Tag Archives: Favorite

Chowin’ it in Suburbia

Well a lot has happened since my last post. I’ve moved into suburbia with my BF.  We’re living with his parents to enable us to save up some money.  We’d like to be able to travel a bit more as well, something we have not been able to do living in the city.  So I’ve moved away from the city and into the countryside.  Things here aren’t as accessibly easy to come by as they were obviously in the city.  So now when I bake/cook, I have to be certain that I have enough ingredients on hand because it’s not as easy as popping into the shop around the corner.  

It also is beginning to feel a little bit more like England here in suburbia.  It reminds me a lot of Harry Potter’s Aunt and Uncle’s house in Surrey–that’s how the neighborhood looks and feels here.  It’s much more quiet than living in the city.  Noisy packs of foreign students have been replaced with cars driving by.  Instead of church bells tolling, now I hear pigeons.  There’s a whole host of new sounds that I have to get used to here.  I know that eventually I’ll make it out on bus somewhere and on foot to the nearby village.  

It’s been an interesting experience squeezing a whole flat’s worth of stuff into two small rooms, but with help from the loft up above, we’ve managed to do a pretty good job fitting it all in.  

I’ve baked quite a few things since my last post as well.  Here’s one that is a total favorite and might be one that you haven’t made in a while!  It’s not technically something that’s baked, but rather microwaved, and it can easily be done using a microwave.  Some people call it Monkey Chow, Puppy Chow, Human Chow, or Muddy Buddies, whatever you call it, here’s the recipemuddy buddy recipe

Since they don’t make Chex here, this is the closest I could find–

meerkat

The delicious finished product–warning: may cause Monkey Chow addiction!  I find people are often leery of trying it, with a name like Monkey Chow, I can only guess why! 

monkey chow

So on another note, I was on my way to the village of Wimborne today on the bus for the first time ever.  My BF and I usually walk there, but seeing as it’s quite a walk to get there and the fact that I haven’t done it in over a year, I wasn’t about to choose today to be my day to venture out on foot.  Plus, the fact that it looked like it was going to rain wasn’t helping.  So out on my bus adventure it was!  I got into the village just fine, in fact I enjoyed looking around at all of the shops and just having a good look about.  I found the local haberdashery shop (the place where they sell yarn, ribbons, knitting/crochet stuff, buttons, etc…) and I did a bit of shopping.  I felt proud of myself for not getting lost and making good progress exploring everything around the village.  

So when it came to going back home, I figured the process would be just as easy! Oh no it wasn’t!  Little did I know that I was in for an adventure!  I got on the bus, same number and location as the one that brought me to the village.  We’re going along and things are starting to look unfamiliar to me….in fact it’s been about a good 15 minutes and we’re not anywhere near where we should be at this point….I ask the bus driver where we’re going..he says Corfe Mullen…uh, NOT where I need to be going.  Yes, it was the same bus number, but entirely different route!!!  So he drops me off in a town I’ve never been in before, and I wait for a good half hour…I felt like I was in the twilight zone with weird people coming up to me and asking me where I’m going and seeing the same red van go past me three times….  *cue weird music*  I was starting to get cold and worried that this once in a lifetime bus wasn’t going to show up!  FINALLY it did, and I managed to make it home.  I’ve never been so happy to get on a bus in my whole life.  I did however feel relatively calm during my long detour…but it’s not something that I want to repeat any time soon.  

Now I just want to ask–who puts the same bus number on two completely different routes?!  So in my distress after my adventure, I ate some 5 or 6 mini chocolate chip cookies….some people smoke, I eat cookies.

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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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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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