Ireland and Hen Party

rian and i got back from ireland late wednesday night. our flight was delayed by about and hour and a half. we didn't get back to the house until about midnight. we had a great time! we did lots of shopping, went on a tour of dublin castle, went to greystones for the day, ate lots of good food, and spent a fun evening having dinner with my friend rebecca who lives there. i also managed to get about half of my christmas shopping done. i had a really good time, but it was fun to get back and see dan and the girls. they all picked us up at the airport and the girls were sooo excited to see me.

last night i went to my first hen party, which is what they call a bachelorette pary here. one of the moms in the moms and toddler group is getting married this month. this is not my favorite kind of party to go to, but i was glad that they would want to include me in there lives. we went to two pubs and then some of them were going on to a night club when the pub closed at eleven. i made rian come with me and we drove my friend D. the pubs were really crowded and smokey and the second one we went to also had really loud music and dancing. rian and i snuck out for an hour and went to the pizza hut next door to stop our ears from ringing. we went back to the pub and found the rest of the group. the bride was a little drunk by then. we said our goodbyes and found D. and went home. i wasn't really looking forward to the evening, but it ended up being kind of fun.



tomorrow morning rian and i are off to ireland for three days. we are really excited! dan is taking a couple days off work and staying home with the girls. we all leave for the airport really early in the morning. our flight leaves at 6:30 am. we're hopefully going to make our way around dublin and then out into the countryside. see you thursday!


Garlic Rice

we had barbeque chicken tonight for dinner and i made garlic rice to go with it. garlic rice is one of my all time favorites. my mom used to make it all the time when i was growing up. here's the recipe...

1/2 stick butter, melted
1 can beef consume
1 can sliced mushrooms with liquid
1 cup rice
2 teaspoons garlic salt

mix all the ingredients together in a 9-inch square pan. cover with foil. bake @ 350 F for 45 minutes.



rian is visiting us and the girls and i went into london with her today to be tourists. we went to see the changing of the guard at buckingham palace, which i've never seen before, but it was so crowded that we didn't see much of anything. rian was able to get close enough to take a couple of bad pictures, but that was about it. so i still haven't seen the changing of the guard. i think next time i'll have to go earlier to stake out a good spot. we then went to leicester square to buy half price theatre tickets to go and see fame tonight. we're really excited. dan is going to stay home with the girls. after we bought theatre tickets we went and ate lunch outside at a pub in leicester square, which was really fun because it is such a beautiful day! we came home early and are going to have an early dinner tonight and then head back out at about six to head to the theatre.


Dessert Flop

this morning i worked at cafe forever. my plan was to make a variation of banoffi pie and put it in a parfait glass. for those of you who don't know banoffi pie is a graham cracker crust layered with toffee, sliced bananas and whipped cream. it is very rich and delicious. normally the toffee is made by boiling a can of unopened sweetened condensed milk for about two hours. i do not have that much time when i'm working at the cafe so i needed another plan. i looked the recipe up on the internet and somebody recomended doing it in the microwave out of the can and it only took about 15-20 minutes. so this was my plan, though i had never done it before. so to make a long story short a couple of hours later and a mixture of a couple of methods later i ended up with more of a lumpy chewy caramel instead of a smooth toffee. i was very dissapointed. i couldn't put it in a parfait glass because it would have looked really bad. i wanted to throw it away, but i was talked into making it into a pie. i did. i still wanted to throw it away. i didn't though. they ended up trying to sell it, though i wouldn't let them call it banoffi pie. instead it sold under the name caramel banana tart. next time i try this it will be at home and i will get it right before making it in the cafe again. this seems to be my week of dessert flops, first the strawberry cake and now banoffi pie.


Strawberry Cake

this afternoon i experimented with making a strawberry cake. i was trying to work on something new for the cafe. my grandmother makes this great strawberry cake made with a white cake mix from a box, frozen strawberries, and strawberry jello. i was trying to make one without a box with fresh strawberrries and no jello. i didn't want to use a box because it's not very cost effective for trying to sell it at the cafe. i used fresh strawberries because i couldn't find frozen ones. i didn't use the jello because cafe forever only serves halal food and gelatin is not halal. all this to say that my cake was not very good at all and the one my grandmother makes is much better. i might just try making a white cake with strawberry icing next time or i might just give up because the original is so much better and just not make it for the cafe.


Harry Potter

it is 7:20 am and my harry potter book just arrived! i'm so excited it is finally here. i'm off to read!


Water Day

today for moms and toddlers we set up two splash pools and a sprinkler. we all spent the morning outside with the kids playing in the pools and running through the sprinkler. emma did some face painting. the kids really enjoyed this and believe it or not all the kids sat still to have their faces painted. andi was a tiger and jodie was a sunflower. and near the end we all ate ice lollies. it was a really fun morning!


