Tag Archives: food

The Christmas season has officially started.

As of today, November 3, the Christmas season has begun. Know why? Starbucks red cups are out! I went straight to Starbucks this morning before work and got a gingerbread latte. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take any excuse to kick off the Christmas season a few weeks early.

That’s actually last year’s. This year we have Praline Mocha rather than Peppermint. Fine by me! Any mocha is a good mocha.

I don’t know what seasonal drinks American Starbucks has, but I’m sure they’re great. Although I’m still excited, I was really disappointed with UK Starbucks  because they STILL haven’t brought back the Dark Cherry Mocha. When I was drinking that drink two years ago I felt true joy with every sip. I had five the first weekend. Then they never brought it back. A story of heartbreak!

Also, completely unrelated, but listen to this song. Wow.

I have never been one to watch many reality shows, and I’ve never in my life watched a full season of American Idol or X Factor, but I’ve been watching American X Factor and some of the people are truly amazing. I love this girl and I think she’ll win it! She’s 14 years old!

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I love Borough Market.

I feel so lucky to be able to go to a place like Borough Market on my lunch break.

Borough Market is a big tourist destination market near London Bridge, but every foodie Londoner I know loves it as well.

It’s a huge market filled with stalls selling everything you can imagine, food related of course! On Thursday I went to the garlic stand and bought my parents a hot garlic pickle (as in British pickle, not pickles). It’s fantastic. I didn’t get many pictures because I spent so long waiting in line to get an iced espresso at one of the shops near the market.

On Friday I went with a friend from work and we thought it would be fun to have a dinner party using some vegetables from Borough Market that we’ve never heard of.

Look at all those tomatoes! I’m not a huge tomato fan, but this colorful display was definitely one of my favorites. I can’t wait to go again this week. I would go more often, but I always forget to take my camera and I can’t stand going there without being able to take tons of pictures.

If you ever come to London be sure to check this market out – there’s something for everyone and it’s a great place to pick up a quick lunch.

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A randomly lovely day in the city

FUN day. I finally met a friend who was willing to go with me to one of the only German restaurants in the city. We went to Katzenjammers by Borough Market (next to London Bridge station) before our late shift at work. I read reviews and heard the food was good but the service was rather bad, which I figured was standard since the London Bridge area is so touristy, and let’s face it, this is England – not known for customer service.

Well, the service was great and the food was even better. I’m not much of a meat eater but I totally wolfed down a big sausage covered in a huge pile of kraut, then polished that off with a pretzel covered in cheese. We went from 2-3 so there were a few people there but it wasn’t packed. Apparently Friday nights are the nights to go because they have live music.

Sorry about blurred photo. It was just so dark by our table and I wasn’t about to take that sausage outside. It was all I could do to take one picture before devouring.

After our amazing German meal we were stuffed, but we still had a ton of time before work. I was really thirsty, so we stopped into an Italian place by work I’ve been wanting to try. As soon as we saw they were actually offering blankets so people could lounge in the sun on the grass we both knew we were going to spend the rest of the hour there. I’d never been into the restaurant but it was beautiful. On every table they have a fresh pot of basil – my favorite herb!

Yep. That’s a huge glass case filled with fresh basil.

We ordered two cocktails named Hugo – prosecco (my fav!) with fresh mint leaves, a lime slice and a bit of fruit syrup to sweeten it up a little. It was so perfect.

Only one of those is mine, although I’d gladly have had two. And yes that book is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Read it now.

Sometimes I love London.

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Cheesecake stuffed strawberries

I had the family over for a big healthy meal this weekend and ended up trying a new, semi-healthy, fun dessert I’ve had my mind on for a while – strawberries stuffed with a cheesecake filling.

As always I had a helper in the kitchen. I think Maria’s going to be quite the chef when she’s older because she wants to help me with everything in the kitchen!

First cut off the strawberry tops. Maria didn’t like any strawberry being wasted so she ate every fruity bite off the scraps and left a huge pile of little green leaves on the cutting board – a true environmentalist!

