Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mango Coconut Pancakes (gluten and refined sugar free)


HAPPY PANCAKE DAYYY!!!

This year I wanted to treat my pups too so after heavy research I created these dog AND people friendly delicious mango and coconut pancakes. Everyone was very happy in this house this morning!

Makes 5 thick pancakes 

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten free rice flour

1/2 cup gluten free oats

2tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup skim milk

2 tsp honey 

2 tsp olive or vegetable oil + more for cooking

1 mango, thinly sliced without skin

Toasted coconut shavings or desiccated coconut for topping

Pure maple syrup 


1.) In a bowl, mix the first four dry ingredients. In a separate bowl lightly beat the egg then stir in the milk, honey and oil. Gently fold the egg mixture into the dry ingredients till just combined. (Do not over mix) Transfer to a pouring measuring cup. 

2.) Grease and heat a large skillet over medium. Pour about 1/3 of the batter per pancake onto the hot skillet. Place mango slivers on top of each pancake and wait for small bubbles to appear around the edges before flipping. 

3.) Allow the mango side to cook for a couple minutes then flip once more to check for doneness and transfer to a serving plate. Top with maple syrup and coconut then serve! 

* For dogs give half a cooled pancake to smaller dogs and full one to larger dogs. Add only a light drizzle of maple syrup and small amount of coconut. 


Thursday, February 8, 2018

My 5 Tips and Tricks for Spring Cleaning Success


It’s that time of year again SPRING CLEANING TIME....well not technically spring but I like to be one step ahead of the game and the beginning of the year is a perfect time to get organized and de-cluttered because it’s the one time of the year that everyone has their “super motivation” panties on and you’ll have a clearer idea of what you really want to achieve and get rid of. It’s time to get our zen on!
Rule #1 START SMALL. Don’t wreck yourself by trying to do your entire abode in a single day. I know when I tried to do that once I ended up half assing most of it and really regretting the quick build up soon after. The best thing to do in my opinion is start with the little niggling things like junk drawers, medicine cabinet and desk drawers. I actually have 5, count em junk drawers in my house. Well I say junk drawers but they are filled with some useful things in accordance to the room they’re in (eg. rubber bands, pens and sticky notes in the kitchen, hair accessories, creams and ointments in the bathroom...etc) Anyway, it took me a good 2 hours to finish all of them. I was left scratching my head afterward when I was hauling away a full black trash bag. I guess you should never underestimate just how much stuff those drawers can hold!

#2 SET ASIDE A FULL DAY FOR CLOSETS....you’re going to need it. Closets are basically the Hoover Dams of junk storage. Get a big box to fill with donatables and a big black trash bag for garbage and broken junk. Be determined to get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year (in some cases few years). This can also be a good time to install shelving or a book case if you haven’t already. This will give you more room for organization and order.
#3 TACKLE THAT KITCHEN. As a cook, nothing stresses me out more than when I can’t get to an ingredient easily due to over stuffed, messy cabinets. We’re all guilty of it. A funny memory from my childhood was helping my grandmother clean out her pantry and finding a box of cereal from 1987....it was 1996. Everything needs to go through the keep it or toss it process, even spices. Free up some room for fresher (probably healthier) ingredients. It’ll also inspire you to cook more when everything is in its right place, ready for use.

#4 CONSIDER A LIGHT REDECORATING. Tired of looking at that same old dusty vase and fake flowers you set up 5 years ago? How about that cheesy print you bought at TK MAX? Or that IKEA side table that’s on the verge of collapse if you set one more thing on it? Don’t forget to treat yourself to some refreshed surroundings. It doesn’t have to be an extreme home makeover, just choose a handful of things to change out and keep it within your budget. You can find amazing new inexpensive decorations by checking the online SALE sections of home decor shops or hit up the next flea market nearby. Most vintage things were made with much better quality than new things AND you will most likely find that “one of a kind” centrepiece that’ll be the envy of visitors.
#5 FINISHING TOUCHES. Once everything is done and dusted, do a walk through and make note of all the little bangs and scratches around the house. By this I mean things like a stuck drawer, creaking door, crack in the paint, peeling wallpaper, wobbly desk or burned out light bulb. It might seem like a pain in the ass but these are the little things that disrupt the good energy flow within your household. Once all fixed up you’ll notice a definite calm and tranquility and let’s be honest, it won’t take that much time to take care of these little annoyances.
Happy cleaning!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Our trip to Champagne and tour of the House Bollinger



My husband is a HUGE champagne fanatic. It’s always his go to libation and it can be quite funny when we go out and I order a bourbon on the rocks and the server automatically sets my drink down in front of him and we have to politely swap.

