Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Sugar Free Blueberry 'Jam'


I have a sweet tooth. Admission number one. I also have a body with a tendency to hold onto weight. Admission number two. The two things do NOT go together!


I have a background in medical sciences before I decided to make my way in life writing sewing patterns and with the degrees in biology, comes a special interest (and a masters degree) in food science. So let me clamber up onto my soap box and declare that I am not impressed by our attempts to reduce sugar by replacing it with other things which may not be any better for us in the long run. I don't pander to my taste buds. I am trying to reduce my need for sugar and that means to leave it out and to leave all sorts of other things out which mimic it.


Rant almost over I promise! But before we get onto the business of this week's post, I just want to say that 'natural' doesn't actually matter when it comes to sweeteners. honey, maple syrup or whatever else is all recognised and processed by your body the same way. Most honey has NO special health benefits!
I have recently had an enormous success with 25 kg (around 50 pounds) weight loss on the ketogenic diet - it is beyond the scope of this blog to go into that too much but if you Google it.....


But I still have a sweet tooth. Sorry. I need something to round off a meal and I don't want to add a sweetener - sugar is a no-no on this diet and the other 'artificial' options don't impress me much. I am very aware that fruit has sugar in it and that you will have to know your own carbohydrate tolerance limits if trying this but if you are not doing a strict diet but still want some thing healthy and delicious, make this five minute, TWO ingredient jam! That's right folks - two ingredients!
It looks like jam and behaves like jam and it is really delicious.



Okay, I have waxed lyrical ranted enough now and I expect that you would like to know how to go about harnessing this miracle for yourself?

You will need-
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon gelatin

Grab a nice jar too 


and a microwave proof jug. Oh, and a really weird piece of kit called a 'muddler' which is used in the cocktail industry for extracting the juicy goodness of fruit. 


I bought mine here. If you haven't got one of these, anything that has a bit of a flat base and will stamp on the fruit like a winemaker will do the trick. Don't reach for the blender though. Jam is not puree. it should have juice plus bits of fruit in it and the colour should be deep and rich.

Here's how to go about it.....
Put your fruit into the microwave proof jug


Microwave on high for three minutes until the berries release their juice


'Muddle' to crush the fruit completely


Add the teaspoon of gelatin and the stir it in well. Microwave for another minute on high and then pour into the jar


That's actually it! Now sugar is a preservative too and it is part of the reason that jam doesn't go mouldy very quickly. This 'jam' doesn't have that so it does need to live in the fridge and it will keep about a week to ten days.


It is gorgeous on Keto style breads 


and I love it on whipped cream. Swirl it into the cream and it is just sweet enough. About a tablespoon is right for me and it doesn't harm my progress.


If you do not have a microwave, you can also make it on the stove top. Simple simmer until the juice in the berries is released and
then add the gelatin and keep going for about another minute. Try not to stew the fruit and change its flavour using this method.


If you want a slightly runnier result, use less gelatin. If you want it thicker, you need slightly more. If you are vegetarian or vegan, use whatever substitute that you normally prefer. After a night in the fridge, you will be rewarded with the most delicate tasting jam and I have fooled children with this so I am arguing from an expert point of view here!


Get less sugar in your life and enjoy the real taste of food.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope that you find this delicious - if it isn't sweet enough, go cold turkey on sugar and try it again in a few weeks. You will be so surprised at the difference.

See you soon!
Love and hugs
Debbie
xxx

Friday, 16 December 2016

Merry Christmas Table Mat




We are edging nearer to the big day now and I am thinking of more and more things to make for Christmas - things that should have been posted weeks ago if I was to get them all in!



Well I am just going to have to pick my favourites now because I estimate that at most, I have a couple more chances to squeeze in the Christmas pretties.



High on the favourites list has to be a versatile and lovely table mat. You can make one for each diner or just one for the centre of the table. It can be made larger or smaller and it can go under a vase or a candle or if you make a really big one, it can go under the turkey and provide the centre point for the whole shebang on the 25th.



This is another make which sends you to the scrap basket and only a few simple things are needed. So, without further ado...

