Saving the birds and No New Year Resolutions | Champagne Twist

I have long given up on making new year’s resolutions.  Partly because by this time of year, i.e. the 2nd of January, I’ve broken half of them.  But I have started to implement my plans to help encourage birds and beneficial pollinators to my outdoor space.  I’m starting with the birds by making sure that I supply various foods to sustain their diet during these cold winter months.

January and February tend to be the coldest months of the year, and food is very scarce both for food gardeners and wildlife.  I’ve taken advantage of the Christmas and New Year sales and purchased a bird table and bird food supplies.

Wilko is my go-to bird food supplier, I normally buy a tub of 50 fat balls for £4.  The birds which especially love these fat balls are robins, blue tits, magpies and the occasional big pigeon.

 

In an effort to attract a wider variety of birds and to tempt the blue tits away from my already blossoming honeysuckle, I’m trialing these suet blocks.  So far, however, they are not at all tempted by the, preferring to stick to the fat balls.  I’m think maybe I need to give the birds a bit more chance to discover them, or move the blocks elsewhere in the garden.  I’m hoping when the bird table arrives, I can place the blocks on it, and save my poor honeysuckle!

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I also placed a bird seed feeder outside, but again, the birds are not biting. Oddly, I’ve never had much luck when it comes to loose bird seed.  A few years ago, I was filling a seed feeder, when I spilled some on a now defunct garden table. I went inside to get something to clean it up, and in the few seconds I had turned my back, a family of squirrels appeared in the garden.  For a split second, I thought I was a Disney princess, and the squirrels had come to visit me in my fairy tale garden. Then I remembered how I spilled the bird seed.  I admit I was more than a little hurt that the fantasy didn’t pan out, and more than a little bit cross that at least 10 squirrels, came from nowhere to deprive the birds of their lunch.

I’m glad to say that the squirrels have not returned in such numbers, although we do get the occasional visit from a solo squirrel, one who I suspect keeps digging up my raised beds. But thanks to the neighbourhood cats, mainly stays out of the way on the roof tops.

While I hope that encouraging birds into the garden now, will encourage them to help me control the snail and slug population later in the Summer, I’m also doing this to help increase the local bird population. Some species have been declining for years, so every effort I make can only help them flourish.

I’m looking forward to receiving the bird table, and hopefully a bird feeding stand, currently on waitlist, and will review them, along with the bird food in due course.

This may not be a new year’s resolution in the true sense, but I’m glad that I’m actually doing something that will help the environment.  Far better than trying to be more healthy – that kinda went out the window yesterday morning when I ate 6 Spiced Blueberry Panacakes for breakfast, which I covered with icing sugar (not so bad on sugarless pancakes), vanilla yogurt (quite good) and half a bottle of maple syrup (ooops!).

Wait, blueberry is a super food right? Maybe I can still keep my ‘be more healthy in 20’ resolution then!

OK maybe not.

Spiced Blueberry Pancakes recipe – Champagne Twist

Spiced Blueberry Pancakes recipe | Champagne Twist.jpg

Well, it’s the first day of a brand new decade.  It’s a sobering thought that we are now in the new 20s era.  Personally, I’m hoping that this decade is better than the last one, and that all my plans and hopes pan out in a positive way.

With that, here’s the new look Champagne Twist YouTube Channel, the theme for this year being “New Vision”.

This year I’m starting with a bang food wise, with an easy and delicious recipe for Spiced Blueberry Pancakes.  These pancakes don’t have any sugar as the sweetness is derived from the blueberries, the vanilla yogurt and just a drizzle of maple syrup. You can of course use a cheaper golden syrup, but I think the Maple syrup adds a unique spicy hit which compliments the mixed spices, so is for me worth the extra expense.

When combining fruit with spices, the usual go-to flavour pairing with blueberries is cinnamon.  As it is still the Christmas season, I wanted to keep the festive flavours, but add a slight twist. So I plumped for a mixed spice blend, which does include cinnamon, as well as other spices – dill, coriander, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

So here’s the recipe, let me know if you try this and what you think of it, it would be great to hear your considered opinions.

Here’s wishing everyone a peaceful, fun, healthy, happy and safe new year.

Spiced Blueberry Pancakes, with vanilla yogurt and maple syrup

Ingredients

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • knob of butter, melted
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • oil or butter for cooking
  • maple syrup and vanilla yogurt to serve

 

Method

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder and mixed spices in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate, small bowl, beat the egg, then add the milk and melted butter and combine.
  3. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dr, to form a smooth batter.  Fold in the blueberries.
  4. Heat a teaspoon of oil or butter in a non-stick frying pan.
  5. Pour a small ladleful of batter into the pan.
  6. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with vanilla yogurt for a healthy breakfast, and with maple syrup for a pudding or treat.

blueberry and lavender cheesecake recipe by ChampagneTwist.com

Blueberry and Lavender Cheesecake – recipe

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This is an updated recipe I created a few years ago.  It has become a family favourite for special occasions, or just for an indulgent treat.

Blueberry and Lavender Cheesecake – recipe

Ingredients:

  • 10 digestive biscuits
  • 50g melted butter, set aside to cool slightly
  • 560g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 190ml sour cream, room temperature
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tsp lavender syrup (optional)
  • 1 heaped dessertspoon plain flour
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 pot wild blueberry conserve
  • 1 tbsp lavender flowers
  • 1 punnet of fresh blueberries

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4
  2. Place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until it becomes a fine crumb.  Alternatively place the biscuits in a plastic food bag, and bash with a rolling pin.
  3. Place the crumbs into a bowl, and add in the melted butter. Stir, making sure all the crumbs have been coated in the butter.
  4. Cover the base of a 20cm spring form pan with the butter crumb mix.
  5. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for 5-10 mins. Then remove from the oven to cool.
  6. In a food mixer, add the cheese, cream, vanilla paste, lavender syrup, flour, sugar and eggs (including the extra yolk), and mix until all the ingredients have been well combined.
  7. Pour cheese mix onto the cooled biscuit base. Tap gently to ensure there are no air bubbles.
  8. Place the cake tin on the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for 35 mins, until the cake has set.
  9. Turn off the oven and leave the cake to gently cool down in the oven. This should hopefully help prevent any cracks forming.  However it does not matter if cracks do appear, as the top will be covered.
  10. When the cake has cooled, place in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  11. For the topping, mix the lavender flowers and blueberry conserve in a saucepan and gently heat over a low flame.
  12. Remove the conserve mix and allow to cool for about 10 mins.
  13. Stir in half the fresh blueberries into the conserve mix.
  14. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge and pour the blueberry conserve mix on top.
  15. Top off the cheesecake with the remaining fresh blueberries.

To decorate, I added a fresh sprig of mint and dusted with icing sugar.  Serve with some extra sour cream or thick natural yogurt and a huge pot of tea.

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