I did however develop an appreciation for the bubbles after Steve and I attended champagne school at Barry Bros and Rudd a few months back that left us both really wanting to visit the Champagne region asap. So for a little New Years getaway we packed up the pups and headed for the rolling valleys where the good stuff is made.

 

The first place we stayed in was a little village called Ay which is south of Reims and is pretty much the center of all the vineyard and big champagne house action. We loved our long walks through this picture perfect town. It felt like nothing has changed there since the early 1800’s and every corner you turn is another sweet reminder of simpler times. We didn’t realize that appointments to visit all the champagne houses and cellars had to be made well in advance but luckily we received an extraordinary invitation from House Bollinger!



We arrived at the glorious gates at 10:30am for our 3 hour private tour. Our incredible guide, Caroline, started out with a brief history of the Bollinger family then walked us over to a gated tiny plot of land containing the only remaining grape vines that weren’t effected by an insect called phylloxera that completely destroyed all other crops in champagne in the early 1900s. The bottles of champagne made exclusively from this plot are extremely special because you’d be drinking from the same vines and soil as they did nearly 200 years ago! It’ll cost you €900 to go back in time but I’m sure it’s worth every sip.





Next we went over to where they keep all the oak barrels of aging wine and learned all about how they make the barrels (without glue or screws!), the process of aging the wine before it’s put into the champagne bottles and the insane job of the “Cellar Master” who’s duty it is to sample from these barrels almost everyday and decide when they’ll be done aging and what other barrels they’ll be mixed with to created the classic Bollinger taste.




Once the formula is correct the wine is bottled in magnums and put into the underground cellars which is where we went next. The Bollinger cellars or “caves” are a network of underground tunnels spanning over 6km. The tunnels are maze like which helped them to hide a lot of the bottles when the nazis invaded during WWII. We spent a good hour wandering the seemingly endless walls of champagne bottles as Caroline explained the unbelievably complex process of these final stages. I definitely understand the hefty price tag on a bottle of Bolli!



We finished our tour with a tasting of Special Cuvée, Bollinger Rosé and La Grande Année 2007. We happened to have a bottle of the 2007 at home saved for a special occasion so it was pretty cool to get a sneak peak. All in all this tour was the highlight of our trip to Champagne and we left feeling in awe but also extremely fortunate because this isn’t a tour that’s open to the general public, it’s by special invitation only to food or wine professionals. Gotta love the perks of my job!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Burrata Fresco!


For some reason when there's blue skies and the sun is shining I get a real itch for some burrata! It may be a Pavlovian response because it always makes the PERFECT al fresco snack which we enjoy on our big balcony while overlooking the sun setting on good old London Town. I almost always serve it with the usual tomatoes and basil but this time I wanted to try something a little different.

I'd had burrata at a restaurant where they served it with a roasted red pepper and tomato gazpacho which actually gave me the idea to break out of the norm. I LOVE a good pico de gallo so thought maybe that could go well with the ultra creaminess of burrata and man oh man was I right! And I think this version suits a sunny balcony afternoon even better!

Quick easy recipe:

Serves 2-4

3-4 tomatoes, preferably multi colored, chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
Hanful cilantro(coriander), chopped
4 radishes, chopped or sliced
1 avocado, diced
Juice of two limes
S&P to taste

1 burrata ball

Thinly sliced and toasted sourdough or wholegrain tortilla chips

1.) Toss together first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and place the burrata in the center.

2.) Use a slotted spoon to scoop burrata onto the toast or tortilla chips with lots of the pico de gallo on top and enjoy!

