Tuesday, November 14, 2017

P is for Porto

You know how a couple years ago suddenly everyone was going to Iceland? We all drank the Northern Lights kool-aid. Well last year, the expats of England all went to Porto and I was like 'wait what?' and missed the boat. Fortunately, so did one of my expat friends so we popped on over to Porto for a weekend of sun and, of course, port!

Obviously I was expecting to have port and a bunch of pastel de natas but I was not prepared for peacocks. We spent part our afternoon walking around the botanical gardens and I was shocked by the shear number of peacocks hanging out! I'd never seen a full blown peacock in person, just individual feathers. They are beautiful and majestic and at one point, I was so close, I was worried they were like swans and might attack me (they didn't but I'm sure that's because they're use to people).

Here are some of the other places we went, things we ate and other things we drank!
  • Tapabento- This was recommended by a friend who had previously been to Porto (like I said, we were late to the party). You absolutely need a reservation here but it's not a super fancy place. We were able to email them ahead of time for a table while we were in town. The menu was primarily seafood but it was delicious. 
  • Letraria - This place is a diamond in the ruff. Located on a quiet residential street, it's the gateway to a magical beer garden complete with an orange tree, wild strawberries (maybe they're not wild if they've been intentionally planted...), mint bushes and adorable cats bouncing around in tall grass. Oh and their beer selection is great. Plus the staff are very friendly and gave us multiple samples to decide which beer we should taste in full.
  • Franceshina - The typical sandwich of Porto, this is a thick sandwich stuffed with two types of meat and cheese, covered in more cheese and then doused in a tomato-tasting sauce. It's like a grilled cheese on steroids doused in soup. And it's amazing. Oh and it's called franceshina but we ate it at a restaurant called Franceshina and it was served by a waiter named Franceshina--just kidding, the waiter part didn't happen. The place was very quiet but the staff were very accommodating. They gave us sauteed mushrooms as an appetizer fo' free and then we finished the meal with a sample of port, to "help with digestion". They also had Wimbledon on so that didn't hurt either.
  • Port - Cue all the port in Porto jokes! There's a stretch of wineries along the south bank of the river (generally referred to as Gaia) where you can choose from any number of places to do a tasting. We selected Calem, just out of convenience of time and price. After an opportunity to view their museum, we were taken on a tour of the winery. They don't bottle the port there but they do have the giant barrels and vats of port, ready and waiting to be bottled off site. 
  • Zenith - In an effort to avoid super touristy places, we searched for 'hipster places in Porto' and Zenith popped up for brunch and cocktails. To be fair, it also appeared on a TripAdvisor list for top cafes in Porto. But for real, it's very hipster. We enjoyed smoothie bowls (#healthyaf) and shared sweet potato toast with avocado (because can you even have brunch without an avocado and not be a hipster?) and poached egg. We also saw yogurt parfaits and pancakes go by that made us second guess our choice of smoothie bowl. 
  • Nutellandia - This magical place is just what it sounds like: a land of nutella. They had nutella milkshakes, nutella ice cream, and my favorite, Pastel de Nata (traditional egg custard pastry of Portugal) with nutella on it. And no, they don't have wifi, just enjoy the nutella. 
After all that eating, we opted for a nice, lazy beach day but unfortunately, the beaches were past the wall of mist so it wasn't very sunny or warm. But there were still loads of people on the beaches and we sat at a cafe sipping beers next to the water before heading back to the sunny side of town, pictured below.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

J'taime Paris

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Paris. If you asked me where I saw myself at 25, I saw myself living in Paris and working for some sort of magazine or publication, stopping at my favorite bakery on my way home every day for a pastry. Even in my 10 year-old brain, I realized going to the bakery every day was a little too much. But still. The bakery was an integral part of my brain.

But alas, I never learned French nor did I go into the magazine business. I guess you can stretch blog writing as being similarly fulfilling and I do live abroad so good job, self, 10 year-old you would be proud.

I first went to Paris when I was 13 as part of a group trip with my grandparents. It was an amazing trip and we hit a lot of the big cultural points in Paris like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomph. But going back as an adult on my own was a different kind of experience. Still not speaking French, I was armed with a few weeks of DuoLingo, enough to read a menu and maybe ask for 'eat in or take-away'. Nevertheless, on a dreary November weekend, I literally walked all over Paris and curated my go-to list for when my sister and I went back in April (with far better weather).

