Tuesday, 26 November 2013

F is for........

.... faffing about, which is what I've been doing trying to get a decent photo of this card. I read the other day that the best way to photograph a card with 3D decoupage is to stand it on a window ledge at right angles to the natural light so that the shadows add dimension and relief. So I've been faffing and fiddling and really don't seem to have achieved anything new. You really wouldn't believe, from the photos,  the depth and realistic appearance of the decoupage.

The image and background paper (and the insert, which doesn't show) are from Joanna Sheen's beautiful Victorian Christmas cards CD.

Not only that, now I've blown them up on the screen I can see how blurred the images are because I turned the flash off to try to make the most of the alleged shadows from the window so the exposure time was quite long. I must head off and add "Photography for Dummies" to my Amazon wish list.

I'll try to add a better photo at the end if I manage to take one, but in the meantime I'm playing along with F is for...... which is the current CD Sundays challenge. Oh, and as well as faffing, F is also for Fruit and Flowers! (Actually looking yet again at my photos, F is also for failure!)

Later........ I've managed to get a photo that shows the depth a bit better - but there's glare  in the corner from the winter sun coming straight in through the window. I can't win!

Meal Planning... erm..... Tuesday!

Just as I drifted off to sleep last night I realised that although I'd planned this week's meals, I hadn't actually posted, so here we go a day late with my entry to the linky at At Home With Mrs M.

Monday Cauliflower cheese, baked tomatoes, baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday Lancashire hotpot, beetroot, red cabbage and carrots

Wednesday Bacon and leek risotto, green salad, beetroot and orange salad with toasted hazelnuts

Thursday Vegetable biryani, spiced roast parsnips, dahl

Friday Game casserole, celeriac and parsnip mash, cabbage

Saturday Lasagne, green salad and ciabatta

Sunday I expect Mark will be cooking so it will be up to him.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Festive Face Off

It must be every crafter's dream to take delivery of a huge hamper of craft goodies and be able to make whatever you like with the contents, but that's just what happened to me! The reason is that I am one of the bloggers taking part in the Festive Face-Off which has been arranged by Country Baskets.

Thirty of us have received a hamper of goodies from which we each need to create a decoration. The entries will be judged and there will be prizes, but more importantly the finished decorations are to be donated to charity, along with a cash donation.

My hamper was crammed with all kinds of gorgeous goodies - artificial flowers and foliage, ribbons, lace, stacking boxes, baubles, wires, buttons and much, much more.....

The stacking boxes were what immediately caught my eye, closely followed by the artificial flowers and foliage. I haven't done any flower arranging for many years, but I could just picture the hamper itself as the container for a festive arrangement, with decorated gift boxes incorporated into it.

I started by decorating the boxes. I painted them with acrylic paint, applying it with a fine sponge rather than a brush as I found it gave a more even covering. Then I stuck some of the beautiful lace around the rims of the lids.

Next I made faux bows from ribbon loops and attached them to the lids, topped with some of the little flock snowflakes from the hamper.

Then I turned my attention to the hamper. To bring the arrangement up to the top of the basket, I had to stack three blocks of flower arranging foam, one on top of the other,  and I didn't want that and all the necessary fixings to show through the open wicker of the basket, so I used the hessian in which the goodies had been wrapped to line the basket. I covered the rim with lace to match the boxes.

Before starting on  the arrangement, I decided to make some extra bits to include in it. There was a roll of green wire provided, which I curled around the handle of a wooden spoon to make some "springs" - after all, the arrangement would be springing out of the hamper! Also provided were some wonderfully velvety soft artificial stachys leaves. I couldn't see any immediate way of attaching them to anything, so I glued them together in pairs over a piece of wire.

The tiny glittered apples on wires came from the hamper, as did the matching garland of miniature baubles which I threaded around the base of the stems to hide any bits of foam that showed through. Finally I tucked the gift boxes in behind the flowers and added a spray of glittered wooden leaves on leather thonging (I absolutely LOVE these - I'll definitely be using them again in the future!) to add some interest to the front of the hamper.

I'd like to thank Country Baskets for providing such an amazing selection of materials - the contents  of the hamper were truly inspiring!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Crafty Advent Competition

If you're a follower of my other blog, Grape Vine, you'll know that for the first 24 days of December the internet goes competition crazy, with hundreds of websites having daily Advent Calendar competitions.

Well this year, crafters are not going to be left out (and I know just how many people are both compers and crafters, the two hobbies seem to go together very well; it must be all that cutting-up of cereal boxes into postcards that gets us started) and Crafty Ribbons is going to be introducing us to a craft business every day, with a different prize to be won every day.

