July Foodie Penpal – Sent!

Let me just preface this with how much I love the Foodie Penpal Swap. I received an amazing package from Emily of The Breukelen Life and I sent out my package to Ashley of Running my Way to a Full. My boyfriend Mark was laughing at how into my package I was getting. I was illustrating my labels, using my beautiful neon washi tape, and thinking of fun packaging. I had a blast putting it together. Ashley gave me some good criteria to work with, such as she is mostly healthy but has a sweet tooth, loves homemade and is training for a marathon and has lots of 1/2 marathons planned!

The Lean Green Bean

I tried to think of things that were local to Healdsburg (which is a lot) that combined make a total of less than $15 (not a lot). I raided my cupboards to contribute a few things, but mostly I made/shopped for the rest. I also wanted to make it seasonal and think of things that are fresh now and how to make them last for the winter.

Enter cherry vinegar. I love cherry vinegar made with balsamic. Super easy too – take beautiful ripe cherries that you would rather eat than do anything to, put them in a jar/bottle/etc mash them up, top with balsamic (even the cheap will do) let sit for a month, or to taste, and then strain out the cherries. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I loved making the label and attaching it with the tape.


The box was layered with – the black cherry vinegar (made with local cherries), Hawaiian black lava sea salt (not local, but looked too good to pass up), Kokomo winery Verjus (made in Healdsburg of semi-ripe and unfermented grapes – think vinegar). The next layer was made up of some homemade S’mores bars and some Gaterade gummy chews (for the running!). Mark was making fun of me when I was stressing that the orange of the chews didn’t match my black, white and pink theme.. Luckily that pink tape is just see-through enough to disguise the color and still let you see the packaging. Lastly came the written element – a welcome card as well as a card describing each item.


I loved putting the whole thing together and it felt especially good to actually use some creative skills again. I probably spent the majority of the time making the labels and cards, which I loved and now am feeling hooked! This is the salt label before it was inked:


I unfortunately won’t be participating in the August swap as I am in Canada at my family summer cottage (tough life, I know), but I am SO looking forward for September! We are going apple picking so that might be a theme… Getting excited and collecting ideas!

July Foodie Penpal Package – Received!

To get my blogging mojo back, I decided to participate in a Foodie Penpal swap that I found on Annika’s blog.

The Lean Green Bean

Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean blog organizes the whole thing and even though there are over 1000 participants in the US and Canada, it works seamlessly. So anyway, onto what I received from the lovely Emily of The Breukelen Life:


Do you have ANY IDEA how excited I was to receive a box full of yummy goodies?! Cookies, chips, chocolate, pretzels and more! Everything in the box was local food made in the Brooklyn area, which is cool because I very rarely make it all the way out to the East Coast/New York. It was all I could do to take a picture, let alone document.


The goods:
Chocolate chip cookies with oatmeal and sea salt – Enough said. They are SO GOOD!!
Spicy chocolate bar – I love chocolate and chili. This has Ancho and Chipotle in it.. basically just went right to my California heart!
Pretzels… Mmm.. Mark and I have been snacking on these while watching the Mindy Project.. perfectly crunchy with just the right amount of salt.
Quince Jam – I am so excited to try this but I am waiting until we buy a toaster. Who knew researching/buying a toaster would be such an ordeal?
McClure’s Potato chips in Spicy Pickle – This is what I am the most excited to try. I love chips probably more than anything in the world and could probably live off of them. I haven’t tried them yet as I thought it would be rude to my fellow flight sharers for me to chowing down on some crunchy snacks while they are not. Also, I now have something major (other than Mark and Newton..) to look forward to. Also is it weird for me to also be excited to eat these as my paternal grandma’s family were the McClures. My great-great-aunt or something actually wrote this book, which is kinda cool.


Lastly, the card that Emily included was right up my alley as well. Thick, textured paper, gold lining and rich, saturated color.


I love everything and can’t wait to participate in the next one! Stay tuned for what I sent and check it out on Ashley’s blog

Strawberries and Cream Tart

Gavin and I had another couple over for dinner the other weekend and as it was a low-key sort of deal, I wasn’t planning on making a dessert. When I told him that, however, he gave me a sharp look and declared that German’s expect dessert so I better figure something out. Luckily, with some sweet pastry dough in the freezer leftover from making Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Pie Cookies and Julia Child’s Kitchen Wisdom at hand, I decided upon a strawberry and cream tart. Make ahead, serve at room temp*, doesn’t need a lot of ingredients: perfect.

I won’t lie to you, I cheated a bit.. I didn’t actually make an apricot glaze – I just used apricot jam. I also didn’t use a tart pan (obviously) or glaze the strawberries. What I did was create something tasty and satisfying without feeling too heavy. It’s easy as pie. Easier actually.

