Thursday, 1 December 2011

Light and Love

Many people have asked why it is that I stopped writing and disappeared from the blogosphere for so many months.  My first answer was that things had ceased to make me happy so I simply had nothing to write about. 

Life has changed drastically, many times over, since last I posted and while this statement was honest, it was too simple.  Rather, I seem to have lost my way and instead of subjecting you to all the gory details, I will instead talk about the international network of family and friends that helped me back to where I now stand.

I don’t think we ever realize how truly blessed we are by these networks of love and light until whatever crisis we are dealing with is so big that we cease to give anything back.  Instead, it becomes a one-way relationship of unending support, met by the same bleak, negative, pit of despair response.  Far from self-pitying, it is simply that hard to see past the darkness sometimes.  But coming out on the other side of it and realizing that it was those who love you most that kept you going, regardless of what you couldn’t give them at the time, is truly humbling and inspiring.

So instead of describing my woes and the harrowing adventures that brought me here, I would like to thank my family and friends for their endless support and say to you, that it is because of your love and belief in me that I can once again begin to stand on my own and believe in myself.

In short, I am back, no, I have arrived at a new beginning; not because of what I experienced but because of the people who helped me through it. 

Thank you.  I cannot think of a better way to kick off the Christmas season than to acknowledge that I would not be the same without you.

Merry Christmas

~ Let your faith be bigger than your fear; faith in yourself, faith in the unknown, and faith in others.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Things I Should Not Have Done

Cooking is for once, among the ill fated categories of things better left alone; specifically cajun cooking.  I can cook a basic étouffée, crab cakes, and the best beignets you've ever had but mention the word cajun and expect 'chargrilled' instead of 'blackened' and 'roof-of-your mouth burning' instead of 'mouth watering.'
What my 'cajun blackened, trout po-boy,' should have looked like...
We all have that one thing we just cannot cook or bake and sadly I attempted mine this past evening.  What started out as an attempt to throw proverbial caution to the wind and master my food nemesis, ended up a, for once not chargrilled, but overly salted and peppered, fried trout mess.  Being my stubborn self, I ate it anyway as it was not completely inedible and jubilantly ran it all off this morning.
What it more closely resembled.
I bring this to light, not as an adventure or inspirational feature but as the comical musings of a sleep deprived grad student, obviously just close enough to the edge of crazy to cook something that I know will end up looking like the charcoal it was supposed to be grilled over.

I think i'll leave the cajun food to the experts and happily wander back to my soups, salads, non-blackened main dishes, and of course, baking : )

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The 'Best,' Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever

A recent trend I have noticed is that everyone seems to be posting about their discovery of the absolute best chocolate chip cookie recipe they have ever come across.  Now for those who think that the oven is just another out-of-season, sweater storage device (don't laugh, i've seen it!) this is nothing even remotely earth shattering but for those of us who number among the baking obsessed, it's downright frustrating.
I discovered my ultimate chocolate chip recipe and posted it here, last Autumn.  I have seen two more come up in just the last week here and here.  Fortunately, I have another get-together coming up this weekend so I think i'll give the less complicated one a try and we'll see who's cookie comes out on top (yes, I admit to my laziness but blame it on Summer ; ).
I'm sure there are many more of you out there with 'ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipes,' to share so please post yours as well!
Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies?  This would have never
occurred to me but apparently some people love them!
Happy Wednesday everyone!  It's been a crazy week thus far and we're only half-way there but at least I will have plenty of stories to tell when it's over.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Things I Did Not Do Yesterday

Yesterday I did not do an amazing amount of work on my dissertation so that a magical, fully outlined copy is now resting on the desk in front of me....ahem...
One framboise and one pistache macaron from
Paul's Bakery
Instead, I recovered from my bout of under-the-weatherness with my favorite macarons from Paul (only had one because they are huge!  Perhaps i'll switch to Laduree next time), a breakfast pizza for dinner, and a bottle of wine from my absolute favorite region of France, Burgundy.
Attempt number two at this recipe.  I know some people might
be grossed out by the eggs but don't let the addition fool you.
I had this for the first time in Italy and I thought it was going
to be gross as well but it's absolute heaven when you get it right!
It was a strange sort of combination for a strange sort of day but overall it was heaven with a mix of things I have either been meaning to make again or just plain missed.
I don't normally post about wine
or alcohol but it is so hard to find
a good burgundy outside of France
and I missed it so much that I finally
went looking for one.
I hope everyone is having a good week thus far and looking forward to Friday!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Mexican Food in England

