Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We're Coming to America!

Cliffs in Orkney. Isn't the water gorgeous???

Yes, it's true, ladies and gentlemen, Joel and Heather are actually returning to the states. For the first time in over 2 years, much to your joy and/or consternation, we are coming back for a visit! We'll be in Washington state for 3 weeks, splitting the time between the west side and the east.

Here is a cordial invitation from my Mum:

Dear Friends,
We wanted to have a special gathering for Heather and Joel while they are here from Scotland. We're hoping as many of you can be here as possible. I know it's a busy time of year so if you can't don't feel obligated. We will have an Open House on Sunday, December 21st from 3:00 - 7:00 in Puyallup. If there are other people that we might have forgotten, feel free to invite them. We don't want anyone to be left out! Appetizers and beverages will be provided.


This will take place in my parent's house in Puyallup. If you are interested in coming and don't know where this is, please send me a message somehow (preferably NOT facebook) and I can give you directions. As for all of you eastern washingtonians, there is potential for a similar opportunity which we will let you know of as/if it develops.

If you can't make it to either, and have a burning desire to see us, please let us know!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just a reminder that this is in that book

Since Luke reminded me today. Read it if you're interested...

Luke 6:27-30 (NASB)
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back."

6:33a
"If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?"

6:35
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."

No one is really mistreating me at the moment, and I can't think of any 'enemies', but this is the attitude I want, especially having benefited from it in others. Also, I'm sure this relates to 'The Economy', 'National Security', and 'Foreign Policy' somehow, but I won't speculate.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rosie's Chickpea Curry


Welcome one and all to the most wonderful recipe that you must make part of your life. Now. This has become one of our standard, well-loved dinners.

There is a community centre nearby us that has lots of different classes and activities, like stained glass, which we were going to last year at this time. It's called the Annexe, and it's in Partick. They also have a gem of a cafe, which serves healthy and delicious lunches. This is their Chickpea Curry, courtesy of Rosie the cook.

If you've ever taken heed to anything I've ever said, I urge you to try this curry. It's heart-warming, flavourful, and will make your day better.

Rosie's Chickpea Curry

2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin coconut milk
3 tablespoons Patak's Balti Curry Paste (use any curry paste you can find, and add more to taste. I always add double what she suggests. Different curry pastes will add different flavours, so let me know how yours turns out!)
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Square inch chopped fresh ginger
6 dried apricots, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
2 roasted potatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
a good handful of fresh coriander (cilantro)

Roasted vegetables - roughly chop the pepper and par boiled potato into large chunks and sprinkle with a little oil, roast in oven for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a saucepan.
Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Fry gently.
Add apricots and remove from heat.
Stir in curry paste.
Gently mix in the chickpeas.
Stir in the roasted vegetables.
Add the coconut milk and stir.
Return to low heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the coriander and serve.

Serve with grilled pitabread, or naan, or boiled rice and mango chutney. Eat like a madwoman and afterward give your belly a reassuring rub.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reptilian Autumn.

It's been a good week. Busy, but good busy. So many great things to pack in.

Yesterday I saw a baby gecko that had just hatched that day! It was soo adorable.
I also petted a python. It had beautiful green and black patches!
This is all miraculously part of my job. Next time I complain about my job, you have certification to smack me.

The colours all around are irresistible. Gorgeous oranges, bronze, gold, scarlet... I love it. Doesn't it make you want to dye your hair a beautiful deep rich red? I wish I could but with Joel it'd just look ridiculous, both of us being red-haired. Oh well.

I have cooked so many things this week it's intimidating to think about all of it. Part of being busy has been many many social things, and what else do you do for that sort of thing? I cook. But today I don't post about it. Tonight holds my life's calling: teaching someone how to make guacamole.* Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Why don't you go make yourself some? Come on, you don't even have an excuse. I know, avocados aren't exactly in season, especially in Glasgow, but hey once you taste it, could you really fault me?

In direct contradiction to my last statement, I am making an intentional effort to cook with seasonal ingredients. This has included buying a butternut squash (which turned out pretty decent especially for our first time), roasting a pumpkin, and thanking God for all of the on-sale apples and pears! Oh I made pear butter too. Mm delicious. I may tell you more about that later.

