Monday, 30 June 2014

Foiled again! - my second experiment in foiling

Every month I receive a gorgeous bunch of flowers through the post - I have a year's subscription to Bloom and Wild. The flowers come beautifully packaged and tied together with ribbon. I always undo the ribbon very carefully and add it to my bulging "useful stuff" bag.

This month's ribbon was a gorgeous coppery brown colour that was an excellent match for a coppery brown foil that came in my Design Team goodies from Foil Play so I thought it was an excellent opportunity to have another play with my foils.

I stamped the bare branched tree (I'm sorry, this is an old unmounted stamp and I don't remember the manufacturer but several brands make similar ones) then made tiny dots and squiggles over the image with a Tonertex pen, allowed it to dry and applied a matte gold foil.  Then I added more dots and squiggles and foiled with metallic copper. Finally I added just a few highlights with metallic gold foil.

A close up shows off the metallic finish the foils create

I mounted it onto a pearlescent brown card, and attached it to a panel on the front of a larger card, finishing the panel with my recycled (or should that be upcycled, I can never tell the difference?) ribbon and a few pieces of candi.

I'm joining in with this week's Less Is More challenge - Use a recycled item

Friday, 27 June 2014

Crunchy topped lasagne with pesto onion bread

As I mentioned the other day, I was recently sent some samples of Pilgrims Choice Crumbles to try out.  You can read more about Crumbles on their Facebook page.

For this recipe I have used the  Mature Cheddar Crumbles with Breadcrumbs and Herbs - the added breadcrumbs help to give a crunchy topping to dishes.

These two dishes do take a while- but it's mostly time you don't have to spend in the kitchen, and no fancy ingredients are needed - these dishes give a slightly different twist to basic and storecupboard ingredients. Ideal for a busy day at home, when you don't want to spend too long in the kitchen, or for somebody who works from home and can pop through to the kitchen in tea breaks.

Crunchy topped lasagne (serves 4)

500g minced beef
1 onion, finely shopped
150g mushrooms, wiped and chopped
1 jar of bolognaise sauce
8 sheets of no-need-to-pre-cook lasagne
500 ml milk
50g plain flour
50g butter or margarine
1 pack Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar Crumbles with Breadcrumbs and Herbs

Place the mince and chopped onion in a flameproof casserole and cook, stirring frequently,  over medium heat until the meat is browned and the onion soft. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Mix in the sauce. At this point your jar may well tell you to simmer for a minute or two and the sauce will be ready, but mince always seems to have a creamier texture if cooked for a longer time, so if you have time pop it into a low oven for anything up to an hour, stirring occasionally and checking that it doesn't dry out.

When the meat sauce is ready, make a white sauce by putting the milk, flour and butter into a pan and bringing to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Simmer for a minute or two until thickened. This can be seasoned with a small grating of nutmeg if you wish.

Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C fan, 400 F, gas mark 6)

Grease a rectangular dish the right size to take 4 lasagne sheets side by side. Put half of the meat sauce in the bottom, place 4 lasagne sheets on top and spread half the white sauce over it. Sprinkle about a quarter of the Crumbles over the top. Repeat the layers but this time use the remainder of the pack of Crumbles. Place the dish on a baking sheet in case any sauce bubbles over then bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is well browned.

We loved the way the breadcrumbs gave the topping a crunch. I think they would work well on macaroni cheese or a fish pie too.

Pesto onion bread

1 pack onion bread mix plus extra ingredients needed as listed on pack
4 tbs pesto  (because I was serving this with lasagne, I used a traditional basil and pine nut pesto but you can ring the changes with any other type. Tapenade would work well too)

2 lb loaf tin, greased and lined with non-stick paper.

Make up the bread mix as directed on the pack but before placing the dough in the loaf tin, roll it out to a rectangle. The short side should be very slightly longer than your loaf tin, the long side 1½ to 2 times as long. Spread the pesto over the surface and roll up, starting from a short edge, then place in the loaf tin, tucking the ends under slightly.  Prove and bake as directed on the pack.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

First Steps in Foiling

As I announced the other day, I have recently been accepted onto the Design Team of Foil Play  and am going to be producing some designs that use their Fabulous Foils. These are sheets of very fine foil which can be applied to your crafting, by placing them over an adhesive surface and rubbing gently until the foil comes off the backing - it reminds me a little of applying a rub on transfer.  The adhesive needs to be a dry type - double sided tape or peel offs, double sided adhesive sheet, Xyron adhesive or an adhesive that dries to a tacky finish such as a Quickie Glue Pen or the Tonertex pens specially  designed for use with the foils.