You can read all about it - and enter a competition to win a surprise package - here.

You don't need to have a blog to enter, but do remember to check back every day to see the winners because it's a lot harder for them to contact somebody who doesn't have a blog.

Cabbage Koulibac

I mentioned in this week's meal plan that I was thinking of making a cabbage koulibac one day this week. The original recipe for this was in my old, dog-eared copy of The Pauper's Cook Book  by Jocasta Innes but I've fiddled around with it to suit our tastes. Koulibac is a dish of salmon, eggs and rice encased in puff pastry, but this vegetarian version is incredibly cheap and filling.

To make it, you will need

1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry
about half a small Savoy (or other firm dark green) cabbage
4 eggs
1 onion
a knob of butter
2 tbs cream, milk or natural yoghurt
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
milk for brushing

Hard boil the eggs and set aside to cool. When cold, shell and chop them.

Shred the cabbage finely and cook in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain well, squeezing out all the water.

Chop the onion and fry gently in the butter until soft and golden. Stir in the cabbage, cream and caraway seeds, season and leave until cold.

Heat the oven to 200 C, 400 F gas mark 6.

Grease a baking sheet or line it with non-stick paper and unroll the pastry onto it. Spread half of the chopped egg along the centre, leaving a space at each end. Pile the cabbage mixture on top and then cover with the remaining egg. Dampen the edges of the pastry then bring the sides up to the top and seal them, folding the ends in to make a parcel and crimping the join. (If you make as much of a mess of it as I did, turn it over and have the seam hidden away at the bottom). Score a design into the pastry if you wish, then brush with milk.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until the pastry is cooked and golden.

Because this is so incredibly cheap to make, I'm joining in Credit Crunch Munch for the second time this month. You can see more about it at Dinner With Crayons  and the organisers Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours

Monday, 18 November 2013

Meal planning Monday, 18 November

Last week's attempt at a Jamie's 30 Minute Meal in 30 minutes  was a great success, much to my surprise! Not quite a 30 minute meal, as he cooked potatoes in the microwave and I don't have one, so cooking them took a little longer,  but a real reminder of how much flavour you can pack into a meal with relatively little effort  if you have a good supply of fresh herbs in the garden. I'll be trying more - and I might remember to take photos next time!

This week's meals look something like this

Monday chicken satay with gado gado and fragrant rice

Tuesday Mark is cooking. I don't know exactly what but it will involve a butterflied leg of lamb and some flageolet or cannellini beans

Wednesday a sort-of paella but with chorizo and no fish or seafood. And no broad beans. Perhaps I should just call it Spanish Rice.

Thursday Something involving cabbage and eggs. Either a cabbage koulibac from a recipe in my dog eared copy of Jocasta Innes's Pauper's Cookbook or a gratin-y thing with cheese sauce

Friday  Roast partridge with whatever veg need using up

Saturday and Sunday - Saturday's our local Farmer's Market day so we'll make our weekend plans according to what we buy. I suspect we'll push the boat out a bit as our local monthly market is closing soon, the December one will be the last ever. It doesn't get much local support, I think it's because it's held a couple of miles out of the town centre so people don't realise it's there.

Find more meal plans at At Home with Mrs M

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Simple Apple and Pear tarte tatin

My third post today, and the third to include the word "Simple" in the title - it must be Simple Sunday!

I've shared several tartes tatin  on here in the past, because a tatin really IS very simple, and lends itself to both sweet and savoury dishes. And I can make the caramel topping using Sweet Freedom which makes it suitable for an occasional treat (I'm diabetic as you probably know) although the white flour and high fat content means it really MUST be only occasional.

This one was made with 2 pippin apples and 2 conference pears, about 50g butter, about 3 tbs Sweet Freedom light syrup (you could use agave nectar, honey or golden syrup instead, depending on your dietary requirements and the state of your store cupboard) and a  500g packet of all-butter puff pastry.

You also need a frying pan with a handle that can go into a hot oven, big enough to take the cut-up fruit in a single but quite closely packed layer.

Heat the oven to 200 C, 180 if it is a fan oven (That's 400 F, gas mark 6). Roll out the pastry to a circle roughly the size of the top of your pan.

Peel  and core the fruit and cut each into 8 wedges. Heat the butter in the frying pan and fry the fruit quickly until starting to brown on the edges, then stir in the syrup and boil hard for about 5 minutes until starting to caramelise, tossing the fruit well  in the caramel. Quickly drape the pastry over then put in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes (no more or it will stick) then carefully turn out onto a serving plate. Serve warm or cool, with cream or ice cream.

