How To: Chloe's Christmas Syrup

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I posted last week about making Christmas gifts, many of which I can't post too much about this year, as lots of friends and family keep tabs on this blog. This one isn't so sensitive and it's a bit of a brainwave if I say so myself.

Bottled as a gift, or for your own personal enjoyment, this is a relatively cheap and it's very easy.

Ingredients:
Cinnamon Sticks
Star Anise
Cloves
Cardamom Pods
Whole or dried Oranges
Sugar- Light brown, caster, granulated or dark brown
Water

Untitled

Add equal quantities of sugar and water to a pan- 1 US cup of each would yield roughly 150ml syrup, stir to help disolve the sugar- I used dark brown sugar for this batch, hence the colour.

Add 3-4 cinnamon sticks, half a teaspoon each per cup/150g sugar of cloves and cardamom pods, 2 star anise pieces and either 2 quarter wedges of an orange or 2 slices dried orange

Untitled

Set the pan on the lowest available heat and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, leave on low heat for approximately one hour, stir gently every 10-15 mins. Consistency should be like maple syrup or runny honey. Pass through a sieve into a jug, and bottle or jar.

TIP: If putting into Kilner/Mason jars or bottles with seals, pour and seal straight away, as the heat should sterilise the glass at the same time.

Although it's desperately 'festive', we're finding it pretty versatile- firstly, cheating with the mulled wine- 2 tablespoons of this, a 70cl bottle of wine and some low heat mean no messing with weighing sugar, or dry spices.

Also, um hello hot chocolate- a half teaspoon of this mixed through really delivers a Christmas kick to a hot drink and all this before we start talking about baking....

Homemade Gifts- 5 Reasons To Make A Christmas Gift

Friday, November 21, 2014

In years gone by, this is the time of the winter where I've started to have a panic about Christmas gifts, what is needed, what to buy, for whom, from where, with what cash. Last year, mostly for financial reasons we opted to give a mix of homemade gifts and gifts purchased on pre-Christmas travels to Leipzig. And this year, the majority of the gifts we give will be homemade.

This is not for everyone, and I've had questions ranging from 'WTF?' to 'But where are you going to find the time?' to 'But do people really want homemade stuff?' when chatting about the bits and pieces that I've been making. All valid, well mostly and so here's a few reasons that we are choosing to give the limited gifts we do as mostly homemade...

1. Cost- crafts can be costly, as can making food stuffs, but if you plan carefully and buy cautiously, making gifts can be a cost effective way to give. I chose to purchase dry ingredients for food gifts when they were on special offers in July and August and by making some things in bulk, I was able to save money per weight of a product that I would have needed.

Skunkfunk Green Purse inside
All about the money, money, money

TIP: Always keep a list of what you intend to make, how many and what the cost is to keep an eye on things though, as this should stop the cost spiralling out of control.

2. Reducing 'stuff'- As a family, most of us have all the 'stuff' we want or need. My mother and I are both quite militant about regularly clearing out and keeping our things more minimal. Giving homemade gifts such as food items or ingredients that can be enjoyed and used up reduces the stuff element of Christmas and suits the food fanatic nature of most of my family members, but consider also gifts like candles, homemade skincare or festive decorations that can be used up as opposed to many ornamental options, and always keep your recipient in mind- what they like, use and might be allergic or intolerant to.

3. Enjoyment- I'm not a naturally craft type, but teaching myself to crochet has actually been very enjoyable and is an excellent activity to keep me busy on winter evenings now the nights have pulled in, bonus that it's productive whilst we hammer through every series of Breaking Bad on Netflix.

Finally made something that isn't lopsided! #crochet
Teaching myself to crochet earlier this year

TIP: If you want to give something you've never tried to make before, have trial run, or teach yourself the skill in the summer to allow time to learn or come up with a different idea if necessary.

