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Category Archives: Baking

Festive gifts 

Now that the festivities of the big day are over, I think it’s safe to share some of the gifts I made for Christmas…

First off, my mum asked for a bobble hat, so I showed her various yarns and drew different designs, but eventually this is what I crocheted for her:

Crochet hat for mum

Crochet hat for mum

I used an aran-weight alpaca yarn, working in treble stitches in the round. I started off in blue and then worked the increases in red, creating an interlocking spiked effect. There was a lot of colour changing and counting involved, but it was worth it because mum really likes the finished hat. I think it has a subtle crown-like element to it. It’s certainly unusual anyway.

The weather is unseasonably mild at the moment so my mum won’t need to wear it for a while, but she says it’s lovely and cosy. She wanted the big bobble pompom on the top, which used a lot of yarn and took a while to make. And it really does ‘bobble’ about on your head when you wear it, which is fun!

Next up, I also used my crochet hooks to make this adorable owl for my aunty:

Crochet owl

Crochet owl

Owls are my aunty’s favourite and it just so happened that Simply Crochet features an owl pattern in issue 40 (on sale soon) – as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it for her. The pattern actually comes from a book, Sweet Crochet by Sandrine Deveze, and it was really easy to make. I used a cream linen yarn with variegated lengths of sparkly gold, which gives the owl a lovely texture. And of course, I had to make a little gif of him in his natural woodland habitat!

I also made a few foodie treats, as is customary at Christmas. The most effort fun was making jars of pancake mix for two of my cousins. My cousin Adam is coeliac so I had the idea of making him a gluten-free pancake mix, to which he could just add milk (dairy or dairy-free). I like to keep a good stock of empty jars for such occasions, although of course, I had to do a bit of dressing up to make the jar look festive:

Pancake mix

Pancake mix

So I glued a circle of red fabric over the lid, then added a circle of glittery gold netting over the top and worked some gathering stitches to keep the two fabric layers in place. Then I added another piece of festive ribbon to the body of the jar (my mum had just given me this ribbon so that was perfect timing!). The only thing missing was a label, so I designed that on the computer, printed out the front and back, glued the two sides together and attached it to the jar with a small piece of ribbon. Here’s a close-up view of the label:

Gluten-free pancake mix label

Gluten-free pancake mix label

This jar turned out so good that I decided to make a second jar (not gluten free) for another cousin – I figured, who doesn’t like pancakes? They’re such a treat, which is what Christmas is all about.

If you’re interested in the recipe for the pancake mix, please head to my foodie blog, littlegreenplate.wordpress.com where you’ll also find some of the other foodie treats I made for a happy vegan Christmas! Hope you had a good one 🙂

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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Baking, Crochet, Other Crafts, Sewing

 

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Little Green Plate

I’m really excited to tell you that I’ve started another blog! It’s called Little Green Plate and it’s a space dedicated to sharing my passion for plant-based food and a gentler, vegan way of life.

If you saw my previous post, Lime Tart, you’ll know that I’m vegan. I’ve been vegetarian since the age of 13 and vegan since I was 27 (about 9 years). I don’t have an allergy or digestive condition. I’ve chosen a plant-based diet because I believe in it as a gentle way of life, reducing harm to our own bodies and to other living creatures, as well as the planet we share with them.

My gentle attitude towards life means that I’m something of an apologetic vegan. I never want to cause a fuss or be a bother to anyone – my choices should only inconvenience me (although it’s always a lovely surprise when my loved ones go to the effort of making food that’s safe for me to eat). I’ve also felt shy and self-conscious talking about being vegan to other people – I took all the derisory comments or confused looks to heart and felt embarrassed.

So I’ve been storing up all my plant-based passion, knowledge, ideas, recipes, experiments and beliefs. They only dared to venture out when I was safely in my own home. And very occasionally here (you have no idea how long I wrestled with that decision!).

Anyway, a few things have happened recently to change that. First, I’ve discovered that more and more restaurants and eateries are offering vegan options. I’ve even dared to try some, and they’ve been alright… some have been great! Being vegan has no longer felt like having the plague; it’s becoming more accepted! Second, healthy diets have never been more popular and I’ve enjoyed many of the blogs and books dedicated to them. But none of them have quite matched my gentle philosophy. Finally, I’ve been asked to do some work for a new magazine called ‘Eating & Living Free From’, which has been a lot of fun and shown me just how much I know.