Simply Square

"Simple" seems to be a word that's a major part of my vocabulary today!

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is "Simply Square". I take it to mean that the card needs to be simple but not necessarily Clean And Simple, so I've gone back to basics using simple matting and layering with paper and images from the lovely free CD that came with the current issue of Crafters Inspiration from Crafters Companion, and finishing it off (and hiding my badly cut corners) with peel offs.

I'm also playing along with Crafty Hazelnut's Christmas Challenge Extra.


Simply Christmas

Last year I had an Anna Griffin kit and made some very ornate Christmas cards with it. There were a few sheets of gorgeous paper left, so I kept them to use some other time and thought this week's Less is More challenge, #146 - Use designer paper in a CAS way, was an ideal opportunity to play with some, especially as the Oldie But Goodie challenge is CAS Christmas.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Catching the Christmas post

Every year I make a selection of cards with postboxes on to send to my comping friends - the postal service is very important when you are a comper. Here is one of this year's cards. I'm rather disappointed with the photo as the image is actually done in 3-D decoupage but it's come out looking completely flat - so I promise you, the card is more interesting than it looks!

The image is from the CD "The Very Best of La Pashe 2012"

It really is a rubbish photo isn't it? I'll ask my husband to take one for me at the weekend and add it in if it looks better!

I'm playing along with Crafty Hazelnut's Christmas Challenge #150 - Outdoors

A Thank You card

This week there are two CAS one layer challenges. At Less is More, it's week 145 and the subject is "Thank You" while over at CAS on Sunday, it's challenge #21 - One Layer Wonder

Here's my card for both challenges

Cheeky little monkey!

With another grandchild due just after Christmas, my thoughts are starting to turn to new baby cards. So I've dug out the sets of Woodware stamps I bought when my first two granddaughters were born and started experimenting with them.

I know bright colours and black aren't traditional for new baby cards, but I think they're rather fun. The flowers were cut and embossed with dies from the lovely Spellbinders Jewel Flowers and Flourishes set. The centres are button style brads that came in a Hot Off The Press kit years ago.

I'm playing along with these challenges:
Creative Craft Creations - #23 Recipe - 1 image, 2 patterned paper, 3 flowers
Daring Cardmakers - The other occasions and reasons
{PIN}spirational challenge #83 (see photo below)
The Cupboard Trilogy  - #17 Using spots and stripes
Addicted to Stamps  and More - #71 Anything Goes
Crafty Creations Challenges - #248 Dies and Punches 


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pinto Beans, Chorizo and Tortilla

A few days ago I treated myself to a copy of Nigel Slater's new book "Eat". It's a rather oddly presented little book - the small page format means that the book is very thick and hard to keep open at the right page, which is a nuisance when you are trying to follow a recipe (or take a photo - witness my struggle below!) It also means that many of the recipes are only illustrated with a tiny photo and the follow up suggestions have no photo at all. I'm quite happy with the pictures in my head, but I'm also aware that photos sell books, especially at this time of year.

There's  also rather a lot of blank space and the main recipe is generally on the right hand page with follow up recipes and notes on the left, which makes it difficult to actually sit and read the book from cover to cover as I tend to do with Nigel's books.

Having said that, the book is barely a week old and is already bristling with post it notes and oozing with cooking stains, and to me any cookbook that gets into that state so quickly has to be a good one! It's very much a book to be used,  not one to pose on a coffee table, which makes me even more surprised about the lack of lay-flat-ability. And it's too thick to fit in my clear cookbook  stand, which would have held it open.

Last night I made the Pinto Beans, Chorizo and Tortilla from page 337. The recipe doesn't seem to be online anywhere (yet) but it consists of diced chorizo and onions fried together in some of the oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes, mixed with garlic and tinned pinto beans, topped with torn flour tortillas and chopped sundried tomatoes, given a topping of grated Cheddar and baked.

We served it with baked sweet potatoes, chipotle mayonnaise, and  salad with avocadoes. A very typical Nigel slater dish - simple and faff-free but absolutely crammed with flavour.

And very hearty - I halved the four person quantities but we two greedy people couldn't finish it.

I haven't joined in with Dish of the Month for ages, but I'm playing along this month.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Meal planning Monday - 11th November

Last week I managed to completely miss posting my meal plan - I kept changing my plans and dithering about what to have for so long the week was just about over before I'd made any plans!

