Tag Archives: homemade

Bake: Granola Bars

granola bars

I’m off on a little road trip for work soon, this will involve a trade show and a few nights in a hotel. All very exciting stuff apart from the fact I will be away from my kitchen for 3 days, three whole days! Whilst most would relish the prospect of not having to cook for 3 days the reality has sent me into a bit of a panic.

Cooking is one of my greatest pleasures, I cook every day. It’s my way to relax and unwind but mainly I’m a big fan of knowing what goes into my food, it’s important to me to know the origin of the ingredients going into what I eat and indeed that there are no unnecessary ingredients included, preservatives, stabilisers and what have you. life is busy, and whilst it’s not always possible to know exactly whats going into your food and it’s not always convenient to make food from scratch I do, where possible, try and champion homemade and try to source ingredients for my kitchen that are local, british or of fair trade origin, and above all, healthy. I bake my own bread, I buy my meat from the butchers and vegetables from the market and try to spend as little money as I can in supermarkets.

So, what to do? The outlook is grim and i’m facing the unnerving reality of fast food for three days. My colleagues, who know my pack lunch habits and cheese obsession have assured me this is not the sort of trade fair where there will be a hall of fine cheeses to sample (those are the best sort of trade fairs, right?!) How will I cope without a slice of homemade bread and a selection of fine cheeses at lunchtime? I had to take action.

This morning I set about baking myself a batch of granola bars so if i’m really in trouble I can reach for the comforts of home cooking direct from my own kitchen. C has also very kindly bought me some apples to take on my journey. I shall also be preparing some cheesy nibbles to take. I’m feeling better prepared now, yet still apprehensive. Seriously, no cheese?

granola bar ingredients

To make granola bars you will need:

  • an 18cm round cake tin lined with baking parchment
  • 100ml coconut oil
  • 100ml agave nectar or honey
  • 50g almond or peanut butter
  • 150g oats
  • 50g chopped pecan nuts
  • 50g mixed seeds-I used pumpkin and sunflower
  • 50g dried fruit of your choice, sour cherries or cranberries are mine

This recipe makes really delicious gooey, chewy granola bars, be sure not to bake them too long so they don’t dry out. A note on coconut oil, make sure you buy cold pressed extra virgin for maximum ‘superfood’ effect. The flavour is strong and can overpower, so for those who don’t like coconut butter or oil can be used instead.

Pre-heat the oven to 145°C Weigh all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the agave, coconut oil and nut butter together in a pan until they are all melted, then pour the melted oil, agave and butter over the dry ingredients and mix all together to combine. Place the ingredients into the prepared tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the mix down so it’s nice and compact. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, (don’t try to cut it when warm as it will crumble) Once completely cool cut into 6-8 portions. Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Perfect for Breakfast on the go.

speedy breakfast granola bars

Further reading for the travelling cook:

B’s guide to eating healthy on the road

Miriam nice fellow blogger and author of cooking without a kitchen

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Make: Elderberry Vodka

foraging for elderberries

Autumn, my favorite time of year. Not least because it brings with it an abundance of fresh produce ripe for picking. On my daily commute to work I’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of elderberries. The way nature transforms through the seasons never ceases to amaze me, the soft lacey white flowers that lined our hedgerows just a few months ago have given way to deep burgundy stalks, their heads hang heavy with berries.

So, I am happy to announce that they are now officially ready.

Last weekend, C and I took a little Sunday afternoon walk. Armed with scissors and a box to collect our loot in, we had our first foraging adventure of the season. Elderberries aren’t commercially grown so the only way to get hold of them is to get out there and explore the English hedgerows

hedgerows lined with Elder

We collected around 15 heads of elder, which is the amount needed to make the below recipe. Usual foraging rules apply, always pick above waist height and leave a few heads for the birds who will also be needing these berries over the coming months.

collecting elderberries

To Make Elderberry Syrup you will need:

  • 1 litre of vodka
  • 500g elderberries, stalks removed
  • 200g sugar
  • The zest of a lemon
  • 2 x clean, sterilised 1 litre capacity bottles to store the booze in

The fastest way to separate the berries from their stems is to gently pull them away from the stalks with the back of a fork. It can get messy and elderberry is a natural dye so can stain. I recommend taking this task outside if possible.

Once ready, discard the stalks and split the berries between the two bottles.

Next divide the lemon zest and sugar between the two bottles, I used elderflower sugar made earlier in the year as I like to layer up the flavours. Vanilla sugar would work well too, if you have it to hand.

Finally, add half a litre of vodka to each bottle and, lid on, give both bottles a good shake to get the flavours going.

removing the berries from the stalks

Store the bottles in a cool dark place so the booze can infuse. shake the bottles regularly, about once a week, to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. I find it’s always worth having a cheeky taste once in a while too, just to check progress.