*Update 26.10.08: It has been undeniably shown to me that showing Scottish teenagers how to make guacamole is not in fact my life's true calling. While opening a can of refried beans I got a huge deep disgusting cut in my finger and it bled all over the kitchen. Then at 3 am it opened up again and bled all over the bathroom. Then we went to the hospital till 6am. It's been more than a week and the wound still isn't all closed up. Eeeeeww.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Summer with the Folks: Installment 1

In the grand tradition of this blog, I have at least 300 posts to get through all at once, so I can slack off again for another three months. Last year, Heather's parents visited us and we traveled all over Scotland and Norway with them. This year was my parents' turn! This time around, we stayed in Scotland, but split the time between Orkney and the Rest of Scotland. This provides me with a perfect excuse to do two posts. Orkney needs its own post.

This I'll defend!
Who you calling a demi-savage?
Though we had an eventful two weeks, I must say they were much less packed than last summer, and we were able to spend a fair amount of time chillin' in the greater Glasgow area, cooking (as you've no doubt noticed) and seeing the local sights: City Centre, the Botanic Gardens, Loch Lomond, etc. The folks got to meet Basil and our other friends, see our church, and generally be reassured we were still alive.

One priority was to find the MacFarlane homelands: though I'm becoming increasingly aware of the decided American-ness of the quest for 'heritage' and 'ancestry', I've decided to continue to embrace my roots... just more quietly. Also, my dad was totally into finding Loch Sloy, which is basically MacFarlane cow-stealing HQ. We found it - or at least the hydroelectric plant that drains its water, and the mountain that we would have had to climb to see the actual lake. Close enough. Photo op.

The rest of these pictures are from the long road trip (by UK standards) up to Orkney. Highlights were Dunrobin Castle (nice castle, Robin!) huge windfarms, Cromarty Firth, and good ol' Highland scenery. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry to catch the ferry to Orkney, so we did miss some of the cool scenery Tighe and I saw last winter, but we did get to see a lot of the more northerly parts I hadn't seen yet.

As usual, there are lots more pictures here (Update: just fixed the link).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rye Bread

Wasn't the Cold Ham Water post a lovely distraction from the usual focus of edible food? Courtesy of Joel the Cook. Now, back to the status quo... with Rye Bread. We bought some rye flour at our favourite shop in Partick, which sells everything in plastic bags for low prices. The guy who runs the place buys it all in bulk and passes on the savings to his customers. He sells everything from bulk spices, flours, oats (even pinhead oats, mind you), and pet food too! We used to buy all of Basil's food there. He even has aquariams full of snakes and other reptiles and fish in the back. What an awesome shop. I think it's called something like Partick pet food and grain supply store.
We used this recipe for rye bread. We substituted treacle for molasses, as you do. I think we can call this a success. We definitely used the caraway seeds, and let me tell you that is VITAL to rye bread. We'll be enjoying this...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cold Ham Water With Dill Garnish

If you have been paying attention to this blog in the last several months, you may have come under the impression that Heather is the only gourmet in our household. This impression is mistaken; I'm actually the more talented chef, and today I'd like to share one of my favorite recipes with you. Cold Ham Water is a variation on a popular recipe, which I first heard about on my favorite cooking show. This is a much simpler version, however, which doesn't require special 'water boiling' equipment.

Cold Ham Water
Ingredients:

  • Water (cold)*
  • Ham (thinly sliced)**
Dill Garnish:
  • Dill (garnish)
Directions:
  1. Place ham in water-tight tray or bowl.
  2. Add cold water (to taste)
  3. Garnish with dill
*If cold tap water is not available, refrigerate warm or lukewarm water overnight until cold.
**I used 'cooked ham' sandwich meat, but 'smoked' or 'honey glazed' will also work.

I should mention that I discovered this recipe inadvertently due to a steady drip in the ceiling of our refrigerator.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mayonnaise

I made homemade mayonnaise yesterday. If you don't know me well enough, this is basically equivalent to a vegetarian making a steak dinner. I don't eat mayonnaise. I don't even like it having a presence in our (very small) fridge. HOWEVER I do put Joel's happiness above my own discomfort, and Joel loves his mayonnaise. Thus our fridge is a mayonnaise-friendly fridge.

Since coming to terms with the fact that we will most likely always be a mayonnaise-keeping family, I have come to the conclusion that if we must have mayonnaise, then at least we can have non-preservative laden mayonnaise, with minimal cost and in controllable amounts. By making a small batch, I am restricting it's fridge presence while contributing to Joel's happiness. Wow this post is getting way too long for something talking about mayonnaise...

