Halloween Pumpkin Carving and Recipes

I just adore Halloween. I’ve enjoyed America television and associated Americana since I was little and Halloween was always a big part of that being such a commercial event in the states. It has come over to the UK but if you’ve ever walked through an American suburb recently or even more than gone out in the evening in a city you will see the amazing array of costumes and decorated houses. My favourite experience was the town of Celebration in Orlando where they have light projections covering their entire houses showing Halloween scenes such as ghosts or bats circling the house.

 

Pumpkin flavouring is another item you cannot get away from in the states. Everything is flavoured from coffee; branded cookies through to candles and fabric softener.  I think it helps that ‘Thanks Giving’ is at a similar time of year and the tradition for Pumpkin Pie (which I find glorious) must only have help drive the desire for pumpkin flavoured things.  Pumpkin flavoured items are not very present in the UK and you really have to struggle to find anything but you do find Pumpkins for carving. The first thing I will say therefore is be careful when you buy a pumpkin. A lot of them in the UK are grown just for carving and not eating. Check the label as it normally states this in the small print. Try to find a farm to pick your pumpkin from a patch or pick up an organic one if you can. I’ve grown pumpkins in the past and will put up a guide to growing them in the next spring time as it’s so much fun.

 

So you’ve picked; grown or bought your pumpkin, how do you carve it? My advice would be to search the internet for designs that you like mean something to you. I’ve seen some great Mickey Mouse designs and it’s more interesting than just a wobbly mouth and triangle eyes.  This year I’ve been playing a game on my mobile called ‘Pokemon Go’ which has some spookily themed character so ‘Gengar’ seemed like a great idea.

 

I started my looking at a picture of what I wanted to carve and drew it in ‘Sharpie’ marker on the flatest side of my pumpkin. I coloured with lines the bits of pumpkin to cut away where the line would come through. Then using a really sharp knife I cut the top off my pumpkin. Using a metal spoon scrape the insides of the pumpkin so all the loose fibres and seeds fall in a pile at the bottom. Keep doing this and emptying the contents until you have smooth sides of pumpkin flesh inside.  Then using a small sharp knife cut the coloured pieces away leaving you design. Scrape the back of the design so you don’t get any fibrous bits hanging down in front of the light. If your pumpkin is organic you’ll have quite a lot of fleshy insides that you can scrape away and put into a bowl separately. If there isn’t much just leave it to allow the pumpkin to keep its integrity. A real word of warning though don’t leave a pumpkin with fleshy insides intact as it will rot within a couple of days and literally dissolve making a major mess.

 

For the light itself I use the cheap battery powered ones as they are much safer if you put your pumpkin in a window or anywhere near children. They also help preserve your pumpkin for much longer as the candle heat can melt the insides and help it rot faster. Trust me I learnt this the hard way when even after a week the pumpkin had dissolved to mush all over my window sill and down the wall. Also, if you use a candle and your cut outs aren’t very big put a couple of holes in the roof/top of your pumpkin to allow air in or your candle will melt the roof thus again creating a big pile of mush or the candle goes out shortly after you put it in.

 

Finally using some wet kitchen paper and some form of cleaning product like washing up liquid give the front of the pumpkin where the design is a bit of a wipe down to remove any pieces of residual marker pen.

 

And voila!! Happy Halloween!!

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But what about that pumpkin flesh… I have two things I like to do. The first is to mix it with a can of prepared pumpkin that can buy in the supermarket. This is generally a bit sweeter as it’s been canned immediately after picking. Cook the flesh for about 20 mins in a pan and then add a can of condensed milk; 2 beaten eggs, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon and some salt. Mix. Grab some pre-made short crust pastry (frozen stuff) and line a cake tin or flan/pie dish. Fill with the mixture and bake for 20 minutes at about 180 degrees. Serve with vanilla ice-cream.

 

The second thing I like to do is add the pumpkin flesh to homemade soups. Add to cauliflower or any vegetables you like in a pan with some vegetable stock and boil for about 20 minutes. Add a dash of cream; salt and pepper and blend with a blender. Perfect vegetable soup!

 

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Pizza dough base using Soy flour

This recipe came from the ‘verywell’ website when ‘Googling’ best low carb pizza dough recipes so what an advert to be at the top of those listings. Now one of the reasons I’ve put weight on is my recent trip and engagement in New York on which almost every day we ate pizza. If you ever go to New York please try the local pizza restaurant across the street from the World Trade Centre monument or there’s an immense one in Penn Station underground. Also, try a white. Now I’ didn’t know what  white was but apparently it’s just a plain cheese and tomato pizza with no tomato. It was amazing!!! I think it was more like a deluxe cheesy garlic bread but so good.

