Sunday, 16 December 2012

London Restaurant Recommendations

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Okay, it's time for the round-up of my favorite places to eat in London!  We're going to go by price, since I know that's often the most important consideration for visitors to this fine and expensive city – bear in mind, though, that London is very expensive, so when I say places are 'cheap' I mean sort of 10 pounds for a main, 5 if you choose very wisely.  It really doesn't get cheaper than that, except in McDonald's or a local 'chippie' (Fish n' Chip shop).  So here we go!

Cheap places (usually better for lunch than dinner):


Baozi Inn, in London's Chinatown, is a teeny little place that serves really good (and apparently authentic) Chinese dumplings, soups, and other dishes.  It's great value for money and quite cozy, so perfect for a stop-in on a rainy afternoon fighting the crowds in the West End.

New Culture Revolution is another great (and cheap!) Chinese place – lots of basics on the menu, noodle dishes and stir-fries etc, but my absolute favorite is the dumpling soup with pork and Chinese leaves.  The broth is homemade, the dumplings are tender, and the meat tastes healthy and clean, not full of gristle and grease as you sometimes get.  The location in Angel is just off the super-busy high street, and they always have room for walk-ins (at least so far), so it's a great option for lunch or dinner away from the maddening crowd (are you sensing a theme in my restaurant choices?  You sense correctly!).


Borough Market is always a good idea if you're looking for an inexpensive breakfast or lunch – note that a trip to the market is rarely inexpensive, as there's so much temptation that I almost always run out of money very quickly, but it's easy to get a great sandwich or a delicious plate of something Greek/Italian/Spanish/you-name-it for about a fiver (the above meat pies are even cheaper).  Can't beat that!  Plus, the people watching is divine.  The only drawback here is that it's all outdoors, so your usually-lovely seat in the next-door churchyard might be a bit soggy if the weather is doing its usual English thing...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Eat Out

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As you all know, I've been crazy busy these past couple of months, and one of the knock-on effects of that is not having as much time to cook/bake.  I spend a lot of evenings after work online, answering emails and writing body blog posts and, when I can, vegging out and staring at the wall, and before I know it it's time to go to bed to get not enough sleep before I have to wake up and do it all over again – meal planning and cooking have taken a very distant back seat.

Luckily, I have a boyfriend who is usually willing to share dinner duty, but I also eat a lot of pasta and frozen fish cakes and quick-roasted whatever-veggies-we-have.  When I do eat something lovingly planned and cooked without any time pressure, it's usually because I'm eating out.  And that's the other way in which I'm lucky: I happen to live in a city which, contrary to its out-of-date reputation, offers a lot of delicious restaurant choices.  Even luckier: when I go home to San Francisco or visit NYC, I have even more choices, spread across a different selection of cuisines.

I want you guys to know the great food that I know – especially here in London, since it can be so difficult for visitors to find tasty, affordable food here.  So to that end, I'm going to start a new type of post on this here blog; I don't have time to write full-on reviews of every restaurant I love and have loved (that would take forever and by the time they were all posted half the restaurants might have changed ownership or gotten more expensive), but I can certainly list them for you and add some links for further info!

So keep your eyes peeled.  First up will be London, since I think that's the city that most urgently needs the PR, but then I'll also do posts for SF and NYC, and maybe even Rome and Paris.  I'll make a new page (like the Recipes page) and gather links to the posts there, so that if you're visiting one of my fair cities and don't want to have to hunt down the original post you can get back to it easily.

Should be fun!  Now I just have to find time between household chores, work, publicity, and trying to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep a night...  Don't worry – I'm on it!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving Across the Pond

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Normally around this time of year I'd be looking out at the above view, loving Northern California with my whole heart while the women in my family (that's about 90% of the clan) bustle around in the background, bickering over seating charts and discussing salad choices and oven schedules and answering the ever-ringing phone with the same refrain: "Butterball Hotline!"  It's the most wonderful time of the year – Thanksgiving is when the extended family gathers, really, and we break up into nuclear pockets over Christmas/Chanukah/New Year's.