This week I've made my plans - but they may well all be scuppered. At 4am today the Carbon Monoxide detector started screeching. A gas engineer came out and did an initial inspection - and turned our gas supply off completely, so now we have to have further investigations. That means cooking on the hob is out of the question at the moment. I'm hoping it will all be sorted out today, but if it isn't, the rest of the week will be devoted to meals that can be cooked in the oven, slow cooker and Actifry (I don't have a microwave). Or we might just resort to takeaways. Or Pot Noodle.

But here's what we *should* be having, cooking facilities permitting.

Monday baked sweet potatoes with chipotle mayonnaise, Pinto beans with Chorizo, salsa and salad
Tuesday (trying to do a Jamie's 30 minute meal in 30 minutes) Pork chops, mash and savoy cabbage
Wednesday baked gammon with parsley sauce. Boiled potatoes, carrots and leeks.
Thursday If there's some gammon left, Gammon with creamy vegetable pie, otherwise macaroni cheese. Either way, baked tomatoes will feature somewhere.
Friday I'm hoping to stock up on game on Thursday so either a venison casserole or roast goose crown. Veg box day so accompaniments will be chosen once the box is unpacked.
Saturday we're having a visit from Claire of Ninja Killer Cat so I'm not going to spoil the surprise of what's for dinner by telling the world!
Sunday assuming I got the game, if we had venison casserole on Friday we'll have roast goose today and vice versa.

If I don't get any game, I'll use beef instead of stewing venison and a chicken instead of goose.

Find lots more meal plans at At Home With Mrs M

La Vie en Rose

Right, that's got you all humming along.....

This week's photo (well, last week's really, I'm dashing in at the last minute) at {PIN}spirational Challenges is of this happy couple

I must be a very unromantic person, because my eye skipped right past the kissing couple and landed on the Eiffel Tower in the background. And since I cut myself an Eiffel Tower shaped stencil some months ago, I do like to give it regular airings.  I did try to introduce a little romance though, with some pink papers and the heart sliders and lips brad.

Oh and a note to anyone thinking of making an over-the-edge card - do use a bit of commonsense! I didn't with my first draft of this card, making the Eiffel Tower spill over evenly top and bottom. And then I tried to stand it up - and of course it toppled right over.

I'm joining in with PINspirational Challeges 82 and since I used a stencil,
Craft Room Challenge - Stencils and Masks

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Pennants for CD Sundays

This week's challenge at CD Sundays is Pennant Parade. I made an easel card using images, papers, embellishments and sentiments all from the Polkadoodles CD "Cherryblossom Lane"

and also a quickie little card because the scraps were too pretty to waste

Friday, 8 November 2013

Grilled chicken with guacamole - a Random Recipe

This month it's a real back-to-basics Random Recipe challenge at Belleau Kitchen - pick a random recipe book and open it at a random page, then cook the recipe you find there. I used Random Number Generator to choose from my shelves (and yes, I did count the piles on the floor too) and then again to tell me how far along the shelf to go, and the lucky book was John Torode's "Chicken and other birds" - a good choice from Mark's point of view as it wasn't likely to contain any fish recipes. And a good choice for me too as I've had it for a few years and never yet cooked anything from it.

Another random number took me to page 48 - Grilled Chicken with Guacamole. I actually had all the ingredients in the kitchen, apart from fresh coriander which I was going to have to leave out anyway because Mark is severely allergic to it. Oh, and apart from chicken breasts, so I popped to the nearby supermarket for some. They had none. Well, they did have a chicken crown but it was two days past its use by date. I asked at the butcher's counter and just got a grunted "no", so I bought a whole chicken, jointed it and made some stock with the carcass. And reminded myself how easy it is to joint a chicken - in this case, apparently easier than buying it ready jointed. Cheaper too.

So I assembled the ingredients

then took a closer look at the recipe......

200 tomatoes for a batch of guacamole to serve 6? Wouldn't they swamp the two avocados that also go into the recipe? I don't  know whether the recipe was meant to say 200 grams of tomatoes, or 2 tomatoes, but I went for 200 grams.

The guacamole is a slightly different one from what I'm used to making (even without the massive amounts of tomatoes!) - I've never seen basil used in it before, and there was a good handful of parsley too, so the lack of coriander didn't mean a lack of greenness in the finished sauce.

John's way of grilling chicken is a great way of turning a healthy piece of meat into a butter-and-oil soaked, unctuously unhealthy  and deliciously moist and juicy treat, which means that what could have been an everyday dish becomes an occasional treat - but it's well worth it!

Now I'm just left scratching my head over those 200 tomatoes. I really don't think it needed the other 195.......