The booze takes around 3 months to infuse, so if made now it will be ready just in time for Christmas.

elderberry vodka

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Make: Rhubarb Rum

shake the rhubarb and sugar together

Its no secret that both B and I struggle on decision making, i’m talking about those game changing decisions like when you need to decide what pudding to choose or which bread to have with your soup, you know? The important stuff. When it comes to ingredients this is where I suffer most from indecision. One of the main problems I have when I strike upon a treasured ingredient is deciding what to do with it, how to make the most out of them and show them in their best light, The annual spring rhubarb discovery is no exception

I always get massively excited about Yorkshire rhubarb, in fact there’s nothing about rhubarb that doesn’t make me smile. Not only is it one of my favourite vegetables it also signals a turn in the seasons, spring is in sight and good riddance to winter! It’s easily foraged, it grows right here in the UK and everything about it is bold, both colour and flavour theres no arguing with it, an all round win in my view.

So, what to make? Luckily on this occasion C and I had a plan. Booze.

We’ve been talking and planning on and off for almost a year, then for Christmas I received a bottle of Rhubarb Gin from a fellow Rhubarb and Gin worshiper H, possibly the finest alcohol to ever pass my lips and this sealed the deal. Then last weekend the plan was finally put into reality. But there was still one big decision to be made, which booze to infuse? Having tried the gin I knew the results would be amazing but we were desperate to try the rum too, in the end we made both just to hedge our bets. Rhubarb rum and rhubarb gin, this is quite possibly the finest homemade booze we have ever made, even if I do say so myself so grab yourself a bottle of rum and or Gin and some rhubarb and get making!

fill up the jar with rum

To make rhubarb rum you will need:

  • 1 litre of white rum
  • 500g rhubarb- the pinker the better
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g caster sugar
  • You will need a sterilised Tupperware container to store the booze in, or alternatively this recipe fits perfectly into a 1.5 litre capacity Kilner jar

To make rhubarb gin use the same quantities as the above recipe but omit the vanilla pod

Cut the rhubarb into chunks and place the sugar, vanilla pod and the rhubarb into the container then replace the lid and give the ingredients a good shake. Pour in the booze and store in a cool place for one week so the booze can infuse. The alcohol will slowly take on the colour of the rhubarb and turn a beautiful pastel pink colour. When the week is up strain off the liquid and store in a sterilised bottle, the booze will last for a few months sealed, I think, ours didn’t last very long!

perfectly pink rhubarb booze

So what to make with Rhubarb rum? Rhubarb Mojitos of course!

to make 1 rhubarb rum mojito You will need:

  • 3 stalks of mint
  • 50ml rhubarb rum
  • half a lime
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • crushed ice
  • soda water

Muddle the lime, sugar and mint together in a high ball glass to release the flavours, add crushed ice, pour over the rum and top up with soda water, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve

rhubarb mojitos

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Eat: Sourdough

“I believe wholeheartedly that we can change the world by baking with ethical and sustainable ingredients… one bite at a time.” Vanessa Kimbell

This is the best argument for baking homemade bread I’ve heard in a long time

Vanessa runs bread making classes from her home in Northampton, The Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School, complete with an organic kitchen garden. I’m dying to book onto one of Vanessa’s sourdough bread making courses

Check out Vanessa’s Facebook page and website to learn more, there are also plenty of these beautifully produced videos available on the wild yeast Vimeo page.

I’m off to bake some sourdough!

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Make: A scrapbook

you will need...

I’m off on a trip to Rye in East Sussex this week, I wanted to take a scrapbook to record memories along the way. Instead of buying a brand new sketch book I decided to recycle some old magazines, wallpaper samples and map books and create my own unique book, complete with a map of the area we are going to visit.

I find brand new sketchbooks intimidating, it’s hard to know where to start and I can never use the first page! Hopefully with a homemade book starting will be a little easier.

Heres what you will need:

  • Old magazines, wallpaper samples and any other interesting textured paper you can find around and about, different surfaces will add interest to your final book
  • Scissors
  • A needle and thread – I used embroidery thread

begin by making 4 little books-to be sewn all together

Begin by taking a selection of papers and fold them in half to create a small book, use no more than six sheets per book and be mindful that any images will be folded in half. These little books will then be sewn together to make a larger book. I made 4 little books in total. Don’t worry too much about being to neat and tidy, ripped edges and differently sized pages will add extra interest to the final book.

pierce holes in the spine of eack little book

Pierce through the spines of the books with the needle, about 5-7 holes. Do this for each little book, the aim is to get all the holes evenly in the same place for each book to create a nice neat and even spine in the finished book.

begin inside the book and sew outsew through the seams of each little book

Next take two of the little books and place side by side. Take the needle and thread, using the pre-made holes sew up inside the first book and down into the second book. Repeat this all the way down the spine of the book so you have a larger book. Pull the thread as tight as you can to add structure to the book. Repeat this process with the next two books, then sandwich these two larger books together and sew the middle two books together along the spine.diagram for bookbinding technique This diagram shows he path your needle should followthe spine of the book 

Finally, knot the thread at the end and sit back and admire your homemade book . The finished book should be quite sturdy, you can apply washi tape to the outside of the spine to protect it or leave as is so the stitching is exposed.

different textures and surfaces will add interest to your book

How do you record memories?

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