Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sugar Nuts n’ Such

Well today I’m making this: Sugar Nuts . Beforehand, I made a batch of raspberry cream cheese swirl brownies (yes, using a package mix that was lying around!  gasp!) that refused to come out of the pan nicely so now they are all crumbled on a dinner plate.  I think they’ll have to go along side some vanilla ice cream or except defeat and remain ugly but still edible.  And while I take breaks between my nut stirring activity for the next hour, I’m thinking about life.  Then again, I feel that I’m doing that a lot these days.  I guess I’m just annoyed at how if you’re not working in American culture, you’re viewed as not being productive, something that is just so unthinkable in our culture.  That irks me.  Yeah ok, I don’t work currently, but does that mean that what I do is less important or meaningful than someone who does?  Just something to think about…

Ah, I don’t know why it just hit me, but I’d love to work in a bakery.  No, I wouldn’t like those early morning starting hours (having to be at work at 4:30AM thanks to working at a coffee shop wasn’t my idea of fun after a few years) but there’s something I’d love about having the radio on and working with something so natural and pure as bread.  I’m not talking fancy pastry shop work, I’m just talking making honest to goodness bread.  I think it’s good that people are starting to get back to basics given our current economic climate.  We should be appreciating things made and baked at home.  Hey, even if you’re using Bisquick, that’s a start–atleast you’re in the kitchen making something! I’m telling you, there’s nothing better than making something yourself!  

Cooking and baking teach you how to be creative, have self confidence, and best of all, you get to enjoy the outcome! If not, there’s always that frozen pizza that you should always have on hand in case culinary disaster strikes or the nearest pizza delivery on speed dial.

*My post continued one day later……*

Today is one of the most rainy and grey days we’ve had here in a long time….it makes you want to sit next to the radiator and read a book.  Atleast today it’s raining vertically rather than the usual horizontal direction typical of English rain.  I do wonder if England could ever run out of rain?  Ha.  I’m trying to keep myself warm by watching the UKTV food channel and thinking about what type of tea to have. I also have some udon noodles laying around that I’d like to have for lunch. Being that it’s yucky outside today, I will probably also whip up something comforting in the kitchen as well as crochet something with some amazing yarn I bought at the local haberdashery shop over the weekend….Can I just say that I had a great weekend? I always love paying a visit to my haberdashery shop and scoring some awesome yarn and I even picked up a few neat looking buttons. I also took a long walk in the English countryside with my BF. You can see my pics from the weekend below:

Also forgot to mention that my picture of Salisbury Cathedral got included in the latest edition of Schmap!  See it here

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Some winners and some pictures

As I’ve been in the kitchen quite a lot recently, I thought I’d pass along some recipes that have turned out as delicious success stories as well as some pics I’ve taken lately while out and about with my camera phone.

Ok, first some Vegan Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies.  These took a bit of time to put together, but nothing too difficult by any means and the results were yummy.  Thanks to MAC & CHEESE, I got the recipe here

Here’s my picture of the finished product:

Tower of cookies

Tower of cookies

My next recent success comes from the gang at Martha Stewart.  I bought the Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook (you can buy/look at the cookbook here) atleast a year ago and have only recently started using recipes from it.  I made their Tortilla and Black Bean Pie, and since I’m not a fan of black beans, I substituted pinto beans instead.  I also used an ale as my beer choice.  You can find the recipe on page 236 of the cookbook or online here

My BF loved this dish and I thought it was both original and economical. We will certainly be making this again as we both loved the flavors of it too!

 

Dinner last night

Dinner last night

 

For the side dish, we made Spanish Rice and an excellent recipe for it can be found at Simply Recipes, an excellent food blog/website that I’ve been using for quite some time now.  Elise’s Spanish Rice recipe is again not only economical in this day and age, but also very delicious!  I’ll never go back to using pre-made packages of it when it’s so much better and healthier for me to just make it myself.  You can find the recipe here. Add some sour cream and salsa on the side, and you’ve got yourself an excellent meal that’ll easily feed 4 adults for very little money.  

And now, some more foodie photos taken with my camera phone:

 

And since I can’t seem to get rid of the tortilla pie or vegan cookies pictures in this section, you get to see them again!  I’m still new to blogging, so bear with me–think of it as doubling your photographic viewing pleasure. Ha ha.

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Trop pensées, too many thoughts…

Today is one of those days in my life where I feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing right now.  How many people do you know get to divulge themselves on the things that they’re most passionate about?  Not only do I get to listen to classical/opera music, I get to bake homemade vanilla bean and almond biscotti at the same time!  And might I add, they were a total success in my opinion!  Deliciousness!

