Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - CRrrrrrUNCH

We have a kitchen drawer that contains all the odds and sods of baking equipment: measuring spoons, knives, unused skewers, kitchen scissors, and what used to be the most useful gadget ever! 

My poor pasty cutter, which should have parallel wires, now a casualty of the dreaded over-stuffed kitchen drawer! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Freebee Pattern for Christmas Stocking Ornaments

I know it's obvious but I'll just say it for the record.  I am a pretty rotten knitter. Just reading a knitting pattern fills me with fear but today I saw a free pattern for tiny Christmas stockings and I knew I HAD to give it a go.

I didn't have the right size knitting needles.  All of my yarn is VERY inexpensive and I didn't have any red or green but I wasn't sure if I could do it anyway. So I just WENT for it!

Everything was going well until the part where the pattern started instructing me to 'turn the heel'!  That was when panic set in and I nearly gave up. 

I stopped, had a cup of tea and a biscuit.  I did some yoga breathing and went through the instructions step by step.  To my surprise, it worked!   

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE CHRISTMAS STOCKING PATTERN   There are lots of very beautiful and technical designs for you proper knitters.   Have a go, you can make lots of little stockings before Christmas. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sunshine and Showers

This morning we had torrential rain...again!  Instead of the usual grey, leaden sky the rain fell in brilliant sunshine resulting in a dazzling combination of brightly coloured leaves and sparking raindrops.  It was remarkably beautiful and impossible to photograph.  

Andy went out immediately after the storm and snapped these photos.  I think they are beautiful.

I hope you enjoy them, too.  

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Milk Chocolate Chips!

When Andy travels, and he frequently does, I give him a wish list of things I'd like him to bring back.  Usually it's things like candy corn, Gardetto's, and Toll House Chocolate Chips, things I can't find in our local shops.  

I put in my order for Toll House Chips and he came home with at least a kilo of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chips!  

We'd never had the milk chocolate chips before so a batch of cookies was required for a taste test.   I used my tried and tested FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE.

So far, they look good...

Of course, I had to have a little nibble of the dough before it was baked.  That's my favourite bit.  

And the final product ... you can't tell the difference by looking.  As for the taste, they are very good.  I suppose the moral of the story is -  whether semi-sweet or milk chocolate you can't beat a home made chocolate chip cookie. 

To bake a batch, CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE.  You can even go mad and use white chocolate chips! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Luminous Leaves

I'd intended to go out today.  I have things to do, people to see, but the garden held me captive. After several grey days of rain the sun has come out to illuminate each ragged leaf and I don't want to miss a minute of their glowing display.  I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos.  The wind is working against me, but I hope you enjoy the dazzling colours. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Slightly Tipsy Apple Crumble

Finally, after a long Indian Summer, autumn has blown in with a vengeance. Saturday was vile with gale force winds and driving rain. We added a quilt to the bed and turned on the central heating, but still couldn't get warm.  It soon became clear the solution was to warm up from the inside out...time to make a Tipsy Apple Crumble.

I have to confess I didn't start with the intention of making a tipsy crumble.  In an effort to get some warmth back into my fingers and toes, I had a little drop of calvados, for medicinal purposes of course.  

I never use perfect apples to make crumble but some of these looked particularly sad so I thought...

Why not jolly them up with a drop of calvados, too!  They seemed happy to have a little tipple.  Here's what you need to make a Tipsy Apple Crumble:

Begin by heating the oven to 180C/350F.  Butter a baking dish and set it to one side while you prepare the topping and apples.

For the crumble topping:

I must warn you, this makes A LOT of crumble topping.  We like a good crumble to apple ratio so I use all of this topping mixture.  If you prefer a higher apple to topping ratio,  decrease the amount of flour, sugar, butter, and oats to 50 grams each.  

100 grams plain flour
100 grams caster sugar
100 grams butter or baking margarine - cold and cut into cubes 
100 grams oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the flour, sugar, oats, and cinnamon into a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine the ingredients.  Add the butter/margarine and with a pastry cutter or your fingertips work the butter into to the crumble mix until it looks like bread crumbs.  Set to one side and prepare the apples. 

For the apple filling:

5 or 6 'eating' apples - peel, core, and cut into thin slices
3 Tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 Tablespoons calvados or brandy

Place the sliced apples into a mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon.  Stir well and taste the apples to see if they need more sugar.  I find three tablespoons are usually sufficient if the apples are a sweet desert variety.  Add the calvados or brandy and stir again to get the apple juices flowing.

Pour the apple slices into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle over the crumble mixture. 

Bake the crumble for 40 to 50 minutes or until the topping is golden and the apple juices are bubbling up around the edges.   Serve warm from the oven. Andy likes his with custard or cream.  I like mine just as it is, thank you.  I think I am feeling warmer already!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cheat's Frothy Coffee

For years Andy has been bugging me about getting a coffee machine.  You know, the kind that takes up half the kitchen cabinet and makes that steamed milk you get in expensive coffee shops.  

Sometimes I think he does it to wind me up but I think he'd really love to have one.  The fact is, we just don't have room for anymore kitchen gadgets. Fortunately,  I've found an easy way to make frothy coffee WITHOUT the expensive machinery. 

The only equipment you need is a screw top jar and a microwave oven.   Here's how to do it.  Use a jar that is much bigger than the amount of milk you are going to froth.  Pour in the cold milk leaving 2/3 of jar empty.  Screw on the lid and shake!   Shake like mad for about 30 seconds.  The milk will become frothy and nearly fill the jar.

Remove the lid and place the jar into the microwave oven.   Zap the milk, using high power, for about 30 seconds.  You want the milk steaming hot but not boiling over.  (Yes, I took my eye off it and it bubbled out of the jar when I wasn't looking)  

Carefully pour the hot milk into your freshly prepared coffee and spoon over the fabulous froth!  

Now here's the science bit:  
Use semi-skimmed (2 percent) milk for the best froth.  Heating the bubbles stabilises the milk proteins and turns them into froth.  You can really cheat and use instant coffee...that's not science, it's just sneaky!  Enjoy!