Basic Homemade Hot Sauce

My other half work’s in an office with large glass windows. One of things his team decided to go was grow chillies using the heat as we don’t get much if that in England so it was acting as a mini greenhouse. After the summer had passed he came home one day with a massive collection of chillies. Some of them were small and they were all different colours. We decided we’d use them up in something we loved which was hot sauce. We found some funky skeleton jars in a local shop thinking these would give the perfect scary appearance as we wanted the sauce to be super hot.

 

Ingredients:

5 different types of fresh chilli

Handful jalapeno style chillies

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

1 whole clove of garlic chopped up very small

1 tablespoon of salt and pepper

1 squeeze of tomato puree

1 squeeze of garlic puree

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1 tablespoon dried habanero chilli flakes

1 large onion diced finely

1 tablespoon white sugar

50 ml white wine vinegar

 

Method:

  1. Slightly soften the onion and garlic in a pan
  2. Add them and everything else to a slow cooker
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours
  4. Bottle in sterilised jars
  5. Store in the fridge as it doesn’t have preservatives ib

 

Now we love the type of hot sauce that is sweet but wanted to start out fairly simply so I think next time we’ll add a whole bottle of honey and see where that takes us.

 

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Update on Wedding Confetti

Our wedding is getting closer so the wedding planning and crafting is getting much more serious and my organisational skills need to kick in. Earlier in the year when the flowers were in bloom I collected and dried lots of petals (see link to blog below) and now I’m moving onto making these actual wedding confetti. I saw a really fab picture on Pinterest for wedding cones made from lace and stored in what looks like an apple crate. My father in law to be is a really good wood craftsman so I’ll share some of the other items he’s making for the wedding in future but in light of that he’s agreed to make us the box to store them (see picture below). Post wedding so I don’t spoil the reveal I’ll share a picture of the full box.

 

So then I needed the lace cones. I bought some paper dollies from the local pound store. By cutting them in half and gluing them together you can make a good cone. If you use two layers and insert one into another you get a stronger and prettier lace effect. I sealed the front with a sticker which I got personalised from a store on eBay with our wedding married names.

 

The plan closer to the time is to then pour a small amount of my dried petals into each cone and the place the cones in the box and voila.. hopefully homemade wedding confetti (and we should have a nice apple crate/box to keep forever).

 

I’ll update after the wedding with final photographs.

 

If you are interested in my Wedding Planning activities please see my ‘Super Simple Planning Book’ available on Amazon in digital or paperbook format below:

Cheat’s Mulled Wine Recipe

It’s almost time for the annual Christmas markets in Manchester. Every year we attend and every year I spend a ridiculous amount on buying the cups as they have the year of the market on them. I have almost 10 cups, however I do love a good mulled wine. Now apart from buying my favourite flavour gluwein I have on occasion made it home (using the cups bought from the special market). Making mulled wine can be as elaborate or complicated as you like.

 

The simplest method is buy it! Simply go to a good Marks & Spencer’s supermarket and buy it.

 

Option 2, which probably yields the easiest results are to buy a bottle of good quality red wine. It doesn’t have to be expensive but don’t buy the really watery stuff. Then you can buy mulled wine spice mix (see picture below) and sprinkle some spoons of it in a pan with some of the red wine and warm through (don’t boil as you can boil off the alcohol). You can make it more elaborate by adding a few chopped oranges; lemons or a sprinkle of sugar and it’s starts to look a lot more homemade.

 

Option 3 which is where I am now is to make your own spice mix. I have a jar that I keep and use each year topping up and refreshing each year with a mix of:

 

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground all spice
  • Ginger
  • Brown sugar
  • Dried orange and lemon peel

 

Basically put all your classic Christmas spices in a jar and mix it up. If you particularly like cinnamon add more of that or you hate ginger then leave it out. If you prefer your it sweet then a little more sugar. Don’t put too much sugar though as you can always add that later once you’ve tasted your mix in your red wine as your wine of choice will make it taste different each time.

 

Option 4 which is the final flourish is to then a large or very large splash of your favourite spirit such as honey rum; cherry brandy or even chocolate liqueurs. This is dangerous element as you can make your mulled wine so alcoholic you only manage a glass full!

 

mulled wine 2

Toasted Teacakes

Every Sunday we eat toasted teacakes. I think the tradition came from the local coffee shops offering them as a cheap and filling hot breakfast alongside a caramel latte coffee. They weren’t available the other week so I bought hot cross buns which are similar but felt too like Easter for me.  I’ve also recently gotten better at making bread (it finally proves and rises and everything) so I figured I’d have a go at making homemade teacakes.

