Sunday, October 7, 2018

Honeymoon first Stops: Boston and Las Vegas

We left London on A Saturday afternoon and flew to Boston, arriving in at 7.30pm Boston time. We somewhat regretted flying from London when we saw the queue for customs, it was approx 45 minutes long and poor hubby got into some trouble over some apples that I had left in the bag. However after a minor detour to US agricultural control we were on the road to Coolidge Corner.

The first night we had just enough time to check-in, dump our bags and explore the immediate area s little bit before bed. We grabbed a quick dinner and settled in for the night. Our B&B was a beautiful old house behind the main street in Coolidge Corner. It was decorated and steeped in the history of the building including old family photos from the early 20th century in a super old--fashioned library. It was extremely welcoming and friendly with a family feel.

The next morning we had breakfast in the B&B, they have a family table set up where guests help themselves to a variety of breakfast foods (eggs, cereal, yoghurt, fruit) from the centre of the table. From there we set off into Boston. First stop of the day had to be the local Trader Joe's (fun-fact - this is the first trader joes I ever went to, 14 years ago, aswell).

We then headed over to Harvard to explore this esteemed college. The campus reminded us so much of Trinity college in Dublin and it also reminded me a lot of Yale. I guess the Ivy-leagues have a very similar aesthetic but we were duly impressed with the beautiful buildings and the manicured grounds. From there we went to MIT, when I briefly lived in Boston I trained with the MIT TKD club and so it was so much fun to go back to those places and explore the college in more depth with Brian. We both picked up MIT apparel, which I wished I had done back in 04 and will treasure now.

We then headed into town proper and spent some time exploring the city, I showed Brian the shops of Newbury Street and we found a new shop, Johnny Cupcakes with a really cool oven shaped door. Unfortunately the shop contained no actual cupcakes and although the merch was cool, my deep disappointment at the lack of cupcakes prevented me from buying anything at all.

We also explored the park, where we stumbled upon a legalized weed festival and definitely left with a contact high and did the classic thing of going to Cheers. We went to a delicious restaurant that night with my Uncle and his partner - 75 Chestnut which was such a lovely chance to catch up with them.

The next day we walked across the city to go to my (and Nelly's) old place of work - The New England Aquarium. Pretty much nothing has changed so it was a really fun step into the past. Brian also loved the many penguin exhibits.

This guy is actually from Toronto Airport but seemed appropriate here
 Then we took a flight that night to Las Vegas, with a fleeting panicked (15 minutes from plane to plane) change over in Philly. We landed at 11.30pm local time and just about managed to get ourselves to the Hotel - the Luxor. We decided to stay one night in the Luxor and the next in the Cosmopolitan. We really wanted to experience what it is like to stay in that pyramid and it did not disappoint - You can see out the side of your corridor down into the pyramid below, it's actually quite dizzying! Las Vegas was exactly as I remember, crazy expensive and bizarrely disconnected from any sense of time or normal reality. This may sound like a bad thing but I find it to be a really unique experience that seems to mirror back whatever the visitor puts into it.

Our first day in Vegas we hit the gym and then hit up Urban Toms - Our favourite breakfast spot in Las Vegas!! The omelettes and breakfast burritos there are fantastic, there's decent coffee and really lovely servers. From there it was a whistle tour of some of our previous spots and then we picked up a car and moved over to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. This is where we got engaged in 2016 and we were so excited to get back and try out the Wicked Spoon Restaurant which we hadn't been able to in 2016. There was a huge selection of foods with exciting ingredients like bone marrow and wild boar, as well as some gluten free and vegan cake options so something for everyone.

 Vegas is full of incredible places to eat and as well as the wicked Spoon our hotel also happened to have a new addition of a Momofuko and Milk Bar. I was absolutely delighted. I had recently watched the chef's table with Milk Bar and my brother had convinced me to watch Ugly Delicious in preparation for our adventure. So it was fate..... We got a whole buncha cookies from milk bar, including the famous compost cookie, which I found to be....okay but I didn't love. I think it was the crisps that threw me off but I am very very glad I tried it.

