When I cannot be in the studio painting I become desperate to find a creative outlet. I have to say, some days I'm really thankful for cooking - because it can be just the right outlet to experiment.
Well experiment I did the other day when I decided to dabble in some British national dishes...because my 1/2 British self can't resist the occasional roast beast with Yorkshire pudding - or better yet, a fantastic curry.
So I dove in not thinking about the availability of the ingredients in the house. On the menu was Steak and Ale pie, roasted sweet potatoes, with green beans and a nicely prepared Sticky Toffee Pudding.....because sticky toffee pudding - that's why.
I pulled a beef shank out of the fridge and added some stew meat to the mix. I used a combination of Jamie Oliver's recipe (see link) and uh...one other (see link) and as I began I suddenly realized that I didn't have everything I needed to get the job done.
So I did a bodge job on the silly thing. I added carrots to the "pie" to make up for the lack of meat I had on hand, but that's not a big deal - it's a stew with a crust so, why not? Right?
And it didn't stop there. Reaching into the fridge I grabbed a pint of good British Ale....ummmm - no, sorry, ------ sorry sorry sorry.....
I grabbed the only thing I had in the fridge close to ale: A German Lager....
did I say sorry? Don't be writing me with your comments, please - at least I didn't use a Miller Light. Yes, it truly could have been that desperate.
What was I to do? I have a 3yo and there's no such thing as just running an errand when the little one is sound asleep at nap time. I was stuck - and stuck HARD. I grabbed the can gave the tab a pull and dumped it into the pot. Put the pot in the oven and forgot about it for two hours.
I had to say, it smelled fantastic coming out of the oven. That 1/4 teaspoon of MARMITE for additional flavoring I used really upped it's British street "cred" and gave those Germans another big fat "what for" kind of thing. This baby had flavor. Serious flavor.
So into the pie dish it went and when I looked at the clock - it was late. Way too late to concoct the proper pie crust and dinner was to be in a quick 30 minutes. The pudding had just come out of the oven and the oven itself was complaining about having to work all day so I needed a quick solution.
And there it is. American biscuits in a can.
Or as the Brits might call it: scones in a tin.
Yes, Im sure Elizabeth WAS NOT AMUSED, but there I was taking the down and dirty Yankee way out of the situation and making do.
Keep calm and carry on, mate, lets get that thing back in the oven.
So if you make this Steak and Lager (ummmm Ale) pie I recommend that you cook the biscuits 1/2 way before putting them on top of the pie or they will not cook on the bottom and you just get soupy yuck bread slime underneath the biscuits - which will ruin that delicious rich filling. Do try to class it up as best as you can, if you're going to bandage it up with a lot of American style, at least do it some justice.
So there it was, cooked and beautiful.
On to the finishing of the Sticky Toffee Pudding and golly look at the time. People are sitting down at the table and digging into the pie and there's no time for a proper toffee sauce. So, one last insult to my English half cousins out there and I whipped out a jar of Smucker's Butterscotch Ice cream topping.
Yessss, problem solved.
Despite my half-hearted attempt at honest English cuisine, I have to say it was really tasty. I'd make it again this way if I need to, tho the real miss on the flavors was the lack of a good Guiness Stout in the stew filling, but I got by and enjoyed it tremendously. Nobody complained - but they're American, so there ya go.
Here are the links to the recipes I almost followed.
Jamie Oliver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6BHiiuyXCs
America's Test Kitchen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVZCQeynCmU
Till next time – Cheers.
Artist Laura Swink lives in a little flat with her hubby, her 3yo and a crazy dog. Her daytime job is usually mother of one and when she can she is painting large canvases into abstract landscapes and posting them all over social media. Sometimes, she actually sells one.
Visit her online via the links above. Thanks for stopping by.
How to create a Glass Menagerie Spice Rack
It’s not like me to do meal preparation from boxed dinners. I’m convinced it’s just not the best food for my growing boy, so I cook. A lot. Many of the ingredients I do use, however, are in glass jars: from honey and capers, to jarred mustards, I find that I recycle a ton of glass and then one day I realized that some of these grocery store bought jars were quite attractive.
Then the idea happened upon me: I should just up-cycle these jars to hold all my herbs and spices, because there’s something I have a lot of as well: spices! From garam masala, smoked paprika, to garlic powder, cumin seed the list goes on. There is just nothing more irritating than plastic containers littered all over the inside of my cabinets, often times spilled of their contents. I needed another solution and here it is.
Follow along, this is an super easy project:
here’s what you will need:
#1. A Collection of Glass Jars (shown above):
This can be anything, but preferably something that is small to medium sized (depending what you will put in it. Star Anise doesn't typically need a larger jar but I've found that dried onions or chili powder does, so choose accordingly) I like to find things that have some character to them, if you notice, the capers have this wonderful tall and thin jar, while my go-to spice jar is the Pesto Sauce. I've recycled a number of these.
#2: Here's What you Need (shown above):
Glass Jars, small to medium, dish soap (any will do) warm water, razor blade (not pictured) 320+ grit wet sanding paper, a lint free towel (not pictured), matte finish spray paint and chalk paint ready to stick labels.