Anyway I made mayonnaise. It took me like 5 minutes, looks pretty much like crap, so I guess it's about right, and cost nothing. We had all the ingredients in the kitchen. Now, as I've told Joel, it's only a matter of creativity before I can vary it up by making garlic mayonnaise or something.

Here's the recipe I used. Dead simple. Don't support the mayonnaise industry! Make your own instead!

Mayonnaise (based on a few recipes, among them this one)

Mix one egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar), 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and about 1/2-1 teaspoon dry mustard.

When this is mixed, gradually add in 1 Cup of oil (I used 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 sunflower). As you keep mixing it magically turns into the congealed mass of white known as mayonnaise.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Celebration!

Happy one-loan-down-one-more-to-go Day!!!

As of this month, I've paid off my smallest student loan! This is incredibly encouraging to me, and having just one more loan (I'm not even counting Joel's at this point) gives me hope that there will be an end to loan payments!

Following brilliant and sensible advice from Get Rich Slowly, and another article that I cannot seem to track down anywhere, I am keeping my persistent determination strong. Instead of seeing this loan pay off as a break for the bank account, I've raised my other loan payment by the difference. I was paying about $50 for the newly paid off loan, and $100 toward my other one, but now since the small loan has been paid off, I just increased my other loan payment to $150. I've been paying that much toward loans the last 2 years, and despite low wages and many financial hardships, we've been making it, so now is not the time to decrease payments! This way I'll be able to pay off my final loan sooner rather than later. I asked the woman on the phone how long it would take me to pay this off at the new payment rate, and she said until 2015. Seems like an awful long time, but hey it will be here quick! About 6 years (If that seems like a long time, just think, 9/11 was actually 7 years ago tomorrow). And if things go as planned, I will be able to increase my payments at some point and pay it off even sooner.

Also, we aren't paying towards any of Joel's loans at the moment b/c he's still studying. This helps me to be able to focus on paying off my loans.

Celebration! Everyone pick up a penny off the sidewalk in thanks for my first loan paid off!
You can do it too!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Victory Gardens

The greatest thing of today.

And for all of you super-Americans, the name should make you happy.

Things like this make me love life, people, and even America.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

R.I.P. Basil 2007-2008

Let's all take a moment to remember the delight Basil brought us all. More than a pet, we've lost a best friend.Basil: Haiku in Memoriam

Legs up in the air
Basil was flat on his back
The end came too soon.

Now lettuce has a name!

This is Salanova® lettuce. There were rows and rows at the store today and it looked so gorgeous I had no reason not to buy one. It's a gorgeous head of lettuce, if I've ever seen one. It looks eyecatchingly different than any other lettuce I've seen. Now I'm wondering of the ethics of buying trademark lettuce... The website's tag line for the lettuce is "Now lettuce has a name!" I'm not sure if they were missing something?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Joel leaves, home subsequently shatters.

  1. Food waste is up. Way up. So far I've had to throw away:
  • a half bag of salad
  • leftover couscous with sweet raisin/apricot chicken stuff
  • leftover rice (it was too late for rice pudding)
  • an apple
  • a lime
  • there's some ham nearing the end.
This is getting dire, folks! I need the man's belly!
  1. Basil is down. Something is wrong with my adorable wee beloved cretin. He isn't as fiery as he used to be, he isn't even trying to bite my fingers when I stick them in his cage. When I hold him he doesn't resist me pulling out of his cage, and he doesn't run for my shoulders right away either.
  2. These numbers are all messed up. There's two number ones and these are ALL the sort of problems no one but JOEL can fix. Let's petition for him to come back.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

London

Joel says I should post on London. Okay... but I'll be thinking about food in the back of my mind the entire time. We stayed with a lovely Couchsurfer from France. This made our time in London a time we were unwilling to leave.

Joel the Tourist here on The Strand. This is his "searching the map wearing my hat beard and tie dye and trying to fit in like I'm perfectly normal" pose. Is it working?

We went to the original Twinings shop on The Strand, which has been there since 1706. We liked the Chinaman holding the real live pigeon (look closely!).