1. Les Deux Moulins- Part of my French obsession was the movie Moulin Rouge. I can quote that movie and sing those songs inside and out! So of course, a stop by the Moulin Rouge was necessary. Nearby is the cafe Les Deux Moulins which was featured in another film about Paris, Amelie. There's a giant poster of it inside as well. My limited amount of French got me as far as ordering a meat and cheese board but using the price as a gauge of size meant I got a monstrous board of delicacies. And an equally large quantity of wine. Sitting their solo, chomping through a baguette and meat and cheese was actually pretty ideal. Just a quick stop between Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeure.

2. L'Duree- Technically I first went here in London, they have a location near Harrods. But I brought my sister here to experience the delicate treats. There are so many different flavors, you can't just default to pink and hope for raspberry (not that that would be a bad choice either). It always makes me think of Marie Antoinette with their color, sweetness and petite yet over the top appearance.

3. Cafe Angelina- Now we're pushing into the tourist traps. There's a restaurant portion and a sweets counter where you can take your treats to-go and enjoy in the Trivoli Gardens across the street. I've done both and sitting in left me feeling like I was at a doll tea party, mostly because the chairs and tables felt small and delicate. The must-have here is the hot chocolate (also available at the take-away counter) which is thick and rich, almost like drinking chocolate. Their pastries are spectacular and almost too good to eat--almost.

4. Stohrer - This bakery has a special place in my heart as it was founded by a Polish pastry chef when Marie Leszczynska married King Louis XV and was the royal baker during the 1730's. The pan du chocolat e almondes was the best croissant I've ever had (chocolate croissant with almonds).

Most of these treats are perfect to enjoy along the Seine or part of a picnic on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. Ah, Paris...

Monday, November 6, 2017

Guy Fawkes Cake

Until the movie V for Vendetta came out, had you ever heard of Guy Fawkes? Me neither. But in the UK, he has his own holiday. Sort of. I'm pretty sure it's just an excuse for a big bonfire and fireworks in the middle of autumn but I'll take it!

Now the holiday is Bonfire Night so to remember, remember the 5th of November, there are bonfires and fireworks and mulled wine and even a BBC special, aptly called Gunpowder, with Kit Harrington around the plot to blow up Parliament (that's what Guy Fawkes is known for). According to Wikipedia, the bonfire is to symbolize the burning of Guy Fawkes so he's not exactly popular for his plot but history seems to have eased the betrayal into a more harmonious attitude.

But according to the Joy of Cooking, there's also a cake! Handily on the opposite page from fruitcake, this is described as a popular Northern cake, lightly sweetened and a bit like gingerbread. I have't met anyone yet who has heard of this cake and they seem to think I made it up for this holiday but really! It's in there! Also, apparently treacle isn't in fashion yet so I substituted with 1/3 cup golden syrup and 1/3 maple syrup and extra brown sugar. You could use a full substitute of maple syrup as well (according to the internet).

Butter is melted (can I get an 'amen'?) with the molasses (or chosen substitute) before being mixed in with the dry ingredients and spices. The batter is made even thinner with milk. The cake is not very thick and comes out a little sticky but still delicious. Joy recommends eating with some whipped topping and I concur. Although if you're out watching fireworks, plain is just as good. 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup molasses (treacle) 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and molasses together in a small saucepan. Remove from heat once the butter has melted, stirring to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, sugar, and spices. 
  4. Alternate mixing the milk and the butter-molasses mixture into the flour mixture until combined. The batter will be thin.
  5. Pour the batter into the greased pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through. The cake will be thin and spongy. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

My dear friends in America. You know how important pumpkin spice everything is to the truest of basic chicks and if you're in New England, you know very well that pumpkin spice is the sign that fall is upon us. It's the beacon for chunky sweaters, knee-high boots, black puffy vests, plaid, apple picking and beautiful foliage.

My dear friends in the UK. I've probably done a poor job explaining the religion that is pumpkin spice and why it's so sad that it's lacking in my life here. You say "but you can wear chunky sweaters and plaid and knee-high boots and black puffy vests while apple picking here, what's the problem?". The problem is you can stick a Christmas tree in your living room and wear red and green in July but it doesn't make it Christmas! The same goes for pumpkin spice. You can wear your Boston-fall-finest in England and step on a stray leaf but it's just not the same!!!

I've spent the last month looking for canned pumpkin. I know it exists here. I've seen it on the bottom shelf of the 'American' section of the Tesco. But for some reason, when I truly desire it, I can't find it. And now, I have a pumpkin problem. Behold! Pumpkin! And miracles of miracles, this country has finally realized the market of expats obsessed with pumpkin spice and they have given us: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal. Rationally, I know this is normal oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves BUT it's the principle of the matter. I fell into the marketing trap and purchased the Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal. Because when it comes to fall, I'm as basic as they come.

