Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Make a Double-sided Blanket in an Hour

Finished dog blanket in beautiful colours. 
My friend Rita, who has a beautiful English cocker spaniel, is making dog blankets to sell. She was inspired by a blanket belonging to a friend and much loved by her dog who plays with it, sleeps on it and drags it around the house like a comfort blanket.
The blankets are two pieces of fleece sewn together and stitched around the edges to give a nice finish. Simple and effective, these would also  make great cot, crib and push-chair blankets.

Here's how she does it:

Before you cut the fabric, ensure that the edges are square. This is not always the case when meterage is hand cut.

Carefully measure the fleece (this blanket is  approximately 70cm by 55 cm but it could be larger, depending on the size of the dog).

Using a straight edge as a guide, mark and cut one piece of fleece to the correct size.  Then lay this piece on top of the other piece, right sides together and cut the second piece.

Pin and stitch around the outer edges leaving a space for turning.

Clip the corners.

Turn to right side and hand stitch the gap closed.

Smooth the fabric out and top stitch about 1.5 cm from the edge.
No pressing required. Your blanket is finished.

I plan to make some for all the new babies friends' and relatives' children are having.

Cutting the second piece of fleece by laying the first one on top of it.

Carefully trimming the edges.

Clipping the corners

Clipping the corners

Rita's Stash of Fabrics for the Next Blankets

Monday, 23 January 2017

Apple Upside Down Cake to Make Ahead and Keep (if you are lucky)

This cake is quick to make, can be served warm or cold and will keep for several days in the fridge (as long as it is covered). We had some Granny Smith apples lurking n the fridge and Hubby very kindly peeled, cored and sliced them then cooked them in a little water until they were soft. I think he had apple sauce in mind, but G S's don't cook down like Bramleys do,  so I used my pineapple upside down cake recipe to turn them into something delicious.  The caramelised base  was just the right compliment to the apples and the cake was wolfed down by everyone.  I served it warm with ice cream but it is equally delicious with cream. I think you could make this cake without cooking the apples first, just put them in a little water with lemon juice to  keep them from going brown while you assemble the cake.

The finished cake.  Note the caramel glaze.

4 or 5 firm apple, peeled, cored and sliced

For the glaze:
1 Tablespoon butter
4 Tablespoons golden syrup
1 Tablespoon soft brown sugar

For the cake batter:
4 oz of butter or soft margarine
4 oz sugar
2 eggs
6 oz self raising flour, sifted
3 Tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 180 C or 350 F.
Melt butter, golden syrup and brown sugar in the bottom of your cake pan. (I used a 9 " tart tin.)
Revoke from oven and grease the sides of the tin.
Carefully place apples slices on top of the warm glaze.
Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs and beat well.
Fold in the flour by hand and add enough of the milk to make the batter a dropping consistency.
Drop the cake batter by large spoonfuls onto the apples, taking care not to move them about.
Place the cake tin in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.
Check that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of the batter. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan.
Place a plate on the top of the cake and flip it over.

Serve warm or cold with cream or ice cream.

There weren't many slices left by the end of the evening.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Dirty Eating - Cream of Mushroom Soup

Home-made cream of mushroom soup
It's January.  It's  cold out there and I have heard and read enough about dieting, exercising and 'clean eating'. What IS clean eating?  We eat healthily with a few exceptions, but we are not fanatical about it.  Nor do we have any food allergies (Of course I sympathise with those who do), but there is so much hype about existing on a kale leaf or a sludgy green smoothie after the Christmas indulgences that I feel no guilt about winter pick-me-ups like a dollop of cream, or a hearty steamed pudding.  Yes, my tummy is bigger after the holidays, but I just intend to eat a LITTLE less.
This recipe will brighten a grey day and make you feel good. You will see in the corner that I had mine with Ryvita, but that is just because we had no bread in the house. I sneakily topped it with a large helping of cream cheese to compensate.
This soup is quick and easy to make and will serve four people.  I have used it as a starter in days past when I made starters for three course dinner parties.  These days Hubby does a roast or I do a casserole and we skip the starters.

Mushroom Soup
1 knob of butter
1 Tablespoon of oil
1 onion or leek, chopped
1 pound (450 grams) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (Reserve a few for garnish.)
3 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or two sticks of fresh thyme
a dash of cayenne pepper
bay leaf
chicken stock or water and a stock cube to cover
single cream to drizzle over the top (or a dollop of cream fraiche)
chopped parsley (optional)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large saucepan.
Add leeks or onions and soften (about 5 minutes).
Add flour and stir to make a roux.
Add seasoning and cook for one minute.
Put mushrooms in pan and cover with stock or stock cube dissolved in water.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaf.
Using a hand blender, blend the soup a little to thicken it, leaving some texture.
Serve with sliced mushrooms to garnish and a little cream and parsley.