This technique is completely now to me, so I'm going to be learning as I go along and sharing my learning experiences with you. This means that nothing that I do is going to need any advanced skills - if you are a crafting beginner you will be in just the same position as I am! And you'll get to see any mistakes I make as well as  the results I'm proud of.

First of all I tried combining the foil with stamping. I stamped the winged heat from a Kanban stamp set, then filled in the heart area with the Tonertex adhesive.

I allowed the adhesive to dry and then gently rubbed red foil over it. (Actually for my very fist attempt, which didn't reach the photograph stage,  I thought the foil would need more pressure, and rubbed hard with a lolly stick, but I just tore the backing and scratched the surface of the foil, gentle finger pressure is all that's needed). Not being used to the Tonertex, I didn't spot one or two air bubbles and missed patches, so my initial covering wasn't completely even and I had to retouch the glue and foil the missed areas, hence the slightly uneven finish, but getting it right will come with a little practice.

The colour here looks flat and doesn't do justice to the wonderful sheen of the foil. I'm going to have to learn some more advanced photography skills in order to be able to show these wonderful foils off properly!

I finished the design by hand-writing the word "peace" in the banner and hand drawing some drops of blood falling from the heart. The whole image was then matted with black and mounted onto a red card, on which I had stamped a border of a tattoo-style rose from the same Kanban stamp sheet using Versamark ink and rubbed with black chalk.

I think the slight imperfections in the finished design actually work well with the tattoo theme - after all, human flesh is seldom perfect! So I'm putting this card into the current challenge at The Craft Room Challenge which is "Inspired by a tattoo with a little pen work of your own"

Next, I tried double sided adhesive sheet. I punched a leaf shape from the adhesive and stuck it on to white linen  textured card, then peeled off the upper protective layer and rubbed bronze foil over the surface. This time there were no air bubbles, so the foil applied beautifully evenly. I added some definition to the leaf by drawing in veins with a Quickie Glue Pen, allowing it to dry and applying a matte gold foil. The finished leaf was so striking that all it needed to set it off was a simple background creates with a woodgrain effect embossing folder and some scraps of wood-coloured papers. I found this one much easier to photograph too - I think it is because of the lovely even finish the double sided adhesive gives it.
This week at CAS-ology it's Week 101 - wood so I'm joining in with this card.


The Sporting Life

At the moment with the World Cup and Wimbledon, there seems to be fast and furious sport everywhere, but not all sports are so fast-paced. Take bowls, for example - a much gentler sport, and very popular, especially among a generation less inclined to spend 90 minutes chasing up and down a football field (not that I've ever been that way inclined!)

Which leads me to my latest DT card for La Pashe, this bowls themed card which was made using decoupage and backing papers from the "Men's Sports and Hobbies" download bundle - the decoupage is also available as a single downloadable sheet.

I added a piece of green felt to give it a real bowling green feel, and cut out images from some of the papers in the download to embellish the grass with. You can see from the images how effective the 3-D effect is, even though the cutting out is very simple to do.

I'm playing along with Cards 4 Guyz, where this week's theme is Sport.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Cheesy vegetable bake

This week, Pilgrims Choice sent me some samples of Pilgrims Choice Crumbles to play with. Here's what they have to say about them:

Created with the best melt in mind, Pilgrims Choice Crumbles are 4mm diced cubes of cheddar, which melt much more evenly, creating delicious dishes in minutes.
With three different varieties available Mature, Mature with Black Pepper and Extra Mature with Breadcrumbs and Herbs, they all have one thing in common; transforming fridge staples into a delicious meal.

I decided to try the Mature Cheddar Crumble with Black Pepper first.

Now, I'm a huge fan of cauliflower cheese, but at this time of year there are so many other lovely vegetables about that I thought I'd use some of them, including broad beans from the garden, in a simple mixed vegetable bake.

