Halloween

It’s that time of year. Leaves have fallen from the trees and Bonfire Night is round the corner though it’s very odd this year to have such high temperatures. 20 degrees in October? Unheard of. I’m almost impatient for some colder weather so I can get my hat, scarf and gloves out!

Here’s my little pumpkin fella all carved up and ready to perform tomorrow night.

And here he his getting in some practice by scaring his mate…

Have a fun time over Halloween and don’t have nightmares!

 

 

MAKE IT: Pumpkin loaf cake

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It’s October again and time to do something useful with the beautiful bright orange squashes and pumpkins we’ve grown over the winter.

In previous years I’ve made the classic pumpkin pie and, while I rather like it, hubby isn’t keen so this year, I’ve been busying myself trawling the internet looking for an alternative.

The first attempt was a Pumpkin Pound Cake recipe and, frankly, it was hopeless.  The flavour was lovely but the texture was all wrong.  It was an American recipe and my ‘cup’ of flour measurements must have been way out because the resulting cake was thick, stodgy and, although perfectly edible I wouldn’t want to offer a slice to a guest!

Many recipes seemed to be a basic carrot cake recipe made with pumpkin instead of carrot.  Nice, but not what I wanted.  I needed something that used home-made pumpkin puree.

Then someone gave me this –

250g pumpkin puree
2 eggs
125ml sunflower oil
300g caster sugar (sounds a lot but it is accurate)
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

First up, pumpkin puree.
Quarter the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds. Save those to make some toasted pumpkin seeds (again a recipe for one as my husband wrinkles his nose at them too!)
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Then either pop them to roast in a slow oven until they’re soft or throw them in the slow cooker on high for 2.5 hours.  I don’t put any water in with them as they have enough of their own.
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Cut or scrape out the flesh and blend it.

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Eh voila, pumpkin puree which you can divi up into freezer bags and freeze.

And so to the cake –

The method couldn’t be much easier.
Mix the wet ingredients together (pumpkin, oil and eggs) with the sugar.
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Then mix the dry ingredients together – flour (sifted), bicarb, salt and spice.
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When the oven’s up to temperature (180oC), mix everything together until combined but don’t beat it – a bit like a muffin recipe. Then pour it into a 2lb loaf tin lined with baking paper.  I like to buy the pre-cut ones as it saves on faff.  It will be very sloppy and probably a bit lumpy but fear not.

Bake for 50mins to an hour or until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.Pumpkin21

Mine was a little dark on top (probably the large quantity of sugar) but after the previous disaster, I wanted to make sure it was cooked! It looks worse on camera than it did in the flesh.  Next time I’ll keep a better eye on it and pop some foil on the top if it looks like it needs it.

I reckon a bit of vanilla extract would be a welcome addition but it passed the taste test with hubby and so all is well.   And, as I have a load of pumpkin puree in the freezer for further experimentation maybe I’ll add some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, a glaze or icing  or perhaps even go a bit wild and throw in some coconut.  Yum.

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Any suggestions welcome.  What are you doing with your pumpkins this year?

 

NEED IT, MAKE IT: Zippered pouch

 

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This zip-up bag (or zipper pouch) is another easy project which has a multitude of uses.  I have a few of them scattered around the house keeping various objects neat and tidy.

This week,  I was getting repeatedly annoyed trying to find those little things every girl keeps in the bottom of her hand bag.  You know the ones – that loose lip balm, packet of tissues, mints, compact mirror etc.  so I decided to make a little zip-up bag to keep them all handy.

I found some left over denim – nice and sturdy, some pretty fabric left over from an apron I made for a friend and a zip I recycled from something that had seen better days.

I cut the fabric the same length as the zip and deep enough to hold my various bits and pieces.  Two bits for the outer and two for the liner.

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I took one piece of each of the two fabrics and lined them up (right side to right side) with the zip facing down in the middle against the outer fabric.  I pinned the three layers together and then opened it up to check that it was all the right way round before I sewed it up – very irritating to have to rip things back!

Having checked that it was correct, I attached my zipper foot to my machine and happily sewed them together.  I then pulled back the lining fabric to check again. Paranoid?

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All good.

I  did exactly the same with the other two bits of fabric using the other side of the zip.  Again I pinned it first to check it was the right way round and sewed that side too.  (Trust me, I’ve done this wrong too many times!)

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So far so good.  Outside and inside attached to the zip.  You’ll notice the edges were slightly out of alignment so I just trimmed them off so they matched.

Next I pinned the two inner sides together and the two outer sides to each other, right side to right side, with the zip in the middle.  (It’s really important to remember to open the zip before you pin and machine the sides otherwise you won’t be able to turn it inside out!)

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I always use big fat pins to mark areas I shouldn’t sew and these ones mark an area on the lining side large enough to use to turn the project the right side round.