We also checked out Fremont Street which we had missed in 2016. There we saw some of the older casinos and the zipline. One consideration in both these locations was the heat. Boston seemed to be getting an indian summer on the weekend we were there. The sun was backing down and temperatures were easily in the low to mid 30s C. Vegas was even hotter it was 38-40C while we were there and the sun was scalding hot on the skin. Las Vegas is so air-conditioned in the hotels that it created a really unusual experience of flipping between too cold and far too hot in the split second of walking outside. However walking down the street the city had  lamp-posts that sprayed mist into the air to keep us all from drying out completely. It was such a pleasant experience in that heat.

We felt particularly sorry for the street performers, out there all day! Finally we also went to the Bellagio, which I somehow managed to miss the first time around. There were saw an absolutely incredible Fall (autumn) flower exhibit, a Christmas shop, a chocolate fountain as tall as the ceiling and a little robot that delivers items from the shop to around the hotel.

 The last thing I did that I had missed the first time was that I gambled. I choose one of those slot machines with the giant red handles on the side, I immediately doubled my money (1 dollar to 2) and then cashed out while I was ahead - doubling my money in Vegas baby ; ) 

I will leave it there for now but return soon with more from our trip to Los Angeles and the start of our roadtrip experience in America!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Honeymoon Plans

Hello again,

So we have something kind of interesting planned soon. Myself and my husband are headed to America on a roadtrippin' adventure. We have decided to document the whole thing here to share with friends and family who have so kindly contributed in so many lovely ways, and also anyone else who might just be interested (I read and am reading a whole bunch of blog preparing for this).

It will also definitely be a trip involving lots of exciting food exploration for us and so I think it will add some interesting foodie content on here and on instagram, if that's your preferred content.

Photo from Savvy travel

So I thought this might be a fun preparation post to give some details ahead of time.

We head off mid September and start in Boston. We spend a few days there and then fly to Las Vegas, where we got engaged. We spend a few days there, where we intend to hit Fremont Street as we missed it last time and the Neon graveyard cos it sounds so cool. Then we pick up a car and drive to Los Angeles. We are visiting family in Los Angeles and really really excited to see them there. We stay in Los Angeles for a few days, where I am also hoping to tour the Warner Brothers Studio and see where they filmed the Gilmore girls (Eeeeeeeeeeeee!).

In Los Angeles we are renting an RV, a huge RV!! We will then drive the RV up through California, stopping off in Sequoia and Yosemite . In Napa we are staying in a beautiful hotel for a night and we plan to do a few sneaky vineyard tours and drink a glass or three of wine....

Then it's on to the north California coastline and up into Oregon. We have some further stops planned in Oregon, definitely staying a night in Portland, to rent some bikes and hit up some craft breweries, and then up to Seattle.

In Seattle, we finally bid farewell to our (hopefully) trusty RV, and stay in a hotel again. We plan on touring Seattle and seeing the original Starbucks amongst other things.

Then we board a train to Canada!!

We have chosen the awesome looking Cascades train that goes up the coast and includes beautiful large windows with lots and lots to see. We will celebrate our one year anniversary as a married couple with a drink and an incredible view. We disembark in Vancouver and then our Canadian adventure begins.

We are planning on hitting more exciting wilderness with a tour of Whistler and Garibaldi.

We are also really really hoping to see some bears in Canada - from a safe distance of course. We also want to explore Vancouver and the city experience in Canada.

Then after all the fun we will fly home, happy and tired but probably already planning our next adventures to Canada and Alaska.

As some of you are aware we had originally wanted to make it to Alaska on this trip. However, we could only take so much time off work, and after a huge amount of careful consideration we decided that pushing ourselves to make it to Alaska would probably end up reducing the time we had to appreciate all the places on the way. So we will make it to Alaska, no doubt about that, but just not this trip!

So that's our honeymoon. We are extremely excited now, doing lots of prep work and walking training, as you can tell we will be doing a lot of hiking on this trip. As mentioned at the start of this post. We have made the decision to document our experience on here. I cannot promise daily updates, particularly as we are staying in an RV in national parks for a good chunk of time and there will be no wifi there. That said we will be taking lots of photos so we will plan to update on here every few days and update instagram more regularly. So if you have any interest in following us on our American and Canadian adventure, check back here for more. See you soon =)

Monday, May 15, 2017

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/

Finishing this doctorate and wedding planning, well my excuses are endless but the reality of trying to blog while also writing and working on a million other things was something that I did not anticipate.

So I will catch you up. In the last few months I got my Dr, have travelled to Austria, Switzerland, sunny southampton (to buy a wedding dress) and have been slowly but steadily ticking off items on my wedding to-do list.