*if you like heat feel free to add a minced jalapeño!


Saturday, January 28, 2017

My LASIK Experience, Every Detail!



Alright, ever since I posted about getting LASIK eye surgery this week I've had tons of questions from so many friends and family that are considering having it done so I thought I'd just write a whole blog post about my experience to kinda help everyone out.

I've needed glasses since I was 13 for my nearsightedness and was told I may be eligible for LASIK when I was about 28 and after a quick thought I chickened out at the thought of my eye being sliced into. Now, my much braver 31 year old self is soooo happy with my decision to just go for it! I was so tired of always lugging my glasses around and hoping I don't lose them for the 4th time while I'm out or traveling. I also started getting worried about getting lines around my eyes from squinting all the damn time. See, I was never really able to wear contacts since they always bothered my eyes because of my astigmatism.

Ok let's get down to all the info! I chose my LASIK clinic after reading loads of reviews and looking at almost every website for every practice in central London. The one I went with was called Focus and had a 100% guarantee plus so many great reviews. They were slightly pricier but I highly recommend not getting LASIK on the cheap. I mean, come on, it's your eyes after all, kinda the most important of the five senses. To be exact mine cost $5270 (£4200) but prices very depending on your prescription. I know, yikes, but to be fair that includes multiple checkups for the entire year after, all medicines and free adjustment surgery if my vision starts to regress again which is rare. I also had a free consultation to start with which was the most thorough eye exam I've ever received!

Ok here's my entire process in full detail, step by step:

1.) I had my initial consultation where I had my eyes intensely looked at and tested through about 5 different machines. They measured all parts of my eyeball and checked for any deformities or illness as well as the usual vision testing. Then an optometrist explained every bit of the procedure and answered all my questions, including the one she gets from everyone," Is there a chance I'll go blind??" The answer is absolutely no. It is a very careful surgery done with lasers only and nowadays the equipment is extremely advanced to where there are no mistakes. Also, my doctor has over 15 years experience performing LASIK and a perfect track record. Keep in mind I can only vouch this for the clinic I went to, hopefully you choose a clinic with similar standards and the most current equipment. Ps, DO NOT go for anyone still using a blade. It's way outdated yo! And please, don't be afraid to ask even the silliest questions. You will feel much better knowing. So, I made my appointment for surgery for the following month and they gave me a folder full of ALL the info I would ever need about the whole process.


2.) A few days before surgery I had a pre-op appointment to meet my surgeon, Dr. David Allamby. He took another close up look at my eyes and we chatted for a bit while he looked through all the exams I had the month before. He said all was good and ready to go! I asked him if I could have a pill to take the day of surgery to keep me relaxed which he gladly prescribed.


3.) January 25th, 2017, surgery day! I was scheduled for 1:30pm so my husband and I had a nice big lunch then walked over to the clinic. They examined my eyes one last time for good measure then I took my Diazepam 30 minutes before go time. Dr. Allamby's assistant gave me a five minute run down of all the drops and eye care to be done for the first week post su.just before heading into the "Laser Suite". Luckily Dr. Allamby was super cool and even let my husband Steve in to watch the surgery the whole time.

I got my hair and shoe covers on then lay on the surgery bed. They gave me stress balls to hold onto which helped incredibly. The doctor dropped the very strong anaesthetic (they work immediately) into my right eye then taped on eyelid holders and place some kind of soft clamp around my eyelids which felt weird but didn't hurt at all. In fact it feels like you're actually blinking when you try to but you're not at all so there's no need to worry about interrupting the lasers.