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Then it’s just a case of swapping back to your normal footer attachment and sewing all the way around the whole oblong from one marker until you reach the other.

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Then you can trim the seams if your fabric is bulky and then turn it inside-out.

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I pushed the point of my scissors right into the corners to get a nice sharp edge.

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Then, I hand-stitched the liner opening closed.

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Ironed everything good and flat.

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And that’s it.  For the purpose of the photos I grabbed a few things from my sewing box to fill it with but it’s currently sitting in my handbag holding all those little girlie bits and pieces which are now a great deal easier to find in the depths of a big black-lined handbag.

It also means I can swap handbags much quicker in the morning (if and when I can be bothered to match my bag to my outfit!)

So many uses, – pencil case, makeup bag, wash bag, hairgrip tidy, dog treat and poo bag holder, laundry bag…

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NEED IT, MAKE IT: Drawstring bag

 

I use a drawstring bag to hold my used teatowels and kitchen cloths until I get round to washing them at the end of the week. Having repaired my old one a number of times, I have to give up on it now and consign it to the bin.

I have a stash of fabric kicking about in my spare room, some of which is too unattractive to use for any decorative purpose. I've no idea where this piece came from – it's pretty horrible so this is exactly the type of practical project I need to use it up!

Drawstring bags are one of the very easiest sewing projects to undertake. The first one I ever owned was the one every little girl of my age took to school to hold her gym kit. We called them pump bags then and they were all home-made by your Mum. Mine was beautifully embroidered with flowers and my name (Mum was an avid seamstress) and I was very proud to carry that to school.

So then, having already determined that this one is functional only (be prepared to embrace the ugly!) it's a simple rectangle sewn across the bottom and up both sides and a double fold hem at the top to thread your string through. Easy squeezy!

 

I use these big style pins as markers on the top hem to remind me not to sew all the way round!

 

Then it's just a case of threading the string through the gap using a safety pin.

 

There. Ugly but functional.

 

 

 

 

MAKE IT: Cinnamon Rolls

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Oooh, yummy, sticky, buttery, spicy little buns of naughtiness!  Cinnamon Rolls.  A bit like Chelsea Buns but with a buttery-sweet cinnamon filling instead of fruit.

Here’s the recipe –

Ingredients:

14 oz    strong white flour
1 oz        caster sugar
2 oz        softened butter
1/2 tsp  salt
2 tsp      ground cinnamon
7 floz     milk
1 pkt      dried yeast

Filling:

3 oz        softened butter
2 oz        caster sugar
1 tbsp    ground cinnamon

Icing:

2 tbsp    icing sugar
plus sufficient water to produce desired consistency

  • Mix the flour and butter together in an electric mixer or rub in by hand.
  • Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, yeast and milk (feel free to warm the milk if you want to) and
  • knead either with the dough hook attachment on a very slow setting or by hand for 10 mins until the dough is soft and smooth.

I did mine the night before and popped it in an airtight box to prove overnight in the fridge.   ???????????????????????????????

If you’re doing it the same day, cover It with greased cling film or a damp cloth and put in a warm place for about an hour.

This is an enriched dough so you won’t see the spectacular types of rise you see with ordinary breads so don’t worry if it looks a bit tight – the yeast just has to work much harder to push up against the butter.

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The next morning, I took it out the fridge and rolled it out pretty thinly. It measured about 60cm long and 30cm wide.???????????????????????????????Cinnamon rolls06

Then I mixed together the filling ingredients to form a stiff paste…???????????????????????????????

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…and spread it as evenly as possible over the dough.

Then I rolled it up using the long side and cut the resulting sausage into 5cm sections.  Mine were thicker in the middle than at the ends so no points for consistency there!??????????????????????????????? Cinnamon rolls11

I popped them in a pyrex dish (where they looked a bit pathetic – check out those tiny end ones!) and let them rise for an hour in a warm place. Thankfully, they filled out and squashed together the way they needed to. Using a high sided cooking dish helps to prevent them expanding away from each other as they rise.

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Glaze them with beaten egg (I forgot!) and then into a hot oven at 220C for 12 to 15 mins.

Ta dah!

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Once cooled a bit, I mixed up some glacé icing and drizzled it over the top.

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Delicious and all done in time for brunch!

Don’t be scared, give it a go.

 

MUSINGS: And so autumn begins…

It's that time of year when the last of the flowers are in bloom while the leaves are falling from the trees. The vegetable garden is looking well past its prime with only the winter stock of roots and brassicas looking green and pretty. The corn, beans and pumpkins are pretty much done now, though a few courgettes are still hanging in there.
 
 

I'll have to start looking at making chutney with those last few bits and bobs but in the meantime, I'm going to see what's feasible for growing in an unheated greenhouse over winter.

Any recommendations?