Scooping out the centers was SO much harder than I thought.  I used a sharp knife and carefully cut out the centers. I can’t tell you how much cream cheese to use because it really depends on how many strawberries you’re making.  I had about 16 so I used roughly 3 tablespoons of plain, full fat cream cheese and then added a teaspoon of sugar, maybe a bit more. You just need to keep trying it until it’s sweet to your liking. To make it more like a cheesecake I crushed two small sugary cookies in the mix.

After you’ve spooned the mix in the strawberries, crush another cookie and dip the tops in so it gets a “crust.”

The army of strawbs.

One of my favorite photos of the day – if this doesn’t tell you how good these strawberries are then I don’t know what will! A stuffed strawberry in each hand and one in her mouth.

Yum!

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Could a ‘fat tax’ help the economy?

Mark Bittman wrote an interesting article for the New York Times this week suggesting that we “turn the tables” on food subsidies and start taxing unhealthful junk foods. The idea is that the taxes would bring millions of dollars into the economy while at the same time reducing America’s staggering health care bill.

“A 20 percent increase in the price of sugary drinks nationally could result in about a 20 percent decrease in consumption, which in the next decade could prevent 1.5 million Americans from becoming obese and 400,000 cases of diabetes, saving about $30 billion.”

Countries like Hungary are already beginning such a program.

Also worth a read is a semi-related article in which the Times takes a look at another study related to what kinds of calories we consume and how not all calories are equal.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because the articles (specifically Bittman’s) really are worth a read, but I’d like to hear what people’s thoughts are on the subject. Personally I think it’s a good idea to help make healthy foods more affordable and to help scale back rising obesity and associated healthcare costs (which are said to reach $344 billion in the next seven years). There really is no good reason why it’s cheaper to buy fruit loops than real fruit.

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Being mean to little kids is funny, and rewarding

You know how people say, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” I don’t like picking on people my own size because they can potentially make me look stupid with witty retorts, and can in almost every case out-violent me if it comes down to that.

This is why picking on a child is ideal. They aren’t smart enough to out wit you, and if they try to hurt you it’s really easy to just knock ’em down. KO in the first round. (Just for the record, that scratch on Maria’s head wasn’t caused by me. Purely coincidental.)

Case in point:

Christmas Eve 2010. Maria, age 4. Evil plate at dinner, full of … food. Tears and tears abound.

Sorry for the blurred picture. I was laughing pretty heartily.

She was “too full” to finish her corn. Adrian said, “OK then, would you like dessert?”

Maria stopped crying, looked up hopefully and said “Yes, please!”

Adrian: “You’re obviously not full then. Finish your corn.”

WAAAAAGHGHHH!!!!

I couldn’t stop laughing.

Her mum said she couldn’t have any Christmas presents if she didn’t finish the corn, so this left Maria in a bit of a pickle. She could eat the corn and let us win, or she could “win” and not eat the corn, but then she wouldn’t get any presents.

After another ten minutes or so of crying and whining Adrian and I, the evil couple that we are, thought it would be hilarious to pretend to let her win. We’d say, “OK, it’s Christmastime. In the morning you can open your presents.” The next morning she’d open the beautifully wrapped box, eyes wide with excitement, and find nothing but the leftover plate of corn sitting inside. Oh, the look of her shattered heart right before she’d burst into tears would be priceless.

We didn’t do it, though. Her mum thought it would be too mean although she laughed at the thought as well.

Her mum refrigerated the corn because Maria agreed to eat it the next morning, and she did with no complaints. She was really good and ended up opening all her presents and parading around in her princess dresses.

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Adrian learns to cook – Part I

Wednesday was day one of Adrian’s cooking challenge. He was brave and chose an asparagus parmesan risotto for his first dish. He even made it properly – he cooked it with the onion, garlic and white wine, and he blanched the asparagus! I never bother with any of that, so my risottos aren’t the greatest. Also, I’ve never blanched a vegetable in my entire life.

The first night he sounded like Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. It was F this and F that.

But it all came together perfectly in the end. Really excellent.

This definitely convinced me it’s worth taking the time to prepare a proper risotto.

Simple.

On night #2 he made carrot and chickpea burgers.

