Eat

Sweet and Sour Chicken

 

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This recipe is dedicated to a very special little girl. Earlier this year we holiday’d with friends.  I love to cook on holiday because I have the luxury of time and can create whatever the family desires, from sheppards pie in high summer to chicken fajitas I ask for requests before we go and take the special ingredients with me.  I always manage to drum up the requests despite some decidedly doggy cooking arrangement! This recipe was a special request from Neave, she sort of like it but said it wasn’t as good as Mummy’s I can take that as Mummy’s food is always best.  I however think this is of high enough make and taste quality to share it with you.  Don’t be put off by the ingredients list its actually really quick to make.

Serves 4 easily halved

Cooking time: Prep 15 minutes cook 20 minutes, 35 minutes in total

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Ingredients

2 tablespoons rice bran oil

4 skinless boneless chicken thighs chopped into chunks

1 onion chopped

1 small red chilli chopped (optional)

1 chopped red pepper

1 chopped yellow pepper (alternative green pepper)

1 tablespoon tomato paste (alternative 2 tbspns tomatoe ketchup)

1 450g can pineapple chunks, drained reserving the juice

3 tablespoons light brown sugar (alternative: white sugar)

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (alternative: white wine vinegar)

125ml chicken stock from a stock pot (alternative : half a stock cube)

4 teaspoons cornflour mixed with 4 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Ground black pepper to season

150g beansprouts (optional)

2 pouches ready cooked long grain rice heated to serve

Fresh coriander to garnish

Method

In a large non-stick frying pan heat 1 tbspn of oil over a medium heat, add the chicken and cook stirring until lightly browned, remove to a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the onion, chilli if using and the peppers cook stirring until they start to soften. Stir in the tomato paste, pineapple chunks, juice, sugar, vinegar and stock. Turn up the heat until the liquid starts to bubble and reduce. Add the cornflower and water mixture and stir until it starts to thicken.

Add the soy sauce and pepper to taste and stir through the bean sprouts if using until they just start to wilt. Serve with the long grain rice. Enjoy xx

 

Sweet and Sour Chicken pin

 

 

 

Create · Crochet · Resources

Crochet How to – Weaving in ends No 1

Soft Grey Blanket image

Yes that tedious chore of weaving in the ends!  I have made lots of blankets, pillows, scarfs and shawls in the last few years and have learnt very quickly that an essential skill when you crochet is weaving in your ends. Making a good job of weaving in your ends is the difference between making an average crochet masterpiece and a exceptional crochet masterpiece. Your masterpiece should stands the test of time and become a cherished item that the recipient covets for many years. Quality of finishing is therefore essential and worth every moment of your time.

I’m don’t usually agree to make things for other people that are big and take a while. This is not because I don’t want to make big beautiful crochet things for the people I know and love it’s because I suffer from Blanket Fatigue. I call it Blanket Fatigue because I get weary halfway through making a big blanket or shawl and usually divert off to something else for a week or so before I can bring myself to go to something as repetitive, usually because I just want to finish it.

In the last six months I  have only made items that are large and have taken a while so are somewhat repetitive.  I have done this on purpose as I have had to overcome my issues with Blanket Fatigue.

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I have learnt a lot about focus, patients, gauge and pattern complacency.   Pattern complacency is when you think you know the pattern in your head off by heart so you don’t need to read it, write it down or look at it.  Then after many rows of crocheting you realise that something doesn’t look quite right so you think maybe I should just check the pattern?  When you check it, after much work and many, many rows, you realise you got the patter wrong and all the hard work has to be undone and redone.

The blanket shown was a commission for a friend, the pattern is free its not one of mine, it’s by Paton’s I have shared the link below. Because this was a commission I wanted it to be as perfect as crochet can be so finishing was just a important as achieving even stitches. I’ve tried all sorts of techniques to weave in the ends but in my view this one works the best.  The ends might appear after a first wash and initial use but once they are trimmed they don’t reappear again so its worth the effort. Try it out and see the brilliant result.

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Tutorial

You are basically finishing your work by weaving in your ends in a U shape this stops the end from working its way out by holding it tightly in the stitches.  This doesn’t work for all crochet patterns, this blanket is big so its a perfect solution to finish it and make it last. Watch out for future tutorials when I will share more weaving in the ends techniques.

 

Start by stitching horizontally for a few stitches, then vertically, repeat this at least two times to make sure the end doesn’t work it’s way out.

Look out for future posts on how to weave in ends on other crochet projects.

