8/31/2012

I should totally be a contestant on The Great British Bake Off

For those of you who know me well, this post will come as absolutely no shock. But for those of you that don't - cop a squat and get enlightened. Come with me to the depths of the baking world where clothes are stained with flour, full fat butter is part of every recipe and the phrase: "well this is going to stick to my hips later...Aaaah, who gives a shit. Cut me another piece" is often muttered.
I am a die hard  Great British Bake Off fan. The truth of the matter is that I have some creepy connection with this cooking show that I just don't have with any other. Weird? Yes. Does that bother me? No. I think it has to do with the fact that the whole show is just so, me! From the bunting, to the polka dot ramekins, colorful KitchenAid mixers, and mountains upon mountains of cakes, tarts and breads. I absolutely adore it all and every year I find myself counting down the days/hours/minutes/seconds until the new series starts. For a total of 16 weeks each year, Tuesday's become my Friday. My happy day. My time of solitude and baking glory. Like that Christmas morning that I unwrapped my very first Easy Bake Oven all over again. Pure bliss (to see it yourself, scroll to the 'P.S.' where I've provided the link to the online episodes).

On Tuesday's from August until December, I impatiently wait for the hour hand on the clock to lazily tick over the 8 as I know that's when the goodness starts. The legendary bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (along with my fav presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc) are always punctual for our foodie rendezvous and never ever judge me for snuggling on the couch with a piping hot cup of tea in baggy blue striped PJ's. True friends. For an hour I sit with my eyes glued to the television, savoring the fact that BBC has no commercials, and salivating like a puppy dog begging for a bone. In my mind dances an imaginary pen making critical baking notes I mustn't forget, plans for my next food adventure unfold as I mentally raid my cupboards, and a tiny twinge of sadness sets in as the baker in me desperately wishes that I too, could some day be a contestant on this show. My favorite show. And I know deep down in my heart that if Carl and I weren't moving back to America, I'd apply. I'd dream big while crossing my fingers and toes. I'd practice kneading bread until the wee hours of the morning, I'd pipe buttercream until the cramps in my hands were sharp like knives, and I'd quite happily spend hours with my nose pressed tightly to the glass window of the oven door. I'd be in my element - the kitchen; the only other place in the world where I feel as comfortable as I do inside a classroom. And if I were ever blessed enough to be one of the chosen bakers, I'd cry big fat crocodile tears, fill every single one of my dishes with love and compassion, and savor every single minute of the time I got to live a dream. My dream.

But we are going, and so my dream of being a contestant on The Great British Bake Off remains just that, a dream. And that's okay - because in some silly way that dream is satisfied every single time I leaf through any one of my million cook books, tie my pink polka dot apron around my waist and whip up a sweet and decadent morsel for my friends and family to enjoy. I'm the winner of my own Great British Bake Off and I share the winning prize with the ones I love most every time I cut them a slice of a salted caramel chocolate fudge cake, or key lime pie, or (as in last nights case) a Spiced Apple Croustade. 

I'm a bit of a dork in that my idea of meeting someone 'famous and totally awesome' doesn't include shaking hands with Rihanna, or David Beckham or stupid ass Justin Bieber. Of course I'd be a bit nervous (except for if it were Justin Bieber, then I'd just be revolted) because the truth of the matter is that no one wants to burp, or trip, or fart in the presence of someone who has an army of paparazzi forever at their footsteps. But given the choice between meeting any A-list actors/artists or some of my cooking idols - I'd chose the chefs ANY day. If I ever got the opportunity to sit in the same room as the one and only Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood I'd be like some clone of Mary Katherine Gallagher from Superstar and ramble something along the lines of "Sometimes, when I get nervous, I stick my hands under my armpits and I...smell them like this." Bit graphic? I know, but am I painting this picture vividly, guys? Are you grasping the full scale of my Great British Bake Off  obsession and the monumental chefs associated with it?  Ok, good. So, then it should come to no surprise that yesterday I screamed like a little school girl who'd just been gifted a Lisa Frank Stationary Kit when Mama Lynne came up to me and said 'I got you a present today!' and handed me this...
GAAAAHHH!!!!! It's the newest Great British Bake Off cookbook (click here for the Amazon link) with all of the Technical Challenge and Signature Bake recipes by MARY BERRY and PAUL HOLLYWOOD! I nearly DIED with excitement! A couple of Christmas's ago Carl got me another one of Mary Berry's cook books (which is amazing) but I hadn't yet bought any of the official Great British Bake Off cookbooks (you know, I'm trying to cut down and behave myself. Mostly because cookbooks weigh more than a toddler and heavy bags+8 hour Atlantic flights=$$$). Anyway, I'm forever sitting watching the show saying "Holy shit! I HAVE to make that!" and end up composing a list 30 deep of fantastic recipes I'm dying to make.  But in the end I just never get around to finding them all online and then I sulk like a spanked child. Well, not anymore folks. NOT ANYMORE! 

