Monday, 23 November 2015

Book Review - Gifts From The Garden

I recently borrowed this smashing little book from the library - well not that recently as I've already renewed 3 times and should really return it by the next review date.

If, like me, you like growing things in the garden and then going one stage further to use nature's bounty for food, decoration, beauty products or even healing, then this is a great book.  It doesn't stop there though, as it shows how you can turn your creations into beautiful gifts, be they practical or just pure indulgent.  There are 100 present ideas included which means you'll find something suitable for absolutely everyone - from body scrubs to fabric conditioners, seasoned salts to eye compresses, alcoholic tipples to tasty jams and pickles, room sprays to biscuits to cat-nip mice - I could go on ...

Home Made Mixed Berry Jam

Raspberry Gin


The projects are divided into Flowers, Herbs, Fruit and Vegetables and there are ideas for presentation and packaging.  Wherever a plant is used, you'll get advice on growing that particular plant along with clearly written recipes, other handy tips and plenty of inspiring photographs.  For instance, the page on Parsley Dog Biscuits has a colourful photo of the finished product, advice on the best way to grow parsley (without going into overwhelming detail) and a clever packaging idea.

I was inspired to make the Marigold, Honey & Oatmeal Soap as I already had the ingredients at home.  Apart from the lovely photos, this page gave information on the benefits to mind and body of the ingredients used, as well as advice on drying marigold petals and packaging ideas for vintage style soaps.

Marigold, Honey & Oatmeal Soap with Essential Oils

If you're thinking of a gift for someone who loves their garden and likes making things, then this would be a perfect gift.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Slow Cooker Challenge

I've always like the idea of a slow cooker - you just throw everything in, switch it on and come back several hours later to a wonderful aroma in the house and a delicious meal waiting. Well, that was the idea.  But we often found that some veggie casseroles were too watery, some meat stews were too bland or the veggies were taking forever to cook.

But I did a bit of reading up and although there's not a lot of preparation involved, there are certain things to consider which make all the difference, such as browning some ingredients first, cooking time variables, last minute additions, how far up to fill the cooker and timing factors.  Its not complicated, but a little knowledge makes all the difference.

So enough of going off piste and throwing it all in and hoping for the best, I've decided to follow the recipes in the 3 recipe books that we have at home so that I can learn as I go along.  

Not only that, I'm intending to try a recipe every week throughout the winter as part of my slow cooker challenge to myself - there are plenty of recipes to choose from (one of the books alone has 200 recipes so between them I could probably find something different every day for a year or more!).  

All of my recipes will be vegetarian (sometimes vegan) and usually gluten free. Mr Cocopopia does eat meat, but I'm bringing him around to my way of eating and, unlike a few years ago, he is happy to eat meat free meals as long as they are tasty and filling. 

Yes, its not just about stews and casseroles - I'm looking forward to trying other dishes such as lasagna, fajitas, stuffed vegetables, lemon curd, apple cake, poached pears, chai spiced breakfast bread, spiced cider and Mexican hot chocolate to name but a few ...

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

At The East Beach Cafe

On Sunday morning we found ourselves back in Littlehampton and visited the East Beach Cafe on the seafront.  Its an iconic building, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and constructed from undulating ribbons of raw weathered metal so that it looks tough and textured from the outside and inside is sprayed with rigid insulating foam giving the walls a much gentler and wave-like effect.  

In fact it was really cosy inside and the breakfast (veggie for me, of course) was cooked to perfection.

After breakfast I tried to photograph the building from the outside, but couldn't get a clear view because someone was doing a photo shoot for a car - not sure why they would do this on a sunday morning when the seafront is probably at its busiest, but it does look as though I have my own lighting assistant on hand... 

Then we took a walk along the seafront, to enjoy the fresh air

A family were fishing for crabs, but the swans had other ideas

And then a last look at the beach and the cafe before heading back home