Apple Crumble Recipe

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If you Google ‘basic apple crumble recipe’ you get about 16 million or so results! Let’s keep it simple with this easy and, I believe,  traditional recipe that my family has loved for years. It even got a spot in my ‘Grow It, Cook It!’ book.

This recipe uses blackberries and apples – a winning combination – but just use apples for a true apple crumble!

 

Ingredients

2 large cooking apples, or 3-4 dessert apples
Enough blackberries to fill about a third of an ovenproof dish
A little sugar

 
For the crumble:

4-5oz (100-125g) flour
2oz (50g) hard butter (or alternative) cut into small cubes
2oz (50g) sugar

 
Method

1. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4 (350F, 180C)

2. Peel and core apples and cut them into thin slices. Put them into a pan with a little water.

3. Bring gently to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until apples are soft. Don’t let them burn. Cooking apples will take longer to cook than dessert apples.

4. Drain, reserving the liquid.

5. Lay apples in an ovenproof dish and top with prepared blackberries, if using, to fill the dish to half or two thirds full.

6. Sprinkle a little sugar over the fruit and then pour over a couple of tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the cooking apples, or use water.

7. Make crumble mix by rubbing butter into the flour with the fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs, adding a little more flour if too sticky. Stir in sugar then pile crumble mix on top of fruit, levelling out gently.

8. Bake in the centre of pre-heated oven for about half an hour, or until top starts to brown slightly. Don’t over-cook

9. Serve hot with custard, or cold with ice cream.

TIP: Cold butter rubs into the flour easier

Enjoy!

Linda x

P.S. If you’re avoiding or cutting down on sugar, try a substitute like coconut sugar.

Penguin Pattern

penguins

Get those needles out folks and knit up some fabulous stocking fillers. This easy knit pattern will delight the youngsters!

If, like me, you always want to change a pattern and put your spin on it, create the penguins – and snowmen if you like – in bright colours. I made some in the summer and called them penguins of paradise. The only difference from the pattern was that I used bright colours and added a tuft of hair.

I’ve lifted the penguin from the Winter Knits pattern book and copied it here for you, so no excuses please! All you need is a pair of 4mm knitting needles, scissors, small amounts of yarn, a scrap of toy filling and a darning needle to sew them together.

Penguin
A little intarsia needed here. If you’re not sure about intarsia, (knitting with more than one colour in a row) check out the intarsia notes below.

Double knitting yarn required: (approx. lengths)
12metres of black
3metres of white

Method:
abbreviations used in this pattern:
B: Black yarn, W: White yarn.
st/s -stitch/es
st.st. – stocking stitch (knit one row, purl one row)
NR – Next row

Back:
*With 4mm needles and black yarn, cast on 8sts.
Start with a knit row and keep to st.st. throughout.
Increase 1st at each end of first three rows. (14sts)*
Starting with a purl row, st.st. 17 rows.
Work 2 sts together at each end of next 3 rows (8sts)
Cut yarn, leaving a length for sewing up and thread through remaining sts. Fasten off by using a darning needle and sewing the end in to tighten the sts

Front:
Work as for back from * to *
Then, starting with a purl row, follow intarsia pattern:
NR: 4B, 6W, 4B
NR: 3B, 8W, 3B
NR: 3B, 8W, 3B
NR: 3B, 8W, 3B
NR: 3B, 8W, 3B
NR: 4B, 6W, 4B
NR: 5B, 4W, 5B
NR: 6B, 2W, 6W
Carry on in black yarn only, and starting with a purl row, st.st. 9 rows.
Work 2 sts together at each end of next 3 rows (8sts)
Cut yarn, leaving a length for sewing up and thread through remaining sts. Fasten off by using a darning needle and sewing the end in to tighten the sts.

To make up:
With right sides facing, sew round edges leaving a gap at the cast on edges to stuff. Turn right side out, stuff gently and sew up gap.
Using embroidery cotton or silk, sew features.

Intarsia Notes

If you’re unfamiliar with intarsia knitting, these tips may help;

*When joining a new colour, fold the new colour round the old, and work the first stitch using two strands of yarn. When you work this stitch on the next row, make sure you knit it as one stitch, not two.

*Always make sure you cross your yarns at the back of your work when changing from one colour to another in a row.