I’m really excited to have a dedicated space for some plant-based fun and simple ideas for vegan food, as I journal about some of my creations, share my experiences (and mistakes!) and hopefully help in your journey towards a gentler way of life, if that’s what you choose. I can’t wait to start posting some of my recipes and meal ideas, celebrating the variety and abundance of delicious plant-based foods. I’ll still be continuing with Make Me Do, but I really hope you’ll join me in my new journey as well, over at littlegreenplate.wordpress.com

Just grab your favourite plate and get ready to fill it with some plant-based yumminess…

Little Green Plate screengrab

Little Green Plate screengrab

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in Baking

 

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Lime tart

With the weather being so warm at the moment, baking is something of a torture. So I’ve been experimenting with raw desserts that only need chilling and have the added benefit of being ridiculously healthy.

I recently made this lime ‘cheesecake’, which is not only amazingly tasty, but also vegan, gluten free, raw and free from refined sugar.

Lime tart

Lime tart

You can make the base using 175g of any nuts, whizzed up in a food processor until fine, and 70g of dates, whizzed up with the fine nuts until the consistency is sticky enough to hold together. Press into a lined tin, either one big one or several small ones – I used one big paper cake liner (approx 23cm) placed inside a tin. Pop it in the fridge for an hour while you make the topping.

The ‘cheesecake’ topping is just cashew nuts (90g, soaked for 2 hours), an avocado, coconut oil (80ml melted) and agave nectar (80ml), plus the juice and zest of one lime. Again, whizz it all up in a food processor (I didn’t even bother cleaning mine out after making the base!). Add 150ml more liquid (could be more lime or lemon juice, or water – I used a mix) and whizz again. Pour over the base.

Then just chill (the cheesecake and you!) for about 3 hours. Or speed things up by putting it in the freezer for an hour. While I waited, I enjoyed licking the many spoons I’d used! It tasted so good, I knew I was onto a winner.

Oh, I almost forgot: hold back some of your lime zest to sprinkle on top of the finished cheesecake as decoration. Pretty!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Baking

 

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Swoon-worthy macaroons

The Great British Bake Off might be over, but I’m still baking. This week, I’ve been making macaroons…

Macaroon

Vegan macaroon

No, they’re not the trendy French type made with egg white, sugar and the tiniest bit of almond flavouring (which are more like meringues than what I think of as macaroons). They’re closer to the coconut-heavy macaroons, baked on rice paper, which melt in your mouth as you eat them.

Although, being a devoted lover of all things almond, I’ve replaced the coconut with almonds, which is much better for you anyway. And being vegan, I’ve also left out the egg white. But I assure you, these are delicious…

All you do is use equal amounts of ground almonds, semolina and demerera sugar (try 1oz of each), then add half a teaspoon of baking powder and mix it all together. Then slowly add some water until the mix resembles a batter (try 3 tablespoons).

Cover a baking tray with baking paper, then place edible rice paper on top of that. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the paper (this mix made 4 large ones). The mix will spread slightly, then you can sprinkle some flaked almonds over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180ºC.

These really are a triumph! The texture is a cross between cake and cookie (who wouldn’t like that?!). They are fairly sweet but the almond makes it a much healthier treat!

I think you could try this with almost any kind of nuts – hazelnut macaroons could be good, possibly with chocolate chips as well…

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Baking

 

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Baked treats

I had a few days off recently and all I wanted to do was bake! I blame BBC’s The Great British Bake Off, which has been building up to an exciting climax this week.

After a trip to the supermarket and the local wholefoods store to stock up on some essentials, I was ready to create my masterpieces… mini vegan tartlets!

Mini vegan tartlet

Mini vegan tartlet

Flans and quiches are one of those savoury goodies that I really miss, but these were just as delicious and so easy!

First I made some shortcrust pastry, mixing 2oz of dairy-free spread (I like Pure) into 4oz of flour using a fork until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. I’m trying to cut back on my wheat consumption so I used a mix of rice flour and barley flour, plus a small amount of gram (chickpea) flour and soya flour (to up the protein level), but the tartlets would taste lovely if you used plain wholemeal wheat flour instead. Then I added 2 tablespoons of water and mixed into a dough.

While the dough chilled, I made the filling. This might sound surprising but there’s only one ingredient you need: tofu. More specifically, a block of tofu, sometimes called silken tofu. I buy 400g blocks of tofu by Cauldron foods, because it’s so widely available. I cut the block in half, added some seasoning (a few dried herbs and some paprika) and a little drizzle of vegetable oil, then whizzed it all up in our blender/food processor.