I was told to focus on the green laser light ahead of me (there were also fuzzy red lasers all around the green laser) as a round eye piece from the machine slowly came down onto my eye. Then the green laser light went from sharp to blurred then everything faded to black for a few seconds, I just took a deep breath and squeezed away at the stress balls as they counted down from 15 which is how long it took for the first laser to cut a flap into my cornea. It feels like looking through a telescope at a red and green laser show and pushing your eye into the eye piece a little firmer than you normally would. Once the 15 second countdown is finished the red and green lasers come back into view but are very blurry. I could see a clear blob being pushed around and then it was time for the finishing laser. I had to focus on the green laser again and this time only for about 5 seconds. Once that was done I could fuzzily see the doctor sliding the flap back over then gently painting something clear over it and Voila! Finished with the right eye in under 5 minutes! It was the same exact deal on the left eye then I got up from the bed and walked over to the recovery room to rest my eyes for 20 minutes. Amazingly I could see near perfectly immediately after surgery other than a slight haze. After 20 minutes I was ok to leave but was ordered to lay down and rest my eyes for the following 4 hours at home.


4.) Once at home I just laid on the couch listening to music and sleeping on and off. I'm not gonna lie, those few hours after surgery are probably the worst bit of the whole process. It's just uncomfortable and there's a lot of getting used to, like being extremely careful around your eyes which you'll be super aware of. My eyes felt gritty like I had dust in them which is a feeling I was warned about so it didn't worry me. Then on top of that you have to start you eye medication routine which feels like a lot at first (there are 3 different drops that need to go in at different times!) but you get used to it by the next day. Luckily my doctor also sent me home with anaesthetic drops to use on during those rough few hours. Bedtime is a bit of a laugh as well....you have to wear the most ridiculous eye protectors for the first week! I know they look cray cray but they're actually alright to sleep in and are MANDATORY and essential so push your pride aside.

5.) After 3 days I am feeling pretty good now. I wear my sunglasses outside religiously and even bought a pair of large fake glasses to protect my eyes if I'm out after dark. I find they also keep my eyes from drying out. Oh yeah, you might experience dry eye for a little while after surgery because the nerves in your cornea that signal for tears are affected and don't work till they've healed properly. Now all I have to do is help my eyes heal and stay safe from anything that might damage them for the next month or so. No swimming, dusty environments, eye rubbing or balls flying at my face (Clueless reference, haha).

Well, I hope this gives you as much info as you need but feel free to drop me any questions. After my experience I would absolutely recommend getting LASIK If you've been pondering it for a while.  You won't regret it, I promise.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Get Some Zen, Make a Terrarium!


I was shopping the other day at a department store and in the home garden section I came across some stunning glass tear drop terrariums filled with all kinds of succulents and cacti. I immediately reached for one to buy until I glanced at the price tag....£150!!!! That's just a tad over my houseplant budget.

Anyway, I went home terrarium free BUT with the great idea to make my own. Below you'll see a step by step tutorial on how you can too! I made four of them which are all dotted around my home now and we LOVE how peaceful and serene they make us feel. Especially waking up and seeing a little bit of nature right next to you. Ahhhhh.....or....Ommmmm.

Constructing the terrariums was quite easy though a little messy with all the dirt and sand so make sure you do it on a covered table for easy cleanup.

Ps....I got my husband in on the action and I must say we had a ton of fun doing it together. And he's super proud of the one he made for his bedside table. 


Supplies:

- a glass or clay terrarium container. Should have no holes in the bottom and plenty of room to work with around the opening. I found a good selection on Amazon.

- a bag of smooth pebbles, roughly the size of marbles though they don't have to be perfect spheres. Sift through and choose any cool ones to set aside for the last decorating step.

- potting soil for cacti and succulents.

- decorative sand and rubble

- mini succulents and cacti, about 3 per terrarium unless yours is big enough for more.

- rubber or plastic gloves

- paper towels

- spray bottle

- big bowl of water

- kitchen scissors 

- tongs or large tweezers

- a big and small spoon


STEP 1

Make sure your terrarium is clean then fill the bottom with a layer of smooth pebbles, about an inch thick. (Below is a photo of the pebbles I used. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of them in the bottom of the terrarium. Oopsie!)

STEP 2

Pour in a 1" layer of the soil on top of the pebbles. Pat it down gently and spray lightly with water. 