 

Ingredients

1 cup soy flour

½ cup protein powder (try Holland and Barrett or online health food shops)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

2 eggs beaten

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup water

1-2 tsp sugar substitute (use the natural ones)

 

Method:

  1. Combine spread onto a pizza plate or baking sheet. Grease really well as mine stuck a bit too much
  2. Cook at 180 degrees c for about 12 minutes

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For the toppings remember don’t use pre-bought pizza sauce as it contains sugars but make your own with softened onions and garlics; can of chopped tomatoes, oregano and any Italian style spices you like. Cover the base with sauce and coat with lots of cheese. Cook again for about ten minutes until brown. Always allow pizzas ten minutes after cooking to settle down or they don’t slice well. That’s why takeaway pizzas are always more formed that home cooked.  I always like my pizza’s with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or chilli flakes dependent on my mood.

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Now the base isn’t soft doughy bread so I couldn’t pick mine up but eaten with a knife and fork it was as close to pizza as I’m going to get I like. My next step is to experiment with hybrid flours by adding Almond etc.

Atkins Diet

Low carb coconut bread

Engagement Announcement

Low carb coconut bread

This recipe came from ‘The Atkins’ website and variations are widely shared in communities online. It’s super rich so when I say cut it into 16 slices do not feel tempted to make these larger as they look small but are so heavy to eat (in a good way). Also, although it’s described as bread it’s a bit like the bread you had on holiday in the late 1990’s in European resorts so it’s half bread and half cake like. You’ll know what I mean if you ever went to the Algarve.

 

Ingredients

1 cup coconut flour

6 eggs whisked together

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp salt

1 tbsp sweetner ( do not use Aspartame based but the natural sweeteners)

½ cup butter melted

 

Method

  1. Butter a cake/bread tin and set oven to 180 degrees c
  2. Mix together and pour (yes pour it’s really liquid) into a bread/cake tin
  3. Cook for 35- 45 mins
  4. Slice into circa slides. Each slide is 1.6 net carbs
  5. Server toasted coated in butter

 

Bearing in mind I’ve not had bread for a couple of weeks and I’m really missing it as prior to this diet and I normally eat two pieces of white Warburton bread toasted with butter a day, I really liked it! It maybe a tiny bit too sweet though so I’m next going to be exploring Almond Flour and Soy Flours as a substitute.

Atkins Diet

I’ve started doing ‘The Atkins’ version of a low carb diet initially as it’s something I’ve done before and I know works. Have a look at ‘The Atkins’ website for a great summary and recipes. I’ve an older paperback version of the original guide which I bring out every couple of years. The premise which never made sense to me until I saw the weight come off the first time is that you can only eat meat; fish, cheese and fats. You can also have vegetables but only the non-starchy (woody) ones so no potatoes. They however need to make up your net carb daily allowance which is 20 net carbs. Net carbs are the carbohydrate value you see on the side of the packet minus the carbohydrate fibre.  Now there are also minor exceptions to the meat; fish and cheese lists but there are very specific such as cottage cheese . A core tip would be to not ignore the fats. Actually eating fat on this diet really helps. Sounds weird but true! Also, make sure you eat more fresh foods rather than pre-packaged especially in the first weeks which is known as induction as trying to work out carbohydrate value hidden in things like sausages or breading even lightly on meats is difficult and can really ruin your diet.

 

Other key tips I tell anyone starting the diet is to buy some ‘Ketostix’ from eBay or health food store as they measure the amount of ketosis you are going through which is a true indicator of whether the fat burning is working. It also helps if you’ve eaten something and then you test yourself you can really know whether that tiny bit of ketchup knocked you off your diet or not and trust me it does. Do not so much as lick a boiled sweet, especially in induction. I’m not kidding! I’d also recommend you take a multi-vitamin; buy full fat cream as you end up using it for everything and a lot of eggs.

 

So I’m about two stone heavier than I’d like to be. I mean I’m not big at all at a size 14 but as I’m getting married I’d like to be in best shape I can be.  I actually don’t  eat that badly normally but I’ve been on some big holidays recently and eaten a lot of pizza in New York for examples. It was worth though.. lol.

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I’ve lots more meal plans; tips and recipes to share so I’ll add these as the weeks go on. Good luck if you are trying low carb and please contact me if you want to share or discuss anything.

https://uk.atkins.com/

https://www.ebay.co.uk/

http://www.youandyourwedding.co.uk/

Engagement Announcement

Firstly I’d like to say I’m so sorry for the absence in the past few months but I’ve been very busy and had some major life altering events. I got engaged! That means I’ve lots of lovely crafts to blog about over the next year. Also, linked to that I am doing the inevitable diet before getting married so that means I’m in a crazy state of trying and amending low carb recipes at the moment. Some of these recipes at moment are not going incredibly well so I’ll share my mistakes but more importantly how I improve them to make them more edible.

