Monday, 23 December 2013

DIY: Dyed Bottle Brush Trees

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I've seen these dyed bottle brush trees all over Pinterest and a few blogs, and I've really wanted to have a go at them. I think they look so charming, and once the trees have been bleached, they can be dyed literally any colour that you want, meaning that they are quite versatile. I've seen loads of different colour combinations, but I decided to go for different shades of purple and pink, considering my walls in my room are a shade of purple. Plus it's ok to be a bit girly occasionally.
I bought these bottle brush trees off Amazon, as well as some Dylon hand dyes. The shades I used were Flamingo Pink, Powder Pink, Burlesque Red and Intense Violet. I think they came out perfectly, and all of the colours really go with each other.
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You Will Need:
Bottle Brush Trees of various sizes
Hand Dye packets
Rubber Gloves

First, fill a large bucket or sink with a mixture of hot water and bleach, in a ratio of 2:1. Soak all of the trees in the bleach for around 20-30 minutes, or until the trees are a yellowish white colour. Rinse the trees in cold water immediately, and leave the trees to dry in a warm place overnight.
Prepare the hand dye according to the packet's instructions in smaller bowls. Divide the trees into almost equal amounts for each colour, and soak the trees in the dye for different amounts of time. Some trees I put in the dye for around 20 seconds; others I left for 5 minutes. Rinse the trees in cold water to get rid of excess dye. Again leave the trees to dry overnight.
Once the trees are dry, use a bristle brush to comb out any climbs, and to generally make them look a bit more like trees.
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I then got a bit more artistic, and used some silver and gold glitter glue on the trees. Some of the trees I made it look like there were little baubles, while on others I just spread the glitter all over the tree.
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They're so cute, right? I love how these look, and I can't wait to find a space for them in my room. I would definitely recommend you to give it a go, it's really so much fun. 
Sophie x

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Gingerbread Men

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It's not Christmas without some baked goods. Whether it's mince pies, stollen, yule log or a Christmas cake; you need to do some baking. I make a yule log every year, without fail. You can read my recipe for it here. But I also like to do some festive baking in the weeks before Christmas. This year I thought I'd make some gingerbread men; mostly because I remembered I had bought myself a man shaped cookie cutter, and I figured it was about time I used it.
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Makes approx. 35 gingerbread men
350g Plain Flour
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2tsp Ground Ginger
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
125g Butter
175g Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg
4tbsp Golden Syrup
Gel Icing
M&Ms or Smarties
Sift the flour, bicarbonate, ginger and cinnamon all together into a food processor. Add the butter, and blend the ingredients until the mixture forms breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar.
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup, and add this to the food processor.  Pulse the mixture to form a dough.
Knead the dough together on a floured surface until smooth, wrap in cling film, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, and line some baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Once the dough has cooled, roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of approx. 0.5cm.
Cut out the man shaped biscuits using the cookie cutter, and place onto the baking tray. Make sure the biscuits are spaced apart, as they will spread a bit.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes on the tray, before transferring to a cooling rack.
When the biscuits are completely cool, ice faces onto the gingerbread men, and stick on the sweets using spots of icing.
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These gingerbread men came out all soft and chewy, which is just how I like them. If you prefer yours slightly more crunchy, just roll them out a bit thinner. I couldn't resist eating a few of these slightly warm, they were just so irresistible.
Sophie x

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Just an Update

I do feel like I've been extremely rubbish when it comes to this blog.
I kind of shocked myself when I looked and saw that the last time I posted something, it was over a month ago. I well and truly let things go here.
But I haven't given up!

I've never forgotten about my blog. I'm constantly making notes of things I can bake and blog about, and always in the back of my mind I think 'I need to write a post'; I've just been struggling to find the time. I'm working full time now, so working out when I can make something has become a bit difficult, but I think I'm getting the hang of it now. 

I've planned out a few posts for Christmas,  which I'm just sorting out at the moment, and I'll hopefully manage to get them out in the next couple of weeks. 
(Can we just take a moment to panic over the fact that it is just 10 days until Christmas!? Where did the time go?)