A beautiful arch at our venue

Check out those Austrian mountains

No-one tells you flowers cost this much

We took this photo for our stationary
I've got a dress. He got a suit. We got a florist, a band, a DJ, a priest, and a cake plan, which brings us to this post. This weekend I decided to do a trial of one of my cake layers. I call it a ferroro rocher cake. What do you think?

This cake has three layers of hazelnut genoise sponge, doused with amaretto, separated by layers of hazelnut chocolate buttercream, and then smothered in hazelnut chocolate ganache!! It's a nightmare for nut allergies but it is a heavenly dream for everyone else.

Don't you want a little bite?!

So let me talk you through the process and I should start by acknowledging my inspiration for this came from Gretchen Bakery blog and I directly used her recipe for the sponge but I made significant changes to the rest of the cake that she then created for her ferrero rocher cake.

So for the genoise sponge recipe visit the link above.

I made three layers of cake and then used an amaretto simple syrup on the layers for moisture

Then I went in with a hazelnut chocolate buttercream. Now I have seen a number of other bloggers, including Gretchen, make a nutella buttercream by mixing ordinary buttercream with nutella. For me this was too sweet and too pale so I developed my own.

Hazelnut Chocolate buttercream

2 tbsp hazelnut butter
100gr butter
1 pinch of salt
150g Icing sugar
2 heaped teaspoons of nutella
3 tbsp of unsweetened cocao powder
1-2 tbsp milk until desired consistency

1 - Beat together the butter and hazelnut butter with a pinch of salt (unnecessary if using salted    
2  - Add the icing sugar slowly and continue to beat
3 - Add nutella
4 - Add cocao powder
5 - Finally add milk until you have reached desired consistency

I then piped this onto my layers leaving a small amount of room at the edge

You can see how dark it is

Then add your hazelnut ganache around the outside of the buttercream, ensuring there are no air pockets and add your next layers

For this cake I wanted a slightly soft ganache that would be firm enough to stay in place so for a three layer 7" cake this is what I used -
250g - Milk chocolate
200g dark chocolate
260ml single cream
85g chopped, toasted and slightly caramelised hazelnut pieces

Here you can see the layer have all been added and I am about to frost with the ganache
Finally frost the top and sides generously with the hazelnut ganache and chill until the ganache becomes firm. You should now have a cake that looks like a ferrero rocher and tastes like a hazelnut dream.

This is definitely a cake that can be prepared in advance as the overnight storage allows the genoise to soak up more of the flavour and moisture from the buttercream and ganache. I would highly recommend that you try this cake and my fiance has given it a two thumbs up so if you are attending our wedding then you very well might be trying this in a few months time.

For the moment I will leave you there and return soon with some other deliciousness

Monday, January 16, 2017

New Year, new attempt to post regularly

To say that the past few months have been crazy would be an understatement along the lines of nothing of interest happened in 2016. I explored in a previous post the difficulty with finishing a doctorate and I noted then, as I note now, that if this was easy it wouldn't be such a high level of education. So there you go, it was hard, and unfortunately as you can plainly see it massively impacted my blogging. I say this every time I disappear but it never ceases to be true- I thought about the blog frequently and over Christmas I even took photos for blog posts. Unfortunately every Monday would come and go and the simple reality is this -  when you spend all day, every day reading, writing and editing large quantities of work then more writing in the form of blogging is the last thing you want to do at the end of the day!

Now I managed to write during the day and write to relax during the majority of my doctorate but in the last 3 months I was forcing myself to start early and finish as late as possible (although not past 10pm cos I'm not the all-nighter type that I used to be) and it just left me completely spent. In fact, the blog was not the only thing that suffered. I realised belatedly over Christmas that I had, unknowingly, become something of a recluse! I was so excited to see my wonderful friends over the break and then when I did see them I struggled to find something interesting to say. Once we covered the topic of how my doctorate was coming (usually within 3 minutes because ultimately it's boring) then I had nothing else interesting to add. So sorry to any of my friends to whom I seemed weird, this year I want to talk much more and I swear I will be more normal....promise =)

Still new year, new attempt and I am back with a simple but delicious recipe for the new year. I have posted about this many times but I quite dislike this time of year. Mostly I dislike the shame and self-blame that everyone is expected to carry and that I obligingly carry because the Christmas extravagance always leaves me slightly softer than before. But nothing in the societal narrative allows for acceptance of the natural ups and downs of body mass and unfortunately I have yet to find a way to negotiate that body shaming narrative without translating it into a personal narrative of low self-compassion. Each year I respond to this in the same way and although it does little to address the central issue of absorbing the shame, I usually find a nice little recipe to show myself some delicious self-love without having to feel bad.