Yes, my passion for food is what’s making me turn into a mondo pot belly, but I’m learning and discovering more about life these past months than I have in a very long time.  I’m spending more time in the kitchen than ever, something I know that my grandma (you know who you are! 😉 ) would be glad to know.   🙂  

I’m also discovering time and time again those little things that make me glad I’m here and not just because it allows me to be with the man I love, which is a HUGE plus.  I get to discover those little stolen moments in the morning on my way to the weekly market–the cool calm and quiet of the neighborhood, the crispness in the air, the smell of the sweet morning dew, the sounds of the birds…  

I love getting lost at the market–it’s all about the people and the great finds.  When was the last time you actually met the person who’s mushrooms you’re buying at the store?  Who can you ask about how to store them or what’s a great recipe to make with them?  You can’t do that at the grocery store, you can only do that at the market.  

Here’s some random pics I’ve taken lately, some of which are items I’ve bought at the market: 

 

At the market I love the…

sights: tea towels, piles of hams, old wellies, flowers, pineapples, bags of oranges, unusual scarves, WW II memorabilia, breads, antiques, bric-a-brac

the smells: mushrooms from the mushroom guy, fresh bread, cheese, fish

the people: the jam guy, people who bring their dogs to wander through the stalls with them, the butcher trying to sell his best deals on pork cutlets, the lady you bought your jewelry from, the little old ladies who come to look at shoes or push their tartan shopping trollies around.  

I love that you can buy things that are locally made and produced at great prices.  I also love the fact that I can buy something like a piece of jewelry, that are very one of a kind and unique because they are often antiques, it makes me feel as if I can hold onto a piece of history and preserve it for future generations.  

I know that I’ll be gutted when it comes time to leave here and I won’t be able to visit my beloved market anymore, but I try to push that from my mind.  There are so many things about England that I will miss and have become accustomed to while living here, but again, I try to not think about how much I will eventually miss it all because my soul will ache. 

I feel like I’m at that point in my life where everything is a giant puzzle and I’m trying my best to shift everything into place so that I can eventually be or do or have all that I’ve wanted in life.  I think adding to my life’s confusion at the moment is my lack of a clear career path, because being an American, it’s all about the career path.  When I went to school, aka university, I studied what I am passionate about–French.  I didn’t choose to put myself through hours and years of language and literature because I thought it’d make me millions, but I did it because in the end, it made my soul happy.  Somehow this passion of mine is supposed to translate itself into a stable and viable career that makes me a small fortune.  

I don’t want to be one of those people who just works a string of jobs just because it’s all about staying afloat and making money.  I want to work at a job that means something, that is in line with my passions in life, and I’m starting to wonder if a such thing exists for me–for both passion and career to align themselves together.  Had I gone with a degree that was more clear  cut, like education or chemistry, than perhaps my career path wouldn’t present itself as such a mystery.  Who knows, maybe in 5 years time I’ll be having kids anyways and this whole career fulfillment issue won’t be such a problem or rather, a mystery.

I also feel like I’m one of those people who’s not very good at growing up…it’s awkward for me a lot of the time.  What does being an adult actually mean?  Yeah I can pay bills on time or set up a savings account, but does that actually make me an adult?  Is it my age?  Is it just some kind of feeling that you stumble upon as you go along?   Doesn’t life come with an instruction manual?  No?  Oh…. 

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Spring Waters and History in Bath

Hello All!  It’s now Easter weekend, so that means that I get to spend a little time with my BF and his family as everyone has time off for Easter here.  Yesterday my BF and I visited Bath for the first time, well it was the first time for me, and not my BF, but it’d been a while since he’d taken in the sights.  It took us about 2.5 hours to get there from here but it wasn’t bad at all on the train.  

At first, I didn’t know what to make of Bath.  All of the buildings are of the Georgian style and of the same color stone.  We had a walk around town first before deciding to visit the Roman baths.  It’s just amazing to think that the Romans utilized steam rooms and mineral baths all those years ago!  One thing I learned on my tour was that they used the hot mineral water not only for medicinal and hygienic purposes but also for worship.  It was just cool to step on the same stones that the Romans had used and built thousands of years ago.  

After all that touring and looking and picture taking, my BF and I decided to have lunch.  There’s only one place, us being the foodies that we both are, wanted to go:  Jamie’s Italian.  I use a lot of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks when looking for inspiration or a new recipe to try out for dinner, so you could say that I’m a fan.  Once we were finally seated as we had to wait a while to get into this popular restaurant, we decided to get the “World’s Best Olives” and the Meat Antipasti for starters, the Chopped Buffalo Steak Hamburger for our mains, and an order of Rosemary Salt Chips with a Humble Salad for sides.  The Buffalo Hamburger was one of the BEST hamburgers I have had in a looooooooong time!!!!!  I mean, it was so good!  The kind of hamburger that doesn’t make you feel embarrassed about enjoying every bite of it no matter how messy.  It came complete with homemade mayo, a grilled bun, and parma ham that was crispy!  It was heaven between two buns.  