There have been a number of pumpkin recipes gracing this blog (and many others) over the fall years but this is a first! Because what's more basic than pumpkin spice? Brunch. And so, we have pumpkin spice brunch for one, on the balcony, overlooking the pseudo-foliaged park. Because I will make fall a thing!


This recipe made 6 palm-sized pancakes and were perfect with a little maple syrup. No eggs or butter required either! Flour, spices, baking powder and a little bit of brown sugar are mixed in one bowl. Pumpkin and milk in another. They come together to create a beautiful orange batter which is cooked in a lightly oiled frying pan to make pancakes. The end. 


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salte
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through sugar). Add more or less cinnamon or nutmeg as you like.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the milk and pumpkin puree.
  3. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine until you can  no longer see any flour.
  4. In a lightly oiled and heated pan, cook the pancakes as usual. They may not have as many bubbles as normal pancakes so check the bottom after a few minutes and flip until cooked through.
  5. Top with maple syrup. You could also add pecans or chocolate chips to the batter for extra flavor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Fair Verona

Some of my favorite 'life journey' movies take place in Italy: the 'Eat' of Eat, Pray, Love and Under the Tuscan Sun, both amazing find-yourself-movies and both involve eating whatever you want. So naturally, before I went to Verona, I did some movie research by watching Letters to Juliet and watching Italian week on The Great British Bake-Off. Beyond that, I didn't know what to expect of Verona so went with a group and was not disappointed. Pretty much everything you eat in Italy will be amazing but if you find yourself in the beautiful and quiet city of Verona, definitely check out some of these sites and restaurants!

1) Ristorante Pizzeria San Matteo Church  - It's pretty hard to pick a bad restaurant in Verona when it comes to food. That may apply to all of Italy. But we closed our eyes and picked random restaurants all weekend long and the food was great. Ristorante Pizzeria San Matteo Church though was a recommended place for pizza on the cheap. Some of our group were splurging on a posh dinner so the rest of us elected for a plebeian experience instead. Our group was initially 12 and that was the overestimated number. That quickly grew to 17...like as we sat in the restaurant and more people met us until we had to be like 'you can't sit with us!'. But the restaurant took it like a champ, accommodating us all. The pizza was amazing all around with everyone finishing their pizzas (they also have gluten-free options). There were three pages of pizzas to choose from so I went for the San Matteo because when in Rome/San Matteo's! The restaurant is inside a converted church so I was expecting some kind of dim churchy atmosphere but it is exactly the opposite. While there are some pieces of the original structure exposed, the walls are painted pink with smokey mirrors where the church windows once were. It's also decorated with 80's style technicolor masterpieces and ceramic/glass/metal sculptures so that was a bit odd. The waitstaff was very nice and patient with our large group and the wine was flowing so if you're in Verona, definitely check it out! It's a little hard to find but on a side alley near Porta Borsari.

2) Sfogliatella - If you're a fan of The Great British Bake-Off, you will recognize this pastry from Italian week which was the week I left for my trip. Un seigno de Dio! And if you're not a fan, get on it. This was the signature challenge, one I will not be attempting, made of many layers of thin pastry and stuffed with chocolate or creme or cheese. Since it's so time-intensive, it didn't seem to be available in all bakeries or shops but I did find it at Tarantella Foods, in the shadow of the Arena. They serve other food there as well, not just pastries, and have English menus. The woman working there asked me 'how is your height?!' when I walked in which was endearing coming from a small Italian woman.

3) Adige Rafting - For a unique view of the city, we took a rafting trip down the Adige. Taking a bus outside the city, we then paddled and floated our way back to the city center, getting a history lesson along the way. The guides were very fun and we had a little race at the end (my boat won, for the record) and it was not a strenuous activity at all with only a couple of rapids when going under some of the bridges. Don't forget to wave 'ciao!' to the people on the river banks!
4) Giardini Giusti - I went on this trip with my choir so we had a couple of impromptu performances, one of which was in the Giardini Giusti. Complete with fountains (one has a large family of turtles living in it, another a family of koy fish), a labyrinth, old chapel, look out point, it's a beautiful gem that's quiet and charming. There was a wedding photoshoot happening before we started singing and the setting couldn't have been more perfect. While I can't promise there will be a lovely choir singing when you visit, it's definitely worth taking a rest on one of the stone benches here.

