Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Kitchen Confessions

Live long enough, cook long enough, and you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way.  Last week I may have surpassed myself.

Lately, I’ve been baking bread using a perforated double loaf pan.  They can be hard to clean, so instead of putting the dough directly on the pan I first place a sheet of parchment paper on top.  The paper tends to slide around, so I weigh each side down with something to keep it in place until the dough goes on it.

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For last week’s French bread, I weight one side with an apple and the other side with a paring knife until I’m ready to put my dough down on the paper-covered pan. I let them rise and bake as usual.

Both loaves of bread look good, although I do notice a groove on the bottom of one loaf when I take them off the paper to cool.

Cue the music: “Dumb, da dumb dumb”….

I remove the paper and discover my paring knife… not in the bread, but under the paper, melted directly onto the loaf pan where it is stuck for all eternity! Of course, my loaf pan/knife combo has to be thrown away and both items replaced ASAP.

I still can’t figure out how this happened.

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Good News Monday: Pretty Delicious

ruby-chocolate.jpg (5184×3456)There’s a new chocolate in town and it’s a natural Millennial pink. I learned about this from blogger Sandra Wood, who also offers up an interesting post on the color most likely to land you a job.  (Hint: It’s not pink.)

But, I digress. According to Wikipedia,

Ruby chocolate is a variety of chocolate introduced in 2017 by the Callebaut cocoa company. It’s been in development since 2004, but was only recently unveiled to the public.

The chocolate is made from the “ruby cocoa bean (possibly, unfermented cocoa beans, which can be naturally reddish pink), with a taste described as “sweet yet sour”, and having “little to none” of the cocoa flavor traditionally associated with other types of chocolate.

In April 2018, Kit Kat announced the release of the ruby chocolate in the UK — have any of you UK readers tried it yet? — and we can expect to see ruby chocolate soon in the US.

Trend? Or a new staple we never knew we needed?

Booze News

In honor of the coming weekend, and on the off chance that alcohol may be involved, here are a few items I found interesting this week.

First up, I’m sharing a hack from KellysDIY blog on improving the taste of cheap vodka.  Haven’t tried this myself but it’s an intriguing idea:

Pour your cheap vodka into a water filter pitcher.  It will remove the impurities that make inexpensive vodka taste, well, cheap.  

mountain ranges covered in snow

Photo by Denis Linine on Pexels.com

Another great tip: Baking soda removes wine stains.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Speaking of wine, the industry’s latest annual report cited some millennial trends that will impact not just this age group (currently 23-38) but the rest of us, too, as winemakers take notice. Cheers to healthy wines at a reasonable price!

Millennials:

  1. Tend to prefer craft beers, spirits (e.g., whiskey) and/or cannabis to wine
  2. Less interested in accumulating “stuff”; experiences mean more
  3. Health oriented (wine’s competing with kombucha, for heaven’s sake!), which means a preference for wine that’s organic, sustainable and local
  4. Don’t have a lot of money. They’re still dealing with fallout from the 2008 recession, student loans, and establishing themselves in their careers
  5. Want their drinking experience to be fun (hence the appeal of inventive cocktails and entertaining mixologists), not precious or snobby
  6. Turned off by pretentious tasting rooms (and high prices) they associate with their parents
  7. Inclined to reject “safe” choices like pinot and chardonnay in favor of something unexpected. (Barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, anyone? Oenologists describe this rare specialty as having a creamier texture and more rounded lemony/crème brûlée flavors than flinty Sancerre or herbaceous New Zealand offerings.)

Are you a millennial? Do you agree with these general observations?

Incidentally, did you know that rosé is the fastest growing wine segment in the US?  If you’re of the generation that grew up on Mateus and have shunned them ever since, one of Oregon’s lovely, fresh, pinot noir rosés will be a revelation.

