Green Apple and Coconut Bites

I made these amazing Green Apple and Coconut Bites by PaleOMG today as a treat-to-me.

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Holy crap.

I was convinced by Jem to do ‘sugar-free September’, and haven’t eaten anything sugary in the intervening month. Not even natural sweeteners. Nothing at all sweet, except for the occasional fruit. Usually a banana a day, and bananas are low fructose at that.

These treats are made with only four ingredients, two of which are coconut. With apple and cinnamon. NO SUGAR.

However, I nearly died of sweetness explosion when I bit into one. Apples are pretty high in fructose, and I did cook them down quite a lot, and my cinnamon and apple mixture did look a lot like caramel in the frying pan. It was epic. Disclaimer: my tastebuds have obviously accustomed to not eating sweet things, and my mum didn’t think they were quite as sweet as I did. She still thought they were sweet, though.

They are full of fats, too, with the creamed coconut and coconut oil, so they’d make a great energy-boosting snack. (Sceptical? Check out why fat isn’t bad for you.) They are also pretty filling, and you’d not want to eat more than one. Or maybe two. But not more than two!

Definitely use creamed coconut (aka coconut butter), and not coconut cream. There is a difference! Coconut cream is basically just concentrated coconut milk with water and additives and goodness knows whatever else. Creamed coconut is 100% coconut flesh, blended to a cream. I get a box from my local Asian grocer for 85p a pop. Hint: coconut oil is cheaper there too.

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If you’re looking for sugar-free sweet treats, then I’d definitely recommend that you give these a go. And apples are perfectly in-season for Autumn! Go visit PaleoOMG’s Green Apple and Coconut Bites recipe.

Growing Garlic - Part 1: Choosing Garlic

The very first thing I planted in my allotment when I received it last autumn was garlic. Garlic is super easy to grow; both varieties I chose to sow cropped well despite some setbacks. I now enjoy home-grown garlic in many of my home-cooked meals. If home grown garlic sounds good to you, now (autumn) is the best time to sow it! I will be writing a series of posts over the coming days that will help you choose, sow, care for and harvest your very own garlic!

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Hardnecks vs. Softnecks

There are two main types of garlic - hardneck and softneck. The hardneck varieties produce fewer, larger cloves than softnecks and doesn’t store as well, but what it lacks in other areas it makes up for in… scapes!

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Garlic scapes are the flowering stem of the garlic plant. In hardneck varieties, this curly green shoot can be cut and eaten as and when they appear; much earlier than you would usually be harvesting garlic. Not only are garlic scapes delicious (and well tolerated by those on a FODMAP diet!), but cutting them signals the plant to expend more energy on developing a good sized bulb. So you’d do well to be eating them!

You can use scapes anywhere where you would traditionally use garlic. They have a very strong garlic flavour, and are quite spicy if eaten raw (just like regular garlic). You could use them in stir fries or make pesto, or as I did, cook garlic scape risotto.

If you’re not interested in the scape harvest, then softnecks may be for you - they usually form a larger number of cloves, and are easier to store. What I would recommend, however, if you have the space, is to grow both and see which you prefer!

Choosing a Bulb

The absolute best way to source a garlic bulb to grow is to go and see it in person. Ordering online can be economical, but you never know what kind of bulb you’re going to end up with. You want the very best for a successful harvest!

If you go to a good garden centre—or, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, a garlic farm—you should find a wide range of garlic bulbs, each with their own distinct properties. Flavour ranges from mild to eye-wateringly spicy, there are differences in peel-ability, how many and of what type of cloves are formed, and also rust resistance. Think carefully about what matters to you!

When you have decided on your variety, try and choose a firm bulb that is still completely intact, and has no green shoots. Otherwise it would suggest that the bulb is old and will not survive for much longer. Dried bulbs will store for a long time at room temperature - they only start sprouting when they have been subjected to a low temperature followed by a high temperature as this simulates a winter followed by spring. Never put them in the fridge! You can buy your garlic bulbs well in advance of planting them, as long as they are stored correctly. I purchased mine in August, and stored them in a paper bag on a bookshelf.

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This year I have chosen the following varieties of garlic to try:

  • Red Czech Wight - glazed purple stripe variety (larger cloves surrounding few smaller cloves), strong-tasting hardneck from the Czech Republic with some rust resistance
  • Red Duke Wight - porcelain variety (larger cloves), strong-tasting hardneck from the Czech Republic with some rust resistance
  • Early Purple Wight - artichoke variety (medium cloves surrounding smaller cloves), milder tasting, early cropping softneck

I got each of them from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. It was really lovely to be able to explore all of the options in person, including conducting a taste-test, and of course get some garlic chocolate whilst I was at it!

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Coming soon… Growing Garlic - Part 2: Sowing

Colourwork - A First Attempt

As I was Yawn Crawling around London, I managed to pick up a couple of skeins of Drops Karisma yarn - DK-weight, in two shades of grey-blue; one lighter and one darker. I was thinking I’d try some colourwork.

I went browsing through Ravelry and settled on trying some Norwegian mittens. Then I remembered these Totoro mittens by Brella had found their way into my queue some time ago! Perfect!

I cast on using the twisted German cast on, and started knitting. The first couple of inches 2x2 rib went by quickly; I enjoyed the yarn. For £2 for 50g of pure wool, it was a bargain; nice and soft and with a subtle sheen. Unfortunately whilst knitting I did find a couple of knots in just one of the plys, but I trimmed it back and it seems fine to use now. I guess the old addage ‘you get what you pay for’ applies, but it wasn’t something that couldn’t be worked around!