You can follow me by selecting the contact me link in the main menu at the top of the page, fill in your details and press submit and you will receive all my blog posts the moment they are published.

For information on the pattern for this blanket and the supplies I used click here.

Blanket soft grey Pin

 

 

 

 

Create · Crochet

Crochet Blanket – Soft Grey

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In my post Crochet How to – Weave in your ends I shared pictures of this beautiful warm and comforting crocheted blanket.  In this post I’m sharing the link to the pattern, the resources I’ve used and a stitch diagram.

You can follow me by selecting the contact me link from the main menu at the top of this page, fill in your details and you will receive all my blog posts the moment they are published.

Pattern Link

This is the  link to the pattern, I used the same colours but not the same yarn, the pattern is a written pattern so I’ve included a stitch diagram below just in case that is your preference to follow a diagram. Or that you are learning to follow a stitch diagram and want a simple one to follow.

http://www.yarnspirations.com/patterns/hibernate-blanket.html?utm_id=5555

Supplies

All the supplies can be purchased from Love Crochet to find the page click HERE

10 balls King Cole Big Value Super Chunky – Colour Grey (0024)

4 balls King Cole Big Value Super Chunky – Colour Graphite (1545)

3 balls King Cole Big Value Super Chunky – Colour Champagne (0012)

10mm crochet hook

Yarn Needle

Scissors

Pattern Stitch diagram

Blanket soft grey stitch diagram v1

Key

Blanket soft grey diagram key

Please note this post contains affiliate links

Eat · Garden Life · Grow · In the Kitchen

Hot Southern Chicken

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This recipe is adapted from a magazine cutting, the cutting doesn’t have a date but is well worn with use so is many years old. It has stood the test of time as the children have grown up, a perfect autumnal dish to use seasonal vegetables whilst they are at there best. It keeps everyone warm on a cold autumn day and best of all it only takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to make. At 383 calories it suits a dieter too. Easy to double up, this freezes really well for a quick meal on another day. An all round winner to feed a busy family.

I use two chillies and leave the seeds in which is quite hot. I recommend you use the right amount for you. If your cooking for little ones 1 chilli with no seeds is plenty. I use Swiss Vegetable Buillion powder to make the stock but use whatever you normally use and if I can’t find new potatoes I use maincrop cubed with their skin still on. If I don’t have fresh herbs to hand I buy the freeze dried herbs from the freezer cabinet at the supermarket they are brilliant for this type of dish and save money as you don’t waste half a packet of fresh herbs that get forgotten about in the back of the fridge.

This freezes well, cool it to room temperature, then label and freeze as quickly as possible. To reheat, defrost on the fridge for 12 hours then reheat in a pan on a low heat for 30 minutes.

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Ingredients

2 tbspns rice bran oil

25g butter (whatever spread you use if fine)

6 skinless boneless chicken breasts, each cut into 3 chunks

2 large onions, thinly sliced

2 red chillies de-seeded and chopped

3 cloves garlic

2 tbspns plain flour

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 tbspns tomato puree

850ml vegetable stock

450g small new potatoes scrubbed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks

340g can sweetcorn or kernels from 2 sweetcorn cobs

175g mixed coloured cherry tomatoes

2 tbspns each chopped fresh mint and coriander

  1. Heat the oil and butter in large pan and cook the chicken in batches, turning, until it’s lightly golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  2. Lower the heat and add the onions, chillies, and garlic cooking for about 5 minutes until soft but not brown.

  3. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and stir well. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and vegetable stock, give everything a really good stir.

  4. Return the chicken to the pan with the sweet potato turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low part cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

  5. Check that the sweet potato is just starting to fall apart and that the potatoes are cooked through, if they are still a bit firm leave for another 5-10 minutes.

  6. Add the sweetcorn and tomatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes.

  7. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes then add the herbs before serving in bowls with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Hot Southern Chicken Pin

Create · Crochet · Crochet Patterns

Crochet Shawl – Waves

 

DSC_0062In October 2016  I visited the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in the UK. The Knitting and Stitching show is a well known UK craft show.  Oh my goodness it was huge, I haven’t been to the exhibition space at Alexandra palace before so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I have never seen so many stalls with every kind of yarn, material, sewing thread, sewing machines, tapestry kits, quilting kits and more.  Name a soft furnishing craft and it was there, totally amazing!