In this image, the next stitch to be purled will be red.

changingcolour

*Wind the yarn along the row by crossing yarn over at the back of work but carrying on in the same colour. Do this every 2-3sts to avoid pulling too tight.

*Yarn can get easily tangled. Either untangle after every 1-2 rows, or use yarn bobbins to help keep it all in order! You can buy yarn bobbins on Etsy and, I suspect, Amazon and Ebay. Or make your own.

And last but not least – practice!

As with any new endeavor, intarsia knitting takes a little practice usually but it’s worth the effort. Start by making the penguins and work your way up to fancy Fair Isle patterns.

Happy Knitting!
Linda x

P.S. If you’d like to download the pattern so you can make the Santa Claus and snowmen toys as well, you can find it over on the Knits U Love page.

 

Red Pepper Soup

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This hearty bright red soup will warm everyone up on a cold winter’s evening. Found in the 30 Minute Cookbook.

 

 

 

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

4 red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small red chili, seeded and sliced
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
900mls (1.5 pints) chicken stock ( or veggie stock should be fine )
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lime
salt and ground black pepper
shreds of pared lime rind to garnish

Method

1. Cook the peppers and onion gently in the oil in a covered saucepan for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
2. Stir in the garlic, then add the chili with the tomato puree. Stir in half the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Return to the pan and add the rest of the stock.
4. Add the grated lime rind and juice to the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup back to the boil, then serve at once with strips of lime rind scattered onto each bowl.

Cook’s Tip:
Yellow or orange peppers could be substituted for the red peppers. If you haven’t got a fresh chili ( or don’t have time to seed and slice one), add a dash or two of Tabasco sauce to the soup instead.

Bon Appetit!
Linda x

 

 

Making Purses

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These purses or mini-bags are perfect for giving small gifts, decorating the Christmas tree or simply using for coins or bits and pieces!

These three simple purse patterns are from ‘Fun Knits for Beginners’. They use only about 12m of double knitting yarn each- allow 15m for button purse.

And you’ll need a pair of 4mm needles (U.S size 6 and old UK size 8). Use lengths of ribbon, leather or plaited yarn for handles/straps.

 

**”Please excuse the dates on the photos – can’t believe it was two years ago we took these pictures 🙂 Maybe time for another photo shoot!”**

PLAIN PURSE

plainpurse

To Make:
Cast on 16sts.
Starting with a knit row, st.st 30 rows.
Cast off.

Make Up:
Fold in half and sew side seams. Thread a length of ribbon through top of purse to form a drawstring and strap.

SHAPED PURSE

shapedpurse

To Make:
Cast on 16sts.
Starting with a knit row, st.st. 14 rows.
NR: K2tog at each end of row
NR: P2tog at each end of row
NR: Inc. 1st at each end of row.
NR: Inc. 1st at each end of row.
Starting with a knit row, st.st. 14 rows.
Cast off.

 
Make Up:
Fold in half and sew side seams. Thread a length of ribbon through top of purse to form a drawstring and strap.

BUTTON PURSE

buttonpurse

To Make:
Cast on 12sts
Starting with a knit row, st.st. 24 rows
Keeping st.st. correct, shape as follows:
NR: Work 2sts together at beginning of row.
Repeat last row 5 more times. (6sts)
Cast off

Make Up:
Fold up sides of purse to shaping point and sew together. Fold over shaped part and form a small loop of yarn to fit button. Sew button in place. Sew on a length of ribbon or plaited cord for strap.

Happy Knitting!

Linda x
P.S. Quick leap to your favourite retailer and grab a copy now! 🙂

funknits-pin

 

Fun Knits for Beginners

Amazon US , Amazon UK , Etsy , Payhip , iTunes , Kobo , Barnes & Noble ,

 

Treacle Tart

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I know, shouldn’t be doing the sugar thing but if you’re having a weekend firework night, this recipe is best made the day before, so collect your ingredients ready for a Friday bake. And it’s probably wise to serve the sugary stuff early in the evening or nobody will get any sleep!

I found this recipe in a Gordon Ramsay recipe book ‘Great British Pub Food’ – I feel like I should mention that I’ve never come across treacle tart in a pub before but hey, I very rarely visit pubs so who am I to judge!

 

Intro to Treacle Tart

This is the treacle tart to die for. It tastes even better a day after baking, when the breadcrumbs have had time to absorb the wonderfully moist filling. Serve individual slices with dollops of whipped cream or creme fraiche to tone down the sweetness of the filling.