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If you want to know about the proposal I’ll share the key moment which was a very romantic picnic in Central Park, New York on a warm afternoon. We’d picked up some sandwiches and these gorgeous canned cocktails which I know sounds awful but they ice cold flavoured Margarita mixes so for lazy about people watching on the grass they were just perfect. A little tip for people planning on engaged in Central Park is not to do it on top of a hill unless however you love the spectacle of everyone clapping and cheering around you! I still can’t decide whether I loved or hated it but I think in the end it was a combination of both.

E3 Corndogs

This week is the famous E3 Video game series of company events advertising the year to come in consoles; technology and games. It is based in the US and live streamed via Twitch and Youtube and for the first time at slightly less unsociable times of the day.

Last night started with Xbox showcasing their Xbox One X product at a super ridiculous price of $499 which will likely be matched in the UK at £499. Anyway, myself and my other half get into the US spirit by making themed food to go with it. Therefore, the first mandatory item was Corndogs. I’m using cups as my form of measurement which is not very English and the definition is literally that.. grab a normal sized coffee cup. It more important that your relative proportions are correct and you check the thickness of the batter rather than get the grams right for your mix.

Recipe:

2 cups pancake mix (ready made stuff. I had some Buttermilk mix in. You can buy this in England)

1 cup Cornmeal (or semolina if you struggle)

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon honey

Pinch of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Packet or tin or hot dogs

Packet of BBQ skewers or lollipop skewers (soak the in water for a few hours so they don’t burn)

Ketchup and Mustard

US food baskets (optional)

High heat oil such as Canola or Sunflower

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Method:

  1. Mix together in a bowl or jug so it’s super thick. Try to go slowly with the milk to do this rather than the other way around making the mix too floury
  2. Push the dogs onto the sticksIMG_9695
  3. Pour the batter into a tall container if its not already. Dip the dogs into the batter so they give a thick coating (mine was so thick they stood upIMG_9705
  4. Heat about an inch oil is a pan so it’s bubbling hot
  5. Lay the dogs down slowly and away from you so you don’t splash yourself
  6. Cook for 3 mins roughly so they are golden brown. I left mine a little too long so they were a bit dark but lovely none the less
  7. Lay onto kitchen paper to drain and serve warmIMG_9706
  8. Mix together (swirl) ketchup and mustard in a small pot for an authentic dipping sauce

​Pretty Garden Bunting (Fast method)

I love bunting and have bought and made lots over the past over the past few years. I’ve got it down to an art form of making it quickly and cheaply.  You can spend a fortune now for such a simple item.
Materials:
– Scraps of pretty material
– Wonderweb (magic iron on tape)
– Long piece of ribbon or elastic
– Iron or even hair straighteners
– Scissors
Method:​
1. Folder your material in half and iron/flat iron so there is a crease
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2. Cut into triangle shapes leaving the crease at the top of the triangle (so the ribbon/elastic can be thread through it)
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3. Cut a square and a triangle of iron on tape and iron onto the inside of one of the triangles
4. Peel off the other side and place the triangle at the point of the ribbon/elastic you want it and folder the other half over. Iron over to stick together
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5. Repeat until you have the length of bunting you need
6. If you fabric frays a lot you can hem in the edges either with iron on tape; sew or even use pinking shears (the serrated edge scissors) to make neat
You can use pretty much any fabric you like. A nice touch for outdoor bunting is to use oil cloth as it’s waterproof but to be honest I’ve had lots of normal fabric out in all weathers and it looks great for an entire year.
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Classic Cherry Cake

I’ve had this recipe from my mum since I was kid. I’m not entirely sure where she got it from but it isn’t rocket science, however the real trick is getting the cherries not to sink! The best way to do this is to make sure the cake mixture isn’t too thin and even cut some of the cherries up to make them lighter. 

Cherry Cake

Ingredients

225g Butter

225g Icing sugar

4 eggs beaten

225g Plain flour

½ tbsp baking powder

250g cherries quartered

110g ground almonds

Splash almond essence

2 tbs brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Cream butter; eggs and sugar together until fluffy
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together and fold in
  4. Add the cherries; almond essence and almonds and mix lightly
  5. Add to a greased baking tin
  6. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and then cover the tin with foil as the cake burns quickly
  7. Bake for 30 mins at 180 degrees

Update: 12th June 2017

I did a variation of this at the weekend and used a jar of gin soaked berries and made them into cupcake forms. You can still taste the gin when cooked!! Also remember to sprinkle brown sugar on the top to get a nice crunch and sweet finish.

