Super Sunday cook up!

I really enjoy having a mass Sunday cook up so I have meals prepared for the week and to keep feeding my freezer, sadly it is getting a bit full now so I may have to slow down!

This time of year is very veg heavy for anyone that likes growing things in the garden. I have a very clever, enthusiastic recent convert to gardening for a husband and a doubly enthusiastic, so experienced he could be on Gardener’s World, neighbour. My neighbour has acres of garden and grows a vast amount of produce (by yours and my little standards) and he is so kind and generous with both his time to discuss gardening traumas and also sharing produce. We share ours too!

So this weekend, I had potatoes, Kestrel and Charlotte varieties, some strange heirloom carrots in cream, yellow and orange. Runner beans, French beans, spring onions, lettuce (three carrier bags stuffed full) and radishes. Then my neighbour popped round and brought me another carrier bag of apples, a huge bowl of raspberries (wow!) and more courgettes.

Now I hate wasting food, especially organic home grown yumminess …. So I had to get a plan! I have limited space in my freezer so it had to be a compact plan! The lettuce I really liked in the lettuce soup that I posted about recently but I would end up with oh so many containers. So I took a short cut and did the first stage of the soup, by wilting the lettuce in chicken stock and then pureeing. That way I only had 5 containers to store!  The apples, hmm, well despite my daughter suggesting her horse ‘needed’ a constant supply of apples, these were too delicious to part with but we don’t eat many puddings these days (dieting grumble, grumble!) so I turned the apples into apple purée and am going to freeze it in little containers that can either turn into apple sauce or be added to parsnip and apple soup.

Then I started on shepherd’s pies to use some of the potatoes and added squash to the mash. Then I made quiches, one for this week and one will just have to freeze, they are ok defrosted but improve with reheating. I now have close to zero room in my freezer but it feels as though I have had a good and successful day – phew!

 

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Is it a beach hut… or a shed?

I decided to do a blog about this card today to underline the flexibility of dies. Technically this is sold as a beach hut, (see my previous blog!) and very popular it is too, but I loved the use of it as a plain old garden shed. It fascinates me how a different paint job or colouring treatment or however you like to look at it, can turn it into something quite different.

I was reading an article the other day about ‘Man caves’ and thought how nice it must be for a husband to be able to choose everything without female input and have a little world that is completely his own. I offered Richard a shed down the garden and his response was: “What’s wrong with the garden shed we have now, it’s not full yet?” OK, he obviously doesn’t feel he needs a man cave, but time will tell!

However, in tandem with that article was one about ‘She sheds’ and it occurred to me how lovely it would be to have, say, a fairy garden interior, or whatever your favourite dream place is. I’m not sure if I have the time to do anything for now, but I do know I will be exploring the lovely ‘fairy door’ idea for spots in the garden to make sure Grace grows up with the same love of fairies and gardens as I have… Watch this space on the website is all I will say!

To go back to this card, the image was from ‘One Summer’s Day’ CD which features artwork by an American lady called Barbara Mock – such lovely designs on there, I do enjoy using it.

So how about a man’s card with a shed on it, or a card for a keen gardener with the door of the shed opening to have tools spilling out? So why not have a look at all your dies and ponder alternative uses for them!

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Crafting with Granny

One of the joys of our hobby is being able to share, whether it’s sharing the making of cards with family and friends or just giving them the finished product!

This weekend I was playing with my little granddaughter Grace. She absolutely loves ponies and regularly rides a little Shetland pony called Pippin. Her mother has a lovely grey called Bobby and Grace has grown up thinking everyone has to clean up after horses and wears wellies most of the time!

So knowing her passion for all things horse related, rather than playing yet again with her model stable, we decided to do some cardmaking. I have a little box and a drawer which I am slowly saving things in when I spot something that might be fun for her to use.

The Cuttlebug is ideal for children and even this little 3 year old can turn the handle if you hold the machine steady for her. We have a couple of suitable horsey dies in the Signature Dies range, so they have been waiting in the drawer for some time!

Poor old Bobby got kicked by another horse and is confined to his stable on box rest until his leg heals. So we made him a get well soon card!

Grace is definitely a chip off the old block, so to speak, she chose colours beautifully, and is very good already at accurately wielding the glue dispenser. I did the double sided taping, more for speed than anything, but soon I am sure she will manage with a tape dispenser. We die cut many more horses than we needed (ok so she wouldn’t stop and I didn’t like to halt the enthusiasm!) and included those inside the card “so Mummy can play with them” – think of it as alternative confetti to put inside a card!

The front you can see here in the picture, inside we used a Get Well Soon die and wrote a message for Bobby. The grass is made by using the Icicle border die. This design could be used with any of the animal families we have, so it could be a dog card, farm card or whatever you like!