Next time YOU are in London, go to the Algerian Coffee Store. They have a billion different kinds of coffee and tea. I bought a few of those amazing tea explosion thingys that are like a globe of tea, then when you put it in hot water it opens up into the most beautiful delicate flower blossoms... makes good gifts. Joel got some Arabic coffee and some Peaberry coffee. Mmm deliciousness.

Another highlight was seeing King Lear in the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare's theatre. It sounds like one of the tacky touristy things to do, but it was seriously cool! All the costumes are made in traditional methods, meaning they take like 5,000 man hours to make.. and they had old school music. All for only £5 a ticket! For the standing floor tickets. It was pretty sweet being close enough to the actors to touch them.

It sounds like we did tons, but it was actually a relaxed trip. Since this was our 2nd time to London, we didn't have to go to all the top tourist attractions and we could chill and go on nice walks instead, and see some of the other little things. We went to Camden markets too. One afternoon we took the underground to the very last westernmost stop, and it took us to Richmond, this romantic riverside grassy area with ice cream and boats. This is the Thames! Pretty different from the city part of the river. We enjoyed the sun and relaxed and then I got dog poo on my jacket. I'll leave those photos out today. I enjoyed this trip to London immensely more than our last. Last time it was early january and it was freezing and we were cold and hungry the whole time. Now I see that I could actually live quite happily in London. (Just like 80% of the rest of the world.) Now it's your turn! Go see London! And visit us while you are in the same time zone.

Bramble & Chocolate Bread

Mmmm Mmm Mmmm. Come on, say it with me. Mmmm Mmm Mmm. Oh yea, there we go. Oh yea it looks so amazing, looks so delicious, looks stellar! Let me tell you, it is. It is. I made this from a recipe from A Cook's Tour of Scotland, by Sue Lawrence. This book is a glittering gem with tons of classy recipes using local produce. It tells a bit about the different areas of Scotland and some culinary traditions in each area. There are some recipes I may not use quite as much (Fresh Dulse Soup - Dulse is seaweed. This recipe is prefaced by "When picking wild seaweed, ensure it is from clean water and that there is not a sewage plant lurking just around the bay!"). But there are tons of recipes I am eager to experiment with (Gooseberry Crisp). Oh speaking of gooseberries, I was at the little produce stand the other day and the worker was saying the gooseberries are really cheap today. I asked, "What do you do with them?" and he so cleverly replied, "eat them."

Anyway, back to the Bramble & Chocolate Bread! Brambles are blackberries. I'm not sure if it's a Scottish thing to call them brambles or what. Please tell me if you know! I am still a novice at yeast-related matters, but this was absolutely delicious. My bread has never gone horribly wrong (touch wood) (Did you know here they say "touch wood" whereas back home everyone says "knock on wood"?). If my bread ever did turn out horribly wrong, I would probably give up altogether so I think I have God's blessings in my bread-making attempts.

I used some leftover mini milk chocolate chips we had, together with Green & Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate (i.e. what heaven is made of). Green & Blacks is the only choice for an aloof chocolate snob. It will even turn the snobs into beautiful human beings with consideration for the earth and an understanding of all things lovely. It's that amazing. I think mixing some dark and milk chocolate is definitely the way to go with this recipe. If you eat the bread cool, you can taste each kind encouraging each other, and coating the blackberries to reach glittering paradise in your mouth.

I still have half of the loaf left (yes, I shared). Do you think it will last till Saturday when Joel gets home?

If you want the recipe I could post it. Or email it.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Summer Spinach Superbity & Joel's Protein Salvation

On the day of summer Glasgow had last week, a simple salad felt like the perfect way to eat without spending time with the oven on. Then we could spend more time outside! I made cous cous with sundried tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, and lots of cumin and sea salt. After throwing this into a fresh spinach salad with olive oil and lemon juice, presto! Five minutes and we were eating our Summer Spinach Superbity. Mmm.

Afterwards Joel timidly said ... he was still hungry. It had slipped my mind that he is a huge man with very real protein needs. So my enterprising self threw together Joel's Protein Salvation. I sliced some fresh sourdoughy bread, topped it with cooked minced lamb and mushrooms with rosemary, then some cheese and left under the grill for a few minutes so it was all cheesey-melty and crisp-bready. That satiated him. The sunshine gives me energy, thus the quick thinking and relatively successful results.