Mushroom Burgers

for dinner tonight i marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms and served them with sliced cheese, grilled pineapple slices, and sliced onions on naan bread. they were delicious. it was a nice light meal to eat on a hot evening. i served this with cucumber salad made with cucumbers that we grew in our garden. here's the marinade for the mushrooms...

recipe my own creation
olive oil
cider vinegar
ground coriander seed
ground cinnamon
pressed garlic clove
freshly ground pepper

...i forgot to take pictures again


Lamb Skewers

this is what we had for dinner tonight. it was so good. i served it with couscous and cucumber salad. for the skewers i marinated bite size chunks of lamb, red onion, mushrooms and lemon wedges in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and freshly chopped cilantro. then i just grilled them for a couple of minutes on each side. they had a wonderful fresh flavor.


Two Layer Lemon Tart

i adapted this from a key lime pie recipe that i got from a bon appetit magazine a couple of years ago. it has a baked layer and a chilled layer. i really like the combination of both. i'm trying to think of some new things to make for cafe forever. this turned out well. it was not as tart as the key lime pie is. the lemon juice just must not be as tart. the tart was a little bit too mild tasting. i think the next time i make it i'll add more lemon juice and try putting some lemon zest in the crust for a little bit more flavor. here's the recipe...

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

baked layer:
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 large egg yolks

chilled layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crust: Preheat oven to 350. Mix cracker crumbs, butter and sugar together. Press into a 9 inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes and cool completely.

Baked Layer: Whisk toghether condensed milk, lemon juice, and egg yolks. Pour into crust and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Chilled Layer: Beat cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Pour over baked layer and smooth top. Cover and chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

To unmold run a sharp thin knife around the edge and then unmold.


dan and the girls have been growning vegetables in our garden. today they harvested the first one. we had it for dinner tonight and it was delicious! i just brushed it with a little olive oil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper and then we grilled for a couple of minutes on each side. it was very fun eating something that we had grown ourselves.


this weekend we had some warm weather and it looks like it is going to continue on into this week. dan rigged up our hose onto our clothesline in the back garden and the girls have had a blast running through their sprinkler. they started with running through, then galloping, jumping, walking backwards, and finally the hokey-pokey!

Eating Lunch At Home

i made cajun shrimp and sausage alfredo over linguini for lunch today. it makes a bunch and is also really good leftover. my plan is to eat it for lunch all week. this is my attempt to resist eating out for lunch this week. maybe if i know that i have something good to eat and already made in the fridge i will just go home for lunch. this is the theory at least, but i know it doesn't always work because eating lunch out is more about the event for me than it is about the food. don't get me wrong the food is important too, but i'm just as happy eating lunch out at mcdonald's as i am eating lunch in an expensive restaurant. anyway, all that to say here's the recipe for my lunches this week...

recipe from the march 2005 issue of Southern Living
1 pound shrimp, peeled
12 ounces fettucine
1/2 pound andouille sausage, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 tablespoon cajun seasoning
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces velveeta
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Prepare fettucine according to package directions; drain pasta, and set aside.

Cook sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium heat 10 minutes or until browned; remove sausage, and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in dutch oven,. Set sausage aside.

Melt butter in drippings in dutch oven over medium heat. Add shrimp, and cook 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp, and keep warm.

Add onion and next 3 ingredients; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 10 minutes. Stir in cajun seasoning and flour. Cook over medium heat, 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in heavy cream; cook over medium-low heat 8 minutes or until mixture simmers. Add velveeta, sausage, and shrimp, stirring until cheese melts.

Stir in chopped green onions, parmesan cheese, and parsley. Serve over hot cooked fettucine.


Fudge Cake a la mode

tonight was family movie night again. we had our usual french bread pizzas with everybody making their own. for dessert tonight i made miniature fudge cakes and topped them with ice cream and pour a little bit of tia maria over them. they were delicious. here's how i made them...

recipe my own creation
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
good quality dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter 6 muffin cups. Whisk the cocoa into the melted butter and add sugar, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Stir in chopped chocolate. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for about 15 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes in the tins and then turn out. Best served warm.
If desired serve with vanilla ice cream and a splash of Tia Maria.


London Bombings

on my way to the cafe this morning i heard on the radio that the whole underground network had closed down. once i got to work i found out that there had been some explosions and that the city was closing down. not until i got home did i fully realize the extent of what had been happening. the pictures they are showing on tv are awefull. on one bus the entire roof was blown off and they say people's bodies were thrown into the streets. everytime i get on the underground i always think about what if something were to happen like this and now it has. thankfully we were not travelling into the city today via the underground. it has been sad to watch all the interviews of people on television who experianced the explosions, it must have been very terrifying for them.


