Friday, 16 December 2016

Super Simple DIY - Xmas Dinos.


My General Life - DIY Xmas Dinosaurs - Easy

I love quirky Christmas ornaments. I recently saw some gorgeous bronzed-up dinosaur decorations in one of my favourite little gift shops which I came oh-so-close to buying. But then I looked at them and thought actually, I bet I could make some of those myself. So I did. And let me tell you, it was so simple and they have turned out so dang cute (that's if a dinosaur could even be considered cute).

So I thought I'd cobble together a quick blog post to share how I did it, just in case you wanted to whip some up for yourself before the big day.

My General Life - DIY Xmas Dinosaurs - Easy


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

♥ Plastic dinosaurs (I picked these up for £1 each from Wilkos)
♥ Spray paint (I went for bronze - again Wilkos)
♥ Screw-in hooks (yet again, Wilkos)
♥ Ribbon/twine
♥ An appropriate place to spray paint - preferably somewhere well ventilated, please use your common sense.

WHAT TO DO:

♥ It's really as simple as spraying the dinosaurs, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. I found short. sharp bursts worked the best and I let it dry before moving it about.
♥ Once your dinos are painted and dry, take your screw in hook and carefully twist it into the middle of the dinosaurs back.
♥ Add a ribbon/twine of your choosing and hang those bad boys in pride of place on your Xmas tree.

My General Life - DIY Xmas Dinosaurs - Easy

I told you it was easy.

But seriously, how lovely do these look?! I'm so pleased with how they turned out and I'm sure they'll be adorning my Xmas tree for years to come.

My General Life - DIY Xmas Dinosaurs - Easy

Are these lovely little dinos something that you would make for your festive tree? What's your favourite kind of Xmas ornament? I'd love to hear your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @mygenerallife.

While you're here, why not check out my previous post: Recipe | Dark Chocolate & Pumpkin Pie ft Indigo Herbs * [VEGAN]

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Recipe | Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie ft Indigo Herbs* [VEGAN].

When it comes to winter food I'm all about foods that offer warmth and comfort, you know, basically like a hug from the inside. I'm thinking soups, stews, pies - basically carbs. Anyway, something I've been enjoying this autumn/winter that I feel offers the winter warmer factor in dessert form is a good old pumpkin pie. 


Now, when my boyfriend first suggested making a pumpkin pie out of the gargantuan pumpkin that was delivered with our weekly veg box, I must admit that I was a little hesitant. Maybe it's just me being fussy, but I sometimes just cannot get my head around a savoury food in a sweet dish (or the other way around - strawberries on a salad for example). But, I conceded and decided to try it out and what do you know, I was pleasantly surprised.

When Indigo Herbs got in touch and asked if I could put together a winter recipe using some of their products, I knew that I wanted to put together a slightly festive take on the pumpkin pie - which basically requires good ol' chocolate (amongst other things) and boy did it turn out tasty. 

My General Life - Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie [VEGAN]

DARK CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PIE
serves: 8-10

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

♥ 425g pureed pumpkin (I found tinned pumpkin in Tesco which is just 100% pumpkin)
♥ 150g silken tofu
♥ 50g coconut sugar (I used Indigo Herbs Organic Coconut Palm Sugar*)
♥ 50g maple syrup (I used Indigo Herbs Organic Dark Maple Syrup*)
♥ 2 tbsp cornflour
♥ 4 tbsp cocoa/cacao powder (I used Indigo Herbs Organic Raw Cacao Powder*)
♥ 1 tsp cinnamon powder
♥ 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
♥ 1 tsp vanilla extract
♥ shortcrust pastry (you could make your own, however, I used Jus-Rol)

WHAT TO DO:

♥ Preheat your oven to 180°c.
♥ To make your dark chocolate pumpkin filling add all the above ingredients except the shortcrust pastry to a blender and whizz up good and proper (my blender had an unfortunate run in with a jug of smoothie and so I had to use a stick blender which, although a little more effort, did work out ok!). It may be worth tasting at this point - feel free to add extra coconut sugar or maple syrup to sweeten the pie mix to your liking.
♥ Place the shortcrust pasty into a pie dish (mine was approx. 9"). Leave a little overhang to account for shrinkage (technical term) but then trim off the excess. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork and blind bake (a.k.a put greaseproof over the top and add either baking beans or uncooked rice to the pie dish to weigh down the pastry, this helps get it nice and crisp) for about 15 minutes.
♥ After 15 minutes, carefully remove the greaseproof and baking beans/rice and put the pastry back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
♥ After 10 minutes add the dark chocolate pumpkin mixture to the pie crust, smooth out and place back in the oven to cook for a further 30-40 minutes or until the pie mixture has firmed up. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before enjoying!