The answer to this is that there is precious little, at least as far as my tex-mex taste buds are concerned.  You can imagine my trepidation then when I was overtaken by a sudden craving for Mexican food during a late afternoon review session yesterday with only the knowledge of a Cantina Laredo, the Texas Embassy, and a Chipotle, all fairly far from my location.

I probably looked quite odd searching for Mexican takeaway on my laptop whilst revising but after a bit of research courtesy of Google, I found quite a few fast food places nearby and settled on one promisingly named Mas Burritos.

Venturing to the restaurant, I obtained a burrito massive enough to feed a small army.  It was incredibly tasty and I am glad to say that my estimation of London's Mexican food is much improved.

As an additional plus, I will have left over burrito for quite a while!

Happy Wednesday everyone, we're halfway there!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Baking Insanity

This message will be brief as it is already 2:30 am (running a little late ; P ) and I am typing with one hand, given a very ungainly spill in the park this morning while running that has left me annoyingly slower than usual.
Regardless of my lack of normal speed, today's multitasking has finally finished, albeit later than originally planned.  All in all, I have tackled a new raspberry scone recipe (I added the raspberries in but you can use pretty much any fruit you want) and sugar cookie recipe, followed by a hopefully successful frosting recipe tomorrow morning.
Here's to a bit of sleep and a lovely day, celebrating the royal wedding with a good dose of my baking insanity thrown in for good measure.
Ps. The caramel shortbread bars turned out great!  The most helpful comments were the ones that suggested letting the chocolate cool before pouring it onto the colder caramel and bringing them up to room temperature before cutting them.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Caramel Chocolate Shotbread

Tonight I am starting on this classic recipe for a British treat to be served at the royal wedding (I cringe to say that) party on Friday.  It's an easy but quite long process so though I am not looking forward to it terribly much, they should be incredibly tasty when they're done and perfect for Friday!
Tomorrow will be more late night baking so that I can take full advantage of sleeping in on Friday.  I'll keep you posted on my delicious insanity; wish me luck!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Macarons, Cupcakes, and Holidays!

As any of my close friends can tell you, I absolutely love holidays and the next one is always my favorite.  In just a few weeks I'll get extra lucky with Easter and the Royal Wedding both in the same week!  Now a lot of people don't think much of the wedding but for me it's another excuse to entertain and try out new recipes.

These arrived today and are perfect for the coming festivities.  Ever since I ordered the cookie cutters, i've been contemplating festive sugar cookies and royal icing as seen here on Cupcakes and Cashmere.  I still have so much work to do before then but I know i'll spend the next week sifting through these books and drawing up lists of finger food, creative desserts, and traditional English sweets in my head for both occasions.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to chime in!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Tomato, Mushroom, and Sausage Pasta

Ok, so this isn't exactly what was in my pasta recipe but I loved the picture so much that I couldn't resist using it.  If only my presentation was that neat on a regular basis!

As I procrastinated this morning by watching "Under the Tuscan Sun," I realized that perhaps I have a slight Italian addiction of late.  Maybe it is the good weather or perhaps my time in Italy left me more homesick than my time in France, which would surprise even me.  These are my top two favorite countries; i've lived in both and cannot get enough of either but in hindsight, I think Italy might be pulling ahead.  Yesterday I watched "Letters to Juliet," a cute movie that takes place in Verona, today was "Under the Tuscan Sun," shot not far from my village, and when I think about it, three out of my four go to movies these days are Italian.

The recipe I promised above is more of the same, I seem to be in love with pastas reminiscent of those I cooked up in Italy on warm evenings with all the doors and windows open.