Ingredients (serves 8)

300g. sweet flan pastry (recipe below)
450g. golden syrup
85g. white breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Half a teaspoon of ground ginger
60g. butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
70mls double cream
Half a teaspoon of black treacle

To serve:
whipped cream or creme fraiche

Method

1. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a large round, the thickness of a £1 coin. Use this to line a 23-24cm round shallow tart tin with removable base, leaving some excess pastry overhanging the rim.
2. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 190C, Gas mark 5
3. Line the pastry case with baking paper and dried or ceramic baking beans and bake ‘blind’ for 15-20 minutes until the sides are set and lightly golden.
4. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the base is cooked through. While still warm, cut off the excess pastry to level with the rim of the tin
5. Lower the oven temperature to 140C, Gas mark 1.
6. For the filling, gently heat the golden syrup by immersing the bottle or tin in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes.
7. Mix the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and ground ginger together in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
8. Pour in the warm golden syrup and add the melted butter, egg yolks, cream, treacle and lemon juice. Stir well to mix.
9. Pour the filling into the pastry case. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top has just set, but the centre is slightly wobbly when you shake the tin gently. It should fell slightly soft in the centre.
10. Let the tart cool completely before slicing and serving with cream or creme fraiche.

 
Sweet Flan Pastry Recipe
This recipe assumes you have a food processor, but I imagine you could combine the ingredients successfully without one? Makes about 500g.

Ingredients
125g. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
90g. caster sugar
1 large egg
250g. plain flour
1 tablespoon ice-cold water if needed.

Method
1. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and whiz until just combined.
2. Add the egg and whiz for 30 seconds
3.Tip in the flour and process for a few seconds until the dough just comes together Do NOT over-process or it will become tough.
4. Add a little cold water if the dough seems too dry.
5. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes before rolling out.

Happy Baking!

Linda x

P.S. The book I found these recipes in is still on Amazon, although it’s ten years old now…

greatbritishpubfood-amazon

 

Great British Pub Food

 

 

 

Sleep Well

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OOOhh, light my sparklers – it’s bonfire night in the UK. Of course firework displays seemed to have dwindled over the past few years; environment considered more now than ever before, but there are bound to be a few bright fireworks in the night sky tonight.

Usual stuff – keep your pets safe and of course, if you’re having a bonfire, make sure no creatures have been making it their home in recent days. Having said that, have a great evening!

After all the excitement of halloween, firework night and Christmas countdowns about to start, if they haven’t already, it’s not always easy to calm the children at night. Have you noticed they can get super active around bedtime? – or maybe that’s just my lot 🙂

But if you are having trouble getting the little darlings to sleep, here are a few tips I’ve used over the years to keep me sane (-ish) ….

* Keep an eye on the time. If you suddenly realize it’s five minutes before bedtime and go into ‘omg it’s bedtime’ mode then start rushing around getting pj’s ready and toothbrushes toothpasted, you won’t be able to create a sense of calm.

Start thinking about bedtime half hour before the allotted time. Then slowly but surely encourage the pjs, the teeth cleaning and the choice of bedtime story. By the time they get into bed, children are calmer and ready to sleep.

*Avoid anything with sugar in: Don’t be tempted to give in to the cookie jar for a bit of peace. It will backfire! Sugar – as we know – is not a calming agent and you can suddenly find yourself with hyperactive kids and a headache. Avoid sugar at least an hour, preferably longer, before bedtime. Toast and honey can create calm while satisfying the sweet tooth cravings, but always consider what works best for your child.

*Warm drinks – no caffeine or sugar of course, but otherwise a warm drink can really calm the body and mind ready for sleep. Even a spoonful of honey in hot water can work wonders.

*Temperature: These days, many of us live in centrally heated homes and, although we don’t want to be cold at bedtime, too much heat can interfere with settling into a relaxing state. Turn down the thermostat a little if it’s too warm in the bedrooms.

*Bedtime Stories: Children tend to want the same stories read to them every night for weeks or even months, which doesn’t make it easy to put your whole attention into reading. Kids are savvy – they know when you’re just going through the motions. Treat each reading as if it’s a first and you’ll have happy kids all ready to sleep the night away!

Most of these quick tips work well for grown-ups too 🙂 If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s often because your mind is not behaving itself. Too many thoughts, worries and replays going on in that remarkable brain of yours.