In the mean time, just keep the faith, and sing some Christmas songs.

Sophie x

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Candy Apples

Ah Bonfire Night.
One of the few nights in the year where it's ok to blast fireworks up into the sky for the majority of the night.
It's also one of the few times you'll find people willing to suffer in the cold, just because it's a tradition, and it's what you have to do.

Ever since I was a little girl, bonfire night meant one thing. And being who I am, that obviously meant it was food.
I loved candy apples. Yummy, crisp, sweet apples, smothered in sweet, hard candy. What's not to love about these treats?
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6-8 Apples (I chose Braeburn)
6-8 Wooden Sticks
400g Golden Caster Sugar
1tsp White Vinegar
4tbsp Golden Syrup
100ml Water

Prepare the apples by pushing the wooden sticks through the apples via the stalk end.
Place onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper.
(Make sure to have this tray near the stove.)
In a saucepan, pour in the caster sugar and water. Heat for 5 minutes on a medium heat, until all of the sugar has dissolved. Add the vinegar and golden syrup, and stir. Using a sugar thermometer, heat to 140C. 
(If you don't have a sugar thermometer, like I didn't, then make sure to have a bowl of cold water ready. To test if the candy is ready, pour droplets into the bowl, and if it instantly turns into hard candy, it's ready. If it's still soft, and has a toffee-like consistency, it isn't ready yet, and needs to be heated up a bit more.)
Once the candy is ready, dip the apples into the saucepan, making sure to cover the apples.
Place back onto the baking tray, and leave the candy to cool and harden.
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Et Voila!
Candy Apples!
I couldn't resist biting into one as soon as they were ready, it was like I was seven again.

Sophie xx

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pumpkin Loaf

Happy Hallowe'en Everybody!!!
I love Hallowe'en so much, even though it's not as big here in the UK as it is in the US, because I always remember being a kid and going Trick or Treating. I always dressed up as a witch; Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Worst Witch and Harry Potter all had a huge influence on me as a child.
(Let's just take a moment to reminisce about how good children's TV was in the 90s.)

Of course, as it is Hallowe'en, that means another Pumpkin related recipe. And this time it's Pumpkin Loaf.
I love using vegetables (and fruits) in loaf cakes, as it always gives a nice moistness to the cake. This loaf is a tad heavy, but it tastes delicious, with the perfect amount of flavouring.
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1 1/2 Cups Plain Flour
1 Cup Caster Sugar
3/4tsp Salt
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Nutmeg
1/4tsp Ground Ginger
1/2tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 Eggs
1 Cup Pureed Pumpkin
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
Handful of Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl, while in a separate bowl, mix together the egg, pumpkin, vanilla extract and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix together to form the batter.
Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin, and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on the top.
Bake in the middle of the oven for an hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, before putting the loaf onto a wire rack.
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Serve slightly warm. By itself. Nothing else.
It's too nice to serve with anything else.
Ok, maybe a cup of tea.

Sophie xx

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Pumpkin Pie

It's been a while, hasn't it?
There is a valid reason for this, I got myself a job!!
I'm now a waitress at Nando's. Not much I know, but it is the first proper job I've ever had, so it's all very new to me. And it's taken me a while to adjust, so I've been struggling a bit with getting stuff done for this blog.
But I think I've got the hang of it now, so I should be posting a bit more frequently. I hope.

Anyway, Autumn is my favourite season of the year.
I love it when it's a bit chilly out, and you have to wrap yourself up in scarves and gloves, and you can see your breath steaming from your mouth.
I love watching the leaves change colour, and how that translates over to our clothes.
Plus it means that Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks ;)

Autumn also holds a couple of important dates for me. One is my mum's birthday, while the other is, obviously, Hallowe'en. And that obviously means the internet is overrun with recipes containing pumpkin.

