Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Tiny Christmas Girl

This tiny, Momiji Christmas girl was given to me by a very sweet and thoughtful friend who knows how absolutely much I adore teeny little cute things. Every year, Christy manages to find the most perfect and adorable gifts for both my birthday and Christmas. Someday I should post a round-up of all the amazing and sweet gifts she has given me! It would be a really long post! That's how sweet she is =)

So, this year, this tiny Christmas girl will be my reminder that not everything about Christmas is annoying and that, in fact, I have such wonderful and kind friends who love to give me cute things. What could possibly be better!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2nd Europe 2011 post

While in Brighton, Matthew and I discovered that all of the youngsters of Southern England were descending upon Brighton for a Zombie parade/festival/event. We mostly stayed out of the way but just going out and about we discovered the entire town was full of the gruesome creatures. We were quite impressed with some of the creative costuming that they came up with and did enjoy the humor of seeing random zombie attacks in a beautiful, usually quiet coastal town. It seemed straight out of a horror movie. Matthew was actually attacked once but managed to escape the entangling arms of two very silly, giggling zombies.

I found this blood pouch at Selfridges in London and suspect that the only kind of blood the zombies in Brighton were feeding off of would be very similar to this: candy blood. It sounds like it might be delicious on Pancakes. hmmm...I can see why they would want to be Zombies, if that's the sort of thing they are eating!

Also at Selfridges, I found so many darling Christmas goodies. I knew I wouldn't be able to get them home safe and sound so I took a few photos. Also, the price for one tiny cookie was 5 pounds or more and I'm really not that big a fan of cookies!

Tiny veggies made of marzipan. It's fortunate that I hate Marzipan, otherwise these may have had to come home with me, despite the crazily expensive price tag.

After spending most of a day at the British Museum, Matthew and I were fuzzy headed and cold so we popped into a darling little shop selling mini open faced sandwiches. They were all very unusual flavor combinations and all extremely tasty! Also, their coffee and hot chocolate was perfect and, most importantly, warming.

One of the things that Matthew and I really wanted to see was Borough Market in London. We partially planned our trip to make sure that we would be in London on the days that the Market would be in session and so on our last full day of the trip we spent our time wandering the Market and the Streets of London. It was the only truly sunny, perfect day we had in London and it really reminded us of why we'd wanted to go back for a visit that was longer than 24 hours.

My Full Brunch Butty (Please excuse Matthew's hand in the background! I was too lazy to try to crop or photoshop it out.)

Breakfast at Joe's Kitchen and Coffee House around the corner from Borough Market. We were lucky to see good reviews for a place that was so close to were we wanted to be that morning and also that such a place serves up amazing English Breakfasts among other things. I actually had the Full Brunch Butty which is essentially most of an English Breakfast in sandwich form. It was delicious and lots of fun to eat.

Matthew's Full English Breakfast

Just across the street from the Market, is an outpost of Neal's Yard Dairy which is attached to their Monmouth coffee shop. Both shops serve up the very best versions of whatever it is they sell. Neal's Yard Dairy sells amazing cheeses and Monmouth Coffee shop sells really well brewed coffee and espresso drinks. The Cheese shop is calm and cool inside while the coffee shop is packed with customers and dizzyingly busy with a long line trailing out the front door. Both places are fantastic and totally worth a visit, if only to experience their idea of perfectly selected and prepared cheese and coffee.

As with most places in Europe, and London in particular, history is around every corner!! We were just leaving the Market to find our way to The Tower when we passed by a beautiful and very old church.

We didn't think much of it until we walked by this sign and realized just how old it is; once we noticed that, then we just had to take a few photos.

This wall was directly behind us as we were peering down at the church's gardens. Everything is built so close together; no space is wasted!

I am sure that people who grown up with that sort of history just outside the back door or around the corner don't think much of something like that, but for Matthew and I it is still such a surprise to see the truly ancient mixed in with the modern and new in such a nonchalant way.

This trip to Europe was a wonderful experience! I would say that because it was our second time to visit both England and a large, french speaking city(Paris this time, Brussels last time), we didn't approach every single thing we saw and did with the eyes of children. We didn't spend every moment of our time in London simply in awe that the things we'd read and heard about actually existed, but instead we enjoyed feeling that sense of delight at being back in London. This time around, I think we were confident enough in our traveling abilities to know that we could indeed venture forth to see what we wanted to see without being dazzled by the simple concept of traveling.

