Dad’s Birthday Hamper

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Dad’s Birthday Hamper

I made a lovely little hamper of goodies for my Dad’s birthday recently. 

Cute little hamper from Hobbycraft

Labels for the sweets were also from Hobbycraft. 


In the basket is:

– Strawberry jam

– Wild strawberry jam

– Raspberry jam

– Fig and onion marmalade

– White chocolate and almond fudge

– two types of dark chocolate truffles

– two types of white chocolate truffles

– dark chocolate covered dried cherries

– chocolate covered salted almonds

Here are the recipes, I made a few adaptations as I went along. And I definitely don’t recommend making truffles on the hottest day of the year!

White Chocolate and Almond Fudge. 


http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2016/07/microwave-fudge-recipes/

This is really delicious. I converted the amounts to grams, and altered it a bit (see below). Other than that I followed her method, except I toasted the almonds. 

400g of white chocolate (I used green and blacks)

1 tin condensed milk (I could eat it be the spoonful!)

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

See link for the method nits a piece of cake. 

Red Onion and Fig Marmalade
This is a Thane Prince recipe from  Perfect Preserves. It is reproduced here:

http://shows.stv.tv/this-morning/food/294321-prepare-perfect-preserves-in-time-for-christmas-with-thane-prince/

I inadvertently bought re-constituted figs (not dried ones) and I only used 250g. I also just used 1 chilli and just the juice of the Orange, not the rind. It’s yum!
Dark Chocolate Truffles (cherry brandy truffles and amaretto truffles)

I made the recipe in full, then split it in half to make two different flavours. I added a good slug of amaretto to one half and a good splash of cherry brandy to the other. 

The recipe is in Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes book, and is online here:

http://www.foodwine.com/food/ild/2005/1005/micah.html

I rolled the cherry brandy ones in cocoa powder (with added gold glitter dust for extra bling) and dipped the amaretto ones in melted milk chocolate (after freezing them overnight). 
White Chocolate Truffles (champagne truffles and lemon truffles)

Same as above – I made the full recipe, and split it in two. One half I put some Sicilian lemon essence in (from Sainsbury’s). About 3 capfuls. It needs a good stir to incorporate. The other half had Marc de champagne added. Most people think champagne truffles are made with champagne, but it’s usually Marc de champagne, which is a brandy made from champagne. 

I researched a lot of white chocolate truffle recipes, and ended up kind of making up my own. 

I used 300g of white chocolate and 100ml double cream. I put the cold cream and the unmelted chocolate together in a bowl by mistake, so I just shoved it all in the microwave until it melted, and then gave it a good stir. It worked perfectly fine!

Just cool in the fridge until firm and roll into balls. I covered the lemon ones in icing sugar (with silver edible glitter dust added) and the champagne ones in melted white chocolate (freeze the truffles overnight first so they don’t melt when you dip them in chocolate). 

Jam (raspberry jam, strawberry jam and wild strawberry jam)

I have previously blogged about making jam. You can find my blog post here. I’m increasingly a fan of using  jam sugar as it helps jam set quickly and retain its fruity taste and bright colour. 

Salted chocolate almonds

Healthier Treat: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds.

Oh my god, these are amazing. I used almonds without the skins on because that was what I had. 


Chocolate cherries

I had some chocolate left over after making the almonds, and I had a bag of dried cherries (from Holland and Barrett) lying around, so I chucked those in the chocolate and pulled them out individually with a fork (just like the almonds). They are beyond amazing. If you like Green and Blacks cherry chocolate, then you will love this. Would work equally well with dried apricots (whole or chopped up). 

Productive Small Fruit and Vegetable Garden

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Productive Small Fruit and Vegetable Garden

You really don’t need an allotment or a large garden to have a lovely supply of fruit and veg throughout the year. 

My garden isn’t large, but I have shoehorned in fruit and veg plants all over the place. Usually in containers. 

Here are some examples:


Cherry tree in a container gave me loads of lovely fruit this year. This picture below is just some of it. It’s a Stella cherry in case you were interested, and will not get massive. 



Rhubarb in containers. Had them for a couple of years, and got a good crop this year. Behind them is asparagus. I have three crowns in this tub. It’s past asparagus season so I’ve let them grow out. 



Raspberries in containers. Two summer fruiting, one Autumn (on the right) and one black raspberry which I planted in the middle tub just this year. Will see how I get on with two plants in one tub. 


Apple tree in a 3/4 barrel. Not a good year for apples this year. This is a ‘family tree’ and has 3 types of Apple grafted onto one rootstock. 


Potatoes in sacks. Just about ready to be harvested. 