Every year I see bloggers making pumpkin pie, but I've never been brave enough to try making it, mostly because I've only recently liked eating vegetables as desserts.
However, a couple of weeks ago I found a couple of cans of pureed pumpkin at the supermarket, so I thought I'd finally give this American classic a go.pumpkin pie 1 photo 08bc9ade-5962-47d2-aa75-2476131b7a72.jpg
This recipe makes a 9-inch pie. I did make my own shortcrust pastry, which is easy to do, but if you don't have the time, using ready rolled shortcrust works just as well.
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Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
200g Plain Flour
75g Caster Sugar
100g Cold Unsalted Butter (cubed)
1 Egg

Pumpkin Filling
1 Can of Pureed Pumpkin
1/2 Pint Evaporated Milk
165g Caster Sugar
1tsp Cinnamon
1/2tsp Nutmeg
1/2tsp Ground Ginger
1/2tsp Salt
2 Eggs

9-inch Flan dish with a removable base
Ceramic Baking Beads
(If you don't have baking beads, use a load of copper coins, they conduct the heat better,a nd help cook the pastry.)

To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar and butter into a blender, and blend until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Add the egg, and blend until the mixture comes together to form the dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, until the dough is almost 0.5cm thick. Using the rolling pin, place the dough into a greased flan dish. Leave any overhanging bits of pastry.
Chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.
Blind bake the pastry, using greaseproof paper and baking beads, in the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the baking beads, and bake for another 5 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Leave to cool, and cut off any overhanging bits of pastry.
Reduce the oven temperature to Gas Mark 4.
To make the pumpkin filling, mix the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the pureed pumpkin and evaporated milk, mix, and then add the spices.
Pour the filling into the pastry case, until you've almost filled the case.
Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until the filling is firm to the touch.
Leave to cool for a couple of hours.
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The result is a yummy, sweet, autumnal pie, which is delicious served with either whipped cream or crème fraîche. I then like to sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on top, just because it looks good.

Sophie xx

Monday, 30 September 2013

My Record Cabinet

Other alternative titles included 'Am I doing this right?'; 'What the hell was I thinking?'; 'This is taking too long, why isn't it finished?'; and finally 'Thank god it's done, now I can get on with my life.'

If you haven't figured it out by now, this was basically my first ever DIY project.

I mentioned a few month ago that I wanted a record player, and I was given one for my birthday last month. However, I didn't really have anywhere to put it, and storing all of my newly bought records was a bit of a problem too.
This of course meant I had to return to eBay.
And here is what I found:
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However, as perfect as it was for what I needed, it wouldn't go with the rest of my furniture in my room. Therefore, I painted it myself.
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It was a long and laborious process, involving a lot of sanding, priming, painting and varnishing, and I think it took me over a week to do. I admit, it would have taken me less time if I didn't have to do chores in between, but you don't realise how long it takes when there are multiple coats of primer and paint that have to be left to dry for a few hours at a time.
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As you can see, I painted the outside white, but for the inside, I took some inspiration from A Beautiful Mess, and painted the inside a deep purple, which is actually the same colour as what I have on my walls.
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Now this cabinet is sitting up in my bedroom, storing my admittedly small collection of records, and displaying my gorgeous record player. I'm so happy with the result, and it goes perfectly with all of my other furniture.
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Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to some records, and just be one of those annoying hipsters...

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Iced Coffee

Summer is definitely over.
It's cold, the sun has decided to hide away for most of the day, and the rain has come back.
And I'm back to wearing tights.

My mum is very much in denial. So much so that she shouts at the TV when the weather girl talks about it getting cold. And she won't let us put the heating on until the end of this month, at the earliest. She hasn't given up on summer just yet, and hasn't got her coat out of the wardrobe... unlike me.
Like I said, denial. Or maybe I'm too eager for autumn?

The one thing I'm not yet willing to give up is iced coffee. It's my new found love of the summer, I've had quite a lot of it over the past couple of months. So much so that I figured out it would be a lot more cheaper, and possibly more satisfying, if I just made it myself. 

Which, obviously, I did.
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I found iced coffee to be much more refreshing than water or juice, and it obviously gave me a much needed kick to get through a busy and tiring day. It is the perfect energy drink (for me anyway).