Cheesy Vegetable bake

about 500g assorted vegetables, prepared - I used a mixture of cauliflower, cut into florets, sliced young carrots, shelled broad beans and green beans cut into 5cm lengths.
500 ml milk
50g plain flour
50g butter or soft margarine
1 pack Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar Crumbles with Black Pepper
1 tomato, cut into wedges

preheat the oven to 180 C, gas mark 4

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop the veg into it in the order they take to cook - I put the carrots in first, the cauliflower a couple of minutes later, and the broad beans and green beans two minutes after the cauliflower. Cook until all the veg are just tender and drain well, then place in the  bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Place the milk, flour and butter in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring with a whisk, until boiling and thickened. Remove from the heat and  stir in three quarters of the pack of Crumbles, stir until smooth and then pour over the vegetables.

Scatter the remaining Crumbles over the top and arrange the tomato wedges around the edge.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the Crumbles lightly browned.

We served it with a jacket potato, but new potatoes, pasta or some crusty bread to mop up the sauce would have been lovely too.

And what did we think of it? Well, just look at the dish below and you can see for yourself - not a scrap left! Not only did the Crumbles make an everyday dish even simpler, the way they melted into the sauce yet held their shape to make a delicious topping gave extra interest to the dish. The strength of the pepper was just right, enough  for me not to need to add any extra seasoning without overpowering the fresh flavours of the veg.  

You can read more about Pilgrims Choice Crumbles at

Monday, 23 June 2014

We want a shrubbery!

If you don't recognise the title, you're probably not a Monty Python fan. But shrubs, carefully clipped ones, are the subject of today's card.

I stamped the shrubs with Stazon and did the colouring using watercolour pencils and a water brush. I'm joining in with Less is More where this week's theme is watercolour

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Dies for CD Sundays

The current challenge at CD Sundays is Dies - the funny thing is, although I have very often added die cut shapes to the cards I have put into previous CD Sunday challenges, when I sat down and actually THOUGHT about combining die cutting and CDs, my mind went totally blank.

Then I thought about how I'd been meaning for ages to try using a die to create a custom-shaped aperture  in a card, and inspiration struck.

Fist of all I made a tri-fold card from a sheet of A4. I decorated the two opening panels and the inside central panel with butterfly papers printed from the Crafter's Companion "Love" CD, which has been sitting neglected in my collection since I used it for making my daughter's wedding invitations seven years ago, layered on purple card. I usually only apply adhesive to the edges of the card and paper when layering, but for the panel that was going to be cut I made sure it was applied evenly all over so the edges wouldn't come apart after cutting.

Then on the left hand panel, I created the aperture using the largest die from one of the Spellbinders "Labels" sets (I can never remember which number goes with which label). It needs to be positioned carefully and held in place  with masking tape. And being so thick, it needs to be passed through the die cutting machine several times. I found that this made the masking tape stick to the card front a little when I removed the die. However the sticky residue came away easily when rubbed with one of the "sticky  dot remover" erasers that used to come with packs of sticky dots when QVC used to  sell them.

To give the aperture definition, I inked the edge with purple ink using a piece of cut and dry foam. I turned the piece that had been cut out over and inked the edges of the white side of it, then used a butterflies and flowers embossing folder to emboss it. Then I stuck it to the right hand panel, closing the card and applying it through the aperture to make sure it was perfectly aligned.

Finally I used more purple card to die-cut a butterfly, decorated it with pearls and stuck it down at the edges over the aperture.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Exciting news!

I'm delighted to be able to announce that I have been accepted onto a new design team - the Foil Play team. So you're going to  be seeing some new, bright, shiny ideas from me now, both here and on the Foil Play blog.

Now I know that a lot of you who read this blog are also comping friend, some of you from way back in the heyday of uk.rec.competitions - do any of you remember Gill James, who had the Winspiration website and the wonderful "ilovechocolate" email address? Well, Gill is now the brains behind Foil Play - my comping and crafting lives have come together once again!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Black Pudding, Wensleydale and Apple Plait

I love black pudding but tend to only have it sliced and fried as part of a cooked breakfast or starter. However I recently won a whole hamper of black puddings, so I thought it was time to experiment.

For this dish, I used one of the traditional ring-shaped puddings, which I boiled for 10 minutes and left to cool before starting to prepare the dish, but any cooked black pudding weighing about 200g would be just as good.

