A glutton for punishment

While growing your own veg is a wonderful and rewarding thing you can find yourself becoming a glutton for punishment. If you get too good at it, there can be one big problem – a glut! After weeks and months of nurturing, everything seems to ripen at the same time, so you have tonnes of tomatoes, more lettuces than Sainsbury’s and, possibly the worst of all,­ a mountain of courgettes! I don’t know what it is about courgettes, but they creep up on you. One minute you have one, the next 10 and at least two of those will have turned into marrows overnight.

The only thing to do with any glut is to ensure you have freezer space and some great recipe ideas to ring the changes and stop you getting completely bored with whichever veg is in glut.

I am currently wrestling with the annual courgette glut. Not only is my neighbour kindly giving me their excess, but I have quite a few of my own to contend with too. It is clearly a very well catalogued problem – there is even a book called ‘What Will I Do With All Those Courgettes?’ obviously written by someone who has endured many a courgette excess.

If you haven’t got time to rustle up a delicious courgette soup or veggie bake, don’t despair – some genius has invented the spiralizer! If you haven’t tried courgetti yet, you’re in for a treat. Courgette spaghetti can be made and served in less time than it takes to make conventional pasta. All you need is a spiralizer or even just a vegetable peeler. You can turn the humble courgette into the perfect healthy meal in minutes with a couple of minutes (no more) in boiling water.

If you pick your courgettes before they get too big – about the length of your hand from palm base to finger tips – you don’t even need to cook them as they are delicious eaten raw if sliced, shaved or grated.

They are very versatile and can even put on a show on the BBQ – slice thickly and brush with oil and you can griddle them. Alternatively, braise slowly in butter with crushed garlic and thyme leaves and you get a delicious pasta sauce.

But if you really feel you are sinking beneath the weight of courgettes then why not knock up a batch of soup and freeze in portions, then you can remind yourself of summer when you tuck into a warming bowl in the depths of winter. Enjoy!

This Simple Courgette Soup really is very easy to make, it freezes well and is delicious with homemade bread. It is great eaten hot or cold!

Simple Courgette Soup:

Ingredients

  • 450g courgettes thickly sliced
  • 700ml chicken stock, or vegetable stock if you want to keep it completely vegetarian
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano (fresh is best!)
  • ¼ teaspoon rosemary (fresh is best!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to boil
  2. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for 15-20 mins
  3. Blend in blender/processor till smooth, reheat when ready to serve, or chill and serve cold.
7 Comments

A pair of Thomas Kinkades!

One of the biggest licenses we have ever negotiated was the thrill of signing with Thomas Kinkade. Sadly he is not with us anymore but the legacy he left behind is mountain high. He is known as the Painter of Light and is the most collected contemporary artist in America.

I have recently been writing an article on his life story for a special magazine/box set that we are bringing out with Practical Publishing later in the year and he really did achieve so much.

We do a triple CD that has a great majority of his work on it – I wonder now if I should have brought it out in instalments, but I felt it was a special crafting CD to have in your collection with close to everything on it. There are so many topics he liked to paint, pretty cottages, gorgeous gardens and, my favourite, his marine paintings oh, and even a teddy bear!

These cards are made from the CD and the one on the right uses an insert as the backing paper which is always a useful trick to get even more out of your CDs. The card on the left has a lovely embellishment that’s easy for you to copy and create. Just layer a small part of a picture onto card and then cover with several coats of a glaze. You can use glossy accents, Crystal Glaze – there are many others out there too. Once it is complete, it looks like a pretty piece of enamelled jewellery and makes a great little embellishment.

Happy Crafting! Smiles, Joanna.

16 Comments

Howard Robinson’s beautiful boathouse

Howard Robinson is a British artist with a very distinctive style and, if you look through his decoupage pack on the website, you’ll find a beautiful array of houses and cottages, he has been in the licensed art business for over 35 years.

It’s fun to make up the decoupage (I use Pinflair glue gel) but more importantly there are so many different occasions to use the cards. An obvious one is a new home card, but it could be a ‘happy holiday’ card, if someone is staying in a cottage in the country, birthday, thinking of you (as this card is) and many more.

If you are looking through the images and thinking, ‘I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before’ … perhaps you are a jigsaw puzzle fan? Howard licenses a massive amount of artwork to jigsaw companies and, having made up a few with my late Mum and Dad, good fun they are too. I love all the intricate detailing and of course the main house image – I love houses!

4 Comments

Think of summer… and think of sunflowers!

Think of summer… and think of sunflowers! Surely the sunniest flower there is, their huge golden faces cannot help but bring cheer.

I think most of us will have grown a sunflower at some time in our lives. Well, this year, we have had the pleasure of watching our granddaughter Grace plant and nurture her own sunflower. She planted the seed herself and waters it every time she comes to visit – and it has now grown to about 7 feet high! Pretty good for a first effort Grace!

The sunflower is actually an important plant in many areas. Grown as a crop for its edible oil and edible fruits – those delicious sunflower seeds – sunflower seeds were brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, where, along with sunflower oil, they became a widespread cooking ingredient.

The tallest sunflower on record achieved an extraordinary 30ft, or over 9 metres! Goodness knows how they kept the thing upright, perhaps it was draped over something?

Sunflower seeds are sold as a snack food, raw or after roasting in ovens, with or without salt and seasonings added. Sunflower seeds can also be processed into a peanut butter alternative, sunflower butter, which sounds pretty yummy to me.

Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds, is used for cooking, as a carrier oil and to produce margarine and biodiesel, as it is cheaper than olive oil. Sunflowers also produce latex and are the subject of experiments to see if they can be used as an alternative crop for producing non-allergenic rubber.

A common misconception (and one that I thought was true) is that the glorious golden sunflower heads track the sun across the sky. Actually, it’s only the immature flower buds that do this, the mature flowering heads point in a fixed, usually easterly, direction. Ah well, that’s another lovely image shattered!

But these gorgeous plants are useful across so many areas of life – have a look at the list of facts below, I think you’ll be surprised…

Here are a few sunflower facts for you:

  • There are two basic types of sunflower seeds: black and stripe.
  • Young sunflower plants orient their heads toward the sun – a phenomenon known as heliotropism.
  • The sunflower is the national flower of Russia and the state flower of Kansas.
  • Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamins of the B group and vitamin E, and minerals such as copper, phosphorus, selenium and magnesium.
  • Black sunflower seeds are a rich source of oil that is used for cooking.
  • Striped seeds are popular as snacks.
  • Seeds of sunflower are an important food source for birds, squirrels and insects.
  • Sunflower seeds are used for the production of biodiesel, an eco-friendly type of diesel, designed to reduce pollution of the atmosphere.
  • The sunflower is able to absorb heavy metals and toxins from the ground and it is often planted in the heavily polluted areas. These plants were used to reduce nuclear pollution after Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. How amazing is that?
6 Comments

My favourite Thomas Kinkade cards

We make gadzillions of cards through the year. Some are destined to be samples or demos for Create and Craft, some are just for family and friends. But these two cards are among my favourites and I have kept them carefully for months now. You know what it’s like when you have cards that should go somewhere or be for a particular someone and you think, no, I’ll keep those for now… and then never give them away!

Thomas Kinkade images are easy to use as the cottages are gentle and rural, pretty and easy to match colour-wise. The die used here is our Signature die Wild Rose (completely biased now) – and it is one of our best sellers of all time. I just LOVE it.

My personal choice is to die cut in white and then colour with Promarkers, or you can use any colouring medium that you prefer. You can add pearls, or not add pearls, ring the changes and it makes any card look fabulous with very limited effort!

8 Comments