What you need:
a punnet (or 2) of strawberries
pastry dough, storebought or homemade
thick double cream (Julia used Pastry Creme or Creme Patissere – too much work for me)
apricot jam or glaze

What to do:

1. Roll out pastry dough on a floured board/counter in a rectangular shape until about a quarter inch thick. Place onto a parchment/greaseproof paper covered baking sheet. Spread apricot jam over dough, keeping about 2 inches or so free on all sides. Follow with cream.. I was pretty heavy handed, although Julia says to use up to 1/4 inch! Arrange hulled strawberries in an appealing pattern. I didn’t have enough strawberries so I cut them in half. Not as pretty but just as tasty. If you have enough strawberries to put them in whole, glaze them with the apricot jam.

2. Bake in a on oven pre-heated to 190C/375F for about 30-45 minutes or until strawberries are softened, crust is toasty brown, and cream is bubbling.

3. Eat. You can either serve it warm, letting it sit for a moment to allow the cream to firm up a bit, or, like me, bake it ahead of time and serve it at room temp. Ice cream? Fabulous. Pouring cream? Divine.

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Slow-cooker Mexican Chicken

A slow-cooker is a funny thing, something I never thought I would want/need. Just another unitasker that takes up precious counter space. Boy was I wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it! This thing is great! I use it to cook stews and lovely braises while I’m at work. While it is hard to find recipes that a.) can be cooked for 10+ hours, and b.) don’t inlcude “cream of whatever” soups, I have found some recipes that are amazing. This is one of them. It’s even one of the kind that doesn’t require anything other than dumping and mixing. My favorite. It does include taco seasoning (fajita in the UK) though.. So my homemade credentials are blown!

I pinned this from my friend who got it here. I’m actually making things I’m pinning so go me! Pinterest Challenge success all the way!

So without further ado, the recipe.

Slow-cooker Chilli Lime Mexican Chicken
adapted from Pip and Ebby

You’ll need:
chicken (breasts or thighs, I uses boneless, skinless breasts)
jar of salsa
packet of taco/fajita seasoning
2 limes
tortillas (I prefer soft corn, but whatever you prefer)

Step one: Put 4 chicken breasts or 6 thighs (defrosted) in slow cooker. Dump in a taco seasoning packet or if you aren’t lazy like me, mexican spices like cumin and coriander, etc. I added that anyways… Then dump in a jar of salsa (mine was small). Mix that all up til it’s all coated. Then chop up some garlic, a chilli (or 2 depending on how hot you like it!), a big handful of coriander/cilantro and add that along with the juice of a lime. Cook for 10 hours on low (or less, it’s not crucial)

Step two: When you get in, make some chilli garlic lime rice. Yeah buddy, this stuff is good! Make rice as usual but add a chopped chilli, garlic cloves and the zest of a lime. Once cooked, fluff up and add the juice of the lime. Prepare the tortillas by either microwaving in a damp towel or (like microwave-free me) put it on the burner and move it a lot til it’s hot.

Step three: Assemble! Put the tortilla on a plate and add rice and a chicken breast – careful, they fall apart! Top with scallions/spring onions, tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream (or plain greek yogurt, like me!). I also served some red cabbage cole slaw with it which was sooo tasty! To eat the leftovers at work, I put the extra rice, chicken and sauce in a container, cabbage, tomatoes and yogurt in another and ate it more like a saucy rice dish. Mmmm…

Overall, this bad boy is going to be a keeper and a regular in our household. If this sounds like a lot of work, it totally isn’t. Easy peasy. And super delicious. And healthy! No added oils or fats (other than the sour cream/yogurt).


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Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread

Success! I actually completed my first ever Pinterest Challenge! I joined a bit late, so I only had a weekend to make it so I made food. Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread.. Tasty. I actually ate some for breakfast. It’s pull-apart so I couldn’t eat too big of a piece ;)

It was pretty simple to make, I’m not sure if I’ll make it again though.. I bit too white-bread-y and dry for me.. Maybe I just didn’t have enough garlic or butter! If I do make it again, I’m going to at least double those.. If I’m to splurge on fat calories, I’m going to splurge on the fat calories – you know? The Pastry Affair version that I pinned, used a bundt pan, which I don’t have, so I used a baking dish. Worked fine. We dipped in oil and balsamic.. yummy :)

PS… Do you want to join in the Pay it Forward fun?

The Pinterest Challenge

I love Pinterest. Like most people who have succumbed to it’s charms, I can literally spend hours browsing through cool things that people have found via the world wide web. I have a “Make This” board which has all the crafty/sewing-related things that I want to make. Or use as inspiration to make. There is also an “Eat This” board, which, you guessed it, I want to eat. Actually, make and then eat.

I pin all these things with the best of intentions.. I really do plan on making these things. The problem is, I never do! That where the Lovebumps Pinterest Challenge comes in! Lovebumps blog, along with other bloggers aptly called the PinAddicts, has decided to challenge bloggers around the world to actually make things from their boards and then post it on the first Monday of the month. Since that is only 4 days away, I thought I would make something edible. It’s Gavin’s birthday tomorrow as well, so if I make him something off my board that’s two birds with one pin-shaped stone!