I cold brewed the coffee by mixing about 1 cup of ground coffee with almost a litre of cold water. I had an empty water bottle which I used for storing the coffee concoction in the fridge, but you can do it in the cafetiére, I just thought it would be easier storing a plastic bottle. I left the bottle in the fridge for 24 hours, and then filtered the coffee to get rid of the coffee bits.
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I then made my own coffee cubes, thank god for whichever person came up with that idea. It's such a clever trick. I just brewed up some coffee, and poured it into our ice tray, and left it to freeze.
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I also made up some more coffee syrup. However, I was a bit more adventurous this time. I found some lavender extract in the supermarket a week or so ago, which I probably got a bit too excited about. Previously whenever I've wanted to use lavender in my cooking, I've had to go out into the garden to get some lavender buds, but the problem is that it's not always in season. However, now I have this extract, I don't have to worry about any of that, and a little part of my cooking has been made easier.
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To serve, just pour the coffee over the coffee cubes, add a splash of milk and syrup, and drink, preferably outside in the warm sunshine. Or just inside your house while it's cold outside.

Monday, 2 September 2013

London Take II

It was my 21st birthday last Monday... wait, hold up a second... I'm now 21... Whaaaaaat?!
Anyway, for my 21st, I went to London with my mum for a couple of days, and basically did the things we wanted to do the last time we were in London.
My mum actually surprised me on my birthday by taking me to Afternoon Tea at The Ritz. Talk about EXCITING!! It was one of the things on my bucket list, so it was amazing to actually be there, I didn't think I'd be there quite so soon. And it really did live up to all my expectations, the food was delicious, and even the tea was perfect. And the room itself was extravagant, you couldn't help but look at all the decorations.
And if that wasn't enough, half way through the meal, the man on the piano started to play Happy Birthday. Immediately I was suspicious, and when I turned around, I saw people coming out with cakes. Which I thought was cool enough, until one of them dropped off a cake right next to me.  I think it's safe to say I was speechless for a few minutes, which doesn't happen often.
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The next day, we went to The British Museum for the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit. Sounds boring and old? Probably. But I did study Latin GCSE, and I learnt all about Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii, so it was very interesting to see some of the relics, especially the casts. You see pictures of them, and you don't think much on it; but seeing the casts in person, it really hits you that these casts were people that lived a long time ago.
Afterwards, we went to St. Paul's Cathedral, and we climbed all 528 steps (talk about exhausting), but we were rewarded with some wonderful views of London.
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Finally, on our last day, we went to Buckingham Palace, which was holding an exhibition on The Queen's Coronation, which included a tour of the State Rooms. It was all so lavish, and it was amazing to see the dresses that the Queen wore on the day, as well as the clothing worn by other members of the Royal Family. Even the little outfits worn by Prince Charles and Princess Anne, which I had to admit were adorable. And of course we had to stop off at the Cafe in the garden, and eat some yummy cakes.
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If there's one thing this trip taught me, it's that the tube is not as scary as I originally thought. Oh and that London is still a lot of fun, and I would still love to live there.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Smoked Salmon Pate

I am stuck in a bit of a rut. I think it's just because I'm in the transition period between finishing university and becoming employed. I've even had to start saying that I'm 'unemployed' on forms etc. All of my life I've been a student, and now that I'm not, it feels so very strange.
I also can't help but be bored out of my mind most of the time, trying to find things to do. I find myself on Pinterest nearly every hour of the day, looking for cool craft projects. I'm working up the courage to make myself a clutch bag, and finally use my long-forgotten sewing machine... oops.

Now normally when I get like this, I tend to bake to my hearts content; except I'm supposed to be dieting. My mum insists that I'm going to look good for my birthday next week (only 5 more days to go!), so she's kind of banned me from baking. At the time, I thought 'Fair enough, I can do that, I'll just find other things to do'. Now all I can think is 'Sod this damn diet, let me make some cake and eat it!'
Honestly, it has been so difficult, especially when I read other blogs, and they've been making some delicious food, and all I want is to try them out.

Trust me, this time next week, I'll be back in my kitchen, making some delicious baked goods, and I can post something on here.

