Finding Ones Creativity

There are some myths you grow up with you may struggle to accept such as “there is a book inside everyone waiting to be realised” or a song, maybe even a great work of art and all you need to do is release it to the world. I have struggled all my life with this concept as many do I have come to learn. Whatever it is lurking inside me the subject matter eludes me, what story to tell in my book, what lyric or melody for my song or what vista for the picture.

However, one concept I can truly get on board with is that everyone does harbour a degree of creativity within themselves whoever they are. So no book, song or picture but how about a beautifully crafted cake or staged presentation of a meal.

To my surprise, it turns out to be woodworking. I know right, what a showstopper. As you may know, cooking is my passion but my creativity is set free when I am in the workshop. I use the term workshop loosely here as what I really mean is half a dozen simple tools in a shed, but it has become the workshop because I said it is so.

I bought myself an orbital sander for a task I needed and it turns out it was quite therapeutic and immensely satisfying so obviously once finished I cast my eye around for something else to sand, anything to sand, even the dogs started to look nervous. With a constant stream of vocal “NO’s” echoing around the house I was fast running out of options. Not to be defeated I retired to the workshop to sulk and there it was, the key to unlocking my creativity.

Sitting in the corner was an old piece of wood about the size of a chopping board covered in dust and cobwebs and what could possibly be identified as bird droppings. I scraped and scrubbed, wiped and cleaned and soon had something I could pick up without reaching for the rubber gloves. Yes, sorted, back to sanding and oh my, it looked awesome as the grains and character of the wood started to slowly show through.

Beautiful but misshapen, so back to shopping; one saw and one router later I was set. The workshop was now truly a workshop and not a figment of my imagination. So I cut the wood so it was sporting straight edges which I then zipped around with the router to make all shapely. It was surprisingly easy when you have the right tool for the job. A bit more sanding because I could and my board was looking drop dead gorgeous.

The icing on the cake was when I then added some wax to the main surface and polished it up with a soft cloth, the transformation was unreal, and everything just popped. It was one of those moments when you wish life had a pause and rewind button so I could replay that moment again and again.

My project was complete and like a phoenix rising from the ashes my piece of scrap wood that was probably destined for the fire or bin had become my work of art and will probably feature either in the kitchen or as a setting in future blog posts, I just can’t decide at the moment.

The only down side to this journey of self-discovery now that my creativity has been set loose to roam the corridors of my mind is that instead of sleeping when I go to bed I lay there for hours planning my next project…oh well…

Have you ever discovered the joys of woodworking?

How have you realised your creativity?

* This is a collaborative post.

Honey Pickled Cucumber Slices

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.The recipe below is from my Mum. She has been preserving cucumbers this way for years now and everyone who tries them always complements her on their taste. They aren’t your standard pickled cucumbers; that sharp vinegary taste is replaced with a sweeter, honey based brine, which puts a totally new spin on your pickled cucumbers… Try it and you will not be disappointed.

The batch below will allow you to make five 0.72l jars (if you pack the cucumbers pretty tight).

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

Ingredients:

  • ~3.5kg cucumbers
  • 750ml filtered water
  • 250ml 6% vinegar
  • 150g sugar
  • 1tbsp salt; heaped
  • 5 allspice
  • 5tbsp honey

Additional per jar:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.Method:

Fill a cooking pot with the water, add vinegar, sugar, salt and allspice and bring it to a boil. Make sure everything is dissolved (well all but the allspice that it). Put aside to cool, then add the honey and stir well till dissolved.

Wash your cucumbers and slice them into about 1cm thick slices. Too thin slices will make the final pickled pieces to soft and wobbly J

Now, it’s time to pack the cucumber slices into the clean jars… pack them tightly, the tighter the better.

Once the cucumbers are packed in, add garlic, mustard seeds and cloves, and finally slowly pour the earlier prepared brine into the jars until they are full. Put the lids on and close tightly.

Take a large cooking pot and test to see how many jars you can fit comfortably inside, you may need to do the cook in batches. Remove the jars and add a wet folded kitchen cloth to the bottom of the pan, return the jars to the pot making sure none of the jars touch the bottom and the side of the pot directly. Fill with cold water until the jars are covered to ¾ of the jar height and bring to a boil, once boiling cook for 5 minutes. Do not over boil them… the longer you boil them the softer the final slices will be we are after a pasteurising effect here to kill off any bacteria not to actually cook them.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.Whilst they are happily bubbling away, somewhere on the worktop make a temporary resting den for the jars… they will have to stay there for about 24h. Place a thick towel or two on the worktop. When the five minutes of boiling are up, using thick kitchen gloves remove the jars from the boiling water, check the lids are still tight and put to rest on the towels in an upside down position, yep stand them on their lids. Once all the jars are placed on the towel then cover with a few more towels or even a blanket and let them stay like this until the next day.

