Archive for September, 2011

The Glass Angel

The Glass Angel

To continue on the theme of “My Fabulously Talented Neighbours”, I am pleased to introduce you to the lovely Vicky Gangel of The Glass Angel jewelry and home accessories.  A busy mum and local artisan, Vicky creates a wide variety of glass objects from fusing her work in a kiln from home.

Unique fused glass candle bases

Although she had always had something artsy going on, it was only when a friend suggested a day out at Retro Glass in Alloa  http://www.retro-glass.co.uk/ about four years ago that her new passion was born.  She made it official last year with the  launch of The Glass Angel.

How special is it to have something that is handmade, unique and can even incorporate elements of your own keepsakes into the pieces?

These stunning glass pendants were some of the first pieces of her work that I was introduced to last year.  Her pieces are of her own design but can be commissioned as well.  Her website in development is set to launch for the burgeoning Christmas orders.

How about some themed cuff links and earrings for wedding party gifts?

How about some themed cuff links and earrings for wedding party gifts?

The versatility  of her work is pretty groovy as well.  Not only are there things for the home such as candle bases and sets of coasters, but the jewelry also branches out to include cuff links and earring as well as the pendants.  The sky is the limit!

The gift of creativity in memory of Grandma

As cutting glass can be a poky and messy business with small children in the house, Vicky tends to work in the evening and places the pieces in kiln overnight to do their cooking and cooling.  It can lead to some moments of trepidation when the kiln is opened in the morning to unveil the successes on the nights work!

So hip and green - the ultimate in new cheese board style

So hip and green - the ultimate in new cheese board style

These are my new favorite pieces – melted wine bottle cheese boards – how cool.   After posting an image on Facebook of her first effort of the new bottle range, Vicky had ten orders for more at the end of the first day.  The squashed bottle base even makes a perfect space for some chutney.  People are now saving up their Bombay Sapphire and other coloured bottles to bring to Vicky to see what effects they can produce – and she is getting a mite concerned what her neighbours must think with these growing piles of empty bottles in her back garden.

Yet another area of development are these glass canvases.  Using small droplets of melted glass, sea glass (which we apparently have loads of), beads and found objects these wee pieces of wall art add just the perfect touch to your home.

 Again, the canvases can be made to order or chosen from The Glass Angel’s existing stock.

Here are the contact details but website to follow soon!

If you are local to the fabulous Fife and Lothians areas (no matter what Jade Richards of the X Factor says http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dnp6N9jsLo) please give Vicky a call and she can bring her elegant displays to your home or you can order from her website (for those out of the area or country) in a few short weeks!

Ciao for now….

BBQ Pizza!

BBQ Pizza!

Hooray it is a sunny and warmish day, so pull that cover off the BBQ  ’cause the outdoor cooking season isn’t over just yet!  Even though most people will have been firing up the BBQ for hot dogs, burgers and chicken for months now, I would encourage you to give this dish a try.  Not only is it dramatic to make, it is a quick, easy way to make all the little bits of leftovers in your fridge into something special.   I have included the recipe I used for the crust below but the rest is all made up – and I encourage you to do the same.

A tasty twist on the usual BBQ fare

A tasty twist on the usual BBQ fare

Now whilst this recipe works for the BBQ I see no reason not to have ready-to-use homemade pizza dough lingering in your fridge at all times.  This dough is easy to make, ready in just a few hours and can be stored for up to 3-5 days for any unforeseen pizza emergencies.

 

Prepare a floured surface

 When the mood strikes to give this a go and your dough is in some stage of ready – go turn on the BBQ.  It needs to be super hot for this and it all happens very fast once you get going.  Next cook and/or cut up all your topping ingredients to be ready for action.  Once you are hot, diced and shredded – prepare a surface with a bit of flour to roll out the dough.

It doesn’t need to be too big or neat but I tend to favour the 1/4 inch or 5 mm thickness.

Now these next steps are important so please pay attention.  You DO NOT grease the BBQ (ever really in my opinion) but you MUST generously bathe your rolled dough with olive oil.  No skimping to save on fat grams all you skinny minis out there –  this is neither the time nor the place.

Now you need to press a flexible chopping board onto the oiled dough so you can flip it over and coat the other side.  Then pick up the flexible chopping board and place on a tray ready to shift things outside and begin the fun.

Use caution & confidence!

Lift the cover on your super heated BBQ, give the wires a good scrape and sort of thwack the dough down onto the grill.  (You need to do this with conviction or it will all go horribly wrong.)  Then quickly peel the flexible chopping off the top, stand back and allow yourself to breathe.

Despite your expectations of watching the dough ooze onto the coals below, in just a minute or so you will start to see big bubbles forming.  This is your cue to get ready to flip it over.

I chose to employ both tongs and my biggest pancake spatula for this but I am hoping to work up to tongs alone proficiency.  Now, here is where I chose to experiment a bit.  In the picture above notice how BOTH side of my massive BBQ are turned to high.