This year, though, I can't afford the time or money to go home.  For the first time ever in my life, I'll be missing out on Thanksgiving with my family, and it hurts to think of everyone gathering without me while I sit in my office and schedule books for production...  So I decided I wouldn't allow myself to mope.  If I can't be with my family, I'll make my own holiday, right here in the land our forefathers fled before the holiday ever existed – the BF and I will be doing a Friendsgiving this year, and we're holding nothing back.

We've invited Brits and expat Americans and even a few from farther afield, and the guest list has gotten a little out of hand: we're now expecting around 25 people.  Our table seats ten, and we don't even have that many chairs, but I figure making do and an attitude of 'the more the merrier' is what Turkey Day is all about, so to that end we've bought a bunch of paper plates and plastic cups and cutlery and are planning to seat people wherever we can (including the floor), and we've ordered a 10kg turkey and people will be bringing sides, and I'm going to bake at least two of my family's famous pumpkin pies and mash lots of rutabagas, and I'm committing all the wisdom on the NYT Thanksgiving Helpline to memory... so I think it'll be great fun in the end.

I'll still miss my family, of course, but there's no cure for homesickness like being run off one's feet, and I think I've got that pretty well covered – in fact, I would do well to pause in the middle of my recently-constant moans about how stressed I am and be grateful for everything I have: a great boyfriend, fantastic friends, a book that I wrote up on Amazon for pre-order (!!!), a new job title that ought to bolster my resumé nicely, and a family worth missing when I can't be with them.  I'm a pretty lucky lady.

And now I must stop thinking and go do things, for there are more dishes to wash and seating charts to plan and pie crusts to be rolled out and RSVPs to gather and wine to be ordered and...

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Beauty Comes from Within: Sexy-Ugly Hedgehog Cookies

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One of the BF's favorite kind of cookies is oatmeal chocolate chip, for which he'll hardly get a raised eyebrow from me: the toothsomeness of an oatmeal cookies with the sweetness of chocolate?  Obviously.  I myself am a fan of the good old oatmeal raisin as well, but the more people I poll, the more I feel like this cookie has unfairly fallen out of favor.  Alas, poor oatmeal raisin... well, more for me!

Anyway, when I went to visit the BF in Boston a few weekends ago, I planned on bringing him some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but for some reason (I guess because, really, I wanted to eat them), I went with my gram's chocolate chip shortbread cookies instead.  He was never any the wiser, and those cookies are the bomb, so I didn't feel too guilty.  I did, however, find myself craving them the following week (I suppose the idea had planted and refused to let go!), and as I was going to have some girlfriends over for dinner – and needed to make some cookies to mail to a friend for his birthday – I had an excuse to make them.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Work/Life Balance and Lemon Sugar Cookies

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Life has been manic lately.  I know every third post for the last two years has probably started that way, but this time it's really true (or maybe life just gets more and more manic as we get older, and manic takes on a whole new meaning every year??  Oh god, I hope not...).  Anyway, work has gotten increasingly more intense, and as of next week I'm going to be working in the office every day (as opposed to my current schedule of half-in, half-out), and things with the book are heating up too – the relevance of all these facts to you lovely sweet-toothed readers is that posting may be a bit sparse in the coming months.  I'll definitely do my best, as this little corner of the internets is one of my favorite places to spend that in-between time (not quite free, as in time to stuff my face and watch Downton Abbey, but not quite work, as in bust my butt and get paid a little bit for it), but these days I have little time to bake, and even littler daytime to photograph.

Nonetheless, we all know I'm not going to stop baking altogether, and between my usual stress-baking tendencies and the fact that we're doing our own Thanksgiving over here this year, there should still be plenty of fodder for posts.  But you may have to forgive me if I'm not super creative; when I'm stressed and pressed for time, all I want to do is throw together something I'm pretty sure will taste good.