Since I have been fairly obsessed with the no-knead bread that hit the web about two years ago, I am going with bread. Monkey bread. Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread to be specific. And this is the very specific Garlic Parmesan Monkey Bread:

Mmmm… It’s from The Pastry Affair and damn.. I could eat that whole thing myself. Right now.

So come on! Join in!

What I’m working on

This is the beginning of my advent calendar for Alfie and Kitty.. So far I have the numbers on six of the envelopes and this much stitching of the pockets. I have a lot of work ahead of me! It doesn’t help that the disappearing pen seems to just be absorbed into the felt rather than staying until it gets wet… annoying.

Tomorrow I am cooking our Thanksgiving dinner. Since the British clearly don’t celebrate it, we don’t have a holiday next week. We would do it next weekend but, alas, we are at a wedding were Gavin is the best man. Should be fun as we are having people total! I have already brined the turkey and I’m totally cheating and roasting the turkey and making the gravy tonight! That way tomorrow I just have to worry about reheating it – 20 minutes! Woohoo! So I won’t have the Norman Rockwell moment of setting the whole turkey on the table, but as no one really knows how to carve the turkey properly anyways, I figured no one would care. I’ll just make sure everyone has enough to drink!

Dinner Party

Tonight Gavin and I are having 2 friends over for dinner tonight so sorry for the lack of content… I decided to make my very easy dinner (slow cooked beef) much more complicated by making Apple Pie Cookies from Smitten Kitchen. It was my first time making pie dough from scratch, by hand, but I tasted the “mistake” cookie and it was good! Let’s see what the others think… If it passes the test, I might make them for Thanksgiving! Woohoo!

Tinniegirl Blogtoberfest 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 planning

Gavin and I are hosting Thanksgiving at our house again this year. Last year I cooked it for a total of 10 people and this year there are 12! It was funny to celebrate with all the Brits as they definitely don’t acknowledge, let alone celebrate Thanksgiving, as a holiday and they only eat turkey for Christmas. I cooked turkey and all the trimmings, very (for my family) traditional. We started (of course) with cosmos and then moved on to wine and beer. Gavin’s cousin and his (then) fiancee brought a cheese platter, a friend and her flatmate brought mashed potatoes and another friend and his girlfriend brought pumpkin and pecan pie! It was amazing. The food went off without a hitch, everyone had a good time, and we never ran out of anything to drink. Lovely.

This year I am thinking that I might make it a little less “Wilson-family-traditional” and branch out a bit and try some new variations. Maybe a chestnut stuffing? Maybe some bacon in the roast brussels sprouts? Maybe these salads!

I saw these salads in an apple cup from Yummy Mummy over on the Kitchn… Oh the stuff you can find on the internet at work when you aren’t busy (and btw, aren’t her food photos lovely?!). I’m not sure if they are going to be time consuming to make – 12 apple cups? I can make them ahead of time though… Just rub lemon juice so they don’t turn brown? The salad itself sounds good as well – apple, blue cheese, avocado (and pomegranites but they are far too expensive here!). I think I would add bacon crumbles and some candied nuts and serve with some dressed greens on the side. We do everything buffet style since we don’t have a big enough table but I think they would look so nice on the side board!

Aren’t the colors just beautiful? It just screams fall and British apples are the best apples I have ever eaten in my life. No joke. I’m also not joking when I say that they have a super popular type called Cox. Seriously? The Brits just love cocks/cox. But that’s a whole different post ;)

Homemade ground chilies

When I was up in Stoke for Suzanne’s shower, Gavin’s mom gave me a chili plant that she had. It had a pretty good amount of chilies on it and when I commented on it, she gave it to me. She wasn’t going to eat the chilies so I didn’t feel too bad. In fact, I was pretty excited. I was going to make my own dried chilies! I had found a tutorial over on Bev Cooks for dehydrated jalepeno peppers. Immediately, my interest was piqued and I knew what my next cooking activity would be.

When I got home with the chili plant, I clipped all the red peppers off and put them on our grill pan and into the oven at the lowest it would go. I left them there until I went to bed which wasn’t much later so I wasn’t surprised that they were still soft the next day. I did this again the next day and they still needed some more drying time. We had baked potatoes for dinner a night and I decided to put them in the (turned off) oven after the potatoes were cooked. Bad call Sydney. The next morning when I took them out they were black. Like midnight black. Black Beauty black. I mean look at how sad that is. I almost cried.

Not to be dissuaded that easily, however, I thought I would just try one and see it was really burned beyond rescue. I tossed 2 into my mortar and pestle and had a go. They actually didn’t smell burned at all! Just smoked. And HOT! Seriously, my nose was burning while grinding away! I did a little taste test with Gavin and these babies are GOOD! So I then ground them all up and they are now good to go! Gavin and I call them the “smoked chilies” and they have now seasoned the spaghetti sauce I made last night, the marinade for the chicken kebabs on Saturday as well as the salad dressing we had last night! I have a feeling they won’t last too long! Good thing there are more green chilies on the plant!

And P.S. Can I just give a little shout-out of love to my Joseph and Joseph mortar and pestle? It’s awesome!

Tinniegirl Blogtoberfest 2011