4. Personality- I've never been much taken with the commercial elements of Christmas, and whilst I always had generous gifts at Christmas, as an adult I prefer to give as much as receive gifts that have personal meaning or personality in them- along the quality over quantity theory I suppose. Homemade gifts are unique and therefore the limit on how personal they are is only ever set by you.

Think my mum is trying to tell me something.
Not altogether untrue

TIP: Keep wrapping paper simple and have some fun with ribbon, tags, photos or embellishments to inject some personality.

Sorting through pictures and found this of the hand drawn wrapping paper T made for my birthday gift #simonscat
In our own inevitable style

5. Compromise- T & I truthfully couldn't afford to give shop bought versions of many of the gifts I've enjoyed making this year, and our compromise is that we can give things I'm proud to say I've made. The compromise on making gifts is that I spend a great deal of my time- on which I put a value, not just making the gifts but also wrapping them and making them feel every bit as special as I intend them to be. For many, finding the time to do both the crafting or making and the wrapping is not an enjoyable task, so it might be time to reassess as to whether the cost of purchasing ready to go gifts is worth it to banish crafting misery from your life. Despite the batch of fudge that just WOULD. NOT. SET. or the very lumpy wonky first attempts at crochet on a long car journey back in August, I've had a lot of fun and satisfaction in looking at my finished products, stored away ready for next month.

TIP: Don't, for the love of shoes, spend too long on Pinterest comparing your efforts to those scary über crafty types- inspiration is there to make your of it what you will. Seeking to replicate is likely to lead to frustration and misery.

Burn disintegrated in the shower. Ain't no Instagram filter that's going to make that look better in my short sleeved gown.
Kitchen crafting.... #NAILEDIT



Chloe Likes To Eat: The Master Chefs of Great Britain Annual Lunch Edition

Monday, November 17, 2014

One of the perks of my job managing the business is being back involved with pretty much all things food, including grabbing an invite to this year's Master Chefs of Great Britain Annual Lunch. My dad has been every year since 1997 and has been a member since 1998 so it was awesome to be able to go myself this year.


Untitled

Traditional plates- each year every attendee gets a plate with the menu on it. Sadly mine has gone straight into storage due to the impending move.


Untitled
Starter
Lobster, crab, avocado and a whole host of other good stuff. My favourite course of the day.

Untitled
Fish
Whilst I like halibut, it was really over cooked, which is always a problem when catering for this many people.

Untitled
Main
Duck- cooked to perfection, beautifully tender.

Untitled
Dessert
'Chocolate Box' Super super rich, filled with some kind a ganache & caramel type job. One of the sponsors for this year happened to be Biscoff, who make Lotus biscuits, the tuille and the crumb were made from Lotus biscuit. A highlight for me.

And finally, my new favourite picture. I do rather love Paddington and with the impending movie, there are Paddingtons all over London. This is the proper one at the station of his naming though... Yes, yes I had been drinking.

Slightly inebriated Paddington selfie from last night. Had to be done!

Baking With Betty

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Betty Crocker is a brand my Mum remembers not being able to buy in the UK, she was friendly with kids from the local US Airforce base and as such she got to try and see things that most Brits didn't have at that time. Fast forward a couple of decades, and you'll find Betty on a shelf in most UK supermarkets and beyond.

Cake mixes, like most so-called shortcuts are quite divisive, with many vowing never to use them and simply not understanding why you would start from scratch. I feel this way about lots of food, but cakes are hard. Baking is a science, and chemistry was not my strong point in school, so anything that helps me to get it right first time- and FYI if you have to attempt making your cake 3 times baking gets costly, then bring it. See also icing, frosting and decorating, because I'm about as creative as a brick wall.


So, what do you get with a Betty Crocker bake?

These....

BCB
Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting & sprinkles


And these....

Cookie cookie cookie.
'Rainbow' White choc chip cookies

let us not forget these....