5) Casa di Giulietta - Prior to my trip to Verona, I watched the Amanda Seyfried romcom Letters to Juliet which naturally, takes place in Verona. The premise is Amanda Seyfried is in Verona with her fiance and visits Juliet's balcony (which is not authentic but was installed in the 30's for tourism #itworked) but finds the courtyard filled with women writing letters to Juliet herself. She then sees someone collect them and discovers The Juliet Club who collects and responds to all the letters left for Juliet. Well, it's a romcom so Amanda Seyfried answers a letter she finds hidden in the wall from 50 years ago and falls down a romantic rabbit hole around Italy to reunite lost loves. Well, the wall does exist and people DO leave notes, often attaching them with gum which is unfortunate (and not allowed), and The Juliet Club does answer them (allegedly, I'm anxiously awaiting my reply!). People also leave love locks and touch the statue of Juliet for luck in love. Okay, they grope the statue because it's specifically her boob you're meant to touch for luck. Jury's out on the effectiveness of that tradition as well, FYI.

I was only able to spend a weekend in Verona but the city is an easy bus ride away from Lake Garda and a train ride away from Venice or Bologna. Adventure awaits!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Thoughts During a Half Marathon

I have a feeling that the majority of people who read this blog are my close friends and family so you probably already saw this because I emailed it to you in thanks for support my recent half marathon for Cancer Research UK. But in case I'm pleasantly surprised (or you didn't donate but are still a friend), I recently ran a half marathon for Cancer Research UK! And it was tough!! It was my third half so maybe I thought I had this down and went into it a little too prepared to kick butt and less mentally prepared to get through it. Either way, here is a summary of what it feels like as told by the stages of grief:
  1. Denial- Miles 1-4 when you're in denial about how difficult this is going to be. When you're still surrounded by people chatting and wearing bells and tutus, excitedly starting this journey. Crushing your pace and feeling on top of the world like "I've so got this, acing it, it's going to be so easy".
  2. Anger- Miles 5-7 when you're mad at your past denying self for running too fast and now you have to conquer the one hill on the course. Or was that the hill back there? Is there another hill?? Why didn't you take the snacks they were handing out? Why didn't you go to the bathroom one last time? Why did you even sign up for this?? You crazy fool. 
  3. Bargaining- Mile 8-10 when you're just trying to get from one mile marker to the next. If you make it to the mile 9 sign, then you can take another snack. If you make it to the mile 10 marker, your mind will shut down and your body will just take over and you will wake up at the finish line. If you finish this race, you never have to run again.
  4. Depression- Mile 11-12 when you know you aren't going to make it, you're going to be on this course for hours and hours and your spectators will wonder where you are. When you regret sharing your bib number and tracking link with anyone. When you have the thought "I'm never running again. Period". When you ask part way through mile 12 how much further and are told "you're not far". Lies. So far. 
  5. Acceptance- Mile 13 when you realize you are going to make it after all and it doesn't matter if it's not your best time, you made it and someone still gets a video of you actually running as proof. When you realize you can have a burger, sweet potato fries, a beer, cookie, hot chocolate, macaroni and cheese and STILL not make up the calories you just burned. When you accept this race wasn't for you anyways and that's something to be proud of. 
So while I am currently still in the "I'm never running again" mindset, I'm sure that will pass soon enough. And after that comes "okay, I'll run again but I'm never running a half marathon again" which I'm sure will also pass. We shall see....

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Great British Bake-Off Week 4: Millionaire Shortbread

We'll get back to Week 3, the terrifying bread week, at a later date. My efforts to make bread have not been very successful, fail proving! So I'm taking it to the pros, more to come.

Something I do know and enjoy, unlike Prue, are sweet things! I'm not sure you should confess to not liking sweet things when you're the judge on a BAKING show. Just sayin'.

Anyways, a friend of mine makes something similar to this shortbread but it uses crackers and some peanut butter chips instead. So it's a low maintenance version of this and it's amazing. But I'm also sworn to secrecy so I'll do the British version instead. This isn't really a common thing in the US but shortbread is a known, as are caramel and chocolate, just as separate entities.

I've made caramel once before and learned the hard way, don't poke the hot caramel. Like for real, even when it's out of the pan and is spilled on your counter, it's not safe. Blistering will happen. Much pain and sorrow WILL HAPPEN. Just don't do it, okay? Okay.

In theory, this is a simple recipe. The shortbread consists of cubed butter (no softening required!), flour and sugar which is mixed together by hand and then pressed into a square baking tin. Once it is browned, you can add the caramel which is just melted butter, golden syrup and condensed milk. And once the caramel is set and cooled, you just add melted chocolate. Simple.

