Monthly Archives: February 2009

Festivities around the corner…

Well, it’s nearly my birthday.  Which I can’t believe is here again already and yet the year seems as if it’s done its paces.  Last night I went out to dinner with my BF and his family to a local restaurant to celebrate as my birthday this year falls on a weekday.  The restaurant itself is reminiscent of another time, another era.  It was once the actual printing room of the local newspaper and now calls itself of course The Print Room.  It also has an attached bar called the Ink Bar.  What struck me as I first walked into this place was its enormously high ceilings and black and white checkered flooring.  It also had chandeliers, dark colored woods, and very modern yet art deco influenced interior.  

We sat in a beveled glass and dark cherry wood booth.  There was an actual piano player in the corner to provide some live music.  Above us, the lightbulbs glow in glass boxes and the windows have red neon lights all around, again, lending itself to the feeling of being in a speakeasy.  The only thing that’s missing is an outfit inspired by Coco Chanel and a Studebaker to take you there.  This isn’t a place pretending to have art deco inspired details, it’s a place that actually has all it’s original windows and features.  That’s the great thing about England is its determined efforts to conserve its buildings with upmost care.    

For my starter I selected the pan fried scallops wrapped in pancetta and served with cress and a parsnip purée, which was all perfectly cooked.  For my main, I had an absolutely delicious sea bream en papillote with potatoes Lyonnaise.  Lastly, for dessert I selected a crème brûlée with raspberry mille feuille.  Now, it was a bit too tart and sour for me with the amount of raspberries served with it.  I was expecting the crème brûlée to be the star of the show.  It was however a clever take on it.  I washed this all done with a rosé wine spritzer.  

I think the only thing I would’ve changed was my dessert–my BF ordered a spin on the classic peanut butter and chocolate combination.  Also, I would’ve liked the prices to be a bit lower.  I felt that it was over priced for what it was, albeit good tasting food.  I’d certainly go here again, but just have to keep in mind what my budget is.  

I liked the genuine decor, the attentive staff, and it’s attention to detail with its food, which is after all, why you go out to celebrate something in the first place.  

Now tonight, as I’m feeling under the weather with a nasty cold, my wonderful BF is making us chicken soup again for dinner! Mmm…I could seriously eat it by the bucketful.  We also have some nice crusty French bread to go with it.  We’ve never made so many soups before until recently.  Once you have homemade soup, which are so easy to make, why wouldn’t you want to make it all the time?!  So homemade soups it is for us.  My loving BF has bought me some nice tissues to blow my nose with.  So off I go to tend to my nose and leave you with a recipe that we made the other night (minus the homemade chicken stock bit) and thoroughly enjoyed–we have a bay leaf tree outside as well as a thyme plant, so fresh herbs are never far away.  I think it’s the herbs that make this soup so good, well, and the yummy Manischewitz noodles…and the carrots and celery…..ok, well everything that goes in this soup is what makes it good!  Serve it with some fresh French bread and the occasional smear of butter, and you’ve got yourself a meal.  Enjoy!

soup

 See recipe here: Chicken Noodle

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A Rainy Day

It’s a delightfully rainy day today…the kind of rain that’s just a drizzle and just enough to make you want a hot chocolate or cup of tea.  This morning I took a stroll through one of my most favorite areas of town, a place filled with beautiful pine trees and large, old homes….It almost doesn’t feel as if it’s part of my town and I just love it there because it’s like escaping to some far away land.  Plus, the pine trees remind me of home and perhaps that’s why I love it so much.  It was also a bit misty and foggy, which only added to the beauty of my surroundings this morning.  

Before heading out on my walking adventure, I had a generous square of some fig newton coffee cake that I’d baked for tea a few days ago.  Now, this isn’t just any coffee cake–it has the ingenious addition of fig newtons running throughout, a sort of cinnamon-y swirl of je ne sais quoi goodness about it.  I feel that even those who would normally pass at the mere thought of a fig newton, will love this coffee cake.  It is not a pronounced fig flavor, but rather contributes itself nicely.  As I live in the UK, I couldn’t find fig newtons, but I found these fig rolls and they do the job even if they’re not as moist as fig newtons:

fig 

I envision this coffee cake to be the type you’d buy at a café for $3.50 a square. It has a wonderful fluffy and moist texture.  But that’s the beauty of baking at home.  You save yourself that money and get to feel good about sharing your delicious creation with others.  Ok, enough talking, on with the recipe!  All I have to say is–why didn’t I think of this?!  I must credit my grandmother for getting me the recipe from her archives…where she got it from, I don’t know, but it’s going in my recipe vault for safe keeping!  You should feel honored that I’m sharing this recipe with you and releasing it out into the world wide web!  I’ll wait while you grovel at my feet……

cake

 

cake2

And now, the recipe:

1/4 C firmly packed brown sugar 

2T butter/margarine, softened

1/2 t ground cinnamon

10-12 fig filled bar cookies, crumbled

2 eggs

3/4 C sugar

1/3 C melted butter/margarine (can also use oil instead)

1 1/2 C all purpose flour

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/2 cup milk

1 t vanilla extract (in a pinch, butter extract will also do)

Combine brown sugar, 2 T butter, cinnamon, and crumbled fig cookies; mix well, and set aside. Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl until frothy; add sugar and melted butter (or oil). Beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with milk, mixing well.   Stir in vanilla.

Pour half of batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan; top with half of fig mixture. Pour remainder of batter over fig layer. Sprinkle remaining fig mixture on top. Bake at 350F/180C for 40-45 minutes or until cake tests done. Yield: 9 servings

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Apple Cake and Other Stuff

Hello All.  

I thought I’d post some foodie pictures that I’ve taken lately along with a crafty one–so think of this post as a sort of hodge podge of miscellaneousness as my posts will be from time to time.

This is a Jewish Apple Cake I made recently.  Incredibly, it has 3-4 apples in it, and boy is it delicious!  Delicious being an understatement.  If you want the recipe, just post a comment stating so, and I’ll send it to you. *Cue drool*  

 

Apple Cake

Delicious Apple Cake o’ Goodness…It’s worth the effort every time.  Those of you who have tried it, you know who you are!  If I could have the knife skills of Jamie Oliver who can chop through 10 apples in two seconds while talking at the same time, than I’d have this cake done in no time flat.  Sadly, my chopping skills are a bit rudimentary, so it takes me quite a while.  But once the apples are prepared, than the rest of it is super easy!  

dsc027311

Our various mustard collection–American style, English, and Polish…yeah, I love mustard.  If I could, I’ve have a French one up there too. 

cheetos

Yes, you read right, ketchup flavored Cheetos!  My BF and I bought these at the local Polish store of all places…they tasted kind of like a Cheeto inspiration…but not quite doing the job but worth a try.  

scone

Scones with jam and clotted cream are the reason I live!  Nothing better with a cup of tea.  And incidentally, the reason that I came over to this country.  Just kidding.  This was however some of the best clotted cream I’ve ever had–it was from the New Forest and man oh man was it delicious!  Then again, with clotted cream you can’t really go wrong now can you?  What’s not to love about butter’s creamy English cousin that is in a class all its own?

hat

Sound the angels! I’ve complete my first crochet hat!  It took a couple of smaller attempts before I was able to figure out how to do it correctly.  Thanks to Threadbanger: How to crochet a hat .  If you scroll down on the Threadbanger page, you’ll find some written instructions which I found very useful.  I made it during a long afternoon.  It’s quicker than making a scarf, which usually takes me quite a while.  And now, the finished product!  Ta da!  

hat3

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Mmmm…Kit Kats…and other foodie thoughts

I didn’t know until recently that Kit Kats are of English origin.  They’re very popular here and I guess that’s why.  You can get cappuccino, mint, and orange flavored ones here.  The mint is my serious favorite!  I tried a lemon and white chocolate one when I was in Italy, and it was so good! It was like lemon cake.
 