Yesterday Mama Lynne and I spent a good 20 minutes thumbing through the book occasionally screaming "OOOH! Remember that one!" until (after much deliberation) we settled on one that tickled our fancy. With Fall creeping closer and closer (yay!) I've been craving anything pumpkin, spiced or apple, and when I spotted the recipe for the above mentioned Spiced Apple Croustade I nearly peed my pants with excitement. It was something I'd never made, it looked DELICIOUS and (after entering all of the recipe onto Weight Watchers recipe builder) we discovered that it was 8 ProPoints per serving -  totally diet doable. With the decision made I quickly got to work and the mad frenzy of apple peeling and filo pastry stacking began. And after an hour this little bowl of utter deliciousness appeared at the end of a rainbow.
In all honesty I found the recipe to be very simple and straightforward, it's definitely not one that requires you're a master baker. So please, none of you need shy away as you mutter 'I'm not good in the kitchen. I burn boiling water." (which, by the way, is totally impossible). The aroma of sweet caramelized apples, cinnamon  and fresh vanilla bean (I tweaked the recipe a bit in that I added an entire vanilla pods worth of beans to our apples) wafted around the house and immediately I was reminded of the smell of Mom's homemade pies on Thanksgiving day. I drooled the entire 30 minutes it was in the oven and continued to until that very first spoonful of crisp, sweet, butteriness touched my tongue. And when it did, I'm damn sure violins played and a choir of angels sang. It was absolutely DELICIOUS, hands down one of the best apple desserts I've ever eaten, and the dessert I'll be making this Thanksgiving for all of my friends and family back in Vermont. My mother-in-law summed it up perfectly as she scraped her bowl clean, licked her lips said 'that was absolutely gorgeous. You never want it to end.' It was a little bowl of Fall Heaven, and I'd be greedy if I didn't share the recipe with all of you now. May you create this yumminess to indulge in with your family too. 
 Spiced Apple Croustade
(Serves 8)

360g Filo Pastry (8 sheets of 25.5 x 48cm  or 10 x 18inch) thawed if frozen.
100 g salted butter, melted
Icing sugar for dusting

For the Filling
4 extra large Bramley Apples (or any other tart apple you can find)
50g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, seeded (this is my own addition which really made the dessert lovely, but you don't have to add if you don't want)
2 tablespoons of honey
100 grams of damerara sugar (or light brown sugar)
  1. Peel, core and thickly slice the apples. Melt the butter in a large heavy pan, add the apples and cook gently, shaking the pan from time to time (rather than stirring), until tender. Add the cinnamon, honey, vanilla bean, and half the demerara sugar, and gently stir in - try to keep a few larger pieces of apple. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring as little as possible, until the mixture is soft, thick and starting to caramelize. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. When ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Unwrap filo, but keep it covered with clingfilm to prevent it from drying out.
  3. You will need 6 sheets of filo for the base: brush the tin of your pan with melted butter. Brush one sheet with butter, then arrange in the tin so it covers the base and drapes over one side. Sprinkle with a little of the remaining demerara sugar. Brush another sheet with butter and arrange at a right angle to the first sheet. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Continue in this way with 4 more sheets until there is a base of Filo and plenty overhanging the sides. When you have finished you should have a base consisting of 6 pastry layers and the sides of the tin should be completely covered with overhanging pastry. 
  4. Spoon the cooled apple filling into the pastry case. Fold over the overhanging flaps of pastry, brushing them with the butter (and sprinkling with any remaining sugar) as you go, to cover all of the filling. Trim off any thick, unsightly or dry edges with kitchen scissors. Brush the remaining 2 sheets of pastry with butter, the tear into strips. Crumple up each piece, rather like a chiffon scarf, and carefully arrange on top in a big pile to look like a frilly hat. Sprinkle and dab with any remaining butter, then set the tin on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a good golden brown color and crisp. 
  5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin. Dust the croustade with icing sugar before serving. Goes well with whipped cream of vanilla ice cream. 
  6. This is best eaten the same day. Enjoy your hard work!
I know I'm probably biased, but the recipes in this cookbook are absolutely amazing and I'm unbelievably excited to satisfy my Great British Bake Off dreams and create many, many more delicious treasures in the future. If you're looking for new recipe's to wow your friends and family with, or in need of a good gift for the baker in your life, I highly recommend you find this in a shop near you or order online. After all, unlike Justin Bieber, you can't go wrong with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

Eat good food and be happy.

Happy Friday, love bugs! 
P.S. The Spiced Apple Croustade hasn't yet made it's appearance on this years show, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for when it does! (I'm sure I'll rant and rave about it on here again, and when I do I'll provide the link to the episode) but in the meantime click HERE to watch the previous ones from this series! :)