And that was the plan with these cookies.  Lemon + sugar + butter = obvious choice.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Falling into Nostalgia Again: Apple Spice Cookies

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One of the times I miss the US most is the first week of fall, when that first bite hits the air in the mornings and people start pulling out scarves and boots from the backs of their closets and the leaves haven't quite turned yet but you can tell they will be soon.  This time of year always brings the nostalgia pretty hard, and usually I cope with it by taking long walks in the park with the BF, stopping for coffee and a snuggle, and, of course, baking.

This year, the BF just happens to be abroad – back in the States, actually – for a sort of med-student study-abroad program.  I've been handling the separation pretty well, due mostly to being run off my feet with work, book stuff, and general back-from-vacation admin, but when the leaves started turning I did start to pine a bit (no pun intended).  Still, I was determined not to mope (or eat my feelings any more than I'm already wont to do); I may not be able to take long, chilly walks with my guy, but I can still bake, dang it!

Monday, 1 October 2012

I Made A Real, Frosted, Layered Birthday Cake (and It Only Took Two Attempts and About a Million Eggs...)!

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Last Friday my company had a 'wine and cakes' party in our department, celebrating the first birthday of the imprint I work for.  Now, as someone who often brings homemade baked goods in to the office, I expected to be asked to make something, which I was happy to do.  What I didn't expect was being volunteered to bake a birthday cake, which to most people might just mean a cake but which translated in my head to many-layered cake of wonder with homemade icing and decoration, which is something I'd yet to attempt.  Still, I figured it would be a good opportunity to try something new (namely, making a fancy icing). 
But then two things happened to make the plans much more stressful.  The first was that my friend Tess, who works in the marketing department, asked me to use a recipe from one of our books, which wouldn't in itself be a problem but I had been hoping to use a tried-and-tested American recipe, or at least one with tons of online reviews – of course I agreed, though.  And the second thing was that my very well-meaning friends 'bigged up' my baking in a company-wide email.  And of course, as we all know, there's nothing like a little outside pressure to make a cake fall flat.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Tart and Tasty Birthday Treat: Lemon Cream Cupcakes

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It was my mom's birthday a couple of weeks ago, and since I was in town for it for once (had you guessed that the past 6 weeks of radio silence had something to do with me reveling in the delights of the Great Bay Area?), I wanted to make her a little treat.  Of course, my mom being the healthy lady that she is, I knew nothing rich or heavy would be up her alley, which made for a slightly tricky situation when, without thinking, I suggested that my nephew and I should make and decorate cupcakes together...  My mom is so not into buttercream, or cake, really – she prefers fruit tarts and crisps and maybe the odd cookie (just one).

Still, I figured there was one way I could still have bonding time with my nephew (who's nearly 7, and a boy, and not so into grown-up baking like tarts) and serve my mom a dessert for her birthday that she'd actually enjoy: when in doubt, make it citrus.  My mom, like me, loves anything lemon.  And when I found a recipe, it came with an accompanying recipe for a whipped-cream-based frosting, which I figured would be much lighter than a buttercream, not to mention easier.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Battling My Sweet-Yeasted-Dough Demons: Paul Hollywood's Brioche

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For some reason, every time I decide to make something sweet that's yeast-based, whether it's challah or gooey butter cake, the elements contrive to work against me and the thing turns out to be a huge flop.  I end up nervously hovering over my dough, waiting for it to double while I curse the rain and wish I had ever seen what doubled dough should look like so I could be sure I'd recognize it when it happened.  And usually I give up and bung it in the oven after waiting an hour past the recommended time, and usually that ends up being a mistake and I can only guess that my dough was under-proved... I don't have this problem with savory breads (but maybe it's just that it's less noticeable when they're a bit under-proved, and they're just a bit denser which isn't such a big deal in my book), but the sweet doughs always seem to elude me.