 

Ingredients:

 

120ml milk

350g bread flour (I had white in)

2 tsp white sugar

50g butter

1 sachet of yeast

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

100g fruit (I had raisins in)

1 egg beaten

Small spray of oil

 

Method:

  1. Slightly warm the milk and add the butter
  2. Take off the heat and add the yeast and sugar whilst still a little warm
  3. Mix together and add the rest of the ingredients except the fruit
  4. Knead into a smooth dough (takes about 5-8 minutes)
  5. Leave to rise in bowl with a damp tea towel over it for about an hour
  6. Add the fruit to the dough and shape into balls placing on a baking tray
  7. Cover again and leave to prove for about 30 minutes
  8. Brush with beaten egg or milk making sure to cover the whole surface so you don’t get stripes on the side like I did
  9. Bake at 180 degrees c for circa 45 minutes

 

Mine kept for a few days in a tin. Serve as you would normally sliced; toasted and with butter

 

Perfect Carrot Cake with Cream Frosting

Last weekend I went through a phase of making homemade soups. I go through this phase fairly often when I have a load of vegetables leftover or it’s cold outside. I’ll add some soup recipes soon. Consequentially I had a load of carrots left over so figured I’d ruin the healthy eating and make a carrot cake. For whatever carrots you have leftover adjust the proportions below as long as you keep the wet and dry ingredients in proportion to each other.

 

Ingredients:

 

Cake

300g plain flour

150g brown sugar

100g white sugar

3-4 large eggs dependent on their size

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt

300 ml sunflower oil

300g carrots peeled and grated

 

Topping

100g full fat cheese (I like Philadelphia)

30g butter

200g icing sugar sieved

100g walnuts (I keep whole)

100g caster sugar

 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees and line a tin
  2. Beat everything together with a wooden spoon and transfer to the tin
  3. Cook for 40-45 minutes until firm and a skewer comes out clean
  4. Allow to completely cool (really important when using cream cheese frosting!)
  5. Mix the topping together with an electric whisk. It will go really light fluffy after about 5 minutes
  6. Spoon on the top and top with walnuts

 

Tips:

  • You can change the quantities as long you keep the proportions of wet to dry ingredients
  • Grate some walnuts and add them to cake mix to add some extra flavour
  • The mixture will look really moist but that’s great as the cake will be too
  • Adding more spices or fruit can make it more Christmassy so you can use it in place of a traditional fruit cake recipe if your family doesn’t like it

Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

I love Disney. I’m sure you’ll see in some of the previous blogs there are Disney influences in my Minnie Mouse converse trainers and there’s definitely an influence of American food from my various US travels. Recently I was watching one of my favourite vloggers and they were eating Cheeseburger eggs rolls at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando Florida. I’ve eaten these before and immediately started writing down and researching recipes on how to make these gorgeous snacks. I mean what could be better.. the taste of hamburger; cheese, fried food in snack size form. So here’s my final recipe and they do taste just like the ones at Disney.

 

Ingredients:

 

Samosa/Egg rolls/Spring roll papers (frozen)

500g mince meat

Handful of burger gherkins sliced into small pieces

1 tablespoon mustard (I used French)

1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup

¼ large white onion grated

Handful grated cheddar cheese

Pinch of salt and paper

Sunflower oil for frying

Optional: 1 teaspoon burger sauce

 

Method:

  1. Brown the mince and onions in frying pan until cooked
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly
  3. Put a tablespoon of the mix in an egg roll wrapper and wrap up like it’s a baby in a blanket or a burrito
  4. Wet the edge of the wraps if they won’t stick back down
  5. Fry each wrap in the sunflower oil on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until golden brown. The mince is already cooked so you don’t have to cook them too long
  6. Drain well on kitchen paper and serve with burger sauces for dipping

Tips:

  • You can get the egg roll papers from most major supermarkets or if you an Asian supermarket or minimarket in your town you’ll definitely get them there
  • If you really like mustard; ketchup or gherkins in your burger normally then add more or less of these items to make it just like your favourite burger
  • I like putting the mix in the centre of the wrapper then I pull up one of the corners and then the opposite corner, the roll over the opposite sides

 

 

Slow Cooker Chilli (Chilli Nachos)

Over the past week we’ve stayed in a couple of hotels and consequentially eaten out a lot at day and night. One of the items we ordered was from a standard bistro style pub in the hotel lobby which consisted of some standard nachos topped with the most amazing chill (and cheese and soured cream!). It was such a nice light meal to share and I haven’t had chilli for such a long time I decided to try and make a standard chill in my slow cooker to see how it would turn out. Then I could use the chilli to top nachos; baked potatoes or simply serve with rice.

 

Ingredients

1 splash sunflower oil

500g lean mince

1 can of chopped tomatoes

100ml of water

2 cloves of garlic, minced or I use the squeezy garlic tubes

2 chillies; chopped and de-seeded or use the squeezy tubes (or frozen/dried version described in tips below)

1 large white onion, chopped finely

1 can of kidney beans (rinsed in cold water)

1/2 beef stock cube

1 squirt of tomato puree

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon sweet, smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Salt and pepper

 

Method

  1. Brown the mince in a frying pan; add the onions and garlic at the end to slightly brown over a medium heat
  2. Add the mince and all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker and set on high
  3. Cook for 4 hours
  4. I took the lid off for the last 20 mins to boil off some of the water
  5. Serve a big blob over nachos and sprinkle with cheese

 

IMG_2344

Tips

Use less water if you want it thicker as slow cookers don’t allow the water to boil off so it becomes more liquidy the longer you cook it

When I have too many chillies I either hang them to dry out or chop them an put them in a blob of oli in the freezer so they don’t go off

I know people add a small block of high quality cooking chocolate to their chilli recipes but I’ve never made this work as all I can then taste is chocolate. If anyone has any tips of this I’d be grateful!?