8/29/2012

So WHAT! Wednesday #11

On this fine Wednesday I'm linking up with the lovely  Shannon and saying a big fat SO WHAT! if...
  • I was an epic blog posting failure last week and it's now trickled into this week too. Oh well, at least I finally managed to masterfully create a cute little video and blog about our Wales trip. Feel free to humor me and ooooh awwww over my Windows Live Movie Maker success. I'm super proud. Click here to read/watch that post :)
  •  I'm still obsessing over that Bridier Baubles Coco necklace in Pumpkin I talked about last week. Get. Out. Of. My. Head!
  • I LOVE watching The Biggest Loser and I cry EVERY SINGLE episode. 
  • There are days I miss my long hair and wish I'd never cut it. But then I fall back in love with my bob and make another hair appointment with my friend Mel. Next week I just so happen to have one of those hair appointments. Thinking about switching it up from the Victoria Beckham bob this time and going for this hair style. What do ya think?
  • I've eaten some form of soup every single day for the past week. 
  • I want to punch people in the face who complain and rant about things that haven't got the faintest idea about. Just shut up and go cool down in a dark closet somewhere. Spare me your ignorant ramblings, please!
  • I only lost 3/4 lb last week. Poop. These last 7lbs are proving to be ridiculously hard to shift. They're like that nasty black mold in bathroom tile grout that even bleach can't phase. Neverthless I'm trying to remind myself it's not about what the scale says  and smile at my achievements. For example I can comfortably fit into the smallest jean size I've ever owned. Snap! Obviously the hours and hours at the gym each week are truly paying off and for the first time ever I feel comfortable in my own skin. So take that, pesky 7lbs. Take that. 
  • I can't wait for snow storms and hot cocoa.
  • I have the paint colors and wall paper designs already picked out for mine and Carl's house...that we don't even own yet. 
  • I've been absolutely terrible at responding to comments lately. I'm sorry guys - I promise that's a thing of the past. 
  • I suck at the drums on Rock Band. That whole tapping the bass pedal at the same time as hitting that crappy plastic round thing...obviously too complicated for my pea brain. But I don't know why I'm surprised - coordination has never been my thing. 
  • I don't like hamburgers. I know, I know... I'm American and they're one of the quintessential 'American foods.' Tough shit. Take that condescending eyebrow elsewhere pal, burgers, and all other forms of ground beef, are gross. 
  • I unfollow people on Instagram who constantly post self portraits. There's only so many times I can stomach the same head shot. 
  • I love BLT's. Only without the T and dipped in ranch dressing. Okay, so I guess I like BLR's. Whatever.
  • I have to peddle faster than the person next to me on the bikes at the gym. It's a sickness. I can't help myself. 
  • I haven't brushed my hair today.
  • I can't stop dreaming about The Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcake I get to devour next week.
  • I'm sad that the days are getting shorter and pretty soon it'll be dark 60% of the day. 
What are you saying SO WHAT! to this week? 
Lots of love, love, love,

Wales

As our time in the UK dwindles to a measly couple of weeks, Carl and I have been taking every opportunity to spend quality time with not only our loved ones and friends but the surrounding British landscape we'll miss as well. I can't believe we're only a week away from the scary Immigration Interview and a couple of weeks away from the big move.  Where does time go?

For those of you who don't already know, this past weekend was what those dwelling in the UK refer to as a 'Bank Holiday Weekend' - in other words a 3 day weekend which is usually sabotaged by pissing down rain and gale force winds. Since the day I set foot in England, my Father-in-law promised that it's a tradition for all bank holiday weekends to be plagued with horrible weather. In the Anderson household, the gloomy grey clouds and puddles often lead to a ridiculous number of cups of tea consumed, Monopoly family feuds and a continuous commentary of complaints that the scheduled television shows are boring and craptastic. 

Thankfully, that wasn't the case this time as we spent our last bank holiday weekend in Northern Wales soaking up the stunning natural beauty of rolling hills, gleaming blue Irish Sea and gorgeous old castles built in the 1200s. 

The sun was shining (I have an awkward burn to prove it), the television was abandoned and our only complaints were that we didn't want it to end. It was perfect. And in a comforting, yet totally ironic moment, I smiled and savored the fact that Wales was more like Vermont than anywhere else in the world I'd ever been. And it had been sitting there - a pathetic 90 minutes away from Liverpool, undiscovered and neglected by all my accounts - the entire 4 years I've lived in Great Britain. Until just weeks before I leave for good. My Vermont away from home. It's such a shame that I hadn't been sooner as I really believe my homesickness would have been cured almost instantaneously, but nevertheless I am grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to go. Wales is truly one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to. If you ever get the opportunity to visit - DO! 

As usual, I took an absolutely ridiculous amount of pictures...212 to be exact...and in an attempt to spill the guts of my camera in the most appealing of ways, I've done something different this time. I've composed a fancy little video of our time in Wales (thanks to the hubby for his help) rather than bombarding you with 80 million still frames and a few shaky and wind battered video clips. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do - I think this will be so fun to show our children some day. I hope to take them to Llandudno and Conwy Castle when they're old enough. It's one of the only places in the world that I've felt completely at peace, reflective and calm. I want them to experience that too.

So without further adieu, I present to you our time in Wales. A long lost hidden treasure, my Vermont away from home.
Lots of love love love,

8/25/2012

The Hummingbird Bakery

For years I've been obsessed with  The Hummingbird Bakery. I follow them on Facebook and Twitter, I read their blog, I've got all of their cookbooks with which I'm forever creating delicious yum yums, and when visiting London last winter one of the first places I made a beeline for was their Notting Hill shop on the famous Portobello Road (see this post to read about my first trip to the bakery and learn about my favorite of their cook books). Hands down The Hummingbird Bakery is my all time FAVORITE of cake shops and something I genuinely wish I could cram into my pocket and take back with me to Vermont. Their cakes are sweet and fluffy, colorful and sticky and so wonderfully American that they remind me of the ones my Mom used to make when I was little. Like tiny gems. Like perfect little balls of heaven. Like sweet childhood memories I never want to forget. The very best.