The trip was mind mindbogglingly overwhelming but fantastic all at the same time. There was just so much to look at it was an information overload. Whilst there were only a few crochet stands, I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more, the crochet kits on sale were brilliant and if you book a couple of weeks in advance you can join classes for a small fee. I love Irish and filet crochet using fine cotton thread and small hooks I like the complicated patterns and uniform finish. As next a step towards lace making  I visited the tatting stand manned by the Ring of Tatters whilst I was there. They had some beautifully intricate items that I could only dream of making.  I did start to learn tatting but started at the wrong time, just before Christmas didn’t give me much spare time to devote to a new hobby.  I still want to learn to Tatt but my focus remains on enhancing my crochet skills and continuing to learn and grow and to design more complex patterns  to share.

In April this year I visited the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia it wasn’t as big as the Alexandra Palace show so it was much less overwhelming but disappointingly only one crochet stand! Following the few that were at the Alexandra palace show the previous October,  it gave me confirmation that in the UK crochet is still very niche. There was an abundance of quilters stands and some very nice sewing and tapestry stands. What I did enjoy about both shows were the novelty items and new crafts. Felting was big at Olympia, my niece purchased a spinning top to spin her own yarn from raw wool.  She made a very clever tapestry from it.  I purchased two things at the Olympia show, a neat compact pair of scissors perfect to take when you are travelling with crochet and the piece de resistance has to be this beautiful hand died silk and merino.  A 2 ply shank of pure silk and merino loveliness.IMG_2362 (2)

You can see it here adorning my dinning room chair.  This was the first time I have purchased a shank rather than a ball of wool. Next time I will definitely pay for the shank to be wound into a ball as  I did get myself in a bit of a pickle winding it to a ball. I managed to salvage most of it from the knotty mess I made.  The picture shows the beautiful colours in all their glory.

As usual I had purchased for the colour and had no idea what to make with it. At 870 yards (795 m) there were lots of options for different projects . I’ve been busy studying different crochet stitches and patterns from a variety of books and magazines. With a view to designing my own patterns.  I’ve only made myself two things in the last year both shawls that are more for autumn and winter than for summer or a light autumn scarf.  When I saw this beautiful shank of hand died silk and wool as an ideal opportunity to make something for me that was a little lighter and multipurpose.  I purchased this from a lady who hand dyes her own yarn Sheep on Mars has an etsy shop you can find it by clicking here Sheep On Mars.  I recommend having a look, the yarn isn’t too expensive and there are some really beautiful colours to choose from.

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The scarf took me longer than I expected as, as usual, I have many projects on the go and this took a back seat to completing the design and making the pretty beach huts. This scarf has traveled most of the South West of England as I travel for work it has been the perfect travel companion to distract me when I needed to clear my head.  I have been a little lost for something to keep my hands busy since I finished it.

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I found lots of patterns to use this beautiful ball of wool and started two different projects with it, one a solomons knot and one a similar repeating fan pattern but I didn’t like they way the colours showed in them so I frogged (unpicked) them both. If I’ve learnt anything from this make it’s that you need to carefully pick what you make with a variegated yarn.  They are very attractive and enticing to look at as a shank or a ball but they don’t always make something quite as pretty.   Following some further searching I came across a free Ravelry pattern that fitted the bill perfectly.  The pattern is called Lacy Feather and Fan but I think it looks like the sea waves in this pretty hand died yarn. I imagine the sun shining on the waves and giving way to all the pretty colours.  You can find the free pattern by pressing here .

The pattern is a really simple but mightily effective repeating fan, I already have some ideas about how to use it for something for next year in a much thicker yarn.

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The trick with this pattern is to keep your stitches even, tension is important.  I did undo it a few times and took it back to redo a few rows because it didn’t look quite right.

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I spent a long time blocking it too. You need some patients when pinning it out to pull as far as possible. I’m pleased that it has kept its shape  since I made and blocked it.

 

 

 

 

This pattern has inspired my own design which is underway as I type watch this space for a pretty winter scarf designed by me.

 

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Crochet Shawl Pin

 

Eat · In the Kitchen

Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry

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This is another family favourite that I’ve adapted from a children’s curry recipe when they were small. Its not too calorific at 270 calories per portion, without sides, you can eat it on it’s own with a wrap or poppadoms.  If you add rice or nan bread it’s a 400 calorie dinner.

I use Alfa One’s Rice Bran Oil, it is cholesterol free has a high smoking point and is a tasteless oil. I have been calorie counting on and off for a while and I’m amazed at how much it reduces your calorie intake when you use a healthier cooking oil. Whilst its a little pricey I highly recommend it, its available at most large supermarket chains.