Pear Jam

Jam is more difficult than I though to make and it did take me quite a few attempts but having a Pear Tree made me motivated to do it. It is completely worth the effort though. The trick seems to be in the setting of the jam. You need to boil the jam enough that is sets or you end up with jars of jelly, which actually with some peanut butter is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg fruit (Any you like. I even like buying bags of cheap frozen mixed berries and using them)
  • 1kg jam sugar (has the pectin enzyme to make it set)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Vanilla (1 tbsp essence; extract or fresh pod scraping them black bits of with a knife)

Method:

  1. Boil ingredients together for about 20 minutes.
  2. Put a plate in the freezer in parallel.
  3. After 20 minutes put a drop of jam onto the plate and if it starts to solidify and form a skin so setting it’s ready. If not keep boiling until it does.bcec95038a4005942b8979a014129f3b_free-pear-tree-clip-art-pear-tree-free-clipart_467-577.png
  4. Sterilise jam jars (old or new) buy pouring boiling water over them in the sink and the lids or use your dishwasher to clean them.
  5. Pour into jars and store for about a year.

For the jam jars: (http://www.ebay.co.uk/)

Elderflower Champagne

Elderflower Champagne

This is the simplest and cheapest recipe to make your own alcohol and also it’s super lovely; fragrant and is fizzy. With the fashion for ‘Prosecco’ at the moment this made excellent Christmas gifts for my family and I’ve also heard of people making it for the start of their wedding reception as a cheaper and more personal version of ‘Champagne’ to toast with.image01

You really don’t need to buy any expensive home brewing kits for this one but if you do buy one, you can always move onto different hedgerow varieties such as ‘Nettle Beer’ or even store boughts kits which are great fun to try out.

Also, if you really get into making alcohol at home it’s a good idea to buy a hydrometer (even supermarkets sell these now) as it will tell you the percentage of alcohol you make but if you are just trying a few basic recipes it’s not really worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 litres hot water
  • 2 litres cold water
  • 700g sugar
  • Juice and zest of 4 lemons
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 15 elderflower heads
  • Pinch dried yeast
  • Large bucket or professional fermenting container (You can buy online)
  • Some bottles. I like the ones with the pressure release tops as Elderflower wine can produce a lot of gas so it’s a bit safer than screw top or sealed glass bottles (http://www.ebay.co.uk/)

Method:

  1. In Springtime head to the local park and look for the Elderflower trees. They have a spray of flowers out from one stem and the leaves have serrated edges. They are best when they are white and pick heads from about shoulder height, that way you’ll ensure you get an Elderflower and nothing toxic as Elderflowers grow from bushes and not directly from the ground. Collect around 20 heads cutting them off with scissors/shears.download (1)
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the hot water.
  3. Add the cold water and the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Stir.
  5. Leave to ferment with either a pressure lid or a piece of cloth covering the top for about a week. Stirring occasionally.
  6. After a week the sediment should have sunk to the bottom so decant either very carefully with a jug or with a syphon (tube or pipe straw).
  7. Pour into bottles and seal.
  8. It can be drunk immediately or kept for a couple of months.

I’d also highly recommend The River Cottage method as that’s the first place I ever saw someone make this lovely brew (https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/sparkling-elderflower-wine).

Pom Poms for Molly Moo Cat

As promised earlier in the week I said I’d share some of my crafting activities for Molly Moo Cat.

I was taught how to make pom poms by my mum when I very little but not until fairly recently that they came back into fashion. I’ve seen little plastic tools in shops you can buy now to make them but I’ve never tried them.
The traditional method is to get some plain flat card such as the back of a cereral box. Cut in half to make double the thickness. Place on a flat surface and draw around something round such as a wine glass or bowl cut a circular shape. This will be the size of your pom pom. Place a smaller circle such as an egg cup in the centre and draw around. Cut out the two rings of cards. This is your base.
Grab a ball of wool and cut into long strips. I use the wool that is made up of rainbow colours so you get a mix of colours. Tie a piece of wool around the each or the ring and then loop the wool through the centre and around the outside and then repeat over and over. The aim is to cover the rings with wool until there is no more room in the centre circle. Keeping the wool in strips means you can squeeze the residual wool through the centre hole. image2
Once it’s full up grab some scissors and cut around the edge of the card pushing the scissors between the two rings. Do it carefully and keep the card together. Grab an extra piece of wool and wrap it around the card between the two pieces where you just cut and tie in a tight knot. Therefore, you have tied all the pieces together. You can now remove the cards and fluff up the pom pom into a nice round shape. Use some scissors to cut off any extra fluffy bits and make the pom pom really round.
Now technically pom poms made of wool are not meant for cats so you really shouldn’t let them eat the wool but my cat loves to play with them and push them around. It’s a good tip to leave the last wrap around piece really long as you can dangle the pom pom from their scratching post or any other fun spot.
Repeat until you have a house full of pom poms and a happy cat…