Although the hubby's final Immigration Interview isn't until the 6th (read more about that here) he spent all day yesterday in the Capital City completing his fancy-pants immigration medical. I guess they wanted to make sure he didn't have Leprosy or something before joining the American clan. Who knows. Anyway,  seeing as Liverpool is all the way across the country from London, Carl booked his coach ticket in advance (I say coach rather than train because the price of train fares were truly bung-your-eyeballs-out- HORRIFYING!) and, after his medical had finished, ended up having a couple of hours to meander around the city centre before catching his coach home. 

Now, this next bit of the story is a clear sign that the plump little cupcake God's were smiling down on me yesterday. How do I know that, you ask? To which I reply: because in between the US Embassy doctors office and the coach station sits Wardour Street. Now go ahead and take a wild guess as to what one might find on Wardour Street? Go on, think hard...that's it...keep going, you're almost there... uh huh....yes!...I think you've got it!...ding ding ding ding ding! JACKPOT BABY! One of the new HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY LOCATIONS!


In fact, this very Hummingbird Bakery location!
(If you look closely you can see Carl in the window taking this picture to show me. Haha!)
As soon as Carl reached this GOLD MINE of goodness he sent me this picture and I practically pissed my pants with pure excitement. I know that in my mid-20s the whole peeing-my-pants thing should be something of the past, but I could barely control myself because I knew that later on that very same evening I would be sinking my greedy little teeth into a springy, moist, sweet cupcake covered in fluffy smooth buttercream frosting. As I sat daydreaming, I was interrupted by Carl as he phoned from inside the shop to list off the days specials and ask which goodies I wanted him to return home with. Immediately I grinned from ear to ear as I relayed the list of decedent flavors to my mother-in-law, who in her own excitement, jiggled in her chair and made noises normally associated with a fireworks display. Within a minute we'd made our tongue tingling choices and Carl repeated them to the kind man behind the counter who kindly box up 2 vanilla cupcakes, 1 red velvet, 1 coffee frappe, 1 chocolate and 1 black bottom. With our diets pushed to the wayside, Lynne and I giggled like small school children as the realization that we were having a freakin' Hummingbird Bakery cupcake buffet this weekend sunk in.

All throughout the day the hours felt like years, I drooled every time I thought about my tiny treasures making their way across the country and the truth of the matter is that I clock watched from the  minute Carl hung up the phone at 4:30 until the time he set foot in the house at 12:15 that night. And as he made his way up the entry stairs my eyes were immediately drawn to the gorgeous pink and brown bag in his arms. Completely disregarding the considerate wifely chat I could have had with my husband, I neglected the  'how was your day baby? I missed you'  mumbo jumbo and instead, like a mother to her newborn sextuplets, held my arms out and quietly whispered 'can I see them?' With a smirk on his face and a look that suggested something along the lines of you need help, lady he handed me the bag of cupcakes. Carefully I caressed the perfectly crisp bag and hummed the tune to Peaches and Herb's 'Reunited and it feels so good'
Last night, at nearly 1 in the morning my mother-in-law and I plunked ourselves on the couch, each with a steaming hot cup of tea and half of a vanilla cupcake (only half because we were trying to act like we were two respectable ladies who were capable of controlling themselves). They were delicious and I can honestly say that I went to bed a happy woman last night - mostly because I knew that in the morning I still had my favorite -a hummingbird bakery red velvet cupcake beautifully packaged in a fancy cardboard cupcake box - waiting for me after my hard work in the gym. 

This morning, after an hour and a half in LA Fitness  and with 534 calories burnt, I returned home drenched in sweat and stinking to the high heavens. Immediately after the front door shut behind me my stomach began to grumble and I quickly hurried up the stairs and into the kitchen. Now, this is the part of the story where I'm supposed to say that I quickly jumped in the shower, got dressed and THEN dug into my red velvet feast...but that would be a lie. So instead I'm going to tell it how it really was and admit that what I really did was guzzle a glass of water, impatiently dig my cupcake out of that bag like my life depended on it, and chomp a King Kong sized bite right out of the side of that bad boy. Thankfully, I had enough self control to snap this cakeriffic memento before I demolished the rest. 
And ya know what? This cupcake was just as fantastic as I remembered. Sweet and fluffy, colorful and sticky and so wonderfully American that it reminded me of the ones my Mom used to make when I was little. Like tiny gems. Like a perfect little ball of heaven. Like sweet childhood memories I never want to forget. The very best.

I have never been so excited for September 6th to arrive  in all of my life and I'm so unbelievably appreciative that I'll get the opportunity to visit my favorite bakery one last time before moving back across the pond. I only wish there were a way to cram it into my pocket. I guess the cookbooks will just have to do :)

So keep your eyes peeled Hummingbird Bakery, cause I'll be seeing you very, very soon!