So I'm not sure why, when Bloomsbury asked me to test a recipe from Paul Hollywood's new book, How to Bake, I chose brioche.  It's everything I'm crap at: a sweet dough, with more ingredients than your average bread, and a recipe that requires planning, patience, and 2 days to babysit your kitchen.  And yet, somehow, once I saw the photo of that fluffy, gorgeous, golden crown of deliciousness, I just couldn't get it out of my head.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Easy Friendships and Easier Dessert: Pistachio and Blueberry Biscotti

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I have a great girlfriend in London who is that wonderful combination of nice (without being too nice), hilarious (without being too catty), and understanding (without letting me get away with too much moaning), and best of all, she gets along famously with the BF.  Instead of glazing over the way I do when he talks about medicine too much or tells a story for a little too long, she is always rapt and encouraging – is it any wonder he loves her almost as much as I do?

Given how awesome this friend of mine is, of course she has a standing invitation to our flat for dinner, and when she moved a mere 20 minute walk down the road the invitation was reiterated with even more vehemence.  Now, unfortunately, she's a very busy gal, so we don't have her over as much as we'd like, but she does come round relatively often, and when she does I always make sure we finish the meal with something sweet and satisfying, and preferably something that packs well so I can send her home with a doggie bag.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Impressively Easy Entertaining: Raspberry Crumble Tart

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A few weeks ago, the BF had a bunch of his med school friends over for dinner. All together, we made 8, which was a larger party than we'd done before and a bit of a stretch for our dishes (we have all sets of 6), and I'd never met most of these people, so I was a bit nervous.  But we planned way in advance, ordering wines online and choosing side dishes from one of our favorite dinner party cookbooks (I have photos, and will try to post a couple of our fave recipes soon), and I spent days trying to decide what to bake for dessert. 

Should I make something dependable, like cookies, or something more impressive, like a pie?  Something American, to show my British guests what we have to offer, or something English, to prove my loyalty, or something neutral?  Pumpkin pieSnickerdoodle blondiesCarrot cake?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

On Compromise: Budgeting and Backup Banana Bread

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Life has been a wee bit stressful lately.  I picked up more work and was finally able to break away (hey, better late than never!) from the financial help my parents were giving me when I was in school, but it wasn't until I got my first amended paycheck, post-tax-gouge, that I realized just how much of a cut my monthly budget had taken.  I have to admit, it knocked the wind out of me, and it's taken me a good month or so to begin to think I'm capable of managing.

But I am capable, and I will manage, and it feels so good being completely responsible for my own finances, and completely independent, that I don't think I could go back, even if my parents had a windfall and suddenly wanted to throw money at me like there was no tomorrow.  I love the sense of pride I get from earning my own keep, and if the trade-off for that is a much tighter budget and a restricted social life, so be it.  Everybody makes sacrifices and compromises in this world, and as long as I can afford to stay in my lovely flat and spend time with my lovely boyfriend and bake delicious comfort foods, then I'm doing pretty well I think.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Going Native: Lemon Drizzle Cake

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There are some very American things I will never give up, no matter how long I live in England – peanut butter, Trader Joe's chocolate, and Peet's coffee, among others – but recently I've been forced to admit that, despite my best efforts, some English traditions have gotten under my skin.  For example, the BF and I spent the Jubilee weekend in Devon with his family, and after a long, cold, rainy wander through one of the nearby towns (gotta love that British summer), I crouched through the door of the little thatched cottage where we were staying and headed straight for the kettle, mumbling incoherently about how badly I needed a cup of tea.  Then, this morning, the BF made coffee in our stovetop espresso pot and I had one cup, relishing the flavor of Bay Area-roasted beans, and then made another cup of tea.  Yup, I'm totally addicted to a good old English brew.