Treat yourself to a good night’s sleep by adopting some or all of the tips above and one extra note I feel should be added here…

Don’t watch the news before bed!

Normally, the national or international news is peppered with bad news and concerns about humanity, environment and natural disasters. They will still be there for you to deal with in the morning, so avoid cluttering up your mind with these stories in the evening.

Enjoy your evenings, watch something funny, indulge in your latest hobby or spend a wonderful time with friends and family – you could even consider getting out a board game and turning off the TV – how radical is that?!!!

Sweet Dreams!
Linda x

P.S. My most relaxing thing to do – apart from sleeping and meditating of course, is knitting. This pattern from The Ekokids collection is simple to make and will encourage bedtime as a natural and calming experience rather than the battleground it could be!

Bedtime!

Download from your favourite bookstore:

Amazon US , Amazon UK , Etsy , Payhip , iTunes , Kobo , Barnes & Noble ,

 

 

Knitting for Christmas

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A couple of weeks ago, I collected all the Ekokid patterns published so far, edited like crazy and came up with a fabulous new book! With 10 patterns usually sold at £2 each, the book seemed far too expensive at £20 so I half-priced it at a tenner, but even that sounds far too much for a digital copy so halved it again! Now you can get all 10 patterns in one download for a fiver 🙂 Cool huh?!

But more to the point, it’s just in time to get knitting for Christmas – create a whole collection of dolls and their wardrobes before the big day. They’re quick to knit and once you get going with the patterns, you’re likely to come up with some new ideas for fabulous clothes to keep your teenage dolls happy and played with!

You’ll only need one pair of knitting needles for the whole book and some yarn of course. Here’s a list of the bits and pieces I use when knitting small items like dolls or toys:
I pair of 4mm needles (U.S size: 6 and old UK size: 8)
A darning needle, or similar, for sewing pieces together
A pair of scissors
Paper and pen/pencil

Good to have:
*Large headed pins. These are useful for marking features and pinning pieces together before sewing.
*tape measure – for measuring yarn to verify you have enough, especially if you are using very small oddments.

Materials you’ll need for the basic doll:

25g. (about 60 metres) of flesh colour yarn
8m of ‘boot’ colour or 4m of ‘shoe’ colour
15g. (about 35m) of ‘hair’ colour
Washable toy filling – non-allergenic toy filling is available from most craft outlets and needlecraft shops.
Embroidery cotton for features

Give them a go. These dolls are such fun to make and can be custom made for each child. And they are easy to dress and undress – no stiff plastic legs and arms to manoevre – so little hands can join in the fun too 🙂

All the Ekokid pattern books including Ekoknits are listed here Knits U Love

Happy Knitting!
Linda x

A World of Herbs

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Herbs hold some wonderful secrets that we can share if we venture into their world for a moment.

My favourite herb of the moment is Aloe Vera. Not a culinary herb perhaps but the benefits of aloe vera are enormous. For example, the sap inside the leaves will help soothe and repair your skin after a minor burn. Perfect to grow on the kitchen windowsill and you don’t even have to remember to water it every day.

Many herbs will grow on a bright windowsill, although care should be taken that the sun isn’t too hot through the glass as this will scorch the leaves of your herbs, and will dry the pots out very quickly. If you have direct sunshine on your chosen windowsill, create shade for your plants during the hottest part of the day.

The quickest way to get a herb garden going is to buy small plants all ready to go. Many supermarkets in the UK sell small herb plants but any garden centre should have a choice of herbs. Stick to three or four if you’re new to growing herbs. You can add to your garden later. Always check on the growing requirements when you buy plants. Some hybrid varieties are less robust and may need to be grown indoors in a moderate climate.

Other herbs need a fair amount of space and may not be practical for the space you have available. Double check before you buy. Same goes if you’re starting your plants from seed. Read through the recommendations on the back of the seed packet so that you get an idea how big your plants could grow and also check on indoor/outdoor requirements.

Follow any ‘instructions’ as far as possible for best results. It’s worth investing in a Herb Book to refer to and be inspired by.

A couple of culinary herbs that work well on the windowsill or in a herb garden are basil and chives:

basil

Basil is generally known as one of the tomato herbs, as a tomato apparently doesn’t taste right without it! Many shop bought sauces are tomato and basil based, and growing basil on the windowsill will save a trip to the shops from time to time, as well as avoiding processed food – always a plus.