I looked at Wikipedia, and here’s a list of some of the other crazy and wild Kit Kat flavors that you can get elsewhere.  Uh, Kit Kats are obviously popular in Japan for some reason…I find that the grilled corn flavor would be weird.  I mean, Kit Kat and corn?  It just doesn’t mix!  Another special one I came across on this list, brace yourself: SOY SAUCE.  Now Kit Kats and soy sauce REALLY don’t mix!   However,  I would give the pumpkin one a try; I love pumpkin.  
Courtesy of: Wikipedia
  • Kit Kat Caramel and Salt — Japan
  • Kit Kat Kinako (soybean flour) — Japan
  • Kit Kat Green Tea — Japan
  • Kit Kat Apple — Japan
  • Kit Kat Kiwifruit — Japan
  • Kit Kat Strawberry — Japan
  • Kit Kat Peach — Japan
  • Kit Kat Noisette (Hazelnut) — Germany
  • Kit Kat Cantaloupe; Japan
  • Kit Kat Pineapple; South Africa
  • Kit Kat Mango; Japan
  • Kit Kat Azuki (Red Bean); Japan
  • Kit Kat Caramel Macchiato; Japan 
  • Kit Kat Soy Sauce – “Tokyo Limited Edition” ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Yakimorokoshi – grilled corn; Japan (only in Hokkaido prefecture)
  • Kit Kat Jyagaimo – potato; Japan (only in Hokkaido prefecture)
  • Kit Kat Daigakuimo – candied sweet potato; Japan
  • Kit Kat Houjicha – Japanese roasted tea ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Apple ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Watermelon and Salt ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Pumpkin ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Edamame ; Japan
  • Kit Kat Banana; Canada

On another note, I thought I’d also include some of the crazy and weird and fun things I’ve recently discovered on the web–one of which being this cheeseburger bed.  I think I’d have nightmares about getting eaten if I were to sleep in this!  I mean, this is taking weird dreams to a whole other level.  I wonder if Ronald McDonald owns this bed…

Courtesy of: neatorama


I find this tea infuser funny and innovative.  It’s called Sharky Tea Infuser.  What do you think?  

Courtesy of: Design Boom

 

And lastly for today, a delicious looking recipe that I cannot wait to try!  I have had a soft spot in my heart for Matzo crackers ever since I was a little girl….and I have my grandparents to thank for that.  🙂  In fact, I have some in my pantry right now!  I usually eat them with soup or spread some laughing cow cheese on them with a slice or two of ham…but this recipe is taking them to a whole other level of goodness.

This recipe looks like so easy and versatile and makes you wonder why you didn’t come up with it first!  It just has a sense of homemade elegance about it.  If you do make this, please post a comment and let me know how it turned out!   Mmm….Chocolate and Matzo crackers……

Recipe and image is courtesy of: Martha Stewart

 

 

 A plain Passover staple can be turned into a sweet treat by coating it with chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit. For 11 pieces of matzos (about one box), you’ll need 11 ounces each of white and dark chocolate, 3/4 cup finely chopped toasted nuts, and 1 1/2 cups chopped dried fruit or crystallized ginger. Brush one side of each piece of matzo with melted white or dark chocolate; drizzle remaining dark chocolate over white-chocolate-coated matzo and vice versa. Sprinkle with fruit and nuts. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, 15 minutes. Break bark into pieces. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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A Flutter of Happiness

Flake

As I look outside, I’m amazed by the weather phenomenon before me–it’s SNOWING (hence my lone snowflake picture) here again in England for the second day in a row!  It’s almost like an amazing looking rain and snow combination that I can’t help but stare out upon.  When I say it hardly ever snows here, I mean that some parts of the UK haven’t seen this much snow in 18 years.  And we’re also in the midst of the coldest winter the UK has seen in 13 years…so put those two together and you’ve got one special winter.  

Ever since I was born on the sunny shores of California, I have never liked winter.  I don’t like the coldness, the darkness, the wet snow, or the need to have to wear millions of layers.  And yet here I find myself in England, the pinnacle of cold and dark damp winters where wind cuts through you like a jagged icicle.  Like every other person here I just keep telling myself it’s temporary and that we’ll all be rewarded with that promise of spring.  

Now with my thoughts on winter aside, I want to talk about something else: happiness.  You see despite my least favorite season, I am finding this feeling of happiness and acceptance finding its way to me with no warning.  I feel as though I am becoming much more accepting and content with my current situation despite not being able to work.  I am finding that maybe I can be suited for this such position after all.  All it took was some time getting used to it.  I like being able to do whatever I want whenever I want, a chance not many of us have in this day and age of productivity.  I can spend an hour at the nearby bookstore looking at a magazine if I want.  I can peruse the shelves of my library and come home with 10 cookbooks.  I can spend time out on the high street looking at the latest fashions.  I can stay home if I want to and bake cakes.  I have time to be with my thoughts and devote some time each day to my new blog.  Although I must admit, it’d be nice if I made myself read more each day…or each week for that matter.   