I also use words like 'bin', 'lift', and 'post', and never ask where the bathroom is in a restaurant anymore, preferring the colloquial 'loo' (less graphic somehow than asking for the toilet!).  But if there's one area of life in which I staunchly support America's superiority, it's the kitchen.  Not that I can't appreciate a good Sunday roast or a nice slice of banoffi pie, but given the choice I'd always rather stick with a US favorite, like lasagne or pumpkin pie or brownies or banana bread... the list goes on. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

An Offering: Lemon Ricotta Muffins

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I come to you, much like a suburban neighbor, with an offering.  A basket of muffins (or a cyber-basket, really), handed sheepishly over the doorstep in the feeble hope that my neglect will go unnoticed in a rush of fluffy and crunchy textures and bright citrus and sweet almond flavors.  Trust me, one bite of these muffins and you won't even remember that I haven't posted in over a week (there are plenty of excuses, but for now let's just focus on the muffins).

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Travel, Family, and Meyer Lemons – Does It Get Any Better?

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Look at that.  Just...look at that.

Now do you understand why I checked out for so long while I was gone?  I know, I know, there are bloggers far better than I, who schedule posts to go up while they're away – there are even some bloggers, like the Energizer Bunny Pioneer Woman, who write and post while on vacation!  Alas, I am not one of these bloggers.  I am weak, and as much as I may know I should write a post while I'm home in SF, I cannot resist the temptation of an offer to walk along Crissy Field instead.

However, I am not entirely useless – I also cannot resist an opportunity to bake, and the overflowing bowls and bags of Meyer lemons in my mother's house were just that.  Her trees in Napa were heavy with fruit, and she was running out of ideas for what to do with it.  So I bring home for you: Meyer Lemon Quickbread (and some bad phone pics, sorry).

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Leftover Egg Yolks? Make Sugar Cookies!

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I'm off to San Francisco in an hour, for a nice long visit with friends and family (I finally get to meet my first niece!) and a wee vacay, but I wanted to get a quicky post in before I disappear for a week or two.

So, remember that promise I made in the meringue post about a use for the leftover yolks?  Well, I'm going to deliver!  These sugar cookies are easy and quick, and best of all, they use egg yolks in place of whole eggs, which is not only convenient but also delicious and rich and chewy.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Signs of Growing Up: My First Meringues

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I had a bunch of girlfriends over for dinner a couple weeks ago, and one of them (whom I nonetheless love very much) is a serial dieter.  Not in a fad-diet kind of way, more in a oh-no-I-shouldn't kind of way.  It makes me sad, since I show my love through sugar and butter, but I was determined not to either a) do without dessert at my dinner party or b) make her watch everyone else eat pound cake while she tried not to salivate.  I did a bit of research, skipped a lot of recipes that involved Splenda or other unnatural ingredients (no offense to people who use that stuff, but I always find I can taste the difference, and anyway my dieter-friend is a bit of a purist), and wound up back at Joy the Baker, where I reacquainted myself with a recipe I'd bookmarked weeks before, for vanilla bean and cocoa nib meringues.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Slapdash Baking with Delicious Results: Banana Nutella Pecan Muffins

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I wasn't going to write a post about these muffins... They weren't anything special, as far as the process went, just something I threw together to get rid of some old bananas and buttermilk and feed a friend who needed comfort food in her life.  I didn't even plan on adding the nutella until the last minute – as is often the case when I make spur-of-the-moment baked goods, I was ad-libbing the whole time.  For once, I was baking to eat, rather than baking to blog.

Hence the terrible photographs.  I didn't take any pics until after we'd tried the muffins and declared them delicious – moist, banana-y, and chocolatey, with a nice crunch from the pecan bits – and multiple Facebook friends had read my status update and demanded the recipe. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Failure and Fallbacks: Let-Down Lemon Tart and Brilliant Backup Brownies

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Can I tell you the truth?  I don't always turn out amazing baked goods, despite what people say.  The reason my friends think I'm such a good cook/baker is because I usually only serve things I've already tested myself, ideally multiple times.  And there are plenty of failures along the path to deliciousness.