But when the caramel ingredients are melting and you take a moment to enjoy the sunset and then realize you've left the caramel unattended and even though it's supposed to boil, it's somehow burnt a bit and you can tell from stirring that you've burnt the pan as well--well, then it becomes more complicated.

Never fear though, the caramel was salvaged. If there's one thing I learned from Bake Off, you don't throw the whole baked Alaska out with the soft ice cream, ammiright? True fans know what I'm talking about. So I used the caramel anyways which had the nice flavor of toasted marshmallow. The only problem was it never fully set, it stayed as a thick goo. So when I cut the squares, it became a caramel sandwich which oozed out.

They were still tasty and they were still mass consumed by my colleagues as well. I brought them in to raise funds for a charity half marathon I'm running in less than 2 weeks! So maybe they ate them out of charity, twice over.


  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 75g sugar
  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour and cubed butter until crumbly. Alternatively, mix by hand in a medium bowl until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.
  2. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
  3. In a parchment lined square baking tin, dump the dough and press evenly to fill the pan.
  4. Bake in the oven at 150C (300F) for 15-30 minutes until slightly browned.
  5. Allow to cool before adding the caramel.


  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 379g condensed milk
  • 100g golden syrup
  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter, milk and golden syrup together.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until it is a golden brown and has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, pour the caramel over the shortbread, still in the baking tin. Allow the caramel to cool and set completely before adding the chocolate layer.


  • 350g dark chocolate
  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
  2. Pour on top of the caramel.
  3. Allow to set before cutting into squares. The easiest way to do this is to lift the mass out of the tin by the parchment paper edges and cut on a cutting board (rather than cutting in the tin).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Great British Bake Off - Week 2: Biscuits

Here in good ole England, biscuits are cookies and cookies are not a thing. But biscuits are not the exact same thing as cookies in the US, they tend to be harder and crispier, ideal for tea dunking. Everything I've learned about biscuits, I've learned from Great British Bake Off. For example:

  1. Biscuits must not be soft, they are meant to be softened by a cupper (that's what the local kids call cup of tea). 
  2. Two is the number of thine dunking, no more, no less. Three dunkings is right out! And also catastrophic as the biscuit will pull a Titanic, break in half and be lost to the deep depths of your tea.
  3. Biscotti means twice-baked. 10 points to Gryffindor (the name of my next pub quiz team, for sure)! But actually, that did win my trivia team points in a food-themed quiz. 
  4. I'll never be able to make biscuits as pretty as Biscuiteers (unless I take their icing course where I assume I will become an icing wizard) so I'll just take pictures and stalk them on Instagram instead. 
    1. I think gingerbread houses could really take some lessons from the biscuit show stoppers from last week's episode, like for real. Those were masterful and I can barely get a ready-made kit to frost together long enough to be the centrepiece of a Christmas spread.
    Anyone have a strong biscuit recipe? I may just stick to gingersnaps until then! 

    Tuesday, September 5, 2017

    Great British Bake Off - Week 1: Swiss Rolls

    It was at the end of the Great British Bake Off last year that I thought it would be cool to go along with their weekly themes and I realized I'd have to wait a full year to implement this idea. But here we are; GBBO may be on a new channel and I don't know anyone's name except Paul Hollywood but we're moving forward with this weekly challenge.

    The first week's theme was cake. I've learned a bit more about the preparation for the different rounds and I think I could maaaaybe get through the first two challenges but holy guacamole, show stoppers. Definite weak spot. Initially I was going to just make a cake and be all sorted. But instead, I opted to go for the technical challenge.

    I made a yule log a couple years ago (I shudder as I link you to that ancient post with terrible photography and lighting...not that I've improved much) and this seemed very similar, just smaller. The commercialized version of this is a ho ho in the US so there's that too.

    These would definitely not pass the criticism of the bake off judges as they are definitely not symmetrical although they do have a nice swirl, in my amateur opinion. I also just couldn't bring myself to make more dirty dishes and melt white chocolate for the drizzle. We'll live.