And then came the colourwork…

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I am holding the main colour (light blue) with my right hand for English style knitting, and the contrast colour (dark blue) with my left hand for Continental style knitting. Putting Ysolda’s technique for colour dominance into practice, I’m holding my main colour over the contrast colour when I switch yarns.

So far, it’s been… interesting. I have a smooth motion down when catching floats knitting the main colour English style. Knitting continental is a harder task. You can tell that I’m knitting too tightly, I think, as you can see the stitches are slightly textured/puckered when I catch floats. Another random difficulty I’ve encountered… I’m a DPN user and usually very rarely drop the ‘spent’ DPN as I swap to the next. My left hand doesn’t seem to want to hold both yarn and a needle! Yeowch!

I wonder if I’ll have got the hang of it by the second mitten. You can find more details and follow my progress on Ravelry: MaccathKnit’s Totoro Mittens.

Great London Yarn Crawl

After being disappointed that I didn’t get to go on last year’s Great London Yarn Crawl, I stalked the page this year to ensure that I got tickets. I picked Team BFL, and we were the first team to sell out!

The whole event was in aid of the women’s charity Refuge, who provide safe houses for women and children who have faced domestic abuse. A very worthy cause! GLYC 2014 supported Refuge through both ticket sales and by offering raffle tickets (and potential prizes) in exchange for much-needed warm, knitted items.

The total raised for Refuge was an astounding £812 and 149 donated items!

I personally donated two items that I had knit for myself but no longer wore—a rainbow scarf and rainbow mittens—as well as two cabled hats that I knit up over the course of the yarn crawl itself!

So, without much further ado, I present to you my account of the day!:

I met with our team at a lovely cafe right near to our first stop, Fringe. I wanted to give a shout-out to the meeting place—Owen’s Cafe—as they have a selection of crocheted vegetables currently on display in their windows, and serve pots of tea with cute crocheted cosies.

Fringe

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We pootled off to Fringe after the handing out and swapping around of goody bags. Fringe has a decent selection of yarn, however, it also featured many other craft supplies for sewing, felting and embroidery. I loved the huge selection of kits for sale, including kits for the giant knitted animal heads on display in the windows. It was great to be able to browse through some of the sewing books, as it gave me an idea of how I might want to learn to sew (which I do, at some point).

There was also an exhibition in the store; Kathy Needham’s ‘Deeply Felt’ textile art including felted wall hangings and felt bowls. I love the idea of textile as art.

Nest

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Nest in Crouch End supplies only natural fibres and has a lovely large seating area where we all gathered around to drink tea and get to know each other after perusing the store. This is where we were joined by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade.

I opted to purchase a couple of skeins of Drops Karisma in two blue shades, with the idea that I attempt some colourwork… more on that in due course!

After nest, we decided to head off to find lunch. We went to a little cafe called Hot Pepper Jelly just down the road. They cater well to those with special dietary requirements having vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options available on their menu. However, being particularly fussy, I had packed my own lunch and was given a plate so that I could eat with the rest of the group!

Prick Your Finger

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I have to say, Prick Your Finger was my favourite shop of the day. Located in Bethnal Green and furnished entirely from second hand items and reclaimed wood; the owner, Rachael Matthews, explained that the shop expanded and moulded around the stock she has in at any given time.

All of the stock at Prick Your Finger is natural, British wool. When we visited, there was a large selection of John Arbon’s Knit By Numbers, which I love. There was also some Guernsey yarn (to make a Gansey with, if you dare!), as well as Wensleydale longwool. The main attraction, however, was the huge selection of naturally hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn on offer. Check out their manifesto! Now that’s some yarn I can get behind!

I purchased this beautiful skein of hand-dyed Romney wool; probably about as locally produced as I could get.

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Wild and Woolly

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Wild and Woolly is the new kid on the block when it comes to London yarn stores. It only opened in Hackney in May, but has already earned quite the reputation for being a friendly place to browse, knit and be inspired. We certainly received the most gracious welcome when we were presented with tea and cake on arrival.

I, of course, loved the knitted vegetable patch display in the front window. I wonder if one day I could yarn bomb my allotment.

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After drinking a mug of tea, and after the previous group had left and everything became a bit calmer, I had a good opportunity to look through the yarn and opted to buy a sweaters worth of Cascade 220 Heathers in a dusky green. 8-for-7 was offered to yarn crawlers in addition to a 10% discount, so it was a great deal! I can’t wait to knit with it.

The After Party

The venue for the after party this year, The Parcel Yard, was an improvement on last years, where people were apparently struggling to fit into the room! The setting was lovely; a grade I listed building with so much charm. It was nice to have a sit down and a chat with team-mates, and get my final hat donation finished before the raffle winner was drawn.

There were a number of door prizes that were handed out to random attendees, all donated by various sponsors of the GLYC as well as some of the yarn stores featured. I was lucky enough to win a door prize donated by Wild and Woolly, featuring some alpaca yarn, a True Brit Knits pattern, knitters notebook and badge. I already had a Knitter badge (and wear it everywhere with pride), so I gave it away to a team-mate to share the love.

In all it was a great day out, I got a great haul, and I will definitely be attending again next year!

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