 

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It’s a tall story…

Spot the difference – there are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations

Whenever I post anything about giraffes, I get great feedback and a feeling that you all just love these amazing creatures. There are so many things about giraffes that are technically wrong – they look like a poor police photo fit, a peculiar job lot of bits and pieces stuck together – and yet so many people adore them.

They are gentle giants, huge herbivores grazing the treetops in Africa, using their 45cm black tongues to bring the food into their mouths. At the end of that ridiculously long neck is one of cutest faces you will find, a head more suited to a small deer than an 18ft ruminant!

As well as its pretty face, the giraffe also has the most amazingly languid slow motion gait. A running giraffe is never hurried and always graceful, its long limbs making it impossible to make quick movements. A giraffe has only two gaits – walking and galloping, but once it is moving, wow can it move! A giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) and can keep going at 50 km/h (31 mph) for several kilometres.

The giraffe’s coat is another thing of beauty. There are nine sub-species of giraffe, and each one has different patterns on their skin and also some different colourations. From the pale West African giraffe with widely spaced red blotches on a pale background to the reticulated giraffe whose distinctive coat is made up of sharp-edged, reddish brown patches divided by a network of thin white lines looking very much like crazy paving!

Although generally very quiet animals, giraffes have been heard to communicate using sounds. During courtship, males emit loud coughs, not exactly romantic, but hey… Females call their young by bellowing and their calves will emit snorts, bleats, mooing and mewing sounds. Giraffes also snore, hiss, moan, grunt and make flute-like sounds. And if all that wasn’t cute enough, during the night, giraffes appear to hum to each other! I am so smitten with these animals!

They are sociable creatures, but they don’t form herds. Instead, they meet in groups each day and the makeup of a group changes from day to day – how good is that? No fear of getting stuck with the neighbourhood bore! So, basically, if given the chance, I think I’d like to be a giraffe. But having said that… there are drawbacks. Gestation is 400–460 days… that is an awfully long time to be pregnant. And, while the mother gives birth standing up, a new-born giraffe is between 5’6” and 6’6” tall!!

After more than 400 days of pregnancy, the baby giraffe can be up to 6’6″ tall at birth!

The males, or bulls, establish a pecking order by neck-wrestling. If a strange bull wanders into the area, a resident bull will challenge it, and the two will bang their heads together until one of them retreats! I confess I can think of several leading ‘bulls’ in our world today who I would happily encourage to bang their heads together –­ but no Joanna, don’t go there!

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Lettuce make soup!

We have had huge success with lettuce this year. So huge in fact that I am worried about how to use it all! So I started asking friends and reading up on the internet – hmm I wonder if you can make lettuce jam? Lettuce fritters?

Well, the sensible answers I got, bearing in mind this is a one person family for feeding lettuce related dishes to (Richard doesn’t like greens very much) were all headed by lettuce soup. My first reaction was yuk, how can that be nice and the answer is – try the recipe and see! I used mainly Cos and Romaine lettuce as that’s what was threatening to bolt in the garden.!

I am now definitely a fan of lettuce soup, I have multiple pots sitting neatly in the freezer and if I have another glut in a month or two, I will be making it again. I have to say if I was being given a blind taste test I would just say it’s a green soup but would not have guessed lettuce. The butter I think adds flavour but of course, if you really can’t have the fat content there are ways around it like using a spray oil instead for cooking.

The other thing I must mention if we are on the topic of lettuce, is how often I use the leaves as a wrap. So my smoked salmon/lettuce or hard boiled egg/lettuce sandwiches are just that – no bread just a wrap made from a large crispy lettuce leaf. I like it – give it a try and see what you think!

Lettuce Soup

The quantities in this are fairly arbitrary, I tweak them to match what I have coming out of the garden or in the fridge at that moment.

Ingredients

  • Large handful of chopped spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove chopped (or skip if you don’t like it)
  • 3 tablespoons or so butter
  • Salt (small teaspoon) and pepper maybe half a teaspoon
  • I medium to large potato chopped into slices or diced
  • Then about 12 ounces of lettuce – I often use even more
  • 3 cups of really nice chicken stock – or use a chicken stock cube

Method

  1. Sauté the spring onion and garlic in a large saucepan with about half the butter. Stir gently until they are soft and then add the salt and pepper and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Now add the potato chunks, the lettuce roughly ripped to pieces and the chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer for 12 minutes or so, until the potatoes are cooked. I leave the lid on the saucepan to preserve the liquid.
  3. I have been known to add more lettuce at this point if I felt it was too thin, in which case I just simmer a little longer to soften the lettuce (it wilts pretty fast) and then continue.
  4. Let the mixture cool a bit and then purée with either a hand blender or a food processor.
  5. Finally, stir in the rest of the butter and then taste for seasoning. This freezes well, just defrost and then warm in a saucepan.

I realise this is a fairly loose recipe but each time I have made it, I have tweaked the amounts of the main ingredients. It is a very flexible concept that can work with whatever you have to hand!

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