STEP 3

Choose which succulents or cacti you want to plant. Remove them from their original pots and soak the roots in a bowl of water to loosen the dirt off them. You can use scissors to cut away the really long ones to make re-planting easier. Then make a small divit in the soil in your terrarium and place the cactus or succulent inside, packing in some more soil with a spoon. ** use the paper towel and tongs to handle cacti or spiny succulents**


STEP 4 

Once all the plants are in place pour in the sand or rubble. I kind of poured mine into the middle then used the small spoon to distribute it evenly over the soil. I used my tweezers to pick away any sand or rubble that got into any of the plants. Also, be sure to lift any bottom leaves up gently and push some sand underneath to cover the soil more and make the beauty of the plant pop.

STEP 5

Finish decorating with the cool smooth pebbles you've picked out beforehand and scatter here and there. Now you're done! 

Terrariums are great anywhere in the home. We even put one in the bathroom! And there are extremely low maintenance. Just spray with water once or twice a week being careful not to over water. Also, give your terrarium some sun once in a while if it's in a room without windows. 

Hope this brings some joy and zen into your everyday life!  








Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lobster Pot Pies


I know! Two recipes in one week! Well my kitchen remodel is finally finished and I am ecstatic so I've been trying out all of my new appliances like crazy and the result is lots of new recipes to share with you fine people.

Anyway, I am a huge seafood fanatic, especially shell fish. Like, I would literally die if I found out I had a shellfish allergy. Since moving to London I've found it hard to find my ultimate fave crab legs so I tend to eat a lot more lobster these days. I know, poor me. But hey I always buy lots of it on sale and freeze whatever I'm not using. That brings me to my new recipe.... lobster pot pie!!!!

Fall/winter are well on their way and in the UK that could mean long wet and blustery months without sunshine and I'm hoping these pot pies will be my saving grace. Not only are they toasty and comforting but lobster always takes me back to beachy summer days. A nice little vacation in every bite.

Makes 8 mini pot pies or 2 large pot pies (I made minis because I'm freezing most of them unbaked for later enjoyment.)

Ingredients:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 red onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 c. potato, diced

1 c. carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 c. lobster stock (full recipe at the bottom) or fish stock

1/2 c. dry sherry

1 tsp old bay seasoning

1 c. heavy cream or buttermilk

1 heaped Tbsp corn starch, flour OR rice flour mixed with 1 Tbsp water (this is for thickening. If intending to freeze, use rice flour)

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. frozen corn

cooked meat of 2 whole lobsters or 4 lobster tails, chopped

handful fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

s&p to taste

2 sheets of pre-made puff pastry

1 egg + 2 Tbsp water

extra old bay and paprika for garnish (optional)

1.) In a large pot, sauté the onion and fennel in the butter till soft then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Now add the potato, carrot and celery and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the lobster stock, dry sherry and old bay and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Slowly stir in the cream. Once well mixed, stir in the thickening liquid and keep string till you notice thickening. If it's not as thick as you'd like add more thickening liquid one tbsp at a time. Once it's reached you preferred thickness remove from heat and stir in the peas, corn, lobster meat and parsley. Add s&p to taste and let cool.

2.) Preheat oven to 220c/430f. Press the puff pastry dough into either individual ramekins or 2 pie pans. Pour cooled filling into the pastry then cover with another sheet, crimping the edges to seal it shut. Brush with egg wash, poke a few holes with a fork and bake for 25-30 minutes or till crust is golden.

To make these fun little lobster claw decorations just free-hand cut out the shape, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with old bay and paprika. Attach to the egg wash brushed tops of the pies.

To make the lobster stock.....

All you need is 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 cleaned out whole lobster shells or 4 lobster tail shells, 3 chopped celery stocks with the leaves, 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped fennel bulb, 4 halved garlic cloves, 3 litres water, 1 sliced lemon, 2 handfuls fresh whole grape tomatoes, 1 Tbsp peppercorns, 2 tsp dried thyme and 3 bay leaves. 

1.) sauté the first 6 ingredients in olive oil till everything but the shells are soft. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer uncoverered till the liquid reduces by half (up to 2 hours) Don't forget to stir occasionally to really get the flavors infusing.

2.) remove from heat and let cool slightly before straining out all the solids. Can be frozen for 3 months.