Gather these supplies:
-FQ grey linen
-FQ some thing nice for the backing fabric
-FQ #279 80/20 cotton mix wadding (Vlieseline)
-scraps of red, green and dark grey fabrics
-medium sized heart shaped cookie cutter
-large plate or something else round that has about 33cm (13") diameter
-black and white bias binding. 
-water soluble marker
-dark grey thread (FME) and a thread to match the linen (FMQ)
-your usual sewing and quilting needs including a darning foot for your sewing machine.
-medium embroidery hoop
-glue stick

This make includes free motion embroidery (FME) and free motion quilting (FMQ) don't worry, they are easy and most modern machines can do it. You will need the darning foot and to set your machine up properly. Check your manual for this because they are all different but with the same principle. 

Begin by preparing the grey linen top using your large round object and the water soluble marker. The idea is to get the size that you want and draw it on but don't cut it out just yet....



Next lay the marked linen face up onto the wadding and pin....



Time to prepare the applique. Now you have a bit of choice here. You can really cram the motifs in or you can leave some space. First cut some tree trunks from the dark grey. I have used four and they are no particular size - about thumb size should do it. Lay them onto the linen circle about 2.5cm (1") in from the edge.....



Next go to the green scraps and cut triangles. Here again, no particular rules. Just make sure that they look okay with your trunks. Mine are a bit wonky and I am happy with that. Trim if you need to and then put them over the top of the trunks....



Finally, cut the hearts from the red scraps using the cookie cutter as a template. I have made four of these too. Place them in between the trees and when you are happy with everything, glue the motifs into place with the glue stick......



Set your machine up for FME and remove the pins. Using the embroidery hoop upside down, find a starting point and put the hoop on....



Now using the dark grey thread, embroider around the motifs. 
Go around twice and don't be too neat....




Aim to be just inside of the applique and leave the edges. 
Embroider all of the motifs in this way and then snip away the loose threads so that they look neat. Here is what you have now....



TIP: FME likes to have a bit of thickness to it and that is why this project is embroidered with the wadding under the linen. The hoop gives you something to steer by and stops puckering.

The next step is to quilt the mat and we will keep the darning foot on and keep the machine set up the same way. this time, we will use a simple meandering stitch and go all around the motifs. 
Lay the backing fabric face down and pin the top onto it. I use the hoop for this bit to but you can of course leave it off if you prefer. If you do leave the hoop off, ensure that you keep all three layers nice and tight to avoid puckering on the back.


Just to show you before we get going, this is the pattern that you are after....


Use the lighter grey thread and start somewhere and meander!
By the way, I have a lighter background of red and ivory so I am using an ivory thread in the bobbin to match. This may feel like a bit of a faff but it is well worth it in terms of style.



Anyway, move the mat around gently and smoothly and quilt with a free form meander. Go up to a motif but not over it. When you have finished the quilting, the motifs will stand out a bit...



TIP: this is not a stitch that I would use to quilt a whole quilt because it is rather stiff due to all the thread used. You would quickly loose the squashiness of the quilt. You will see what I mean when the mat is finished. It is quite firm.
NOW it is time to cut the circle out! Do this, trimming all three layers.....



Keep the circle as neat as possible



Binding comes next. I have used my absolute favourite-right-now black and white binding. A nice red and white stripe to make a candy cane edge would be a nice alternative. And the same coloured linen as the top looks fabulous and doesn't frame it so much so that the applique stands out more. 
Begin by attaching the binding to the top by machine like this....



Then finish it off by hand on the back....



There we go! A mat like this is easy and quick to make, it is fat quarter friendly and it would be fabulous as a gift.



I hope that I can find another window before the big day to put one more pattern in before the big day....I have in mind a cute Scandinavian style gnome.