Move to their long term storage place and enjoy as and when needed.

Crisp, sweet yet at the same time slightly tart with a fantastic aroma and just a hint of a vinegary bite these honey pickled cucumber slices are the perfect way to preserve them for winter time.

5 Tips To Creating A Bar Area In Your Finished Basement

If you are looking to build a man cave in your basement where you can hang out with your friends, the cave must feature a bar. So, how do you go about building an eye-catching bar set-up in your abode? What are the things you need to consider in order for your project to succeed? .

Here are 5 tips to help you create a bar area in your finished basement. For information on bar stools and accessories, read more at danetti.com.

Tip 1: Purchase bar stools and seating

Selecting the best bar stools for your home is not exactly as easy as a walk in the park. It´s because there are various factors to consider and some of these factors include style, looks, comfort, and convenience etc. You can go for the common backless bar stool if you are looking for something that can be easily concealed. However, backless bar stools don’t fare well in the comfort department. If comfort is your priority, you should acquire a bar stool with arms. If you want to swivel around, you can opt for a swiveling bar stool. If you have plenty of cash to burn, you should purchase a wood bar stool because they go well with any style. However, if you are looking for something modern and something that complements small space, you should buy a metal bar stool.

Tip 2: Bar Molding

So, what does bar molding achieve? Well, bar molding plays an instrumental role in preventing the spills from leaking. Apart from that, it also allows one to rest his/her arms on the bar top. You can easily acquire bar molding accessories and they are available for purchase in various wood varieties.  If you are not good with carpentry, you should purchase a pre-cut bar mold design that can be installed to your bar easily.

Tip 3: Pay attention to the lighting

It is important to get the lighting right in order to set the mood. The bar in your basement need not necessarily have to be as dark and dusty as your favorite bar. Instead, you should focus on installing LED-strip kits and flexible light strips. These strips are available for purchase in various colors and can be customized to your preferred length. And, you can fit these light on the bar top or bar cabinets to give your bar area a refined ambiance.

Tip 4: What about the back bar?

If you have a wide range of liquor at your disposal and you want to display them, you should consider installing open shelves in the back bar. However, if you don’t have various different bottles to showcase, you can instead opt to place large, framed mirrors to act as showpieces.  You can also install 3-D wall panels and tiles to improve the aesthetics of your back bar.

Tip 5: Refrigeration

So, what kind of refrigeration works best if you need to keep your beer, wine, and mixer cool? Well, you can invest in an under-the-counter beverage center that boasts of the feature, temperature control.

 

Have you ever considered turning your basement into a home bar?

 

Sugar Free Prunes Muffins

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.This recipe is a spin-off from my Sugar & Wheat Free Fruit and Nut Breakfast Muffins. It has more defined flavours, has less fats due to the reduce amount of coconut oil used and with the addition of the optional dark chocolate and almonds I find it works perfectly as a breakfast muffin too 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 250g prunes; chopped
  • 1 tin / 400ml coconut milk
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 25g raw cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs; beaten
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp nutmeg
  • 50g almonds; chopped coarsely (optional)
  • 50g dark chocolate; chopped coarsely (optional)

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan and prepare a 12 space muffin tin by lining it with paper muffin cases or silicon ones if you have them.

In a medium size cooking pot place the chopped prunes, add the entire 400ml tin of coconut milk after a good shake and bring slowly to a gentle simmer.

Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until most of the milk has incorporated itself into the fruit.

Put aside and allow it to cool for 10 minutes; then add 1 table spoon of coconut oil into the mixture and mix well until it has melted and combined into the mix.

Meanwhile sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and nutmeg, into a large mixing bowl and then add the bicarbonate of soda and mix.

In a seperae bowl, beat the eggs till they are uniform and fully mixed.

Once the prunes have reached room temperature add the vanilla extract, beaten eggs and again mix well.

Finally, fold in the flour mixture. At this stage, if you have opted for using the chopped chocolate and nuts then add them now and fold in gently.

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.Spread the finished mix evenly between the 12 muffin casings and pop into the earlier preheated oven. Try to work as fast as you can… as the slower you are, the less fluffy the muffins will be when they come out of the oven.