So, going with my Italian theme, tonight I put some tagliatelle on while I chopped up vegan sausage (it tastes like real sausage!), tomatoes, and baby portobello mushrooms, sauteed them in a bit of oil, and then added a small container of soya coffee creamer, and seasoned it with pepper, garlic, salt, and oregano before I threw in the pasta.
Pasta in a cream sauce with mushrooms at a restaurant
in Viterbo.
I know the coffee creamer might sound strange but if you're looking for an easy vegan pasta sauce that is not tomato based, all you need is a bit of soy, liquid coffee creamer as a base and it will soak up the light flavor of the mushrooms or whatever you want to add.  The creamer is my substitute for the Italian Panna Cotta which is a thick cream that starts out flavorless and develops a light, alfredo taste as it simmers but you can flavor it anyway you wish.  The spices I used, come from the standard seasonings of the part of Italy in which I lived.  The rules were simple- you never had enough salt or pepper, garlic couldn't hurt, and the light cream base is traditionally served in any seafood or mushroom dish.  As I am vegan, this is probably the closest to seafood I will get but it definitely took me back to risotto and penne al mare.

Try it out and don't be afraid to play with the flavors!  I love pasta because it is so easy to throw anything in and create a new dish and if you use whole wheat pasta, it is actually really healthy.
Pasta with a bag of frozen vegetables and some bread
and olive oil with red wine vinegar; so easy!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sweet and Sour Mushroom Pasta

I have been hooked on avocado and tomato sandwiches for the past week and a-half so I officially banned myself from them this week in an effort to branch out and explore all the other wonderful dishes out there.  I discovered this super easy sweet and sour sauce recipe while teaching at a Boy Scout  camp a few summers ago and it's never failed.  Most if not all of the cooking supplies you need are probably already in your kitchen and if it doesn't taste right, you just add more of whatever tastes like its missing.
After you make the sauce, add in whatever kind of pasta and fillings you prefer.  I used mushrooms and stir fry vegetables, sauteed in sweet and sour sauce, then stirred into the pasta but the traditional chicken and rice work just as well.  
 Ps.  Don't worry about the MSG in the recipe; i've never used it and the sauce tastes great!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Cookies reheated and reused!

For all of my fellow chocolate lovers, here are two recipes discovered by chance and now used regularly to fulfill even the biggest enthusiast's needs while easily covering dessert for a dinner party.  The top photo is of cookies made from half a batch of thawed thin mint patties that I ran out of chocolate to cover and so slipped into the freezer for another day.  It occurred to me on a particularly non-descript day that these had been sitting in the freezer for over a week and needed to be used soon.  On my way home I picked up a package of Oreos (surprisingly vegan!), some baking dark chocolate chips, drizzled the thin mint patties with melted chocolate, crushed Oreos, re-drizzled some leftover chocolate, and the Oreo Chocolate Truffle was born!  It sounds much more impressive when told like that, than the mere fifteen minutes it actually cost me but the product was simple, gratifying, and served well with the unexpected company that week.

The second recipe is one I have had for over a year but seldom used.  So when I suddenly decided to cook dinner for friends tonight and hurriedly rushed through my database of desserts, this was the easiest thing to whip up on short notice, using mostly ingredients I already possessed.  Usually this one turns out perfectly but tonight, it ended in a chocolate-pecan like soup, surrounded by a well baked crust.  Whether it was the humidity, the egg replacer I used, or not enough corn syrup, the dessert turned out great anyway when we poured the servings into individual bowls and mashed it up a bit into a chocolaty, pecan crumble.  Turns out the filling is so good on its own that you really can't do too much to mess it up; soup or not I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The "Mean Reds"

