Rain rain, go away!

Ugh, it’s an unpleasantly rainy day here in England today–cold and rainy, the kind that makes you want to stay inside all day.  We haven’t had good weather or a spot of sunshine in some two weeks here.  I’m dreaming of a Spanish villa somewhere in the sunshine….I’m tired of being cold.  I’m also starting to wonder how people do indeed put up with the weather on this island for so long!  I can see why sitting inside drinking tea and making up for the weather’s miserable existence by eating tons of cakes and cookies is the norm here.  

Although I must say, despite the gloomy weather today, three things excite me: one, it’s FRIDAY, always a good thing even when you’re not working, two, I FINALLY managed to find some polenta at the grocery store, something I’ve been trying to find for a while now (I’ve been wanting to make this: Sweet Breakfast Polenta), and thirdly, I just received a gift from Coldplay in my inbox: a free download of a live album they put together just for their fans!  Sweet!  

Oh and I went to the Dorchester Market during the week and scored some greatness as usual!  I came home with a weaving loom for only £1, a way cool ring made out of sea shell, and some dried fruit for a cake for really cheap.  I’d never taken a train by myself before even though I’ve been living here for over a year now, and it was my first adventure on the rails!  Thankfully it was uneventful and I made it home without any transportation mishaps.  Oh, and I also bought some rhubarb since it’s now in season, and made this for tea the other day:  Sour Cream Rhubarb Squares. They were indeed deliciously moist with a faint hint of rhubarb.  I made some in a muffin tin and the rest of it I made in a loaf tin and froze for later.  

Tomorrow night for dinner I’m trying my hand at Apricot Pork Chops with Jersey Royal potatoes and I’m making my first ever Shoo-fly Pie!  I bought a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook ages ago at my local library and came across the recipe today, so I’m going to make it.  It will also be my first time making a pie or even working with molasses!  So here we go!  Wish me luck!  

Brrr!!! I’m really cold right now!  I think I’m going to make a tea loaf now…my new thing is to make baked goods and then freeze them for later use/enjoyment.  With only three of us in the house, it’s kind of hard to eat everything up within the week, even though believe me, I’m trying my best!  So by freezing it, it lasts longer and we can have things available for tea in only a couple of hour’s notice.

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The oven’s back in town!

Well I’m glad to report that the oven is back in action!  Yes!  So naturally, I’ve been hoarding a couple of recipes over the past week that involve the use of an oven.  So on Saturday, I was in the kitchen for a good part of the day.  I made a gluten free chocolate cake, some deliciously rich chocolate cookies, and even tried my hand at roasting chickpeas for a crunchy snack.  

It was indeed topped off as a food filled weekend when I went to the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival with my BF’s mom.  Oh it was a glorious couple of hours filled with tasting different kinds of olives, to munching on strawberries from France, and yes, even speaking French with the vendors!  I guess I still remember some French after all! Ha ha.  There was so much to take in and see and do and eat!  I bought some locally made biscotti from the New Forest, Italian corn and rice couscous, French forest honey, dried apples covered in cinnamon, Italian cookies, and a German sausage for my lunch!  My BF’s mom bought lots of goodies too for all of us to try–green olives stuffed with lemon, pâté, Italian cheese, and even a calzone.  It’s the season for asparagus and rhubarb right now, so we picked up a bunch of asparagus for some soup for tomorrow night’s dinner.  Tonight’s dinner will be some Sicilian stuffed rice balls and a ham and cheese calzone with a salad.  My BF’s mom grows various salad greens in her garden out back, so we’ll be picking our own salad for dinner.  You can’t get any fresher or more local than that!  Delicious!

There is something so inspiring and engaging about going to food festivals/markets like these.  I like seeing some fresh produce or fish and then thinking of a great meal to make with them.  I like meeting the people that are the faces behind the product and knowing that I’m supporting the local guys.   

Here’s some pictures I took at the market/festival with my mobile camera phone:

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No oven, no name

Well even though yesterday was a glorious day that prompted inspiration, today is far from it.  It’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s grey outside…I have done a variety of activities as I normally do on any given day which include some watching Ina Garten, Rachel Allen, or Ching’s Kitchen on the UKTV Food channel, crocheting/doing some sort of yarn craft, and making sure that I’m keeping up on reading all those lovely and amazing food blogs out there.  However, as a result, I have what feels like billions of recipes I want to try and the list is ever growing.  I feel like sometimes I think too much about food, but then again, to me, it’s an important part of my life and it always will be.  I would also like for fashion to be a part of my life too, but that’ll have to come with time and money.  Cooking and baking on the other hand, are much more accessible to me right now.  

Before I forget, there’s a lovely recipe I’d like to share with you all–Elise’s (of Simply Recipes) deliciously easy banana bread, yes, I know there’s so many banana recipes out there, but I find this one to be one of the easiest ones I’ve found yet, and tasty too I might add.  You can find her wonderful website here: Simply Recipes No kidding folks, EVERY single recipe of hers I have tried has been fantastic and always finds its way to my archives.  Ok, here’s the recipe, and yes, I’m adding it to my yummy files!

Banana Bread Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

METHOD

No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

I’d make some more of this bread, or any sort of baked good for that matter, if I could–but our oven is on the blink!  We think the heating element may have gone…..so it’ll be a good couple of days until the new part can come in and get that oven on its way!  Alas, I am resorted to having to think of non-oven using baked goods…Hmmm….a little tricky.  I might make something like peanut brittle or chocolate creme pots for dessert this evening.  Does anyone else have good ideas for easy treats made on the stove top??  I’d love to hear your recipes–just share them by posting a comment!     

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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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