The other ingredients are simple (unless you are brave enough to make your own puff pastry)

1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
100g Wensleydale or other sharp, crumbly cheese
1  small cooking apple
2 tbs apple chutney
beaten egg to glaze.

Pre-heat the oven to 170C (fan), 190C (non-fan), gas 5, 370F.

Unroll the pastry sheet onto a baking tray, keeping the backing paper on underneath is as this will line the tray. Spread the chutney over the central third of the pastry, lengthwise, leaving a space of about 5cm at each end.

Remove any skin from the black pudding and crumble the pudding over the chutney. Peel, core and slice the apple and arrange over the pudding, then crumble the cheese over it all. Make sure the side thirds of the pastry are left clear

Now use a sharp knife to cut diagonal slashes in the pastry about 3 cm apart, taking care to match the two sides. Tuck the end flaps up first, then bring up the pastry strips alternately, overlapping the ends to create a plaited effect. A little of the beaten egg on the end of each strip will hold them in place. There will be a surplus of pastry at one end - trim this and roll into a long strip to cover up any messy joins along the top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden. This is very rich, so all it needs to accompany it is a plain green salad.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Summer vegtable risotto

This was going to be a meat-free dish but I found a few sad little rashers of streaky bacon lurking in the fridge and had some home made chicken stock to hand, but you could easily leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock to make a vegetarian meal. I've not added wine, saffron or any herbs to the risotto because I wanted the full flavour of the veg to shine through.

Ingredients - serves 2-3

200g Arborio rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
1 tbs light flavoured olive oil or rapeseed oil
approx. 500ml stock
100-150g each of an assortment of vegetables. I used young carrots, runner beans, broad beans, asparagus and mushrooms, all prepared and cut into roughly equal sized pieces but kept separate
small knob of butter
50g Parmesan cheese finely grated.

Put the stock in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Have a kettle full of water ready in case you need extra liquid.
Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and gently fry the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon starting to crisp. Then add the rice and stir well, cook for a minute then pour in about a third of the stock. Allow to cook gently, uncovered, until the stock is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add another third of the stock and at the same time start adding the vegetables, adding those that take longest to cook first. In my case, I started with the carrots.
Keep adding stock and vegetables until all the stock is absorbed and all the veg added and cooked. If the rice isn't tender by the time all the stock is absorbed, add a little boiling water from the kettle and give it more time to cook. This will depend on the water content of your vegetables.
Once the rice is tender and the consistency of the risotto is soft and creamy (you should NOT be able to mould it into a fancy shape but neither should it be soupy) taste and season then stir in the cheese and butter. Cover with the lid, turn off heat and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes then serve.




Monday, 16 June 2014

Off the Edge

This week at less is More it's a One Layer challenge, with the theme "Off the Edge"

I always find the one layer challenges the hardest because there's nowhere to hide, no way to cover up mistakes. Which is why right now my recycling bin is bulging.... I don't know WHY I put up so much resistance to the idea of using my stamp positioner, as soon as I brought it into action everything started to go right!

I've gone "off the edge" twice really - once on the left by stamping the dragonfly off the edge of the card,  and on the right by stamping it within the card then cutting away the right hand 3 cm of card, cutting around the dragonfly's wing, then sponging a border of shades of blue on the inside to show through when the  card is closed.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Today you should be eating.....

One of my favourite recipe books is this battered old volume

In case you can't read the name, it is called "Economical Cookery" and was published in 1937. It helpfully includes suggested menus for three meals a day, for every single day of the year, with Sunday's menu costed out.  Just look at the amount of food each day includes - three big meals a day!

This Sunday we should be eating

7s in old money is 35p now. For a 6lb (almost 3kg) duck!

I don't just use  this book for wondering at the mind-boggling menus and prices though - it is packed with great and practical recipes for soups, stews, jams, pickles, cakes and bakes. There's a great chapter on making the most of leftovers, and many recipes that I turn to time and time again. But I won't be following their advice to cook Brussels sprouts for 45-50 minutes!!! (There's also a recipe for Brussels sprout sauce which requires you to pass the sprouts through a sieve. Well, if you'd boiled them for 50 minutes I'm sure that's all they would be fit for).

