Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Hot, Hot Christmas!

I said I wasn't going to make any more Christmas cards, didn't I? But then I remembered that I'd not made my card for this month's Unstampabelles challenge, which is Summer Fun, with the twist of making it a Southern Hemisphere Christmas Card.

I've spent days searching through my papers, toppers and CDs looking for something that brought to mind both Summer and Christmas, but couldn't find a single thing. So I turned to Google and did a search for "Free printable Australian Christmas Images". There were very few results, and a lot of them weren't relevant (how the heck did Google think I was going to be pleased with a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge?) but eventually I found this Aussie Santa, complete with corks on his hat, and a sleigh pulled by kangaroos. The resolution of the image is rather low, hence it's pixelated in places, and I'm not sure why the designer chose that rather odd shade of mauve for Santa's skin, but hey, it's an image and it was free, so who am I to complain?

The paper, border and hibiscus topper came from the pull-out section of an old issue of "Making Cards" magazine, and the greeting was a magazine freebie a couple of Christmases ago.

I presume in Australia instead of sherry and mince pies for Santa, people leave sausages and beer? Maybe that explains why he's the colour he is!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sunflowers in December

Are you tired of making Christmas cards yet? For me, the time for making them is over and the time for sending and receiving them has arrived. This morning I've packed away all my Christmas crafting bits (although I've not put them far away, as my granddaughter is sure to want to use them when the school holidays start) and my thoughts have started turning to something more summery.

And what can be more summery than sunflowers? For this card I've used two papers from the CD "Linda Luckin Designs Background Papers" and a stamp designed by Linda to co-ordinate with the papers (sadly  the CD and stamp are no longer available).

I wanted to keep the layout simple, to make the most of the lovely papers, so I had a browse through my Pinterest "Sketches" board, where I pin any interesting looking sketches for possible future use, and came up with a nice bold sketch that worked well with the large pattern on  the papers.

This is my card for the latest challenge at CD Sundays  - Stamp it with sue-b

The Big Man at Cardz 4 Guyz

This week at Cardz 4 Guys the theme is "The Big Man" - Father Christmas (or Santa Claus, if you prefer to call him that, he's very obliging about answering to both names) and of course we want to see cards suitable for a man or boy.

This snowboarding Santa image from the CD "The Best of La Pashe 2014" would be great for a teenage boy, although I've given it a rather more "grown up" feel by reflecting the pine trees in the background of the image with a plethora of die cut pine boughs and cones cut and embossed with Spellbinders dies on my Grand Calibur.

Does it appeal to a man? Well my husband grabbed it to send to one of his friends almost before the glue was dry!

I'm joining in with
Crafty Creations Challenges - Something to Die For
The Male Room - Christmas
Cuttlebug Mania - Anything Christmas

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Broccoli "Water Chestnuts"

Yesterday I planned to make a Thai green curry of beef and broccoli. But when I got my ingredients together, the green curry paste was growing hairs and the broccoli had turned yellow. So a quick rethink was called for - I had mushrooms, spring onions and ginger in the fridge so I decided to make a quick stir-fry.

However, the thick stalk of the broccoli was still firm and healthy looking, so Mark wanted to use it (he's got a bit of a thing for broccoli stalks), and he peeled the outer skin off and sliced it into thick rounds.

Normally I would have parboiled the chunks of stalk, or anything that big and firm, before stir frying, but time was getting on so I decided to chuck them straight in. I stir fried them along with the spring onions for a couple of minutes, added the beef, stir fried again until it was browned, splashed in some wine and then stock and let it all cook for a few minutes (recipe after the photos) but I still expected the broccoli stalks to be too firm to eat.

To my surprise, they came out exactly the texture of water chestnuts - and they were roughly the same size and shape too. I always feel water chestnuts don't have much flavour, but these "water chestnuts" had a lovely brassica tang that worked beautifully in the stir fry. A tin of water chestnuts is usually too much for two of us - the broccoli stalk was just the right amount, and all made from something that would otherwise have been thrown away!