Just after Christmas I received a delicious tin of soft amaretti biscuits. I have had plenty of hard amaretti before and frankly I don't really like them too well but soft amaretti.......oh yum!!! Soft Amaretti are basically just almond paste biscuits and if you know me then you'll probably know that Christmas means almond paste for me. I devour the stuff, in marzipan bars, stollen, stollen, more stollen, all of the stollen! So yes it's not a huge surprise that I liked these biscuits but the surprise is that those soft amaretti biscuits that you see above - they have 6g protein, 3g carbs and only 2g sugar! So to say that these are new years food is an understatement too - in fact I have definitely found my new tradition!!

Look at that deliciousness!!
So lets get straight into it....

Healthy Low Sugar, Low Carb Soft Amaretti

330g ground almonds
4 egg whites
3 tbsp castor sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp Amaretto alcohol

1 - Preheat the oven to 180'. Beat together the egg whites and salt until light and fluffy

2 - Slowly add the sugar a tablespoon at a time beating between additions

3 - Add the vanilla paste and beat. At this point you will have a meringue like mixture

4 - Now fold in the ground almonds.

5 - Then add the amaretto and mix to fully combine.

6 - Roll into 1" balls and place on a lined baking sheet

7 - Bake for 15 minutes then allow to cool

These taste crazy good. When you remove them from the oven you will find that the outside is hard while the inside is soft. However if you put the biscuits in an air-tight container you will find that the outside will soften and then they are at peak perfection.

Nutritional Info - Batch makes 20 biscuits
Each Biscuit
120 Kcals
6g Protein
3g Carbs
of which 2g of sugar
9g healthy fats

I have found these to be the perfect substitute to other sweet treats. I have used them after the gym and particularly as a low carb, low sugar dessert!!

So if you like almonds I would highly recommend trying this recipe and you will not be sorry. I will be back next week with more deliciousness and hopefully a further review of Gilmore girls: A year in the life.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gilmore Girls- A Year in the Life: Winter Review

Well it has arrived!!! The weekend we have all been waiting for.....Gilmore Girls weekend!!! I was a bit disappointed with myself, as I had hoped to be finished with my thesis draft in time to kick back and enjoy the weekend. Unfortunately that has not happened, what thesis related planning ever works out?! So I have spent the weekend working all day and then stopping at 9pm for some food and an episode of gilmore girls and when I say food.......

I think Lorelai would be proud of this set up

So on Friday night I set up and watched the first episode of four; Winter. I had a lot of excitement but also a few concerns as in the last few days there were some scenes put out online to promote the release and they were.......quite cheesy! However I remained hopeful and entered into the episode with an open mind. Please forgive my writing if this becomes more stream of consciousness than literary critique because all I dop it write at the moment so I don't have the energy for....grammar ;)

Spoilers from here -

Monday, November 21, 2016

Doctoral study and Snacks

I have been completely snowed under lately. I mentioned during the year last year that if it doesn't have to do with my doctorate then I struggled to think about it but I didn't realise how bad that was going to get. Now, one month out from my hand-in I am completely under-water. I'm working on this thing 7 days a week and the fact that I could work this weekend while watching television because the work I was doing was mindless admin type of stuff. It was a huge treat! So that gives you a flavour of where things are.

                                                                 Video property of Sigur Ros

I'm not complaining however as I am feeling increasingly excited to see an end to all this and as I've been reminded several times - if getting a doctorate was easy, it wouldn't mean as much. So if and when I get this it will mean a helluva lot to me.

So I thought that I would bring you some of the interesting or delicious snacks that I have been enjoying. There are two options - the first is a bit more involved but can be put together in an hour and the second is super simple and can be completed within a 15 minute study break.

On Sunday night I burned out at 6pm and called it a night on the study. All day I had been craving tortilla chips but by 6pm the local shop was closed, because Britain, but my craving had to be satiated and I decided to make my own. This was no small undertaking as we didn't even have any tortillas. So these are completely made from scratch. The dough comes together in a few minutes and then needs to be rested. You may want to rush this but I would highly recommend it because once I rested the dough I choose to fold it over a few times and although this does not make for very soft tortillas it made for fantastic chips.