Habitual Pudding

Ever since we've known each other, one of Joel and my habits has been to make rice pudding. It has been a happy result of my inability to estimate the dry rice = cooked rice ratio. I usually end up making far too much, which leaves us with plethoras of cooked rice. Thankfully, rice pudding is a wonderful thing.

When Joel's parents were here, we ended up making rice pudding once again, and promptly devouring it. Then getting to admire my beautiful bowls. (5 gorgeous bowls for £1, charity shop in Orkney. Oh yeah.)

How do you like your rice pudding? We like ours warm with plenty of raisins, cinnamon, vanilla and/or almond, and sometimes if we are feeling amazing, rum. Then we smother it all in plenty o' delicious milk. Joel's parents thing eating leftover rice pudding for breakfast the next day is appropriate. I can't seem to justify that. How 'bout you?

The Kirkwall Hotel & Restaurant

While in the Orkney's, we ate a superb dinner at The Kirkwall Hotel. Above is our appetizer, assorted seafood deliciousness. The Orkney's know their seafood, and they don't joke around about it. It's serious stuff. Serious seafood deliciousness.

Apparently they joke a little bit with their salads. Above is our side salad that came with the meals. Quite adorable, really. I've recently begun a quest to like tomatoes, but it didn't feel necessary to eat the yellow one you can see there. When I signed up to like tomatoes it didn't include yellow ones.
In true form of the Shaver's trip to visit us, 3 of us ordered the same thing: it was Seafood Pasta this time. I took a picture of it but it does not look appetizing at all in the photo, so I instead will regale you with the deep satisfaction it brought me (and a photo of the Orkney Sea the seafood came out of). Penne pasta with mixed seafood, in a garlic tomato goodness sauce. It was fabulous, but I do have to admit it wasn't quite as earth-shaking as the pasta dish I had a O Sole Mio in Glasgow a few weeks prior. That one was stellar, it was Fusilli with Salmon in a cream and vodka sauce. Oh, man. That was undebatably Heaven expressed through pasta.

After the meal we couldn't resist having some Orkney Ice Cream (reminiscent of earlier that same day when we couldn't resist Orkney Ice Cream, and the day before, when we couldn't resist Orkney Ice Cream...). They know how to treat their cows in the Orkneys.

Joel can post on the non-food-related aspects of all of this when he gets back from Brighton.

Grilled SeaBass

I found a great deal on whole seabass, and our group of seabass virgins enjoyed it immensely! Before cooking, I rubbed it inside and out with olive oil and "Nantucket Off-Shore St.-Remy Rub". (Who can resist anything with a picture of Van Gogh barbecuing aubergine??)After throwing the seabass under the grill, we whipped it out and Joel's mom (hereafter referred to as "Mom") showed me a simple substitution for filleting a fish. After it's been cooked, you gently begin to tug on the tail, and firmly keep tugging and the tail gradually separates from the fish, bringing with it the spine and all the bones! You tend to use fingers a bit at the start to begin the fish/bone divorce. Then you are left with a gorgeous seabass fillet. Kudos to Mom. One of the many benefits to family in town.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Linguistics can be good for you!

Here is a recent post by Roger Shuy on Language Log that I found encouraging. There's always plenty of interesting stuff in linguistics, but I haven't found a lot of encouragement so far. I remember when I signed up for the linguistics major at University of Washington and one of the lecturers said something to the effect that "if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me what I'd do with linguistics, I'd have a lot of nickels".

Monday, June 30, 2008

Crookston Castle

Crookston Castle
OK, let's see if I can get a couple more 'travel' and 'local culture' posts in before my parents arrive on Wednesday! Back in May, when it was still summer, Heather and I had a free Saturday. There are still a few castle/ruin-y places around Glasgow we have been meaning to visit, so we decided on Crookston Castle, near Paisley. Rumors of Paisley's quality charity shops/thrift stores may have influenced our decision. The Antonine Wall will have to wait for another day...

Heather at the top of Crookston Castle
Heather descendsHeather descends further!
I won't say too much about the castle. It was built by the Stewarts in about 1400, but got pretty badly damaged early on in its history. It has a nice tower from which you can see the Campsie Fells, a little of Glasgow, and a lot of housing schemes. The moat is pretty cool, but the grounds around the castle tend to be frequented (especially on sunny days) by large groups of intimidating adolescents. The ones playing football/soccer aren't bad, but the ones with cases of Stella are less hospitable. This may be why the castle caretaker has an Alsatian/German Shepherd.