Plum/damson tree. Again a family tree with two types grafted onto the same rootstock. Going to be a good crop this year, after having none last year! One of the few trees I have planted in the ground. 


Strawberries in grow bags on an old table. They grow brilliantly this way. 


Difficult to spot them, but the pots at the front and back of the picture are blueberry plants. Really easy to look after and heavy cropping. This tub is mostly full of blueberries from my first picking this year. And there are loads left on. 



Tomatoes in grow bags. Do you like my tripod frame?!


And of course a raised bed. I have two, but one is for cut flowers. I have beetroot, courgettes (2 plants) and beans (cobra, purple, roquencourt and borlotti) in here. I get loads of beans and courgettes. 

 
None of this is much hassle, and I get to go foraging every summer evening when I come home. 

Great gifts from the garden today (30th July 2016)

Raspberry Ice cream

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My daughter is a complete sucker for raspberry ice cream. So as raspberries are in season at the moment, I promised to make her some. 
It was actually difficult to find a raspberry ice cream recipe online that wasn’t made with coconut. But I found a deliciously Ella recipe for black raspberry ice cream (find it here). I roughly translated it into UK weights and measures, and used an ice cream maker (which you don’t have to). She adapted it from a recipe here.

400g raspberries

300ml double cream

150ml semi skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste

3 large egg yolks (I used 4 medium ones)

130g sugar

60g cream cheese

Heat the raspberries till the juice spills and then mush them. Let them cool. 


Mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Mine was quite thick and sugary still. 

Heat the milk, cream and vanilla until it just boils. Add a bit to the sugar/yolk mix to loosen it. Then gradually whisk the sugar/yolk mix into the milk/cream mix.


Gently heat, whilst stiring until it’s thick and coats the back of a cream. It is very very sweet. Don’t worry as it will be balanced out by the raspberries. 

Add in the raspberries and cream cheese. 


And stir together until the cream cheese melts. 


Let it cool and then freeze in an ice cream machine or freeze and stir every 20 mins until frozen. 

Ta da…


It really is delicious. Not too sweet and not too tart. Yum! Maybe my daughter won’t get any!

And I reckon would be amazing with dark chocolate chips in it or made with some Chambord (black raspberry liqueur). 


And here it is with chocolate orange meringues (see my recipe here) made from the left over egg whites and fresh fruit from the garden. Deeeelicious!

Inspiring Gardens – Nymans Rose Garden

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Inspiring Gardens – Nymans Rose Garden

It’s been a while since I shared pictures of a garden that inspires me. But I took so many pictures of Nymans rose garden today that I felt I had to share. 

July is the perfect time to visit as they are all in full bloom, and it looks magnificent, despite no doubt being battered by the recent heavy rain. 

So no commentary. Just lots of pictures of beautiful roses. 


And these aren’t in the rose garden, but are pretty gorgeous anyway. 

The Cutting Patch – Little Vases of Loveliness

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The Cutting Patch – Little Vases of Loveliness

I love growing flowers in my garden, both to make the garden look lovely, and to cut and bring into the house. 

In fact I even turned one of my raised beds into a cutting patch, to keep me going with a supply of flowers for the whole summer. 

This is when it was just planted up (7th May). Copper rings round the dahlias to protect them. Dahlias stay in there all winter. I lose a few each year, but usually only a couple. And I’m too lazy to take them out each year. 


This is what it looks like right now (mid June – netted at the moment to keep the cats/foxes off). Stocks flowering already. 


This year I’ve planted:

Dahlias, cosmos, zinnias, nigella, cornflowers, stocks, and one solitary marigold!

This is what it looked like in high summer last year (post a picking session, so looking a bit bare – but that’s kind of the point – they are not grown to look make the garden look pretty)


And here are some little vases of loveliness from last year…


I’ve also got loads of sweet peas growing elsewhere in the garden, which give an endless supply of sweet smelling flowers. 

And even though The cutting patch isn’t ready yet, the garden is already providing some little pots of gorgeousness:

Can’t wait for these peonies to burst into life. They are a mix of Pillow Talk and Sarah Bernhardt. 

2016 update – mid June

This was taken in the car. I picked some flowers to take to a friend in a jar. Car cup holders are great places to transport little pots of flowery loveliness. 

1st weekend in July…

5th July – this is what the patch looks like today. Quite a change from 2 months ago when it was planted out! Cornflowers, calendula and stocks going strong. Zinnias, cosmos, chrysthanthemums (the annual kind) and dahlias all about to burst into life. 

Vases for the 1st weekend in August. I’m now cutting flowers once or twice a week, and making plans to put in loads of tulip bulbs so I get cut flowers from March to November!