If you are making this for the children remove the red chilli, use 2 teaspoons rather than tablespoons of curry paste.  When the kids were small I used a Balti or Tika Marsala curry paste. We’ve moved on to a madras curry paste as our heat sensors have adapted.  You should use what you favour in other curry dishes as this will off set the sweetness of the potato’s and will be familiar to your taste buds.  My tip for the kids is to remove the cardamom pods before you feed them, they have a very intense flavour if you bite into one and might put them off eating this again.

 

I use a vegan vegetable stock power Marigolds Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, it’s not too salty and adds a nice flavour to your dish.

This freezes really well, I often batch cook it so we have something quick and tasty to eat on busy days.  Once cooked cool the mixture until its room temperature, portion it up in a suitable container label it with a name and date and freeze for up to 1 month.  Defrost it in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Serves 6

Takes 20 minutes to prep + 60 minutes marinading and 35 minutes to cook, 270 calories per portion

Ingredients

500 g sweet potato

4 chicken breasts

Juice ½ lemon

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground garam masala

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tbspn rice bran oil

5 cardamom pods

2 onions

1 red chilli

1 small bunch fresh coriander

2 tbspns curry paste

500ml vegetable stock

500g baby leaf spinach

To serve

1 tbspn fat free natural yogurt,  White long grain rice, Nan Break

Method

  1. Chop the chicken into bite size chunks place in a freezer bag and add the juice of half a lemon and the dried spices.  Shake the bag seal and place in the fridge to marinade for 60 minutes or overnight if you have the time.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, roughly chop the chilli remove the seeds if you don’t like too much heat. Strip the leaves from the coriander stalks put them to one side and roughly chop the stalks.  Puree the onion, chilli and coriander.  This will form the base of your sauce.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid over a medium heat, add the cardamom pops and fry for 1 minute, add the curry paste and cook for 2 minutes to wake up the spices.  Now add the onion puree and fry for 5 minutes until it starts to dry out. Keep watch on the onion puree don’t let it burn.
  4. Add your marinated chicken pieces and cook until they change colour, don’t brown them as you will burn your sauce base.  Add the potato and the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid ajar for 35 minutes.  Stir regularly it’s ready when the sweet potato begins to break up, this will thicken the sauce. You can uncover and raise the heat to reduce the sauce if its a little watery but don’t do this until the end.
  5. To finish stir through the spinach until its wilted, serve with your choice of sides a dollop of natural yogurt and sprinkle over the coriander leaves.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Pin v1

Create · Crochet · Crochet Patterns

Crochet Baby Blanket – In the Jungle

IMG_2928This was a real last minute make, I just started a new job at work and the lady sitting opposite me was pregnant. When I asked when her maternity leave started she said in two weeks! My fingers have had to start working fast to make her something with love to welcome her new baby in to the world.  She is having a little girl and her baby theme is the juggle.  I had a look around to get some baby juggle themed inspriation,  there are some real cute themes out there. Little angrim monkeys that are so sweet. Soft greens and accent oranges with leafy wallpaper patterns.  Very pretty and soothing for a new baby room.  So I get what she means by jungle theme but what am I going to make? I have bought a couple of crochet stitch books recently  to help me design more of my own projects on consulting them and after making a few samples I decided on a simple granny square for the bulk of the blanket but I needed something special for the border.

There are lots of web sites and publication that I search when I need some inspiration, pinterest is a favourite place to find visual stimulation.  For the border for this blanket I wanted something like a leaf or a jungle flower.  I went to a favourite website My Picot.  It has great stitch tutorials and patterns too and the bonus is they are all free, they just ask that you give the credit were its due when you use the patterns.  You can find it by pressing here .  The border is developed from one of the stitch patterns. There are lots more stitch patterns and other crochet patterns, you can sign up and have unlimited access and if you knit too then there are knitting patterns as well. A great website that I refer to regularly.

This is the final product and I’m really pleased to say was well received.  At the time of publishing baby has yet to arrive and is now officially late. Hang in there Mum it will be worth the wait.

Baby Blanket – In the Jungle

Supplies

4 balls Sidar Snuggly White (251) DK 50g 165m 100% Acrylic (Colour A)

1 ball Sidar Snuggly Wobble (403) 50g ball 165m 100% Acrylic (Colour B)

1 ball Sidar Snuggly pumpkin patch (458) 50g ball 165m 100% Acrylic (Colour C)

1 ball Sidar Snuggly Khaki (450) DK 50g ball 165m 100% Acrylic (Colour D)

These are all available from Love Crochet you can search for them here.