This is one of the better ruins we've been to, slightly nicer than Bothwell Castle, we think. This is mainly because you can climb up so high in the tower.

Once we got back to Paisley, we weren't able to find the amazing charity shops, but I did get a record number of beard comments for one day. None were incredibly original, so I won't bother to post them here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fried Trout With Almonds

A fresh discovery at Sainsbury's: Trout fillets are for sale for a typical price. However, peel your fishy little eyes and look next to those trout fillets, and you find ... "trout fillets: various sizes". Ah ha ... this is a package of trout fillets that are not all exactly the same size, so they sell them way cheaper! They are all good sizes, the only difference is the packaging isn't quite as appealing. Same fish though. I bought a pack and it ended up being more than enough for the two of us for dinner.

I used this recipe from my Encyclopedia of International Cooking (a large heavy book that I fear to bring back to the states):

Fried Trout With Almonds:
Season 4-6 trout* with salt and a little pepper. Dip them in milk and then in flour. Melt 4 tablespoons/2 ounces butter with 1 tablespoon oil and saute the fish for 5 minutes each side or until golden brown and flakes easily. Remove the trout from the pan and keep warm.

Drain the fat from the pan and melt 4 tablespoons/2 ounces more butter. Add 4-6 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds and cook, shaking the pan continuously until the almonds are golden brown. Add juice of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, and pour over the trout. Serve.

*I used 4-6 trout fillets, and kept all other amounts the same. It was tasty. However I had a similar dish in Prague which was made with whole fish and it was absolutely gorgeous. Can't go wrong with butter and almonds.

We had steamed broccoli (also delish with the almond stuff) and boiled new potatoes on the side.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Basil (Rhymes with Razzle-Dazzle!)

Here is the newest addition to our family! He is adorable. We got him from our friend Himara who is moving back to Sri Lanka after 5 years in Glasgow. She needed to find a home for little Basil, and had no takers! I emailed our landlord who very graciously said he would overlook the 'no animals' rule as he didn't want Basil to be homeless. Aww. Basil is not homeless.

He is so friendly and I think Joel and he are going to be best friends. He likes to sit on Joel's neck (or anyone's neck, but I'm not used to that sort of thing yet). I think he likes Joel's beard a lot.

He likes mushrooms and carrots. He is used to eating lots of veg. He is a light sandy colour, with the trademark red eyes. Nice guy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lamb

A couple weeks ago, I found an incredible deal. I got an entire leg of Scottish lamb for only £3.60. Wow, what a clever shopper I am! It's normally about £11. I cut slits in the lamb and stuck garlic cloves in the holes, then I rubbed the whole leg with olive oil and herbs de provence. Easy as. We threw it in the crock pot so it was ready and smelling delicious by the time we got home from work. Oh what a savoury and belly satisfying dinner! You can know how good it was by the fact there are only photos from when it was still raw...

I'm going to keep my eyes open at the supermarket so we can do this more often. Joel loooves meat, and we both love the taste of lamb. It is probably our favourite meat (Joel can't decide between lamb and bacon). We ate it this time with cous cous, which is the perfect accompaniment to lamb. So nice when you can get some of the lamb juices on the cous cous. Mmm are you hungry just reading this?

My Favourite Colour is Granola

Update on muffins (17 June 08): This batch of muffins was seriously THE BEST muffins EVER. Unbelievable. The three of us in the house this week have exercised such amazing self-control to not indulge and eat them all when the others are out of the house. I remembered I added almond and vanilla extract. The almond extract turned out to be the perfect amount (I just kind of start pouring and stop eventually so not sure on the measurements). And I forgot to tell you, instead of the struesel, I added a mixture of oats and brown sugar (half and half), which ended up being delicious but not quite as gorgeous as the photo which doesn't have a topping at all. The muffins are really really moist and oh so delicious. Oh, and here's the recipe link for Jessie.

Well guys, we've been cooking more and more lately! This week has been pretty full of culinarities, some common and some a bit unusual for us.

I just finished a batch of Blueberry Streusel Muffins, minus the streusel this time. I have used this recipe over and over and it is the best muffin recipe! It's so easy to interchange it and adapt it to whatever kind of muffin you want. I've made chocolate with chocolate chunks, lemon poppyseed, and of course the blueberry. I added a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ this time, because hey, why not? We can feel a bit healthy and enjoy our muffins at the same time, eh? Wow, look at that beautiful juicy blueberryness just waiting to burst in your mouth.. mmmmm. Blueberries.