Untitled
'Christmas' Chocolate Muffins

Now whilst I'm quite capable of weighing flour, creaming butter and sugar, and I have a grasp on what the batter should look like before you fling it all in the oven, this is just so... easy. And quick. I have a small kitchen, which I have to share, and I'm often short on time. not including baking time (obvz) I made ALL THREE of those different cakes and cookies in less than 15 minutes. Yes for real, that's what an electric whisk will do for you, as well as not having to faff  with the scales.

The rapid disappearance of all items tell me they tasted pretty awesome. But here's the good bit, no decoration creation. Betty Crocker recently launched Vanilla Frosting with Sprinkles- so one tub, one lid, both items. And even I can shove a bit of frosting I didn't have to make into a piping bag, or lazier still use a palette knife (if I had one)....

BCB
Frosting.... not quite all over the kitchen

I never said I wasn't a messy cook.

The sprinkles also working well in paler cakes and cookies for the 'Rainbow' effect a la my cookies

Cookie Monster.

BCB
ALL THE SPRINKLES

I was very generously offered the opportunity to attend a Betty Crocker baking event last month, but was sadly unable to last the course because my stupid sickly insides decided to be miserable. But before I left, I learned some interesting things:

Did you know that Betty Crocker started of as a radio show advising women on cooking and baking in the US?

Betty Crocker only launched in the UK in the 1990's, despite being in existence since the 1950's.

There are way more products than you think- I'd never heard of Betty Crocker tray bake mixes or muffin mixes, and it was only when embarking on this review that I knew they made frosting and icing. One stop shop much?!

And FYI there's a whole load of inspiration for customising your cakes on the Betty Crocker website, and my muffins above were doctored to become Christmas Muffins- I added 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the finely grated zest of half an orange to the mix, to add a hint of Christmas spirit and thinking forward to some of the baking I've committed to over the next few weeks.

If anyone has any more suggestions for Christmas-style alterations to make, be my guest- please do let me know if the comments, especially if you have tried these things with a Betty mix.

All products featured are press samples sent for review. All new, views & photos are my own, and gracious thanks to the Betty Crocker crew for their patience. 

From Where I Stand

Thursday, November 6, 2014

You know how it goes... I take narcissistic pictures of myself from above, you pretend to be interested and I get to indulge in Instagram pictures of my recent outfits that probably aren't very trendy.


#todayimwearing kitty shoes, Aquascutum bag & a scarf that does in fact double up as a blanket.
Skinny Jeans, That (knockoff) Zara Scarf and cat shoes, duh. Bag as per my recent Bag Lady Post


#todayimwearing new favourite @marksandspencer jumper & first outing of boots this season.
The best jumper ever (Marks & Spencer FYI), denim leggings & ankle boots for a day out at London Zoo


#todayimwearing new favourite trousers from @laredoute & @geox shoes. Black widow much.
Almost grown up trousers & Geox flats- FYI La Redoute have some crazy nice trousers at the moment and shed loads of discounts. These zipped not-quite-jeans are available HERE and they're £22. I'm a bit gutted they're now too big.


Working from home today. More in love with these @asos leggings since the make my legs look slimmer.
Working from home- magic jumper and apparently magic denim leggings because there's no way my legs are that skinny. No seriously, the jumper is magic, whatever I do, it's always comes clean, never shrinks, and always keeps it's shape.

#todayimwearing too big black and very bright blue. Love these trousers but now annoyingly big.
Can you tell I'm having a cat shoe phase... Trousers as above with this awesomely bright blue and a very snuggly cardigan because it was FREAKING COLD.


#todayimwearing @asos cat elbow patch jumper. Oh yes I am.
My jumper has cat elbow patches.... does yours? Jumper from ASOS was reduced to £16.50, lilac version available for £22 right HERE


Having managed to get cats, designer bags and *that* scarf into one post, now I'm off to enjoy more clichés such as scented candles- screw Diptique, I've been making my own orange and cinnamon ones, of which I'm rather fond.