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Some summer recipes

I guess this week we've had the classic English summer, three fine days and a thunderstorm. And the warmer weather calls for meals that use summery ingredients - new potatoes, herbs and salads. Although I've included a celeriac in these dishes because there happened to be one in the fridge.
Apart from in the bake, I've not mentioned seasoning because that's up to you, especially in the potato salad as your bacon may be very salty.

This shows smoked sausage with home grown asparagus, warm new potato salad  and celeriac Waldorf.

Warm New Potato Salad - serves 2-3

400g new potatoes, scrubbed but not scraped
1 tbs light olive oil and 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
75g diced pancetta or chopped streaky bacon
1 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Boil the potatoes until very tender. While they are cooking, heat the light olive oil and fry the bacon and onions gently until the onions are tender and the bacon soft, then increase the heat and fry, stirring, until the onions start to brown and the bacon starts to crisp up. Then remove from the heat and add the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and mustard.
Drain the potatoes and crush roughly then stir in the dressing and serve warm.

Celeriac Waldorf - serves 2-3

100g celeriac
1 crisp eating apple - Braeburn is ideal
50g raisins
50g pecan nuts
3 tbs mayonnaise

Toast the pecans in a very hot oven or a dry frying pan for around 5 minutes, leave to cool and then chop roughly.
Cut the celeriac into strips about the size of two matchsticks side by side and core and slice the apple, keeping the peel on. Mix with the raisins, nuts and mayonnaise and serve.

This photo (sorry about the quality, it was snapped on my iPad)  shows lamb escalopes in minted shallot sauce with new potatoes, fresh peas and a carrot and celeriac bake.

Lamb Escalopes in Minted Shallot Sauce - serves 2 (this dish was inspired by that 70s favourite, Steak Diane)

4 small lamb escalopes
a small knob of butter
2 torpedo shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp tomato purée
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
150ml beef stock
leaves from 2 large sprigs of mint, finely chopped
(optional) 1 tsp cornflour

Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry the shallots until softened. Push them to the side of the pan and add the escalopes. Fry  on both sides until cooked - this should only take a couple of minutes on each side. Stir in the stock, mint, Worcestershire sauce and tomato purée and bubble for a minute or to so the lamb can absorb the flavours. If you like a thickened sauce, remove the lamb and stir in the cornflour blended with a little water, and bring back to the boil stirring before pouring the sauce over the lamb.

Carrot and Celeriac bake - serves 2

I have used Elmlea Double Light in this dish, partly to reduce the total fat content and partly because it doesn't split if overheated. You could use double cream instead, but I'd advise standing your gratin dish in a baking tin of hot water to prevent the cream overheating and splitting.

100g celeriac and 3 medium carrots, both peeled and very thinly sliced
a small knob of butter
1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved
150 ml Elmlea Double Light
a little freshly grated nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 170C, 325F, gas mark 3.
Rub the surface of a gratin dish all over with the cut surface of the garlic, then discard the garlic (or use it in another dish). Then grease your gratin dish very lightly with a little of the butter.
Layer the celeriac and carrot alternately in the dish, sprinkling over salt, pepper and nutmeg  halfway through and again when all the veg have been added. Spoon over the Elmlea, making sure all the veg on the top layer get moistened, then dot with the remaining butter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about an hour, until the veg are tender when pierced with the point of a knife. If the top layer starts to look too brown, cover with a piece of cooking foil.

You can ring the changes with this bake - potatoes, onions, parsnips, turnips, swede, sweet potatoes and butternut squash all work well, depending on what is in season (and what is in your fridge).


Hmmm.... just looking back up the page. Butter, cream, mayo, two kinds of oil.... if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know the Food Police have caught up with me!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Classic Chap

I've had a lot of fun playing this afternoon. I always reckon men like cards with a bit of engineering to them, so I made this card from the new Docrafts Heritage Press range, using elements from two sheets of die cuts and four papers.

The card was made by taking 2 x 15.5 cm square cards and folding one panel of each in half then sticking together the unfolded sides. Then I trimmed 5mm off one edge of a third 15.5 cm square card (if you don't do this, the edges can make the card too bulky to close) and stuck it, fold side down, to the central panel.

After decorating all the faces, I made a 12.5 cm square easel card and stuck it to the centre of the opened central flap, and decorated it with the die-cut decoupage. It's all a lot easier than it looks!

This is my second entry to both

Make my Mon day - male themed
Ooh La La Creations #158 Fathers day/Male