Monday, November 28, 2011

1st Europe 2011 post

I'm finally getting around to posting some of the very few photos I took while on vacation in England (with a two day side trip to Paris). For whatever reason, I took far fewer photos than I should have on this trip, 206 in total, and of the photos I took few of them show anything other than to prove that I am silly - silly as a goose! Most of the photos are not of landmarks or even of the amazing dinners we had. Honestly, I'm not really sure why I took my camera with me. I'm such a lazy tourist! I'm glad I took Matthew and his big camera along with me, otherwise, I'd have no way to prove I ever even went on a trip abroad.

So, I have selected only from the photos that I took to post on this blog. Maybe if I ever clear up enough space on my hard drive to transfer the photos that Matthew took, I'll be able to post some of those lovely photos! All this to say, the photos are a really weird and strange mish mash of photos and none of them really seem to go together. They are bound only by the fact that they seem to represent, fairly strongly, the most compelling images and events from our trip(judging by the fact that I actually bothered to pull out my camera for them), at least they are the things I felt were significant to me. can laugh a little, but no out-right mocking me! Matthew and I ate Ramen in Paris. Yes, I know, what were we thinking??? Well, I wasn't thinking, my head was stuffed so full of head-cold fuzziness and the freezing cold and rain had driven anything from my head other than the need for comfort food. I can't think of anything more comforting than a really hot bowl of Ramen. This was particularly gingery and Matthew says it is a version of Ramen that is served in Japan although we didn't have the super gingery style when we were in Tokyo. I will say, absolutely Nothing would have made for a better meal at that moment for me, with my recently acquired cold. Anyway, despite being slightly blurry in the brain, I managed to notice that Parisian Japanese Restaurants are rather different than American Japanese Restaurants, naturally, but it was still very interesting to see the striking difference and just how much the French way of doing things really shaped the Japanese Ramen restaurant that we visited.

Beautiful Canterbury, I really felt that this scene looks quintessentially English and just had to snap a photo of it.

Along our walk through Canterbury, we saw this funny little house with a window frame on top of the roof. I am still wondering exactly what purpose it serves, other than to amuse the tourists! =) (By the way, I'd love to have a window frame siting atop my roof, if ever I have a house.)

So, other than the delicious food, the main reason I visit Europe, is for the tiny doors. I love, love, love tiny doorways. I think they must make me feel very tall and imposing in a way that nothing else can, since I am actually rather short compared to anything except these tiny, cute doors!

Speaking of good food, England also has very good drink. And this cider, The Blushing Old Wife, is the strangest and most mind blowing beverage I've ever consumed. I loved it at the same time that it made me wonder why I was drinking something that made my entire body sort of pucker up. Amazing but delicious!

These lovely beers were very good, British Ales with an American slant. Matthew and I loved The Foundry and all of their beers brewed on premise.

The Canterbury Canal tour. This was probably one of my favorite activities on the trip. It was a beautiful, short ride through the town with just enough interesting information to make it seem educational.

Our boatman/tour guide who was not only well-spoken and informative, but handsome besides(a big plus in my opinion).

Canterbury clearly is a very old town in a country of very old towns, but it has a real charm and quaintness that made it a place I would love to return to again!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Fall Produce

Like last week, I am posting about produce that I've purchased. These have all been seasonal fruits and so are very interesting to me since I tend to get very excited by Autumnal fruits and veggies, but I do think I should try to post something a little less fruit related very soon. I promise!

While doing my weekly shopping today I came across Pink lemons. I just had to buy them! I couldn't resist such a fun find. So, now I'm stuck with two pink lemons that I want to make something delicious with because they are so special but, as usual, I don't know what exactly qualifies as special enough to justify using the lemons.

The little yellow and striped fruit at the foreground of the picture is a Pink Lemon. It looks like a bumpy, funny colored Lime and is about the size of a lime, rather than the size of a lemon.