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(front) Crowley Wines; (back) Coleman Vineyard’s Cherry Cove

And finally, some fun facts:

  • Milkshakes originally contained alcohol.
  • Red wines have higher alcohol content than white wines.
  • Moonshine accounts for around 30% of the world’s alcohol drinking.
  • A bottle of champagne contains 90 PSI of pressure — three times the pressure in your car tire.
  • A gin & tonic will glow under a UV light because tonic contains quinine, which is UV light reactive
  • Fear of an empty glass has a scientific name, Cenosillicaphobia.

 

Souper Sunday

 

As I write this, my DH (dear husband) is creating something he calls “Clear Out The Refrigerator” Soup. We’re at the start of a two-day cold snap, which calls for gloves, turtlenecks and something warm, comforting and low-calorie to eat.

Pretty much anything edible can be turned into soup.  In this case, we’ve been stockpiling withered vegetables, accidentally frozen herbs, and most of a large box of chicken broth. It either needs to become soup or compost.

Making soup couldn’t be simpler, even for you non-cooks out there.

  1. Chop up an onion, a couple of garlic cloves, some celery and some carrots. This will be your mirepoix (“meer-pwah”).  Sauté them with a little olive oil in a large pot.
  2. Roughly chop the rest of your ingredients and throw them in. Today’s haul includes carrots, turnips, some kale, some collard greens, mysteriously frozen basil, some dill, red potatoes and a can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) without the liquid. Quantities don’t matter.
  3. Cover with liquid: approximately half chicken or vegetable stock, and half water.
  4. Simmer on low heat for a couple of hours until vegetables start to soften. Add water if it’s getting too thick (more like a stew than a soup).
  5. Season to taste with salt and fresh pepper. Add ground herbs such as oregano and rosemary for more flavor.

Here, DH and I diverge.  He likes the individual tastes of the separate veggies in broth. I prefer using an immersion blender to purée them to a texture resembling pea soup.

Either way, simmer until the flavors blend, re-checking and adjusting your seasoning as needed. Add a hunk of crusty bread, some cheese and a glass of wine. Voilà: dinner!

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Lechyd Da!

First stop of the day: Cilgerran Castle, a 13th-century ruined castle located in Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire, Wales, near Cardigan. According to Wikipedia, the first castle on the site was thought to be built by Gerald of Windsor around 1110–1115, and it changed hands several times over the following century between English and Welsh forces.

No one’s here today so we roam at leisure, wondering if there are any ghosts.

Croeso! Welcome to Aberystwyth!IMG-0529

Before we explore, we check in to our hotel.

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The Conrah Hotel (originally named Ffosrhydgaled, aka “ditch”!) is a beautiful Edwardian mansion, constructed circa 1850 on the site of a farmstead, stables, outhouses and watermill.

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Following a devastating fire in 1911, it is reported that the owner, a Mr. Davies, spent considerable time arguing with his insurance company over where the new house should be built. Davies wished to demolish what was left of the house and re-erect the property in a more elevated position to improve his view, whereas the insurance company refused to allow this due to the increased cost of re-siting the property. Needless to say, the insurers won and the property was rebuilt on the same site.

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I’d kill for this stained glass.

It remained a private home until 1967, when new owners Constance and Ronald Alfred Hughes converted it to a hotel. The couple had made their money locally, manufacturing ‘Conrah’ vases, table settings and similar items from pressed metals (“Co” for Constance + Ronald’s initials RAH), hence the name change.

Gardens and public assembly rooms first attracted wealthy travelers, and in 1800 a new bathhouse provided “respectable visitors” the opportunity to bathe in heated seawater.  Within a few years, bathing machines offered the chance to venture into the sea itself, and guesthouses sprang up to cater to an increasing number of tourists.
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This shop could be owned by one of my husband’s many Welsh relatives of the same name.