Once your jar is empty, go ahead and clean it out with soapy water and let the jar sit in a warm soapy bath for at least 1/2 hour. Some jars will be easy to get the labels off, some will require you to work - that’s what the razor blade is for. Proceed carefully.
Once the label is soft, most of the time they come off really easily. You will want to make sure that you get all of the label off, as well as any sticky little goobers that are sometimes left behind. Dry the jar completely and check it for sticky debris. Remove using rubbing alcohol if you need to.
Give the lid a good wash, too. remove any labels and use a super-fine grit (320 and above) sand paper to give it a quick rough up. This allows you to scrub off any sticky stuff and paint coverage will be better.
Here are the steps, simple and easy:
Applying the labels is much easier when contents are in the jar. This lessens any reflection on the bottle.
Below is a sample of some of the jars I've found over the last few months: A simple craft store jar with a latch (.47 cents), jar filled with capers, a beautiful jar repurposed to hold cardamom and one of the best jars ever: The Aldi Pesto jar. We use the pesto so often, I have a number of these now repurposed as spice jars.
These jars don’t need much: just a good wash, a quick spray of paint on the lid and they are ready. Some Jars already have black lids, but I paint them anyway because it makes the finish for each jar consistent.
Below is a snapshot of some of my collection and newly finished jars: The Dijon Mustard and Caper Jars are just waiting until their contents are gone before I flip them into my storing my spices. Both products were bought at Big Lots. The Aldi Pesto Jar is now complete with label and tightly sealed chilli powder and my greatest find ever was the Himalayan Salt which actually came in this beautiful jar...all I needed to do was remove the label and put a new one on it.
I’m not past buying some odd thing in a jar just to get have the jar at the end of it’s contents. It’s a new game now, I go anywhere I can to see if I can find something unique.
As of the writing of this blog entry, I'm waiting to get the shelving part of the spice rack up on the wall. I am designing not only what I need, but something that will measure up to the charming part of the project - that will be part two of the process. So stay tuned, always have fun and post some of your picts.
Sign up for my emails!!
While my “regular” job is mom of one and fine artist landscape painter, my home blog is both a little bit of glamour and a whole lot of bread and butter. The Charm Offensive is about how to live creatively in a small home. Sign up for the emails, get the bonus of free shipping for life (some exclusions apply, see form) and the first to know when the new blog articles have been posted. Let’s have fun.
The Charm Offensive Blog
(A part of the Members Only Exclusive)
Be a part of the Members Only Exclusive. Click here to see more >>
Pin-it to your favorite board! Click on an image to Pin to your board.
Follow me on Pinterest: Laura Swink Fine Art
So more than a few years ago, my husband and I moved from a 2,000 square foot home in the country to an urban upstairs duplex apartment above my in-laws. At first it was a big change. We had a baby on the way and our new “digs” hadn’t been touched since 1970. We had to tear out some walls, put in new floors, basically - update EVERYTHING. So I’ve decided that sharing my past success and a few failures of small scale living can be an adventure all on its own.
But I want this to be more than just how to organize stuff into really small spaces….I’ve come to the realization that small home living doesn’t have to be sparse or minimalist. If something HAS to have a job in my house, then I think it can also be charming. I don’t have room to decorate, so useful things that are in use around the house have to be smart and attractive; hence, “The Charm Offensive”
Downsizing?? So how is it done?
Well, you have to decide what’s really important and what’s just fluff.
My previous kitchen was 14’ wide x 20 feet long. I had endless countertops and was overflowing with cabinet space (because the large laundry room was outfitted with an entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets too) I owned a large serving dish for EVERY holiday. No big deal when you have tons of space.
But now I have a very small kitchen that has a whopping 6’ of working countertop and all the extra dishes and novelty decor has had to go. While I miss some of those things, I do notice that I spend a whole lot less time cleaning and arranging. The payoff is huge.
Smart furniture purchases has helped us conserve space and utilize it to the max. There are tons of easy to do projects coming that are geared toward doing two important things: doing their job well and doing it with charm and class. Everything has to be both useful AND charming.
So Im looking forward to creating the Urban English Cottage in the city. Join me as I go about all the new projects that are going to make this little house a big home.
–Laura Swink Fine Art 2019
Coming Soon on The Charm Offensive:
How to make a spice collection from upcycled grocery store jars.
That's right - I'm taking a rag tag group of odd ball jars and making them into a glass menagerie that works together to keep all the herbs and spices I use in my kitchen. Tired of the boring plastic jars falling out of your cabinet? So was I. I'm going to show you how to do it. Join me on the Charm Offensive.
Sign up for my emails!!
While my “regular” job is mom of one and fine artist landscape painter, my home blog is both a little bit of glamour and a whole lot of bread and butter. Sign up for the emails, get the bonus of free shipping for life and the first to know when the new blog articles have been posted. Let’s have fun.
The Charm Offensive Blog
(The Members Only Exclusive)
Be a part of the Members Only Exclusive. Click here to see more >>