Finding Inspiration and Time

Staring at a blank page is sometimes daunting.

I sometimes sit looking at it for ages until I distract myself with something else and it can be hours, days or even weeks before I go back to it.

It’s the start of a new year, a time when I feel motivated to be more creative, to make more time for the things I enjoy, and this new year is no different.

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog, my excuse is always not having time.

During last October I did Inktober, a drawing challenge on Instagram, there’s a list of prompts for the month and the aim is to draw as often as you can, ideally every day, based on those prompts. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in it and did a drawing each day throughout the month, proving that I do have time. If I want it.

At the start of the month I felt sure that I’d miss a few days here and there and play catch up, all because I thought I wouldn’t have time. Some drawings were quicker than others when I actually was short on time, but the point was that I stuck to it. It made me dare to try new styles too and be confident in sharing them with people.

It made me think about drawing and painting more which was the intention for me. Once the month was over I vowed to draw more and I have a bit since. But I need to keep telling myself not worry about having to create a finished piece each time, I just want to get back into using a sketchbook like I used to when I was a student, for sparking ideas, for practicing, for myself.

So how does this relate to this blog? I’m getting to it now! I want to make time to blog more, I’ve proven that I can do it for drawing so I need to do the same for this. Whether it’s a quick post about what I made for dinner, rather than a full recipe, or a little ramble about an ingredient, cookbook, or any kind of cooking inspiration, rather than a big review of something, at least it keeps me writing, which I enjoy.

As part of Inktober I drew a few food related drawings, even an illustrated recipe one day. So perhaps that’s a way in future for me to combine food and drawing by creating more of those.

Anyway, that’s my first ramble of the year, watch this space.

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Blueberry and Coconut Ice Lollies

The other night my husband happened across our unused ice lolly moulds in a box of barbecue stuff we hadn’t unpacked since we moved house, perfect timing as we’ve still got that heatwave and I’m in need of more quick recipes to help cool down.

I knocked up a creation using some blueberries and coconut milk, made a mix and froze it in the moulds, it turned out to be the perfect thing to eat to cool down, albeit briefly! I posted a photo of it and my friend fancied the recipe to try it, so here it is Jen, give it a go and let me know what you think!

Blueberry and Coconut Ice Lollies

You’ll need ice lolly moulds, mine were a random purchase from IKEA! You’ll also need a blender of some sort or you could smash the berries up in a mortar and pestle but the texture may be a bit chunkier.

This made 6 lollies.

Ingredients…

200g blueberries

1/2 tin coconut milk, I used reduced fat but usual stuff would be fine

Agave or maple syrup (optional)

Pop a few fresh blueberries into each lolly mould, take the rest and add them to the blender, blitz until smooth. Give the mixture a taste and see if you want to add some agave to sweeten it a bit more, if you do add a spoonful and blitz again.

Now you can either do as I did, or you can skip this step to make it even quicker. I took a third of the mixture and divided it equally between the moulds.

Next add the coconut milk to the mix and blend, again tasting to see if you want to add some sweetener. Now fill your moulds up with the blueberry and coconut mixture. Pop the sticks in and freeze for at about four hours, then they’re good to go!

I’m going to try out some different flavours, I’m thinking coffee ones next, any ideas please let me know!

Enjoying an ice lolly in the sun

Peach Salsa

We’re having a heatwave in the UK at the moment so I’m embracing the summery food that can come with glorious weather!

We had a trip to the market at the weekend to get some fruit and veg to see us through the week, we did our usual thing of forgetting to write a list and just getting what looked good on the day. Sometimes this works well, sometimes not so much!

I think we did pretty well this time, the fridge is stocked with loads of veg and berries and the kitchen side has a full fruit bowl with lots of gorgeous things like, cherries, apricots, pineapple, watermelon and peaches. I’m not a big fruit eater, I like the odd apple and I love berries and pineapple but I’m trying to eat more of it and I think the sunny days help with that. So I sat outside eating an apricot the other day pondering what to do with the masses of fruit I’d bought. I knew if I left it in the fruit bowl it’d end up going a bit sad and I didn’t want to waste it.

Some of the fruit was barbecued, more on that another time though. But the donut peaches I’d bought were destined for something I’d been thinking about for a while, peach salsa. I love a mango salsa but my husband hates mango so I thought a peach one might win him over and be good for tacos and just eating with tortilla chips. So I set out to create a peach salsa…

It’s super easy to make, just chopping, squeezing and a little stirring and you’ll have a really refreshing salsa to snack on with a beer or glass of wine in the garden on a sunny day!

This made a cereal bowl full and fed 3 people, so double or triple it if you’re feeding the masses. I used donut peaches but 2 regular ones would do, or nectarines.

Ingredients

3 donut peaches

1 handful of cherry tomatoes or one regular tomato

1/2 a chilli

1 spring onion

1/2 lime

1 handful of coriander leaves – use the stalks in something else.

Chop everything except the lime, pop it all in a bowl, squeeze the lime juice over it all, season with salt to taste and stir. Done.

I said it was easy! Pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it. Serve with bbq food, on tacos, in burritos or just simply with some tortilla chips.

If you fancy another easy peachy recipe, try my store cupboard iced tea which uses tinned peaches.

Store Cupboard Iced Tea

It’s bank holiday weekend in the UK this weekend and fingers crossed it looks set to be a rain free one for most! With the prospect of good weather and a three day weekend ahead, I decided to make something summery to drink, iced tea.

I love iced tea and have been making different versions of it for years. This time I’ve made a really simple recipe. This is mostly because my kitchen cupboards and the fridge are looking rather bare, we’re due a trip to the market to stock up this weekend.