To make it feel like I'm actually making something, and can therefore contribute something to this blog, I decided I could make healthy(ish) savoury treats. And this salmon pâté really is a treat, it's just so delicious, and every mouthful makes me so so happy. And it also tends to leave me wanting more...
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I think I found the recipe on one of my many trips to Pinterest, and once I remembered there was a pack of smoked salmon in the back of the fridge, I got to making this straight away. This is one of the quickest things I've ever made, honestly five minutes, and I was done.
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200g Smoked Salmon
1tsp Horseradish Sauce
2 or 3 Chive Leaves
120g Low Fat Cream Cheese
Black Pepper
Lemon Juice

In a food processor, blend the smoked salmon into a paste.
Then add the cream cheese, horseradish and the chives, and pulse until combined.
Add pepper and lemon juice to taste, and spoon out into a serving dish.
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This pâté is quite versatile, as it can be served with quite a few things, depending on what you fancy. I had mine with a couple of slices of toast, but it's also delicious with oat crackers (or any other type of cracker really), and also just served with some thick pieces of cucumber.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Vanilla Cupcakes

At the end of last month, a couple of my friends turned 21, yay!
This also means that I am the only one in my group of friends who is still 20. Bring on the end of this month!!
I love making cakes for people's birthdays, as sometimes I find it more personal. Also, if your friend is difficult to buy presents for, you're always safe giving them some cakes. And let's face it, unless there is something seriously wrong with them, everyone likes receiving cakes on their birthday... or just any time of year really. photo 9103b18e-6c97-4583-8a64-42be8dbeb183.jpg
I got the recipe for the cupcakes from the Glorious Treats blog. The owner of the blog perfected her recipe for these cupcakes, and I've also tried them a couple of times before, and I do have to say it is one of the best cupcake recipes out there. The cupcakes are always moist and light, and taste delicious.
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Now as these cupcakes were for my friends' birthdays, I wanted to make a bit more effort with the icing. A normal buttercream icing is nice and all, but sometimes you want to make something a bit more fancy. So this time I played around with some fondant icing, creating a quilted effect, which you can see in the photos. It's really easy to do, and there are plenty of tutorial videos on youtube which will show you how to do it in seconds.
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After a few days, I found out from my friends that the cakes had all been devoured, and they were thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. So you don't just have to rely on me saying that they're good :)

Monday, 5 August 2013

Key Lime Pie

I have a bit of a weakness for citrus. The smell and taste of it always makes me think of hot summer days, drinking ice cold orange juice, and eating fish with lemon squeezed over the top. Delicious.
We always have a pile of lemons and limes in the fruit bowl; my mum likes lemon in hot water, and I like using limes in my cooking.
Recently, I've been making a lot of mango salsa, which is served with a meaty fish like salmon or tuna, and in that salsa I put in a lot of lime juice. It gives the salsa a nice tangy flavour, and works perfectly with the fish.

But I also love using limes in baking.
Hence, Key Lime Pie.
I didn't know this, but apparently key lime is actually a type of lime. It's meant to be smaller than normal limes, and is more tart and bitter. Unfortunately, I couldn't get these key limes here in the UK, so I had to make my pie with the conventional lime you get everywhere.
Not that it made a difference with the taste, it was still sweet.
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Normally the pie crust is made with digestive biscuits, or in America graham crackers, but I thought I'd be a bit different (read: adventurous) and use ginger biscuits for the crust. I thought it would go nicely with the lime, and give the pie a bit more warmth.
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I got the recipe from Jamie Oliver, although all of these recipes are pretty much the same, and you can use almost any recipe. The only difference was I didn't use double cream for the topping, I used some creme fraiche instead, as that was what I had in the fridge.
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I served mine with a pot of lemon and ginger tea, and it made the whole experience even better. So appetising, and all of the flavours just mixed together perfectly. 
Although be warned, if you don't have a big sweet tooth, then you might want to stay away. The condensed milk makes the pie very sweet, so you can only have a small portion each time.
Otherwise, go ahead, and enjoy :)