8/22/2012

So WHAT! Wednesday #10

On this fine Wednesday I'm linking up with the lovely  Shannon and saying a big fat SO WHAT! if...
  • I use too many pictures in my So What posts.
  • I had such a bad headache last night that I skipped, for the first time in 4 weeks, my 30 Day 300 Ab Challenge.  I'll make up for it in the gym today.
  • I've had a Facebook friend clear out today and it felt AMAZING! I'm at a point in my life where I don't feel the need to have a gazillion online friends (most of which I haven't spoken to in years) watching my every move. Some people are too damn nosy for their own good and they can go be nosy elsewhere. 
  • I am completely OBSESSED with Bridier Baubles Coco Necklace in Pumpkin. It's so gorgeous and would fit in with all of my Fall attire perfectly. Nevertheless, I'm doing well in resisting the temptation to add to my Bridier Bables collection as it truly isn't a necessity. Man, growing up and being responsible sucks.
  • Speaking of Fall attire...I may have (although I truly didn't need to) purchased this adorable chevron sweater at Boohoo.com. Although, in my defense, it was %75 off in the clearance blow out sale. I got it for a whopping £4, people! Be proud of my bargain hunter skills!
  • I'm making my family Gino D'Acampo's Neapolitan Calzones again tonight...this will be the 2nd time within the space of a week. Ah well, nobody's complaining and I can stuff mine full of veggies. And after all, dinner could be much, much, worse. At least it's not chicken nuggets. 
  • I am infatuated with The Great British Bake Off. It is BY FAR my most favorite show on English television. If you love to cook/bake, you simply must click the link above and watch. I promise you'll die happy if you do...and suffer from a throbbing sweet tooth for remainder of your day. 
  • My infatuation with polka dots has reached a whole new level. Not only am I wearing them on nights out (I mean, duh!)...
But I am now polka dotting my nails as well...
  • I've walked into our bedroom door handle so many times over the past few days that I have a MAHOOSIVE bruise on the side of my thigh. People are going to start to think Carl thumps me. Haha!
  • I know that there are only 124 days left until Christmas...(Don't judge. Santa is watching!)
  • I have to sleep with a fan blowing on my face all night.
  • I smell every single piece of food before I eat it. 
  • I'm already dressing as if it were Fall and I'm counting down the days until Starbucks releases their Pumpkin Spice Latte again.
What are you saying SO WHAT! to this week? Join us and share! :) 
Lots of love, love, love,



8/21/2012

Sometimes and Always #14

Sometimes: I want a baby so badly I can barely see straight.
Always: I snap back to reality and realize how important it is to me that I wait until the time is right for Carl and I. Right now it's not, but it soon will be. Until then I'll shower my pregnant friends (which I currently have SO many of - seriously, there must be something in the water) with extra baby love and continue to dream of the day that it's my turn to be a mommy :)


Sometimes: I can't be bothered working out and would much rather lay on the couch and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Always: I force myself to tie my sneakers, grab my water bottle and make the short journey to the local LA Fitness down the road. In never fails, I feel SO rejuvenated, happy and healthy every single time I leave there.

Sometimes: I think I'd like to go sky diving.
Always: My constant bad luck and clumsiness means that I chicken out. I know for a fact if I ever went sky diving I would be that poor bastard who's parachute didn't deploy or the one that landed in a massive picker bush. 

Sometimes: I watch One Born Every Minute and wish I'd have become a Midwife.
Always: I realize how much I'd miss the opportunity to spend my life teaching sweet children on a daily basis. There are few things more humbling than knowing you're helping to make a positive impact on a child's life. It's one of my favorite things in the entire world and I am beyond excited to go home and get my first job!
Sometimes: crave become completely infatuated with a specific food.
Always: I obsess over that food (constantly drooling, dreaming, thinking about it) until I finally satisfy my hunger. Latest obsession: homemade bread. Was is everything I'd been hoping for? Yes. And much, much, more. 

Sometimes: I can't believe how far Carl and I have come. That we've been together 10 years and are now married. That we're only a couple of weeks away from moving back home and starting a new chapter in our lives. That we really made our dreams come true.
Always: I am beyond grateful for having, against the odds, survived a long distance relationship plagued by the Atlantic Ocean. I feel truly blessed to have found him, the peanut butter to my jelly, and couldn't be more excited for our future. Bring on the new home, new jobs, and new (future) additions to our sweet family.


Sometimes: I lick the left over ketchup off of my plate.
Always: I curse the  day I was born as I spend the next hour DYING of heartburn.

What are your Sometimes and Always? Link up with us here and share!  :)
Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday!
Lots of love, love, love

8/20/2012

The best damn bread you'll ever make!

For the past couple of weeks I've been craving homemade bread like it's goin' out of style. But last night it reached a whole new level when, after a dreamy encounter with two walking talking loaves of bread, I woke up close to 3am with a grumbly tummy and mouth flooded with drool. So, in order to curve my utterly ridiculous craving, I looked to the almighty Pinterest God's  this morning for a great new bread recipe. 

And boy did they deliver!