    Other things to keep in mind:
    • Yes, you need parchment paper even if it means going back into the store and waiting in line again
    • Yes, the egg whites will eventually become stiff peaks even if you've been beating them for 10 minutes already and think it will never happen
    • Yes, you need a bigger bowl
    • Yes, you can lose some of the crunchy edges to make the cake easier to roll
    • No, the world won't end if there's no white chocolate drizzle

    from GBBO website

    • 30g butter, melted (keep the wrapper for greasing)
    • 60g cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 Tablespoon boiling water
    • 6 large eggs, separated
    • 150g sugar (divided into 100g and 50g)
    • 150g butter, softened
    • 300g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
    • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract (or not if you think it will taste like toothpaste)
    • 200g plain chocolate
    • 200g milk chocolate
    • 100g white chocolate (optional)
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a deep baking dish (or jelly pan or brownie pan, just don't fill it all the way up) with butter and parchment paper. Also grease the parchment paper.
    2. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the cocoa powder, boiling water and vanilla.
    3. In a medium bowl, beat together the egg yolks and 100g of sugar until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until incorporated.
    4. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites for eternity until stiff peaks form. The egg whites need room to expand and become fluffy. Add the 50g of sugar after the peaks form, whisking until combined.
    5. Mix 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to increase the volume and loosen the cake mix. Fold in the remaining egg whites until incorporated.
    6. Pour the cake mix into the prepared pans (if you only had one pan, use half the mixture and then repeat for the second round). The cake mix shouldn't spread too much on its own so spread it evenly in the pan. The mix will rise during baking but then settle back in so will be relatively thin and as deep as you pour it.
    7. Bake until firm, 15-20 minutes.
    8. Allow the cake to cool completely before doing the filling and rolling.
    9. For the filling, beat together the butter, icing sugar and peppermint until fluffy.
    10. Once cooled, place the cakes on a cutting board or other clean surface. Carefully peel back the parchment paper and discard.
    11. Spread the filling evenly across the cakes. 
    12. Gently roll the cake from the short end 2-3 times, until you reach the middle. Repeat on the other side of the cake so one sheet makes two rolls.
    13. Cut the cake rolls where the two sides meet. Cut the rolls into even sections so you have 6 mini rolls per pan.
    14. Allow the rolls to set while you prepare the chocolate topping by melting the plain and milk chocolate together in a double boiler.
    15. Pour the chocolate over the rolls to coat. It's neatest to do this on a cooling rack with a tray beneath to catch the excess chocolate.
    16. Lastly, melt the white chocolate on its own and pour into a piping bag (or ziploc bag with the corner cut off). Drizzle each roll with the white chocolate.
    17. Enjoy! And put your feet up because this is a lot of steps. 

    Monday, September 4, 2017

    Summer Reading List

    Do you remember when you were a kid how you would get a suggested summer reading list? And then you would get back to school and be like 'look how many books I read this summer! Give me extra credit'. No? Just me? Cool story, bro.

    Typically people release summer reading lists at the start of the summer but doesn't a book in any other season prove to be as enjoyable? I have a running list of books on my phone so when I'm in a store, I usually add to it or when I'm done reading something I know what to pick up. But my list never seems to get shorter and often I'll finish a book and find it wasn't on my list after all. Always reading. Here's what I read this summer:

    1. Notes from a Blue Bike (Tsh Oxenreider) - This sounded very promising and was recommended by a blogger I follow. Former expat moves back to the US with her family and then realizes 'hey, travelling/living abroad and a family are not mutually exclusive'. This was more an autobiography of moving around and providing tips on how to pursue living abroad, homeschooling, sustainable food sources etc. when you have a family. So not entirely relatable for my stage of life but the big take-away for me was you make what works for you work for you, there's no 'right' way which is a strong message. She also has a blog and other books which I might read at some point.

    2. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) - Like everyone else, I heard about this after the Hulu series launched. Knowing nothing about it, I thought it was a historical drama because of the picture I saw of Elizabeth Moss from the show where she had on a bonnet and long dress. False. This is one of those 'not too distant futures' of a dystopian society. Couldn't put it down, it's SO GOOD.

    3. Commonwealth (Ann Patchett) - This book and the next two were impulse purchases. I'd heard of this book and was waiting for a friend in a book shop (danger zone!). I wasn't intending on buying anything but they had a sale shelf and I picked up a book, read the back and as soon as I could smell that new book smell, I was hooked. And going home with three books. This one follows a mish-mash of siblings (two families broken up by an affair and divorce then smushed together by remarriage and 6 step-siblings between them) from childhood into adulthood. Lots of changes in perspective and jumps in time which I quite enjoy. I also realized I'd read State of Wonder by the same author which was similarly amazing.

    4. Proud to Be a Mammal (Czeslaw Milosz) - One of the sale books, this one was selected solely because it's by a Polish author. Turns out that he is like THE Polish author, well done. After my trip to Poland a couple months ago, I've felt like I should support my heritage more, starting by being able to name one Polish author. This is actually a collection of his short stories and essays so I've been reading it in conjunction with other books.