The only not so glorious highlight of the day was when I was walking along the cobblestone street looking at all of the shops and boutiques on the other side of the road and stepped in a huge puddle.  That was lovely.  But thinking back to all I’d done in the day and the delicious hamburger I had had, made that big puddle misstep worth it.  Here are some pics from my lovely time in Bath:

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Spring has sprung! Atleast for now.

It’s been a fabulously spring and sunshine filled weekend here in Britain.  I think I’ve nearly got a sunburn coming on! Gasp!  I’ve been sitting outside in the gloriously overdue sunshine this whole weekend.  My BF’s sister and her BF came down for the weekend to celebrate my BF’s dad’s birthday.  We had a deliciously traditional South African braai (BBQ) for dinner last night.  Man oh man was it delicious!  I worked my little bum off in the kitchen helping BF’s mom get everything ready for the big meal.  We had Boerewors (South African sausage), marinated steak (must get the recipe for delicious marinade), chicken kebabs, green salad with avocado, homemade corn biscuits (I made them–my little piece of the US–thanks Bisquick! Ha), grilled asparagus, and twice baked potatoes.  Whew a whole spread of good and delicious food!  I honestly feel as if I’ve put on 10 pounds just this weekend!  

This morning we had a scottle braai breakfast—we cooked our entire breakfast on the braai (BBQ).  It was so good!  We had bacon, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and even bananas all cooked on the curved scottle surface.  Mmm….it was very tasty. I also sliced up some lardy cake, which is an English specialty that I bought at the market.  I also tried lemon curd for the first time ever and boy am I in heaven!!  I’m sooo hooked!  It’s like a deliciously creamy lemon spread that you have on toast or scones.  

So after all of this food eating yummyness, I have been spending the day as I said lounging in the sun and reading the Sunday Times newspaper.  The weather this upcoming week is supposed to be rainy and colder……..blech.  Rainy weather doesn’t inspire me to take walks…..it makes me want to stay under the duvet and drink tea.  Anyways, on with my foodie and nature photos from a lovely weekend of food and sunshine.  I snapped some pics with my BF’s Canon 350D.  It blows my Sony Cybershot away!  As always, to make the photo larger, just click on it.  Enjoy!

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2 amazing recipes I MUST share!

Yes, I am going a little blog crazy today….only because I sometimes work on a post, edit it, and then publish it later.  I’ve got several posts that are kind of stacking up so I thought I’d better get to publishing them on my site.  Now I must share with you lovely blog readers of mine the most delicious and unique dessert I’ve had in a very very long time:  Ritz Cracker Pie.  Some people call it a mock apple or mock pecan pie.  Whatever you call it, it’s not only easy, it tastes amazing, and it keeps well a few days afterwards.  That is, if you actually have any leftovers!  I got this recipe from my mom’s recipe box and I’m so glad I did!  Thanks Mom!   

Ritz Cracker Pie

3 egg whites, beaten stiff with 1 C sugar (I think next time I make it, I’m doing 3/4 C, it is pretty sweet so I think I’ll tone it down a little bit for my own personal preference)

Then fold in 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Then add:
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I think next time I make it, I’ll just a pinch more and it’ll be perfecto!)

Then add:
25-30 Ritz crackers, crushed into dime size pieces
1 C chopped nuts

Butter 9 inch pie plate and pour in mixture–it will look like a meringue. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream. Refrigerate and cover any leftovers.  

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The finished product!  It develops a kind of crunchy meringue like topping as it cooks.  I think this would be a great dessert to do when entertaining as everyone can help themselves.  I can’t help but try and promote this pie around the world it’s that good!  Push aside the mouse, turn the computer off, and go make this!  I’m telling you it’s beyond delicious!!  When you do/or if you have made this, please post a comment and let me know how it went! Mmmm…

And now, the other recipe that I feel compelled to share with you all: Jamie Oliver’s Parmesan Chicken Breasts with Crispy Posh Ham.  Not only is it so simple to make but it tastes just divine!  It’s basically heaven in your mouth.  So after you make this, you can serve the above aforementioned Ritz Cracker Pie and you’ve got yourself one heck of a meal that would delight anyone!  My BF and I have made this twice in nearly a week which means that we love this dish.  I have to stress this—do not skimp on any of the ingredients here–each one is so vital to the overall flavor.     