In an effort to prevent charring on the underside of the dough I cheated and popped the dough on a pizza stone (with much tut tutting from the Pampered Chef folks out there) but I made absolutely sure that I turned the burner off on that side of the BBQ.  You don’t need the stone to do this, but be sure to move the dough to cook with indirect heat for the rest of  process.  (You can also shift back indoors to finish in a hot oven and still have a really yummy crust)

Now that you have switched from direct to indirect grilling, place the sauce of your choice onto the dough,

and complete with your toppings.  Be sure to close the lid of your BBQ (or cover the whole lot with tin foil) and let your creation perfom the necessary alchemy to become proper pizza.

When the cheese has melted to your desired degree of completion, remove from the BBQ, cut, serve and enjoy!

Here is another effort that sought to recreate my half remembered craving from the California Pizza Kitchen.  Instead of the traditional tomato sauce – slather your dough with a smoky BBQ Sauce (bottled is just fine),

and top with cooked chicken, red onion, corn and a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

Slap the lid down and let the smoky, sticky, sweet yumminess do its thing.

Voila! BBQ Chicken Pizza

 Use the recipe below as a template to create your own unique combinations.  Who knows, it could become your next signature dish!

BBQ Pizza!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups/ 650 g All purpose or plain white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups/ 350 ml Warm water
  • 2/3 cup/ 115 g Whole wheat or strong brown flour
  • 1 Tablespoon/ 15 ml Olive Oil
  • 1 package/ 1 Tablespoon/ 15 ml Dry active yeast
  • 2 teaspoons/ 10 ml Salt (flavoured is nice)
  • 1 Tablespoon/ 15 ml Sugar

Instructions

  1. Combine warm water, yeast, oil & sugar in a small bowl - set aside for 5 mins.
  2. In another large bowl add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
  3. Cut the wet & dry ingredients together in the bowl with a table knife (trust me) In a cutting/folding motion until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Cover and let stand for 2-3 hours.
  5. Turn out into a floured surface and knead until smooth (don't go nuts here)
  6. Can be stored in large zip lock bag in the fridge for 3 days
http://albaliving.com/2011/09/bbq-pizza/

A Word About Measurements

A Word About Measurements

Before I proceed in posting a flurry of cooking entries, I thought I would take a moment to address the old Imperial vs Metric issue.  As you can see from the picture below, I employ a wide variety of tools to concoct and/or reinterpret other’s recipes from as many countries as I can get my paws on.

The joys inherent in such an endeavor are that you are constantly trying to decipher different systems of measurement.  The biggest challenge is trying to translate a system based on volumes (US/Imperial) to one based on weights (metric) and vice verses. I am going to whole heatedly ignore the unique world of the Aga (place in a warm oven?!) as so few people even know what an Aga is let alone possess one, that those who fall into that minority can teach themselves their own rules.  Don’t be fooled by snazzy programs that assure you that this conversion can be easily accomplished through the magic of  math – the problems are more amorphous than that.

Don't be mislead by straight conversions from imperial to metric

Now most tools come with handy information printed on them but they are really not very helpful.  Metric is based on the mass (weight) and volume on a unit of water, as in 1 millilitre (1 ml) is 1/1000 of a litre of water.  But then that same drip of water conveniently becomes the basis for 1 gram.  Here is a screen shot from the math league that may make more sense.

The end result is that salt, sugar and spices weigh much less than water (as they usually have had said water removed for preservation), and even if 1 ml of  water equals 1 gram in metric mythology – foodstuffs just don’t behave in the same manner.  Just to flog this horse, 1 teaspoon of a spice should in theory equal 5 ml or 5 grams if you will.

But as you can see 1 teaspoon of a spice mix is about HALF of what that same spice mix is in grams/millilitres.  All of this is a very long-winded introduction to what will hopefully be a methodology of measurement that will be accessible to all.  It does combine the use of teaspoons as well as mix of oz/cups/pounds and of course grams/kilos and litres.  For anyone in a non-cups and teaspoons countries – they are indeed actual standardized weights and measurements and really shouldn’t be substituted for what you happen to use as your general cutlery.  Sets of both cups and teaspoon are available from places like pounds shops and supermarkets as well as more high-end kitchen stores or Amazon – and don’t forget Pampered Chef or Jamie at Home reps.  Here is a screen shot from allrecipes.co.uk that will hopefully give an indication of what the future recipes will resemble.

In defense of metric, it is fantastic for baking and cooking in large catering size quantities.  It would probably behoove you metric-shy North Americans to invest in some digital scales and get into the swing of all thing based on 10.

Just wanted to share my thoughts on this topic and warn you about the dangers of blindly trusting any “easy” conversions as they may ultimately disappoint.

Whew!  Now, onward to some actual cooking…..

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