I made another batch of granola yesterday (how fast did we go through that last batch?!?). This time I put in less rye flakes and less pearl barley flakes. I added some wheat germ (yes, we're regular!), and some linseed. I also added peanut butter, which adds a beautiful friendliness to the whole experience. In general it turned out okay, but I think it would have been better if I had baked it on a lower heat for a bit longer. I think it got a bit overdone. It's still good, and I like all the different seeds and such. It makes me feel so healthy and nourished! mmmmm. Granola.

Our friends Wheaton and Jessica have this idea that Joel is a hippy. Where did they get that idea - the bell bottoms? the earth tones? the subtle smell of patchouli? The obsession with incense? the tie-dye? I'm not sure what gave them that conclusion, but anyway, Wheaton and Joel have agreed that Joel's favourite colour is granola.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Our trip to Poland, attempt no. 1

Some chimney pots
The New Castle keep
Tyne Bridge
Newcastle
Millennium Bridge
The ocean at Tynemouth
Today we are proud to feature a guest author, Joel Shaver, posting about a somewhat new topic for this blog: travel. Seriously, guys, Heather's making me look bad, with all this 'posting about events within a week of their occurrence' stuff. Forget that - I'm all about the nostalgia.

You may or may not have heard that Heather and I had been planning a trip to Krakow, Poland this past March. We were particularly excited to visit such attractions as Wawel Castle, a really nice dragon, and the Wieliczka Salt Mine (hundreds of miles of tunnels, salt chandeliers, and a salt sculpture of the Last Supper!). Not to mention all the sausage and bread we could ever want (as if Prague weren't enough).

Of course, none of this happened, because we missed our flight. Instead, we hastily booked a train ticket for Newcastle, England, home of A Statue of Earl Grey (yes, the tea guy), Geordies, and a not-too-shabby Castle Keep, a distinctively castle-y square-shaped one. The town is situated on the Tyne river, and is well-known for its impressive collection of bridges. The most recent of these, the Millennium Bridge, is actually capable of moving (theoretically for ships, but really for shock value), which it does several times a week, to the accompaniment of distressing electronic music and sampled heartbeats.

Other highlights included the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, located inside an art-deco 1950s flour mill, a Roman fort (part of Hadrian's wall), which we couldn't see because the visitor centre was closed, and the ocean (Heather's favorite). As usual, we got some pretty good pictures, which you can see here. We enjoyed Newcastle in spite of its unfortunate situation outside Poland, and would recommend it to potential visitors. We found a pretty good Polish deli, too.

Now back to Heather...
Tynemouth train station

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Finnish Cardamom Coffee Bread


I tried my hand at bread yesterday. I mean real bread, made from yeast. That is a culinary area I have not in the least developed, and I had a wary interest in attempting it. I was afraid that if my first attempt resulted in a loaf resembling something very un-breadlike, I would abort the adventure completely. Thankfully, a lovely golden loaf brought happiness to all who came in contact with it!

There are many lovely looking recipes on the Whole Foods website. I chose this Finnish Cardamom Coffee Bread, and Joel and I made a haphazard venture into the art of braiding dough. The picture is of Joel's loaf, which turned out much more visually peaceful. Mine was a bit more long and lean, and looked like some kind of twisted baguette.

It tastes light and sweet, with a subtle cardamom flavour. There is sugar sprinkled on top which makes it an oh so pleasant experience to savour a slice (pure unrefined sugar, the only kind we use). I thought I was being clever and froze one of the loaves, however it is only one day later and the first loaf is half gone already! Mmm.

On another note...
This morning was a day just like yesterday - bright sunshine with promises of warmth. The forecast said rain, but hey, did we believe them? There was no way it could rain when it looked so gorgeous. Off we went to church, me in a summery skirt, neither of us with jackets. Well, turned out it's Scotland, and it did rain. We walked home afterwards in the rain, me with a newspaper over my head. A nice rain though, it was still warm out. When I got home I thought porage sounded so good! I made porage with fresh blueberries, a touch of extra thick single cream, and topped with a sprinkling of brown sugar. Mm it was perfect and made me want chai. I would strongly suggest porage with fresh blueberries.