Growing Cat Grass for Molly Moo Cat

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Every since I’ve had my cat Molly Moo (who you have met before in Blog https://modernmrsbeeton.blog/2017/04/13/pom-poms-for-molly-moo-cat/) I’ve regularly grown her Cat Grass. Cat Grass is really good for digestion in cats and often I’ve seen Molly when she’s had a big meal or seeming a bit lazy go straight for her grass and then she’s running around like a crazy lady in no time. Apparently if you have a long haired cat it can also really help with furballs but Molly is short haired so I have no experience of this.
You can buy seeds pretty much anywhere but I’ve included an Amazon link below.
Simply grab a plant pot with potting compost; add a layer of seeds and water Then grow like wild fire and are super resilient.
A few tips are to sow them densely as Molly likes a good chomp across a few blades at once; remember to water and give them sunlight. Don’t make the mistake of leaving them out in your garden unless you enjoy other cats visiting (but you may well like this!). I also like the plant pot method rather than just sewing into your flower beds as Molly can then have it inside on a rainy day and you can keep them controlled.
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CHAPTER XXXVII. Recipes for beverages Hot Chocolate and Cocoa (THE BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT BY MRS. ISABELLA BEETON. VOLUME 1. )

I woke up this morning with a real craving for hot chocolate. I’ve been walking a lot recently getting to around 20k steps a day so I think I’m just lacking sugar. I had a vague memory of some incredible looking hot chocolate I’d seen Jamie Oliver make on a TV show once so I decided to look it up. It stuck in my memory because as a kid hot chocolate to me was the cheap powdered stuff that you add hot water to and when I saw this I worked out I’d not been having hot chocolate at all. I’d not even been having real Cocoa!

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chocolate-recipes/epic-hot-chocolate/

I was therefore interested to see what Mrs Beeton had gathered about hot chocolate in her day and was very amused to find it was an almost identical recipe to Jamie. It seems real hot chocolate cannot be replicated or messed with.

“TO MAKE CHOCOLATE. 1807.

INGREDIENTS.– Allow ½ oz. of chocolate to each person; to every oz. allow ½ pint of water, ½ pint of milk. Mode.– Make the milk-and-water hot; scrape the chocolate into it, and stir the mixture constantly and quickly until the chocolate is dissolved; bring it to the boiling point, stir it well, and serve directly with white sugar. Chocolate prepared with in a mill, as shown in the engraving, is made by putting in the scraped chocolate, pouring over it the boiling milk-and-water, and milling it over the fire until hot and frothy. Sufficient.– Allow ½ oz. of cake chocolate to each person.

CHOCOLATE AND COCOA.– Both these preparations are made from the seeds or beans of Chocolatethe cacao-tree, which grows in the West Indies and South America. The Spanish, and the proper name, is cacao, not cocoa, as it is generally spelt. From this mistake, the tree from which the beverage is procured has been often confounded with the palm that produces the edible cocoa-nuts, which are the produce of the cocoa-tree (Cocos nucifera), whereas the tree from which chocolate is procured is very different (the Theobroma cacao). The cocoa-tree was cultivated by the aboriginal inhabitants of South America, particularly in Mexico, where, according to Humboldt, it was reared by Montezuma. It was transplanted thence into other dependencies of the Spanish monarchy in 1520; and it was so highly esteemed by Linnaeus receive from him the name now conferred upon it, of Theobroma, a term derived from the Greek, and signifying “food for gods.” Chocolate has always been a favourite beverage among the Spaniards and Creoles, and was considered here as a great luxury when first introduced, after the discovery of America; but the high duties laid upon it, confined it long almost entirely to the wealthier classes. Before it was subjected to duty, Mr. Bryan Edwards stated that cocoa plantations were numerous in Jamaica, but that the duty caused their almost entire ruin. The removal of this duty has increased their cultivation. (For engraving of cocoa-bean, see No. 1816.)”

 

“TO MAKE COCOA. 1816.

INGREDIENTS.– Allow 2 teaspoonfuls of the prepared cocoa to 1 breakfast-cup; boiling milk and boiling water. Mode.– Put the cocoa into a breakfast-cup, pour over it sufficient cold milk to make it into a smooth paste; then add equal quantities of boiling milk and boiling water, and stir all well together. Care must  be taken not to allow the milk to get burnt, as it will entirely spoil the flavour of the preparation. The above directions are usually given for making the prepared cocoa. The rock cocoa, or that bought in a solid piece, should be scraped, and made in the same manner, taking care to rub down all the lumps before the boiling liquid is added. Sufficient — 2 teaspoonfuls of prepared cocoa for 1 breakfast-cup, or ¼ oz. of the rock cocoa for the same quantity.”

Cocoa