I also added some leftover cooked vegetables (red onion, red pepper, corguette and mushroom) that we had in the fridge (approx 100g), although this recipe would work just as well without them. That’s it: filling ready.

Then I attempted to roll out the pastry, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to happen! As a wheat-free novice, I wasn’t expecting it to crumble quite so much. So instead, I cut the dough into 12 pieces (as evenly sized as I could do by eye) and shaped each one into a disk using my hands.

I fetched my ordinary 12-hole cupcake tin and greased each hole (using Pure again). Then I pressed each pastry disk into the hole using my fingers. This worked surprisingly well and gave a rustic look that actually looks rather good (disaster averted!). After pouring in the filling, I baked them in the oven at 180ºC for around 40 minutes and cooled on a cooling rack. (Please note that our oven is really old and rubbish so I think a normal oven would cook them much faster.)

Not only do these look good, they also taste amazing. I’ve eaten them hot, warm and cold, and they’re most delicious when they’re slightly hotter than warm. I will admit that they did have slightly soggy bottoms, so I will blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes when I make them again – and I will definitely be making them again. Yum!

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Baking

 

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Carrot cake

I’m a big fan of cake. But being vegan means that if I want any, I pretty much have to make it myself. Which I don’t mind, because then I can at least try to make it a little healthier (or less unhealthy) than shop-bought cake.

For me, carrot cake is the perfect balance of cakey treat and carroty healthiness, but I’d never made it before – the thought of preparing all those carrots just seemed to time-consuming.

The stars aligned recently though, when we accidentally wound up with too many carrots in the fridge and I found a great vegan carrot cake recipe!

The recipe is from a brilliant vegan baking book that I had for Christmas, Divine Vegan Desserts by Lisa Fabry. (I’m blown away by the variety of recipes in there so look out for more cake-related posts coming soon!)

Anyway, it only took 30 minutes and one split nail to grate the carrots… and another 2 hours to prep and bake the cake. But the finished cake is a thing of beauty:

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

I changed the recipe slightly, to suit the ingredients I had in the house and reduce the amount of sugar in it. Also, I’m not a big fan of the icing that usually goes on carrot cakes so I left that off.

It tastes AMAZING. In fact, it was so good that by the time I got round to taking a picture of it, this was the only piece left!

I’m thinking of trying this same recipe with grated courgette or butternut squash. Has anyone else used these veggies in their baking? I’m sorry there’s no way to share tastes over the internet, otherwise I’d happily let you try a bit!

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Baking

 

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Review of 2013

A lot of people find January quite depressing, but I love the New Year. It’s a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again. A time for reviewing the situation (in a slightly different way to Fagin!), making changes and improving everyday life.

As part of that, I’ve been looking back at my crafty 2013 and the resolutions I made at the start of 2013. I’m surprised how many of them I have achieved and also how much I’ve actually made!

I think crochet has been the biggest winner of 2013 – I’ve made a lot of crochet projects, although knitting and sewing have also played their part. I’ve even started blogging about baking! If this was an award ceremony for Make Me Do Crafts of 2013, my baking posts would win the award for Best Newcomer. Let’s see what other projects would win awards…

I think the project that would win the award for Surprise Success of 2013 is these sweet little dishcloths – the photo has been really rather popular on Pinterest, making me quite proud:

Crochet dishcloths

Crochet dishcloths

The award for Best Fashionable Make of 2013 would have to be my flower neckwarmer, which I still love wearing:

Flower scarf © Becky Skuse

Flower scarf © Becky Skuse

The Most Difficult Yet Rewarding Project award would go to this fiddly little bridal garter, which was totally worth the effort because it’s soo pretty and the recipient loved it:

Bridal garter

Bridal garter

Best Toy or Most Adorable Make of 2013 would be won by this cute orange cat, called Ffion Ffon. My 2-year-old niece just adores this little lady and still gets hugely excited that she can hold this knitted creature while watching her namesake on the TV at the same time:

Fiona cat – she's waving!

Fiona cat – she’s waving!

The judges may well fight over the winner for the award of Best New Skill Learnt in 2013. I loved crafting with wire and crocheting over it to make a pink heart. But for sheer practicality and creative potential, the winner would have to be super-size crochet – I loved creating my own massive yarn out of odd balls of yarn and making this basket:

Bowl

Super-size crochet basket

And finally… drum roll please… the top award for Best Post would go to… my granny square blanket. I’m afraid this is still a work in progress, but hopefully it’ll be finished in 2014:

Granny square ring © Becky Skuse

Granny square ring © Becky Skuse

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Baking, Crochet, Knitting, Sewing

 

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