My first thought is that I should make a fun and pretty cocktail with them. Since they are pink inside they would make an ordinary looking drink much more attractive(pink being the very best color in all the world). I could also use them to make a lemon tart or lemon cookies, but I do wonder if the color would stay if I baked the juice? So, if you have any suggestions for using the pink lemons before they shrivel up, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Fancy Fall: Fairy Tale Pumpkins and Little Miss Brown Squirrel

On a recent trip to the farmer's market, Matthew and I picked up a giant, gorgeous Fairy Tale Pumpkin. I love the exaggerated ridges and deep grooves that make it just scream "I'm a fancy pumpkin!" This particular variety of pumpkin is an older variety and seems to be well regarded in general for cooking and appearance.

I've read about these pumpkins and I've probably even seen them before, but had never considered buying one all for my very own until we were on our way out of the market and had almost started the long trek to the car without purchasing a single heavy thing. But, when I spotted a table of $5 pumpkins, I quickly remedied the situation by buying the largest of the Fairy Tale Pumpkins that I could find on the table, not because I actually wanted to torture Matthew by making him lug it to the car, but because it truly was a perfect pumpkin.

I'm not sure what I'll turn it into: pie, soup, pudding, bread? it all sounds delicious and because this pumpkin is so large, I'll probably make a little bit of everything out of it. Yum!

I suspect I'll have to share a nibble or two of whatever I end up making with this tiny new friend.

Little Miss Fancy Squirrel was a Birthday gift from Aimee who sells these tiny pins in her new Brownsville shop. The little pin was originally made by our Cousin Rumi; what a talented family I married into!

Until I make some pumpkin treats, Little Miss Fancy can enjoy munching on this tiny felt Mushroom that I picked up at a Farmer's Market in Rhode Island last fall.

I think it's just her size!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Fancy Sunday Breakfast

Today, as on many Sunday mornings, Matthew made us a tasty breakfast. Often times our Fancy Sunday breakfasts consist of Omlettes or Egg scrambles that are delicious and perfectly cooked. Today, however, we felt like changing things up a little bit. We had all the ingredients to make very fancy muffin egg sandwiches, and they turned out to be very tasty, but also they were attractive enough to take a couple of photos.

The sandwiches were very easy to make, broil the inner sides of an english muffin. Pile onto the muffin a fried egg, a slice of havarti cheese, a sprinkle of fresh dill and a lightly browned slice of smoked ham.
Very rich and tasty!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Um...can they pass as pumpernickle?

I rarely make my own croutons; they always turn out very disappointing but a few weeks ago I was at my friend Jessica's house and she had freshly made croutons cooling on a baking sheet. I found myself, in another person's house!, picking them off the sheet and eating them. They were so good and rich with buttery edges so today I tried making some croutons with left over bread and I've got to say, they really didn't turn out so well.

So, I was inspired to re-try my hand at homemade croutons and I've, once again, convinced myself to not try them again for a little while yet.

I am wondering if we can just tell ourselves that they are Pumpernickel croutons?

And because there isn't much color in this post, I'll post another photo of my super fabulous shoes!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yay for lots of color!

I unpacked my souvenirs today, upon returning from England and found that most of the things I purchased are very colorful and fun. This just makes me happy!

Matthew and I didn't buy quite as many souvenirs on this trip to England, which is a good thing considering the size of our apartment, but I also figured that I'd just pick out a few things to post instead of posting a barrage of souvenir photos like I did a couple of years ago. It was kind of terrible and annoying =)

Macarons from Pierre Herme. I tried these in Japan and they were very good. So, when I saw them at Selfridges, I had to buy a few. And, they miraculously survived the trip back in one of the Dr. Who mugs. Yes, more mugs. arg!

Okay, well this isn't very colorful but I'm really, really excited to try it out. I love! chestnuts. What to do with it? I am taking any suggestions since squeezing it directly into my mouth might seem a bit boorish.

The craziest and brightest shoes I've ever owned. How will I ever manage to match these to an outfit? I can barely put together a decent outfit when I'm working with all black and grey. This might be a screaming disaster!

Since there was no way I'd be able to afford an actual dress from Fair, I bought this darling bag with a dress on it. It's just so pretty and fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

fall flavors, fall colors

Today, I felt like finally admitting the fact that Fall has come and summer is gone. I've replaced my nectarines and canning with rich, warming German dishes; never mind the fact that it will be 90 degrees tomorrow and the next day!