Pot Luck – round 2

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Pot Luck – round 2

So last years pot experiment wasn’t overly successful. Mostly not enough in each pot, and not enough thought gone into it. 

So I’m trying again this year. It’s a bit of a faff planting out lots of pots each year (and I have a lot of pots!), so I’m going more for perennials with a bit of annual flower interest. I’ve also taken all of my tulips out of the pots and put them in the flower bed. I’m trying to cut down the amount to do in the garden so I can spend more time just enjoying it. 

These were planted out the 2nd weekend in May, and I will post updates later in the year. 

Alyssum and the only chrysthanthemum which made it through the winter (froggy I think)

A lavender standard, alyssum and Aubrieta Kittie Blue

4 scented carnations edged with lobelia

A mixture of purple pansy, helichrysum gold, lobelia, calibrachoa can can coral reef,  bidens aurea. Colours inspired by a bouquet from bloom and wild that I sent to my sister! I already quite like this one. 

Climbing rose with alyssum planted for a bit of trailing interest at the bottom

Salvia with trailing verbena 

Helichrysum gold and two verbenas

Standard rose (cheap from Tesco)!with two helichrysum (silver?), lobelia and verbena

A bunch of the pots together. Looking nice already I think. 

Perpetual wallflower (erysimum) with verbena and alyssum. You can’t see it from this photo, but the verbena at the front is the most amazing light silvery mauve, and looks amazing at dusk. It’s Aztec silver magic. And I love it. 

Stocks

Standard lavender (from ikea!) with alyssum. Tagetes (various, 3 in a pot) and helichrysum in front. 

Three rudbeckia (summerina collection from Thompson & Morgan) – perennial rudbeckias. 

With purple plant from Homebase behind (can’t remember the name!)

Scabiosa ( with wallflower behind)

And here is one I’ve done at the beginning of June


A petunia (no name – cheap one from the market) with chocolate cosmos choca mocha (perennial cosmos that smells of chocolate). Also popped a rudbeckia that I had grown from seed in there. Can’t remember what it is as the label had faded, time will tell!
June update (10th June, so about 4 weeks after they were planted up).

Some already looking quite pretty..

Stocks – could maybe have squashed a few more in. Maybe 5 rather than 3. They smell great though. And I put some in the cutting patch so I can have them in the house. 

Chrysanthemum froggy looking a bit slug eaten! But the alyssum looks pretty. 

I love these verbena, but they are quite unpredictable. You can’t tell if they are going to grow up or sideways!  Looks nice with the wallflower though, which looks like it’s going to continue to flower for a while.   It also looks great next to the scabiosa (just in the edge of the picture on the left) as its a very similar colour. I wonder what they would look like in a big pot together. Maybe one for next year. 

Still liking this one. Waiting for the pansy and the calibrachoa to flower again. 

Like the lobelia around the edge. It’s such a tough little bedding plant, and comes in lots of lovely colours. This is going to look amazing soon when the dianthus flower. I cut off lots of the early buds to try and get them to flower, and it looks like it has worked. 

This is definitely a success. The bees love the salvia, and I love how it looks with verbena at the bottom. 

Also love how this is looking. Nice mix of white verbena and lobelia with the silver helichrysum at the base of the standard rose. Just waiting for some more roses to appear. 

Here are some before and afters. Photos on the right taken first weekend in July. 

30 Day Shred – Level 2

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30 Day Shred – Level 2

Wow. Level 2 is definitely a step up from level 1!

Some of the moves are difficult to get your head round, so I found myself watching the video quite a bit to make sure I was doing it right. You also need more space to move than in level 1. 

I did the first day last night, and this morning I’m not aching crazily, but definitely more aware of my abs.

So I’ve done all 10 days. Straight through with no days off. And I feel great! I even exercised on a weekend away, and on my (ahem) 45th birthday. I don’t know who this crazy exercising woman is, but I quite like her. 

I’m doing a mixture of the advanced and easy versions, and it definitely feels easier than 10 days ago. I feel ready for level 3. 

Other people are noticing – I went swimming with my sister and she commented on how trim I was looking. And I’ve just discovered I have ribs!! I can not only feel them, I can see them. Who knew?!

Everything feels much tighter and drawn in,  my back is definitely looking much more muscly and I keep showing people my guns. Proper muscle definition!! It’s not really showing up much in my measurements, but I don’t care because I can see and feel the improvement!

Here are some photos:

   
    
   

    
 
And a day 1 to day 20 comparison. 

  
Taking a day off today and then onto level 3 tomorrow. Bring it on!