As Audrey Hepburn a la Holly Golightly once put it, some days you get so low that the blues are replaced with the reds and all you can do is go to Tiffany's.  Since I don't have time for a visit to Tiffany's, my solution is a bottle of brilliantly colored nail polish, my new favorite candle, and a good edition of Vogue.  It's easy to get swept up in the everyday pressures of life, school, and the social world but as a few of my friends at Stiletto for Beginners and La Rue Neuve have recently written, it's all about perspective and trying to stay positive.  Here's to today not being Monday, being one day closer to St. Patrick's Day, an endless supply of coffee, bottles of bright red nail polish, and of course, to Tiffany's.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Veganism Continued

Happy Friday!  My foray into the vegan diet has gone well thus far and I am excited to continue my exploration throughout the weekend.  I'll save you the run down on exactly what i've been eating but here are a few of my favorite recipes and ones I intend to try, vegan style, over the weekend.  See you on Monday!

My new favorite Grilled avocado, tomato, and basil sandwich: 7 Grain bread, tomato, avocado, fresh basil, and a bit of thyme, garlic, and pepper, with a drizzling of olive oil.

Pancake recipe from the Repressed Pastry Chef.  You can substitue soy milk for buttermilk (even substituting regular milk tastes fine in place of buttermilk), maple syrup instead of sugar, and bananas (1 mashed to one egg).

Instead of buying Oreos (vegan!) I decided to be adventurous and make this homemade Thin Mint recipe from the blog Baking Bites.  Unfortunately you can't substitute with maple syrup for this one, you'll have to stick to granulated sugar, but you can still substitute the eggs with bananas, the butter with margarine, the milk with soy, and as long as the chocolate is 60% or above, it should be vegan friendly.  If the consistency is too thin because of the margarine substitution, add more cornstarch to thicken the batter without changing the flavor.  Good luck and happy baking!

Ps. Most of these recipes call for white
flour and since it is not strictly anti-
vegan, I am going to use up the massive
amount I have left before trying more
pro-vegan alternatives.  If you are
looking to try an alternative however,
I have been recommended whole wheat
pastry flour in a smaller quantity than
white flour.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Vegan Update #1

Refried Bean and avocado quesadilla; my new favorite!
(This one includes soy cheese, which I have not had time
to explore yet.  If you do not feel like experimenting, the
dish will taste fine cheese free)
I have officially been vegan for two days now and thus far all is well!  Tomorrow will be my first distance run on this diet so we will see how my energy holds up.

As for what I have been eating the past two days, I will give you a short run down.
Monday: Breakfast: 7 grain toast with honey and a banana, Lunch: cous cous with lentils and grilled red peppers, Snack: Soy peppermint mocha from Starbucks, 1/2 piece 7 grain bread and tomato and olive hummus, mixed nuts with raisins, Dinner: Refried bean, salsa, and fresh basil quesadilla.
Tuesday: Breakfast: 7 grain toast with honey and a banana, Lunch: Peanut butter sandwich (the avocados for today weren't ripe yet), Snack: Soy peppermint mocha from Starbucks, large raw fruit, nut, and oat Nakd bar, Dinner: Refried bean, 1/2 avocado, salsa, and fresh basil quesadilla, radishes and tomato and olive hummus.

Throughout the past two days I have stayed full and energized.  I have yet to miss any of the foods I gave up and I can't believe that I can eat so much and still be well under my normal calorie count.  Respectively I don't need to eat as much because I always feel full!

Everyone has been very supportive and I have received both tons of recipes and some strange misconceptions about Veganism.  Fact: many vegans consider honey to be outside the vegan regimen, as well as anything sealed with tallow, beeswax, or made with gelatin, as those are derived from animal byproducts in minimal amounts.  This is however open to personal interpretation.  Things people reported as vegan but actually aren't: black coffee and processed food.  I have also been finishing the Veganist by Kathy Freston and though I do not share her adamant stand on cruelty to animals or religious reasons for Veganism, I have found all of the aspects important to vegansim fascinating and informative.

There are so many things to take in and so much to discuss.  Leave your thoughts and comments and I will keep you posted on my progress!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Free Form Banana Chocolate Chip Cappuccino Muffins (Phew!)