The pier was built in 1865 and by the early 1900’s Aberystwyth boasted a large pavilion, railway, theatres, cinemas and concert halls.  By the 1950’s, it was well established as a seaside holiday destination.
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Dinner tonight is with DH’s cousins, who are warm and welcoming. The husband is an ardent Welsh nationalist, so we keep the Brexit discussion short. (Luckily, we don’t have a dog in this fight.)
We learn that a popular toast is “Lechyd da” (Le-chid-ya), which is easier for me to remember than “lloniannau”, or “cheers”.  The pronunciation is close to the Hebrew toast “L’chaim” (“to life”), which supports a theory that the lost tribes of Israel wound up in Wales.
The following morning, we head off to Bath.  I love this bridge — very Hermès, non?!
IMG-0552 (1)Arriving in Bath, our 17th century hotel (Paradise House) looks unimpressive from the outside, and parking in its tiny driveway is precarious, but it’s quite lovely inside. We’re treated to a delicious tea while the room is readied. Would definitely stay here again!
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The town center is an easy walk from the Paradise.  Bath is known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. Many of the buildings feature local honey-gold stone, including Bath Abbey, famed for its large stained-glass windows, fan-vaulting, and tower.
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The museum at the site of the original Roman-era Baths includes The Great Bath, statues (a later addition) and a temple.
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There’s a lot to see but we have only one day, so we concentrate on the Baths, a long walk to get a sense of the town, and the Jane Austen museum.

The Baths are well worth the trip, with wonderful depictions of Roman life “back in the day” and many artifacts.

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The Austen museum, however, is kind of a bust — costumed guides tell you about her family history (Austen didn’t spend a lot of time in Bath, as it turns out) but this is best visited by the true enthusiast.

Our stroll takes us to the Royal Crescent, very glamorous.

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And I loved this wonderful old-timey chemist’s shop.

IMG-0591 (1).JPGWe wrap up the day with an excellent meal at Clayton’s Kitchen. Linguine with crab is fresh and delicious.

Tomorrow it’s back to Devon, where we’ll make a major decision….

Mid-October, 2018.

On to Wales, Land of Few Vowels

Scenes from Week Two of our monthlong saga. We’re still in Devon…

IMG-0421 (2)But on the agenda: a visit to DH’s cousins in Aberystwyth (with an indulgent hotel stay en route), and a stopover in Bath on the return trip.

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Friendly cows welcome us to Molleston.

Early in the week, we explore Lynmouth’s picturesque harbor, more villages, and Exmoor National Park.

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IMG-0419.JPGWe stop in Ilfracombe, notable for its controversial Damien Hirst “Verity” statue which depicts both her pregnant exterior and interior. Erected in 2012, the statue looms over the harbor and is on loan to the town for 20 years. Many residents are counting the days until it’s removed. Are you a fan?

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Our drive back to Peppercombe takes us through more villages — one where a thatched roof is being repaired.

And of course we see mehhhnnnny sheep!

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(They never fail to amuse.)

Mid-week, it’s off to Wales. You know you’ve arrived when highway signs are in both English and Welsh and towns have romantic-sounding names such as  Dyffryn Arth and Llansantffraed.

Useful phrases: ARAF (Slow), CYFLEUSTERAU CYHOEDDUS (public conveniences) and CERDDWYR EDRYCHWCH I R CHWITH (pedestrians look right).

The first night, we stay at The Grove-Narberth, which is nothing short of fabulous. Beautiful setting and a wonderful restaurant.

IMG-0505.JPGNaturally, they grow their own herbs and veggies.

Dinner is delish, beginning with amuse-bouches in the bar while we wait for our table.

Desserts are pretty, too.

We stagger to our charming room, complete with fireplace, and nod off. Oh, it is SO nice to be in a hotel!

Early-mid October, 2018.

Good News Monday: Monotony Helps People Lose Weight.

Well, maybe.  The general idea is that eating the same thing every day emphasizes food as nutrition, not entertainment.  When meals are less exciting, we’re less likely to overeat.

The caveat: mix it up to avoid both nutritional deficiencies and bingeing when the boredom gets to be too much.

Here’s an interesting POV on the subject: https://www.healthline.com/health/eating-the-same-thing-pros-and-cons