Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Soup in Summer

I'm that weird breed that constantly craves what I can't have. It's summer? I miss autumn. Tell me I'm gluten-intolerant? I want to mainline bread and beer. I can only buy brick-red lipstick? But I want oxblood. I can't help it, I'm bloody difficult. I also want things that are deeply inappropriate for this time of year. Boots, hats, but mainly soup. And none of that cold gazpacho. Hot, hearty soup.

Yes, yes I know it's due to be a scorcher of a week. The sun is bright, sky is blue, and the thermometer is edging towards 30. The normal among us will be sipping a cool drink and contemplating a salad (or a tub of ice-cream) for lunch in their quest to stay cool. Me? I want soup. The stomach wants what the stomach wants. Plus the sight of another lettuce leaf may just tip me over the edge.

I've been making a conscious effort to be healthy of late (ignore recent Instagram pictures, we're all allowed a cheat day), so I wanted to put something together that would be filling and satisfying, but packed full of nutrients, not calories. I also wanted to make something that would be accessible to as many as possible, so stuck with the vegetable variety, and what wouldn't cost a fortune to make. I took inspiration from the website Yummly - http://www.yummly.co.uk/. If you haven't got an account already, I'd suggest signing up. Free to use with hundreds of suggestions, you can't beat it. It's particularly good for those of us who are restricted in what we can eat. 

I found a recipe that utilised a slow cooker, so lessened the effort involved as you just bung everything in! It's a bulk recipe so make sure you have plenty of tubs to hand, or a large group to feed. But with it's lack of meat it should last for a few days, and the ingredients are robust so should freeze well too.

You need:
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Knorr, as all of their standard stock cubes are gluten-free)
  • A sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, diced (alternatively, a handful of shallots would be a lovely addition)
  • 2 tins of haricot beans
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped (if you don't like spice just omit this. You can also replace with chilli flakes)
  • A pinch of allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsps paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Prep all your vegetables and place in your slow cooker, along with the garlic, beans and tomatoes. Sprinkle over your seasoning and add the stock. Set the slow cooker to low for 7 hours. If in more of a hurry, set to high for approx. 4 hours.

The beauty of this is that you can throw anything in that you like. Have a play and see what you think!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Trying my hand at upcycling

As is the case with me more frequently than I would like to admit, I become ridiculously busy, my attention is diverted and I forget to commit time to the things I enjoy! I hope that the summer is going well for you wherever you are! Or winter depending on which hemisphere you are reading this from!

Mine has been, as previously mentioned, a bit hectic to say the least, and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Between weddings, hen dos, birthdays, house projects and work, I've been kept rather busy!

I did find time to work on a project I've been meaning to get to for ages - upcycling my bedside drawers. I've been inspired by my cousin, who is incredible at taking plain, unloved furniture, and transforming them into gorgeous pieces. Freecycle is a wonderful thing, and I managed to nab a set of 2 pine, 3 drawer units a few months back. Having been stored in a garage with several things piled up on top of them, they were a bit scratched and sorry looking, but were functional and did their job. I've been planning their makeover for a while, but am the most indecisive person when it comes to choosing colour, or anything for that matter.

But as you can see, they needed some love and attention...

Finally having selected their new hue, and bought some beautiful new drawer knobs to add to them, I decided to make a start. Before these I'd only upcycled a small side table, so this job was slightly more daunting! 

I used chalk paint, as I love the finish it gives. The great thing about it is that you only need to provide a light sand on the surface for the paint to take. Just be sure to give it a thorough wipe over to remove all the loose particles. Once that was done, I added a coat of paint - colour choice called Flint - and allowed it to dry. I topped up a few areas where the wood colour was still visible, but as I was going for a vintage, worn look, I didn't worry too much. Once this was completely dry, I added a coat of clear wax, allowing it to set for a while before buffing off. Adding the final touch of the new handles, they were complete, and quite beautiful if I do say so myself!

From start to finish, the 2 units took around 6 hours to complete, and cost about £50 to renovate once the cost of the handles, paint and wax are factored in. I used the same products to upcycle a dresser for the bedroom too, without having to buy more, so a little really does go a long way. 

If you've been thinking about a similar project but have never tried it before, do what I did, practice on something smaller, preferably something that you didn't spend a lot on, if anything at all. But it's surprisingly easy, and really therapeutic. No item of furniture in my house is now safe!