Bake for 18 minutes at 180C fan.

When the time is up, remove them from the oven, remove from the baking tray and place on a wire rack and allow them to cool completely (if you can).

Enjoy all day and night 🙂

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar free and low fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.

British Food And Current Trends

* by Naomi Powell

How very reassuring it is that the basic humble foods of childhood and indeed often of economic necessity have been making a comeback onto the dining menus even into top society restaurants, though often at not too humble a price.  And how refreshing it is that the humble and recognisable cauliflower cheese, shepherd’s pie and macaroni cheese, to name but a few, are making a comeback as quality sophisticated dishes with simple accompaniments, and hopefully, described plainly on menus by their original specific names.  They appear to be indicators perhaps, of a move away from the elaborate, competitive cuisine of the celebrity-chef schools.

It is thanks in part to the street food markets that these newly exploited food trends are now making a come-back and the simple comfort foods of yester year have now again become an acceptable and healthy food option in many and varied food outlets.

I for one am delighted with this change of direction, since I grew-up with the comforts of uncomplicated food, instantly recognisable by its humble appearance.  It needed no fancy title, or gentrification to make it appetising and memorable.  Oh for the simple meal which is what it claims to be; cauliflower cheese needs little introduction.  A pie was always a joy, as the contents were lovingly revealed.  The new ‘deconstructed’ creation fails to hold the mystery of its predecessor, although it offers an attractive, flavoursome and satisfying menu option.

The food outlets advertising ‘Home Cooked Food’, tend to invite the expectation and assumption that British food forms the basis of the menu and many potential diners would, like me, seek out such an option.  The best of British food is to be applauded and is for me ‘The Best.’  It recognises the quality of British meat, poultry, and fish, the vast selection of home grown vegetables and the specific value of individual herbs and flavourings.  If prepared to traditional British recipes, our national food is exceptional and reinforces the value of tried and tested flavours and accompaniments.

i.e.

horse-radish and mustard with beef.

apple sauce and red currant with pork, and

mint with lamb.  Etc.

The modern and growing trend to add strong and often quite inappropriate flavours to simple food/dishes is not only unnecessary, but in my opinion, a sin.  Garlic is the worst culprit and much over used in so many restaurants.

I was utterly frustrated and not a little critical of this lack of subtlety when, having selected what appeared to be a really well thought through and appealing main dish – built around rack of lamb – arrived and I could instantly detect a heavy waft of garlic; and was horrified to realise that it came from the lamb on my plate.  There had been no mention of garlic on the menu.  The chefs had taken the liberty of disguising the lovely delicate flavour of English lamb with an over powerful dose of continental flavour.  I complained and sent it back, only to have to re-order, but the waft of garlic still hung in the air and completely ruined what had started out as a promising evening meal.

Another striking food fad, but much more worrying, is the annoying present tendency to serve very undercooked meat.  Not only is it mostly unpalatable, but looks distinctly unappetising, with uncooked white fat and oozing blood.  Undercooked egg look equally unpleasant, and without any apology I add these culinary crimes to my list of frustrations.  British food can be the best when properly cooked, but can be dreadful when not.

I can’t clearly define when food and menus began to be ‘gentrified’ and often unrecognisable, but the trend has gradually crept into our modern food-obsessed lifestyle and become well established.

Complex food technology and artful preparation have possibly encouraged some of the more elaborate and often misleading meal descriptions.

Very often unsuitable and over-fussy vegetable accompaniments produce unnecessary and confusing flavour combinations. This of course can encourage disappointment and dissatisfaction with the meal however well presented. Understanding the menu therefore, can present a challenge and for me, total frustration – which was the very starting point of my book ‘Taking the Mystery out of the Menu.’

One only has to watch Master Chef to realise that until the finished meal is actually presented, it is often difficult to perceive what is being cooked-up, or indeed what it will look like on the plate.  Even then the complexity of presentation often needs masterful explanation.  I applaud quality cuisine, artistic presentation and superior flavours, but I am exasperated when something quite simple is described beyond its merits.

So, listen up chiefs: There are plenty of people out there like me, who love eating out.  They enjoy personal service and exciting menus, but also need a clear idea of what you are offering, what the main ingredients are and the flavours to be expected.  Be creative and adventurous but simplicity very often steals the show, and leads to greater satisfaction!

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The post above is a guest post by Naomi Powell, author of Taking the Mystery out of the Menu, as a part of her week-long book tour.