Basil is an annual plant in moderate climates but will grow as a bi-ennial in a warmer environment, producing flower and seed in the second year.

Chives are perfect to add a mild onion taste to your recipe. The flowers are edible and decorate a green salad perfectly. Every year or so, gently dig up plants or tip out of their pots, separate the roots and re-plant. Chive plants make great gifts if you find yourself with far too many to use.

There are many herbs that can be grown for culinary or medicinal purposes, although always refer to a reliable source before administering medicinal herbs.

At the first signs of a cold, a thyme and lemon tisane can soothe symptoms and possibly even stop the cold germs in their tracks! And, barring any allergies, this prevention plan is safe for practically everyone.

To help you get started, I’ve put together three volumes of herbs *listed here** that will give you a great start to building your herb garden, however big or small. ‘The Herb Garden’ is packed with general herb growing tips and ideas. The second volume gets to grips with twenty everyday herbs. And the third volume deals with twenty occasional herbs that may need a little more attention, but are all fairly straightforward and explained in detail.

But whichever path you follow, make it a magical one with the scent, beauty and health giving properties of these wonderful plants.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Forest Gardening

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been on a couple of Forest Garden tours run by Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust – Honestly, this man knows his stuff! There are millions of plants on our planet and of course it’s not really conceivable that any one person would know about all of them, but wow, does he come close 🙂

The experiments and test sites he grows on are mainly in Devon although Martin is known all over the world for his books and forest gardening knowledge in general. The photograph here is at a young nursery near Dartmoor on a very full-on weather day – sun, wind and rain while out in the middle of a field is bracing to say the least!

The concept of Forest Gardening isn’t new and research projects have been in flow for many years. The Agroforestry Research Trust was set up in 1992 and has a number of sites, courses and publications available to anyone who has an interest in preserving our land and producing food for the future.

Pop over to the Agroforestry site here – https://www.agroforestry.co.uk/ – and be inspired!

I sound like an advert but I promise they aren’t paying me for this! I’m just very interested in the concept and have seen a couple of sites showing what can be done. Anyway, check it out and if you have the space, start growing 🙂

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

If you just want to grab a book, this one is a good place to start…

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Creating a Forest Garden

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Big!

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… or away with the fairies?

Over many centuries – well decades, I’ve been accused at various times in my life of being away with the fairies. I was punished for daydreaming at school which set a pattern or paradigm in my own mind that dreaming big wasn’t the way to success.

But now that I’ve discovered the wonderful teachings available to us in the 21st century I refuse to let my dreams be shattered by naysayers.

Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Wayne Dyer and the teachings of Abraham Hicks have all helped me to understand that we are entitled to our dreams and that without them, we would all be living in the dark ages. I mean, someone had to discover electricity, invent the mobile phone and even believe people could travel in a flying machine!

aircraft

But, although I’ve kind of sorted out the paradigm and am sticking to my dreams like glue, there are conflicting opinions about sharing dreams.

On the one hand, when you share dreams and ideas the naysayers can move in quickly and plant a seed of doubt. But on the other hand, sharing ideas can produce feedback, more good ideas and possibly even partnerships.

The answer, I believe, is to be really solid in your idea; make the business plan, write the outline of a book you want to write or an idea you want to implement BEFORE you share with anyone!

Write it down on paper or your laptop. Get into the details. Look for the bits that don’t work and delete, search for the parts that need adjusting or updating and edit like crazy. Then put it aside, if you can 🙂 for a couple of days then go back to it and fine tune again.

writing

There will be a moment when you just know you’ve covered all the angles you are aware of – then it’s time to share, to talk about it, to accept feedback – however critical it may seem at first. Go over the feedback and eliminate anything that’s obviously not relevant or just too picky to be important.

Then go for it. Dreaming big and setting up strategies for achieving goals and dreams is a fun thing to do if you don’t let the seeds of doubt creep in.

One caveat I’d add here is that we do have many ideas and dreams and some of them are temporary, some of them are rubbish and some of them are just gems waiting to be polished. Go for the gems and don’t worry about the other stuff.

And one final point is that life is about the journey, not the destination. Be flexible, enjoy the journey and those dreams could very well become your reality.

Keep dreaming big!

Linda x

P.S. The teachings I’ve mentioned above can all be found on youtube and their own websites of course!