For example, back when I made that amazing lasagne, I also made a failure of a lemon tart (well, semi-fail, and not a fail at all according to my ever-polite guests) – trust me, it looks better than it was.  I spent all that time zesting and juicing and whisking, only to find the end product lumpy and terrifying.  I think the eggs had been cooked a bit by the acid in the lemon juice, maybe... whatever the reason, it looked foul.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Another Family Favorite: Mashed Rutabagas

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My family's Thanksgiving celebrations are different every year.  Some years it's a relatively small group, just my immediate family, a few close friends, and whoever else can make it, and some years we have 35 people, half of whom aren't technically family, and we have to rent tables and silverware and cook three separate turkeys three different ways.  Sometimes we have traditional roast turkey, or Moroccan spiced turkey, or deep-fried turkey – one year we even had turkey tacos, which went over like a lead balloon with the younger generation.

No matter where we are, though, or how many of us gather, or what we decide to do with the bird, there are always a few dishes that are absolute must-haves.  Pumpkin pie is the most important, of course, followed closely by some kind of crisp.  We always have turkey of some sort, and gravy, and a big salad.  And we're likely to have mashed potatoes, but much more important (an absolute must, in my opinion) are the roods.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Ain't Nothin' Wrong with a Classic: Chocolate Chip Cookies

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 Can it be?  Can it really be possible that I haven't ever posted a recipe on this blog for that most classic of classics, the chocolate chip cookie?  How can that be so?

Well, I guess it doesn't matter how the omission came to pass – the important thing is to rectify it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dinner Party Perfection: OMG Lasagne

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Normally, my posts here are about dishes I've made and photographed a ways before writing about them – I have a running tally of foods to 'put up on the blog'.  I don't always go in order, but I rarely get around to posting within a week of making something.  This time, though, I just couldn't wait, and I'm getting this post in just under the one-week wire because I had to share.  This lasagne is just that good.

How good, you ask?  Well, I made a 9x13 pan of the stuff, with 1.5x the meat the recipe called for, and there were only five of us eating, but there were still barely any leftovers; what little there was left, the bf and I fought over the next day like little kids bickering over the last piece of cake.  It was so good I was sneaking bites of it as I put it away, long after our guests left (I also sneaked some bites the next morning, before the bf woke up – sorry, honey! (not really)).

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Less Healthy, Still Easy: Peppermint Cream Cookies

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One of my favorite things about the holidays – besides the family time and vacations and trees and frolicking – has always been the limited-edition flavor combos that companies put out, usually involving peppermint and chocolate in some combination or another.  I used to hoard peppermint bark and mint M&M's and dark chocolate York patties for weeks, long after my stocking had been packed away in the cedar chest with the rest of the holiday decorations.  But, my love of chocolate aside, my absolute favorite treats were always pure peppermint.  And I wasn't alone.

My friend Rachel practically swoons over the mint M&M's every year, and my college roommate, Emily, and I used to go to the grocery store in St Louis (Schnucks!) every December and buy huge tubs of Dryer's (or, in the Midwest, Edy's) peppermint ice cream while it was still on the shelves.  We'd stick one or two gallons in the back of the freezer and pull them out for a scoop (or a naughty late-night spoonful straight from the carton) well into the warmer months.  It was one of my favorite flavors, so much more pure than mint chip, and somehow so exotic because it was only in the shops for a short time (unfortunately, I later discovered that one of my fave ice creameries in SF, Swensen's, does a scrumptious peppermint ice cream, year-round, but luckily parking around there is a nightmare so it still retains its rarity, and thus its charm).

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Quick AND Good-for-you: Quinoa and 'Stuff' Salad

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One of the most difficult things about eating healthily is the time, energy, and money it requires.  I know it's worth it – we all know that – and the bf and I are lucky enough to usually have the time (if not always the money), but some people have half an hour at best in which to assemble a meal, and often that's simply not long enough to prep and cook something truly healthy.  So we fall back on ready meals or eating out, telling ourselves it'll be 'just this once' and then falling into patterns that are, if not unhealthy (after all, frozen fish cakes aren't exactly on par with McDonald's), not as healthy as they could be.