So, craving iced tea I searched around the kitchen for something to jazz it up. Lurking at the back of a cupboard was a rather sorry looking little tin. Tinned peaches in juice. Now I’m not a lover of these at all usually, and they have been sat in the cupboard for months, a leftover from when my sister stayed with us, she loves them, as does my mum. I do love peach iced tea though… you can see where this is going!

Peach iced tea ingredients

Here it is, a recipe for peach iced tea, buy some tinned peaches, fill your freezer with ice, the bank holiday weekend is here…

Ingredients…

1 litre of water

2 teabags, I used lady grey ones but normal everyday tea will work well too

1 small tin of peach slices in juice

Sweetener, this is optional, but if you taste it and want it sweeter add agave, honey or sugar to taste

You’ll need a jug or teapot that holds a litre of water to steep the tea in.

Put the litre of water in the kettle to boil. Add the teabags to the jug, once the kettle has boiled leave it for a few minutes so as not to scold the tea. After a few minutes, pour the water over the tea as if you’re making a giant cup of tea. Strain the juice from the peaches into the tea too and stir. Leave for a few minutes to brew and remove the teabags. Give it a taste, if you want to sweeten it, then do that now.

Next you want to leave it to cool, it is ICED tea after all! Pop it in the fridge to get really cold. Put the peaches in the fridge too, you can use these to serve in the glass with your tea.

That’s it, when it’s chilled serve it with ice and the peach slices. You can add slices of lemon or mint too. You could even try adding a shot of rum or bourbon if you like.

Enjoy the weekend folks!

Also thanks to my sister for leaving behind a tin of peaches!

Peach iced tea

Peach iced tea in the sunshine

Eating and Drinking in Chicago

Last week I spent six days exploring Chicago, it was my first visit to the city and after reading guidebooks and looking on Instagram I was geared up for some great food and drinks… it didn’t disappoint.

Chicago has so much to offer someone in search of good food, restaurants and bars everywhere you turn and all covering so many different cuisines and styles. Laid back sports bars, microbreweries, high end bars and restaurants, cafes, diners, so many to choose from!

As I’m a bit of a geek and like to be slightly organised I’d done a bit of research and made a list of some places I wanted to try, but equally we spontaneously happened upon so many places which turned out to be great too.

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day turned into a highlight, we were spoiled for choice (a reoccurring theme!). Some of the best places we went to were Kanela Breakfast Club – which had a brilliant varied menu, the sriracha hollandaise was so good, Goddess and the Baker – delicious avocado toast and amazing juice which came served looking like a cocktail, Beatrix River North – strong coffee and spicy shakshuka.

After the big breakfasts we didn’t really need lunch, the odd snack and a coffee or a beer kept us going through the day!

A couple of nights whilst we were there we had tickets to see ice hockey and basketball. It’s been a dream of mine to see the Chicago Bulls play since I was a kid, I finally got to see them, my favourite player didn’t play and they lost by a point… still it was a great night and the atmosphere was electric, plus they sold margaritas by the pint in the arena! Before the games though we wanted to find some sports bars near the United Center, the kind that the local fans would be at. We got recommendations and one place kept being mentioned, we saw the place and decided it wasn’t for us! We moved on and went to WestEnd one night and Park Tavern another, both turned out to have great food and they were full of locals headed for the games. Both served standard American style food, burgers, mac and cheese, nachos, what you’d expect. The beer choices at Park Tavern were amazing, over 40 beers on tap, plus we arrived just before the end of happy hour so we could take advantage of half price beers – our sever encouraged us to get a couple each before the prices went up!

On the other nights when we weren’t at games we tried out a couple of places in town and on one night be ventured out to the suburbs. It got to our last night and we hadn’t yet tried deep dish pizza, which we obviously had to do, we’d been asking locals where to try and none seemed to agree, they all had their own favourites for different reasons! We tried to get in to the place where it’s said to have first been created, Pizzeria Uno, but it was a Friday night and when we arrived it was too busy, so we ended up at their sister restaurant, Pizzeria Due. It was unlike any pizza I’d had before, cheese on the bottom, then toppings, then sauce all in a huge crust like an open pie. It was tasty but ridiculously filling, two slices and I was done! With no more room for beer we went for a walk and made our way to Andy’s Jazz Club for an old fashioned and some music to end the night.

There’s so many more places to eat and drink that I could ramble on about but I’ll just give you a couple more quick highlights!

Cindy’s – rooftop bar overlooking the Cloud Gate, the park and the lake.

Eataly – a huge two story place with Italian delis, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, bars. Beautiful cakes. I bought some different dried pastas to bring home – my souvenirs always seem to be food related!

Garrett’s – popcorn shop, a local tradition.

Cantina Laredo – a Mexican restaurant, we went for drinks at the bar, really good margaritas. We ended up ordering guacamole made table side, this was amazing!

Tortoise Supper Club – a 1920’s style bar, though it may not look like it is from the outside. Really great cocktails, get a martini.

The Green Mill – in Uptown, worth getting out of downtown to visit, an old haunt of Al Capone’s. Live music, perfect for a cocktail and dancing!

In between all the eating and drinking, we obviously saw some of the sights! We did the Tilt at 360 Chicago, you essentially lean on a glass panel whilst they tilt you out over the edge of the building, oh yeh, you’re on the 94th floor! Amazing views and not as scary as it sounds. We visited the pier, museums, galleries, did the bus tour which showed us all the sights. I’d definitely recommend you visit if you get the chance. Great people, architecture, art, sports, music and of course food and drink!

Chicago Skyline