Monday, 29 July 2013

I'm Loving... The British Summer

Don't you just love summer? One minute the sun is shining, and it's almost unbearably hot, and there isn't a cloud in the sky. Give it five minutes, and suddenly the sky darkens, and you're in the middle of a thunderstorm. Not that I'm complaining, I love thunderstorms. I just wish the weather wouldn't keep changing its mind, as it makes it extremely difficult to choose a suitable outfit.

Take today for example. It was sunny/cloudy for most of the day. I was planning on taking my dog for a walk with a friend, when suddenly it started raining heavily. So of course, I thought I would be needing jeans and wellies. So I'm dressed and ready to go, expecting a downpour, when at the last minute, the sun started to shine. By this point it was too late, and I had no choice but to walk around in jeans, when I really should have been wearing shorts. Oh well.

So I've decided I need to be ready for all sorts of weather. Which, if necessary, means carrying a jacket with me everywhere, and making sure I have both a pair of sunglasses and an umbrella in my bag. 

So here are some items which I think would help me prepared for anything:

I love espadrille shoes, they are so comfy, I have a couple of pairs which I'm wearing almost constantly. I've also seen some lace ones, which look so cute, perfect with a lovely summer dress.

Do you have any summer essentials you can't live without?

Friday, 26 July 2013

We All Scream for Ice Cream

There are only a few ways in which I can cope with this heat.
One is to lie around the house, desperately trying to keep cool, and feeling nothing but self-pity about how I couldn't handle the heat.
The other is to just go with it, and eat/drink the coolest things to hand.
And because it is the summer, that means one thing... Ice Cream!

I've always wanted to make ice cream, and this year I finally had the chance. And it is so easy, I don't think I'll be buying shop bought again. Unless Ben & Jerry's is half price at the supermarket, because no one can resist an offer like that.
I made these ice creams the old fashioned way, without an ice cream maker. Although these recipes can be done in the maker, it's just as easy, if a bit more time consuming, to put it in the freezer, and stirring the mixture every hour.
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Pistachio Ice Cream:
125g Unsalted Pistachio Nuts
75g Caster Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
500ml Double Cream

Put half of the pistachios in a food processor with half of the sugar mixture, and blend until fine. With the other half, roughly chop them up on a chopping board.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the caster sugar, until thick and creamy.
Pour the double cream and blended pistachios into a saucepan, and place over a medium heat, bringing the mixture to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the hear, and pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the custard to the saucepan, and place on a low heat, until the mixture thickens.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes, and place the saucepan into the bowl to cool the mixture quickly.
At this point you put the custard into an ice cream maker, adding the chopped pistachios; or pour into an airtight container, and put in the freezer. Stir after one hour, and add the chopped pistachios, and return to the freezer. Repeat every hour until it looks like ice cream.
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Lavender Ice Cream:
A Handful of Lavender Stems
2 tbsp Runny Honey
75g Caster Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
500ml Double Cream

The method is similar to the one above, except for the beginning:
Chop the lavender up, either with a sharp knife or in a small food blender.
Mix the egg yolks and sugar together, while in the saucepan, add the lavender and double cream, and bring to a boil.
Now follow the rest of the above method.

Out of the two ice creams, I definitely preferred the lavender one. It had a nice floral scent, but it wasn't too overpowering. And it was lovely and creamy, but not too sweet.
Although I liked the pistachio ice cream, I found it had a much thicker consistency. I don't know whether it was because of the ground pistachios or the chopped ones, so that might take some experimenting to be as good as the lavender ice cream. But the taste was there, which made up for it.

Overall, I would definitely make ice cream again, it was quite simple once you got the hang of it.
I think for my next one, I'm going to have a go at honeycomb ice cream, yum!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Breakfast Smoothies

It is finally summer here. And it is so hot! Sometimes unbearably.
I'm definitely more of a autumn/winter girl, I prefer to be cold, so that I have the option of warming myself up. You don't really have the option of cooling yourself down if you're too hot.
I'm also one of those weird girls that doesn't like sunbathing. Please don't judge me.