Handmade tortilla Chips

150g plain flour
180g strong wholemeal flour
3 tbsp golden flax seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp olive oil and more for frying/baking + coconut oil
230ml water

1. Mix together the flours, salt, baking powder and flax seeds

2. Add the olive oil and half the water and mix to cobine

3. Slowly add more water bit by bit until the dough is fully combined but not excessively wet.

4. Knead the dough for 5 minutes

5. Divide into 8 balls and allow to sit for 15 minutes

6. Fold in on itself a few times and then roll as flat as possible between two sheets of parchment.

7. Heat a frying pan or griddle with a very small amount of coconut or another high smoke point oil and then fry the tortillas for a few minutes on each side until browned in spots.

8. Allow to cool on a wire rack

9. Once cool, spray the tortillas with a drop of coconut or olive oil and spread it around so that each side has a very very small amount of oil on it. Then sprinkle with salt before slicing into triangles.

10. Bake on 180' for about 10 minutes until crisp.

11. Serve with vegetables and hummus

These tortilla chips were so so delicious. They are quite filling and so much better than any commercial brands I have had.

So the second snack is much easier and all you need is

200g nuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp agave nectar

1 - Preheat your oven to 180'

2 - Line a baking tray with tin foil

3 - Pour out the nuts and roast for 10 minutes

4 - As the nuts are baking mix together the agave nectar and spices in a large glass or metal bowl

5 - Pour the warm nuts into the bowl and mix until all the nuts are covered in a tiny amount of the mixture

6 - Pour back out onto the tin foil and allow to cool

These are so simple and so so delicious! Even if you don't make the tortilla chips, if you like nuts and you like spice then these are a must.

Now....back to the writing. Talk to you soon

Monday, October 10, 2016

Apples and autumn

Well autumn has finally arrived and the cold has come with it! I have written more than once about how much I love this time of year - autumn into winter! It starts with a little chill that gets colder and colder until large coats and thick scarves are fully acceptable and expected and that, my friend, is  licence to walk around in a duvet all day!!

However we are not quite at that point yet, so for the moment I can just enjoy the chill in the air, an occasional scarf, which is my happy place, well one of happiest place would be in my fiancé's arms standing beside a Christmas tree. Okay sorry, I am wandering off in a dream! From the time the leaves start to change I develop an obsession with apples so I decided it would be appropriate to dedicate a whole post to my seasonal favourite.

Property of Lipton

The inspiration for this has actually been a loss. Every single autumn/winter winter, since about 2008, until this one I have been drinking the delicious and incredible Lipton warming Apple and Cinnamon Tea. This won't be news as I have blogged about it before here but the loss of this consistent and warming tea has left me feeling at an enormous loss. I have tried every other apple tea available in the UK market right now and the only thing that comes close is Teapigs 'Apple and Cinnamon,' tea. However it's not as good, in my opinion, and at £4.15 for 15 teabags, well I hope sincerely that they bring out a 50 teabag box soon. However I have started a search to try to recreate this incredible tea myself and I will blog about it if I am anyway successful!

So you cannot think apple and autumn without thinking apple pie! This apple pie consists of a nutty pastry crust and a delicious apple and amaretto filling.

And finally I decided to make my delicious apple salted caramel cake into muffins and they turned out great! Granted they don't have much of the classic muffin format or puffy top but they are so soft and delicious on the inside that you will definitely forgive me. The recipe is here but there are a few alterations. The original recipe calls for cake flour or make your own cake flour. But for these I wanted them to have slightly more structure so I replaced 1 tablespoon of the flour with corn flour but nothing more because too light is not great for muffins. Half of the mixture from my last post will make 12 muffins and I recommend that you fill them up to the brim for the full looking muffins you see below....

 Inside they are fluffy and delicious with moisture and flavour from the apples and soft and delicious bits of cake between each piece of apple

They are not a health food but they are definitely full of autumn flavour and definitely good for the soul!!

Honeymoon first Stops: Boston and Las Vegas

We left London on A Saturday afternoon and flew to Boston, arriving in at 7.30pm Boston time. We somewhat regretted flying from London when ...