Lamb Kebabs

this is one of our favorite meals. i got it out of a better homes & gardens magazine this spring. it is really yummy. here's the recipe...

2 eggs
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce (mix together plain yogurt, diced cucumber and salt)
Thinly sliced cucumber
lemon wedges
finely sliced red onions
naan bread

1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Stir in onion, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, cilantro, oregano, salt, cumin, and cinnamon. Add lamb; mix well. Divide mixture into 8 portions. Shape each portion around a metal skewer, forming a log that is 6 inches long and about 1 inch wide.
2. Place skewers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 10-12 minutes or until done, turning once halfway through grilling.
3. If desired, serve with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce, sliced cucmber, lemon wedges, lettuce, onion, and naan bread.


Vegetable Enchiladas

sylviana, the girl who cooks for the cafe, made these for the cafe last week and they were sooo good. i watched carefully and asked her for a refresher today and i made them tonight. here's how to make them.

half an onion, chopped
ground cumin
ground coriander seeds
2 bell peppers (any color), finely chopped
2 handfulls of spinach, finely chopped
1 small can of corn
6-8 flour tortillas
shredded cheddar cheese

saute onion in a little bit of olive oil. add a good amount of cumin and a little bit of coriander. add bell peppers and spinach and cook for a few minutes. stir in corn. butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. spoon the vegetable mixture into the tortillas and roll and place in the baking pan. pour salsa over the top and spread with cheese. bake until cheese is melted.

Independence Day Celebration

we had a great time celebrating independence day at belgo's. it ended up being us, the phillips, the irvines and the irvine's neighbor. there were fourteen of us in all, seven adults and seven kids. noah was the oldest kid at six. to say the least it was very chaotic and crazy, but very fun! it was good to be with friends and eat mussels!



so today is independence day. it just isn't the same in the uk. we don't have the day off and it is just a regular work day. i woke up feeling depressed and sorry for myself this morning and really wanting to be home. this morning the four of us were all laying in our bed and i announced that i wanted to go home. jodie turned and looked at me and said, "but mommy you don't have to go anywhere we are at home." she's right i am at home. i live here now and i need to start thinking of this as home. i moved enough times to know that when we do go back to philadelphia it probably won't feel like home either anymore. jodie is very wise she reminded me this morning that this is where god wants us right now even though it may not feel quite like home yet.

oh and by the way we do have plans to celebrate the fourth. we are meeting our friends jeremy and mary ellen and their kids in the city for an early dinner at belgo's. belgo is in covent garden and it is one of my favorite places to eat. they have fantastic mussels. even the girls like eating them. they get their own kid sized bowls of mussels off the kids menu. it should be a fun evening!



every now and then i like to try a new culinary pursuit, learn to do something i've never done before. to make something over and over until i get it just right. like learning to make a layered cake that isn't lopsided, making cheesecake that isn't lumpy or dry, making the perfect chocolate chip cookie, mastering pie crust. usually in the process my family gets burnt out on whatever my latest project is and just as i've perfected it they don't want to eat any more for awhile. so lately i've been interested in pastry and learning how to make it. so i decided to start with croissants because i think they are really yummy and once i've mastered them i can add different fillings to them like chocolate. and i love warm chocolate croissants!
the thing about pastry making is that it is a long drawn our process. making the dough, letting the dough rest, rolling it, resting again, rolling again, resting again, rolling again, then cutting and shaping, letting it rise, and then finally cooking it. i've always been very intimidated by the process, too many opportunities to mess it up. so i started this process by pulling out my trusty joy of cooking and looked up a recipe for croissants. if you want to learn how to do something this cookbook is a really good place to start. it has a lot of good basic recipes and good instructions for how to do things. on wednesday andi and i made the dough together and rolled it out a couple of times. and then it sat in the refrigerator until this morning when i finally did the last rolling and cut them out and shaped them. they didn't rise very well this time because i think i let them sit in the refregerator too long. you're only supposed to let it sit for at most 24 hours and i left it for about 2 days. they still turned out all right even if they were a little flat and they still tasted good. i'm going to try them again and this time i won't let them sit as long in the refrigerator and see if i can get them to rise a little bit better. i'm going to spare you all from reading the recipe because it is has long drawn out instructions and because chances are you don't want to learn to make your own croissants and you think i'm completely crazy for doing so! if you really want to know i'm going to leave you to look it up in your own copy of the joy of cooking and if you don't own a copy, you really should buy one! just click on the picture of it on my side bar. :)