4mm crochet hook

Yarn need for sewing in the ends

Scissors

Special Stitches

Picot

1pct = 1 dc, ch 3, in the next st, sl st in the 1st ch of the ch 3, sl st in the dc

Puff Stitch

1PS = Yo, insert the hook into the st, yo, pull through 2 loops, yo, insert the hook into the same st, yo, pull through 2 loops (3 loops on the hook), yo, insert the hook into the same st, yo, pull through all 4 loops. 1 puff stitch complete.

Pattern

Main blanket Granny Square

Start with a magic circle, or ch4  slst to join and start is the first ch on the hook.

Row 1: Ch 3 2 trc, *ch2, 3 trc*, repeat * to * twice more, pull the magic circle closed, sl st in the top of the ch 3 to join.. Turn

Row 2: ch3, 2 trc in the ch 2 space, ch 2, 3 trc, ch 1,* 3trc in the next ch 2 space, ch 2, 3 trc, ch1*, repeat  twice more end with a ch 1 sl st in the top of the ch 3 to join. Turn

Row 3: ch3, 2 trc in the first ch space, ch 1, *3trc, ch2, 3trc (first corner formed), ch1, 3 trc in the next ch space, ch 1* repeat twice more, 3 trc, ch2, 3 trc into the last ch space, ch 1 sl st in the top of the ch 3 to join. Turn

Row 4: ch3, 2trc in the first ch1 space, ch 1*3trc,ch2,3trc in the next ch2 sp, ch1 3trc in the next ch1 sp, twice, ch 1, rep from * twice more, 3trc, ch2, 3trc in the ch 2 sp, ch1, 3tr into the last ch1 sp, ch1 sl st into the top of the ch3 to join. Turn.

Continue with the pattern until the square measures approximately 31 inches. Finish the row by changing to colour B in the joining stitch.

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Border rows

Note: the corner can either be a trc, ch2, trc or it can be a pct stitch, the picture above shows the corner with a pct st.  The picture below shows a corner with a trc,ch2, trc. The pattern is for a trc,ch2, trc corner.  You may need to adjust at the corner by reduce the miss 2 sts.

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Row 1: (Colour B)  ch 1, *1 dc in the next 2 trc, 1 dc in the ch 1 space*, repeat to the first corner, *1dc,ch2, 1dc in the ch 2 sp, 1 dc, in the next 3 trc,to the next corner, repeat from *twice more, join with sl st in the starting ch 1. DO NOT TURN work the border from the right side.

Row 2: ( Colour B) Ch1, *1 dc in the next dc, 1 pct, ch 2, skip 2 sts, 1 trc, ch2, 1trc in the next st, ch 2, skip 2 sts, rep * to * to the first corner, 1trc, ch2, 1trc, in the corner, *ch2, skip 2 sts, 1 trc, ch2, 1trc in the next st, ch 2 skip 2 sts I pct, sl st in the base of the starting ch1, cast off.

Row 3: (Colour C) Join colour C in the first ch 2 sp between the trc, ch2, trc of Row 2.  *ch1,1ps, ch2, 1ps, ch2,1ps*. Repeat * to * to your first corner, ch2,1ps, ch2, 1ps, ch2,1ps, ch2. *1ps, ch2, 1ps, ch2,1ps, ch1* repeat * to* to your next corner. ch2,1ps, ch2, 1ps, ch2,1ps, ch2. Continue to the end of the round.  Sl st in the ch1 starting ch, case off . Do not turn.

Row 4: (Colour D) Join Colour D in the same space as the starting point for row 3.  Ch 4, 1trc in the ch2 space, *ch1, 1trc in the ch2 space*,repeat * to * to the first corner.
Ch 5 at the corner instead of the ch 1 repeat * to *, repeat three more times, sl st to join in the 3rd ch of the starting ch4.  Do not turn.

Row 5: ch3, 1 trc in the ch1 space, 1trc in the trc, 1 trc in the ch1 space, repeat * to * to the first corner.  2 trc, ch 2, 2trc in the ch 5 space, repeat * to * to the next corner, three more times. Sl st in the 3rd ch of the starting ch 3. Cast off.

Finish the blanket by weaving in the ends and hand wash and dry flat to shape it. The finished blanket without the border should measure 31 inches however you can make it as big as you want to.  Any smaller and its probably a little too small.  with the border it measures 34 inches.

 

Baby Blanket - In the jungle pin

 

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