These were great because you know I always love a good veggie burger. Only problem was this:

I forgave him this time because it was only his second night cooking so he hasn’t mastered the art of simultaneous cooking + washing. He’s doing such a good job that I can’t wait to see what else he has in store! In fact, I plan on recreating his risotto for my lunch at work next week. 🙂

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Dinner date

I’m simply going to post these photos because it’s FRIDAY and I’m off to see Beginners. It looks so good!

Before my pub quiz I met Adrian for dinner at Old Street and we went to a cute little Mediterranean café. The food was pretty good, but the main highlight was the Turkish coffee we tried. Neither of us had ever had it, but it was great! Apparently they mix the sugar in while they are making it or something. Whatever they do, it’s good. Try some.

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Adrian’s cooking challenge

Recently we’ve begun taking 30 day challenges because the theory is that if you can make it a month there is a much higher chance you’ll develop a habit out of the change versus trying to change randomly with no end in sight. Hence the reason why New Year’s resolutions never work.

Adrian’s second challenge is to learn to cook. He’s going to take over all the meal planning, shopping and cooking for 30 days straight. What will I do with my spare time?? I see a lot of kicking back and playing video games 🙂

You should have seen his face last night as he was trying to gather recipes, figure out what ingredients we already have and what he needs to order.

I gave him only two stipulations. 1) Most of the meals have to be plant-based, and as little dairy as possible. 2) Any dairy has to be organic where possible.

He found lots of delicious looking vegetable-friendly meals that I’m excited to try, like an asparagus risotto he found on Jamie Oliver’s site. I was also proud to see two meals on his plan that said “that strawberry pasta thing Sara made last week” and “that breakfast Sara made Sunday.”

He got a bit of a rebel streak and refused to buy organic dairy, so I wasn’t too pleased about that. All in all, though, I think it’s going to be a successful month and I’m happy he’s taken on this challenge! With any luck he’ll learn to love cooking and we can fulfill my dream of being like the Neelys!

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Boys will be boys? Part 2.

After Adrian finished cleaning the bathroom I noticed the toilet gloves on the table. Then later in the evening I went into the bathroom and noticed this. 🙂 Poor Adrian. He actually did spend a long time cleaning the bathroom. I’m not sure really what he was doing in there all that time, but I gave him credit for the effort. He asked that I mention he at least put the toilet gloves on his side of the table, and he does know it’s gross but he wasn’t paying attention because he was just “living life.”

In other news:

I’m being a big whiny butt, sitting on the couch with my arms crossed. I’m sad today:

I’m so tired of wearing a jacket every. single. day.  BOO HOO. Call the waaaaambulance …

Maybe some more of this will cheer me up?

I almost didn’t get a picture because my hand was on its way to deliver this straight to my mouth while I was snapping the pic

It’s strawberry basil pesto sauce over wheat pasta, a recipe I got from Daily Garnish, by Emily Malone. Her recipes are fantastic! I’ve also made her cornbread and broccoli cheese soup and polished both asap.

This recipe is basically just fresh strawberries blended with lots of fresh basil, sliced almonds, olive oil and lemon juice. You pour the mixture over whole wheat pasta, and top it with diced cucumbers, more strawbs and more basil! Definitely check out her recipe for full instructions because it’s super healthy, easy and totally worth making.

And how can this not help one forget it’s horrid outside?

I had to go buy two new basil plants because I completely killed the one I had. It’s death was a long time coming, though. I put basil in everything!

Look how pretty they are! (Except my dead plant. Kinda hoping he’ll regenerate, but not too hopeful)

After dinner I made Adrian’s favorite blueberry Greek yogurt pot.

Now it’s off to see Harry Potter 7 part 2 again!

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Eat This, Not That!

I found an article the other day on the worst foods in America (from restaurants). Some of them were surprising – but not for the reason you might think. I wasn’t surprised by the food, only by the super-sized calorie count. I knew they’d be high, but I didn’t expect some of the meals to reach nearly 3,000 calories.

I don’t really get why the Eat This, Not That books exist. I’ve looked through a few of these and they’re all common sense. All I have to say is that if you are ordering something called a “Baconator” and you honestly don’t know it’s unhealthy, you’re probably too far gone to save. Even if you follow the cover’s splendid advice and swap your Whopper with cheese to a Big Mac, you’re still going to be fat. You may be 30 pounds lighter, but you’ll still be fat.