So, in celebration of fall I made Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage to pair with Kongisberger Klopse and Spatzle. I used the recipes from Horst Mager's cookbook "My Favorite Recipes," because everything I've made from his cookbook turns out perfectly every time.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Copied from My Favorite Recipes by Horst Mager

This is Horst Mager's Mother's recipe and he suggests eating it with sauerbraten, roast pork, duck or goose, or potato pancakes.

2 pound head of red cabbage

4 small onions

4 tablespoons bacon fat or butter

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup red wine

¼ cup beef or chicken stock

¼ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

1 bay leaf

1 large Granny Smith type apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

salt and black pepper to taste

Remove outside(damaged) leaves of red cabbage and cut cabbage into quarters. Cut stem out and discard. Cut cabbage into matchstick sized strips. Cut the onions paper-thin. Heat butter or bacon fat in a heavy-bottomed pan and saute apples and onions until golden brown. Add vinegar, stock, red wine, red currant jelly, bay leaf, salt, pepper, ground cloves and sugar to this mixture. Loosely place red cabbage into mixture and cover with a lid. Braise for about one hour over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the cabbage does not scorch on the bottom of the pan. Remove lid and allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes to allow liquid to evaporate.

In addition to making tasty warming foods, I purchased an adorable fall towel at the hardware store because I couldn't bear to leave with only some boring batteries for the kitchen scale. So, this hopped into my hand and only my towel rack and now I love it!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

deliciously improper nectarine jam

As a commenter (thanks Kirk!!) to my last post pointed out, I have indeed been jammin.'

While the end of the growing season never fully stops here in San Diego, a lot of the really good stuff disappears right around now, all the fruits with the flavors that remind us of summer and warm days, the foods that we want to enjoy during the cold months in the form of jams and canned goods. Admittedly, these sorts of preparations are not in any way necessary here in San Diego with our 65-70 degree weather year round, but it's still fun to get into the spirit of preserving; it invokes the feeling of the end of summer and the beginning of a new season, and I find it to be a perfect mental clue for my Southern California sun addled brain that Fall is on it's way!

So, contrary to some of the ideas that I've, over the years, absorbed from the jam making/canning purists in my family, I can make a perfectly edible jam using gelatin(the stuff that's usually used for making jello). I know! using gelatin to make jam seems completely crazy, but is actually kind of fun. Now, this does not produce a jam that can be processed and saved for years, in fact, it's intended to be eaten rather quickly, like within a month or two if it isn't frozen.

My favorite aspect of jammin' with gelatin, instead of pectin, stems from the fact that sugar isn't an important factor for it to jell and turn the fruit into jam. I used just a sprinkle of sugar for the nectarine jam that I made, which cut down on calories and will enable me to really pile on the jam, thus enabling Matthew to say "are you having a little toast with your jam?" So, as you can see, making jam with gelatin is just a lot more fun all around!

I thought that I would have trouble finding a recipe for making jam with gelatin because of the fact that most jam purists would never sully the good name of jam by using gelatin as the thickening agent, but it wasn't really a problem. In fact, I found a great recipe from a long trusted source, the OSU Extension Service; I remember my mother calling the OSU Extension office several times during the summer months when I was growing up. The Extension office always had an answer, even to the most unusual or difficult of food science questions.

I'm sure it is no surprise that I used the recipe more as a guide line than an exact recipe, since I rarely, if ever, follow a recipe to the letter:

I used nectarines for the recipe; I also used about 4 cups of fruit so increased the amount of gelatin to 2 tsp(also, the packet contained 2 tsp of gelatin and I really didn't want to save a 1/2 tsp of gelatin to use later and of course, I would never throw out such a rare and expensive ingredient as gelatin). Unfortunately, the nectarines that I used didn't have as much flavor as I would have liked; to compensate for the lack of flavor, I added some spices to the mixture: two whole cloves, a pinch of allspice, a smidge of cinnamon and a dash of ginger.

Can you see the spices in the jam?

My ability to play with the recipe so much makes a good case for using gelatin when making small batches of jam, since it doesn't require the exacting precision that using pectin does and, therefore, appeals to my love of imprecise cooking!