Like some psychotic Paula Deen clone, I was instantly attracted to a pin which proudly boasted the word 'butter' and portrayed a perfectly golden loaf of yumminess. Impatiently I clicked the link and drummed my fingers as the blog page of  Chocolate, Chocolate and More loaded. It was there, among about 80 million other FANTASTIC recipes, that I found it. The holy bible of  homemade loaves: the recipe titled Buttery White Bread. A quick scan of the ingredients lead to a happy jig and immediate commotion in the cupboards. All ingredients of this recipe were everyday things I already had in the pantry, which meant it was downright awesome even before I tasted it. I don't know about you, but when it comes to homemade bread I'm a fan of the age old saying 'keep it simple, stupid.' Evaporated milk and instant potatoes can kiss my ass. Good ol' flour and yeast is enough for this little lady!

So I am here, after the success of this afternoon, to ask all of you bread machine owners to chuck that crappy pile of plastic out the window. Because this recipe, my friends, is the real deal! Although, like every other bread concoction - it takes a couple of hours from start to finish - this bread is unbelievably simple and utterly delicious. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that this was the very best batch of homemade bread I've ever produced - even the in-laws and hubby agreed it was scrumptious!

 In fact, it's that tasty I'd be selfish to keep it all to myself. So, as a gesture of good-food-will I'm sharing it here on my blog so that you too can embark on a magical-carbohydrate- induced-carpet ride. It's a stunner folks - so preheat that oven and bust out your apron! 

(As a side note I ask that you take a moment to bask in the gloriousness of my loaves! The picture below is a demonstration of my epic baking skills from today and I'm tickled pink with how great they turned out! A true testament to the awesomeness of this recipe!)
Buttery White Bread
makes 2 loaves


1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

5-5 1/2 cups all purpose flour (although I used strong white bread flour)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

  • In a saucepan, heat milk, butter, sugar and salt over medium heat until bubbles appear around edges.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. (I put my pan in the fridge for about 7 minutes.)
  • In mixing bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If you're having trouble with your yeast proofing, add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Gives it a jump start.)
  • Stir in milk mixture to yeast. Using the paddle attachment for your mixer, add in 3 cups of flour, blend until all combined.
  • Switch out to the dough hook and slowly add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Knead dough in mixer about 7 minutes or about 10 minutes if by hand, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
  • Place dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
  • Punch down dough then remove from bowl and divide in half.
  • Let dough rest 10 minutes then gently roll out dough or flatten with hands. Roll dough up and tuck under ends.
  • Place seam side down in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, until hollow sounding when tapped and a beautiful brown on top.
  • Remove from oven and brush with melted butter. Use it all, you'll thank me.
  • Let cool in pans 30 minutes before removing to wire rack, serve warm or let cool completely.
So go ahead, bust out a loaf or two and trick impress your loved ones into thinking you're the next Nigella Lawson!

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, friends!
Lots of love, love, love,

8/19/2012

Rainy Days...

Are for wearing pajamas all day, for being lazy and relaxed.
For neglecting make up and hair brushes,
for eating sweet snacks.

Rainy days are for giant polka dot cups filled with steaming hot tea,
or hot chocolate, 
or spiced latte
 or bitter coffee.

They are for kisses, and snuggles, and cuddles and naps.
For chick flicks, and freshly painted nails and long girly chats.

They are calm, cool and collected.
Full of yawns, loafing and heavy eyes.
They are slow and unassuming,
the best for baking pies.

Rainy days are for puddle jumping, raindrop thumping and thunder.
They are for fuzzy sweaters, bright umbrellas and minds left to wonder.

Rainy days are God's way of saying take it easy, slow down.
Of turning bustling city streets into vacant ghost towns.

They're comfortable, they're still, 
they're drowsy and sluggish.
They're cosy, they're gentle,
they're boring, they're huggish.

Rainy days like today are always my favorite.
Rainy days like today remind me to savor it.
Because life moves too quickly, the years pass so fast.
So thank those damp raindrops...
you've slowed down at last.


Wishing you all a happy rainy Sunday.

8/18/2012

The International Space Station

On Friday night the hubby and I went to visit our best buds Toni and Carl. We spent the evening enjoying Chinese food, laughing at epic stunt fails on YouTube, playing Uno and discussing exciting grown up things (stay tuned for more on that in the upcoming days). It was a lovely relaxed evening with good friends. Just what I needed and just what I love. 

In the midst of one of our girly chats, Toni happened to ask if I'd seen the International Space Station sailing across the night sky recently. My crumpled eyebrow must have given away my confusion as she quickly explained that friends from work had been excitedly sharing about their sightings. From August 17th - 24th (at specific times) those of us living in the Liverpool area are able to enjoy the pleasures of the Space Station floating across the evening darkness. The bright glowing blob moves quickly - only taking a couple of minutes to travel from West to East before disappearing over the horizon. 