It is in my happiness that I find peace.  A big part of that peace is being with my BF.  I don’t think I’ve laughed or smiled so much in a while.  My BF and I may not be millionaires, but we have each other, and to me, that means so much.  

Can I also just say something else? I think that my family is amazing.  It’s crazy to think that all of us ‘kids’ and by that I mean my cousins and I are growing up.  The thing that makes family special is its ability to connect all of us no matter where we are or what we’re doing.  I could be here in England and one of my family members could be living in Missouri, but we’re still family.  We may not see each other nearly as much as we’d like or we may hardly ever call each other, but we’re still connected; all of us are invisibly connected and that is what makes a family special–this sense of invisible connectivity.

I feel like I belong with my family and I feel like I keep having those special moments where I honestly feel like I belong with my BF’s family too.  I love getting cooking tips and getting laughs from my grandmother.  I love hearing my parents laugh.  I love hearing stories from my BF’s grandfather about living in Africa.  I just love the way that his family includes me in everything.  I love seeing the sense of pride that my grandfather has about his newest tomato harvest.  It’s all of these great things that make a family what they are–we’re all connected.        

We all want to be accepted in our families, to know that no matter what we say or do, that we still belong there unconditionally.  I think it’s just basic human nature to want to feel that way.    

Oh, it’s time for me to re-heat my tea, something I don’t care to do often since it has milk in it and all, but it’s gotten cold while I’ve been writing.  Anybody else finding it crazy that it’s now February?!

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River Cottage

Well today, seeing as it’s snowing outside for the first time in a long time here, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about one of my favorite restaurants here in England.  It’s called the River Cottage Canteen, which is located in Axminster, Devon.  I have been to this fabulous restaurant twice now both times funny enough to celebrate birthdays–my own and my BF’s.  River Cottage Canteen is the brainchild of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  Hugh believes in serving only the freshest and most seasonal food to his clientele.  It is truly an organic experience in a non granola crunching kind of way.  The food is as local as it can be with coffee from the Dorset Coffee Company or lamb from the farm down the road.  

The seating area is large and well lit with sunshine beaming from the rafters above.  There are french doors leading to the nearby edible garden.  Many large rustic wooden tables fill the room and each table has little pots of herbs.  Attached to the Canteen itself is a small but wonderful larder shop.  Here you can buy everything from yogurt made from Jersey cows to local cheeses and breads.  It is so much fun to wander in there and have a browse and buy a few things after your meal.  

It is truly an experience to be had at this restaurant, a place where you can truly savor well prepared fresh food knowing that it as local as it can possibly be.  You can’t help but feel good and wholesome here.  It could be the organic bread, the restaurant’s sense of ease and connectedness with all things around it, or that feeling you get when you know you’ve eaten great food and food that’s good for you.  If you’re ever in the Axminster area, I highly recommend that you stop by and have your very own piece of foodie heaven.  Your stomach and your food loving soul will be singing praises.    

Ewe's Cheese Ewe’s cheese available at the store

A butterfly came in from the garden! A butterfly came in from the garden! 

Cheese Plate My BF had the cheese plate for dessert, he loved it.

The front The front of the store and restaurant in Axminster

Inside Inside the dining area

To find out more about this unique and ambitious restaurant, please see: River Cottage

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A new day, a new recipe

When I asked my BF what he wanted for dessert one night, he said, “chocolate cake.”  So chocolate cake it was.  There was one problem–I didn’t have a chocolate cake recipe to call my own.  So to the internet I went.  I know that deciding on a recipe isn’t exactly like naming your first child, but somehow I feel that selecting a recipe carries that sense of weight.  If it doesn’t turn out, than you’ve wasted some precious ingredients.  However, if it does succeed as the following recipe did for me, then it’s a happy success!  See recipe here: Black Magic Cake 

I made the Hershey’s Black Magic cake in a bundt pan, and as I couldn’t be bothered to make my own frosting, I used some Betty Crocker frosting instead.  I also sprinkled some coconut on top for some character.

Once frosted, this cake lasted my BF and I nearly a week! It is unlike any chocolate cake I’ve ever had; it has an incredibly fudgy in texture and a beautiful dark color.  I will certainly be filing this one away under favorites.  Give it a try!  You never know, after trying the first two bites of this cake, you just might be naming your first child after it.

Black Magic Cake

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