Oh and of course before I go, you can get Vlieseline products (this and others that you cannot possibly live witghout at  www.vlieseline.com Ph 01453883581 crafts@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Thank you for stopping by and I hope that you have enjoyed this pattern.
Love and hugs
Debbie

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Healthy Christmas Dog Biscuits


The big event is almost here (as I am sure you know and do not need to be told by me!). Honestly, it is like planning a wedding every year. all that prep and deciding who sits where and which present will be the best for whom and all that. Then a large meal and it is all over. Just like a wedding.



Well in my house, the dogs are important and must have a share in the festivities too. They have stockings around the fireplace and there is dog appropriate food too. I am sure that I am not the only person in the world doing this so I thought that you might like to share one of my dogs' favourite treats - Christmas star dog biscuits!



They are easy to make and they only use a few ingredients. The dogs love them as a treat - I use that word quite deliberately. They are a treat food for your dog, just as biscuits are for us. I tend to give them to mine, one each before they clean their teeth for bed at night. They really look forward to it and won't let me go to bed without them. There is no help for me if we run out either!

I have just made a plate of these for Daisy's school Christmas breakup party this week. All of the other members have made human food. The dogs cannot go without!

Okay, here we go....



These are things that most of us have in the fridge or freezer or can get quite easily. Spelt flour is an ancient grain but that is not actually the reason that I use it. I like it because it is a little chewy and not so processed as white. If you cannot find it, any other interesting flour will make nice biscuits too- but remember that if you use something like rye flour, it is actually better to mix it half and half with something lighter.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that if your dog is lactose intolerant or you are not sure, back off on the cheese and likewise, if there is a problem down the business end, the oil could be a problem too. Add less flour and try another egg in that case to help it bind.

As you can see, there is no salt and naturally no sugar. NEVER give sugar to a dog or anything with sugar in it and there is enough salt in the other ingredients - additives mostly please us, not the dog! They will love the biscuits without additives and colourings.



Get yourself a big bowl - this recipe yields 100 plus biscuits. You will need a rolling pin and a cute biscuit cutter too. These cookies freeze well when cooked and I put them in in zip lock bags and then get a few out at a time for my girls. They will go mouldy if left out because there are no preservatives. Freezing does the trick though. They last for ages.

I have used a star cutter because it is Christmas but you can use any one and don't forget to use a smaller cutter if you have a wee doggy.

Begin by adding the grated cheese to your bowl



Next comes the spinach...



Grate some carrot



and then put that in too



the eggs and the oil next...



Time to get in there with your hands now - honestly, it is the best way and very therapeutic...add about three cups of flour



Mix well to combine the ingredients. After a bit of this, turn the dough out onto a floured surface...



Keep kneading and adding flour until you have a dough which can be easily rolled out.
A word about flour is important at this point. Because of seasonal things like more moisture in the carrots and spinach and what a 'medium' egg means, the flour needs are vague and you will possibly have some left over. 

The trick is to begin with a few cups and then add more until the dough stops being sticky and it easy to roll. Dust the surface with some flour and it doesn't matter if the dough has some on it when it goes into the oven. It looks more artisan that way!
Here is what the dough looks like when it is ready to roll...



Roll it out so that it is about 1/2 cm (1/4") thick



Then get busy with the cutter!



I like to prepare a couple of baking trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to moderate. These biscuits will not spread so you can really load the trays.



Keep cutting while they are baking too so that you are ready to go again



Bake in a moderate oven until they are brown. Turn them once during baking so that they crisp evenly.



TIP: you can see that mine are a bit piled up on that tray? Once they have been in the oven a while and are a bit dried (so that they do not stick to one another anymore), you can pile them up for the rest of the baking. Not too much of course but this does speed up the process and you can get on with the rest of them.

When they are browned and firm (they will harden slightly on cooling), put them out onto a wire rack to cool away from probing noses...



By the way, if children and husbands steal them, they will not come to any harm - there is nothing inside that humans cannot eat too!



Put some in the fridge in a nice tin for a bed time treat and the rest into the freezer. As I said before, the yield is high but it will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and also the thickness when you roll them out. I got 125 when I used a medium star.

Well that's it! Merry, Christmas doggies and enjoy these treats well into the new year!

Thank you so much for stopping by
love and hugs
Debs
xxx