Toni and Carl hadn't yet seen it either, so last night on the car ride back home, at approximately 11:54pm, Toni made a pit stop at a local bus stop so that we were all able to get a good view. For a good minute we stood outside of the car craning our necks toward the sky as if we were desperately trying to make friends with a UFO full of aliens. But then we saw it -a bright twinkling light moving at a million miles an hour from one side of the city to the other. It was something I'd never seen before and I truly thought it was brilliant. How often do you get to say you looked up into the sky and watched the International Space Station fly by? Seriously? And the fact that two Russian astronauts are up there this very minute? Absolutely amazing! I'm a sucker for this kind of crud. Always have been, always will be. Don't even get me started on the Northern Lights. I'm obsessed!

But because I'm such a big fat nerd - I couldn't leave it at just one night of viewing pleasure. Oh no folks, this greedy little astronomical obsessive needed more! So, this evening, at 9:28pm Carl, the in-laws and I all hurried to the darkest part of our road and peered up into the sky. And sure enough, within the space of 3 minutes Carl excitedly exclaimed he'd found it. Immediately I busted out my camera phone. I just had to take full advantage of this awesomeness. I even video taped our experience.  
video
So if, like me, you're a mahoosive geek and the thought of watching the ISS float across the sky excites you probably more than it ought to, then be sure to click the NASA Sky Watch link to find out when you can view it wherever you're living! It's only available for viewing on specific dates - so make sure to plan ahead!  Oh, and the teacher inside me insists that all of you Mom's and Dad's allow your little dumplings to stay up a bit late just one night so that they can see this. They'll be tickled pink to spot that big ball of light floating across the big black sky. And to really get them going, explain that two people are up there performing space walks! I  guarantee you'll get at least 5 'WOW! Cooool!'s :)

Happy Saturday, love bugs, and enjoy your viewing from wherever you live!

8/17/2012

Because food tastes better in certain shapes...

Today as I ate my yummy bowl of pasta with garlic, olive oil and zucchini I admired how - for some unknown spooky reason - zucchini tastes better when it's cut into half moon shapes and fusilli (aka 'swirly' pasta) triumphs over regular elbow macaroni any damn day. Plead the contrary all you want, but until the day I die I will always be convinced that in those shapes they're far superior.

But why is it that there are certain foods that smell, look and taste better when they're cut/made/transformed into certain shapes? Why is it that our brains are transfixed by triangles, circles and cookie cutter hearts? Is this God's way of laughing at the ridiculous tricks our human minds play? Regardless of the reasoning, it's blatantly obvious. Certain foods taste better and are more appetizing when presented in specific shapes. 

Think I'm a mad woman? Full of crap? Off my rocker? See for yourself. 

 Exhibit #1 
Waffles
We all know that square waffles suck and round waffles are boring...but heart shaped waffles?  FREAKIN' DELICIOUS!
Exhibit #2
Jello
Who the hell want's to eat boring cubes of jello when you can have cookie cutter shaped stars, moons, hearts and diamonds? I mean come on! Those shapes single handedly symbolize childhood and all of it's glorious jiggle fun! Besides, everyone knows strawberry jello tastes more like fuzzy heart tingling goodness when it's shaped like love. 
Exhibit #3
Toast
This is where I know I'm not alone on this shape obsessive weirdo wagon. My husband is admit that toast tastes nicer when cut into triangles. And ya know what, for once - he's right. It does. Square or rectangle toast is boring and morbid.  The peanut gallery shouts for triangles.
Exhibit #4
Pizza
It is a well known fact that a round pizza's are far nicer than square pizza's. To put it bluntly, square pizza's suck. They're dishonest and unnatural with their 4 condescending corners and square slices. The fit perfectly in pizza boxes (which is irregular and mind boggling) and they're uncomfortable to bite - always leaving a greasy square shaped residue on your cheeks because, unlike a triangle slice, they don't fit in your gob quite as well.
Exhibit #5
Doughnuts
If you've been with me since the beginning of my blogging journey you'll already have read my college dissertation food memoirs and know of my love for my Mom's homemade doughnuts...if not, click here to catch up. In the mind of this doughnut connoisseur, doughnut holes are better than normal round doughnuts, and normal round doughnuts stomp all over those shitty long swirly stick things pretending to be doughnuts. 
and finally...Exhibit #6
Hot Dog Buns
Mom: "We're out of hot dog buns Mandy, you'll just have to use a piece of bread." Those words have burnt my ears before and until the day I day I will protest eating hot dogs on normal pieces of bread. Contrary to what my mother believes, it ISN'T the same. Instead, it's like munching on tasteless, square cardboard. Normal pieces of bread leave my hot dog hugless and bare. It's sad and lackluster - not only to my eyes but my hot dog loving taste buds. 
Of course there are  many more foods I could name which taste better in specific shapes, but I'm beginning to get hungry, and I'm slightly concerned about my mental state as I've just wasted a half an hour of my life composing a post devoted to food shapes. Surely I have better things to do with my time?

Anywho, I hope you're all enjoying  a fantastic Friday evening! May you live life to it's fullest and munch triangle toast, wiggly heart Jello Jigglers, round pizza and hot dogs wrapped in the appropriately shaped buns. 