    5. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)- This is one of those books eeeeeveryone was reading last year but I just now picked it up at a friend's moving sale. In the same vein as Sarah's Key and The Nightingale (both excellent options, btw), this follows multiple characters during the lead up to and duration of World War II, primarily in France but also in Germany. The main character is a young French girl who is blind and living in Paris when the war breaks out. Similarly, her counterpart in Germany is a young orphan boy with big dreams about being an inventor before getting swept up in the war. Needless to say, I couldn't put this down and read all 500+ pages in about 3 days. It was fantastic.

    6. The Sellout (Paul Beatty) - There was a guy I worked with who would spend his lunch break happily reading. Also was happy for us to interrupt him and chat over lunch so that was nice. I used to read at lunch in school but got made fun of for it sooo then I stopped. Now I've started again so take that middle school bullies! Anyways, aforementioned coworker was reading this once and so I thought I would give it a go. Currently in progress, it's definitely different from other book formats and subjects I've read before.

    7. Thank You for Being Late (Tom Friedman) - My dad gave me this book for my birthday (which is great because books!). The last Friedman book I read was The World Is Flat back when the internet was still ramping up to flatten the world. I think it's thoroughly and officially a plane again. To be read in the near future (sorry, dad).

    What book recommendations do you have? Do you read different kinds of books in the summer versus fall versus winter? Is winter a more serious book reading season while summer is more beach reads that keep things light and carefree? Thoughts. Words. Feels. 

    Wednesday, August 30, 2017


    There's a cafe around the corner from my flat that I pass on the bus every day but have never been into before. This weekend, that all changed. It was nice and sunny out and I'm always looking for iced coffee so I wandered in and everyone was so friendly! I asked them if they had any cold coffee drinks and I swear, I thought they were going to break out into a coordinated dance routine.

    Apparently one of the baristas was just dying to make an affogato. How has this not become everyone's favorite coffee drink?? IT'S ICE CREAM!!! And espresso but ICE CREAM!! How do you take your coffee? As ice cream. Game changer.

    This is probably the most ridiculous recipe because guess what? All you do is pour a shot of espresso over a scoop of ice cream and it's officially a coffee beverage. Done. Sold. I may or may not have had some before writing this post.

    • 1 scoop of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, also tasty with salted caramel or chocolate)
    • 1 shot of espresso (or two, you are your own person)
    1. Make shot(s) of espresso.
    2. Place scoop of ice cream in a mug, bowl or other vessel.
    3. Pour shot(s) of espresso over ice cream.
    4. Consume and be happy that you're a grown up having ice cream for coffee. 

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Poland: More Than Pierogis

    Back in May, I took my first trip to Poland. We were going as a family quest for information so I didn't have a huge itinerary or bucket list. Obviously I was planning to eat a lot of pierogis but I was not prepared for the level of food Poland has to offer! Not just the variety of traditional food but also quantities. There were numerous occasions where we dined with family and it was just course after course of homemade dishes that I'd never heard of! The below is a summary of the more traditional ones (I think...) which I hope to try and make one day.

    1. Pierogis- Okay, yes, there is more than just pierogis in Poland but come on! Pierogis! They come in all kinds of varieties including fruit! I'd never had blueberry pierogis before but I will certainly be having them again.

    2. Babka- This is a kind of cake which is open to interpretation. Sometimes it's a desserty cake and sweet but the variety I found more often was a potato babka. It looks like a loaf of mashed potatoes so thick, you can slice it like bread. And oh so greasy and delicious.

    3. Bigos- In my brain space, I often mix this up with babka because it starts with a 'b' too. Bigos though is a saurkraut dish with meat. I don't actually like saurkraut but I love bigos. The saurkraut is soft and not sharply fermented like the saurkraut I'm used to. Mixed with kilbasa or beef, it becomes a hearty stew, minus the broth (sometimes called Hunter's Stew which I've had in the US).

    4. Goulash- Now this is a stew. Again, there are a number of ways to make this but it reminds me of chilli but with an eastern European flare. In my mind, it's like the Polish equivalent to American chilli. 

    5. Ice Cream- Fine, Poland didn't invent ice cream but they love it. Ice cream everywhere. Sometimes it's more like gelato but they have the home-churned variety as well. Perfect for the hot summer days of sun! We went to Bubble Waffle which has locations all over the world so check it out.