So because of the heat, I don't really want to eat stodgy meals, hence eating a lot of salads, and now for breakfast, I try to drink smoothies.
Of course they are the easiest thing to make, providing you have a blender of course.
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I made a couple of different smoothies, one of which was from the Joy the Baker Cookbook (can you tell I love this book?). It's her 'kale spinach banana peanut butter smoothie'. Kind of self explanatory really.
The other smoothie is one I just made up on the spot using some fruit I had in the fridge.
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My Fruit Smoothie:
1 Portion of Mango
3 or 4 Strawberries
3 or 4 Raspberries
1 Kiwi
1/2 Banana
1 Cup of Milk
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Joy the Baker's Smoothie:
1 Handful of Kale
1 Handfull of Spinach
1tbsp of Honey
1tbsp Peanut Butter
1/2 Banana
1 Cup of Milk

Obviously, just put all the ingredients in a jug, and blend together until smooth.
These portions will serve one large glass, or two small, depending if you're sharing.
Serve with a cool straw, and drink away :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I've realised it's been a while since I did a post containing a cake. It kind of shocked me when I counted how long it was since I did some proper baking, and it has definitely been a couple of months. That is way too long in my book.
So here is a cupcake recipe.

Recently I bought the Joy the Baker Cookbook, from the author of the Joy the Baker blog. I love her blog, she takes amazing pictures of food that always make my mouth water, and her posts are always so funny and inspiring. Anyway, it took me a while to get round to buying her book, but eventually I did, and I love it. If for nothing else than the fact that she loves peanut butter.
I love peanut butter.
So that immediately made me happy.
I found her recipe for peanut butter cake, but I didn't want to make a huge cake, so I adapted it to make some cupcakes instead.
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I did try and make them into peanut butter and jam cupcakes, but I kind of failed at getting the jam into the cakes. But hey, learn from your mistakes. I now know what to do next time :).
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1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Baking Soda
Pinch of salt
130g Plain Flour
1large tbsp Smooth Peanut Butter
2 Eggs
120ml Buttermilk
45g Unsalted Butter
50g Caster Sugar
55g Brown Sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
In a large bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, caster and brown sugar, until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and soda and salt.
Add half of the flour mixture to the wet mixture, mix, and then add the buttermilk. Mix again, before adding the rest of the flour.
Add the mixture to the cupcake cases, until they 3/4 full.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, test with a skewer to check if they're done.
Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before removing from the muffin tray and placing on a wire rack.

For the icing, I just made up a batch of normal buttercream icing, and added a spoon of peanut butter to the mixture. But chocolate buttercream would work just as well.
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These cupcakes were delicious, it was difficult to stop at just one. 
And they definitely satisfied my peanut butter craving :)

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Mill Garden

I've been unexpectedly busy recently, hence no posts. I've moved back home, which meant sorting out my room. I have nearly four bags of clothing and items for the charity shop, and now I just need to find space for all the things I'm keeping.
I also had my graduation yesterday. It was such a special day, and I'm so glad I had this whole university experience. And those gowns are so cool to wear, honestly I felt like I was at Hogwarts. 
Another thing I did this week was visit one of the private gardens in my home town of Warwick. I was getting a bit bored and crazy being in the house all day, and as we are now experiencing summer, I decided to enjoy the sunshine, and the fact that I don't suffer from hayfever ;).
I went to the Mill Garden, which is next to Warwick Castle, and you get a lovely view of a couple of the towers, as well as the River Avon.
You also get a nice view of the abandoned broken bridge. I love the fact that it's covered in wild flowers and other plants, it looks beautiful, and is one of the attractions of the garden.
Overall, it was a lovely afternoon, and so quiet, thankfully there were only a couple of people there, so I could just enjoy the garden. It was so peaceful and serene, and was just what I needed to make myself  feel better. And it also allowed me to practice my photography skills ;)