8/15/2012

♪ Workout Tunes ♫

One of the things I rely on most to keep me motivated while working out, is music. Without it I shrivel and die like a plant with no water. If I don't have some sort of thumping beat or screaming  guitar booming out of my headphones I find that I function at a snails pace and may as well just curl up in a ball and go to sleep right there on my Yoga mat. Music makes me move, it pushes me to keep a steady and challenging pace and it helps distract from the fiery burn in my muscles. I love it.

So a couple of weeks ago when I first joined my gym, the first thing I did was create an awesome workout playlist (which is so appropriately titled 'I'm Sexy and I Know it' Baha!) that would encourage me to pump up the jams and quite literally move my ass at the gym or when running. One a daily basis I think of a new song to add, or jump for joy when friends offer their great suggestions (thanks, Alli! I really appreciated your list!) Currently my playlist stands at 57 songs (which is 3.8 hours of music) with a mix of rock, dance, trance and pure cheese. I'm one of those people who needs variety, as I just can't hack the same 'boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom' crap in my ear holes or else I get bored and can't stay focused.  For the past 3 weeks I've listened to it on shuffle nearly every day and I'm still not bored! (folks, make sure to never neglect your shuffle button! It's like a great piece of lingerie in that it keeps things new and exciting! Ha!)

Lately a lot of people have asked me to share my workout playlist as they too are looking for musical inspiration. As I'm all for sharing (what can I say, my Momma taught me well) I've taken screen shots of my little I'm Sexy and I Know it gems with the hope that you can find something that floats your boat to add to your own! (Sorry they've gone a bit blurry, my computer must be PMSing). May you bask in all of their glory and hopefully adopt some yourselves. I promise they don't bite.
So there you have it love bugs, those are the current tunes in my life. If any of you have found awesome songs or have a select favorite work out jam that you'd be willing to share, PLEASE DO! Like I said, I'm forever adding to my playlist and who isn't looking for great new songs?

Have a fantabulous Wednesday!

8/13/2012

Because it's not healthy to eat an entire pack of Oreo's

Happy Monday, love bugs!

The day has finally arrived where you can read my guest post over on the lovely Shannon's blog! Click the link HERE to indulge in all of it's glory and enjoy my wobbly bits! Within the past 15 minutes I've participated in and finished my first ever P90X: Yoga X workout and I'm suffering with a serious case of  'sweating like a pig while flopping around the house like a Jello-Jiggler'.

Fear not, though. I'll be back later this afternoon (post shower when I'm sweating less and smelling better) with my day 14 pictures from my 30 Day 300 Ab Challenge! :)

Until then,
lots of love love love
Well, although I'm still feeling very much like a Jello-Jiggler, I am shower and smelling far less invasive than a couple of hours ago. So I'm back, as promised, to share with you the Day 14 pictures from my 30 Day 300 Ab Challenge (which you'll remember from reading this post last week, I have adapted to a 60 Day 300 Ab Challenge as I've opted to do the exercises every-other-day in order to give my muscles time to recover and heal). So technically, although I would be had I kept this at 30 days, I'm not even half way yet!

I have to admit that the first night I did this challenge, I puked afterwards. I wasn't expecting to sweat as much as I did (why should I? The girl in the demonstration pictures is smiling the whole damn time for sobbing out loud! She clearly enjoyed herself!) nor was I prepared to end it keeled over panting like I'd just given birth. But please, don't let my heaving put you off. I puked because, as per usual, I bull-moosed my way through the routine, determined to do it fast like a freight train the very first time, and in the end over extended myself. I didn't have a water bottle ready, which meant I didn't drink any water throughout. What's more, I didn't allow myself any time to breathe in between moves - also a contributing factor to my puking - I don't suggest you follow in my ignoramus foot steps. 

Experience has taught me to do the entire hoopla on a towel or yoga mat, to listen to my 'I'm Sexy and I Know It' workout playlist on my iPod in order to keep myself motivated, to always have a massive water bottle at my side (which is usually emptied by the end of the routine) and to tuck my toes under the couch in order to keep my legs down for the Cross-Leg/Wide Leg Sit-Ups (don't beat yourself up if you can't keep your legs flat on the ground for the first couple of times. Work up to it if you need to!) At first it took me around 25 minutes to do all of the exercises, but now I can bust them out in about 15 minutes. I still sweat like a pig and  hate those bastard Roll-Up V-Ups like there's no tomorrow, but I at the end I feel fulfilled and healthier.

While my stomach is still NO WHERE near as toned as I'd like it to be (my belly button still looks as if it's frowning - how very sad!) I am impressed with the results thus far - especially considering I'd only actually done the routine 7 times by the Day 14 pic (which was taken last Friday). From the front I can definitely see some changes in the form of less wobble - and that makes me smile a big Cheshire cat smile! It's great to know that all of the blood, sweat and tears are actually paying off! Hallelujah! 
In all honesty, from the side I struggle to see any vast changes, but the hubby thinks things look, quote: "more indented." Ha! I'll take it. 
So there you have it, folks. The progress thus far in my  30 60 Day 300 Ab Challenge! Still a bit wobbly but I'm feeling the burn and gettin' firm! Woohoo! I'll be back in another two weeks with the results from day 30! Be sure to stay tuned, and by all means, JOIN ME! :)