Winter Soups

As it gets darker earlier, we all tend to change our eating habits from salads and barbeques to stews and soups. Nowadays supermarkets give us a false sense of the seasons, as most fruit and vegetables are now available all year round, but we get an organic vegetable box weekly from Abel and Cole, so have a sense of when different vegetables are available.The time for leafy greens and new potatoes has long passed and now we are getting more root vegetables.

I make soups in winter and one of my best purchases recently was a slow cooker. It leaves me a lot of time for crafting. I can put the soup on in the morning and as we pass it during the day we give it a quick stir and top up the liquid if necessary. The smell slowly permeates the house and we look forward to the soup later that evening. Even better is having it with bread done in the bread maker or perhaps with a quick soda bread done in the oven. I freeze any leftovers in individual containers.

The week before last we had leek and potato soup with parmesan soda bread. Most soda bread recipes have buttermilk in them, but I managed to find one that was just milk and added the parmesan to it, so it was my own recipe as such. Last week we had root vegetables and pasta soup, with swede, carrots, parsnip and potatoes. I also used the bread maker last week to make beetroot bread which was rather unusual, having a consistency similar to malt loaf.

I have the urge to do a bacon and corn chowder soon, it has been too long and we have lots of lovely potatoes each week. My favourites at the moment are carrot and coriander soup and spicy roast parsnip soup. I often adapt the spicy roast parsnip one, using other vegetables including potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and butternut squash.

parsnip2Here is the recipe for the spicy roast parsnip soup:

Turn on the oven to 220C. Get out a thick baking tray (think the sort you roast your meat and vegetables in for Sunday roast).

Get a clean plastic bag. Into it pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin). Add 1 teaspoon each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and ground tumeric.

Now peel and chop 1 large onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 carrots and 675g parsnips. As you prepare the vegetables put handfuls into the plastic bag and shake then empty the vegetables onto the baking tray. Keep going until all the vegetables are prepared and on the tray. Place the tray of vegetables in the oven. Roast the vegetables for 30-45 minutes. You want them to soften and gain some colour.

Set up the slow cooker. Empty all the roasted vegetables into the cooker and cover with water. Add 1-2 vegetable stock cubes. Cook on a slow simmer for a few hours. Allow to cool slightly. Pour into a bowl or jugs, be sure to get the last bits of the spices out of the cooker bowl.

Spoon into a blender and process until smooth. Pour back into the slow cooker and turn back to high heat. Continue blending the mix until it is all completed. Allow the soup to get up to a temperature that has it simmering again. Serve and enjoy. (Note: this is adapted from a recipe I found online which didn’t include using the slow cooker, but I don’t recall where I found it, so I can’t acknowledge the original source.)

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Making bath/beauty products

Children’s clothes and toys, food and body products all have legislation or rules associated with them here in the UK. Selling internationally would just add to the complexity, so at this stage Didi Lou Crafts will not stock these types of products, although I won’t stop making some of these as personal gifts for friends.

I enjoy cooking and baking and have done food as gifts in the past. I recall as a teenager baking cookies and making pears in crème de menthe as Christmas gifts for aunties and uncles. Chocolate truffles or hand made marzipan fruits are also things I’ve made as gifts in the past. It is a few years ago now and she is no longer with us, but to see the joy on the face of a grandmother at the ripe age of 90+ when I turned up with a fresh loaf of bread I had cooked in the bread maker overnight was a delight.

Presented in a good quality jar that can be reused and done up with a pretty bow, food items make a cheap yet thoughtful gift for friends and family. I really like the recent idea of layering the ingredients for biscuits in a jar and giving that as a gift with the instructions for baking. This example is from the US, but shows the principle:

I don’t make bath and beauty products for Didi Lou Crafts, but again I have made them in the past as gifts. I have two particular favourites which I have made with teenagers and which are very easy to make: Kool Aid Lip Balm and Milk Bath Bags. I still have a few of the lip balms from the last batch I made.

Kool Aid Lip Balm
The lip balm is quite simple as there are only 3 ingredients. Kool Aid is not common in the UK, but can be ordered online at places such as for under a pound including postage. Petroleum jelly can be found in the baby section of most supermarkets or in most chemists/pharmacies. The bees wax makes this lip balm more solid and is optional. 100g of bees wax is less than a fiver online and is more than enough. Beaded bees wax is better than a block as it melts quicker. It should say for cosmetic or BP grade, for your own safety. The containers are also fairly easily sourced cheaply online, or reuse old lip balm jars.
1 pack of Kool Aid powder of your choice
1 cup Petroleum jelly
1 tablespoon BP grade bees wax (optional)
Mix together the petroleum jelly and bees wax in a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Take out and stir to ensure it is all melted. Mix in the kool aid powder. Pour into small containers whilst still warm.

lipbalmMilk Bath Bag
1 cup (full fat) powdered milk
¼ cup cornflour
¼ cup baking soda/bicarb
5 drops of an essential oil of your choice (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the oil and stir thoroughly. Divide the mix into 4 and tie into circles of fine material. (For a cheap alternative, use new striped dishcloths/all purpose cloths. Cut each cloth in half and round the corners. Place ¼ of the mixture in the centre. Tie up with string or a matching ribbon.) To use, either hang the ball on the nozzle so that the running water pours over the ball as it fills the bath, or open the bag and sprinkle into the bath while it is still filling.

A hand made gift suggests uniqueness and thought has been put into it. Most people will appreciate the time put into making the gift and see any flaws as character, proving it was hand made. If you can’t find the time to make a gift, consider buying something someone else has put time and effort into making. There is a growing range of items I am producing which all offer that personal touch of a home made item. Have a look and see if any would delight one of your friends or family at

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