But there's a way to make healthy meals much faster, without always relying on completely prepared dishes: using some pre-cooked ingredients to make food that's almost from-scratch.  Apparently, some lady named Sandra Lee has sort of hit upon this (not the healthy part, though, from what I hear) in a show called Semi-Homemade.  But my version is much less terrifying: roast chickens from the supermarket, shredded up to make chicken noodle soup; pre-chopped onions and pre-peeled garlic cloves to make your pasta prep go faster; and this latest discovery, pre-cooked quinoa.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Best of Both Worlds: Nutella Sea Salt Fudge

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I think it's time for a break from attempts at healthiness, don't you?  It's the fourth week of January, after all, which means we've been good for a very long time (well, you have, and I've been trying to support your efforts).  I think this sea salt-sprinkled Nutella fudge is just the ticket for a brief holiday from Healthtown.

Most people have cravings that lean one way or another: toward salty foods or sweet ones.  My mom, for example, isn't that fussed about chocolate or cakes, but put a bag of salt and vinegar Kettle chips in front of her and she'll have to work very hard not to eat the entire sharing-sized container, and then run her finger along the inside creases and lick off the salt.  Similarly, my brother was never as into candy as I was when we were growing up, but he loves a rich, heavy, fried or creamy savory meal. 

My dad and my sister, on the other hand, love the sweet stuff.  When I was in high school, my sister used to always have a drawer full of chocolate-covered fruits from the Whole Foods bulk section, and if you opened her freezer there would be at least two kinds of ice cream, usually Ben&Jerry's and frequently involving chocolate.  And my dad can't keep his hands out of bowls of jelly beans or hard candies (which he chews immediately).

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

So Easy It's NUTS: Spiced Almonds for Snacking

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This recipe was inspired back in November by a friend of a friend, who showed up at a pub quiz I attended with a gallon bag full of holiday-spiced almonds, which she'd made herself.  I had a cold, so I didn't want to be reaching into the bag all night, but I wanted to try them to be polite, so I had my friend Sophie tip a few nuts into my palm.  And then a few more, and a few more... all I can say is, thank god for that cold and my reluctance to pester Sophie, or I would have eaten the whole damn bag!

I asked the girl how she'd made them, and she basically listed a bunch of spices, some salt, and an egg white as the ingredients.  I wasn't paying enough attention to write the spices down, but they were your baking basics: cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe some cloves (which I tend to skip).  The minute I got back to London, I bought a jumbo bag of raw almonds – I was all set to make my own amazingly addictive roasted nuts.  And then I put the nuts away in the cupboard, in the midst of a tidying frenzy, and I promptly forgot about them.

Monday, 9 January 2012

An Easy, Healthy Dessert: Baked Apples

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I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions.  If I had to guess, I'd say my hesitation is born of cynicism, which is in turn born of too many resolutions made and broken.  I try to make year-round changes, because for me the pressure of 'this is your one shot this year to make a change' is just asking for a massive (and early) failure.

That said, I'm fully aware that the clean slate of a new year is a helpful motivator for a lot of people.  And what's the most common resolution, in my experience?  Lose weight!  Or just eat better and be fitter (sort of my constant resolution).  And in support of that, and of all y'all who tire of my constant butter and sugar assaults, I give you baked apples!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Old Favorites Remembered: Gram's Deviled Eggs

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One of my favorite treats when I was growing up was my grandmother's deviled eggs (and her chocolate chip cookies, and the Mexican brownies...).  She used to bring them sometimes when she drove to visit us, and I just remember my mouth watering as she peeled back the cling film from the plate and set them on the kitchen table.  The minute I was given the go-ahead from my mother, I'd dart forward like a small rodent and grab an egg, stuff it whole into my mouth, and bite down into the rich, soft, yolky center.

My mouth would fill to bursting with contrasts: firm white and silky yolk; smoky paprika and sweet relish; spicy mustard and cool bland egg.  I was convinced I could eat a whole plateful by myself, if I'd been allowed to be so glutinous.