gently and slowly and carefully move the formed ruffle towards the far end, it become obvious as you do it, promise.

Once ruffled, it is a matter of sewing it to the top of the front side and then once attached, the long stitch to create the ruffle can be removed.

Side view to show ruffle pinned in place before being sewn to front piece.

Here you see two lines of stitching, the bottom stitch is the long stitch used to create the ruffle and can now be removed, the top stitch is the one to hold the ruffle in place.

This is then the point to begin to attach the bias binding, those of you that know me may remember that this is not my favourite thing to sew, but the end results are usually worth it.  All I can say here is take it slowly and use lots of pins to hold in place, especially on the corners.
Before attaching the bias binding, it is a good idea to zig zag around the entire edge, this makes it easier to bind with the bias binding and helps control it a bit!

Before actually sewing on the binding, if you intend to hand the oven glove up, then now is the time to attach the loop, I used a ribbed ribbon.  Here you find the mid point and sew it on, counter intuitively the wrong way, so it faces down as to the way it will look when hanging.  Bear with me, you will see it works...

The bias binding stage.

There was a lot of thickness to be squeezed into the bias binding!

If you look closely here, you can see to the left of the sewing foot the bias binding that is now sewn in place and to the right ahead of the sewing foot, the bias still needs to be sewn. Sewed through, two front pieces, the wadding, the ruffle and the top and bottom layer of the bias binding - as said a lot of thickness to be tamed!

A closer view to show you.

Sewing the first edge of the bias.

Excuse the blurred photo, but this is the back and perhaps(!?) you can see all the pins needed to hold it in place, especially on the corners.

The completed oven glove with loop at the top!  Unfortunately due to the spacing between the dots, and I was not thinking and placed the bias with the dots on the back, the front bias is completely white, which is a shame.  I think too the bias was too wide and given the oven glove a heavy duty look, which I suppose suits its purpose.  I WILL have another go and make more as it was a fun project and pretty quick.  I was able to whip it up in under two hours and think the next one will be even quicker. 

Amy's oven gloves are beautiful a real piece of kitchen beauty, her bias is much more delicate and she adds applique to hers too.  So next round for me will be to aspire to have mine looking more like hers. but in the mean time, I am quite pleased with mine.  It is already in use.
Take some time out and pop over and see Amy's blog, she has some great sewing projects:


Happy Thursday everyone!