Of course you could use them in any dish where water chestnuts are needed, but here's my recipe:

Stir fried beef with broccoli "water chestnuts" (serves 2)

150g frying steak, thinly sliced and marinated with 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tbs light soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil for 10 minutes
6-8 spring onions, sliced into 1 cm diagonal pieces
small knob of root ginger, thinly sliced or shredded
"water chestnuts" made from 1-2 heads of broccoli
100g mushrooms, wiped and thinly sliced
1 tbs peanut or sunflower oil
200ml beef stock
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 rounded tsp cornflour, blended with a little of the stock

Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the spring onions, ginger and "water chestnuts" together until the onions start to soften, then add the beef and fry until browned. Make sure the wok is very hot then throw in the wine - the sudden cloud of steam as it evaporates when it hits the pan will help the vegetables to cook through. Add the mushrooms and the soy sauce and mix well, then pour in the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and cooked. Add the blended cornflour, stir until thickened and serve - I served it over Basmati rice.

Since my "water chestnuts" are effectively FREE and are made from something normally thrown away, as well as adding extra flavour and bulk to an already economical meal, I'm joining in with Credit Crunch Munch and the No Waste Food Challenge

Credit Crunch Munch

Credit Crunch Munch is hosted at Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All

The No Waste Food Challenge is at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Unchained Melody

The current challenge at CD Sundays is "Song Titles". If you've ever seen the film, you'll know why this image makes me think of the song Unchained melody! I've used two La Pashe CDs for this card - the image is from the CD Flippin' Families but I didn't think the papers on the CD that were intended to match the image really worked with it,  I much prefer the plaint-splattered paper which came from The Best of La Pashe 2014

Using a Hougie board to measure and score the diamond spring card made this a very quick and easy card to make - handy at this time of year!

Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour

Last week, Mark and I went to spend a night in Windsor - you can read about it on his blog - which will be forever memorable because of three things
  • the animated lighting display on the walls of Windsor Castle
  • being served smoked salmon with lemon curd as a starter
  • buying a copy of Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour
We've always been fans of Middle Eastern food, especially since our holidays to Turkey, and this book is crammed with lovely recipes, most of which are very "accessible", ie they don't need a lot of obscure ingredients or complex processes. There's the occasional spoonful of pomegranate molasses, dried lime or sumac, all of which are gradually becoming mainstream thanks to the "Ottolenghi effect" but apart from those, almost all the ingredients are to be found in the larder of most keen cooks.

But I'm not going to launch into a book review here - our book isn't a review copy, it's our own copy, intended to spend hours in the kitchen with us, getting spice-stained and oil-drizzled as all good recipe books should, so I'm just going to share with you some photos of the dishes I cooked on the book's first excursion into the kitchen.

The menu was:
  • Lamb and Pistachio Patties
  • Tomato Bulgar Wheat
  • Turkish White Bean Salad
  • Fennel and Apple Salad with Dill and Pomegranate Seeds (only without the apple, as I'd run out, and with mint instead of dill  as neither of us likes dill very much)
  • Maneesh bread, which Mark made, and isn't in this book - you'll be able to read about it on his blog soon
It was a real feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, and we'll both be cooking many more dishes from the book.

Winter Critters at Cardz 4 Guyz

This week's Cardz 4 Guyz challenge is "Winter Critters" - and as always, the card needs to be suitable for a male.

Now I'm very averse to penguins on Christmas cards - after all, we all know that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. But penguins live at the SOUTH Pole, where Christmas falls in what passes for summer! But I'll use the occasional penguin on a Christmas card, just as long as there isn't a polar bear on the same card! I see so many cards in the shops with both penguins and polar bears on them, and the only place the two can ever meet is in a zoo!

Anyway, rant over! The penguin on this card is a Craftwork Cards topper, one of the last toppers from a kit I bought a few years ago. As he is skiing, I decided to make a diagonal band on the card to give him something to ski down. I drew lines on to the paper to make sure I cut in exactly the right place to get the diagonal band to sit properly on the card. But I drew the lines on to the back of the paper, so they wouldn't show - and of course that meant when I turned it over, the angles were all exactly wrong and I now have a spare band that will only fit a portrait-oriented card, so you'll probably be seeing another diagonal band around here very soon.

The Merry Christmas paper on the band is from a bit that's been in my "Christmassy bits box" for so long I can't remember where I  got it from, and the snowy forest backing paper is the remains of a sheet I printed out from a CD several years ago - I think it was a Polkadoodles CD which I made the mistake of lending to somebody and never saw again.

I wouldn't usually add glitter and gems to a male card - but it's Christmas!!! And anyway, that penguin has such a sad face he needs some shiny things to cheer him up.

After my North/South pole rant, I really MUST share this at Winter Wonderland, where this week's challenge is North or South Pole
And as everything but the mirri card came out of my Christmas scraps box, I'm playing at the Snippets Playground
I'm also joining in with Animal Magic at Allsorts Challenge blog