My General Life - Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie [VEGAN]


I find that this amount of pie mixture does result in a some left overs, both in the pie mix itself and the pastry if you've used shop bought. For me this is the perfect amount for making some mini pumpkin pies - use a biscuit cutter to make circles and place these in a cupcake tin. Add 1 tsp of dark chocolate pumpkin pie mix to the centre and then place a little pastry star on top. A little brush of dairy free milk helps colour these babies up, but it isn't essential. Bake for approx 35 minutes or until golden brown. I managed to make 5 of these little bitesized beauties from the left overs.

My General Life - Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie [VEGAN]


Just a final heads up that this isn't a sickly sweet pie, I've called it dark chocolate because the cacao does add a bitterness which I think works really well with the sweet, spicy pumpkin mix and stops it from being too overpowering. It's delicious served up with a drizzle of maple syrup and a blob of Oatly Creamy Oat Fraiche (found in Tesco), which with it's savoury taste again stops the pie from becoming too sickly sweet.

My General Life - Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Pie [VEGAN]

What are your thoughts on pumpkin pie? Is it something you enjoy or would like to bake? I'd love to hear your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @mygenerallife.

While you're here, why not check out my previous post: Let's Talk: Soapnuts [Eco Friendly & Vegan].

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* these products were kindly sent to me by Indigo Herbs.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Let's Talk: Soapnuts [Eco Friendly & Vegan].

My General Life - Let's Talk Soapnuts [Eco Friendly, Vegan & Cruelty Free]

Hands up who's heard of soapnuts? I know I hadn't until a few months ago and even then I was like "what the Jeff are these?" Nuts? That you wash your clothes with? How curious!

Anyway, given that I've become ever so inquisitive of all things eco, vegan and sustainable, I decided that soapnuts were something that I just had to try. And try I did. So naturally, I felt that I should share my thoughts, just in case you're having a "what the Jeff?" moment too.

Soapnuts are actually the dried shell of a berry that grows on the Soap Nut/Soap Berry tree (or Sapindus mukorossi if you're feeling fancy) in the Himilayas. The soapnut shells themselves happen to contain naturally occuring soap, or saponin. When mixed with water the saponin is released to work it's magic on dirt and grime. So although I'm going to talk about using soapnuts for laundry purposes, there's actually a whole host of other soap related uses for soapnuts, including hand soap, dish soap and also shampoo!

My General Life - Let's Talk Soapnuts [Eco Friendly, Vegan & Cruelty Free]

So, I think the question on everyone's lips is - do they actually work? I'll be honest in saying that I was dubious about this, but I've actually been pleasantly surprised. Not in a sense that they've worked a miracle on my laundry and done things that traditional commercial detergents can't do, because I personally don't think that soapnuts are any better, but I also don't think that they're any worse.

So what are my overall thoughts?

♥ They're far cheaper than commercial detergents - my 500g bag of soapnuts cost £8.99 and should do 240 washes. I do about 2 loads of washing per week and so they should last me at least 2 years. If that's not value for money I don't know what is!
♥ They're completely natural and biodegradable - they contain no nasty chemicals or irritants and when the shells are worn out I can pop them in my compost bin so there's no waste.
♥ My clothes come out clean on a 30°c wash - I've found that the soapnuts haven't been able to wash out some marks/stains such as mud, but honestly, I've had commercial detergents also struggle with similar marks/stains. For these instances I purchased a natural stain removal bar which I feel helps do the trick (and it smells amazing!)
♥ I do find that soaking the soapnuts in some warm water for a minute or two prior to adding them to your washing machine does help start the process of the saponin being released. This is helpful if you're planning on doing a cooler wash (i.e. 30°c or lower), however, I don't feel it's entirely essential and I don't do this every time (mainly because I'm a bit lazy/disorganised).
♥ Although the soapnuts smell a little funky when dry, they don't leave any fragrance on your clothing. I feel like we're so used to the overpowering scents of commercial laundry products that initially my head said that this must mean they're not clean, but I soon got over that and found I could scent my washing however I liked with essential oils.
♥ You can also boil the soapnuts with liquid to produce a liquid laundry detergent if that works better for you, although I haven't tried this myself so can't comment on the process.

My General Life - Let's Talk Soapnuts [Eco Friendly, Vegan & Cruelty Free]

Will I keep using soapnuts? Damn skippy! I've not yet ventured into the realm of boiling up my own hand soap yet, but who knows, I could be tempted. I'm also tempted by the soapnut shampoo bars that can be found on Living Naturally which I think I'm going to try once my bottled shampoo runs out - I'd be intrigued to see how well this works and I'm also keen to make the switch to shampoo bars in the future as I'm trying to reduce waste where I can.

Have you tried using soapnuts? Or are they something you're intrigued by too? Let me know your thoughts either in the comments below or drop my a tweet @mygenerallife.

While you're here, why not check out my previous post: Make It Vegan - Fry Up/Cooked Breakfast.

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