I could go into a deep discussion about the failings of society to properly educate people, but I’m not going to bother because at some point the consumer has to stop blaming and take responsibility.  Most people aren’t too poor or too stupid to cook a healthful meal. I’m not criticizing people who are overweight. I don’t care what you weigh. I’m criticizing all the people who continually buy books like these simply for a quick fix, rather than actually putting effort into creating a lasting lifestyle change.

When I worked at Books-A-Million we made an Eat This, Not That book, except we drew things like staplers (Eat This) and discount cards (Not That!). I liked that book.

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Come dine with me

In England  there is a reality show called Come Dine With Me, where four contestants each host and cook a dinner and rate each other afterward in hopes of getting the most points and winning a small monetary prize.

They usually pick slightly crazy people who appear in some cases to have never cooked before, so every time I watch it I’m thinking, “Why am I not on this show?? I could do so much better!”

I’m lucky enough to work with people who like to cook and eat as much as I do, so recently we’ve decided to  start having dinners for each other although we don’t hold up a scorecard and rate the food at the end. 🙂

Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of mine a couple months ago, but I have some pictures to share from Saturday night’s meal, which was wonderful of course!

Manuela, the newbie at work, jumped right in and invited a couple of us over for a meal.

All the photos are courtesy of the fabulous Chris Benedict’s iPhone since I forgot my camera.

The menu she sent us:

– Bacon and leek filo parcels with salad
– Pollo alla cacciatora — proper Italian style (chicken with tomato sauce, green olives and peppers, no anchovies)
– Pavlova

I loved all her glass jars filled with pastas. I can’t wait until we get settled somewhere so I can buy things like this. I have tons of pastas and grains floating around in my cabinets begging for a cute glass home like this!

And here’s our lovely chef!

I look like some kind of frazzled drunk in this picture. Also, that thing sticking out of my head isn’t actually on my head. It was something on the wall.

I was so impressed with all the food, but extra impressed with the dessert because I’m not a dessert maker, and meringues always sounded like something impossibly hard to make.

It’s fun to be around people who like to cook, although being in the kitchen with Adrian is so funny sometimes that I’m going to record him cooking and put it on YouTube soon. Food and curse words fly all over the kitchen, a place where Adrian says everything goes wrong.

One time I told him I just needed him to chop a red onion and I’d be right back. He chopped the onion, but didn’t peel it properly. He said, “How can you f*&^ing tell? It’s all the same color.”

Another time I had him help out with a stir fry. When I went in the kitchen I asked why there were noodles stuck all over the wall by the stove. He said because he was shaking it in the pan to mix it up like chefs do and some fell out.

I have plans to teach him how to cook burritos with refried beans tonight …

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iPizza

Adrian got a new friend this week.

Every day since then he’s asked me if I’d played around with it yet. No. I just can’t get too excited about it! It’s cool, but I don’t have a burning desire for it so I kind of forget it’s there. I’m sure I won’t be saying that when I go home this summer because it seems like the perfect 9-hour flight companion!

I also had some fun in the kitchen. When I was younger I used to love going to Pampered Chef parties because they’d always have free food. For some reason I went a couple that had cool veggie pizzas and I absolutely loved them because they’re so good, light and refreshing. I’ve never made one myself until this weekend and I’m so glad I did. I always thought it seemed complicated, but I didn’t even need a recipe! I’ve already made two.

Eventually I’ll make my own pizza base, but for now I used the one you bake for 10 minutes and it’s ready. I mixed a heaping tablespoon of mayo with about 3/4 cup of cream cheese. Brits aren’t too big on Ranch, which I knew was generally a key ingredient in this mix. I Googled a recipe for Ranch seasoning, hoping it was something I could make myself and turns out it’s dead easy. Just a few shakes of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley, dill, salt and pepper. I have to admit I did a little jump of excitement when I tasted it.