    Monday, July 10, 2017

    City Guide: Calgary

    Almost every year since graduation, my college/uni friends and I have done a summer trip together. Always somewhere new and always a mix of outdoorsy and city things. We've been all over the west coast of the US from LA to Vancouver, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and now Calgary, Canada. Outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, or jet skiing (one time it was cliff jumping) while our city activities keep us cultured so we go to museums or well-known restaurants.

    We stayed at a place half-way between Calgary and Banff National Park so we could easily go from our active selves to our city selves and in between, we cooked a lot of meat and ate a lot of eggs. Shopping for 8 people is tough and there was a point where we had 8 dozen eggs, 8 loaves of bread and an $8,000 cucumber (okay, they refunded us $7,998 for that one). Somehow, I escaped dinner duties but managed to make a whole lotta pancakes, french toast (see 8 loaves of bread comment) and cinnamon rolls throughout the week.

    Here are some of the activity highlights I would recommend if you're planning a tip to Calgary anytime soon:

    1. Lake Louise- When deciding where to go, we get very scientific and make a survey of places to go. The survey results usually end up being ignored but someone suggested Lake Louise and we said 'sounds great!'. This is what brought us to Canada. We did the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which goes around the aqua lake and up into the mountains. This was an all day hike but not extremely steep so doable for beginners but bring lots of water! At the end of June, there was a bit of snow across the path so prepare yourselves for that as well. But! You are rewarded by an amazing little tea house (appropriately called The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House) at the top of the mountain. They don't have running water, bottled water is heli-dropped to them, but their cakes are delicious.

    2. Sulphur Mountain- This was a more difficult climb which was mostly comprised of switchbacks. It's advised to allow 2-3 hours for this hike so not as long as Lake Louise but there's also a gondola you can take up (and/or down) the mountain instead. This is attaction is part of a larger attraction with a hot springs spa (highly recommended) and cave tour. The view of the Canadian Rockies can't be beat and we even had a couple mountain goats cross our paths. If that's not a reason to bust into Julie Andrews songs, I don't know what is.

    3. Banff Canoe Club- Initially we were looking at kayaking/canoeing on Lake Louise but having done the hike already, we opted for something new and found this kayaking club right in Banff which was pretty cost effective and allowed us to paddle around a creek and then a calm lake surrounded by mountains (okay, and one highway). The staff were super friendly, even if they did accidentally ring us up for 450 boats (there's a theme here with the over-charging). Definitely bring bug spray, the swarms are legit.

    4. Skyline Luge- Moving away from the hiking genre of activities, this luge is basically real-life Mario Kart in Calgary's Olympic park. You take a chair lift to the top, get a safety demonstration and away you go! While I don't think they'd let you tie balloons to the cars, Mario noises are not discouraged...

    5. Ice Cream- No hike is complete without a post-hike milkshake. Or at least that's our motto. We went to Old School Ice Cream after our first day of hiking and proceeded to go there after every one of our hikes. Luckily, the staff changed every day so they don't seem to have noticed how much ice cream we ate here. They are cash only though but accept USD at a 1:1 conversion rate.

    6. Heritage Park- I was sceptical about this one but it turned out to be really fun! It's basically a recreation of Canada through the ages so important historical figures' homes are rebuilt, there's an old main street with a working post office and general store as well as small roller coasters. A steam boat cruise is included in admission and takes you around the reservoir with a great view of downtown Calgary.

    7. Maple Lattes- We happened to be in Calgary for Canada Day, their 150th in fact! As if everything wasn't maple leaf forever already, we found Rosso's to have a maple latte on special. Who knows if this is a full-time deal or not but over ice and it was a perfect hint of Canadian pride without being overly sweet. They're also known for their coffee quality so worth a trip for straight up coffee as well.


    8. More Ice Cream- Made by Marcus in Calgary was our final ice cream stop of the trip. They had only a few flavors but also unique sundaes (think hand toasted marshmallows and macaron topping) that were  made with soft serve. Milkshakes and boozy flavours were also in order.


    9. Calgary Farmer's Market- Literally our last stop before the airport, we initially went to this market looking for Jelly doughnuts shop but it was full of so many other places to eat and stock up on maple things (and crafts), we almost lost track of our mission. But in the end, Jelly doughnuts was amazing (maple bacon doughnut, highly recommended) and should also be visited.

    And because 10 is better than 9:

    10. Nature- In general, just embrace the amazing scenery of mountains, sky and trees. You're bound to see a rainbow (or two!) after one of the many flash mountain storms and we even caught a meteor shower one night.