Today was filled with some pretty big issues needing to be tackled so to unwind I did my usual and baked.  It is amazing how far a good glass of wine and some kitchen time will go.  The Repressed Pastry Chef has a banana chocolate chip cappuccino muffin recipe I have been dying to try and luckily I had most of the ingredients at home.  The 'free form,' bit is because I did not have a muffin tin.  If this happens, you can double up on the paper muffin cups and place them close together for baking.  They will take a few more minutes though as the bottoms take longer to bake when they are that close together.  Regardless, they turned out perfectly and as any good recipe, are even better the next day!

Red wine, my apron, some cocoa powder,
and of course, Vogue; the perfect recipe
for de-stressing.

The final product: free form muffins!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


Couscous is my new foodie obsession.  It is a basic dish that operates a lot like risotto in that you should be able to throw whatever you have in the pantry in with the mix for a quick meal when surprised by lunch or dinner guests.  Be that as it may, I was dully daunted by this strange grain until I finally tackled my fear today.  With some rehydrated raisins, chickpeas, caramelized onion chutney, french dressing, and a little cinnamon and ginger, I single-handedly crafted a dish I could have with this evening's salmon or cold for lunch tomorrow.  There are so many creative ideas out there; I can't wait to see what works next time!

Check out the recipes on this Yahoo search engine I stumbled across while creating my own concoction.  The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Recipes; Tried and True

I started sifting through all of my old recipes again today in an effort to find some good winter-to-spring transition pieces that would be lighter but still warm enough for when i've come from outside and I can't feel my fingers.  Here are a few easy recipes that I frantically pulled off the internet in a last minute search years ago and have served me well ever since.

This Roasted Roma Tomato recipe is from
The Repressed Pastry Chef and as usual for this blog, is a
flawless  recipe, a classic appetizer, and great for bruschetta.
Ps. Don't add the feta until the last minute or
the parsley will turn it green!

A super easy Coconut Chicken Curry
from a Thai recipe site.  While it
takes a lot of ginger and curry to
add enough flavor, be careful not to
overpower the coconut milk.

This Carrot Apple Cake is possibly
one of the strangest and most
requested cakes I have ever made.
It is very much a 'leftovers,' friendly cake
as it uses ingredients you likely already
 have at home and need to use up.
You can also be deliciously lazy and
skip the double layer bit by pouring it all
into a 13x9 pan, though it will be more dense.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Adventures In Candy Land

Recently I whipped up this batch of caramels as a birthday/house-guest gift for a weekend trip.  'Whipped up,' makes it sound like a much easier process than it turned out to be.  I used Mark Bitman's recipe, as seen on Cupcakes and Cashmere in the hopes of an easy batch of homemade candies.  Clearly this was my first time dealing with candy making as I ended up resorting to sewing scissors to cut the caramel and only after several reheatings.  -When they're specific about a temperature in candy making, guesstimating just doesn't cut it.-  Needless to say, the results were gratifyingly tasty and I have now tackled the field of candy.  For the time being however, I think i'll leave that field largely unexplored and stick to my trusty chocolate chip cookies ; )

The finished product!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Martha Was Right

Recently I got the craving for a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Always in search of the prefect cookie, I skimmed through my recipes before I finally caved and tried this Martha Stewart recipe.  She may be a polarizing character but she's one of the best at food, entertaining, and DIY for a reason.  I do believe that these may be the best chocolate chip cookies i've ever had and will be amazed if I find a recipe that tops them.  The recipe is easy enough, just make sure you read the user comments about the salt before you start.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hello and Welcome!

Hello to everyone that happens this way.  Inspired by my friends and fellow bloggers, I recently started my own blog and am in the process of filling it with my favorite things, recent adventures, and inspired fashion finds.  In reference to the title, I have recently become enamored of the macarons at Paul, a pastry shop down the street, when I followed up on a friend's suggestion that they were a must have.  The raspberry one is my absolute favorite and as I am now in the quest for the perfect macaron, my next trip will be to Pierre Hérmes' shop in Knightsbridge, where the genius behind some of France's best pastries has brought his twenty plus years of experience in macarons to the deprived London public.  I can't wait to see what he has in store!