I shredded a large carrot, sliced about 4 green onions and diced 1/4 of a medium cucumber. In all It made a little more than a cup of vegetables to spread on top. I had also bought fresh broccoli for the occasion, but I didn’t remember it until I was eating. To be honest I think I’d just skip the broccoli next time. Why mess with what’s perfect?

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I definitely take after my dad.

My mom sent me two pictures this morning that cemented the fact that I take after my dad.

My mom’s packed lunch:

My dad’s packed lunch:

I don’t get people. You’re at work at least 8 hours a day – in what world does that warrant only one meal?  I guess I’m jealous! Packing and carrying all that food is a burden, and I always have to be thinking about where my next meal is coming from because I get so hungry. Unfortunately I can’t find the picture I took of one of my packed lunches, but it doesn’t matter because you can just imagine something similar in size to my dad’s lunch.

I feel happy when I meet other people like me because they understand the hunger. The hunger is one reason why I don’t like to hang out with large groups of people. You could be stuck for hours with the hunger while you’re waiting on everyone in the group to get hungry enough to eat, and then you have to wait even longer for them to come to a group decision about where to eat. When Adrian’s friends had a camping trip for three full days a couple months ago that honestly was one reason why I didn’t want to go. The thought of having all my meals for three days planned around a group decision sounded simply awful. I knew thoughts of eating would consume me, and I’d be nervous the whole day about how long I was going to be waiting. If it were up to me I’d have just gone to get food whenever I pleased, but for some reason Adrian felt this would be rude.

Adrian doesn’t understand the hunger. He just says, “I get hungry too.” If he actually understood like he thinks he does, he wouldn’t skip breakfast every day and then have a pitiful little sandwich from Pret for lunch, and then not eat again until dinner time. Any time I eat a sandwich from Pret I’m hungry again in exactly an hour. Skipping breakfast? Not an option. As soon as I wake up I’m absolutely starving to the point where my stomach hurts. If I do decide to not eat at the house and get something at work, by the time I get there I have a headache from not eating all night, and I feel so sick I want to throw up (which I think is weird, because there’s nothing in there).

I would feel like a freak, but I’ve met a number of people like me so it must be kind of normal.

I’m certain I’ve written about this before, but I don’t know where that post is and I don’t really care. Some topics are important enough that they need discussing again. And this is my blog and I can do what I want *snap* *snap*!

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A lovely English pub lunch

Every English person has a local pub it seems, so we were excited when we finally found ours a few weeks ago. The Wimbledon area is generally very nice so we are lucky to have a good selection of quality pubs around, but The Wandle (named after the local river) in Earlsfield tops them all. The food is wonderful, the pub is beautiful and has a nice garden out back with plenty of flowers, tables and a BBQ for the weekends, and you don’t have to worry about any rowdy clientele spilling beer on you because they got too excited about a potential football goal.

Essentially, this place is as close to perfect as a pub can get so naturally we came here for a big meal on our 2nd anniversary.

Because it was so nice we decided to sit out back in the garden.

Adrian was having a hard time with the 80 degree heat. I felt bad for him, but I said now he knows how terrible I feel when the weather is cold! Cold weather is so painful for me because I have poor circulation in my hands and feet, so I never complain about being too hot.

The giant flying ants came out of nowhere this weekend, so although it wasn’t fun to be attacked by them it was amusing to watch other people be attacked.

I especially love how they print new food menus for the day. I went with the Sunday veggie roast, which was a cashew and mushroom wellington, and Adrian had a burger with stilton and bacon.

I must say I’m not generally a fan of cheeses like stilton, but this was exceptional. I kept stealing bits of cheese the fell off his burger!

Mine came with a giant Yorkshire pudding. The cashew and mushroom wellington was set on top of squash and fresh green green beans. On the side was cauliflower with what I think was a gorgonzola light cheese sauce. The gravy was excellent as well because it was also really light. I don’t know if gravy can be described as refreshing, but it was. Even though it was a hot day I polished my plate!

I know I should have gotten better pictures, but I really couldn’t wait to eat this.

After the meal we went inside to cool off a bit.

I loved the old suitcase table they had at the corner couch by the antique chairs.

Then it was off to Strawberry Hill!

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