Now, on with the recipe, serves 2:

• 30g Parmesan cheese (English cheddar works too)
• 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
• 2 skinless chicken breasts, preferably free-range or organic
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 lemon
• 6 slices of prosciutto (or Parma Ham)
• olive oil

To prepare your chicken
• Grate your Parmesan 
• Pick the thyme leaves off the stalks 
• Carefully score the underside of the chicken breasts in a criss-cross fashion with a small knife 
• Season with a little pepper (you don’t need salt as the prosciutto is quite salty) 
• Lay your breasts next to each other and sprinkle over most of the thyme leaves 
• Grate a little lemon zest over them, then sprinkle with the Parmesan 
• Lay 3 prosciutto slices on each chicken breast, overlapping them slightly 
• Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining thyme leaves 
• Put a square of clingfilm (saran wrap) over each breast and give them a few really good bashes with the bottom of a pan until they’re about 1cm thick

To cook your chicken
• Put a frying pan over a medium heat 
• Remove the clingfilm and carefully transfer the chicken breasts, prosciutto side down, into the pan 
• Drizzle over some olive oil 
• Cook for 3 minutes on each side, turning halfway through, giving the ham side an extra 30 seconds to crisp up

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We served ours with mashed potatoes but you could serve it in a salad or even pasta!  Mmmm…This recipe can also be found here: Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

 

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Mere observations

There are so many many things that I’ve learned and seen since my beginnings here in the UK.  I had never known what double glazing meant—glazing to me was used in doughnut terminology, not windows, which is what that means here.  I’d never used a gas stove before or hung out my laundry to dry using pegs and a clothesline.  I’d never heard that distinct sound of a pigeon cooing in the distance.  Nor have I learned so much about myself in such a short amount of time.  

Here’s three things that I love about living in the UK:

1) Going to the markets and seeing local mushroom growers, cheesemongers or sausage makers….I love buying locally made products–something I wish we had more of back in the States.  I also love looking at all the antiques for sale at the market too—I feel like you never know what you’re going to find–it could be an amazing piece of heirloom jewelry, a pretty tea cup, or an old mixing bowl.  They have one every Friday here near the village and I’m always itching to go!  

2) I love the Graham Norton Show–think Conan O’Brian but with a British twist and funnier and not so sarcastic and predictable…so basically don’t think Conan O’Brian.  Ha.  I love how the GNS always incorporates the audience and I never know what to expect.  He also has on two guests at the same time which makes things more interesting.  C’mon, anytime you have Graham Norton, Gordon Ramsay, and Juliette Binoche all on the same sofa it has to be funny!  Check out the GNS on BBC America when you can or the BBC if you’re UK-side.  

3) Health care is free in the sense that you don’t have to pay anything when visiting the doctor, getting tests done, or visiting the hospital!  Even some medications are free!  Need I say more??!!  

Now three things I find irritating/don’t like about British culture:

1) How there’s no set rule when you pass someone on the sidewalk as to which side of the road you’re supposed to be on—yes, they drive on the left here, but these rules don’t apply to foot passengers.  Thus, I never know which way to go when passing someone!  Sometimes it’s the left, and sometimes it’s the right…and every time it’s awkward. 

2) How there’s no public toilet at my local library!!!!!  Outrageous!  Moreover, you not only have to pay for when you hire out DVD’s/CD’s, but you also have to pay to reserve items!  Total outrage in my opinion!  Particularly the no toilet part……ridiculous. 

3) There have actually been periods of time about 35 minutes in length were I have taken off and put back on my jacket atleast 3 times….the weather here changes so unbelievably fast.  It goes from cold to warm to cold again and it’s always ‘in-betweeney’ weather here—meaning it doesn’t warrant a jacket but is too cold for just a shirt…temperate climate indeed.    

Lastly, three things I don’t understand here:

1) The apparent obession with pavlovas….I mean, all it is is a baked egg white ring in which you put other stuff on top of it and serve as a dessert..and speaking of obsessions, I don’t understand why the wrap (as in a tortilla filled with stuff) is the hottest thing here?  It’s everywhere I turn!  It’s as if the wrap is the cool new way to make a sandwich or have mexican food and tortillas are just the coolest thing ever to have arrived on this island.  

2) Why mothers have their kids on leashes?  They’re not dogs you know!  I see it time and time again….

3) Why any kind of dessert is called a ‘pudding’?  Or ‘pud’ for short?  It’s a dessert people!  Pudding means something entirely different where I come from.  And on that note, flapjacks here actually are fattening granola bars…not pancakes….and pancakes here are actually crêpes…and french fries are called chips…and potato chips are called crisps…..anybody else confused yet?

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